Custom Built Website vs. Online Website Builders – What Should You Go For?
“Why should I pay $5,000 for a website when I can build one for free?”
If you didn’t know this already, there are currently two main ways to have your website built. Customized website development; Working with a website development agency or a professional developer. And DIY website builders; Tools such as Squarespace, Weebly, WordPress.com or Wix.
The DIY websites are relatively cheap. They allow you to build your own website with the help of numerous inbuilt features. You can create your very own business or personal website in almost no time, along with acquiring a unique domain name. With a wide range of design templates under your belt, you can get started with your online work in the blink of an eye.
Wow! DIY website builders sound amazing, don’t they? Why do agencies and developers even exist? Or why there is an even a market for these developers that charge thousands in the first place? Are DIY builders worth it? Is it the best option for your business? Let us consider the differences between hiring a professional agency or developer and using online templates and DIY builders.
When you look at the prices in this photo you might start to wonder, why would I pay more for a website when I can build a website myself for free? Christina Hawkins writes:
“If you look under the hood on most of these sites, you’ll see an untrained web marketer in action. Below is what I found after spending 8 minutes on Weebly’s Featured websites page:
- One website named their primary homepage image, ‘untitled-presentation.jpg’ with an alt tag ‘picture’. Their product images are just as generic; ‘/product-100816-573-edit_6.jpg’ and no alt tag. For accessibility and SEO, is that best practice?
- Someone should tell one Weebly customer their site is completely broken and that when I open it, music immediately starts to play. Is that best practice?
- Another Weebly customer might want to incorporate some way of capturing emails for her wedding planning company. Because no newly engaged bride-to-be spends time researching event planners or needs advice on planning a wedding. Is that best practice?
- Another uses 112 words in their Meta Title and keyword stuffs it. Is that best practice?”
Established best practices and improved browser technologies allow website builders to deliver a lot of value out of the box.
What about ROI?
Website builders are tools. Like the tools home, builders use to build new homes, but most of us can’t just pick up those tools and build a house. Or like the tools a mechanic uses, we could all probably pick up the tools and learn how to do some of these things; but is that a good ROI (return on investment)?
Using a professional that provides you with precisely the right product using his tools so you can focus on the things that you enjoy is a good ROI. Alternatively, you could go and buy the tools, spend hours figuring out how to do the task correctly. Get distracted because you still have important things you need to be doing, at home, at work. Or… you could pay a premium, for a guy with his tools, and have your solution delivered.
“Okay, but why do custom websites cost so much?”
Hiring a professional developer or agency is the same as the guy with the tools, they handle the details, so you don’t have to. A professional developer consults with their client and guides them through the process. But more than that; Developers…
- Help their customers choose the right photos, optimize them, add alt tags, then rename the file from ‘img20171201.jpg’ to ‘regina-breakfast-buffet.jpg’ because they know what is right for SEO and accessibility.
- Help choose the right keywords for each page using informed research and SEO tools so that you have a chance of showing up on the first page of Google.
- Remind clients that their logo is too small and needs to be transparent. Developers explain what a vector image is.
- Ask for current marketing materials so that your website design is consistent with your brand.
- Collaboratively build a content marketing strategy that will provide results.
- Guide their customers on how to collect the reviews and testimonials that will resonate best with their audience.
- Explain what a CTA (call to action) is.
- Explain why a dedicated landing page for their services or PPC ad campaign is better than relying on a homepage link.
- Set up, configure, and link a MailChimp account.
- Assist in claiming their Google accounts and correcting their NAPs.
- Show them their 1-star reviews on Google, Facebook, or Yelp and explain why they require a response and that they need to counteract the reviews by sending happy customers to their website.
- Optimize client social media profiles and public listings.
- Setup Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools.
- Configure their new online store, so their customers get the right email with the correct information, set up the shipping and delivery areas, taxes, and merchant account to take payments online.
- Help create custom, professional, domain email addresses.
Now I wonder, do any of the DIY website builders do any of that?
“But, I just need a basic website.”
A website is more than looks and page views. Every website has a purpose. They should be focused on leads, sales, customer satisfaction, and ROI. The problem with comparing an agency or professional developer to Wix, Weebly, or Square space is that these solutions are only focused on building websites, while a professionals goal is to help you get more customers using the internet. Sure, developers use websites, search, social, and a ton of tools and platforms which they might as well, but a professional web design agencies stated goal is to grow your business. They could probably be as cheap as the DIY website builder solutions if all they did was build a website and leave after the project.
Curious, do you want a website or more customers?
We usually tell our clients that on average their new website will take anywhere from 6-8 weeks to build. Using page builders seems faster for sure. You create your account, connect your domain, and that’s it! Right? Oh… There’s more?
- What photos do I use on my website and where do I find them? I saw these pictures on Google that are free. I can just use those, right?
- What should I say on my homepage?
- Header, hero image, call-to-action, what are those? What do I write on them?
