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November 10, 2010

Why Do-It-Yourself Websites Will Not Work For You

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Website Design is an issue every business confronts. Most businesses address the need either by hiring a freelancer, a college student, friend, or a design company. The process of web design can be expensive and extremely frustrating and lead to a never-ending mound of service fees.

These obstacles have led many companies, such as Intuit, to offer a low-cost, do-it-yourself solution. It seems to get a grasp on all the problems a business is confronted with. “Do-it-yourself” packages claim all a business has to do is “pick a template”, “customize it”, “add content”, and “get found.”

So is the problem finally resolved for a few bucks a month? Let’s take a deeper look into their general marketing claims.

Designing the Website Yourself

In my almost 20 years in marketing and design, I have learned the importance of using the right color scheme, the proper use of imagery, layouts, and creating an overall image that “speaks” to a particular market. In that same time frame, I have worked with some passionate, intelligent, visionary businesses who knew their product and understood their customers. Their staff understood the daily problems and strategic advantages they possess over their competitors, but few knew how to translate their experience to a powerful website. My job was to understand their business, their objectives to having a website, and then create a solution to address those concerns. To say a business owner can adjust a template to “speak” to their typical client-base, grossly underestimates what is truly needed.

A second issue that arises with “canned solutions” are technical barriers that a business faces as they try to prepare their website. Most people don’t understand image manipulation, optimization, color conversion, and other techniques to give their website what it needs to look and perform professionally. The results can lead to a website with distorted images, inconsistent colors, and poor layout alterations, all of which will give your business poor credibility.

An additional problem is navigation. Will your customers get confused by the system you choose? Is the way you’ve categorized content confusing? Templates are designed for general purposes. Bottom line: A given template may work great with one industry and fail in another.

Adding Content

The second part to their claim is to “just add content.” This is actually contradictory to proper website development. The proper first step is to develop a marketing plan, then create a website architecture that addresses the mainstream market as well as exploits niche markets, followed by creating content in conjunction with the design. Designing first followed by planning and adding content is like building a house and then deciding how many bedrooms you want. Just as the house wouldn’t meet your needs, the website will not properly help your business. Adding content is critical and adding the right type of content for the promotional medium is even more important. Failing to make the right call-to-action will definitely hurt your bottom line.

Getting Found

This is perhaps the most frustrating part to reading the claims of Intuit and others. Most of the do-it-yourself services define “getting found” as purchasing a sponsored link campaign. Sponsored links, although potentially valuable in an internet marketing campaign, should not ever
be the sole means of internet marketing (SEM).

Successful companies, in most situations, require organic positioning to fully utilize the power of internet marketing, along with integration of Social Media tools.

Organic search engine placement requires understanding Google, Yahoo, and Bing and making the overall website conform with their standards. This data has to be compared with the competition for given keywords and many adjustments made over time. Proper SEO can’t be addressed by these solutions. The advertising offered feels to me like a typical “bait and switch” technique that leaves the typical customer with a misunderstanding they will “pop-up” to the top page of Google organically.

Maintenance

A business should not have to pay for basic website maintenance such as changing a phone number or adding a photo. There are too many technological solutions available, regardless if a design firm creates the site or you choose a do-it-yourself solution. This should never be a determining factor for choosing this type of service. On the flip side, you should never hire a company that can’t provide the basic service of allowing you to make your own changes easily.

Conclusion

Do-It-Yourself websites are a way to put together a website by yourself. The complexity varies from program to program, but they all lack the needed direction and experience that only a qualified developer can offer. The SEO benefits are practically non-existent. The marketing advantage and confidence that a custom solution can offer will be lost. Knowing that up to 99% of businesses fail online, your business can’t afford to rely on this type of solution. The old adage that “you get what you pay for” is definitely applicable in this situation.

I feel these solutions prey upon busy businesses with tight budgets. The marketing pitch is more “bait and switch” than a powerful alternative.


John Carroll is A.C.E. and SEMPO certified and has almost 20 years in marketing and design. His internet marketing packages helped many businesses reach new levels of success using both the internet and traditional marketing techniques. He is founder of MaxWebGear and IntegrityWebsiteDesign Be sure to subscribe to John Carroll’s free newsletter at www.maxwebgear.com.

19 Responses to “Why Do-It-Yourself Websites Will Not Work For You

    Yes, however using these kind of affordable solutions that are sooo easy for the end user to use and hiring someone to plan content, design and care for you SEO can be a much more affordable solution for a small business. I am not saying that they are good for medium to large businesses. But, I do think they can be great if executed well for a small business.

    avatar John Carroll says:

    I see where you are going with this, but I am not sure I would segment needs with the size of a business. I currently work with everything from non-profits to 26mm organizations.

    The larger companies are used to “business as usual” and need a stepping process. The main point I am am trying to teach is “No one plans to fail, but failing to plan is a way to do it.” Probably the second best way to fail is trust a business to do or even have the ability to do a good job for you.

    As a company CEO who has gone through three website designs in four years, I found this article to be helpful and informative. Finding the perfect designer who brings their own concepts to the table rather than simply asking “so…what do you want” is a challenge. If we already knew what we wanted, we wouldn’t be asking. The right combination is corporate concept with design expertise. Thank you for your article – I enjoyed reading it in its entirety.

    avatar Jarret says:

    Simply put, this article is insane. For one, if you have a small business, and WordPress doesn’t “do it for you” you are doing something wrong.

    If you need a site with a shopping cart, Joomla, Drupal, ZenCart.

    If you can’t get these working with a purchased unique template from template monster, please don’t try to put yourself online in the first place before you have done your homework.

