Building a website no longer requires knowing or learning HTML code. Now there are options galore including Content Management System (CMS) choices such as WordPress and Joomla and free ‘builders’ such as Squarespace, Weebly and Wix. Even some larger business service providers are pushing free ‘drag and drop’ site builders as an added bonus to their customers.
It can be very tempting to try and save a bit of capital and go for a self-built site, especially if you are a start-up business. However, it is important that you understand the dangers of the DIY route:
- Market placement – where do you sit compared to the competition
Before building a business website, check out your competitors’ websites. Like anything to do with your business, you want to be sure you are exactly where you need to be as far as market placement. How you compare to the competition should be a direct reflection of where you sit in the market – if you want medium or high end customers, you won’t get them with low-end location, décor or marketing. If your website looks cheaper than your nearest competitors, guess what your potential customers will decide about you.
- Productivity – time is money too
Even the easiest DIY website design tool requires you to spend time choosing layouts, adding content and creating and testing links, forms and other functionality. Whether you take it on yourself or get a friend to build your site for you, consider if the time you will spend on DIY or working with the friend would be better invested in providing direct customer service or making sales contacts with prospects. Taking dollar-earning hours away from your core business could end up costing you a lot more than you save by not paying for a professional web designer.
Be wary of catchy sales pitches around fast and easy websites. Doing anything well takes time and consideration: would you do business with someone who thinks throwing something together in their smoko break will produce a good result?
- SEO – are you qualified to keep up with changes in Google’s ranking algorithm?Websites need to perform with the search engines to be effective. Most businesses depend upon Search Engine Optimization (SEO) in order for customers and prospects to find their websites in online searches. The majority of DIY websites however, may not even be equipped to optimise search results, especially when you consider that Google has over 200 different ranking factors.
Also, Google and other search engines are constantly adjusting their algorithms for ranking search results. Staying up to date with changes in search engine ranking factors is something most professional web designers do as part of their jobs.
- Design trends – the risk of becoming obsolete
Most DIY web-building tools provide numerous templates from which you can choose for the look and feel of your site, offering the latest trends in appearance and functionality. However, as trends and popular tastes change, you may find the developer of the template you chose no longer supports that option after 6 months or a year. You’ll be forced to either change your template or take security risks by keeping it.
Other DIY design risks for business sites include poor site navigation and misused design elements that do not represent your brand well.
Professional website design for businesses includes understanding your business and your target market so that your site is representative of your business message and points of difference as well as your branding. A website that appeals to site visitors from your target market will more likely encourage them to investigate your site, return to your site and respond positively to your calls to action. These factors may be overlooked in a DIY site.
- Site features and functions – the risk of ineffective or broken programming
One of the biggest risks of having a DIY website or using a free platform is finding that elements of your function programming are ineffective or broken. This may include page links, moving visuals, contact or sign up forms for newsletters or shopping carts for e-commerce sites. For business websites, hiring a professional with a successful track record will decrease your risk of malfunctioning site features, and are able to quickly identify and remedy any problems that arise.
Other limitations with an off-the-shelf function include not being able to get the exact fir for your business needs and having to make do with something generic that could be confusing or unsatisfactory for your customers.
Professional, tailored site designs will ensure the feature is created to suit the specific needs of your business.
- Future-proofing – can your website grow and evolve with your business?
An out of the box website template may be ok for a Start-up business just needing an online presence with few functions and pages. However, as your business grows and evolves, your website needs to adapt to reflect this. Many businesses who opt for a quickie solution when they first start out will find they are starting over when they need more from their website.Often a ‘free’ website platform will have optional upgrades to incorporate additional features – at an additional cost – making your website far more expensive in the long run. Some will even use the free website as a loss-leader, over-charge on other services like emails to make up the cost or locking you into larger long-term contracts: what happens to your website – or even your domain name – should you later wish to switch providers for the other services?
- Ongoing services and tech support – who do you call when problems arise?
One of the key things to ask when purchasing something for your business is the after-sales service. If your phone or power stops working you know there is a dedicated team you can contact to resolve the issue. If something goes wrong with your website, who do you call? For most businesses, filling out a form and waiting two days or longer for a response is simply not an option.
Technical support and site management are integral parts of maintaining your website, and this is hard to get with many of the DIY options available.
Taking into account all these factors, is the extra time spent on a website that is unlikely to perform well or send the right message to your customers about your business really saving you anything? How much potential business are you losing by taking the DIY route for your business website?