Can you seriously run a business from a template service Website Design?

I’ve been thinking about writing this blog for a while now and the recent increase in TV adverts has made my mind up once and for all. Can you seriously run a business with a website that you have put together yourself from a template service?

This would include the likes of 1&1, yell, wix etc.. but this does not include using pre constructed html templates on CMS platforms, that’s a totally different ball game.

Well, you may be expecting my answer to this question to be a huge big fat NO!, of course not, dot be daft these services offer you nothing and they wont work, well… that’s not entirely true. I want to play devils advocate for while whilst I run through he pros and cons of the template service websites. There are many negatives about them but there are some positive in there and I would like to put forward a balanced view point.

Pro’s:

1) First of all is the cost, it has to be right? From as little as £10 a month you can have a slick looking website, including the hosting costs and domain name. Seems like a really good deal and lets face it, that’s a very cheap service. At the prices they charge, design agency’s and freelancers alike cannot match it, it would be impossible. So if you have next to no money at all and desperately need a website then this service offers you a cost effective, quick solution.

2) You can manage the entire website yourself. This is great if you want to be able to change things regularly and like to get involved with every aspect of your business. As long as you have the time to learn the system then you can pretty much adjust and change all of the parameters you like. I know a lot of my clients like to be able to change things on their own terms with out having to call me up, these serves let you do this which is a plus point.

ok..ill have to be honest, I’ve exhausted all the pros I can think of, so lets get on with the cons…

Cons:

1) They always look like template service sites. No matter how hard they’re designers try, after the business owner has plugged in the content they all look the same and can be spotted a mile off. They only produce so many templates so eventually one of your competitors will have a very similar looking website to yours. because they have to limit the design styling of the sites to allow for their stripped down CMS platform, they end up looking cheap and recognizable as template sites. Not what you want when your making a first impression to potential customers.

2) The impression you portray to your customers is massively important and your website is one of your major first points of contact. Using a service like this can send the message that you are cheap and do not care about your online presence enough to hire a Professional for the job. Graphic Design and Web Design are like any other trades, yes you can plumb your own toilet if you want, but most people don’t because they’re not plumbers and will mess it up. Hire a designer to make sure you website experience is the best it possibly can be.

3) Not fully understanding the implications of what you change on the site. The current tv ads for these services proclaim the easy to use SEO plug ins that will make everyone find your site. Wow, where can I get one of these magic plug-ins? The fact is that SEO is complicated and if you make a few wrong moves it can be a huge detriment to your business. For example if you pick the wrong keywords for your site, you could loose out on lots of potential business, in a more extreme case your association with the wrong search criteria could black list your business as far as customers are concerned. There are no really simple answers to any SEO questions and if its worth doing then do it property, not with one click solutions.

4) Lastly, and this point is very much from experience, if your business survives it’s start up and foray into the online world, you will end up hiring a designer anyway. I have numerous clients who started their online life with template service sites. Once the business grows to a certain point they realize that they need a more professional site, with someone to help guide them through the myriad of online opportunities and to produce a design that looks great, professional and individual. Template sites are a great starting point if you have no cash as a start up, but once you start to make money, you should invest in your online presence and hire a designer. I personally think a lot of companies go under because the public will not trade with them because their website is very bad, I do not trust a company with a bad website and your customers wont either. If your website is amateurish and poorly designed it looks like you don’t care enough to attract customers and provide a good online experience.

I think the template services provides a platform for you to dip your toes into the online world when starting out in business, once you grow and start to make money and gain clients, switch up to a bespoke site as soon as possible, you will thank yourself ( and you designer ) in the long run.

Yak Out!