Because it will suck!
Like wearing your dad's suit to a job interview or offering a Vistaprint business card to a potential client: it says "I'm cutting corners where I can and am not able to afford legitimate, tailor-made promotional material that characterises my business".
Should anyone with a pair of scissors cut their own hair?
Should anyone with a wrench handle the plumbing in the kitchen?
Kittens could die if the kitchen floods. Don't kill kittens.
...okay, this is a pretty long answer and I think you should read it. I'm aware that I can fill a few pages and sometimes feel the pressure to get the word count down, but then I thought 'NO!'
I don't care about creating 'click-bait' content, for the sake of SEO (you know...with catchy headlines but not much actual content). I care about saying what needs to be said, sharing what I've learned over the last few years and writing what I think will help you, but it's your choice to read...or not.
You can skim the headings, scan the post and get a lot of the information in the conclusion at the bottom, but if you really want to get into the meat of it for the sake of understanding, read on, tuck in and Let's go!
We all know variations of that old sentiment that perhaps we remember our grandparents warmly chastising us with as young'uns:
"If a job's worth doing, it's worth doing well"
I was reasonably sure that my own, dear elders were not the first to impart this wisdom unto the world and so I conducted a short Google search to find the roots of a phrase that we can now find variations of across t-shirts, web banners and gift shop cups.
Seth Godin, one of our modern day's most successful entrepreneurs can be quoted as having said it. Hunter Thompson, a 1960's journalist and author has been known to have had his moment with this wise notion. But, I guess the one that sealed the deal that my own grandparents hadn't coined such a phrase was finding that Philip Stanhope, the 4th Earl of Chesterfield is quoted in a letter to his son as saying "Whatever is worth doing at all is worth doing well"….in 1752.
My Grandma isn't that…ripe.
Still, while it would seem such a notion is embedded into our cultural work ethic -so much so that I'm sure we've all had that phrase trip off our own tongues at some point- it can be an extreme temptation for us to cut corners when and where we can. Perhaps where this is extremely obvious is in the necessity of today's business industry to exist online...from the huge corporate giants to the smaller, independent and hard up for cash businesses and new ventures.
And this is understandable. We weigh up our business plan and we create hierarchy, especially in start ups, about what we need to invest more in and, perhaps more significantly, what we can do without...for now.
How you design your physical business
Regarding business premises, we make decisions about location, how pretty it would be in exterior and interior presentation. We consider the clothing of ourselves and our staff in terms of how we want that to represent our business ethos and reliability, so on and so forth.
But of course, we can choose a great location for a cafe, or an office to invite clients to, just as we can fill it with comfortable furniture; we can dress up our staff and tell them to leave their trainers in their locker.
These are the aesthetics...but if we haven't ensured that the coffee machine works or that our staff are trained to address our customers in a way which would suit our business goals and increase the likelihood of repeat business, then as pretty as it looks, we are not on to a winner. We have a pretty phone, but is it connected and will a member of staff answer it? We have an email address printed on the door...but is it too cumbersome a system for us to get customer emails in a nice list and respond to their emails in good time?
Your landline phone may look funky and match the retro nature of your cafe, but are the staff going to answer it? ...and answer it well?
Your business van may have great adverts and your phone number painted onto the side and back, but does the engine work sufficiently that you can meet your delivery times and promises?
So, rather quickly, we can ascertain that as important as aesthetics are, they are not the only aspect of our business that we should turn our attention to; we are talking about design of appearance...but also the design of function.
Now let's take that approach with your website
It's understandable that many budding entrepreneurs, small, or even medium sized, business owners are tempted by the cheap, cheerful, quick and easy, drag and drop nature of "website builders".
If you are looking for a website and wondering whether to use a DIY website builder, here are some aspects to consider.
1) Will it do the job well?
Obviously this is a first point I would like to make, given my introduction. The illusion that these website builders give is that they will do the job well.
Of course, this may be true in some ways. You can -within minutes- have a website that scrolls nicely, with images you have uploaded, a business blurb you have written and a logo you have made.
The template may even have something that appears upon scroll and gets you all excited. YOU HAVE A WEBSITE!
...BUT, again, WILL IT DO THE JOB WELL?
Your website may be smooth, colourful, and 'online', but is that what you need in a website?
