I’m sure you’ve seen the ads for companies like Wix and Squarespace. They offer free or low-cost DIY websites that are “all you need” or “stunning.” The question is, as a small to mid-sized business owner or marketer, is a DIY website like this really “all you need?”
There are a lot of things to consider when deciding how to build out your website. Included in these considerations must be:
- What is the purpose of the website?
- Is there a necessity or desire for a unique design for the website?
- What are your search engine optimization needs and expectations?
- What are your hosting performance needs and expectations?
- What is your budget?
Right out of the gates let’s address whether you should even be considering a DIY website for your business. There are huge tradeoffs when it comes to using a CMS vs. website builder, and paying for custom website design vs. website templates. So, is a website from a company like Wix or Squarespace a viable option for your business?
Honestly, the answer is maybe, but with a few caveats. In this post, we will briefly cover these caveats and hopefully, provide a little food for thought when evaluating whether a DIY website is right for your business.
What is the purpose of your website?
We’ve reached a point in the current marketing environment where having a website for your business feels obligatory; it’s just something that you do. Don’t get me wrong, you need a website for your business, but the “why” of it all depends on the nature of your business and how your website will be used.
Are you a local shop that, more than anything, just needs to show up in local search results? Do you want to sell you goods or services online? Do you plan to blog frequently? Are you planning to utilize a content marketing strategy?
These are important questions to answer before beginning the process of building your website and will influence whether you feel a DIY website is a good fit for you.
For example, if you plan to blog frequently as part of a larger content marketing strategy then you would probably be better served to develop your website using WordPress. If you are creating an online store of some kind, you would probably be better served to build your site using an eCommerce platform like OpenCart, WooCommerce, or even Shopify.
That is not to say that you cannot blog or sell items via a DIY website platform, with most you can. But working with a backend system specifically designed for your needs is always going to be a better solution than an “all-in-one” solution.
Does your company need a unique website design?
DIY websites are generally attractive, but not unique. That is the nature of the beast. These website platforms are designed around offering range of templates that can be customized, but they are templates none the less.
Bringing up the use of templates is not an indictment. In fact, there are plenty of successful businesses running websites that use pre-designed templates and no one is the wiser. Templates have their place and can even offer a better alternative to a poorly designed custom website.
You have to decide if your branding or required functionality necessitates custom designing and to what extent it does.
What are your search engine optimization needs and expectations?
For a long time, DIY website platforms were regarded as garbage from an SEO perspective. Some of that reputation was earned with poor URL structures and heavy use of flash, but some of it was a result of annoyed web developers and SEO techs trashing their competition. The fact of the matter is that regardless of how they used to perform the most popular DIY website platforms are fine for SEO today.
Please note the use of the word “fine” for SEO. Not “great” or even “good,” just “fine.”
The bottom line is that with a website from a DIY platform like Wix or Squarespace you’ll get all, or at least most of your on-page SEO basics covered. The basics. If you work with or plan to work with an SEO expert, they may find themselves hamstrung by the limited capabilities of the platform or at the very least frustrated by the lack of control that they have.
You can get by with a DIY website from and SEO perspective, but if you see SEO as an integral part of your marketing mix, and especially if you work with an SEO expert, you should seriously consider the long-term impacts of going with a DIY website over a more traditional website setup so you’re not paying those SEO rates for nothing.
What are your hosting and performance needs and expectations?
Your hosting and performance needs are inevitably tied to the first consideration regarding the purpose of your website. DIY websites like Wix and Squarespace are a hosted solution, meaning that hosting is part of the whole package.
For most small to mid-sized businesses, a hosted solution like what you get with Wix or Squarespace is perfectly adequate. In fact, Wix has good server uptime and relatively good server response time. It also comes with 500+ MB of storage which should be adequate.
More important than what you currently need regarding hosting, is what your needs will be in the not too distant future. You may be considering starting out with a DIY website and then moving to a more traditional solution once you are more established or have a more reliable revenue stream. One of the glaring problems with a DIY website is its limited ability to change and grow.
You may find that it is not as easy as you would expect for you to take your domain name and your content and transition to a more traditional platform when the time comes. That is not to say that it cannot be done, but there is no easy, quick process for doing this, and it can become cumbersome.
If you plan to move to a more traditional platform within a couple of years, it may make more sense for you to invest a little money now in getting the right platform setup with a basic design and invest in a more custom design when you are ready.
What is your budget?
Finally, we come to what is, in most cases, the consideration on which your decision will be made. So, what is your budget? If the answer to that question is under $1,000, then a DIY website is probably for you. Unless you are a very technically inclined person with some experience in web design or development, you most likely won’t be able to get a more traditional website up and running for under $1,000.
If your budget is between $1,000 and $5,000, then you need to look carefully at the considerations that we have gone over today and decide what makes the most sense for your business. In this range, you may be able to get a reasonable amount of your needs covered, depending on your needs. Approaching your website in stages could allow you to work towards your goal without resorting to a low cost or inferior alternative.
If your budget is above $5,000, you should be able to work with a web design company to build out a website on a more traditional platform that is more suited to your specific needs. This is, of course, dependent on your needs and your budget. Don’t expect to custom program a Facebook replacement for $10,000. But for most small businesses $5,000 – $10,000 is a very reasonable range for a custom WordPress site that is set up nicely for future success.
Be careful before you jump on the DIY website bandwagon. Wix and Squarespace offer a great service for the cost, but you get what you pay for.
If you consider your website an important part of your marketing strategy, and everyone should consider their website an important part of their marketing strategy, you should invest in it accordingly. How much you invest will ultimately depend on your needs and your budget. Perhaps a DIY website is a wise choice for your business, and perhaps a more traditional platform is best. Regardless of the outcome, take the time to consider the choices carefully before you commit to something that you will live with for the next several years.