When I speak with client prospects, many of them are using a rented business website from one of the major “website builders”, such as, Wix, Squarespace, Web.com, Weebly, Godaddy Builder and the like.
These services are all heavily advertised on TV during sporting events (golf in particular), and other programs.
Normally, I’d write about “pros and cons” for a business tool or resource, but there are absolutely no advantages to website builders—only deal-breaking limitations.
I’ll start with the biggest disadvantage…
Website Builders are More Expensive
Most business owners are completely unfamiliar with website best practices, economics and long term value, so they consider a low front-end cost of these website builders an “advantage”. After all, a custom built website on my favorite platform, WordPress, will set you back $2,500 – $3500 as a one-time cost plus monthly hosting and maintenance costs.
Any cheaper than that, and you’re wasting money on something you’ll need to replace when you get serious about your business.
But with website builders, you pay a monthly fee instead of a one-time fee. And it’s not long before the cost of your site begins to multiply what you would have paid for a good self-hosted WordPress site. And that doesn’t include the opportunity cost and waste of time using a site builder (more on that below).
Putting numbers to this, using the Wix Business VIP plan (their most feature rich and expensive plan) at $50/month as an example, your annual cost is $600. And I know of contractor/construction specific website rental services costing $200 – $250 per month ($2,500 – $3,000 a year)—so of course these carry a much higher lifetime expense. I don’t want to promote these services by linking to them here, so ask me for examples and I’ll show you.
Back to the Wix example, $600/year will be the same cost in 3 – 4 years as what I charge on the low end for my expert website services. And it would take me a long time to describe the extent of how much better my product is than any website builder (measured by traffic building capability, conversions, client ROI, and almost any other vital website metric).
Let’s extrapolate the cost of your WIX site even further:
- 5 years = $3,000
- 10 years = $6,000
- 15 years = $9,000
- 20 years = $15,000
- On and on…
So if you stay in business 10 years or more, you’re paying multiples more than you would a custom WordPress website that will vastly outperform a WIX site in every way. But aside from the higher fixed expense of Website Builders over time, a much larger cost of using these services is lost business, which the points below will explain.
Your Website is Rented, Not Owned
Website builder services use proprietary website software and host your site on their servers, so you’re essentially renting your website. To fully own and control your site, it needs to be self-hosted. This means your website is separate from your host, leaving you the ability to choose your preferred hosting service and easily backup and transfer your website to an alternative host.
With website builder services, if they go out of business, your site goes with them—never to be seen again.
No Option to Transfer Your Website
This is an extension of the disadvantage above. Website builders are built with proprietary technology, rather than “open source” technology like WordPress.
Say you’re a startup business owner and you fall for the “low monthly fee” trap, thinking the service is “good enough for now” (even though these services are never good enough as you’re learning here). Once you realize your mistake, or you’ve outgrown the capabilities of your rented website, you can’t keep your site. You have to buy a complete website replacement!
It would be much wiser to invest in a custom self-hosted WordPress site from day one. WordPress an amazing open source platform. You can fine tune, customize, re-design, optimize, or migrate your site—all with no concerns about having to buy a whole new site later.
While I’m on the topic of hosting, the server environment of your website is a much more important than most business owners realize. Everything from site speed and bounce rate to reliability and security is directly affected by the server and server stack your website resides on. So it’s extremely important to have unlimited options when it comes to hosting.
Meaningless “Instant Website” Claims
Website builder service companies over-emphasize the benefit of getting your site online fast. Their slogans include, “no programming needed”, “get online in 20 minutes”, “instant website”, “design your site in 20 seconds”, and many more.
These statements are just meaningless marketing ploys.
Building a website that will eventually function as your best lead generation and business building asset needs to be done with care. “Fast” isn’t the main goal here. Steady, consistent business growth is the goal.
What good is an “instant website” if it never produces traffic and leads?
If you approach your website the right way, it’s never actually “completed”. Your site and overall marketing efforts are a continual work in progress, just like your business itself.
