web designIf you build it, will they come?

There are quite a few good options for building simple websites, like weebly.com, wix.com or squarespace.com. This can be a great option for small companies that need something simple. There are a lot of things that can be added like shopping carts and blogs. When considering whether to build your own site or hire a professional, first of all, consider whether these types of sites will have all the functionality and flexibility you need. The next thing to consider is how much time you have to spend on it. You can put a site together pretty quickly with these web building sites, but you still have to organize it, write it and gather and edit all your images. It’s also necessary to have image editing software like Photoshop, and know how to use it. Otherwise, your images aren’t optimized and take up too much bandwidth and download time. I found this post that compares different website builders in a nice, concise way.

The biggest disadvantage to these sites is the hosting. Once you create your site, you can’t move it. If you need to move your site to scale up or add functionality, or if your hosting service no longer works for you, it would require starting over and building a site from scratch.

I created a site on wix.com, and here are some my observations of the shortcomings of this approach:

Once you choose a template, you’re stuck with it, if you change templates you need to start over. Whereas a site created in WordPress can be easily added onto or updated by using new templates, plugins and widgets and moved to a new server if necessary.

Another disadvantage is it can be difficult to customize the sites. The layouts aren’t flexible, adding a sidebar can be difficult, and font choices are limited. Things like filtering capabilities and responsiveness (one site that fits and views well on different screen sizes and devices) aren’t built into the templates. Also, if you want to add functionality, you have to buy it in the form of an app. For instance, if you want to customize the fields on a form, you need to buy an app. There are some free apps, but they have limited features.

wix.com makes it’s money by selling apps, support and bandwidth. I think the confusing thing about a lot of these services (especially godaddy) is that they bait and switch. It can be a great thing for an inexpensive, simple site, but when you need additional resources, it starts to add up, and then you are stuck with your service provider unless you scrap it and start over.

Squarespace seems to be moving ahead of the pack for build-it-yourself websites. The nice thing about their templates is they are fully responsive, mobile-friendly and beautifully designed. From reading reviews, it sounds like Squarespace excels as a blogging platform, Ecommerce for smaller shops, and for people in the creative industries. It seems that customer support is limited or non-existent, and difficult for newbies to work with. Like other build-it-yourself platforms, the functionality is limited and if you want to do something ‘out of the box’ it’s virtually impossible. I found a reasonable third-party review at pcmag.com.

If you have a website that’s simple or even temporary, where you don’t have to worry about scaleability, this could be the way to go. If you want a website that’s robust, scaleable and has some longevity, WordPress is the choice.

If you have any additional experience or observations with some of the website building platforms, please share them in the comments section.