As an owner of a small business in Grand County myself, I understand the need to lower costs and cut corners. The question I’d like to address here is whether or not a website builder is a viable option for cutting corners. Of course, my opinion is going to be a bit skewed being as I am a professional web developer myself. Nonetheless, I think there are some important factors to think about when making this decision.
First off, you should be wary of anyone who tells you can “build a site in minutes”. Building a website, branding and marketing take time and effort. Just like anything, if it sounds too good to be true, it most likely is. Yes, you can produce a website with little more than your blood, sweat and tears. The question is whether or not it is worth the time you will need to invest and whether or not the final product will do what you need it to (SELL!!).
The Price. Website builders allow a non-coder to build and edit their own website. With a drag and drop interface, you can add content, images or change page navigations. This saves the cost of hiring a professional and allows you to invest that time yourself. Website builders are generally free or have a minimal monthly cost and many startups don’t have the option of hiring a professional, and this can be a great way to get started in building your web presence.
Be aware there is often a steep learning curve. If you are tech savvy and have an eye for design, you might have a fighting chance at producing a decent site to get you started. You should also budget a minimum of 10 hours, upwards of 30-50 to build the site depending on the complexity.
Unfortunately, the price tag is the only real con to using a website builder, such as Godaddy or Squarespace. Below are a few things to think about when making the decision to go or stay.
Who Owns the Site?
Not you! That’s who. If you should decide to leave Godaddy, Wix or Weebly or whichever company created the website builder, you cannot take you site with you. Your site will not work outside of their website building software. You do not own the website, the website code or even the content (most likely). If you leave or stop paying, you have nothing to show for.
Some do not even allow you ownership of the domain name and force you to transfer it to their domain registrar (i’m looking at you square space).
Outdated Code and Templates
Most website builders offer premade starter templates. While these can be helpful in providing a starting point for your website, they are often outdated or at the worst, broken. Things to think about: Is your template responsive? (Learn what that means here.) Is it modern looking? Squarespace does a good job of offering sleek, modern templates. Most other website builders do not.
Hidden dangers in the code.
At the risk of sounding doomful, there are often issues within these templates that can cause problems for your site. I recently had a client call me about their website’s search engine rankings. Despite having good keywords, proper titles tags and decent looking site, they were not visible in google at all. Upon further inspection, I found that their template was adding 3 copies of their title tags- and not a one was being picked up by google! So while they had added the appropriate keyword rich titles, google wasn’t able to recognize them. There is no way to fix this within the actual template.
Many of these templates are of poor quality or straight up broken. There is no way for a non-coder or a coder for that matter to know this ahead of time. Be sure to read your reviews and learn from the mistakes of others. Don’t just trust that the website builder company is looking out for providing you a solid product.
Search Engine Optimization Capabilities
This is the biggest downfall of website builder websites: their inability to be optimized for search engines. I get calls from clients wanting to market their website and I have to be the bearer of bad news: your Godaddy website can not be marketed very well.
Yes, most website builders will offer the basics in term of SEO: meta tags, title tags and description tags but it stops there. Not only do these website builders create sites full of bloated, outdated code that is hard for search engines to read, you cannot edit it, add important SEO tags such as heading tags and alt tags, change image names and a myriad of other things SEO’s will do to help your site rank well. And if you can’t edit it, you cannot optimize it for search engines.
3rd Party Plugins or Addons
What about that Facebook box? it’s hard to know what you will want to include on your site when you are building to ask all the right questions. Many website builders do not allow many third party plugins.
10 years of Website Experience
What about website usability? Have you thought about what colors look best for call to actions? Do you know how to write good engaging website content? I don’t want to overwhelm you with things you might not have thought of. Nonetheless, you will have to think about these things when designing your own website. When involving a professional, you are bringing their years of experience and knowledge of creating successful websites.
Now, going back to what I said previously. I understand the need to cut corners and lower costs. To offer an alternative solution, I suggest WordPress. WordPress has fantastic options for search engine optimization, creates decent code and is very scalable. For those with limited marketing budgets and flexible design needs, a premade template can be a good starting point. Whether you work with a web designer to set it up, or have a web designer do the heavy lifting, you will end up with a higher quality, more flexible product. WordPress can grow with you, instead of against you, as many website builders will.