Do you own your website?
Recently we have had several customers asking us if we can improve their website as it no longer does what they wanted it to do.
We generally find that this is because they have used online or off-the-shelf "web builders" that, although cost-effective, have limitations in terms of what they deliver and how they benefit you as business.
One of the most important questions is regarding ownership. Do you own your website and can you take back control of the site if you need to?
In some cases, a client won’t actually know whether they own their website and what would happen if they wanted to move it elsewhere or if the company that created it decided to close.
It’s just possible that, particularly when choosing a budget option, your site is on a shared website builder platform with other websites. This will often save the designer a great deal of development time and enable them to create your online presence very cheaply. But if that designer has other sites on their account you probably won’t be allowed access to it - and they won’t be able to transfer the site to another designer or hosting company.
But there are other factors that you should weigh up too if you are considering an off-the shelf solution. We thought that we should highlight some of the common pitfalls and disadvantages...
Standard web-building systems use templates to make the creation of sites quick and easy. Whilst elements can be changed, templates are still limiting and the end results will often look like a standard theme - you won’t get the unique, creative approach you would get with a bespoke design.
With an off-the-shelf solution you will only get standard features. Whilst “plug-ins” may be available to purchase, they won’t be bespoke to your individual needs. Special features such as product calculators would be hard to implement and stylise to your own requirements.
As your business evolves you need your website to adapt too. That could be difficult within the parameters of a site created using standard software. A custom-built site will normally provide the ability to add and develop new sections and new functionality. This gives a greater shelf life which means it could be more cost-effective over time.
Commonly-used software will be well-known to hackers who have had ample opportunity to find weaknesses. It also means they have a vast field of potential sites to target. Some off-the-shelf solutions are known to be more vulnerable to attack from hacking or even malware.
With some off-the-shelf sites, making them more search engine friendly means purchasing extra plug-ins or incurring additional ongoing costs. Bespoke websites can be built with SEO in mind and in a manner that incorporates the search terms your prospective customers will use.
It is often tempting to choose a quick, low cost option over a bespoke website design but, whilst a bespoke site may mean a heavier upfront cost, it can often be a one-off payment whilst subscribing to standard software may have an ongoing monthly fee. Those payments add up so you have to ask yourself if it’s good investment in the long run.
A good designer can listen to what you want to achieve and provide a bespoke, creative solution. This gives you far greater control over the outcome and means that you can satisfy the specific needs of your business.
So if you are being offered a website for an amazingly low price, just ask yourself - why is it so low? It’s worth asking the supplier how they are building the site: is it a bespoke design or does it use a template? What happens when you want to change or develop it and, just as importantly, make sure it’s you that actually owns it.