Home – New Forums Tech talk The REAL Reason Why Free Website Builders Suck…

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  • #993303
    Stuart B
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    Hey all, this is not a troll post but something which people need to be aware of.

    I believe that people should be VERY wary of free website builders such as Wix, Weebly and on so but not for the reasons you might expect. I shall explain…

    When you’re starting a business you need a website right? Many SMB’s are doing super lean startups and really skimping on the money to develop their website, and while I personally think that’s a bad idea, I totally understand the reasoning behind it.

    Usually there’s a fixed pool of money and the funds are just simply needed elsewhere so a compromise needs to be made somewhere, and when there are free website builders around then there’s an easy win right there.

    But here’s the problem. We could argue back and forth all day about the technical limitations that stop you from having a website setup the best way for SEO, or how the proprietary platforms mean that you’re locked in and there’s no way to transfer your site to another developer, or the dodgy tactics they use in the marketing but that’s not the REAL problem.

    Though the technology behind those free website builders isn’t as good as something you could get on WordPress, Joomla or some other mainstream alternative, I like to give credit where credit is due. Weebly and Wix give totally non-web design people the ability to use a WYSIWYG editor to get a website up and running pretty easily and that is a pretty impressive accomplishment. But while those websites are technically lacking all of the proper abilities of custom sites that’s still not the REAL problem.

    OK WHAT IS THE REAL PROBLEM?!
    The real problem is that for all the work those platforms have put into making a website builder that is so insanely easy to use, they still can’t teach people how to make good designs.

    There ARE good looking Wix websites out there, but they are EXTREMELY rare. Over my career I would say I’ve seen about 2 Wix sites which didn’t make me want to cry out of frustration for the business owner.

    Having the ability to drag/drop stuff freely means just that. Websites are filled with random bits and pieces and the result (while beautiful in the site owner’s mind) offers nothing of value to the business (and sometimes can be a detriment).

    BUT WHAT ABOUT TEMPLATED WEBSITES?
    Yes a good question (so glad you asked lol)! Surely if you’re using a template from WIX it should look nice?
    Well things sure start off that way right? But it doesn’t take long for some interesting new fonts, colours, images, videos, and animated GIFs to change all that.
    Again I’ve seen many sites with a wix template having the bones of a decent design which has slowly been twisted and mutated into something very different.

    WHY YOU MAD BRO?
    I’m not saying people shouldn’t use Wix or Weebly or any of the other alternatives out there, but the fact that they give so much creative control to non-designers in many instances is the downfall of the website itself. Kind of ironic really.
    Like the saying “a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing”, except in this case I think it’s more like “a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing, but can be disastrous when combined with complete creative freedom and control”.

    The interesting thing is that for my business I’d say that about 95% of websites I build for people who already have one, are doing so because they started off on Wix/Weebly and realised 12 months on that it just didn’t cut the mustard and was holding their business back. They ended up with a super random hodgepodge site which was just too difficult to get under control and had to wipe the slate clean.

    I 100% understand the logic behind using those services but from my experience the people who invest a little more in their web infrastructure (particularly if it’s a web focused business) are well ahead compared to a free/DIY job.

    #1190888
    Gizmo
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    Nice post.
    I think sometimes it’s hard to make a start up business owner see past the budget blinkers, which I completely understand.

    Now while I understand this I do not think its right for a business owner to make their own website, even if they have 20 years experience of doing so.

    The only exception I see to this is if you are starting a website making company then its fine as you want to prove you can do.

    The reason I say this, is the business owner should be focusing on building the business and getting sales as a priority.

    Making your own website could set you back a lot in your own time and ask yourself… what if I focused all that time on growing the business and looking for clients?

    #1190889
    GuestMember
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    Don’t know much about Wix guys but take it easy on people building their own sites Gizmo. I’ve enjoyed top ranking in Google and built a hugely successful business with a self build. I have no formal qualifications, no job experience, and 80% of my build will be done in a day plus content writing time (the 20% can take a long time in all honesty). It costs me $60 for each site WordPress theme (if I use my shared hosting) or zero cost for a Dreamweaver responsive template that I reverse engineer and add to. So for basic informational sites, and sometimes more, people can DIY.

    That said some people struggle with bespoke coding, and some have very, very poor design sense. My blog is a self-build and looks clean, easy to navigate, etc. It’s also better than a lot of developers manage. Seriously.

    There are good and bad DIYers and good and bad designers and developers.

