When you're a small business without a website, it can seem like any website will do. Anything to get a web address and your name on a landing page is better than nothing, right? In theory, this is true and it can be pretty tempting to choose the path of least effort or creativity. Especially if you don't have any web devs on your internal team. However, like many aspects of business, the way you choose to build your website can have significantly different results based on the choice you make.
One of the most tempting options for a small business desperate to get a website up quickly and cheaply can be build-your-own-website platforms. On the surface, these can seem like a quick and easy way to get a business website online. But let us tell you from experience, there are downsides that may be hard to spot at first and can seriously damage the overall impact of your online presence. Stick around and we'll be happy to elaborate:
To understand why build-your-own-website (BYOW for short) platforms are bad for business, you need to understand their business model. In concept, they appear to be a pretty good idea. You get to pick from a simple website template. You select a design, color scheme, and throw together a few design elements. Add your business name, a few pictures and helpful links, and a contact page. To top it all off, they offer to cloud-host the website for you too. Great, right? Unfortunately, not so great in practice.
Website builder platforms have nothing to gain from putting the reigns in your hands. Like a pay-to-win video game, their motivation is to get you to buy as many 'extras' as possible which means that the basic package is often completely insufficient for real business website needs. It may look nice when you're throwing the 'website' together, but in reality, the basic product is little more than a mockup with all the best design elements, features, and accessibility behind piecemeal additional payments.
Limited Features and Functionality
Website builders often have little to no advanced functionality. They can offer you a landing page and maybe a contact page but don't expect anything fancy like a shopping cart or even customer logins from a BYOW platform. And custom features that will impress your visitors and customers? You can just forget it.
Template websites are going to remind your visitors of every other website built with that template no matter how creative your interim admin was using the design elements. Even so, you will probably only be able to use very simple features like embedded links and a few images in approved design locations. When it comes to fully representing your brand, nothing is more insufficient than a BYOW template.
One of the key purposes of any business website is to create drawing power through SEO. With a combination of keywords and detailed information pages, your website should be able to appear in search engine results and draw in potential customers exactly when they're looking for the services you provide. However, the simplicity and lack of meta-data control with a template website leaves you terribly underrepresented in the SEO department. Most websites created with BYOW platforms simply don't have the SEO power to bring you customers.
Inflated Hosting Costs
Website builder platforms that offer "Amazingly Cheap" websites make most of their money not from initial design, but on month-to-month hosting. That super convenient offer to cloud-host your template website isn't as magnanimous as it seems. The hosting costs are often higher than you can find from more traditional hosting options like DigitalOcean or HostGator and their contemporaries. Over time, the cost of 'easy' hosting with your website builder will exceed the cost of hiring a custom web developer and hosting with a professional server provider.
Choking Your Website Traffic
And even worse? BOYW platforms are notorious for limiting the speed and performance of their hosted mini-sites. No matter how well you use their template and how successfully you manage to draw traffic, the template hosting site will cut off your resources after a certain amount of traffic. For them, it's about sharing resources between customers. But for you, your website performance will plummet the more successfully you draw visitors. This is bad for business on a number of levels.
Someone Else's Domain Name
Your domain name, (ex: yourcompany.com) is how customers will find you. However, with many template sites, their initial package only allows you to use their domain name (ex: platformsite.com/yourcompany). This is terrible for your online reputation, as it makes you seem like a child company of the template site, not an independent business with a growing web presence. If you do want to use your own domain without the "/" addendum, you'll have to shell out yet more monthly cash.
Compared to Custom Website Development
The fact of the matter is that while custom website development may give you a larger initial quote, it's also more honest and a custom website will provide you far more value in the long term than a website made and hosted on a BYOW platform. When you're considering the best option for your company, weigh the time investment, quality, and cost over time. Not just that tempting "Low Low Price!" advertised on the website builder landing pages. For more information about how to build an optimal website for your business while still sticking to a budget you can afford, contact us today!
Scott Davis - Founder