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DIY Website Builders - Good or Bad?

This blog post is about the growing selection of DIY website services available like Wix, Weebly, Squarespace and GoDaddy. You may be thinking there is a conflict of interest here, and we as web developers will have a biased opinion, and that may be true to an extent, however we will attempt to be as fair as possible and only deal with facts instead of veering too much into anti-DIY web builder propaganda!

In the last few years DIY website builders have become very popular, and more and more of these services are appearing. The truth is that these services are gaining lots of customers and many DIY website builder companies are doing very well for themselves.

Why are they so successful? Well, the bottom line is that there is a huge market for people who want very simple websites, and they are eager to create their website themselves. Web design/development professionals like ourselves can sneer all we like at the results of a DIY website builder, but the simple fact is that these tools produce something which is sufficient for a large number of people.

A lot of small businesses and individuals feel that they don’t need the absolute best possible website, and they’re right, if they don’t require any special functionality then hiring a web designer/developer could be overkill. The primary purpose of a website is display information to the user, if it succeeds in this goal reasonably well then, a DIY website could be perfectly sufficient.

Another benefit of a DIY website builder is that they abstract away a lot of complexity while still meeting a lot of requirements for user experience, usability, SEO etc. The technical stuff is hidden away allowing you to concentrate on just adding your content.

So, in what situation would a DIY website builder not be suitable? Any specific functionality that goes beyond the common features like contact forms, image galleries, video etc will normally require a developer to construct something either in code or by connecting and configuring modules or plugins. Some website builders are trying to add more advanced functionality to their platforms, but the issue with this is not in the quality of their software but more to do with fact that complexity requires considerable thought from the perspective of how a system works, and expecting a non-technical person to configure a tool, no matter how user friendly the interface may be, can be a recipe for problems and frustration.

Although website builders seem to have an impressive array of features when it comes to website functionality, it is inevitable that you will hit the limitations of these systems quite quickly unless your have very basic requirements. We have used all of the major website builders ourselves and because we are website developers, we have been able to do a little experiment and compare the website functionally we have worked on in the past to what is possible with a DIY website builder. The results of this suggest that the majority of what we do is not possible with a website builder, which is good news for us of course, otherwise we would be out of business by now!  

Another issue with website builders is that they are based mostly on templates, which is a double-edged sword because templates can be a great starting point for a website and a source of inspiration. The issue with DIY website builder templates is that they cannot be customised to the same level that a completely bespoke website can. This means that you might get close enough to what you want, but you will never have that ultimate granular control over how your business is portrayed on your website.

The conclusion to all of this is that DIY website builders can be sufficient for very basic websites if you have the time and patience to invest, but for anything more complicated and to have total control over your brand identity you are still better served hiring a professional web designer/developer.

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