This is Block 81's archive of past articles. Once in a while we may add more, but it's rare.
Block 81 is a design studio producing beautifully crafted websites and brands for independent businesses and startups.
October 10, 2016
Websites are a necessity for virtually all businesses these days. When you set out to get one up and running (or redesigned), there are two options: 1) Hiring a professional web design agency, or 2) doing it yourself (DIY).
With services like Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, and others, option two is pretty easy to get going with for those businesses that simply lack the budget to hire an agency (or even a good freelancer). While these DIY platforms are a great start, most businesses will outgrow them. But how do you tell if you’re starting to outgrow your DIY site? Well, that’s what we’re here to help with.
Most of these DIY platforms have a set of themes or templates to start with. While you can change the copy and the images and even the background color of various pages and elements, it’s starting to look like several other sites out there. (It’s worse if those other sites are in your industry or are direct competitors.) That hurts your brand credibility and perception – you can’t stand out in a sea of “me-toos”.
Along the same lines, when you try to make your site more unique and in line with your brand, your efforts are blocked by the limitations of the platform. So you end up with… well, a cookie cutter looking website. See point number one above.
Sometimes you need to add a snippet of code or make things a little easier on the user through some minor customization. And sometimes that’s nearly impossible with a DIY system. Limitations like that, while small and seemingly insignificant at first, can add up quickly, particularly as your business starts to grow and your website becomes a true sales and marketing tool.
Maybe you absolutely need a particular feature that will help propel your business forward. Maybe it’s an additional contact form, a different kind of product to sell, or even allowing ads on your own site. Whatever it may be, if you can’t easily extend your site’s functionality you’re limiting your business.
Okay, so maybe there are ways to add functionality but they all cost additionally. In most cases they will be on-going monthly costs that will all rack up. How long will it be before your $50/month website turns into hundreds per month?
More often than not, the code and design of a DIY website isn’t yours.
The online side of your business is likely not limited to any one or two services. Perhaps you use a very specific email marketing service, or you need to tie in your CRM software to your website. If your DIY platform is a *closed* system, and if they don’t offer integration with your other systems, you’re basically getting locked into something that can stunt the growth of your business.
Despite what some developers may say, good on-page SEO doesn’t require a magic plugin or some killer CMS. But your site does need to have the foundational blocks to help boost on-page SEO efforts. Some DIY platforms may have limited capabilities in this regard that could be stunting your SEO efforts as a whole.
Poorly written code is one of the major factors of a slow loading site (right up there with poorly optimized images). With DIY websites, the code is created ahead of time in a one-size-fits-all approach. The problem with this is that if your site starts to slow down, there’s no way to optimize the code itself. You’re beholden to the code the system has.
Websites, like any software, will encounter issues. When they arise, you need to get support quickly and efficiently. DIY sites have support built into their pricing (which is a good thing), but often times the support you get are from people who, while friendly, may not know a single thing about website coding. There may or may not be higher level support reps, but that doesn’t guarantee you’ll get your issue resolved.
One of the greatest appeals of a DIY website is being able to manage your site on your own (any good CMS would do this too). But as your business starts to become more successful, is managing your site the best use of your time or a staff member’s time?
More often than not, the code and design of a DIY website isn’t yours. (Read that fine print!) If you decide to leave, you can’t take the site with you. And don’t even think about trying to copy it – the code and design is copyrighted by the company providing the site, so copying would be illegal (that’s right, it’s not your copyright).
Did you find yourself nodding through much of this? It may be time to ditch the DIY approach to your website and hire a professional web design agency. :)