25 Reasons To NOT Use A Website Builder (and The Only 3 Times When It Makes Sense To Do So)

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Vernessa Taylor
Vernessa Taylor is a micro and small business champion who helps owners choose and use smart technologies in their businesses. For a limited time, get your no-cost copy of her eBook: Engage! Communications PowerPack for WordPress Blogs, 2nd Edition. To read more of her writings, check out her collection at Contently.
Vernessa Taylor
Vernessa Taylor
Vernessa Taylor
Vernessa Taylor
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25 reasons to NOT use a site creator or business website builder (and The Only 3 Times When It Makes Sense to do so)

Hot debate discusses pros and cons of using an online business website builder (aka site creators). Here are 3 reasons FOR and 25 reasons AGAINST.

Is there any good reason to use a site creator or business website builder if you are a serious business person who considers their website to be an investment, a technology asset?

My Opinion (of Most) Website Builders

Let me say two things right off the bat: (1) I hate website builders and (2) this is not a review. I set out on a quest to find out what other developers and small business owners had to say about their experiences with using these all-in-one site creators. I found over 25 reasons against using one; but, to my surprise, I also found a few use cases when a website builder might be the answer. (Bah humbug!) So, to be fair, after I show you all the reasons that prove my case, I’ll highlight those use cases and recommend a few that especially help newbies avoid site creator rookie mistakes.

What This Article Covers:

  1. Why do small businesses use them?
  2. 25 reasons not to use a site creator
  3. 3 scenarios where using one makes perfect sense
  4. A few recommendations

What’s The Attraction of Site Creators?

According the Christopher Heng, a couple of things that make using an online site creator attractive are the plethora of pre-built templates that relieve the site owner of having to think about site design and the step-by-step wizard which guides the whole process.

Jeremy Wong reveals another reason site owners are likely to use a website building platform: “They have built their platforms with people such as myself in mind – clueless when it comes to CSS and HTML.” Besides the reasons already listed, Tech Tricks World adds a few more: quality graphics, fast launch schedule, and editing one’s website at any time.

And let’s not forget the pull of free website hosting, free domain name, and removing the need to anything too technical.

That brings us to . . .

25 40+ Reasons To NOT Use An Online Website Builder

The top ten reasons were echoed throughout most articles I read on the subject.

  1. locked-in to that site creator
  2. learning curve is steep
  3. skills learned can’t be transferred
  4. time commitment can be huge
  5. frustration (part of learning curve and time)
  6. gazillions of dated free website templates
  7. free or low cost but add-ons are costly
  8. hosting or domain company strengths don’t include web design
  9. unprofessional domain name (sub-domain of the service)
  10. number of pages are limited (retards efforts to have a silo structure or effectively tell story/offer services)

Then these guys add a number of specific reasons based on their own tests and clients’ experiences with using online website building software. I won’t list them all (but the number of reasons they have in their own articles is in parentheses, contributing to the total number of 40+).

  • Robert Cairns says issues with using the website builders include no control over your own backups and site builders tend to be slower then big content management systems. (8)
  • In his web design podcast, John Macpherson cites seven reasons, chief of which are search engine rankings, absence of pretty web fonts, and inability to scale your site. (7)
  • Matt Thompson likens the look of cookie-cutter templated websites with cheap business cards you encounter at networking events. (Ouch!)
  • Writing for Fresh Tight Designs, Tarun Gehani highlights these deficiencies: the absence of a
    wow factor
    , reduced credibility, and the impact of free ads on reputation and profit margin. (6)
  • Neil Walker at Shout Out Digital adds some relevant
    SEO-related considerations: “SEO benefits from these free website builders is poor; some of the tools will design your website in Flash. (Flash has been proven to be SEO unfriendly.)” (6)
  • And Graphic Design Me tosses in the untenable situation in which the site builder itself is free (or inexpensive) but the cost of add-ons drive up the cost so much that the site become more expensive than hiring a web developer. (2)

With so many reasons against, is there any good reason to use a website builder if you are a serious business person who considers their website to be an investment, a technology asset? OK, where am I going with this? I promised to share the use cases that make sense, so here are opinions that differ from my own (and the guys above).

Opinions to the Contrary

In my search to prove how awful website builders were, I came across a few opinions that contradicted mine. Oh, I know, some of you will never be convinced against something just because it has 25 reasons not to do it. (When I’m convinced of something, it takes a mountain of evidence against it to sway me, and even then, I might not be swayed.) So, for you, I give up. No more reasons against.

Three Scenarios where using a website builder makes perfect sense

#1 – Site Creator Foster Uniformity in Organizations

For example, Indiana University encourages students and department webmasters to use the university-sponsored website building software because it is “a good way for non-technical staff to build and publish a website” and “provides a consistent layout of pages … making your site look and feel like part of the university.”

While your organization might not be a school or church, maybe you are charged with creating mini-websites for different departments. Or, as a small business consultant, perhaps you’re building a website for a client who has several departments and each will be responsible for their own layout and content; yet they want a measure of uniformity and sameness.

#2 – Your Creative Juices, Regardless of Time Constraints

As small business owner who is considering the merits of having a website, you might want to give it a dry-run to see if you can do this on your own, before committing the funds to hire a real developer. Or, you are more hands-on with a meteoric level of creative juices and time on your hands. You’re not concerned with lock-in or afraid to experiment with the possibilities.

Are you a business consultant to such creative minds? Then you will want to know which website building software to steer these clients towards because they WILL call you for recommendations.

#3 – The Website Builder That Gets It Right

When the platform you build upon has gotten it right (say at least 80% of the necessary components are in place), only then will you experience a tool that is a joy to use and fun to learn. And the resultant website will be attractive, functional, business oriented, and customer-centric.

Contrary to my initial premise, there are some of those all-in-one builders out there. So what viable options are there for those intent upon using this type of software? These three came up on my radar as good to go:

  1. SquareSpace: Beautiful interface, ecommerce enabled, has blogs and a helpful getting started video tutorial (www.squarespace.com)
  2. Website Builder: drag and drop site creator layout is fast and snappy, HTML 5 features in sharp modern templates, SEO’d with meta tags and Google Analytics built-in (www.website-builder.com)
  3. Wix: Not as sleek as the other two, but some good features like connect your own domain and Google Apps account for email, cool apps for popular e-commerce and email marketing services (www.wix.com)

I’m not trying to be a spoilsport here, so I grudgingly admit that these offerings have covered the bases pretty solidly. They manage to incorporate ecommerce, fast response in the layout editor, quick and easy saves, lead generation, modern templates, SEO, responsiveness on different devices, and much of whatever else matters. I created a free account on each of the website building software platforms, that’s how I know. (OK, there were a few more that I didn’t mention, but remember, this is not a review.)

Gee whiz! Looks like I’ve got some egg on my face! But if this article has enlightened you somewhat, I don’t mind a little egg. :)

For or Against?

BTW, that cool happy/sad image is courtesy of Gratisography; given our “debate,” it’s quite fitting, don’t you think?

Now tell me, what are your reasons for or against using a site creator? Had any positive or negative experiences? Ready to give one a try (regardless of my 25/42 reasons? Ever had to rescue a client from one? Which website builder would you recommend?