For instance, let’s say your site ranks in the top 3 results in Google for your main keyword (i.e., “Dallas pest control service”). There are still thousands more relevant keywords people are searching early in their buying journey (i.e., “how to get rid of bed bugs”, “termite extermination costs”, “what causes ants in the house”, etc).
Adding website content, conversion optimization, building a prospect email list, and refining all of your marketing efforts is ongoing work.
So getting online in 20 minutes is completely meaningless!
Of course, this isn’t to say that your website provider/developer should have unlimited time to deliver. Depending on design, development and initial content requirements, a reasonable development timeline should be about 1 – 4 weeks. But when you consider how long it takes to build a stable, successful business, this time-frame should be acceptable and the end result will be far superior to a site that was slapped up in 20 minutes.
Poor Code and SEO Options
Besides text, search engines read and interpret code such as HTML, CSS, JS, etc. Code should be minimized as much as possible to minimize page weight and browser requests, and maximize page loading performance. Unnecessary, extraneous code should not be added for any reason. But site builders unfortunately add a ton of this junk code in order to accommodate non-technical users.
And even worse, they include it on your site weather you use the feature requiring the code or not. This causes “page drag” and slows down your site, while also negatively affecting your search engine rankings.
Driving traffic to your website and producing leads is the most important component of any website platform, so it is extremely important to specify the on-page SEO tags (title, H1, H2, meta description, etc) in order to rank highly in search engines.
But, as you can probably guess, website builders are highly lacking in the SEO settings department as well. In fact, WIX didn’t even offer this until recently. And the majority of these site builders still make it hard to configure the on-site SEO.
Basically, clean code and proper on-page SEO are an afterthought for site builders, if not last on the priority list. The list of technical sins performed by site builders doesn’t end with these examples either.
Poor Mobile Experience
Here’s an issue that even most custom web designers and developers get completely wrong, let alone website builders. Since 2016, mobile web use has surpassed desktop use. In fact, it’s up to 60%+ mobile at this point, and much higher in some markets like towing, locksmith, and many more.
Business websites MUST be “mobile first” in today’s mobile-centric web environment. Mobile-first means the site is designed and built primarily for mobile viewports. The vast majority of websites built today, three years after mobile browsing surpassed desktop browsing, are still designed primarily for desktop. They require special “responsive code” to to make the content respond to mobile device screens.
And usually the mobile version of websites looks completely different than the desktop version because they have completely separate designs. Also, mobile sites contain fewer features than desktop sites because mobile browsers are much slower.
So it goes without saying, that website builders do not accommodate this new mobile landscape. When you run into a mobile visibility issue with a website builder, they do not let you customize it. You are limited to their built-in mobile rendering, which does not translate your design into an ideal mobile experience, leading to abandonment and a higher “bounce rate” (the percentage of visitors who leave your site within 30 seconds of visiting).
So to summarize, all of these design differences between mobile and desktop environments create a sub-optimal user experience, which reduces conversions, leads and revenue.
While “ease of use” is a main benefit claimed by website builder companies, actually the opposite is true. When you attempt to customize pages, re-size images, change layouts, place links, etc, the process becomes painstakingly difficult.
It can take a while to figure out how best to change these things without upsetting the website builder. Ultimately, you are at the mercy of the website builder and what functionality it will “allow”.
Limited Design Choice
Website builders cater to non-technical users, so design options are limited to a template gallery. And most of the templates are used by websites all over the web. This makes it hard for your business to stand out in the crowd of other business owners using the same template.
Text and images can only be placed in designated areas of the design. If you need to adjust the layout or add more space for content, you’re out of luck.
The disadvantages above are just the beginning. Here are some more that I won’t bother explaining since this article is quite long already.
- Poor or no customer service at all, depending on company
- Don’t accommodate large websites
- Additional expenses for certain features that should be included by default
- Site builder templates look generic and boring
- Many, many more..
Don’t Believe Me? Find Out for Yourself
Jump on a search engine and search terms like “website builder disadvantages”, “drawbacks of website builders” or “website builder pros and cons”. There are thousands of articles just like this, all exposing the failings of site builders I discussed above and many I didn’t mention.
With all of my services, the main goal is to provide the highest ROI possible for my clients, and I never lose sight of that mission.