If you’re a business owner, you want to keep an eye on your profit margins, and keep your costs as low as possible. You want to build an online presence with a business website – but how do you keep your expenses down? Some businesses choose a free, build-your-own website option rather than going for the custom-built option, to cut cost corners.
You can use a Content Management System (CMS) like Wordpress, Godaddy or Wix, for example, to build your own website, and manage it. This is a good option if you’re on a budget and computer-savvy enough to update and manage the system yourself, or have a friend or employee who can help you.
The questions to ask are: will you be able to manage it effectively? Will you be able to drive your brand online? Will it be worth it for your business in the long run? Just like with any DIY project – home improvements, for example – people who tell you it can be done super-quickly and easily are full of hot air. If it sounds too good to be true, guess what – it is!
Let’s explore the pros and cons of DIY web design.
1. Building your own website is cheaper than custom-built sites
Website building systems use drag-and-drop interfaces to allow people who aren’t programmers to add and move content and images. They don’t need complex coding to look halfway decent.
You won’t need to spend money to hire a web professional, and you can build your site in your own time – be prepared to put aside AT LEAST 10 hours for the initial set-up, depending on what content you want to add.
Lots of web builders these days are free, or have small monthly fees for the more advanced options. It can be a worthwhile option for small business just starting out, to get a web presence up and running.
2. It's easy to build and maintain a DIY website (well, sort of)
Basic sites with text and images can be set up easily, and accessed and edited by anyone with basic computer skills. If you have an existing customer base and you’re happy with it, that’s great. Send them the site link and carry on as usual.
If you want to grow your customer base, though, will your site be visible enough online to get you noticed by potential new customers?
If you have a design flair and are tech-savvy, you might be lucky enough to build a site that will be noticeable enough to attract some attention – IF customers are specifically looking for YOUR company, and they like what they see, and they know what they want. Will you grow your customer base? Not that likely.
3. You are not the boss of your own website
If you decide to leave Godaddy, Wix or Weebly or whichever company created the website builder you used, you have to abandon your site entirely. It won’t work outside of their website building software.
You won’t have access to the code for your site – and in many cases, you won’t even have access to your own content. Some web building systems don’t even let you keep your own domain name!
Leaving a web builder company for another one, or going for the custom-built website option, means your DIY site is effectively abandoned, and you have to start over. It would be like buying a property, then having to tear down the building on it and re-build a new one from the ground up.
4. This Ol' House - old-fashioned templates and faulty code
Think of building your own website using one of the CMS companies as buying a 1950s fixer-upper house – but you can’t redecorate, or modernise the electrical or plumbing system.
Most website builders use premade templates that can be outdated and unresponsive, and look clunky and old-fashioned. The templates don’t generally match up to the latest design innovations – after all, those companies are offering a basic service for free, so why should they spend time and money on developing free stuff?
Ideally you want a website that’s responsive (which means it works well on various devices, and not just a PC). Websites that don’t look good on smartphones or tablets just get passed over by the smartphone generation.
Another issue is that search engines don’t recognise your DIY site because the code is faulty – which you won’t know unless you’re a coder. If your site isn’t getting recognised by Google, it’s not coming up when people search for your service or product.
That just isn’t good for business – and it takes us straight to the biggest “con” of all…
5. Search Engine Optimization isn’t happening on your DIY website
This is easily the single biggest problem that DIY website builders have. If your site isn’t optimised for search engines, it’s not coming up in the search results, and you can’t drive your brand or market your business effectively.
Sure, the builders utilise the basic SEO functions, like meta descriptions and meta tags – but they’re using code that isn’t easy for search engines to read, and it can’t be changed or improved or updated in any way.
You’ve just added an important new product or service to your site? Tough - it won’t be updated on the site’s back end, and it won’t help your site ranking in the search engines.
6. DIY Websites are a no-frills option – but sometimes you need frills (like 3rd party plugins)
With most web builder systems, details like 3rd party plugins aren’t integral to the site and have to be added separately afterwards – usually for a fee. You MIGHT want to add that Facebook or Twitter link with icon at some stage, but you don’t know right now, because you've just launched a start-up business? Guess what – once you decide to add those features, it’s going to cost you.
You might want to add a membership area to your site, where visitors can log in with a password and access certain “special” pages, or get certain information that's not public. Hardly any of the web builders offer this, so you have to add it afterwards.
This can be problematic and hinder your site’s functionality. Think of it like buying spare parts for your car, from a random source that isn’t the official supplier - you don’t really know how well they’re going to work.
So it’s easy to see that freebie build-your-own website systems are a mixed bag of good and bad. On the one hand, you can get online quickly and for relatively little effort, or capital outlay. On the other hand, you’re missing out on online marketing advantages that custom-built sites will give you. Make sure you do your research before you choose your best option!