“What do you think of [insert the name of an online website builder here] websites?”
I could criticize do-it-yourself website offerings, but the reality is that the question above really needs to be answered by another question – “What are you looking to achieve with your website?” There is certainly a place for these website-building platforms in the marketplace. It just depends on what you expect that website to do for you.
There are many reasons for having a website for your business. Your needs might be simple or more complex. If you want to put information online for people to reference, then building your own website could do the trick. However, if your goals are to get leads, set up appointments, or have customers serve themselves online, a custom website is the way to go.
Which kinds of websites are best for you? Here are some comparisons to keep in mind as you research your options:
Data is a crucial part of online marketing. Without it, you will be disappointed in not knowing who your audience is or how to appeal to them. Because of this, custom websites are truly the only way to get proper results. Otherwise, you are just hoping for the best, and hope is not a great strategy. Online website builders offer data but in a very limited sense, and sometimes not the specific data you need for your business.
Community and Support
Custom website platforms are going to have a huge user community and support teams that you can rest on. Remember that the point of a DIY website builder offering is that they don’t really want to have to stand up a big support team. They achieve this by having more of a ‘one-size-fits-all’ business model with pre-built templates.
The word “custom” says it all, but when you have an advanced business goal for the website, a custom website is likely the way to go. For instance, I have a client that needed their customers to be able to register warranties online. That is definitely a custom requirement. Website Builder templates are made to be simple, so when you need more functionality (if they have it), you will likely be charged to upgrade that functionality.
Unlimited Pages and Contributors
With a custom website, you can make as many pages as you want and have as many people helping you with it as you need. In the online website builder world, you’ll often be bound to having a limited number of pages and users (unless you pay more).
Own Your Domain and Content
The custom website world has always allowed you to own your domain (i.e. kakvarley.com), and even more importantly, own all the content you put on the website. Conversely, it’s rather common for these website builder platforms to supply a vanity URL (i.e. kakvarley.squarespace.com) which can cause legitimacy concerns, and then require you to electronically sign off on them owning any content you put on the website (claiming they can even do whatever they want with it).
Currencies for eCommerce
This is pretty simple. Custom websites will allow you to sell in different currencies if you sell globally.
Hosting is the place (a server) where your website is housed for public access. Website builder platforms include hosting because they have to supply templates. That would seem like a selling point in terms of consolidation, but not all hosting companies are good. If a hosting service goes down, your website is not available to the public. If you want to move the website to a different hosting company, you will have to rebuild your website from scratch. With custom websites, you can move your website to different hosting companies at will.
Because website builders own the features of your website, you have likely signed their electronic terms and conditions. This means they can pull features away without notice. Furthermore, if you compare the number of features available, take WordPress as an example. They have a massive catalog of features (up to 49,000 plug-ins currently). The online website builder programs are only going to offer just enough features to appeal to a small-sized customer.
Part of the reason you are even online is for people to find you, but how easy is it for people to find you? One of the most popular ways of getting attention online is through SEO (otherwise known as Search Engine Optimization). It is a technical craft that improves search rankings and drives traffic to websites. Do not let website-building platforms or hosting companies fool you into thinking they offer SEO until you know what is truly involved. To get a better understanding of what is involved, sign up for this Free SEO Trial.
One Last Note…
I hope that this information helps you choose which website direction you want to take. However, there’s one last point I really need to express. As your business grows, you will likely need a Custom Website anyway. Website Builders are a great way to get a website up quickly at a rather reasonable monthly price. But as soon as your business grows to a point of needing more from a Website Builder, costs will go up and limitations will become apparent. At that point, you’ll be in a position of creating a whole new Custom Website.
Need help choosing a type of website? Download my Website Evaluation Checklist to help guide you.
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