    I’ve also never employed anyone to design a logo. When I did, I ended up going back to my creation (Trade Secrets) because (like Stuart said – but relating to DIYers in his case) they overcomplicated it. I wanted clean, timeless and a font that held up without any design elements. All sorts of stuff happened. Some graphic designers are like people who listen to a lot of music; one group ends up listening to prog rock in mindboggling time signatures and the other with whacky designs to self-stimulate! But most people don’t look that closely all day.

    It really depends on the person, their taste, abilities, etc. I don’t like the vast majority of websites I see (DIY and professional). Crap colours, silly animations, clutter, poor nav, bad UX, stupid SEO that doesn’t read properly to humans, images all misaligned, colours that clash, ridiculous fonts and font sizes. OMG there’s some rubbish out there (built on all manner of platforms).

    #1190890
    Gizmo
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    [USER=54653]@GuestMember[/USER]
    Taking it easy; you must have interpreted something I did not intend to portray.

    I’m more than happy for people to do as they please and understand reasons why they do as I outlined.

    As I said, in my opinion, its better to focus on your business than the website.
    You will get better returns.

    #1190891
    GuestMember
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    Oh it was just this…

    …I do not think its right for a business owner to make their own website, even if they have 20 years experience of doing so.

    Just thought it was a grand statement.

    Outsourcing versus in-housing is always a trade-off. I’ve saved loads of money building (I’ve also lost less when a business hasn’t worked out or I lost the passion).

    No self-respecting web developer could build me a site cheaper than the price I’d put on a few hours of my labour – not at the stage of business I was always at at the time of the initial build – ground zero. I’d always think, “Can I make more money in the time it would take me to build it than I would spend getting it built elsewhere?” Normally there was nothing to market anyway.

    Then I factor in this. Once a DIYer has web design and development skills, they are super-nimble. They can adjust all sorts really quickly, no cost, and experiment in a way that would drive a web developer mad.

    Take this for example. Right now, I’m experimenting with flat design on one of my websites. I’m trying loads of blues out on my menu and different submenu colours and nav bar colours and gradients. Now, try getting a designer to do this. They will either a) ask for a colour scheme, b) choose themselves (I have some very exacting standards with complimentary colours, etc and would be labelled a tire-kicker) or c) they would happily charge by the hour (I won’t be so happy).

    Instead, I can sit here with Dreamweaver on one screen, front end on the other and see what colour palettes on a flat UI hex code site really look like in situ. Sure, I could tell a web developer to ‘do it blue, man’. But no, they rarely have good design sense in my opinion. I’m after a great blue, not to just get the job out of my way. Few people would look after me and my customers like I will.

    I have flexibility, control, and money-savings at the cost of time. It’s a trade-off (time is money as you say) but it works for me.

    #1190892
    Hatching_It
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    Gizmo, post: 224146, member: 43147 wrote:
    Nice post.
    I think sometimes it’s hard to make a start up business owner see past the budget blinkers, which I completely understand.

    Completely agree. Until it’s proven through lack of sales, harsh feedback or a site compromise a micro/small business owner will rarely see value in paying for a local professional to build a website.

    I build cheap websites for that market because I actually care about customers and prefer to see them with a good website rather than a WYSIWYG or offshore built website.

    Another similar example: I built a website for someone (very cheap by the way) and they wanted some changes a little while later. They started penny pinching after I provided my quote and ended up going with “someone they knew” who moved the website to their own dodgy hosting and made some changes – no doubt installation hardening after the migration wasn’t on the quote.

    I got an email on the weekend (about 6 months after the move) that their WordPress site has since been hacked and they need master logins etc from me (apparently their “WordPress developer” isn’t capable enough to reset a password through the database…) No doubt there’s a new willingness to pay my already super low rate!

    #1190893
    Stuart B
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    That story makes me laugh because it happens so often but it’s so sad when it does. I’ve had the same story so many times when someone takes their site away and then a few months later have to make an uncomfortable call to get me to sort it out when things go sideways.

    This isn’t to say that site owners are stupid or anything but it does highlight a problem the industry has when it comes to educating clients, and demonstrating value in what they do versus cheaper low quality alternatives.

    #1190894
    Gizmo
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    [USER=54653]@Paul Peace[/USER]
    Yes it was a grand statement, but based on my opinion and what I done for myself.

    At the time of starting MondoTalk I had over 15 years experience in building websites. It was just me doing MondoTalk, yes I could have made my own website and it would have been really good too. But I did not because to me it was important to develop the business as opposed to spending many hours building a website.

    MondoTalk has several websites and I have not built one.

    I’m not saying what others do is wrong, like you are doing.
    I am just voicing my opinion, which is also what I put into practice and has worked for me.

    #1190895
    GuestMember
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    No issue with your experience and thoughts on your own business. That’s a private matter. However…

    …I do not think its right for a business owner to make their own website, even if they have 20 years experience of doing so.

