Business owners, especially those with new businesses, try desperately to do everything as inexpensively as possible. That is not only perfectly natural, it is also sensible. Why would you invest money that you don’t have?
On the other hand, there are times when it is worth investing because you want to achieve one of three outcomes:
- The investment now means less expenditure later. The classic example is one my Dad gave me, “always buy the best tools that you can afford” he said. With his advice I still have electric drills, hammers and other tools that I bought over 25 years ago and have never needed replacing.
- The things that you need for a professional job just cost. Some things just aren’t available for a lower cost and you have to have them to do what you want to do. I wonder how many surgeons have said, “I’ll start now with some razor blades and a kitchen knife and I’ll get the proper tools later, when I’ve made some money”? None, I guess.
- The perception of quality. Some things just look cheap, don’t they? If someone did business with you, and offered you a business card that was obviously printed on cheap card on their inkjet printer, you’d think they were pretty low quality, wouldn’t you? How likely are you to do business with them?
Much of the time more than one of these applies, and so, whether one or more of these considerations apply, we invest.
DIY Websites – The alternative to investment?
With websites though there are lots of DIY alternatives. Many template based DIY website builders out there promise “drag and drop” and the advert looks great, doesn’t it? Surely, we can do something like that, can’t we? Often these are free, and the promised outcome is so good – what could possibly go wrong?
Well, quite a lot, it turns out. A client of mine had built a website on one of these website-builder drag-and-drop systems, and he had done it for free. To start he had paid for a domain name (let’s call it tradesmanchelmsford.com for the sake of the story) and had used a DIY website builder called Clix (it wasn’t called Clix, but we’ll change the names to protect the guilty).
He didn’t have a lot of money so he used the free options, and his DIY website turned out like many DIY website-builder drag-and-drop websites, looking a bit like it had been designed by a robot which was severely challenged in the design-skills department. In other words it was just like hundreds of others, no individuality, nothing attractive. He also allowed the design to cramp his content, limiting himself to the amount of words allowed – so the content was lack-lustre too.
On top of this, the whole experience was so unedifying, that once he had designed the tradesmanchelmsford.com, he left it alone, never to be updated, thought about or visited. When he came to visit me, I couldn’t find it on Google at all – and I am pretty persistent.
The problem was that he had been publicising tradesmanchelmsford.com – the website name was on his stationery, his van (he is a tradesman), his newspaper ads and he was using it as his email address – and lots of people had that. He wanted to keep the domain, but update the website.
He had considered paying for some elements of the website-builder drag-and-drop system – but he had really lost confidence in the cookie-cutter appearance that the system had given him.
Now, this was retrievable, but we did need to retrieve a pretty bad situation. Thankfully, Google hadn’t blocked him, but the omens weren’t good. They were made worse by the fact that he didn’t want a web designer touching his site – he wanted a DIY solution.
I recommended WordPress, not a DIY website-builder drag-and-drop system, but a free content management system. You can change the look and feel of the site by changing the theme (there are loads of free themes as well as some very wizzy paid themes) and you can add functionality by adding plugins (again, many are free).
Unlike some of these website-builder drag-and-drop systems, WordPress is used by some really big hitters, Kylie Minogue and CNN, for example; and it drives about a third of all websites. Google likes WordPress too – the structure is good, the links make sense and the code is really clean.
I took my client through how to build a WordPress site from scratch, right from hosting (he got a new host) and how to buy a domain name and point it at your hosting (he didn’t get a new domain name – but he did transfer his domain name to a new registrar so it wasn’t linked to his old site). I took him through how to install WordPress, change the theme, add some plugins and the basics of how to design the site.
His site now ranks on page one of Google for his chosen keywords.
So are DIY websites a bad thing? No, not in themselves, but several of the options that are presented to first-time web designers are truly awful and bad for your search engine position.
I would recommend WordPress – see if you can find a web developer who is willing to train you. Then you will be able to maintain your own site.
Invest Time and / or Money
The DIY website drag-and-drop way is cheaper – you don’t need to hire a web developer, you don’t need to spend too much time on your website-builder drag-and-drop system to get a published website and you are on line quickly. But it fails all three of the sensible investment tests. If you need a website that actually does something (as opposed to just being able to say that you have one), you will need to spend more money later and the people who do find your website will perceive you as cheap. Quite honestly, you simply need the right tools for the job!