You don’t need to look hard to find a website builder that can help build a free website in minutes. Between Wix, SquareSpace, and any of the other options out there, website builders promise to be a cheap, quick, and easy way for you to make a website for your business. Sounds great, right? Turns out that there are some clear downsides.
Think of the scenario as if you were buying a $500 car from a cousin’s shady friend. For some people, that quick, cheap solution is an appropriate way to get from point A to B. However, it’s simply not a long-term solution if you need something that will perform at a high level for years to come. Nobody wants to deal with a broken-down car just months after buying it. The same goes for your website.
So, what makes website builders a potential money pit? These quick-fix solutions can limit your website’s potential in several ways, both in terms of performance, aesthetics, and user experience.
Website Builders Add Unnecessary Bloat and Bog Down SEO
“If it isn’t on Google, it doesn’t exist.” – Jimmy Wales, co-founder of Wikipedia
As Mr. Wales suggests, Google plays a massive role in the success of your business. The problem with website builders is that they make it harder for Google to crawl your site and help you show up in search.
In general, website builders add a ton of unnecessary crap when it comes to the markup of your site. For starters, the HTML markup alone adds unnecessary bloat to the website. This unnecessary bloat causes page load issues that stunt your SEO score. Page load speed is extremely important as it determines how long someone is going to stay on your website, how much you pay per click in your ads, and your overall conversion rate.
Don’t believe me? Here’s a screenshot of HTML bloat on a website builder site. I won’t say which one... but it sounds like SpareSquace:
Meanwhile, the image below is a screenshot of the markup from a website built by the Aztek team.
As you can see, one’s a bit less fluffy – and by fluffy, we mean ugly – than the other. The ‘drag-and-drop’ interface of these website builders is only focused on the front-end facing portion of the website – the stuff you can see. But it's the code that happens behind the scenes that affects your SEO, ranking, page load, and a lot of other factors. As such, you get a monstrous markup like the one you saw above, and that’s just bad for business.
Website Templates Limit Your Potential
“What sets you apart can sometimes feel like a burden and it’s not. And a lot of the time, it’s what makes you great.” – Emma Stone, not a co-founder of Wikipedia
After Google updated its indexing algorithm, part of your site’s ranking is how unique it is. Unfortunately for people who use SquareSpace, Wix, or other website editors, all those convenient templates look like each other. If you’re using a builder, consider how many other websites have the same template starter that you’re using.
A popular website builder called Wix currently has over 90 million users. Their website says they have about 500 templates you can ‘customize.’ If you do the math, 90 million divided by 500 equals 180,000… meaning that as many as 180,000 other businesses could be using the same template as you. The easy solution doesn’t feel so customizable anymore, does it?
Website Builders aren’t Mobile Friendly
“The trend has been that mobile was winning. It’s now won.” – Eric Schmidt, former Google CEO and current U.S. DoD Innovation Advisory Board chairman
These days, mobile-friendly websites are practically a necessity. According to comScore, “mobile devices now account for nearly two out of every three minutes spent online.” Unfortunately, mobile optimization is a serious pain point for these builders.
It takes a certain level of skill and knowledge for a web developer to optimize for the many different screen sizes that a device can have. There are dozens of potential screen sizes to account for, but website builders just do not have the customization or the ability to account for all of them. That’s a pretty serious problem when Econsultancy estimates that 62 percent of companies with mobile-friendly websites had increased sales.
Website Builders Don’t Support You (and Never Will)
“I can't carry it for you, but I can carry you.” – Samwise Gamgee, honorable hobbit and enemy of website builders everywhere
A website is a living piece of branding. In order for it to grow, you have to feed it. If you use a website builder, you’re losing the support you could have from a web development company in case you want to scale your website or grow it. If the website breaks, do you have the technical knowledge to fix it? If you want to expand, do you have the time and resources to maintain the website? These builders oftentimes offer no CMS (content management system), making for tedious content updates that require a lot of technical effort on the website owner’s end to keep things current and fresh. Even the ones that do offer a CMS are often lackluster and require some form of learning curve and a poor user experience.
In addition to this, if you do decide to make the switch and hire a professional team of developers and designers to make your website, there is no migration service. This means in order to go from your website-builder site to a fully functional custom website, everything has to be redone in a correct CMS. That means more money out of your pocket as opposed to if you had invested in a custom site from the start.
You Don’t Own Your Website, or Anything on It
“You have little power over what’s not yours.” – Zimbabwean proverb
You may think that once you build a website, it’s yours. If you use a website builder, you’re in for a rude surprise.
When you use a website builder, you do not really own the site. The builder technically does, at least to some capacity. Some website builders claim ownership over more aspects of your site than others. According to SquareSpace’s terms of service, you still “own” any content you upload to the builder. However, doing so gives SquareSpace “permission to use it in ways necessary to provide, improve, promote and protect our services.” Essentially, your content is theirs to use, so is it really yours after all?
Other website builders have their own rules about what you own, ranging from owning aspects of your content to having a stranglehold on everything on your site. This co-ownership is why they won’t let you easily migrate your site in the future.
Website Builders Think Your Users Don’t Matter
“Your users matter.” – Us, an actual web development agency
It’s likely that any of these builders have no idea what your client base is or how to target them. That’s a problem because your users play a crucial role in how you make money.
With a professional web design and development company, part of the discovery process is determining who your audience is and how to captivate them with your website's overall impression. Websites builders only care about one thing – getting you to sign up and give them your credit card. With a professional development and design team, there is effort and consideration taken into account – who are your users? What entices them? How can we get them to make a purchase? These answers will help you invest in a much better website that’s specifically geared to help your users.
Invest in a Website that Makes Sense for Your Business
When it comes to your website, you get what you pay for. If you simply need a space for your business to exist online, a website builder may make sense. If you’re a serious business owner that plans to grow your company in the near future, you should strongly consider a custom website tailored to your specific needs.
Are you in need of a new website to help your business grow online? As a full-service digital agency, our designers and developers can work with you to create a quality site to help you build your online presence. Contact us today about your web design and development needs.