    …says what others are doing (building their own websites) is wrong in your opinion. That’s not just descriptive of your situation and the benefits you found, but prescriptive about other people’s. Just very generalising and many people self-build and grow their business faster, e.g., through the methods I mentioned above. It just doesn’t follow that self-build necessarily stifles a business (even though it can). It was that I was referring to but I’ll leave it with you.

    #1190896
    Gizmo
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    [USER=54653]@Paul Peace[/USER]
    Feel free to read into it as you want.
    I think I clarified it enough for you.

    #1190897
    Gormandize.com.au
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    Stuart B, post: 224138, member: 10757 wrote:
    Hey all, this is not a troll post but something which people need to be aware of.

    I believe that people should be VERY wary of free website builders such as Wix, Weebly and on so but not for the reasons you might expect. I shall explain…

    When you’re starting a business you need a website right? Many SMB’s are doing super lean startups and really skimping on the money to develop their website, and while I personally think that’s a bad idea, I totally understand the reasoning behind it.

    Usually there’s a fixed pool of money and the funds are just simply needed elsewhere so a compromise needs to be made somewhere, and when there are free website builders around then there’s an easy win right there.

    But here’s the problem. We could argue back and forth all day about the technical limitations that stop you from having a website setup the best way for SEO, or how the proprietary platforms mean that you’re locked in and there’s no way to transfer your site to another developer, or the dodgy tactics they use in the marketing but that’s not the REAL problem.

    Though the technology behind those free website builders isn’t as good as something you could get on WordPress, Joomla or some other mainstream alternative, I like to give credit where credit is due. Weebly and Wix give totally non-web design people the ability to use a WYSIWYG editor to get a website up and running pretty easily and that is a pretty impressive accomplishment. But while those websites are technically lacking all of the proper abilities of custom sites that’s still not the REAL problem.

    OK WHAT IS THE REAL PROBLEM?!
    The real problem is that for all the work those platforms have put into making a website builder that is so insanely easy to use, they still can’t teach people how to make good designs.

    There ARE good looking Wix websites out there, but they are EXTREMELY rare. Over my career I would say I’ve seen about 2 Wix sites which didn’t make me want to cry out of frustration for the business owner.

    Having the ability to drag/drop stuff freely means just that. Websites are filled with random bits and pieces and the result (while beautiful in the site owner’s mind) offers nothing of value to the business (and sometimes can be a detriment).

    BUT WHAT ABOUT TEMPLATED WEBSITES?
    Yes a good question (so glad you asked lol)! Surely if you’re using a template from WIX it should look nice?
    Well things sure start off that way right? But it doesn’t take long for some interesting new fonts, colours, images, videos, and animated GIFs to change all that.
    Again I’ve seen many sites with a wix template having the bones of a decent design which has slowly been twisted and mutated into something very different.

    WHY YOU MAD BRO?
    I’m not saying people shouldn’t use Wix or Weebly or any of the other alternatives out there, but the fact that they give so much creative control to non-designers in many instances is the downfall of the website itself. Kind of ironic really.
    Like the saying “a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing”, except in this case I think it’s more like “a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing, but can be disastrous when combined with complete creative freedom and control”.

    The interesting thing is that for my business I’d say that about 95% of websites I build for people who already have one, are doing so because they started off on Wix/Weebly and realised 12 months on that it just didn’t cut the mustard and was holding their business back. They ended up with a super random hodgepodge site which was just too difficult to get under control and had to wipe the slate clean.

    I 100% understand the logic behind using those services but from my experience the people who invest a little more in their web infrastructure (particularly if it’s a web focused business) are well ahead compared to a free/DIY job.

    Good post, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Talking about my experience, I’d say sometimes it is better to build your own free website using WIX than paying $$$$$ to a web designer that is focused on design only but not on conversion.

    In saying that have you heard of the new web builder called pagecloud launching this month? https://reserve.pagecloud.com/r/ZmcveE/

    It looks very impressive, especially the feature that let’s you copy a design from another website.

    #1190898
    JohnW
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    Folk may want to consider the security of their marketing investment when it comes to free web builders.

    Anyone remember the free MYOB/Google web builder called Atlas? Was that being promoted around 2011? Is it still live? Is it supported?

    Will the company supporting the free website builder you chose be around in a few years time and what about your marketing asset? Will it disappear if the company goes down?

    I’m no financial analyst but the web tells me that Wix raised $127 mill in its 2013 IPO. No profits yet. Last operating loss was $18 mill on revenue of $55 mill. and its assets are down to $26 mill. What happened to the rest of the $127 mill?

