November 10, 2010
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.