Should you be using one of the big name “Do it Yourself” website builders?

Squarespace, Weebly, and Wix to name a few of the services that promise to get you up and running with a new website, quickly, easily and affordably.  Most people are familiar with these companies now and I often get questions about them.  In many cases they’ve already bit the bullet and signed up and started building because these services offer free trials.

So… should you use one of these services?  That’s a definite maybe.  A couple years ago I would have almost definitely said no.  These services still suffer from the problems that made me say no, but they are getting better, and now they are good enough that they make a lot of sense depending on your needs.  I have spent a lot of time using these platforms.  Here is my experience:

The Catch:

All the advertising these companies put out would have you think you’ll be doing the job of a web developer for a tiny fraction of the cost; that is only a tiny fraction of the truth.  These services are great tools and good developers use the tool that makes sense for the task.  Looking at some of the demo sites, particularly the “Jeff Bridges: Sleeping Tapes” site that was advertised during the Super Bowl, many features and design elements were custom coded by developers at SquareSpace.  You could not build this yourself.  And for the many other templates that are shown off, there are often photos, blurbs and design elements that do not come with the theme.  By the time you’ve put in all of your personal content, the site looks nothing like advertised.  This is where it helps to have a designer, marketer, developer or all of the above.

These sites are meant to apply to the majority, if you have any special requirements, it may not be accomplishable without a developer and it may not be accomplishable at all within the restrictions of these platforms.

The Pros:

These services can create a great starting point.  The themes are professionally designed, the code is good for getting you on search engines and they are built with mobile devices in mind.  If you are tech savvy or have a lot of patience and like to learn, you may be able to bring a website to life all on your own.  If you’re needs are the same as most (and they probably are) one of these services can be a much cheaper alternative to having a developer build a website from scratch or customize a WordPress or other CMS (content management system) website, which I would never suggest going at alone.

That being said, the reason I have so much experience with these services is because of the number of contacts I’ve had from people who have started using one of these services and got stuck.  They couldn’t figure something out; sometimes because there was no solution.  It always helps to know someone who can help.  Luckily, you’re in the right place.

Synopsis:

These services can be a very cost effective way to get a great website up if you don’t have any unique needs they aren’t capable of fulfilling. Be prepared to work within the restrictions that come with any piece of software that is easy to use. The advertising would have you believe that the templates are far more customizable than they are. A web designer or developer can take your “Do it Yourself” website to the next level.