- Have you thought about how to contact a growing userbase en masse? Can your website builder offer this function -without a costly upsell?
- Have you considered the possible limitations of your website builder's hosting in how it handles your growing website traffic? Will 10GB of website storage be enough for your business blogs, photos, store, menus? How much does it cost to upgrade when you need it?
- Can you implement a customer sign-in system...or perhaps even enable customers to contribute to your site content, either in comment systems or blogs, for example?
- Can you build a complete social media integration into a blog, so that you post once to your website and it automatically posts to all of your business' social media accounts?
- Will your response email reflect your business name, or be a website builder equivalent of "Gmail", or Vistaprint?
- Can you migrate your website to another hosting plan that better suits the needs, demands and required functionality of your developed business...once it becomes as successful as you know it can be?
You see, while you are dazzled by "Drag and Drop" and a colourful choice of generic, but shiny, templates, you -like I once did- might just be forgetting about the design of "function" and the costs of future scalability.
2) What functions will best reflect my business and increase future business and marketing opportunities?
So...let me be honest. Can you get most of these functions with a website builder? The answer is, 'yes -to an extent', BUT at an ever increasing cost of your time...and your money.
Allow me to explain
(sorry, I don't have any sad piano music at this point...but let your imagination off the reigns)
A year back I was playing with the idea of working again as a personal trainer and needed a website. I chose the quick and cheap option of one of the most popular website builders....I'll call it, 'ahem', Kix.
I bought the premium package, with a free domain, 10 GB storage, a bunch of beautiful templates to choose from -but for all the cost, you only choose ONE, (obviously), a booking facility and a mail box. It also came with a blog, which let me choose some colour, but didn't offer social media sharing.
The website looked pretty, although it was generic and bland, without my own character...but, yes, it looked pretty.
From a design of function point of view, however, you would find good website designers first asking "Where do we want to get your customers?" And your answer would undoubtedly be, "I want to get my customer from my home page to the 'yes, I want to buy, book or contact' button.
So, then, the good web designer would ask, "What would get your customer there?"
Even with a shiny template, there is a tremendous amount of work to be done in order to plan the content hierarchy and what is called 'information architecture' that essentially captures your users attention and 'funnels' them to that all important "yes" click.
You have a template and are about to add all sorts of information and widgets...but how much thought have you put into the information architecture?
Information architecture (IA) focuses on organising, structuring, and labeling content in an effective and sustainable way. The goal is to help users find information and complete tasks. To do this, you need to understand how the pieces fit together to create the larger picture, how items relate to each other within the system.
THIS is the really difficult part of designing websites. The effective functions are not snazzy galleries or slideshows -or whatever else- for the sake of having it or for the sake of "Keeping up with the Joneses", they are part of a strategy of conversion. It's not about the 'what', it's about the 'why'.
Conversion is about turning a website viewer into an actual customer (which is the purpose of your website). There are books and courses devoted to this alone, so you may have a pretty, Kix template website, but do you know how to optimise it for conversion?
Now, if you have the time to learn these theories and play around with image searches, downloading and uploading them to dimension and then building your website, you do have the tools to do it..and, using Kix as an example, it is rather easy. But, do you have time for that?
What you are very passionate about is your business, which relates to what you love doing. Is there a chance that someone else will do your job better than you, without knowledge and without a wealth of theory and experience that comes from trial, error and success...or would you have a few words to say about that?
If you run a salon, you'd no doubt have experience of fixing DIY attempts at hair styling. If you are a plumber you'd no doubt have experience of getting to a frantic customer's house because the new DIY piping is chucking water all over the kitchen. The fact is that you can DIY...but should you?
If you can place these elements into context, it turns out that there is much more to building a website than making it look pretty, which is the first thing you see when you scour the exciting templates. They're nothing special though...they don't characterise your business, your message...and they don't have your goals in mind.
3) What does it really cost?
They say "Buy Cheap, Buy Twice".
Well, I will only go into one example here, but would have to modify that to "Buy Cheap, Buy Four Times".
If you want to bother investing into getting your business online, it would be fair to say that there are some extremely important functions that will enable you to look professional and maximise how effectively you can reach out to your existing customer-base.
For just one example, here, we'll talk about mailbox and email marketing...not spam.
