I was watching TV the other day and an advert came on for a well known website builder, I won’t name any names but there are several similar companies out there. The premise is simple, you pay a small amount to get your new business website up and running really easily. Anyone can do it and your website can have all sorts of fancy widgets showing maps, photo galleries and a whole host of other options. So what do you get for your money or indeed for free in some cases?

You get a decent looking template which will enable you to get online quickly with a responsive site, its a nice way to get online for very little money and the wide range of templates and apps will give your site a great start in your online venture.

If you settle for the free version then chances are you will have adverts on the site for the company in question but for some people this is ok. I’ve done a few sites where people have wanted to just post photos and updates for a one off event to be able to share their experiences with an audience and for that sort of purpose then a free website builder is perfect.

What you don’t get however is the finer points that go into building and running a successful website. Things like the finer design input that goes into helping users navigate the site and converting visitors into customers. These are little details that you rarely even see or notice when browsing a site but they are there.

The other downside about getting a website builder is the general lack of SEO goodness for the search engines to grab on to. Granted they aren’t all bad as a lot of the ranking factors these days are on good content and that can be written on any website platform but site speed is not usually a large consideration for templates. Adding in things like schema is another thing that is often not taking into account.

Another large factor when considering a website is your time. Running a business is a full time job in itself let alone actually providing services or products to your customers. That is what you are best at so let someone else take the strain and do what they are good at.

A website builder generally comes with a monthly cost for the hosting and added costs for website features. This means that in the long run a website can actually end up costing more than hiring a professional to do the website or marketing for you!

Website builders are not marketing or design experts. They are a tool that needs to be used properly. The aim of your business website should be to inform and aid your visitors in getting what they want from it. This usually means proper research into your business and your target audience. Writing good content and putting it into a simple template that looks the same as everyone else's won’t achieve that. A good website project requires research and careful consideration into what is important for the business and the customer. The other great advantage of using a custom built site is the bespoke feel to it.

A website builder usually fits into the "close enough" category. Its nearly what you want but you may well be left thinking "if only I could change that little bit". All of these little things add up to make the cost of hiring a professional to design, build and maintain your website worth its weight in gold.

On the flip side of this website builder bashing there are many cases where it makes perfect sense to use a cheap service like this. When starting out as a startup or for non-profit organisations and charities, money is not always in abundance and it seems only logical to make a quick and easy website to get started. If designed and built correctly that site can stand as your online presence for a while but there will come a time when a "proper" website is needed. Very rarely do you see a website service site on the top page of a search engine so some monitoring is needed to work out when to make the jump.

A good website doesn't have to cost the earth initially. There are many ways to reduce the cost if money is the issue. Websites can be completed in phases for example if you were thinking of selling your products online you could start with a site that contains a few pages about your products and then add the full eCommerce capabilities later down the line in a second phase. The cost of SEO and online marketing can be customised to suit your needs and budget allowing you to grow and build at the same speed as your business. I've done this in the past for a few projects and they have seen the results continue to grow and grow helping their business soar but all the time keeping their spending to a minimum.

I’m not going to say don’t use a website builder. There are many of them out there and some are better than others but if you are planning a website for your startup business or thinking you should be putting more effort into your existing website then get in touch with me and we can discuss your project before you commit to a decision. It may be the best business chat you ever have.