Using a website builder to customize a template website
We’ve been writing a lot recently about websites – how to get one, how to design one, who to buy them from. This week we’re going to take a look at a few of the low tech options for building a site yourself.
Many small business owners have a very limited budget to spend on marketing, and the thought of spending hundreds or thousands of dollars to hire someone to build a custom website is not very appealing. In an effort to save money, many small business owners turn to services like Wix, Weebly, and Squarespace to build their websites. Are these sites worth the investment? Let’s take a look.
What is a website builder?
The appeal of these website builder sites is that they allow someone with little to no technical knowledge to create a serviceable website in an hour or two. Each of these companies lets you choose from a set of pre-existing website templates, which users can then customize with their own text and photographs.
Because these sites are essentially pre-made, if you use one you can get it online in a matter of hours once you've customized it with your content.
Wix, Weebly, and Squarespace all offer very comparable services at a relatively inexpensive price point. They’re great for someone who just wants to get something up online as soon as possible. If your main purpose for having a website is to serve as a digital business card or a portfolio, the least expensive, quickest way to get that is through one of these website builders.
They also give you basic SEO capabilities – you can use their tools to the best of your abilities to make your website search engine friendly. Additionally, each of these companies will host your website for you, sparing you the potentially intimidating process of finding a domain and a host.
(Read more about domains and hosting in our last blog post.)
The biggest disadvantage of using one of these website builders is actually their big selling point: you’re doing this on your own. If you are using one of these sites, you are presumably not someone with a lot of experience in web design, so you can find yourself in a lot of trouble if something doesn’t work or a change you try to make breaks your website. You can look online for help or advice, but in the end you have to handle the problem on your own.
Another disadvantage is that while each of these sites do give you some SEO tools to use, they will never be as well-optimized as fully customizable websites. And in fact, there is some evidence that these website builder sites struggle with SEO problems. In fact, there was a problem last fall where Wix pages were not being indexed in Google at all! There hasn’t been an official statement saying this was fixed, and people have been complaining that their sites still weren’t being picked up by Google as recently as the beginning of January.
And finally, the problem with using these “themes” or templates from website builders is that your website ends up looking like every other website that is using the same theme. If you need a website that is going to make your business stand out from the pack, you might not be able to achieve that with one of these template websites.
The Bottom Line
Companies like Wix, Weebly, and Squarespace can get you a nice looking website for minimal investment and their tools can be used without any prior knowledge of web design. If all you want is an online catalogue or a site to direct your clients to for more information, then one of these template websites may work well for you.
On the other hand, if you need your website to attract new customers or serve as a good representative of your brand, it’s unlikely that a site from one of these website builders will meet your needs. For any serious professional website, it’s nearly always worth the investment to have a properly designed site created by a professional, because they will be able to design a site that fits your business’s needs rather than sticking you with a one-size-fits-all template.
Have you ever had success with a website builder like one of the companies we’ve talked about in this blog post? Let us know in the comments or join the conversation with us on Twitter.