- Create your website in minutes!
- No technical skills required!
- Hundreds of customizable designs tailored to your business!
These are just some of the claims made by free or cheap online do-it-yourself (DIY) website builders. Most (if not all) businesses today need a website, or at the very least benefit from having one. So it's no surprise that DIY website builders are becoming more and more popular judging by the number of products on the market.
As a small business I understand the need to conserve spending. When I first started out I made generous use of free trials and budget-friendly online tools that helped me run my business. Some I still use; others I've upgraded; and others still have been outsourced.
So I get the allure of being able to create your own website at a fraction of the cost of using a professional. In fact, some of my clients could tell you all about it. But more on their experiences in a minute.
First let me say that I’m not against DIY website builders. I believe they have a place in the market and they've come a long way in terms of functionality and ease of use. But they’re not for everyone. There are definite limitations among the various options - things like lack of font choices, limited features, limited blog functionality and more.
If you’re a serious business - and not just a hobbiest - then you need a serious website that is going to accurately and professionally showcase your products or services and get you noticed. In short, if you're serious about your business, stay away from DIY.
Case in point #1
A client started out with a free website builder that came with her new domain and hosting account. While she found it initially easy to use, she became increasingly "frustrated with the limitations" as she tried to customize it to what she wanted. And each additional feature she required was going to cost more money.
So before she started purchasing add-ons she wasn't really sure about, she stopped as she states, "before things got away from me". So her website sat unfinished for a time until she called us.
After a proper needs analysis we presented her with some options that met both her requirements and her budget and she now has a completely unique, professional and functional website for her business.
Case in point #2
Another client had their website running for some time on a popular DIY platform. When they came on board we did some additional optimization of the site to improve the SEO, fixed a domain issue, added analytics and made some minor cosmetic changes.
Then one day something stopped working. It was a feature that was critical to their business and after several emails back and forth with the website support team - who were aware that a feature that once worked no longer worked in their latest update - they were given no timeframe for a fix.
So they had to make a decision - wait for a fix or move their site. They chose to move. We were able to make this happen for them quickly and painlessly.
We have other clients that we've saved from DIY nightmares, but I won't go on. Here is a summary of some of the common issues:
Limited customization ability
Yes, they say they are fully customizable. What they don't tell you is that if you truly want to make your chosen template unique, you really need to know some HTML and CSS. In other words, you need web development skills.
If you just need a few pages of content and a contact form, fine. If you have complex e-commerce needs or require any type of custom functionality, you could be in for some serious heartache.
Maybe it's the designer in me, but I'm not a big fan of templates. One size just doesn't fit all. Customization is ALWAYS required because no matter how much you may like the look of a template, there is always some feature that doesn’t quite meet your needs. You can spend more time trying to fit into or change a template than developing a site from scratch. And if you do happen to find one that meets your needs, do you really want to look like the potentially hundreds of other sites out there that picked the same template?
When things go wrong
Something will always go wrong. Will you know how to fix it or will you spend your valuable time on the support line (if they have one) or waiting for a reply to your email? What if it's urgent?
Time = Money
You're time is valuable and presumably you want to spend most of it running your business. Do you really want to take time away from that to put a website together - sacrificing weekends or burning the midnight oil? How much is your time worth to you?
The bottom line is that if your website is an important part of your business, make sure you spend time to review your options and the potential costs of going the do-it-yourself route vs. hiring a professional.
Do you have a DIY story to share? Good, bad or ugly?