With the rise of online website builders, any small business would be mad to ignore using these resources when it comes to producing their own website. They are cheap, relatively easy to use and do all the complicated stuff like hosting and domains. What's not to like?
Well, ask any professional web designer and you might get a sniffy answer.
They would say that, wouldn't they? You say; they have to justify their existence and high prices, what can they do that a website builder can't?
So, let's try to examine the pros and cons.
That's a strange question? It's obvious isn't it? Well, no actually, it's not. Do you want to sell your product or service? Do you want to attract members to your club? Is it an information-only exercise? Do you want to air your views on a blog?
You'll notice that the answer to virtually every question above implies encouraging visitors to your website, so the end result is not producing a website, it is finding people. In other words, making a website is not an end in itself, it is a process designed to produce a result.
On that basis, when deciding how to produce your website, you must also consider what it needs to do for you.
If the website has no requirement to attract visitors, then a website builder will do just fine, however, if you have ambition to do more with your website, you might want to consider other options than just 'building a website'.
Another question: why do larger companies very, very rarely use online website builders? Do you think they simply don’t realise how cheap website builders are? Do you think all these companies employ web designers because, well, they always have?
Let’s look at the pros and cons of producing a website.
OK, so let's assume you want to encourage visitors to your website, visitors that will interact with you in some way - buying from you, joining your club etc - how does that affect the way your website is produced?
Have you ever sat in a friend’s house and heard them say: “I decorated this room.” and thought: ‘Yes, it looks like it.”?
Design (and marketing) is an area most people think they are great at, but, of course, this is nonsense. There is a reason designers spend years honing their craft and, perhaps years learning the subject at school. Making something look cool – and effective – is not easy and, for most of us, not intuitive. Unless you are very lucky, my recommendation is: the professionals are better than you.
Things change fast in the web world. When I started, a mere nine years ago, I had to produce one design for each site, today, in the mobile world it requires a minimum of four – and that includes mobile landscape and portrait.
There’s more: If you need your website to work well, you need to understand the vagaries of UX – User Experience – the art of understanding how visitors interact with your site. It is a similar story for advertising your site. Search engines change their algorithms every few months, selling using Google Ads changes constantly, so does Bing and don’t even start on SEO!
Do you have a rudimentary understanding of marketing your site? Metatags, alt-tags, H1 headings, page titles, page descriptions? If the answer is no, then again, you need to consider using a professional.
As Miles Davis said: "Time isn't the main thing, it is the only thing."
You know how to do your job; you've done it for years and I will assume you think you are pretty good at it. If you decide to find customers by doing your own marketing by setting up a website, where is the money coming from to support you? If you are earning £50 an hour, how many hours will it take to learn the skills that a web designer has developed over the years? 10 hours? £500. 20 hours? £1,000.
Let me tell you; I have been doing this job for nine years and I learn new stuff every day. Do you know how often Google change their algorithm? Do you know whether you website works on IE10? What proportion of mobile phones support flex boxes? Have you heard of SSL?
To catch up with me, let alone the huge companies with their massive infrastructure and staff given to improving the chances of a website appearing on the Google results page, you will need to spend years catching up.
If you can get a web designer to produce a good website for you for £1,000, bite his arm off! (Or call me!)
Producing a website and not marketing it is like writing a novel and leaving it on your desk - it's pointless.
A good web designer will be able to push you towards lots of free and cheap ways to push your website in front of people who have never heard of you. (Check out one of our blogs on the subject.) He will also be able to incorporate the key principles of SEO and marketing on your site to make it more likely to be found - especially if you decide to use Pay per Click (PPC) campaigns to promote your site.
Well, you say, he would say those things. But I can guarantee this: any website designed using an online system will have a bucket-load of marketing behind it - much more than the monthly charge for hosting their site.
I would recommend that before you start using an online system, think about why you need a website first. If the answer is 'find customers' then check out the price of a professionally produced website before you start work. I bet you'll get the benefit in the long run.
“If you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur.” Red Adair
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