Having a website is simply a must in today’s digital world and is the first step to building a strong online presence. Potential customers can land on your site to learn more about your products or services, ultimately contributing to your bottom line
But with little technical expertise how do you even get started?
One solution is with site builders.
These are web applications that offer a WYSIWYG (“what you see is what you get”) interface where you simply drag and drop different elements onto predefined templates. Site builders make it easy to build a fully fledged site even if you have no coding experience. Some even offer free hosting and dedicated customer support.
While site builders may appear to be an attractive option, the reality can be a little different. Here we look at some of the main reasons why having your own site professionally developed is ultimately a better business decision.
1. You Retain Complete Control
Site builders are fast and cheap.
Most have hundreds, even thousands of templates to choose from. In no time at all you could have a fully built site for your business by simply following the steps provided. All you need to do is choose a design and enter in basic information about your business. The whole process from start to finish is designed to be effortless.
But in exchange you sacrifice a great deal of control.
Sites that are built with site builders (e.g. Weebly, Wix, etc.) are typically hosted on those servers. So if you want to switch to a different hosting platform, there is no easy way to transfer your site over. This becomes a problem especially if you want a dedicated server to handle an increase in resources. You would essentially need to build the site again entirely from scratch.
You may be saving initially on hosting and development costs, but the degree of control you lose in the process is simply not worth it in the long run.
2. Greater Degree of Flexibility
In the beginning, a website with just the essentials will likely be more than sufficient.
But as your business grows you will eventually want to add more features to your site to make it even more robust and functional. Restricting yourself to a site builder means sacrificing the flexibility to easily modify your site. Which only makes it harder to:
- Implement a custom design that reflects your brand
- Add a forum or other feature into your site
- Link your site to another web application
- Move to a more capable hosting solution
Most business owners are primarily concerned with how their website looks. But building a site is more than simply creating an aesthetically pleasing design. There are other far more important aspects including usability and search engine friendliness.
Having complete control of your site is key as it gives you the flexibility to easily modify your site. Your current needs may be fairly basic for now but working with a professional developer allows room for future business growth.
3. Site Builders Come at a Cost
Perhaps the most appealing feature of site builders is their relatively low cost. Some even allow you to build and host your site completely free of charge. All you need to do is simply sign up for an account, create your site using the web editor, and hit the publish button for it to go live.
But there’s a catch.
As with anything that appears to be “free”, there is almost always a condition involved. Site builders need revenue to keep their servers running and to provide ongoing support. So most will display advertisements within your content or have a tagline in the footer such as “This site was created with sitebuilder.com. Build your own site for free”. Others may charge higher prices for hosting or domain registration.
Advertisements reflect poorly on your business and they can even have a negative impact on revenue. Visitors may see an advertisement with lower prices and click away to a competing site. So think twice before relying on a site builder as you could be losing sales or paying more in the long run.
4. A Custom Design That Reflects Your Brand
Site builders make it almost too easy to build a site.
But that ease of use also dramatically lowers the barrier of entry so that practically anyone with an email address can build a site. Weebly boasts on its homepage that it has over 30 million users. Other site builders and free blog hosting platforms (e.g. Tumblr, Blogger, WordPress, etc.) undoubtedly have large user bases.
Building with a popular site builder such as Weebly means there are likely thousands of other sites that are similar in design.
Why is this a problem?
Because using a predefined template fails to differentiate your site. Having a professionally designed site that reflects your brand helps your business gain a competitive advantage. This is absolutely key and it can mean the difference between visitors engaging with your business or hitting the back button.
As attention spans get shorter and shorter online you need a professional design that makes a great first impression, something you likely won’t get from predefined templates.
5. A Highly Optimised Site Built For Search Engines
Gone are the days of looking through the Yellow Pages to find a local business. More consumers now start their research with an online search or through social media networks such as Facebook. According to data from Google, 4 out of 5 consumers rely on search engines for local information.
If your business can’t be found online, it only benefits your competitors.
SEO is an important factor that cannot be overlooked when building a site. Optimising the following factors improves visibility in the search results:
- Meta descriptions
- Image ALT text
- Display URLs
- Page speed
Even mobile-friendliness is a ranking factor.
Having a professionally designed site means that you have the flexibility to implement SEO right from the very start. A number of site builders allow for basic optimisation such as changing page titles but not the full breadth of options that can really push your rankings in the search results. There are also some site builders that will prevent your site from being indexed unless you upgrade to a paid plan.
Your website is an incredibly valuable asset for your business.
Site builders may be an attractive option as you can quickly build a fully fledged site. But the downsides far outweigh the initial benefits. Not only do you lose a great deal of flexibility and control, you could also end up paying more in the long term with a design that is barely unique or optimised.
To maintain control of your site and have an appealing design that reflects your brand, the best approach is to either build your own or work with professional web designers.