Can I build and maintain my business’s website?

Depending on what kind of website your need, creating your own website might be a good or a very bad idea.

Below I review some of the pros and cons of building and maintaining your own website. Creating a successful website is not easy. My students spend between 2 and 4 years learning web development, SEO, Internet marketing, eCommerce integration, color theory, layout design, photo retouch, image optimization, and design principles in order to become successful designers and developers.

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1. SITE BUILDERS:

Many web hosting companies offer many “easy and fast” site builders that claim you can build a website with no prior experience necessary in minutes. But is it really all just drag and drop?

Pros:

  1. Easy to use: Most site builders include drag-and-drop options, which were designed for users with no experience in web design. It is not necessary to have any coding knowledge whatsoever since all the code is already built into the templates and platform you are using. Depending on your web design skills or coding knowledge, this can be either an advantage or a limitation. If you know a couple programming languages, then it can be frustrating to not be able to expand on the code your site builder has. On the other hand, if you have no intention on expanding or changing the template‘s code, then site builders are probably a great option for you.
  2. Cost: Most site builders are free so this is a good choice if you are under a budget.
  3. Quick: a site builder option might be a good idea if all you need is to quickly build a small, basic and static personal or informational website. This is due to the intuitive design these site builders have, which cuts down the time users usually take learning how to use the platform .

Cons:

  1. Informational website: An informational website usually has only 1 or 3 pages where customers can basic find information about the business but they cannot really interact with the owner or the community.
  2. Generic templates: If you are looking to stand out among your competitors this is definitively not a good idea. Unfortunately memorable websites don’t fit the generic template approach and these templates can never really match your company’s personality or goals.
  3. Limitation: The drag and drop approach to build a site limits your creativity and your needs.
  4. Tasteless free image library or clip art: Images are very important in a website. With good images user can get perused to buy a product or subscribe to a service. Good images can evoke emotions, trust and credibility in a website. Without a professional designer that can create unique icons or take, retouch and optimize photographs your business’s website is missing one of the most powerful tools to engage customers.
  5. Website Analytics: Most free site builders do not provide you with essential data necessary to improve your business’s online presence. A successful website needs to track and collect visitor information so it can be analyzed generate more revenue

2. WYSIWYG EDITORS:

What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get (WYSIWYG) editors claim to provide an accurate editing method that displays real time results of the final website. Some of the most popular WYSIWYG editors include Adobe Dreamweaver, Adobe Contribute, Microsoft Expression Web and iWeb.

Most WYSIWYG editors state that “no XHTML, CSS or web design knowledge is required” however after many years of experience (using them and teaching how to use them) I can guarantee you that this is not true.

Pros:

  1. Familiar Interface: If you have use Microsoft Word or any other word processor, you might find that WYSIWYG editors have a very similar interface. You can copy/paste text and drag and drop images very easily.
  2. Wizards: Most WYSIWYG editors provide some kind of wizards that will help you start up a website from scratch.

Cons:

  1. If you run into a problem and you don’t know the code there’s no way for you to troubleshoot. It’s like hiting a brick wall. When I have students that are new to XHTML they usually start from scratch every time they encounter a problem in Dreamweaver that they don’t know how to fix. This can be a real nightmare because it’s very tine consuming to start from zero every time you have a problem.
  2. WYSIWYG editors do not display the content accurately on design view. This can be a real hassle because after working for 3 hours you might realize that in the browser everything is looking upside down. I always advise my students to work in code view and frequently test in browser to avoid layout and CSS inaccuracies.

3. FREE BLOGS:

Free services like Blogger, Thoughts, and Myblogsite offer a great alternative for personal pages but not necessarily for business’s websites.

Pros:

  1. Free  (& mostly reliable) hosting: by using blogging platforms like Thoughts, and Myblogsite you do not have to worry about any monthly fee or even start up fees. Even more, with sites like Blogger(which it is owned by Google) the hosting is pretty reliable; this is great because it eliminates the worry of your site going down.
  2. Free templates: forget about matching colors and fonts, or paying for templates with free blogs since these are all offered when creating your website.

Cons:

  1. Reputation: Unfortunately blogs don’t have a good business reputation. Since the early 2000’s they have been associated with trivial everyday private thoughts and activities.
  2. Ads: Some free blogs make revenue from ads, and this can disturb your customers affecting your online presence.
  3. Unprofessional URL: The free URL you get once you sign up in a free blog website are a subdomain of the blog’s web hosting company so instead of getting a URL like www.mybusiness.com you’ll get mybusiness.bloghosting.com. This can look amateurish and unprofessional to potential customers.

THE SOLUTION:

If you want to alleviate the costs of having a website build and maintained by a professional web designer or developer you should consider investing in the design and development of a CMS website. CMS stands for “content management system” and it can provide you with the tools you need to manage your site’s content. Most CMS systems use a SQL database to store the information that is dynamically display with PHP or other web language. CMS will allow you to publish your own content, interact with your customers, create user profiles, integrate social media, and keep your users informed through RSS feeds.CMS do not require coding knowledge to upload and remove content, so it is a great option if you are aiming to frequently post on your website. Even more, sites such as WordPress are open source platforms;thus, if you run into any issues, it is easier to troubleshoot due to the amount of information users all over the world post constantly.

If you invest in a website’s solid foundation you can start small and grow later on.

If you have any questions about CMS based websites please contact me through my contact form. I’ll be happy to discuss the best web options for you and your business. Lastly, if you would like to learn more about the value and cost of building a website, make sure to check out my article How Much Does a Website Cost?


Should I build my own website ?

If you are thinking about creating your own business’s website take a minute to consider the following:

1. What kind of website you need?

There are many kinds of websites out there, from online stores to informational and portfolio websites, which one best fits your needs and goals? You are going to want to start by asking yourself this question since it will likely influence the following factors such as website’s features, cost, maintenance and even your marketing strategy.

2. What features you want?

Features determine the functionality of your website. Are you interested in having a cart feature for users to add their items while they shop at your site? Or, do you want to frequently update and promote your services or special offers in your website and in social media? Your website can do either or both of those actions with the right features!

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3. What are the website goals?

Website’s are incredibly valuable business tools if they are set up correctly from the start. If you want your website to be effective and take advantage of its’ full potential, start by setting your website’s goals, so that it can be built it with a clear objective in mind. These goals can be as simple as increasing sales of your online clothing store, or increasing the visibility of your restaurant among locals.

4. Do you have the time, dedication, knowledge and patience to create a website by yourself from scratch?

Depending of the kind of website you choose, the knowledge and time required to create a successful website will vary.Nonetheless, at the very least, it will require knowledge in web development, SEO, Internet marketing, color theory and layout design.