An email arrived asking about a new website. This lovely woman had already setup a site on WordPress.com. She had a few simple pages without much text. A few had images — mostly logos — all bunched together as a big logos.jpg in the middle.
It looked okay enough. The theme was pleasant. But she knew it was bad. She wanted help. And this is where our story begins.
This woman, who I will call Jean, wanted a better website. She didn’t know how to make it better herself. And this is where sites like Squarespace, Wix, and a bunch of other DIY-builders fall apart. There’s no one there to help you with the “next level” stuff. They speed you up now by getting a site online in as little as a few minutes or a few hours. But they’ll slow you down later if you stick with them for too long.
A lot of people have told me over the years, “I’ll just start with Wix” (see 21 reasons why you shouldn’t), but then they ask, “What do you think?” My response is always the same: “You also have a copy of Microsoft Word. Doesn’t mean you’ll write a NY Times Bestseller.” Sure, you could, but like a book without revision, practice, and an editor, it’s unlikely to go far.
Yes, she could learn. Yes, Jean could surely devote the time and energy to making her site better and better for her business. Yes, Jean could have many very good ideas for her business.
She knew she wanted a way for people to sign up for an email list, but didn’t know how to enable that. She knew she wanted things to look nicer. She knew she wanted a way for people to register for her events, but didn’t know how.
DIY builders try to get close to this by enabling shops and all sorts of digital Lego-blocks to plop in. But they miss how to put these all together in a functional body of work. Like building a Lego Ferris wheel that looks like a Ferris wheel, but doesn’t actually rotate.
When you empower people to do things on the web, you empower people to feel good about your business. That works great for the site builder services. But looking the other way, it falls apart for the millions of small businesses trying to do the same for their customers. The promise of a great website is to let people solve problems and improve their lives.
DIY site builders can struggle with this. And frequently they give people a false sense of accomplishment.