You Get What You Pay For: The Downside of DIY Web Builders.
by Ryan Ragland
They are everywhere. Every time you go on Facebook, turn on a TV or change the station on your favorite music streaming app, you’ll find one: ads for do it your self, drag and drop website builders. Online ‘website builders’ seem like a good alternative to hiring a web design company. After all, they are cheaper (in the short term) and seem easy enough to use. You can pay $20 dollars to a few hundred dollars a month to build out your own website in a few hours, and boom! Just like that, you’re open for business and the customers will just come pouring in!
Well, not quite. My momma didn’t raise no fool, and above all of the other life lessons she taught me, one resonates the loudest: if it sounds too good to be true, it is. These template-based, DIY site builders can give you an amazing sense of accomplishment; after all, you just did in mere hours what some companies charge tens of thousands of dollars to do! You’re a real business now, ready to make a few million and retire on some tropical island sipping mai-tais and getting a gnarly sunburn!
Not likely. Now, I am not saying that these companies are completely useless, but business owners and entrepreneurs don’t always see the big picture when they make the decision to bust out a quick website and open up shop. There can be no success without hard work, and your website is not the exception to the rule.
In this article, I’m going to go over some of the bigger problems with starting a business on one of these platforms, and I’m sure I’m going to get some very strongly worded emails about how my opinions are like a certain part of the human anatomy; they stink. Well, after countless hours of my time and insane sums of my clients’ money having been spent trying to fix the problems a business owner can run into with these sites, I feel some sort of moral obligation to put this out into the universe. Come whatever may.
A never-ending cost for a never owned asset.
These drag and drop website builder companies like WIX and their kin charge you an ongoing monthly fee for access to their platform, and that can add up to quite a lot of money. No one sets out in business with the intent of being out of business in a few years, do they?
WIX’s most popular plan is $20 per month on their “month to month” plan, which is a cost that you will keep on paying until you take your website down. This doesn’t include email accounts or any of the typical digital tools you’ll need to run a business. This is a no-frills, bland website.
Once you do cancel your monthly subscription, they take your website back and add a bunch of ads to it, along with their own WIX domain (which pretty much renders it as useless in the business world).
When you pay to have an actual website built out by a professional web design firm like ours (shameless plug), you actually OWN the website. It’s yours, all of it. It’s an asset. In fact, I’ve heard of more than a few of my clients writing off the cost of developing a website on their taxes. Serious disclaimer, don’t do this without consulting a tax professional, and I am most certainly not one. A good website will cost you money, a great website will make you money. Some things are just that simple.
Search Engine Rankings (SEO) will suffer
When you are putting your website online (whether it be for business, personal, or any other reason), you obviously want people to find it. I mean, if you didn’t want people to know what you were up to, why bother in the first place, right?
When you use a drag and drop website builder, the code that is “auto-generated” is riddled with errors and semantic markup mistakes that will hurt your SEO rankings. When Google “crawls” your website (meaning that they scan through your website content and code), they are looking for clean, semantic code that is easy for their algorithm to read and analyze. If they can’t read and analyze the code on your website quickly and efficiently, and understand what your company offers, you’ll never get ranked.
Think about how quickly a search query you put into Google comes back to your browser with results; it’s almost instant. These bots speed through millions and millions of sites in milliseconds. If they can’t decipher what your website is, and what you offer, the person searching for the product-service-skill-doodad that you offer will never find it; they’ll find your competitors’ instead. That’s bad for business.
Even if they can index enough of your site to rank it, they will still find sloppy, incorrect code, and they will penalize and/or decrease your SEO ranking accordingly. Think of your website as a contestant in the worlds biggest hide and seek contest, except its opposite day and the goal is to be the first one found. As soon as the seeker announces what they are looking for, the loudest one who shouts clearly will be the first one found. Winner winner, chicken dinner! If your contestant (your website in this analogy, stay with me here) isn’t speaking loud and clear, it’ll never get found first, if it even gets found at all.
Again, this is bad for business. And if it’s bad for business, it’s costing you money. A lot more than the never-ending $20 bucks a month you’re paying for your website will eventually add up to; but when you add in the amount of business you’ll lose, your website is costing you quite a bit more than you realize.
Custom features and functionality is limited or non-existent
Don’t fret yet! Maybe you built out a site on Squarespace and after a lot of hard work and paid advertising (SEM/SMM), you’re growing! You’re making money and you’re expanding your operations! Maybe you hired a few people, or even brought on a partner or two. And now you’re looking to expand your offerings and expand the capabilities of your website to complement your new offerings! Boy-howdy, these are exciting times indeed!
Not so fast, hotshot. If you were planning on adding some additional features or functionality to your website, then you might as well forget it. The framework on these drag and drop “templates” is very basic and are not made to accept a lot of custom add-ons or alterations. Anything more than a basic “Contact Us” form is pretty much a non-starter. This severely limits your website from evolving in the future.
This is bad for business. You need to grow and evolve with your company’s needs. If you can’t you’re losing money.
