WIX. GoDaddy or Google Website Builder. Square Space. There’s no lack of options. Each promises a beautiful website with minimal effort and cost. Depending on your goals, any one of these could be a great option (though some are better than others). But I’ve rebuilt plenty of sites for people who gave a builder their best and got mightily frustrated in return.
Why is it so… hard?
Most clients who come to me after reaching their limit with their website builder feel defeated and a little sheepish–after all, the commercials make it look so easy, and everyone knows people who’ve had great success and swear by them. There’s a common narrative floating around, thanks to very successful ad campaigns, that anyone and everyone should be able to make their own website.
As a web designer for 20 years, I get really frustrated with that kind of messaging. A big part of that is minimizing the complicated parts of what I do, but I’m willing to grow with the industry as some pieces of my work have become obsolete and others evolve. There’s enough web work out there to scrap the website part of things if it just wasn’t needed anymore.
Making a website is a lot of work
Sure, every builder has pre-made templates you just have to plug your stuff into. But that means every paragraph, every hours list, every link to other places, every image on every page has to be created by you. Most clients are surprised at how much they have to pull together or deliver through interview so their site represents them accurately and professionally.
Bumps are hard to smooth out
Let’s say you replace their generic front-page photo of a mountain range with a high-quality photo of your team at work. But the image is stretched weirdly, or cuts off, or looks huge on the page. If you’re lucky, the builder will tell you what the image should be sized at and you have the software and skills to make it match. If not, the headaches start.
“Extras” will cost you
Most builders come with a base set of bells and whistles, but they’re often not adequate for business needs if you want more than a very basic setup. Do you want forms to go to more than one email address or be able to accept payments? It can be difficult to know exactly what you need and what’s included with your plan.
Most website builders also heavily feature the services of their experts when you run into trouble. This isn’t an accident–every builder I’ve worked with has some features that would frustrate most users or make building an attractive website unnecessarily difficult.
Your site is floating in cyberspace
Website builders are getting progressively better at providing tools for search engine optimization, which is great. But without a web developer assisting, you might not know that your site will rank significantly better if you connect several parts of your online presence and keep them vibrant or how to set up and manage those pieces. Your time and investment need to be worth it. Don’t let your site be lost in space!
Value your time
To continue the theme, your time is important. Many business owners and staff have to sacrifice a significant amount of time spent on normal operations to get a website up and running well. Is the lost revenue or stress worth the money saved?
When should you use a website builder?
Website builders can be a great fit for some, and will certainly save you money upfront. Use a DIY website builder when you or your staff:
- Have spare time to do it right, including researching problems or contacting customer service if you run into trouble
- Have a good eye for design and layout
- Can access and manipulate high-quality images
- Can write compelling content
- Are willing to learn about SEO
Don’t be afraid to call in help
Commercials make it seem like everyone should be able to whip up an amazing website. If you’re inclined, give it a shot! But if you get frustrated or disappointed by what website builders offer, don’t hesitate to get a web developer on your side. Just because someone gives me a plan and some power tools doesn’t mean I should be able to build a house. Some people can, some people can’t, some people could but would rather focus their expertise on other things. Not wanting to build a website on your own says nothing about you other than you know how you want to spend your time.