5 things to consider before building your own website
If you’re a small business owner, chances are you’ve contemplated building your website yourself using a do-it-yourself tool such as WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, Squarespace or Wix. These templated content management systems (referred to as a CMS) offer professional-looking results at an affordable price and are the way to go for personal or hobby sites. However, before you decide to base your business on one of these platforms, there are several factors you should consider.
Let’s start with the obvious. Part of what is appealing about a do-it-yourself site is that it’s easy to find a template that looks professionally designed right out of the box. Most templates also provide some level of “customization,” allowing you to add a logo, pick a color scheme and maybe even modify the layout. But this customization is merely an illusion. Consider this: given the popularity of these sites and the finite number of templates available, it is reasonable to assume that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of businesses using the same design. You need to ask yourself if your business is unique enough on its own to stand out in the marketplace despite the fact that your website looks like hundreds of others.
Another appealing aspect of a website template is that it comes with pre-defined placeholders for your content which can help guide you in conveying your company’s value on the web. However, any good website designer will tell you that your content should dictate design, not the other way around. Using a template you will find yourself bending your message around the constraints of a design versus designing your site to support your business. You’re forced to come up with content just to fill a space, diluting and even confusing your message.
Upgrades and plug-ins
This is probably one of the biggest issues with sites like WordPress that rely heavily on plug-ins for their functionality. If you want your site to have a contact form or simple shopping cart, you will need to use several plug-ins. Plug-ins have several drawbacks in that 1) they are almost always written by third-parties and therefore subject to bugs 2) they can quickly bloat your site and cause site speed issues 3) they can get out of date quickly and become incompatible with your site. This means performing a simple upgrade to your site (which you will want to do if in order to stay ahead of security issues and keep up with the latest browser technology) has the potential to break your site because of an out-of-date plug-in. This will leave your site down for hours while you search through community postings to find a way to fix it or even weeks waiting for the plug-in developer to update their code (if they are still in business.)
Which leads us to the next item to consider — support. Most free CMS platforms rely solely on documentation and user communities to support their users. This means if something goes wrong, you will have to hunt through hundreds of forum posts to find someone who has run into your problem and has posted a solution. And if you have a unique issue that requires you to post a question to the community, so begins the waiting game until someone responds, if at all. Now, there are a few platforms that offer personalized support but that comes with a monthly price-tag, whether you end up using it or not.
Free is relative
Building your site yourself is merely a tradeoff of your time over your money. If you have more time than money, this seems like a no-brainer. But you also need to consider opportunity costs. The time you spend educating yourself, building and maintaining your site means time not being spent managing and growing your business. The potential revenue you are losing could end up being more than what you would pay a contractor in the first place.
In the end, your main objective is to produce a website that meets your business objectives and the needs of your customers for the near future. A free solution can be very tempting, especially if you are on a budget. But free solutions do come with a price – a sacrifice of your time, your brand’s uniqueness and your site’s reliability. We are happy to discuss the options with you to determine if a custom solution is right for your business. Call us at 414-763-9292 or start the conversation here.