    I have TONS of site on page 1 using wordpress. Different niches, minimal backlinks, minimal marketing.

    If you don’t have content, plain and simple, you will be paying for advertising.

    Wake up to the realities of the 2010 here and get real. This isn’t 1994, anyone can make a GOOD website without knowing how to program it.

    avatar Jarret says:

    @Stella
    Why didn’t you have a focus group look at the designs first??

    avatar John Carroll says:

    Thank you for the positive feedback. Designers are definitely a challenge. I find most are unaware of the “big picture”. I just got through speaking with about 30 local business owners trying to convey it to them. Please be sure to check out my website for more free articles. Just click on “read my blog” if you are interested.

    avatar Terry Dunn says:

    John is right. I’ve whiled away many hours tinkering with a template only to find it still does not look right, and realising it would have been so much quicker and easier if had started from a blank canvas. Do-it-yourself websites are just not all they’re cracked up to be.

    Terry

    avatar brian says:

    Great Point, I agree all you guys, seeking a good seo company will make impact to your site but it would be very expensive. Unlike outsourcing for home base associate is much cheaper.But no guarantee that it will work.

    avatar Edward @ SEO Philippines says:

    What a great post. Reading it made me feel guilty. I created my own website without investing in a designer in order to save up on costs. As a result, my black, white and gray theme for my website has subliminally crept out :) Really defines my SEO inclinations

    avatar John Carroll says:

    The SEO portion doesn’t have to be expensive. I offer plans starting around $150 a month for local internet marketing packages. Price for me usually involves this equation:

    how competitive a keyword is + number of keywords + geographic region (local, regional, national) = price

    There are some sub-points I look at as well such as how competitive the target geographic region for a given keyword phrase, etc… but basically SEO doesn’t have to be expensive, especially for the local business.

    The only cost is setup fees, which can vary as well, but even that can vary.

    Thanks for all the positive feedback.

    avatar John Carroll says:

    Jarret, I think you oversimplify the issue. First “open source” and “canned solutions” are completely different. This makes intuit a new issue and not a “1994” issue. Intuit and others are nothing more than big companies misrepresenting a service to target businesses that want instant gratification and just want to dip their toes into internet marketing with a small budget.

    Secondly, if you are happy with template monster… great… but you need to test for browser incompatibiliies, etc is my only recommendation. You need to remember than viewers today are more sophisticated and are “sniffing” out templates.

    In regards to optimization, each of the programs you mentioned have marketing tools (SEO) integrated into them. But I would suggest you are thinking more “2004” or even “2008”… the internet world is much more than the simple equation of “generic design+SEO package = business” (which never really worked anyway). You need to think about Social Media, Verticals, SEM, News Releases, Compelling content (which is why you responded to this article for example), high quality imagery, clean interface, and a host of other variables that cater to a given client’s SPECIFIC demographic.

    I hope you are just hitting the highlights of your train of thought and misunderstood the article, but I definitely feel your message, as delivered, is part of the reason so many websites fail.

    If your overall plan described worked, then the internet world would a lot easier to conquer.

    Thanks for the input. I personally like Joomla and WordPress.

    avatar Sharon J says:

    You say “A business should not have to pay for basic website maintenance such as changing a phone number or adding a photo.”
    Really? so I should be doing this for free for all my customers? I am sorry, but any work I do is billable. If they have just paid me a big swack of money, I could very well throw it in for free. But if someone emails me after a couple of years and wants photos changed or new phone numbers, yes, the clock is ticking.

    avatar John Carroll says:

    No, you should charge for all your work BUT easy-to-use CMS systems are too easy to integrate today. A client should expect an easy-to-use CMS, which means, easy access to alter their own content.

    A website developer today should not charge for small changes, because they should not put their client in that position UNLESS they want you to handle it for them.

    Jarret’s perspective with Joomla, WordPress, etc is on target in regards to this issue.

    avatar Sewage Plant says:

    We have 3 ‘Do it yourself’ websites with 3 different site builders. All of them are on Page 1 Google for almost every search term and phrase and we get complimented on our websites every day by people who telephone us as a result.
    We used to employ expensive ‘web designers and SEO companies’ and got no-where in 6 years. It cost us a fortune, so we decided to do it ourselves.
    Yes, it is hard work; Yes, it takes time and effort to learn SEO techniques, but it can be done.
    To damn all self-build websites is a a gross over-statement – it depends on the commitment of the person building it.

    avatar John Carroll says:

    Sewage Plant: What are the websites? What keywords are focusing on?

    Sometimes wordpress really does not do it for me maybe because I am not a web designer. I keep a simple blog but I think I can do better if I hire someone who can make it more interesting that people will stay longer and browse through.

    avatar John Carroll says:

    I think with any system, your first questions should be:

    • What are the goals of my website/blog?
    • Do I know this system will meet those goals?

    Some blogs may be easy to use, but deficient when it comes to organic placement, etc.

    If your blogging system answers yes, you can begin to consider it. Of course, website development is much more complicated, but this is a general consideration.

    avatar I love this blog. Entertaining, Educating and Engrossing. Keep up the good work! The Septic Tank Man says:

    I love this blog. Entertaining, Educating and Engrossing. Keep up the good work!
    The Septic Tank Man

    avatar John says:

    Yeah, but there’s no happy medium with pricing in this field. Either you pay an arm and a leg to have some computer geek hook you up with something amazing, or you pay next to nothing and take a big gamble on the outcome. Its ridiculous. I want to start a small website for my photography (yes I’m an amateur) and the hell if I have thousands of dollars to burn on it, but at the same time of course, I want it to work and look good. Ugh!

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