Online "Do It Yourself" Web Site Builders

This month, I would like to talk about your company’s online image.

There are literally thousands of sources that offer online "Build Your Own Web Site" packages. Do they have their place? Absolutely. Are they right for your business? Probably not, depending on what you want to achieve with your Web site.

They all basically work the same way. You sign up with a provider, who issues you an username and password to administer your Web site. Using your Web browser, you then log in to access the site builder menu. From here, you can use several ready-made Web page templates to quickly pull together your Web site, with the ability to add your own graphics, text, and even META tags. Using one of these tools, you can have a site online in a matter of a few hours.

Does it sound appealing? Sure it does... it is quick, you can design your site yourself,  and it is all available for a monthly fee.

However, I would not recommend using one of these services if you are looking to grow your business online. Why? There are several reasons:

  1. Your Web site is the first impression potential customers will have of your company. Many of the online "Web site builder" programs offer little control over the appearance of your site. If your competition is utilizing professional Web site and graphic designers for their sites, your site may look "homemade" and unprofessional in comparison. I know that I would not have a very good initial impression of a company if I saw, at the bottom of their home page, a graphic stating "This site was designed using EZ-Site Builder". This is about as professional as handing out business cards with the imprint on the back "Get your FREE business cards from FreeBusinessCards.com".
  2. In many cases, you will not have an effective domain name. If you own Bob’s Hardware, instead of having a recognizable domain name like "www.bobshardware.com", you will probably be saddled with a domain name like "www.easysitebuilder.com/users/bobshardware". Try fitting that on your business card! Again, it looks very unprofessional. The biggest problem small business face is being taken seriously... and this is one way to guarantee that you are not.
  3. Referring back to #2, you may also lose the ability to have an e-mail address that is readily recognizable and meshes with your Web site address. If I see that I can send mail to "sales@bobshardware.com", the image I envision of your company is much more favorable than if I see your contact information as "bobshardware@easysitebuilder.com", or, almost as unfavorable, "bobshardware@aol.com". Save your ISP e-mail account for your personal business - don’t use it as your company point of contact.
  4. You may not be able to successfully market your business using search engines. If you are fortunate enough to be able to control your META tags for each page, it will probably still not be enough to secure an effective search engine placement. While META tags are very important, they are only a small part of search engine placement. Just as important is the proper formatting and relevance of text, which is very difficult to achieve without having complete control over the content of your Web site.
  5. You may not be able to coordinate the look and feel of your Web site with your other marketing materials. If you want to market your business effectively, this is another important part of your company’s image.  You don’t want your business card to be green and white and your Web site pink and purple.


Before you consider using one of these online tools to build a Web site, ask yourself: "Will the site I build give me the image my company needs to succeed? Or, will I look like I was watching my budget?"  

As we have said many times... for your potential customers, your Web site is the first impression of your business. Make sure it is a good one.

March 1, 2003

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