September 22, 2020
They sound great, don’t they?
Design and build your own website for free, who could argue with that? Especially if you’re a small business and money is tight.
The ads promise they’re simple to use and your site will be up in moments, but we know they come with multiple and costly frustrations.
Because you’d expect us to say something like that, we’ve asked freelance writer Peter McConnell from What Are Words Worth to tell us about his experience…
I’ve used Wix and I’ve used Weebly, and I’ve used WordPress to create my own business sites and in every single case, I’ve been pissed-off and frustrated with the results.
I’ve spent way too much time on them and if I hadn’t been such a skinflint I would have paid loads in hidden costs to access the premium versions.
I’ll start off by saying that after a lot of attempts to build websites for myself that I’m rubbish at it.
Why? Because I’m not a web developer, I’m not a designer and I’m not a coder.
If I was I’d be confident and happy to knock out a good looking well-structured site in WordPress with the benefits of all the add-ons and plug-ins that WordPress offers the professional designer.
Sadly I’m not that guy and I suspect if you’re reading this you’re not either.
Having said that if you’re going to get a site designed by that guy, make sure they are doing it in WordPress and if they’re not, ask them why the hell not?!
WordPress is the go-to option that all the best web designers now use. It has bells and whistles to turn any site into something amazing.
However, if you’re like me, you won’t know which bell to ring or whistle to blow, or even where to find them in the complicated WordPress toy box. And of course the bells and whistles, the things that will make a WordPress site look and work brilliantly will cost you money.
A couple of years ago I thought I had the time to teach myself, I was interested in acquiring a new skill and thought I’d be able to monetise it.
But after days of fiddling in a bewildering ecosystem, I hadn’t got much further than a poorly laid out basic blog site.
The major emotions it created in me were anger and irritation.
I kept asking myself either “Why cant I do that?” or “Where….where do I find that plug-in and how do I use it?” often accompanied by howls of anguish.
I guess I don’t have the right frame of mind, but the big takeaway for me was that if you want to create something that looks and works amazingly well in WordPress get a professional to do it, or spend hours of your valuable time creating mediocrity, and if you’re running a business you can’t afford to look mediocre!
Which brings me on to the site builders that tempt you with the promise of amazing looking, highly functional SEO friendly sites created by you in minutes.
Don’t believe them, they are false promises. Fake news if you will!
Wix, Go Daddy, SquareSpace, Weebly and the others are fantastic at luring you in with their shiny baubles promising professional quality web sites created by you.
But here’s the thing, they are equally as frustrating as WordPress, even if their templates and drag & drop options seem simple.
I’ll give you an example; I created a Wix site for a new business I started a little while ago. It was a personal concierge service since you ask, that helped supplement my income as a writer, which believe me is a precarious way to make a living.
All I wanted was a simple site with Home, About, Services and Contact pages, just the sort of thing most businesses want.
The first frustration came when choosing the template, adding content and loading images.
Simple enough until a designer friend pointed out that the colours in the template really weren’t working, in fact, she described it as a total dog’s dinner.
So I decided to change the template. Easy you would have thought, not so. To change the template you have to start the whole process from scratch – frustrating, time-consuming and really annoying.
Okay, so after a few choice words and a day of redoing everything I reached the point where it was back to where it was before changing the template, time to upload some photos.
Now, I had been lucky enough to have had some professional-quality, high-resolution pictures taken of myself to assist my ambitions as a frustrated actor (don’t ask, but If you’re a Neighbours fan you’ll have seen me as ‘man in café’ or occasionally ‘man who walks past café’ in more than one episode!), absolutely great for my profile picture on the site you would have thought.
In fact, I’d deliberately used a template that would let me use a portrait image specifically because I hade these photos.
Guess what, hours of wasted time trying to resize and lower the resolution of the photo I wanted to use because there is no option on the site builder to simply move borders.
Knowing what I know now I reckon I could have found a way, but at the time I didn’t have the time or patience to trawl through YouTube tutorials until I found the one that would actually help.
Of course it could be that I’m an idiot and if you’ve read this far you’ll realise that is a very real possibility, but the fact is in Wix I couldn’t use a high-quality image in the way that I wanted for my website.
In effect, I was the victim of a simplistic template I couldn’t customise.
Eventually I had all the elements I wanted on the site, and even though I remained unhappy with the layout and the quality of images by now I’d invested too much time and had to get on with winning some business, so ended up publishing what even I thought was a second rate web site.
In case you hadn’t grasped where I’m coming from, my point is this, using a website builder like Wix is an attractive prospect for a small business, but you end up investing way too much time to create something that isn’t very good and doesn’t reflect your business or professionalism.
I haven’t even mentioned the other issues that make all of these shiny DIY options less than perfect.
For example if you want to move away and change hosting it’s a long-winded, difficult process.
Or you may find that the mobile version of the site changes unpredictably.
But the biggest issue is of course that none of them are actually free.
With Wix, you can set up a free site but it will be smothered in ads and the website address will be a subdomain (i.e. yourwebsite.wix.com), so you need to upgrade and that’s when things start to get expensive.
And, have you ever found your question answered in the FAQ’s, of course not so it’s a damn shame you can’t ever get hold of anyone to actually talk to from Customer Service!
I haven’t talked about my Weebly website or how frustrating SquareSpace can be but if you’re only going to take away one thing from reading this blog, make it this.
Build your website with someone you know, like and trust (just like everything in your business), who is responsive, understanding and at the end of a phone.
Because I’m an idiot it took me a few attempts before learning the lesson, so don’t be an idiot, don’t be me, don’t give in to the frustrating lure of the website builders.