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Why Serious Businesses Should Avoid Website Builders Like Wix & Squarespace

Website builders are an easy way to create a website. But “easy” doesn’t always mean “good.” Wix and Squarespace may get you up and running within a few minutes, but there’s a cost to pay for it.

Here’s why Wix, Squarespace, and other website builders are so popular… and why they should be avoided.

Is 'What You See' Really 'What You Get'?

Wix and Squarespace are WYSIWYG editors: “What You See Is What You Get.” That means you drag-and-drop elements in a page builder that lets you see how the website will look as you design it. It sounds great. A business owner can create their own website within seconds and it’s instantly live. But how does it work?

With these website builders, you usually select a template first. A template is going to give you a generic site, often targeted towards your industry, or a general theme. From there, you’ll select elements (such as headings and images) and change them at whim. It’s a lot like working in a Microsoft Word or Google Docs document, rather than trying to work directly in code.

Once you’re done designing your site, you can “launch” your site and it’ll be released. These sites are hosted by the website builder, so you usually don’t need to do any management. It’s just a click and you’re done. As you’ve probably seen, there are more website builders than just Squarespace and Wix. Other common names you’ll hear are GoDaddy Website Builder, Weebly, Webflow and even Google recently launched a tool called Google Sites designed to whip up a generic site in minutes.

Still, at this point, it probably sounds like a great option. And there’s probably a (very) small percentage of business owners who may actually be better off taking this option.

If a business owner is never going to need heightened functionality with their website, and that business owner is confident about this, and they want to get a website up quick, then and only then might a website builder be good for them. The business owner needs to know that they aren’t going to need advanced features for their website, even in the future, and that they won’t feel unduly restricted. For these people, website builders may be fine.

But for most businesses, it’s not a great idea. For most people, a WYSIWYG site is only going to cause them complications in the end.

The Truth Behind WYSIWYG

In the early days of the web, people needed to code everything by hand. If they wanted to display “Hello, World!” they needed to write the lines of code to do it. And it was an arduous process and very few people wanted to do it. So, WYSIWYG editors became popular. They were editors where you could just design a page from a template. If you wanted to create a link, you created a link. If you wanted to bold text, you bolded text. The WYSIWYG editor created the code based on what you wanted to see.

There were a lot of editors out there. In the old days, you might be able to log into Geocities, Angelfire, or even Xpages. You’d be able to create a site just by typing information into a box, and that site would be displayed mostly accurately. There were also suites of software, such as Adobe solutions, that worked offline and could generate the pages for you. You would then upload to a host.

Today, most hosting accounts come with one-click installs for the most popular website builders, or their own internal website builders. It’s always presented compared to learning to code. After all, most people can use a business, but most people don’t want to learn to code on their own.

As websites become more complex, fewer people want to program them from scratch. In fact, even professionals within the field will occasionally turn to website builders so that they can get their projects up and running quickly. But that doesn’t come without a cost.

The problem, of course, is that the editors weren’t really great at creating code. They were designed to create something that looked good, not something that performed good. WYSIWYG sites are notoriously poorly performing, generic, and difficult to customize. While you can create a basic website quickly, you can’t make it look like your website, and you can’t optimize it to load faster on other devices.

There are benefits and drawbacks to WYSIWYG. The major benefit is time-to-market. You can launch quickly. You can edit your site on your own. And you can get the site to look (roughly) how you want it without learning to code.

But the drawbacks are significant.

You might be wondering why you can’t just launch a website builder site and then change it later on. Well, it’s not easy to change a site once you’ve established a place on the web. You’ll lose your search engine rankings by changing your URLs (since a website builder has a set hierarchy). You’ll need to transition your website from one to another, potentially losing customers while you’re down. It’s never a good idea to start with an insufficient website and to assume you can change it later. Changing a website is more complicated than many people think.

And even if you feel as though website builders suit your needs right now, you also need to consider that they update from time to time. You could end up with a patch breaking your sites, or modifications rendering features that you used obsolete. When you use website builders, you don’t really “own” your website in a complete sense. It can still be impacted by those who initially coded the platform.

The Problems of WYSIWYG Website Builders

Let’s take a more in-depth look at the issues with website builders like Wix and Squarespace.

Page Speed

A quick-loading website is critical in constructing a quality user-experience, and has a powerful effect on the following key metrics:

Time on Site

How long visitors stay on your website.

Conversions

How many visitors convert into buyers or new leads.

Avg. Cost Per Click

The average amount you pay per click in paid search ads.

Rankings

Where your website ranks in the organic search results.

Most people, as well as Google, want websites to load within 2 to 3 seconds. Mobile users can be a little more forgiving, but not by much. WYSIWYG sites tend to load slowly because their code has been automatically generated; it isn’t optimized or efficient. A large portion of this problem is due to how these builders handle nested elements. Having too many nested elements on a web-page negatively impacts performance due to all the additional processes required to render the page. When done properly, nested elements are a very common practice in web design, however page builders inefficiently nest multiple elements and your site performance suffers.

screenshot showing how wix nested elements' HTML is bad for SEO
Image Credit: Search Engine Journal

When websites load slowly, it ruins conversions, traffic, and awareness. People bounce away from the site, and even search engine rankings are damaged.

