Most start-ups, side hustles, and young businesses look to keep costs as low as possible in the early days by using a selection of online platforms to build their own websites. At first glance this looks like a very sensible move. Paying out vast sums of money before you’ve even started seems like an unnecessary risk. But is it, really?
Let’s take a look at the real risk/reward and the bits a website builder platform doesn’t tell you about when you’re looking to build your own website.
Why you should build your own website
There are some great reasons for building your own website.
Building your own website on a platform like WIX, SquareSpace, or Weebly is cheap – sometimes as little as a few £s a month. You can have a simple ‘one-pager’ up and running in a few hours max. Marvellous.
These platforms are designed to be as user friendly as possible. The reason they exist, after all, is because most people don’t know how to build their own website. It’s often more difficult to mess up on one of these platforms than it is to get it right, no matter how advanced a technophobe you are.
Time is the enemy of every SME or start-up. When you can never find enough hours in the day having a cheap, simple, & fast option will often turn your head. Getting ‘Build Website’ off your To Do list in a matter of hours is an attractive prospect.
So far so good. What, I hear you ask, could possibly be the problem?
Why you should not build your own website
You may think that cost, ease, & time are some pretty difficult considerations to overcome. Using a website building platform seems to have this proposition sewn up, right? Perhaps not.
There are a couple of ways to look at this. Firstly, there’s a reason it is cheap to build your own website; it’s only going to cater for your most basic needs. If you only need a one page website to provide your contact details then great! If, however, you’re going to need anything a little more complex like eCommerce (selling online), appointment scheduling, or membership then these platforms may struggle to cater for you.
Secondly, spend a few hours flying around the web having a look at these websites. Soon enough you’ll be able to spot if a site has been made on one of these platforms. They’ll become repetitive. Boring. They’re cheap – and that’s great for you – but is that great for your business? Do you want customers or clients glossing over when they come to your website, or worse, actively choosing not to invest in your business as it appears you’re not willing to invest in it yourselves?
Finally, most businesses will want their website to generate leads, attract clients, sell to customers, and generally be a 24/7 member of staff. When you take into account everything that is expected of a website VS the investment you’d have to make in a team of people to physically do all of this for your business; even £20k starts to look an absolute bargain.
For reference, in the UK the requisite team of people just to cover the hours in the day (even at apprenctice level) would be double that amount.
Simple is great. Every business strives for simplicity but the truth is that, internally at least, they’re anything but.
Being able to accurately & effectively communicate everything your business does on a simple one or two page website is almost impossible for most businesses. This applies to both product and service based businesses. You could specialise in one area, copywriting for instance, and still need multiple pages to properly communicate what you offer. A great example is gecopywriter.com – a successful and talented copywriter who has 8 other major pages to navigate to from their homepage.
To be clear at this point, we have no affiliation with gecopywriter.com – their website happens to prove my point and I admire their work.
There is a reason that businesses who choose to start with a website builder leave it sooner or later. They do not allow growth. This is by no means some sinister motive on their part – it just isn’t part of their spec. Your site will end up looking like all the others out there until, all of a sudden, it looks outdated. Going from anonymous to standing out for all the wrong reasons is not a great trajectory for any business.
Once you’ve settled on your website builder of choice the path ahead would seem to be clear. Except that often it isn’t.
A classic roadblock is actually you, the user. How much of a perfectionist are you? How much control are you willing to cede design-wise? Do you wish you had more control, more options, more personalisation? If this sounds like you then maybe the builder platforms aren’t for you.
It takes time to choose the right platform. You’ll need to busy yourself with research; reviews of the builders available, what are your competitors using, what features do you need now, what features will you need in the future, and what features will never be relevant?
How long are you going to spend tinkering with it? How will that affect your user experience? Or SEO?
You’ve built your own website. What now?
Perhaps the worst predicament is reserved for those business owners who, for one reason or another, eschewed the classic builder platforms and ploughed their own furrow with a WordPress website. These brave adventurers may have spent a few hundred quid on a bum basic site or buttered up a family member to throw something together on the side. Now they’ve been left with no support and no idea what they’re doing.
Is it cheap?
Maybe to begin with but now it’s broken, you don’t know how to fix it and these damn plugins need new licenses (whatever that means) and now you have to pay for them. You’re not even 100% sure what they all do. At this point your options are A) ignore it & soldier on until the website falls over completely, B) have a bash at fixing it all yourself, or C) pay someone to help you. None of which are cheap in the long run.
Is it simple?
Is it fast?
No, but harder.
In order to fix this problem yourself you will need to spend many, many hours researching your tech options. You will need to accrue months and years worth of experience to know how to deal with things when they go wrong. You’ll need about the same amount of time to become known and trusted in the tech community, to allow you to ask the right questions from the right people when you can’t figure it out for yourself.
Just learning the correct search terms can take years. Learning how to put workarounds in place that can stop a problem whilst you deal with the root cause, knowing the likely source of conflicts between plugins and themes, knowing which update to hold off on for a week or so because it’s already breaking every other site that updates straight away.
On top of all that let’s hope you don’t get ill! It’s a 24/7 job keeping a website up and operational. So you’ll need to spend the time to teach someone else to know (and do) everything in your stead.
Don’t build your own website.
Why you should invest in hiring a website designer
How many reasons do you need aside from avoiding all of the headaches above? Having your website designed for you frees you up for doing all of the things you’re good at. You started a business because you have a vision or a belief in your idea – so go talk about that.
Despite the flippancy of the comments made here it is super important you choose the right partners for you. A super busy agency may seem like a good call (they’re busy, which means they’re good – right?) but if they’re only busy because they can’t finish projects or stick to deadlines then maybe give them a swerve. If you don’t get on with the person you have a meeting with just don’t use them – having free flowing conversations with people you get on with will always result in better work. Don’t judge an agency by how its previous work looks – you aren’t privy to the brief and may not understand the industry it’s catering to. Ask about the results they’ve got their clients.
Ask lots of questions, make good choices, and invest as much as you can – your website, after all, is likely to make you more money than any other element of your business.