This post is mostly cantered about why I don’t like online website builders. Am I biased? Of course I am! Is a part of me jealous of these companies? Sure. Is the technology impressive? Absolutely. Am I a website snob? Maybe ….
That said, I genuinely don’t believe these solutions are good for most businesses for a number of reasons that I’ll outline here. But first we must go back in time to 2006.
I established ClearSoft in 2006 and had visions of developing a product that would provide an affordable set of tools for non-technical people to create a website from nothing. This system would be web based and while it would work for sports clubs, community organisations and personal sites – it was specifically aimed at small business. Sound familiar?
Yes, my vision in 2006 was an online website builder – and I called it ClearSite. In 2006, not many businesses had a website, so if you had one – you were ahead of the game. My research around the Gorey area at that time showed that roughly 80% of businesses that had a premises in the town – did not have a website so there was huge opportunities to grow – not just in Gorey, or Wexford – but all of Ireland.
So what happened to ClearSite? Well it turned out that building a good website builder was more difficult than I thought. The product itself had a lot of good things going for it, but ultimately it wasn’t good enough. A handful of sales later and I realised that people didn’t like what I was selling – so ClearSite was retired in 2008 and ClearSoft moved from selling products to services and has been that way since.
So to me, these online builders such as Wix, Weebly, SquareSpace etc. are technically brilliant. They do what they say they do and you can create an attractive and functional website within minutes. They’re very affordable and are built on robust platforms. So where is the downside then?
In 2006, as I said above, having a website was good enough. If you had a website the likelihood was that your competitor didn’t. So if your customers were looking for your products or services online, you had a very good chance of getting the enquiry call or email. Nowadays, that is no longer true. One of the first things most people do when setting up a business is to register their domain name and see about setting up a website.
Wix and the other players in this market are a very attractive proposition for many reasons. You can create a website within minutes – however my argument is that just having a website is not enough any more. Your goal shouldn’t be to have a website, your goal should be to have a tool for generating leads and sales, that enhances your brand and most importantly does a better job than your competitor.
Imagine you’re hungry and your goal is to eat a hot meal. Any fast food restaurant will give you a hot and tasty pre-made meal within minutes of walking in the door. The meal won’t be very nutritious or healthy and won’t have been prepared by a qualified chef – but it will satisfy your goal of eating a meal.
Online website builders work on the same premise – they will supply you with a pre-made website but that website will lack the professional touch and thought that any web designer worth his or her salt will bring. If you were trying to impress somebody on a first date would you really bring them for a Big Mac?
Unless your web designer is particularly bad, their work will look better than any online website builder’s creation and side by side, there will almost certainly be very noticeable differences between the quality and attention to detail. If you’ve gone for a pre-made website and your competitor hasn’t, that’s bad news for you. Again I repeat, simply having a website is no longer good enough – you need to make connections with people, give them a sense of assurance that quality and professionalism is important to you and convince them send that enquiry or pick up that phone.
Another thing to be conscious of is support. So you’ve created your Wix website and it all looks good to you. However the months pass and you now have a new requirement – your competitor has launched a new website with a killer feature and you want to follow suit. If that killer feature isn’t in the toolset provided or it doesn’t function or look as well your competitors, you’re in trouble. Another area to be concerned with is compliance – you published your site in 2017 before GDPR was introduced and now you’re not compliant. How do you become compliant? These are the headaches that no business owner wants to worry about.
Probably around once a month we get calls from customers like this who have set up their website on one of these platforms and want to upgrade it. We used to take on these clients but no longer do so due to the limitations of the platform for professional web designers and developers. It leads to frustrations for us and the client. So tragically many of these sites effectively become orphaned and go unloved. Sometimes having no website is better than having a confusing, outdated or non-compliant one.
So in summary, online website builders such as Wix, Weebly, SquareSpace etc. are a very attractive proposition and will deliver a website for you. I think you need to ask yourself the following question however – Is having a website my ultimate end goal? If the answer is no, consider your options carefully before buying that Big-Mac!