When a customer emails you or even subscribes actively to your newsletter, they are giving permission for you to get in touch with them. You can tell them about your latest offer or even make a dedicated promotion to current and subscribed customers. It's important to look professional and be functional.
However, with Kix, in order to have a professional email (i.e. one that reflects your website name and business), you need to pay extra for the premium mailbox, called Shout Out, which doesn't even come with your premium package.
So what about this Shout Out newsletter feature? I will be honest, it's rather easy to use. You can make a nice newsletter very quickly, with images, headers and text. But you have limited Shout Outs....and wouldn't you like to remove this from the Footer?
Created with Wix Shoutout. Love it? Try It! It's free!
What does that say about your business? And what if they click that exciting link before answering to your newsletter and visiting YOUR website?
Want to remove it? It will cost you an additional £71.76 a year...with a limitation of 20 newsletters a month.
You have to consider what you don't get...unless you pay more!
So, for the essentials in a professional website, despite paying for a Premium Unlimited website package at £12.45 a month, you don't get your own mailbox and you get limited newsletters even when you pay for the footer removal.
then the annual cost (just money, not time) for your first year is £281.
This is all for you to have to Do It Yourself...which means, planning content structure, finding images, positioning and writing all text, creating pages, creating the menus to those pages, adding FAQ capability...and many other tasks before testing all links.
I had a look at many other apps and widgets that were available for my premium Kix site, from customer testimonials to galleries, to slideshows. Most of them had a £1.50-£3 charge per MONTH to remove the clickable adverts and logos.
So, you need a website...why not do it yourself?
- Because for the essential basics of functionality, you will be paying upwards from £281 in your first year, plus however many £1-£3 per month commitments you need to pay in order to enjoy limited but Ad-free widgets and apps all over your website.
- Because your website will look like the outskirts of a rugby pitch, with everyone and their dog advertised.
- Because you haven't got time to plan the structure of content and information that can get your customers from your homepage to the 'yes' button.
- Because you probably don't know how to join Google Analytics, Set up an account and find your Tracking ID before pasting into the Kix widget.
- Because great design does not start with a pretty slideshow
- Because you cannot design much around your vision, past small customisation.
- Because your online business is not easily moved from these website providers, so you're stuck with them, and their rising costs
- Because it's not actually cheaper
It is easy to see how the annual cost of cheap and quick DIY website builders can mount up, especially if you don't want the equivalent of 'vistaprint' splattered over every email or page widget.
And truthfully, you will only end up with a generic and time consuming website that does not set you apart from your competitors or characterise your business.
With an annual cost of approximately £300 for the essential basics, you are actually paying quite a lot for a faceless service with not much to offer...and after all that, you still have to Do It Yourself, when you -as a business owner- have much more important things to do.
With website designers, such as myself, offering the set up of great website options with fantastic functionality, your own branding and with (let's be open and honest here) our own dedication to crafting a fantastic portfolio item, at a fraction of the cost, isn't it easy to see how much more you get?
For the sake of being impartial in industry commentary, whether you choose me for your online solutions, or choose to go with another design company, I hope you find the above exploration of your options to be useful.
I would leave you with the idea that, for the sake of your professional image, functionality and, of course, the ease with which you can go about your business tasks and gruelling schedule, choose a real web design company....and don't Do It Yourself. You have much more to get on with.
Just...don't plant your business in a pot...
Is your business a pot plant...or a tree that will grow to eclipse the sun?
Then, please, if you really believe in it, don't plant it in a pot. Believe in yourself and invest. Small business is all about wise investment and it turns out, it's not much more expensive (if at all) to invest in a website that you control and which can grow with your business while offering all the essential features you should have from the beginning.
A skimpy, but essential basics, website from Kix will cost you about £300 in the first year (and every year to follow) ...and you have to do it yourself.
Host your website with A2 Hosting for £4.90 a month, and you're left with £252 from what you would spend in a year with, erm, Kix.
For £252 you can get
1) One of my Quickstart packages from between £150 - £400, which comes with a whole load of features and no ads.
2) (for a little more) you get a bespoke, custom designed website, ranging in price from £400 to... (well, if you want an animated monkey swinging from the header and throwing social media bananas at the screen...the price can get blurry at that point).