    I have no idea how many free web builders have disappeared off the face of the web. There will be many.

    When you are costing your free web builder, you need to plug in your own time in writing copy and publishing content. The small business owner is the most expensive cost for that business as he/she is usually the primary revenue generator. What ever your hourly charge out for your time, you should build into the real cost of your free website.
    Regs,
    JohnW

    #1190899
    getcontented.com.au
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    Gormandize.com.au, post: 224451, member: 67887 wrote:
    Good post, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Talking about my experience, I’d say sometimes it is better to build your own free website using WIX than paying $$$$$ to a web designer that is focused on design only but not on conversion.

    In saying that have you heard of the new web builder called pagecloud launching this month? https://reserve.pagecloud.com/r/ZmcveE/

    It looks very impressive, especially the feature that let’s you copy a design from another website.

    Interesting – a feature to copy a design. I wonder how much people are aware that design, like photos and content, is copyright work. Probably not much, I guess.

    Really, though, this system is very interesting. Our content editor takes a different approach – we let content editors edit controlled sections of content within the design, and we let designer edit design (but in a similar controlled way). That way, everyone gets the control they need. If someone feels that they really do want to be in control of design, they totally can be, but by default we have actual designers designing web pages.

    Personally, I agree wholeheartedly with Stuart’s sentiment that as designers, the last thing you want is someone who isn’t a designer doing design work… people will usually do something terrible without realising they’re doing something terrible.

    This is akin to handing someone a word processor and expecting them to be an excellent author… it’s silly in that context, so we shouldn’t assume it in the design context. (Or a wrench and expecting them to be a brilliant mechanic).

    This is a really good thread because it’s quite close to my heart. People see “free” and they don’t understand the actual cost of things. It might be learning how to use the thing, or giving away personal information, or it might be the cost of not having the opportunity to have a professional think through the questions and take you through the process.

    Our service is, hopefully, the best of both worlds – a bit more expensive than the DIY versions (which still cost, by the way – Wix or Weebly *say* they’re free, but the custom domains or bigger feature options aren’t free), but you get all the advantage of having an actual designer go through what’s important to you and how to achieve that.

    #1190900
    bb1
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    getcontented.com.au, post: 224455, member: 72814 wrote:
    Personally, I agree wholeheartedly with Stuart’s sentiment that as designers, the last thing you want is someone who isn’t a designer doing design work… people will usually do something terrible without realising they’re doing something terrible.

    This is akin to handing someone a word processor and expecting them to be an excellent author… it’s silly in that context, so we shouldn’t assume it in the design context. (Or a wrench and expecting them to be a brilliant mechanic).

    .
    You are making an assumption that someone will do something terrible, some people do have the ability to design, even though they don’t have the label ”designer” behind there name.

    That would be like me saying people shouldn’t garden, because they may do something terrible to their garden, at the end of the day everyone has different abilities and can do what they like to do.

    I have seen reviews on here for web designers and even other designers have given them the thumbs down.

    #1190901
    getcontented.com.au
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    bb1, post: 224461, member: 53375 wrote:
    You are making an assumption that someone will do something terrible, some people do have the ability to design, even though they don’t have the label ”designer” behind there name.

    That would be like me saying people shouldn’t garden, because they may do something terrible to their garden, at the end of the day everyone has different abilities and can do what they like to do.

    I have seen reviews on here for web designers and even other designers have given them the thumbs down.

    Hi Bert,

    Nah, I wasn’t making that assumption at all.

    I’m not saying who is and who isn’t a designer. As far as I’m concerned, a designer is someone who is able to design.

    As I said, though, if someone isn’t a web designer, they will often do things that they aren’t aware of that aren’t good…

    One example is putting script tags in the head or at the bottom of the page. If you put your script tags in the head, your page will take longer to load.

    Another example is having seven or eight typefaces on a page at once. This is a really common design mistake, not just web pages. It gives a muddy impression, and doesn’t leave the audience with a consistent feeling. It *can* be an effect that can be used, but beginner designers often don’t realise that less is often more… that design is about the balance between what *is* there and what *isn’t* there.

    The other trouble with web design is that at its peak, it’s a compounded skillset… one needs both technical skills and art skills (and also audio production / video production / 3D / illustration / programming / devops skills don’t go astray either). It takes a very long time to get all of these skills, and to be proficient in them.

    Hope that explains what I said a bit better. I didn’t mean to offend anyone. Non-designers are, of course, free to design things all they like… however, the results are often pretty ineffective at their intent. That’s fine, too :) Education on these things is available to everyone these days, which is a great thing.

    Julian

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