Website Builders: The Printers of the Website IndustryFebruary 7, 2023 | By David Selden-Treiman | Filed in: hosting.
In general, you’ll want to avoid website builders if you want to keep your website for the long-haul.
They seem easy at first, but eventually you’ll want to do things that you can’t with a website builder, or that costs an excessive amount of money. They’ve basically become the printers of the website industry; pay up front, then really pay later… again, and again, and again.
That’s why we recommend against them.
What Are Website Builders?
Website builders are platforms that allow users to create and manage their own websites without the need for extensive technical knowledge. Examples of popular website builders include Squarespace, Wix, and Shopify.
This article will discuss the reasons why customers should generally avoid website builders if they are planning on keeping a site for a long period of time.
The main focus will be on the issues of lock-in and the inability to take the site elsewhere, and why these factors can limit the potential of a website and negatively impact the user’s experience.
What Is Website Lock-In?
The lock-in problem refers to the dependence on proprietary platforms that limit a user’s ability to transfer their website and data to another platform. This issue is prevalent in website builders due to their use of proprietary templates, designs, and content management systems.
This means that a user’s website is built and managed using the website builder’s internal technology, making it difficult (usually impossible) to transfer the site to another platform.
Dependence on Proprietary Platforms
Website builders use proprietary technology that is not compatible with other platforms, making it difficult to transfer the site to another platform.
In general, companies that provide website builders put a lot of effort into making sure their builders are as easy to use as possible. However, when they do this, it requires a lot of custom work on their end. This custom work creates the proprietary system.
This dependence on proprietary platforms can limit a user’s ability to make changes and updates to their website without the website builder’s approval, which can be frustrating, time-consuming, or just simply impossible.
Limited Customization Options
Website builders often limit the customization options available to users, which can limit the potential of a website and restrict its growth.
For example, users may not have access to certain features or plugins that are necessary for their website’s success, or may be limited in their ability to make changes to the site’s design and layout.
Sometimes these features will be available for a fee. Sometimes they are outside the scope of a website builder and just can’t be done. You’re stuck with whatever the website builder allows.
Inability to Export Data and Site Content
Many website builders do not allow users to export their data and site content, which can result in the loss of valuable information and data if the user decides to switch to another platform.
This can be especially problematic for businesses that rely on their website for customer engagement and sales, as they may lose access to important customer information and data if they switch to another platform.
Consequences of Website Lock-In
Limited Control Over Your Site
The lock-in problem limits a user’s control over their site, making it difficult to make changes and updates. If you need anything custom, you’ll need to make sure that what you need can be done in the system. If it can, great. But in our experience, you’ll run into issues pretty quickly.
You’ll also likely need to pay for your extra features. It’s not like a WordPress website where you can just add a plugin where you need to. With website builders, you’re at the mercy of whatever they want to support and for how much.
Difficulty in Transferring the Site to Another Platform
The lock-in issue makes it difficult to transfer the site to another platform, which can be frustrating and time-consuming. This can result in a loss of time and resources, as well as a potential loss of customers and sales.
If you want to transfer your site from a website builder to something like WordPress, you’ll need to basically completely rebuild your site in the new platform.
At Potent Pages, we’ve had clients request that we help them move their sites, and the best we can do is make a temporary HTML copy of their site and serve that. We can’t transfer their site because it’s locked to the website builder. We ended up having to completely rebuild their site.
Potential Loss of Valuable Data and Content
The inability to export data and site content can result in the loss of valuable information and data, which can be detrimental to the success of a website.
This can result in a loss of customers and sales, as well as a negative impact on the website’s reputation and credibility.
How Website Builders Make Their Money
It’s worth mentioning how website builders tend to make their money. They don’t make money from the builder itself. They tend to make their money from:
- the additional add-ons that you need to purchase,
- the transaction fees from using their platform, or
- from the recurring cost of hosting your website.
These fees seem small at first, but they add up quickly. This is especially true when compared to free platforms like WordPress and high-quality hosting.
It’s kind of like printers (at least in the US). Printer companies will sell printers and then charge exorbitant amounts of money for the ink, or require a monthly subscription to even use their printer.
It’s a business model that’s in opposition to their users, and is generally bad for everyone except for the company that makes the printer (or owns the website builder in this case).
Alternative Options to Website Builders
Custom Website Development
Custom website development offers a solution to the lock-in problem by allowing users to build a website using non-proprietary technology that can be easily transferred to another platform.
his option provides greater control and customization over the website, as well as the ability to export data and site content.
Greater Control and Customization
Custom website development provides greater control and customization over the website, allowing users to make changes and updates without the need for approval from a third-party platform.
Users have the freedom to choose the technology and design that best fits their needs, as well as the ability to hire a developer to make changes and updates as needed.
Ability to Export Data and Site Content
Custom website development allows users to export their data and site content, ensuring that valuable information and data is not lost if the user decides to switch to another platform.
This is important for businesses that rely on their website for customer engagement and sales, as they need to ensure that they have access to their customer information and data at all times.
Cost Effective in the Long Run
While custom website development may initially cost more than using a website builder, it is a more cost-effective solution in the long run.
This is because users will not be limited by the website builder’s proprietary technology, and will have greater control and customization over the website, reducing the need for costly updates and revisions.
Open-Source Website Platforms
Open-source website platforms offer a solution to the lock-in problem by allowing users to build a website using non-proprietary technology that can be easily transferred to another platform.
Examples of open-source website platforms include WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal.
Freedom to Customize and Transfer the Site
Open-source website platforms provide users with the freedom to customize their website as they see fit, and the ability to transfer the site to another platform if necessary.
This allows users to have greater control over the design and functionality of their website, as well as the ability to export their data and site content.
Large Community of Developers
Open-source website platforms have a large community of developers who create and maintain the platform, ensuring its continued development and improvement.
This also means that users have access to a large community of experts who can provide support and help with customizations.
Open-source website platforms are generally more cost-effective than custom website development, as users have access to a large community of developers who provide free plugins, themes, and support.
This can reduce the cost of website development and maintenance, making it a cost-effective solution for users who plan on keeping a site for a long period of time.
We’ve discussed why customers should generally avoid website builders if they are planning on keeping a site for a long period of time due to the lock-in and inability to take their site elsewhere.
It is important for you to carefully consider your long-term plans for your website when choosing a platform. While website builders may seem like a convenient and cost-effective option in the short term, they can become a costly and limiting choice in the long term.
Alternatives such as custom website development and open-source website platforms offer a more sustainable and cost-effective solution for customers who plan on keeping a site for a long period of time.
If you’re planning on keeping a site for a long period of time, we recommend that you consider alternative options such as custom website development or open-source website platforms. These options provide greater control, customization, and the ability to transfer the site to another platform, ensuring a more sustainable and cost-effective solution for their website.
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David Selden-Treiman is Director of Operations and a project manager at Potent Pages. He specializes in custom web crawler development, website optimization, server management, web application development, and custom programming. Working at Potent Pages since 2012 and programming since 2003, David has extensive expertise solving problems using programming for dozens of clients. He also has extensive experience managing and optimizing servers, managing dozens of servers for both Potent Pages and other clients.