Whether you are starting a business, evolving an existing business, or adding new features, the choice of how to execute your website projects will be crucial to both the short and long term success of that project. Website Builder Services have been around for a good bit of time and often are viewed as inferior to wholly managed and maintained websites. However, site builders in and of themselves aren’t inherently bad, they’re just a single tool that have their use as well as limitations. So, if we’re asking if site builders are worth using, we need to ask a few other questions first:
Are website builder services free?
Well… While that isn’t 100% true, there is no version of a free website builder that is free that allows you the most basic functionality to own your website, which is connecting your domain. And if you are able to connect a domain for free, and make a website for free, you will be in the bottom tier of bandwidth with a massive amount of limitations for storage, capability, and customization. For any legitimate business usage, no matter how limited in scope, free is always more of a pain in the a$$ than worth it.
So, if you’re dead set on an absolutely free website, then, by default, quality, form, and function are not concerns of yours and this article won’t serve you too much.
Are website builders worth using for a startup?
Depending on where your business is in its life will largely impact the effectiveness of using a site builder. For startups, site builders offer a fast and cheap way to establish an online presence. This is a very attractive benefit if you are looking to create a side hustle, if you don’t have a large budget, if your website has a very limited scope, or if your business is wholly offline and you just need the business credentials to open a business account.
Site builders can be an effective tool if your startup business will not be built around the website in its entirety. For example, if you are opening an ecommerce website, not all site builders offer ecommerce capability in their opening plans or offer limited payment gateways that might not work with your bank. However, if you just need a corporate landing page, about page, and a contact form with a domain that resolves, a cheap site builder is all that is required.
Are website builders customizable?
For existing businesses, the question of customization often accompanies whether you can or can’t do something. That “something” could be the difference from keeping up with your competitors or rooting you into a single state that limits your growth. Businesses need to be flexible not only in services, but in adaptation to customers in response to feedback.
From this perspective, are website builders customizable? In reality, not much. The whole point of an automated or easily accessible website builder is to solve the problems of cost and ease. The most generally used, commonly requested, and (for a lack of a better term) main stream requirements are what site builders are set up to satisfy. When the topic of customization enters the chat, it is no longer the lowest common denominator that serves as the best solution.
In contrast, however, the capability of site builders is slowly growing and evolving to keep up with basic web standards and security requirements. To that end, some site builders allow the installation of third party plugins or custom code that can extend the functionality of a website. If a drop in solution works for your needs, then when looking at website builders, look closely at what options of customizations are available at the plan level that you are planning on purchasing.
Are website builders good at SEO?
This is a growing aspect of website builders that is great to see. To keep up with the specificity of SEO, website builders have slowly started adding features that allow for sites to have customized page titles, headings, semantic markup, and basic optimizations. And while that is a great step in establishing or improving rankings, it is, once again, the lowest common denominator in a constantly evolving field. When google releases algorithm updates, sites are scanned and SEO practices are adjusted and modified to prevent negative penalization or to take advantage of new capabilities. Website builder services learn this info at the same time everybody else does and rolls out these new capabilities according to their development path which might not be immediately.
A custom build site, on the other hand, allows for these changes to happen immediately and according to your business needs. Being able to get under the hood and modify your site template, server directives, and update your code base are all things that will be severely hindered by website builder.
What should I do if I need to use a website builder but have specific project requirements?
Then let’s talk about needs. The most often cited needs for using a website builder are skill, staffing, and cost. Cost and Staffing tend to be hard limitations and are often hard to get around. But skill is not a real limitation. Usually, with a modest upfront cost, skill limitations can be mitigated with appropriate training. Cost can also be worked around because justifications for longer term ROI and growth capability can offset sticker shock. So, really staffing and hours in the day are really what it comes down to more often than not.
But, if you are locked into, for whatever reason, using a website builder, it’s not the end of the world. If you have a project/website requirement and a website builder has a solution for that requirement that is satisfactory for you and your business, then use it. Ultimately, it’s about creating a solution for your business needs first then growing with the needs of your business.
Do you work on websites created by website builder services?
No, we don’t. In order to get the most out of a website from any technical SEO perspective, one needs to be able to control all aspects of a website from the server to the end user. Website services insert themselves pretty heavy handedly into that scope and restrict the capability of modifications that can help with SEO or customizations for branding. To that extent, if we can’t modify all the areas of a site that might need modifying to improve SEO, security, indexability, or site speed, then we will be limited in our effectiveness. And no matter how good we are at managing expectations, working with one hand tied behind our backs isn’t fun.
But don’t you like the challenge?
For penny pinchers and nickel and dimers, a fun charge to assert is that if we’re “really as good as we say, then we should be able to make them number 1 on Google no matter how they built their website”. Well, you can’t milk a boulder. Some agencies, however, will take on that challenge and successfully get you to the front page of google for a long tail keyword that provides no real ROI.
At the end of the day, the question isn’t about us, it’s about how much you want to see your business improve. If you want or need to go with budget solutions, then you need to understand that you are opting for budget performance and capability.
So, is it better to build your own website or use a website builder?
Ultimately, if you have a desire to control the majority aspects of your site, have customizations that are project requirements, and have the appropriate budget and skillset, building your own website will be a far superior investment into your business.
If you have a small or nonexistent budget, little or no technical know how, and don’t actually need the website to do much other than to exist, then a website builder might be the best solution for you.
In addition to all our other services, we also offer free consulting. If you are unsure of whether you should use a website builder or want to know more about the scope of building your own website, feel free to contact us and we’ll walk you through some questions that might help you figure out which path is best for you.