Just before Christmas there was a pretty extensive TV and digital ad campaign from website provider Wix, “Why not do it yourself?”. This campaign was designed to encourage small business owners and start ups to get online using their pretty simple website builder
Wix aren’t the only company offering a high-quality DIY website product, with Shopify and Squarespace offering beautiful templates that can be personalised for almost any business. Domain and hosting providers like 1and1, 123-reg and GoDaddy provide similar services, although in less sexy packaging.
Inspired by this campaign, we’re putting together a short series of blog posts about the ups and downs of creating your own website to hopefully help you decide whether or not you think it’s the right option for you. We’re starting with the reasons why you should give a DIY website a go.
It’s cheaper (almost) every time
The vast majority of website build solutions come at a cost. Sure, a few (like Wix) have free options, but these free options often include compromises like advertising and storage limits.
Still, you can often get yourself a beautiful, simple site for between £5 – £15 per month which is an absolute bargain compared to a custom design and build.
They’re a great way to test a business idea
Because of the low cost, easy editing and flexible layouts, DIY websites are perfect for creative business ideas. Josh Reading, Technical Director from Mobius Media (our favourite development house based up in Hull) puts it perfectly, “A DIY website builder gives low capital startups a perfect springboard to launch their digital presence”.
With these DIY builders you can get as site up relatively cheaply, and if your hunch doesn’t pan out, you haven’t ‘lost’ a great deal of time or money.
You can move at your own pace
When you work with an agency or freelance web designer, you have to work to their schedule. Of course, they will take your deadlines and availability into account, but they can’t deliver a website in a week if they do not have a designer available.
If you’re confident using the technology and have all of your creative assets prepared (logos, colours and images) you can create a DIY website in just a couple of days.
One of our favourite Squarespace features are their holding pages, beautifully simple and easily customisable, our record is 15 mins from nothing to a live site with email data capture.
A platform that grows with your start up business
Squarespace, Shopify and Wix come with built in features that do pretty much everything a small business website needs to do. Social media integration, contact forms and ecommerce (online shopping) are either standard or available for an extra fee.
Lucy, our Creative Director and owner of women’s cycling clothing brand Fierlan started her business on Shopify. Lucy had a very strong idea of how she wanted the site to look, but didn’t have the skills or budget for custom development.
Shopify provided an almost perfect solution, allowing Lucy to launch a holding page, then a preview catalogue, then a full online shop.
Beautiful, easy back ends
The right content management system (CMS) can make or break whether or not a website stays up to date. It’s really easy to let maintenance lapse if adding a blog post or changing a picture is a time-consuming faff.
These builders often have super-simple and clear back ends where you control the content. Karen Cox (yep, that is my mum) uses Squarespace for her personal blog, karencx.com.
My mum is not known for her technical prowess, but has adopted the Squarespace CMS with almost no trouble, “As someone who relies on others heavily for most things technical, even I have been able to maintain my site, updating and adding content, as & when I need”.
The ultimate what-you-see-is-what-you-get editor
One of the best features of Squarespace is the live what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) editor that allows you to create pages and blog posts just as the your visitors will see them, using actions like drag & drop to add images.
Rory Lay, Design Manager at Ing Design has found Squarespace to have one of the easiest live editors out there and so uses this platform with their less-technical clients.
“The biggest benefit of using Squarespace is its user friendly approach. When we create websites for clients they often want to be able to take control of their site after the build. Squarespace allows them to do this without having to learn a complicated CMS as everything can be edited directly on the front end. “
Creating your own website gives you total control over pretty much every single element. You can choose the big things like images, colours and fonts, and the little things – like which quotes to embolden or the layout of your footer.
Your business can be very personal, and these DIY options give you total control to create the look you thinks best represents what you do.
Tried and tested template options
Of course, at the other end to total control, is the fact that most of these builders have a curated set of templates to help you get started. Some of these templates have been designed by leading experts, meaning you can create a site with your branding and identity that still complies with industry best practice.
Setting you up for a custom design and build
A DIY website is a great starting block, even if used specifically as a short-term solution. Our friends at Mobius Media specialise in custom website development, and say they learn a lot about their clients from their first DIY website, “[a DIY website] gives agencies a good starting point for when the time comes to design, build and launch a fully fledged website”.
You can learn a lot about personal tastes that might not come across on a website brief. You may have unconsciously highlighted certain information, or used images in a specific way, that can be picked up by your new designer.
So those our our top reasons for creating your own website. In part two we’ll look at the reasons why you shouldn’t create your own website, and then follow up with a few tips to get the most out of your DIY experience. If you think we’ve missed anything or have any questions, leave us a comment or email firstname.lastname@example.org.