Website builders like Squarespace or Wix make building a web presence for your business seem quick, painless, and cheap. They promise simplicity, clarity, and tools to help you design your site that are so intuitive, even the most inexperienced user can feel like Mark Zuckerberg. And all of that for only a few dollars a month.
The appeal is obvious, whether your business is well-established and you’re looking to overhaul your website without a major headache, or you’re a start-up operating on a shoestring budget. Website builders, also known as “WYSIWYG editors,” look like a way to deliver a slick website without making a major investment.
WYSIWYG: What You See Is What You Get
WYSIWYG editors have been around for a long time, and they always make the same promise: that anybody can build a website. And while that’s true in essence, a good website is a lot more than a few pages with a URL.
Like any promise that sounds too good to be true, the promised “simplicity” of using a website builder comes with some major drawbacks. And if you aren’t careful, the low price of choosing a WYSIWYG editor could lead to costly headaches down the line. Here are 6 hidden drawbacks of website builders to consider before you decide to stake your company’s future on a website you built in the time it takes to make a sandwich.
#1) You don’t own it
Reliance on a website builder’s tools and templates has many pitfalls. When you use a website builder, you’re using proprietary templates and systems owned by another company. Oftentimes, you’re also paying them to host your site on the web.
Practically, this means that you will likely never be able to move your website, even if the host goes out of business or gets acquired by another company. Down the road, this could mean having to relaunch your website entirely, leading to major disruption for you and your clients.
On top of that, because you’re effectively renting space on their servers to run your business, website builders can restrict how much you can upload, or even how much traffic you can attract before you have to pay for “premium” features. Playing by someone else’s terms and conditions means your website isn’t portable. It means placing limits on your potential before your website even launches.
#2) You won’t appeal to search engines
Reliance on the tools provided in a WYSIWYG editor has other drawbacks. The functionality that makes building a website as easy as “drag-and-drop” has major consequences on the back-end: excessive code and poor URL categorization and structure, especially if you plan to update your website frequently.
Messy code might seem like a small trade-off for the “ease” of being able to update your website yourself, but it matters to search engines. Unnecessarily complex code and other under-the-hood issues caused by WYSIWYG editors are major red flags for search engines and can lead to a major downgrade in your SEO, or search engine optimization. It might sound technical, but your SEO determines where search engines list your website among the many results to a searcher’s query.
Why does it matter? Consider: 33% of clicks go to the number one result in a Google search. The number 6 result gets fewer than 5%. If you hope that your website will function as an inbound marketing tool, working with a website builder will cost you crucial eyes, even if you do build the website of your dreams.
#3) You look less professional
Choosing a website builder is all about compromise, trading functionality for speed. Even though it might be a primary communication channel between you and your clients, websites tend to be the first place where businesses decide to compromise.
Because when you use a website builder, even one with 500+ templates to choose from, that means your site will still be one of tens of millions built using those same templates. That adds up to thousands of other websites that look a lot like yours. Is your business confined to a template? Of course not. Your website shouldn’t be, either.
You might be thinking customers won’t notice if the look and feel of your website is similar to scores of others across the web. In fact, research shows that the aesthetic of your website—all the way down to the font you choose—is a crucial way that consumers decide whether or not to trust your brand. And that judgment happens in the blink of an eye—actually, scientists believe it takes about 50 milliseconds.
According to a Stanford report on web credibility and consumer behavior, three-quarters of internet users report that a business’s website impacts their judgment of the business’s credibility. A website is a great way to have a 24/7 presence available for your clients. A website that looks and feels just like everything else on the internet, or worse, means risking your greatest asset: your reputation. And you won’t even be there to defend yourself.
#4) You limit your possibilities…and your business
Do you have a great idea for e-commerce functionality that will serve your business particularly well? Unfortunately, if it’s not already built into the tools you bought, you’re just going to have to settle for something else. Because, and it bears repeating, you don’t even own the code your website is built on, so nothing can be changed to suit your vision.
With a WYSIWYG editor, you’re hoping that someone else’s pre-fabricated tools will fit your business and your client’s needs. This can lead to building work-arounds (ever made a purchase online that required typing order information in a comment field?) that will give you and your team headaches down the road.
#5) You sacrifice support
And in the same way that website builders want to try and fit your business into their mold, they try to fit your complex technical questions into endless FAQs, DIY video tutorials, and automated chat “assistants.”
WYSIWYG editors are a product and the website builder’s business is built on simplicity. But not simplicity for you and your clients. The less they offer you one-on-one attention, the more profitable they are.
With your website, specific personal attention from a pro who knows your site is the only foolproof way to ensure that all of your hard work remains intact, and that your website down time is at an absolute minimum should the worst come to pass.
#6) You aren’t the right person for the job
And there is nothing wrong with that. Your business is your vision and your livelihood. Unless your business is web development, you should not have to know the ins and outs of building a website. A website that is perfectly tailored to your needs and the needs of your clients builds trust and makes the right first impression. Getting there will probably require more than out of the box solutions. It takes an expert.
Sometimes, smart leadership means knowing when to delegate. The same impulses that lead businesses to consider using a WYSIWYG website editor—lack of time, lack of technical knowledge, fear of getting “lost in the weeds”—are the exact reasons why you are the wrong person to build and run your website.
The Best Website Builder is Someone Who Knows How to Build Websites
Built with care, your website can be your front door, your business card, your sales floor, your brochure, and your handshake all wrapped up in one. Built carelessly, and…well, at the end of the day, you’ll probably end up having to hire someone to build you a new website anyway.
Invest in a quality website from the very beginning. It will save you in the end.
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