Have you seen those TV commercials where they tell you how easy it is to build your own website with their wiz-bang site builder? Every time I see one of them, I grit my teeth. Using a site builder is not a good idea.
But a Site Builder Sounds So Great…
The pitch for using a site builder like Wix or Weebly sounds so appealing. After all, they’ll host the site so you don’t need to worry about buying a domain or hosting yourself. They have a neat little building block system where you can create your pages easily and add your content. You don’t need to mess around with any nasty code and they provide a bunch of pretty templates to choose from. You only pay one company a monthly or annual fee for your domain, hosting, and the builder.
Sounds Amazing! So What’s the Problem?
As a web designer, you may think my objection is self-serving – after all, if everyone builds their own site, I won’t have any work! Or professional conceit – no untrained solopreneur could possibly build a site as nice as a professional web designer.
While there is some truth to these points, they aren’t why I believe you should make a different decision. Here are my issues with site builders:
1. You can only use one of their supplied templates. While they allow a certain amount of customization, you generally can’t create a fully customized look and feel. The sites I’ve seen built using builders look either blandly cookie-cutter or amateurish.
2. They lack functional flexibility. You can add the elements they allow to your site and nothing else. And you can only add them where and how the builder allows. I’ve had several clients ask me to move their sites from a site builder environment into WordPress because they found their current sites were not flexible enough for their needs.
3. They own where your site lives. That is, your site is on their property. It’s like building a house on land owned by someone else. If they want to raise the cost you pay to have your house on their land, you have few choices – pay or leave your house behind. And if the land is sold to someone else, all bets are off. It’s like building your business entirely on Facebook or Twitter. They can change the rules or boot you off entirely whenever they wish and you have little recourse. And with a site builder company hosting your site, you can’t move it anywhere else since the builder software is proprietary and only works on their servers.
Well Then, What’s the Best Way to Build a Site?
I’m a huge fan or WordPress. Not WordPress.com – that’s pretty similar to the site builder companies we’ve been talking about. I mean the WordPress software you get from WordPress.org and install on your own web hosting. Let’s look at it with regard to the builder issues I listed.
1. There are many, many WordPress themes available, both free and paid. And they can all be fully customized. Whether you want a clean and professional look, a whimsical and creative look, or an upscale and classy look, they’re all readily possible with WordPress.
2. WordPress itself includes a lot of functionality and adds more all the time. Additionally, there are literally thousands of plugins that provide pretty much any functionality you could imagine. Every type of business is represented in the WordPress universe.
3. When WordPress is installed on your own hosting, you have control over it. Yes, you are paying someone else for the hosting, but it’s like leasing the land your house is built on. It’s a legal agreement and the hosting company can’t change the cost or rules on you until renewal time. And even then, you can easily move your site to another host if you don’t like your current company.
But What About the Good Aspects of a Site Builder?
I thought you’d get around to asking that! Well, we already talked about why you really want to have your own hosting for your site. You also want to buy and control your own domain names.
Now to the biggest benefit of a site builder: you can create your website yourself. Chances are if you want a site for your business that looks professional and has an opt-in form, allows customers to buy from you, has an events calendar, or a membership, you will want to hire a professional web designer to create it. S/he can create the look and feel you’re looking for. S/he can also sift through the many plugins available to find the functionality you need in plugins that work, are updated appropriately, and are supported by their creators.
Not only do I think your site will be better looking and functioning if you outsource its creation, I also believe it’s better for your business. Taking the time to learn what you need to in order to have a good looking and functioning site is just not a good use of your time. Even if you’re on a limited budget, your time is better spent attracting and serving clients or customers.
The good news is that WordPress is designed to make is very easy to add and update content. So while I recommend hiring out for your site creation, I have no problem with you learning how to make changes to the content. Then you’ll only need your web designer when you want to update the design or functionality on your site, not when you want to update a page or publish a blog post.
So invest your time and energy in what you do best and earn the money to hire a pro to create your site. Then learn how to update the content on your site and you’re good to go!