It’s a typical move for many startups. After all, building your own website is fairly easy these days. There’s no coding required, and there lots of platforms available, whether your business is e-commerce, blogging, photography, or anything else. Entrepreneurs and small businesses look to DIY solutions like Wix, Squarespace, Spotify, or other options for their ease of use and relatively quick setup. These can be great if you are fairly tech savvy and have at least some web design experience. But for many entrepreneurs, opting for a do-it-yourself website is short-sided and ultimately not a worthwhile investment.
The dilemma many entrepreneurs and small businesses face is having to choose between a cheaper DIY website or investing heavily in working with a web designer or creative agency. Since most startups have little money to invest, a DIY website presents a tempting option. This is yet another reason why BIPOC entrepreneurs can struggle to get the traction online they need to grow their business. And it’s why several programs have recently emerged to address this digital gap. In Seattle, the city has partnered with a local chapter of the Urban League to offer website support to businesses of color. The Office of Economic Development launched a program that trains high school students in web design skills, thereby equipping them to build websites for local businesses. Teaching high schoolers a valuable tech skill while supporting black and brown businesses—what could be better! This initiative sounds great on the surface, but it’s difficult to think that a high school student with minimal training could possibly match-up to the work of a highly skilled professional. Plus, websites require ongoing updates and tweaks to maintain functionality. Again, this is a low-cost up-front fix that fails to fully address the needs of small businesses.
This leads to several arguments for why a DIY website is not quite as smart of an investment as one might think. Here are five reasons why.
1. A website build is not “one-And-done”.
Sure, most platforms allow you to get setup quickly with a website. But websites require continual updates and monitoring. Platforms like Wix are pretty good with basic maintenance. But no matter the platform, the website owner has to regularly track metrics like visitors and traffic to know how the website is performing (i.e. capturing leads that convert to customers). This is not to mention the content that needs to be regularly generated. A website is continuing work in progress, not a one-and-done project.
2. A website is only one aspect of a larger picture.
Any website needs additional elements to realize its true potential. For example, email marketing solutions need to integrate with a website to help capture quality leads or engage existing customers. Social media channels also need to work seamlessly with overall marketing and engagement. In other words, a website is the nucleus of a digital marketing strategy, but there are other things ‘swirling’ around that nucleus that need to energize it. All of those elements require attention, especially when it comes to crafting meaningful content.
3. A website by itself does nothing to guarantee customers.
Back in the day, a movie called Field of Dreams popularized the notion of, “if you build it, they will come.” (That idea worked just fine for Kevin Costner building a baseball field to play catch with his deceased father). It doesn’t work so well when it comes to websites. Since there are now literally thousands of websites that offer the same or similar types of products and services, having a website offers no guarantee that potential customers will actually find your product or service online. Websites need to be optimized for search engines like Google to rank them high in search results. And the task of search engine optimization, or SEO, often requires certain knowledge and skills. Historically, DIY website platforms are pretty poor at implementing SEO effectively. With a little guidance, business owners can learn how to implement some basic SEO practices on their own. However, working with someone knowledgeable in SEO can go a long way in making a website more search friendly.
4. Most entrepreneurs aren’t very good at marketing.
Whether entrepreneurs like to try and convince themselves, or simply keep repeating the same mistakes, most are not very good at marketing. This is especially true when operating from a scarcity mindset. When the funds are low and the revenue is minimal, it can be scary to take risks in marketing. But marketing involves taking calculated risks while experimenting on a small scale. As things start to pay off, the experiments can scale larger. If a small risk doesn’t pay off, it’s also easier to recover and tweak things. There’s no avoiding the fact that small businesses must absolutely invest in marketing in order to grow. It’s a much wiser investment to work with a guide or a coach who has experience rather than trying to do it yourself. The rewards will be greater than going it alone.
5. Business owners have plenty of other things to worry about.
A DIY website project often inadvertently creates more problems than it solves. Business owners already have enough things to manage, such as delivering the product or service, keeping the books, tracking inventory, dealing with customers, etc. And of course, solopreneurs have no one else to turn to when other ‘life stuff’ comes up. Meanwhile, the website you started building in your spare time continues to sit unfinished—sound familiar? Without a plan to manage the workflows of marketing and business in general, the simple task of building a website can become overwhelming. Business owners must recognize their strengths and seek advice and guidance for their weak areas. This is why successful startups create teams from the beginning. If solopreneurs work in community with others, this can create a team aspect that works to everyone’s advantage.
Before you go out and look for a quick-and-dirty option for your website, take the time to ask yourself, “What do I want my website to accomplish?” Educate yourself on some of the basics of digital marketing, then create an action plan that maximizes your website’s potential.