TL;DR: While using a website builder seems easier at first, there are several important reasons why creating your own website from scratch is the best solution for most.
One of the questions small business owners struggle with is whether to use a website builder (like Wix or Homestead) or start from scratch (meaning you find separate hosting, content management system, etc.). Since I do some light web design on the side and have built dozens of sites over the last year, I come across this question a lot.
Your website is like your business’s digital house. Choosing the right foundation (your website platform) is even more important than what you put on the walls (your content or even your design). Since it’s such a big deal, you want to choose the platform that will work best with your business. Your website is a big deal, and you can’t just switch it overnight to a new platform.
Here’s what you need to know about choosing the right platform for your website and how to make the right choice.
When Building a Website, Simplicity Comes at a Price
There’s a reason you have so many options when it comes to website builders: most people simply would rather have their website done (and making them money) than learn how to create a website.
Wix, Weebly, and other website builders make a pretty attractive promise. In just a few minutes, you can have your own website up and ready to go! And if you want your own domain (which you definitely do), they’re happy to sell you one for a small monthly fee.
But if these website creation tools were so great, wouldn’t more websites use them? (This should probably set some alarm bells off in your head.)
The truth is, it’s much less expensive and almost as easy to find your own hosting, buy your own domain name, and set up your website yourself than it is to use a website builder. Knowing where to begin is the part that intimidates most people, but once you know how to get started, it’s simple to create your own website.
When you begin selling online, a website builder might meet your needs just fine.
However, it’s when your business grows that you run into problems. I once worked with a client who built his website with Homestead. When it became time to expand his marketing by adding a blog (and other features), Homestead simply wasn’t up to the task. Their blog software was miserable. We ended up installing a blog on a different site since Homestead didn’t do subdomains well.
That particular site is effectively limited until the site owner decides to switch to a different platform. You think setting up a new website from scratch is difficult? Try migrating a website from a website builder platform to an entirely new system. It’s a much bigger headache, and it’s much more expensive.
If you want to future proof your online business, build it on the right platform in the first place (such as a platform a huge percent of the world’s websites already use). I recommend WordPress.
In my professional opinion, the biggest advantage of building your own website is that you are in control of your data.
You might remember the term sharecropping from high school world history. Essentially, sharecropping was where medieval farmers worked on someone else’s land. At any time, the land owner could sell the land to someone else, assign a different farmer to your plot of land, or simply decide not to let you till that ground any longer.
Digital sharecropping is a recent term that refers to building your digital goods (like your website) on someone else’s land. It means using platforms, systems, and software you don’t fully own for your business. The danger of this is that the software owner could decide at any moment to do any of the following:
- Close up shop and decide to no longer serve you
- Raise prices to the point it ruins your profits
- Change the software in a way that breaks it
- “Locks” the software so growing is difficult
By building your own website using open-source software (like WordPress), you can prevent the problem of digital sharecropping.
Getting Started Isn’t Hard
Look, I get it: building a website sounds intimidating, time consuming, and expensive.
But if you make the right decision from the outset, you’ll end up with a site that can grow with your business for years.
Get started isn’t hard. Get in touch with me, and I can help you figure out what your options are based on your budget and site needs.