If I Build My Website, Will They Come?

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According to Netcraft’s January 2020 Web Server Survey there are over 1 billion websites on the internet with approximately 200 million that are active.

So what does that statistic mean? The world wide web is not going anywhere soon.

If you are an individual or organization providing information or marketing your brand, skill, products or services then you need to have a digital presence. And that means you need a website.

Before you choose a template or domain or hosting company you need to ask these important questions first.

Should I build it myself

If you have experience building websites and there is no rush to launch this website then skip to the Alternative section below…

If you are still here then I’m going to assume you 1) don’t know the difference between CSS, Javascript and SQL or 2) time is of the essence and you need something up quickly.

If you are of the non-technical variety (see assumption 1 above) then you are in luck as there are platforms aplenty that exist to help you create a website using What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) editors and drag and drop interfaces.

Simply put, Do It Yourself (DIY) website services are platforms that provide a way for non-technical people to design and build their own websites without using code.

No coding and no design knowledge required!

Not knowing how to design or code is no longer an obstacle to launching your own online presence. Website editors found on platforms like Wordpress, Wix, Squarespace and others allow you to adjust and edit your website as it appears using drag-and-drop and text-editing toolbars.

Have a Budget? 

Wix, Weebly and other similar platforms have a simple pricing model while providing easier editing tools. But if you ever want to take your site to another provider, you’ll more than likely have to start with a brand new site. Unlike Wordpress where numerous hosting companies can accommodate.

One major difference between Wordpress and the other platforms is that Wordpress has been around a long time and provides more customization as well as being able to change the look and feel of the site while keeping your original content pretty easily. Plus if you had a nickel for every plugin that is available for Wordpress, you would be as rich as Jeff Bezos (at least close).

My word of warning is that Wordpress is not always easy and simple as it can be more than just a DIY tool. I’ve spent plenty of hours during my development career fixing someone’s Wordpress site after a mistake.

For those under assumption 2 where timing is more important and launching your website in order to start building your audience and promoting your products/services is paramount, then landing page services like Unbounce or InstaPage fit the bill. This includes entrepreneurs who plan to just validate an idea and will rebuild the website once their audience is large enough, these services provide all the tools needed.

Like anything else these platforms have their strengths and weaknesses.

Let’s review some of the strengths for a DIY website building platform:

  • Cost effective allowing customers to build a website for free or less than $30 a month
  • Save time by not having to learn how to code or design
  • In most cases, the platforms host your website for you
  • Save money by not hiring a coder and designer
  • Choose from existing professional and responsive templates
  • Some offer features like analytics, blogs, mobile apps, and calendars as well as search engine optimization support

Now to review some of their weaknesses:

  • Templates are usually not flexible
  • No advanced marketing and SEO tools available or very limited
  • If provider needs to change, usually have to recreate the website from scratch
  • Support is limited unless you pay extra
  • If using a free service than ads appear on your site
  • Customizing your site to add a feature outside of the platform’s capabilities is impossible (except for Wordpress)

The Alternative, Custom Development

The other option is to build a custom site but if you don’t have the technical skills, your options are either expensive (usually over $2000) or time consuming if you want to learn to code and design it on your own.

The strengths of custom development include:

  • No limitations, you can have any feature you want
  • Switching to a new hosting company or provider is easier
  • The site grows as the brand and organization becomes more successful

If you have technical experience, then you run the risk of your website ending up in the same state as your plan to turn the baby room into a walk-in closet. Something always comes up and if you do finish, it never looks as good as the picture.

So where does that leave you?

The Best of Both Worlds?

There are platforms available that try to provide the strengths of both a DIY platform and custom development.

  • Cost effective
  • Save time and launch quickly
  • Customization available
  • Full control of content and ownership
  • Additional features include advanced SEO and marketing

Services like FlexibleSites, duda or Webflow all have different strengths and weaknesses but are trying to provide the same qualities of being able to support every customer need while remaining flexible.

Time to Decide

When choosing a provider to assist in your digital presence most have to decide how much customization they want from their website and the budget they have to work with.

If you are an individual marketing a brand, products and service or a business that just needs a digital presence for their customers to get contact information then a DIY platform works really well. For organizations looking to have their site grow with them then a service like Webflow/FlexibleSites or a web development freelancer skilled in Wordpress may be the preferred choice.

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