Over the past few years, advertisements for DIY website builders have seemingly been everywhere. Weebly and Squarespace have bombarded business owners with spots encouraging them to dream big and avoid the pitfalls of the Internet; now Wix is set to outdo both with an epic ad campaign that involves a DreamWorks partnership and real-time produced ad.
The marketing investment is clearly paying off; exact numbers are hard to come by, but it’s estimated that these platforms now host 100+ million websites.
Is this trend a good thing? To some extent, it is. A survey conducted last year of small businesses found that a quarter still don’t have a website and only 56% of those with websites utilize responsive design (i.e., when the presentation adapts for mobile users).
DIY website builders allow businesses to create sites fairly quickly, and most have mobile-friendly designs, so their growing popularity is at least bringing more companies online and reducing the number of pages not optimized for smartphones.
However, while a DIY solution may be better than having no website at all, it isn’t considered the best approach for most businesses. Why? Here are four of the biggest pitfalls:
1. Limited design options
How do companies like Weebly, Squarespace, and Wix enable businesses to build websites with no help? Fundamentally, it comes down to templates.
Each of these platforms gives clients a certain number of design templates to choose from and then allows for specific pieces of content to be plugged into specific spots. This has some advantages—the templates tend to look nice and can be previewed easily—but it also has major drawbacks.
The biggest downside is that even the best template has limitations. At some point you’ll want to make tweaks—move the placement of an element, have a different type of navigation, etc.—and that’s very difficult, if not impossible, with most template structures. Moreover, some services lock you into a template once you build a site, limiting your options to personalize the experience even more.
2. Ongoing subscription fees
Another downside of DIY services is their pricing structure. Many have “free” options, but those are filled with ads and aren’t a viable long-term route for most businesses. The next step up for all of the major platforms is a monthly fee.
Initially, this seems like a great deal. Rather than invest thousands of dollars to build a website you can get one for nothing upfront and less than $100 per month. However, keep in mind that as long as you stick with the service you’ll be charged each month, and migrating off isn’t easy. In other words, you’ll most likely be paying that ongoing fee for a long, long time.
3. High-volume customer service
The rapid growth of DIY website builders means many have grown to be very, very big. Wix alone was valued at $800 million at its IPO.
This huge number of clients means that customer service is set-up for high interaction volume, not individual businesses. Most platforms push you to use their forums or chat options for help, and make reaching someone by phone very difficult. In most situations this lack of access is merely an inconvenience, but at certain times—such as when there is a service outage—it can be a huge drawback.
4. Less future flexibility
Finally, the biggest pitfall of DIY website builders is probably the most abstract: less future flexibility.
Ten years ago, Facebook was just a tool for college students and the iPhone didn’t exist. Who knows what the next decade will bring?
If you build your site on a DIY platform, you’re making the assumption that this particular company will remain solvent, continue to invest in its technology, and quickly identify emerging digital trends. That’s a big bet to make.
DIY platforms are less expensive up front and simple to set up; however, this initial ease means less control down the road. Conversely, building a custom website tailored to the specific needs of your company may be a bigger challenge to begin with, but it puts you in a much better position to succeed online in the future.
MDG Advertising, a full-service advertising agency with offices in Boca Raton and New York, NY, is one of Florida’s top branding firms. MDG’s capabilities include print advertising, direct mail marketing, branding, logo design, creative, media buying and planning, radio and TV advertising, outdoor, newspaper, digital marketing, website design and development, online video advertising, infographic development, email marketing, video marketing, mobile marketing, content marketing, social media marketing, paid search marketing, and SEO. To learn about the latest trends in advertising and branding, contact MDG Advertising today at 561-338-7797 or visit mdgadvertising.com.
Written by Michael Del Gigante