In our last article What CMS is Best For Your Business? Selecting from the Most Popular Options, we learnt what a CMS is and what the right CMS for your businesses website is. We discussed the primary benefit of a CMS, which is that it simplifies the content management for non-technical website users.
Which inevitably raises the question; can I build a website myself?
Short of learning how to code, a website builder (which we touched on in our last article) is the only real option for creating a website if you have no previous experience.
However, the benefit of using an open source or enterprise level system is that an experienced developer has full access to the entire codebase for the website, and can make it look and function exactly how it needs to.
But at some point, the demand for a “build you own website” solution grew to the point where the market responded and produced a whole range of CMS’s which are targeted towards non-technical people to enable them to create their own website. Which is great, in theory.
Build your own website services
With the rise of “build your own website” (from here-on-out referred to as BYOW) services like WIX and Squarespace, it’s becoming increasingly appealing for people to create their own website. But the question remains; can I really build a website myself without any technical skill?
The short answer is yes! Well...sort of.
But the real answer is that you probably shouldn’t. For the same reason that I can theoretically watch a youtube tutorial, go to bunnings and attempt my own plumbing – sh*t will probably hit the fan. Because, well, I’m not a plumber.
And unless you’re a web developer, you’re going to run into a few headaches. The trap is that the headaches aren’t apparent right away. When you first set up the website it’s easy to think “oh, this is great, I have a home page, a contact page with a form and some information pages, I can dump my logo in there and change the colour and all the text/pictures – it’s perfect”. The problems arise when you want to change pretty well anything or add any functionality that is more advanced than a contact form.
These BYOW services are highly profitable businesses in their own right because they know their market. It’s small business owners who are looking to build a website on the cheap. They promise easy, quick setups for an all inclusive *low* cost. Which is arguably true. So, if you’re looking at building on a budget then you’re in the right place. The typical cost for these services range from about $15-$50/month for basic plans and include hosting which is usually a comparable cost in itself for a server to house a “self-hosted” website.
What you get is a selection of templates to choose from, which you can dump your logo onto, change the colours to suit your taste, swap out the pictures and text and get the contact form to shoot off to your designated email address. Which is fantastic if that’s all you need to do.
The problems start when you want to customise it, or add any kind of functionality that isn’t part of their core offering. Because well, you simply can’t. (Well actually you probably can with a grossly priced paid add-on – which is where they sting you. You didn’t really expect there to be no catches, right?) These services only work because they lock down the template so much that even the most inept user can’t break it. The trade off is that you can’t really do all that much in the way of customising it.
As a premier digital agency we get countless people calling up with the same enquiry. It goes like this:
“Hey my name is x and I own x company. I’m just calling up because we’re looking to improve our website. See we built it a few months ago myself and I want to add and change a few things but can’t work out how. I called [BYOW service] and they seem to think I won’t be able to do some of these things so I don’t really know what to do”.
“Oh, what is it?”
“I want to integrate..”
End of conversation. Cue disappointment.
Self hosted BYOW services simply can’t give you access to anything server-level. Which means custom integrations with other systems are out, unless they are prebuilt and in the plugin store, and yup – you guessed it! They cost money.
Furthermore, once you pick your template, you’re more or less confined to that site layout. The more you build the website up on that template, the harder it will be to change to a different one. Going back to the locked-down nature of the codebase too, if you want to make any structural changes to the site layout you’re going to have a very, very hard time.
To sum it up simply; BYOW services are only good if your business and website is likely to never change, or in other words, you’re never going to grow as a business. Which is a little depressing, to say the least.
But I just want a simple website, so surely it’ll be fine?
Well, the other consideration is time. Whilst these services are “beginner-friendly” and you can’t really break the site layout, they will still take time for you to set up. Mostly the time will be sent trying to understand the terminology you have never heard of, tossing up whether or not you actually need to paid add-ons they are pedalling your way and trying to work out why you can’t implement any of those great website design tips you found in that great “Guide to Designing State of the Art Websites in 2018” article because you’re using a locked down template. All of this time which you could be spending in parts of your business which you’re actually efficient at.
And what happens if it isn’t fine?
Imagine setting up your website and running it for 3 months just to realise that your enquiry form never actually worked. You would be surprised just how many times this happens to people who set up their own website.
It’s also very important to keep in mind that just because a website looks nice, doesn’t mean that Google and other search engines share your opinion. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a multi-billion dollar industry because it works. The first result for any given search term gets a grossly higher click-rate than number 2, 3, etc. And if your website appears on page 2, you may as well not exist at all.
Contrary to popular belief, SEO is not a mysterious and shadowy type of sorcery. There are no tricks that you learn from a person wearing a dark cloak in an alleyway, and there is no such thing as ranking overnight. SEO is, and always will be, a fairly slow and long term strategy. But it should always be part of your digital strategy, because when it pays off – it can be a game changer for a business. And whilst there is no such thing as ranking overnight, there are certainly things in your websites configuration that can actively discourage Search engines from ranking you. As someone who doesn’t have a background in web or SEO, there is no possible way that you can be expected to know what these things are. But coming from an agency who deals with websites all day, every day, we can tell you without a shred of doubt that we have never seen a self built website optimised for search engines.
So, can you really build your own website?
Sure. But why stop there? Do your own plumbing. Build a shed. Fix your car. Make all your own clothes.
But most of the time you won’t. Because the fact of the matter is; if you aren’t a plumber, builder, mechanic or tailor you know that you should leave the above things to a professional. Websites are no different. So if you don’t have the time to learn how to be a web developer, consider leaving it to someone who already has, like Digital8.
If you want to know how much it will cost to get it done right, minus the headaches, simply download our briefing template, fill it out and we’ll send you a obligation-free quote.