6 Reasons to Avoid Site Builders

I own a nail gun, lumber, and all the right tools for construction. Are you going to let me build you a house?

A couple of days ago, I was talking to a potential client about the web design process, the timeline, and, most importantly, the price. He responded with a question that I hear quite a bit: Why should I pay you that much when I can just build one on Squarespace for free?

When I get asked about site builders, I have a pretty straight-forward response, that usually helps people understand:

I own a nail gun, lumber, and all the right tools for construction. Are you going to let me build you a house?

Sometimes it gets the point across, sometimes it doesn’t. But, like anything, they’re asking the question for a reason. Plus, it’s a legitimate question, and one that I thought could use some discussion. If you don’t care about discussions, just jump to the conclusion.

First, what is a website builder?
There are a ton of them out there, and new ones are popping up all the time. Sites like Squarespace, Wix, and the ever-popular GoDaddy Website Builder. You choose the template you like best, paste in your pictures and text, and voila! You have a website. It required no coding knowledge, and was inexpensive or even free.

The Pros: Cost. And, uh...yeah, that’s it.

So what are the cons? Think about it in terms of tools vs. skills. A website builder will give you all the right tools, but it doesn’t give you the skills to put them to use. You first reached out to a designer because you are not one, and you know that. But cost can be scary to a business that’s just starting out, which is why a lot of them consider the template route. But, before considering a website builder, consider this:

Let's Get Going.

1. Quality of the Design

Have you ever looked through the demo templates on any of the site builders? They’re beautiful. They have subtle animations, and everything is properly spaced, there’s the perfect amount of whitespace and balance. But when you build yours, it doesn’t have any of those things, and it doesn’t quite look as good as the demo did. It looks alright, but not quite what you were hoping for.

There’s a reason for that: They have designers on staff to build those demos. They didn’t ask some baker to build a template, and then use it as an example. They went through the trouble of hiring a designer, and paid them to build those demos, because they know that fit and finish sell products. That’s great marketing on their part, but a bit deceptive to you.

2. Limitations of Use

When you work using a site builder like Squarespace, you’re limited to what the template you chose can do. Want to move your menu below the header graphic instead of at the top? Too bad if your template doesn’t support that. When you’re working with a designer, and you’re giving them suggestions and feedback, they can do anything you need. Want to move the menu? No problem. Want to rearrange the photos in your slideshow? We can do it. Your site builder might not be able to.

Here’s a real world example for you. Just recently I went to shop for some new wheels for my car, and stumbled upon a site built using WIX. It had all the social media icons across the bottom, but this company only had instagram, so the other buttons were broken, but still displayed. There was a section on the site for company phone number and address, but this was a web based company, with no phone number, and no physical address. So those were just blank. He couldn’t remove them, and was stuck with functionality on the page that he didn’t need.

Hiring a designer to build you a custom site eliminates these headaches completely.

3. Best Practices

To understand internet best-practices, you have to understand how code works. You probably don’t, and I won’t bore you with it. But, there are standards for these. There are a lot of ways to build a site without following standards, and it will still work, but you’ll never get to the front page of Google, and it can hurt the experience your customers have when going to your site.

Think of it this way: there are a lot of ways to wire up an outlet in your house. But there are standards for doing it right. If you don’t follow them, at best you just have a mess behind the walls. At worst, it can be disastrous. A website is no different. Site builders use a “What You See Is What You Get” editor (often called a WYSIWYG). They make things look like you want, but they create a mess of code behind the scenes that can make your site slow to load at best, and actually break things at worst, and cause your site to not work.

4. Originality and First Impressions

In today’s world, your website is often your first impression for 99% of people dealing with your company. They go to your site to get information, contact you, see examples of your work, or buy your product. Most of them are going to be on mobile, and if you don’t think that’s important, then read this.

Working with a template means that you’re limited in how that first impression goes. Working with a designer, you’ll get a site that is uniquely yours, sets you apart, and offers the first impression that you want, and that your company needs. That plays along nicely with the next point:

5. Built With Your Goals In Mind

I’ve seen it a hundred times: companies have a goal for how they want their site to look, how they want it to work, and how they imagine their customers using it. But then they start playing with the site builder, and realize they can’t have it all. Again, site builders are limited in what you can and can’t do, and you end up making compromises that you don’t need to make.

Working with a designer eliminates these issues.

6. Invest In Your Brand

This isn’t just website related. But, good brands have a common feel and flow to them. It’s more than a logo, it’s how every piece of your marketing fits within the image you want to portray. Your logo, business cards, flyers, letterhead, invoices, and your website, should all match. This creates a strong brand, and allows your customers to know they’re in the right place, without even seeing that logo. You’ve invested time, talent, and money into building a business, and you should want to get every aspect of that right. You shouldn’t have to compromise your brand, and a great website is an investment into your long-term success.

So That's That.

Too Long?

Online website builders are great if you don’t care about your website. If you don’t care about your website, then most designers probably don’t care to work with you anyway (just being honest). Those templates that you see were designed by professionals, and your final website will never look as polished and pretty. You’re not a designer, and it’s going to show in the final result.

For some people, that’s okay. It probably won’t match your brand standards (if you have them), it might not work on mobile phones, and you’ll have to start from scratch every time you need to update the site. Plus, you never own it. It’s never your site. They own your domain name, they own your site, and you’re paying a monthly fee for a site that simply doesn’t work for your business.

Hiring a designer is the best way to end up with a quality product. We know what we’re doing. We understand the importance of UI and UX (User Interface, and User Experience respectively). If you don’t know what that means, how can you apply those principles to your site? We create websites from scratch, that are unique to your business, represent you in a professional manner, use the latest and greatest web standards, and are built with your long-term goals in mind. This isn’t just a website—this is your first impression. Think of it like an online handshake for a potential customer, and you’ll see why it’s important to make that first impression a good one.

Building a website is hard. It takes years of training, constant continued education, and a deep understanding of how the web works. Anyone who says they can make that process “cheap and easy,” is either lying, or trying to sell you something. Trust me.