Never has it been easier to establish a presence on the web. There are services such as Squarespace, Weebly and Wix among others that allow people to build quick solutions online. So is it time to consider a ready made website from Squarespace or one of it’s competitors?As a web designer I often admire some of the ready made designs on offer at various web hosts such as Squarespace or Shopify. While some of my clients use these these platforms, I tend to encourage the more sophisticated WordPress or a mix between HTML5, CSS and Javascript. On paper these ready made platforms appear to be great solutions, however they have some limitations…

 

Don’t be fooled by a pretty face

As mentioned I like some of the websites on offer from Squarespace, Wix, Shopify and Weebly among others. What is important to realise is Squarespace for example provides templates that have been designed by professional web designers. These beautiful templates have visuals produced by the top photographers, illustrators and videographers. You can sign up to use these, but a word of caution, what do you have in reality? Once you remove all their content, text, logos, icons, photos and videos… what’s left?

 

Web design not ‘painting by numbers’, it is a serious marketing exercise. Anyone who has used a template to build a website will tell you this approach is often harder and slower than designing a website in the conventional way.

 

What is the conventional way to build a website? And why consider this approach?

Sometimes people just don’t know how to approach a website build. A simple approach is to recognise your website is a marketing platform, it is the rock that will anchor all your online efforts.
Success is a series of small steps, so take it one step at a time, first, develop products or services that help your customers…
find and address their ‘pain’. Without this step any investment of your time and money is a waste of valuable resources.

 

Once you have developed a valuable offering for your customers, it is important to communicate that you have products that will make your customers lives a little better. Of course this is easier said than done, delivering the message is a big hurdle. Develop a strategy to be heard above the din that is our digital lives. A good place to start is with some beautiful images and video, people absorb visual information thousands of times quicker than information included in text. Do an audit of all the visual content you have at your disposal and what you may need to continue a website build that will differentiate you from your competition. By all means have a look at some templates from Wix, Squarespace and Weebly at this sage and see if there is something to suit. Templates are developed with everyone in mind, not individual niche businesses like your own. So already you will start to not the shortfalls in this approach.

 “Develop a strategy to be heard above the din that is our digital lives.”

 

So does a ‘great’ template have any bearing on the purchasing decision?

From a marketing perspective, think in reverse, put yourself in your customers shoes. The web is great place to research products and services. But how do people do this? Well simply put, they scan a website as you would newspaper or magazine. We all know when scanning a Sunday paper we tend to look at the photos, if one catches our attention, we might glance at the caption underneath. If still interested, we might delve further and read the article attached with the photo. Your website statistically enjoys an even more frenzied approach, you only have a split second to engage a customer on-line or they are gone on to greener more interesting pastures. So think ‘Visuals’ first and design second, text third…

 

How versatile are these platforms?

The reason WordPress and HTML5 websites are more commonly used is in one word ‘versatility’. Services like Squarespace and Weebly are developed by a small team of software engineers. The web is developing at an exponential pace, this is led by independent developers. Most often these developments are built around WordPress because the WordPress code is open to all. The imagination of the developer community is infinite which has helped WordPress to be a leader as a marketing platform. There are thousands of free extensions for WordPress, you can literally get the platform to do anything.The other offerings are limited to the ‘vision’ of their small in-house teams. Hence they tend to have more limiting options.

 

What computer code do they use?

Many of my clients move from Etsy, Shopify, Squarespace to a conventional website when sales increase. Some of the pre-built services claim you can move to another platform if you need. Is this true? Technically yes, however you will need to have a very good grasp of web development, as it isn’t straightforward. It has been my experience that it tends to absorb a lot of time and money. So start as you propose to proceed.

“…think ‘Visuals’ first and design second, text third…”

 

How does Google look at these pre-built platforms?

Google does a very good job of scanning WordPress websites as they are designed with logical SEO in mind. WordPress has many SEO software plugins available free of charge. Some alternative platforms such as Squarespace set up the design to be SEO friendly, but actually working on SEO within the platform has a ‘learning curve ’involved. For example if we are asked to help with the SEO on a Squarespace website we add a hefty premium as it takes us much longer. Time is money. My vote for SEO would tend to lean towards WordPress.

 

Where is your business located?

For premium SEO your website should be placed on a server in your own country or as close as possible. There are many reasons, one is Google defaults your business listing to be in the same region as your server. Most Squarespace servers are in the USA, also the closer your server is to your customers the faster the website response time. Google now uses speed as a ranking factor so if you want to rank well page speed is key. So it is important to place your files on a server close to your geographic area, this is not always possible with Squarespace.

 

“Control of your website assets…is the cost effective approach.”

Cost?

These platforms tend to more expensive than a WordPress or HTML website with a bill littering your inbox every four weeks. WordPress and HTML websites tend to be relatively free. If you have several websites hosted on your hosting account the cost benefits really accumulate.

 

Conclusion

There are no shortcuts when marketing your business online. Outline what ‘outcomes’ you are planning for the next five to ten years and then list all the steps you will need to achieve these ‘outcomes’. You will realise you need a versatile approach to handle all eventualities. A HTML5 or WordPress built website is the way forward for 90% of all businesses. Control of your website assets in this case is the cost effective approach.