Using the same website template as thousands of other people
According to the World Wide Web Size, a website that estimates the size of the internet, there are roughly 4.53 billion indexed websites on the internet. Now, in case my words of wisdom transcend far beyond my time, this number is as of April 19th, 2018. If you’re reading this in 2058, I’m probably way off the mark and I apologize, but it’s comforting to know that the robots haven’t taken over yet.
I digress. Start-up business owners and would-be entrepreneurs don’t take into consideration the fact that when you use a drag and drop website template service, you are given the same template choices as the thousands of other people that are using the same service. Now, several thousand seem insignificant in comparison to the 4.53 billion sites out there; but with that many sites out there, you really have to stand out to be noticed. You can’t stand out sharing the same website “look and feel” with a few hundred thousand people using the same template. There is no uniqueness to your business, just a basic template-based website same as the last few. People want to do business with people and companies they can relate to and connect with, not a cookie cutter representation of you and a few dozen of your competitors.
That’s bad for business, and what is bad for business costs you money.
Custom, professional design will give your business its own look and feel, which separates you from the competition. That’s how you stand out, that’s how you connect to a visitor, that’s how you earn an engagement.
These drag and drop services are not overly concerned with the intangibles of your website once they get you signed up for their service. You are paying them every month, if you stop they take your website back, and you’re right back at square one and considerably less wealthy. Awesome. So, you keep paying. But your site is slow, it gets bogged down easily, outdated scripts are never updated and stuff breaks. What do you do? Do you call them? Well, you didn’t pay them to build it, so good luck trying to get them to fix it. You’ll probably have to shut it all down and start over. If you’re lucky maybe it’s not too slow, maybe you can ride it out, maybe. I don’t like betting on “maybes”, I’m from Vegas, where the house always wins, and you are not the house. The speed of your website is very important to Google rankings and people that are browsing your website, it affects your position in organic searches, and that will affect the number of visitors who convert. It’s that simple.
Because they put you on one of their “shared servers” (which is often overloaded with too many of their other clients’ websites), your site will often become very slow to load during peak traffic times, which will cause a lot of people to just abandon your website. Good luck with that Cyber Monday event! If your visitors can not use your site, they’ll stop visiting. And that’s bad for business.
Can somebody help me with this?
Have you ever been so frustrated you want to break something? Chances are that if you’re trying to build your own website, you will soon. I’m a web developer and digital marketer; I’ve punched enough holes in drywall to fill a landfill. I get frustrated when I can’t get something to work properly, when something is broken and I can’t figure out what, and when the drive-through guy puts tomato on my burger when I asked very nicely for no tomato. If you run into an issue with your website or want to change something on your site that you’re not sure how to do, they will refer you to their FAQ section. I have always hated that: frequently asked questions. If it’s asked that frequently, why not do something to alleviate the problem? Make a change to your process or program so that it’s not asked so frequently? Seems a lot like common sense to me. Even worse than that is when you go to the FAQ, you can’t seem to find the question you’re asking, let alone the answer to it.
These WYSIWYG (what-you-see-is-what-you-get) website companies only care about one thing: charging your card every month. They survive on sales, so service often falls to the back burner. If you have a problem or need to make a change you can’t figure out or get to work right, you’re forced to comb through countless FAQ’s on a quest of epic frustration until, alas, you fail to find it. So you call in and wait on a customer service hotline listening to Tim Carleton’s ‘Opus Number One’ (which is the most widely used hold music in the world, you’re welcome for that tidbit), and in the event that you actually do get a support person on the phone, they are often not all that technically knowledgeable.
These companies do employ some very highly skilled web designers and professionals that can code in every language imaginable, but you’ll never reach them. These brilliant tech geniuses work building out the back end of the platform that makes them millions of dollars, not helping you get your widget to do a cool trick. You’ll talk to “Tony from New Jersey”, who has a very strong accent from another part of the globe, a very limited amount of knowledge about New Jersey, and who is just reading through the FAQ’s to tell you what you need to do.
The perception around web design is that “custom” means “unaffordable”. Our firm, and most other agencies I know of, have worked on projects of all scopes, sizes, and budgets. It can’t hurt to at least shop around and get some consultations and quotes before deciding that you can not afford a bespoke website for your business. Most agencies offer a free consultation or strategy call, so what do you have to lose? Nothing, but you have everything to gain. Remember, a good website will cost you money, a great website will make you money, and a great partner will help you grow and sustain, and RedSix is a great partner to have.
RedSix Digital has plenty of experience in helping business owners get out of their ‘drag and drop purgatory’ and into a website that converts. Feel free to give us a call or drop us a line, we’ve got your six.
What do you think? What have your experiences been building websites out on WYSIWYG web builders? Let us know in the comments or by email at Hello@RedSixDigital.com
Ryan Ragland is the Managing Director of RedSix Digital, a Web Design and Digital Marketing Agency based in Las Vegas, Nevada. Ryan has spent several years creating custom websites and digital marketing strategies for businesses of all sizes in all industries around the globe. You can follow RedSix on Instagram @RedSixDigital or visit them at RedSixDigital.com.
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