15 minutes

The pitfalls of ‘build it yourself’ websites

A common service we provide for our clients is fixing websites that have been constructed in ‘build it yourself’ tools such as Squarespace or Wix, or even migrating them away onto a more flexible hosting solution.

It’s very tempting in the early days of a startup to think you can do everything yourself. Sometimes it works well, and sometimes you don’t even have a choice!

It’s great that so many people want to learn and are willing to give creating their own website a go. The tools that make this possible certainly have their place in the market, but also come with many problems and pitfalls of their own.

At best, your self-made-site has a short shelf life, and at worst it isn’t fit for purpose. But why?

One size doesn’t fit all

Self-build tools rely on the concept of using and re-using common elements for different purposes. They build it once and people use it thousands of times and customise it to fit their needs. For the critical elements (like a menu) this works well, and breeds consistency.

However, there are only so many elements that this works with. Brochureware (content) sites can breathe easier, as there is less complexity, but for transactional sites or those that require functionality, the differing contexts can make it tricky.

Take a booking system for example. Offered by most platforms, this kind of system has nuances that depend on the user need and use case. Booking a table at a restaurant is different to booking tickets for a show, booking a driving lesson, or booking a consultancy session. Build-it-yourself platforms make no distinction, offering up a confusing booking experience.

Ultimately, an out-of-the-box approach tries to fit everyone but works for no one.

Sunken cost fallacy

The ‘build-your-own’ approach is sold on the concept that it’s cheaper than hiring a professional to do your site for you. That by relying on reusable components that just require a ‘tweak’ here or there, you can get it done without any coding knowledge.

For someone who already has a good working knowledge of the web, this might be the case. However, for a novice, it ultimately falls flat when you want to do something that hasn’t been catered for in the very narrow view of what exists in the page builders.

You might be getting along ok until you hit the inevitable problem, and then you’re into hours of googling and trying different things, hoping that it will work. Sometimes, it turns out that the particular customisation you have in mind just isn’t possible because of the way the tool is built.

The sales pitch lulls people into a false sense of security that they can do it all themselves, and plays on the idea that when people have invested time and effort into something, they’re more likely to continue to bash their heads against it and make it work, even if it’s ultimately costing money. Some people actually end up getting so far and then getting a professional to finish it off, which can cost even more because they have to unravel whichever system is in use and the peculiarities it comes with.

For most, these tools are a black hole that swallows up valuable time and money that could be better spent on the myriad tasks necessary when setting up or running your business.


A drawback not often considered is the fact these platforms use their customers as a form of advertising. They provide levels of service whereby people on their lower-cost monthly tiers have to have banners or text of their website that advertises it as “Made with ABC Website Builder”. To get rid of these messages, you often have to pay a premium or move onto a higher cost plan.

We already know from our own research that the public perception of a company can be seriously affected by the quality of their website. By broadcasting that your website was made using one of these tools, you run the risk of looking less professional.

Support claims

Just like the above point about one size not fitting all for the user interface and web design elements, the same is true of the support claims.

Usually fairly grandiose – “friendly, personal support” – the reality isn’t quite up to par. The business model of these providers is based upon mass self-service adoption. The more personalised support they have to provide, the less their profit margins are.

As a result, if you want help with anything the service is designed to do, they’ll be there for you. Anything else, and you’re either on your own (back to getting a professional in to pick up the pieces) or they will offer an additional service to help you out, usually at vastly inflated rates.

It’s not even (really) cheap

Combine the money you actually spend on a self-build web platform with the time you lose trying to make their limited systems work in a way they weren’t necessarily designed for. Add into the mix the potential additional spend on consultancy from the web platform or outside experts. Then consider the higher cost to remove the company’s adverts and the knowledge that you’ll have to go through it all again in a year or so anyway when the site becomes unfit for purpose.

Does this seem cheap to you?

We put this article together not out of dislike for the companies that offer self-build services, but as a record of the valid concerns we hear from people who come to us for web design and development services. If these services work for you, that’s great!

However, our approach is to do what we do best, and free you up to do what you do best – run your business. As a result, we offer website packages designed to fix costs for the kinds of startup businesses with simple websites that might be disappointed with build-it-yourself services. You get all the benefits of a consultative approach and a custom-built website without the spiralling costs.

Speak to us today and get a free exploratory session and quote – no obligation and no pressure.

the author

Larry Brangwyn

Larry is a published UX specialist with an extensive track record of creating award-winning online solutions.
Tags:Cost, Perception, Web Builder, WebDesign, Websites

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