Errors

The WYSIWYG editor is an automated way of programming a site, but it doesn’t actually validate the code; it just tries to keep up with the changes you make. Website builder sites tend to have a lot of HTML errors, and while it doesn’t fully “break” the page, it can lead to the site rendering incorrectly on other computers or mobile devices. When it comes to web programming, most errors aren’t going to stop the site from displaying. But what it will do is increase the amount of data transferred and slow the speed of the website way down.

While it isn’t uncommon to have cases where these errors are negligible and/or not worth the time or money to fix, website builders like Wix & Squarespace take HTML validation errors to an unacceptable level.

example of html validation errors from a wix website
Image Credit: Search Engine Journal

It is unacceptable for a single webpage to have close to 600 HTML validation errors!

A portion of these HTML errors are creating issues for functionality and the page’s appearance, which will have a negative impact on not only user experience but your overall rankings.

With website builders like Wix, you are not able to fix these HTML errors, which reveals another, much larger problem…

Inability to Access Your Code

WYSIWYG tends to limit control over the website, because people aren’t able to directly modify their website code or customize it to do more advanced things. WYSIWYG sites have to remain simple because of their very nature. And if you ever feel like looking under the hood and trying your hand at some code, you’re very likely to discover that the code is so sloppy and slap-dash that it’s difficult to even understand it.

Customization

Website builders look and feel generic. While a customer might not load a website and say to themselves “This is definitely Wix,” most people are going to identify that something feels familiar. You want to create your own identity as a company, not just expand someone else’s. Your Squarespace site will always look like a Squarespace site, and your Wix site will always look like a Wix site. If you ever feel like looking under the hood and trying your hand at some code, you’re very likely to discover that the code is so sloppy and slap-dash that it’s difficult to even understand it.

Growth

It’s hard to grow and scale a Squarespace or Wix website. If you find that you want to change your products or services, you’ll find that your website isn’t very easy to update. Website builders are designed to be easy for day-to-day issues, but they cannot handle issues of greater complexity. Wix and Squarespace both offer fairly simple features, and many of the additional features you might want are usually paid for. You can save your money by just hiring a professional to do the job from the very start.

SEO

Website builders are not as well-designed for SEO as custom-designed websites are. Because they need to be generic and work for everyone, they do not customize themselves in terms of SEO and keywords as much as they should. Further, because the websites are poorly coded, and because they load slowly, SEO is often damaged before the user even sees the site.

These negatives make it clear that while a WYSIWYG editor may be fast, it’s bad for business. And those aren’t all the negatives either, they’re simply the most common ones.

A study by ahrefs comparing WordPress SEO to Wix found that 46.1% of WordPress websites received at least some monthly organic search traffic, compared with only 1.4% of Wix sites.

How Many Domains Get Organic Traffic (Wordpress vs. Wix)

That same study also revealed that 8.26% of WordPress websites get more than 100 monthly search visits, whereas Wix received 0.06%.

How Many Websites With Traffic Get 100+ Organic Visits/Month (WordPress vs. Wix)

Website Builders: Bad for Business

It can be alluring to get a website up and running within a few minutes, but business owners should resist the urge. While a website builder may be a fast way o launch, it isn’t going to have longevity behind it. Website builders like Wix and Squarespace look generic; they feel like any other corporate shop on the internet. They aren’t exciting, they can’t be significantly customized, and they’re likely to be bogged down by extraneous code.

Yet, many business owners do hesitate before they create their own site. They may feel as though their “real” site is coming later. They may not be anticipating a lot of online traction. Or they may just be thinking that they don’t want to maintain a website, and therefore they shouldn’t have one that requires constant maintenance.

Regardless, those who don’t have a complete, custom website for their products and services are going to find it increasingly hard to engage customers, because it’s now an entirely digital world. People want to be able to connect with brands through their websites, and they want those websites to be unique and robust.

It’s better for a business owner to invest in a real, custom website than trying to use short cuts — and a website is an investment. By doing things properly from the start, business owners can take control of their online presence, and improve their online services.

So, what’s stopping people?

Once you know that website builders are generally bad, you start to ask yourself why users even use them at all.

There are three issues: time, money, and knowledge.

Some business owners don’t have the time to build their own website, so they instead choose to do it quickly. Others are concerned about the potential costs of developing a website, so they want to do it on their own. And still others would love to develop their own website, but they don’t have the knowledge. Their only option feels like using a website builder.

But consider that a website really pays for itself in terms of marketing; if a website is badly written in a website builder, it’s not likely to make the company as much money as it should. And while it does cost a lot in “time” to create a website, it costs virtually nothing to hire a professional. That brings us to the next point: there’s also no need to develop in-depth knowledge of programming as long as someone else can do the programming for you.

Most people know deep down that a website builder isn’t going to give them the features and functionality they need, but they tend to compromise because it’s the best and fastest plan they have. But working with a knowledgeable partner usually helps. Companies can reach out to web design studios to find out more about designing a website from scratch, the benefits, and how the process differs from working with website builders like Wix and Squarespace. A little knowledge can go a long way.

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