Go onto any free website builder site and you’ll basically be met with the same message: “It’s so easy. Anyone can use our platform. Even you.”
The same can be said about a hammer. It’s so easy to use. Anyone can use it. Even you.
But knowing how to put a nail in doesn’t mean you can build a deck. It takes knowledge, practice and the ability to spot and correct little problems before they become big ones.
So before you sit down to build your own website, consider the following:
Time vs. Cost
Yes, having your website professionally created will cost you some money. But doing it yourself will cost you time you probably don’t have.
An excellent and rather timely comparison is filing taxes. Last month, millions of Canadians stuffed all their paperwork into an envelope, gave it to an accountant and went back a week later to sign off. It cost them a few bucks, but it was pain-free (unless they had to pay).
Millions of other Canadians spent thousands of hours at their kitchen tables making sense of their receipts and T-slips, trying to figure out what they could and couldn’t deduct and then doing all the math — probably more than once. When they were done, their hands were full of paper cuts, their minds were mush and they probably wound up missing a few things.
And it’s not like filing your taxes is particularly difficult. But the more you get into it, the more confusing it becomes, the more frustrated you get and the more likely you are to make a mistake.
Free website builders are exactly the same. At the highest level, it’s remarkably easy. You can insert text and images where you want, you can create new pages and you can link to your social feeds.
But an effective website is so much more than what the visitor sees. What happens behind the scenes (meta data, tagging, keyword selection and placement) will contribute just as much to the success of your site.
And while free site builders give you the functionality to add that information (like your tax form gives you the fields to add your deductible line items), if you don’t know what you’re doing, your site will suffer from a lack of exposure online and cost you leads.
What’s more, when something goes wrong (and in the tech world, something always goes wrong), you won’t be able to troubleshoot it because you don’t have the background. And why would you? Your business isn’t building websites, just like it isn’t filing tax returns.
Of course, you could dedicate yourself to learning the ins and outs of website optimization. But that’s time you probably don’t have.
Building vs. Designing
Back to the deck example, knowing how to hammer a nail is different from knowing which wood would work best in the space or what stain colour would work best with the colours in the room.
Using a free website builder is kind of the same thing. It will give you the tools to make your website pretty, but you have to design it. And most people don’t have an eye for that kind of thing.
But wait, you might think, free website builders offer templates. What about those? Either your site will look like thousands of others out there, or you’ll start tinkering with a template and make it worse because changing one thing often leads to changing everything.
Like a professional carpenter, a professional web designer knows what works and what doesn’t. They know the difference between looking good and looking amazing. They know where a web reader’s eye gravitates first. Most importantly, they’ll come up with ideas that you won’t, and make your website better.
Content vs. Copy
Writing content is probably the easiest thing to do with a free website builder. In most cases it’s (a) place a text box where you want and (b) write. But a free website builder won’t tell you how to use your content to drive action and create results. That’s on you. And succinctly describing a business’s offering and value proposition in 2.5 seconds (roughly the amount of time the average visitor will give you before they bounce away) is a challenge.
It’s doubly challenging when it’s your own business because your mind’s filled with industry jargon that you understand and often assume everyone else understands.
A professional copywriter will get to know your business as well as you do, and distil your message to its essence so anyone who visits your site will know who you are, what you do and how you help.
Pro copywriters also understand the psychology of persuasion. They know what words to use to get you just the response you’re looking for, and they know how to build an air-tight, easy-to-understand argument for reading on and/or getting in touch. And if you can’t get there, no amount of design or optimization tinkering is going to save your site because people will bounce away as fast as they arrive.
Owning vs. Renting
When you use a free website builder, you’re essentially renting their space to build your website. Even if you direct the site to a URL you own, it’s still their technology you’re leveraging.
This means you’re at their mercy.
If they go out of business, you lose your site. If they start messing with the way things work, you’ll lose your mind. And if their load times are slow (which they often are), you’ll lose business.
And because the free website builders are free, they run ads on your site to keep their lights on. Want those ads removed? You’ll pay. And in the long run, it’ll cost you more than having your site professionally built.
The bottom line: with a free website builder, you get what you pay for. They’re great for personal projects, but when it’s your business on the line, go pro.
Contact us today and we’ll help you get started on a professionally designed website that’s responsive and within your budget.