In the web design industry we are seeing a lot more DIY (Do it Yourself) website builders being offered by various companies. You can build your own website through GoDaddy, Wix, Squarespace, and many others. As a web designer, I am often asked if these are a good alternative to a custom website built by a design firm. Obviously, there are many factors to consider when making decisions of this size. Businesses and organizations need to consider ease of use, effectiveness, first impressions, flexibility, cost, search engine optimization, responsiveness, and so on when developing their online presence. Let’s get into some of the advantages and disadvantages of using these tools for developing a digital presence and help you delineate the differences.
DIY Website Builder Pro’s
- Often free or carry a very low-cost.
- Might be ideal for startups, nonprofits, personal sites, or those on an extremely tight budget.
- Ability to get a web presence up quickly and anytime, day or night.
- Great if you don’t need a marketing strategy or flexibility in Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
- Their software is fairly intuitive and user-friendly.
- They allow you to easily create and add contact forms, social feeds, newsletters, and other features.
- They usually take care of software updates.
- They have support forums, which can give quick answers to very general issues.
DIY Website Builders are Improving
- The number of templates to choose from are increasing all the time.
- They are starting to offer more templates that are responsive.
- The newer builders and templates are starting to move away from Flash.
DIY Website Builder Cons
- The SEO services bundled with these builders are often times ineffective, inflexible, or out of date.
- They limit creative control. Templates usually offer some flexibility, however, you are confined to the limits of the template.
- Other businesses or organizations have access to the same templates as you do. This will lead to others having a site that looks almost exactly like yours. Especially since most will choose the highest quality templates.
- Many templates are based on Flash technology, limiting your website in many ways, including search engine crawlability, speed, and mobile readiness.
- The limitations in creativity and tool use can limit your ability to develop your website as an effective marketing tool.
- Moving to a new hosting provider can be extremely difficult.
- DIY website builders can limit your ability to create many pages and data types, furthering limiting your SEO efforts.
- Many of the templates are poorly designed or very dated. This can portray your business or organization in an unprofessional way. Remember, often times your website is your first point of contact with many of your potential clients or customers.
- Often times DIY websites are highly graphic intensive and poorly optimized leading to slow loading times.
- If you use their hosting, (Example: yoursite.diywebbuilder.com) you seem to be less legitimate as a business and lose out on branding potential.
- Support is usually limited to general trouble shooting and technical assistance.
- DIY Website builders often have trouble integrating Webmaster Tools (Google, Bing) and other analytics (Google, Bing, Yahoo) tools that will help you grow your business.
Other Things to Consider
With GoDaddy, Wix or Squarespace, you are able to create your own website using their templates and feature builders. In some instances, this can be a great solution. It is important to keep in mind that customization options are limited and in many cases, expanding them carries an extra fee. The most significant disadvantage is that your content is essentially locked into the template you choose. Once you have a design and your content is in place, changes to your design or transferring content can be cumbersome. In some cases, you will need to start over.
With WordPress, your design is essentially a paint job over your content. If you want to make a change, it is a much simpler process. Additionally, an experienced WordPress designer work with you to develop a website that meets your needs and fits your brand and unique style. You receive a custom product that meets your current needs and offers the flexibility to make changes as your business or organizational needs expand.
- DIY website builders’ cheapest plans also have advertising built-in for the services you are using. This effectively means you are promoting their services. Obviously, many web designers also place an indication of their involvement in the design, but in my experience this is less intrusive, and in many cases is optional.
- SEO and blogging features typically come as add-ons to DIY website builder services. Usually this carries an additional cost. WordPress has these functions built-in from the start.
- The WordPress Content Management System (CMS) is an open source software with a high market share (See here and here). The open source aspect means that there are literally millions of developers working on plugins and other features to extend your website in many ways. Additionally, the high market share provides you with some level of certainty that the software will not only be around for years to come, but will be maintained and updated regularly.
When deciding between a DIY experience or hiring a professional designer, budget is an important factor, but as you can see it is certainly not the only one. Professional design, like many of the aspects of running a business, is an investment in your product. This investment will illustrate to your potential customers, clients, or audience that you take what you do seriously and are willing to spend time and money in providing a great experience. Furthermore, a website and digital presence that is built with your goals as the primary focus will pay for itself and offers better experience for your users.
Finally, when you hire a designer, you will also likely be hiring a more personal experience on many levels. If you find a good firm, they will give you world-class customer service and want to understand your unique needs. In most cases, they want to help you realize your vision and goals through a collaborative process that will be apparent in your digital presence and strategy.
Please feel free to leave a comment or ask any questions in the comment section below. I would also be happy to discuss this topic with you in a more personal level. You can do this by contacting me directly by phone or email, or by using my contact form.