- I’ll create a Service page and just list my services like my competitor. I guess I can just copy/paste, right?
- Why doesn’t my logo fit?
- So… My website should probably say ‘Quality service. Satisfaction Guaranteed. Affordable.’ somewhere.
- The colors in my logo don’t match my template’s colors. Hmm, what are hex codes?
- I just need the right meta tags on my website for Google to put me at #1, right? Wait what are alt tags?
- I don’t want anyone to call me so I’ll use my email address. But I don’t know how to setup my email with my new domain. It’s okay if I just use my Hotmail or Gmail, right?
- Should I use my home address on my contact page?
- This photo from Facebook that my friend took of me will look great on my About page!
- I need new photos, I think I need a photographer, but she’s not available for three weeks.
- I read that I should have Google Analytics. Where do I get that? They want me to create an account? Is Google Webmaster Tools the same thing?
- Oh, I guess I need content for my website too…
Unfortunately, this happens all too often and is the most significant reason that DIY website projects end up sitting dormant or unfinished. So what’s the alternative? Here’s an example of the steps we take to get our projects from start to finish here at Versatile.
- Discovery: Through a process of surveys and meetings, we’ll gather all the information we need to have the best understanding of your business and goals.
- Architecture: Just like a building, a website needs a solid blueprint. Together we’ll determine the best way to organize your website and sketch out a rough outline.
- Content: With a solid blueprint in place content will be created and provided collaboratively so we can ensure its success. Together we will collect, organize, and edit your content (i.e., text & images) for each page of the website.
- Design: At the same time you are working on content our team will be creating non-functioning comprehensive layouts showing possible design directions.
- Development: With all the necessary architecture, content, and design elements in hand we’ll create the first working version of your website.
- Launch: Getting your website “go live” ready will inevitably require several rounds of revisions and polish. Once the website is finished, we’ll go through the final launch checklist.
- Warranty: Your site is now live! Over the next several weeks our team will be training you on how to manage the website and helping you solve any issues.
- Ongoing Training: Becoming a Versatile client gives you access to 1-on-1 training and saved resources. We’re here 24/7 to help.
Website builders often all include attractive, professional designs packed with industry templates, sample verbiage, and images that can be dragged, dropped, and launched within hours. So what’s the issue? Well, for starters…
- Your customization options are often insufficient.
- They don’t actually let you own your website design — so if you switch website providers, you must start over.
- Websites include ads with their “free” plans and have other limitations removable only if you upgrade to a paid plan.
- Offer only limited use of advanced marketing tools and advanced SEO.
- May offer support limited to online help with telephone support only available if you upgrade or pay extra.
- Still, do take time to use even if they are easy to master.
Let us consider that you are a novice in the world of digital marketing. You don’t know a thing about personalizing a template but still go ahead with it. Two things can happen – either you customize it perfectly, or you completely ruin your chances to make a mark in the virtual world. For all of you who don’t want to take the chance, that’s where professionals help.
Also, consider websites, more specifically, websites with any functionality (web apps) like Facebook, Twitter, Groupon, Kijiji, Reddit, Wikipedia, YouTube, and Imgur would be utterly impossible to build in something like Wix, Weebly, Squarespace, or GoDaddy Sites.
Now, this is something that you don’t get with DIY website builders. They may have a host of customer care specialists under their wing, but how can they hope to handle all the traffic that comes their way! Unfortunately, at the end of the day, it’s unlikely that you are anything more than a user with a customer ID on their computer screens. You don’t have a dedicated project manager, you won’t deal with the same customer care specialist, and they will forget about you once your chat ends.
With a professional developer or Web Agency, you can directly address your issues, ideas, or concerns to a dedicated project manager. You don’t need to bother or care about taking on additional responsibilities. Looking for a Website Care/Maintenence Plan? Agencies offer them. Want to add SSL to your website? Developers can do that for you. Have a 10mb image that’s slowing your website down? A developer will help you compress it. 3rd Party application you use for booking appointments or selling products breaks? Your developer will fix it. Do you think the DIY website builders’ team would do that?
By the way, Squarespace does not offer phone support, and Weebly does not provide phone support if you are outside the USA.
There’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to choosing between DIY website builders and custom websites. Website builders like Weebly, Squarespace, and Wix give you the tools you need to design and build a basic brochure website at a fantastic price. With a developer or professional web agency, you get what you pay for. A dedicated developer will be with you through thick and thin; your satisfaction is their top priority. They can help you to keep your business in the competition even when you aren’t looking out for it.
Website builders can help with things like the basic user experience, email automation, and analytics reporting, but they still expect the business owners to do things themselves. They’re a tool, not a consultant.
Every businesses needs are unique. Which solution you should choose depends entirely on what exactly you’re looking for, if there’s a positive ROI on the time it will take you to use and learn a DIY tool, how big your budget is, and how customized you want your web presence to be.
If you have any questions be sure to leave a comment below or you can also contact us directly. If you found this article useful, please share it with someone else who might learn something from it.