There is a reason why professional marketers and developers steer away from using “all-in-one build your own website packages” and it’s primarily to do with “Control”.
In the last 20 years the art of building a website has evolved from handed-coded websites, databases and server-side security to, a 100% all-in-one client-controlled website builder. This evolution is to be expected, but there are substantial draw-backs with consolidating code, design & advanced features.
As a Designer and Developer myself, design and code come as standard. Packages provided by the likes of Wix, Weebly and SpuareSpace have tailored this process for the Client and just the Client alone. This in turn has negated the role of the Web Designer/Developer, but there still exists room for the Client/ Web Designer/Developer relationship, and this is to do with the “end result of the website” itself. What is it that the Client actually needs and where will they go with it?
The act of combining serval functions or features into one coherent function.
Consolidation is a train of thought that has been implemented since the dawn of code. C Language to Cobalt to Java to Python, all consolidating classes and functions to build a better code. This is a convenient and somethings solid way of working, some might say it’s “standing on the shoulders of giants” rather than developing complex applications from scratch.
This train of thought may not be so solid in relation to Website Design and Development as a whole. The All-in-one Website Builders in the past five years have made their business by consolidating and packaging code and design itself.
Features that Clients have found expensive and difficult to understand have now been provided in consolidated Packages and all-in-one website builders.
Let’s take as an example, SSL certification. This is a painstaking task that requires a heavy amount of involvement by the Developer and can be costly for the Client to purchase. But, most all-in-one website builders provide SSL Certification freely. But, where this comes undone is purely on the ability to have control and the option to choose the type of SSL Service the Client actually requires.
When focusing on the details, SSL Certification is a delicate system that varies and should be scalable depending on what the Client would like to do with their website. E-commerce websites and Company websites have strict guidelines when it comes to security, especially when it comes to GDPR. So, encryption and the level of security on a website is paramount.
You may ask, “What is wrong with the certificate provided by All-in-one websites packages”? Well, the simple answer is options!
You should be able to choose between, 256bit, 512bit and 1024bit encryption across your website. At present wix.com provide a 256bit certificate, an entry-level certificate. At this point, this remains unchanged until wix.com provide additional options. Whereas a Professional Web Developer is able to provide and implement the SSL Certification and give options as the websites grows.
This example is typifies and highlights restrictions by the all-in-one website builders. Whereas the options and scalability given by Professional Design and Development companies can be vast but tailored to the Client.
The relationship between two or more organisms that live closely together. Both organism benefits and neither is harmed.
For any Professional Web Designer/ Developer the heart of building any website is the Client’s own capability.
This is closely followed by, knowing what the Client would like to do with their website and achieving it.
The “Client’s capability” to build a website is on a spectrum, ranging between being “Independently capable of Coding & Designing their own website” to being “Totally Dependent on All-in-one Website Builders”. There is, of course a clear middle-ground where the role of the Professional Developer/Designer resides. This symbiotic role between The Client and the Professional Web Designer/Developer works on the premise of understanding the end result of the website.
A clear scenario would be the building of the E-Commerce website https://www.beatsbydre.com and the relationship between Apple Inc., The Client and the Web Design/Development Agency, ThinkBasic Inc. Both Client and Agency worked hard to achieve a fresh, user friendly e-commerce website and won serval awards along the way https://basicagency.com/case-studies/beats-by-dre-branded-ecommerce-website.
Going back to the spectrum, it’s clear that an individual at Apple Inc. didn’t code & design this in-house (one side of the spectrum), nor did they use an All-in-one Website Builder to build to design and manage their e-commerce (the other side of the spectrum).
The degree of flexibility provided by Professional Website Designer/Developer should be vast and cost-effective in achieve the required end-result for the Client’s website.
So, where are the All-in-one Website Builders going wrong and how is it they’re still competing?
Selling the Illusion of Ownership:
From a client’s point of view, this information is Marketed differently by the All-in-one Website Builders. Based on the premise of “Let us handle it for you”, and they do! They manage the Domain Name, if you choose to purchase a unique one all the way to E-commerce and SSL certification. All on their own servers. Very much like a gated community.
With all this on offer, what are the fundamental draw-backs?
Changes and Updates:
Design is not a problem as there are a vast array of Templates and layouts available, and for some customers this doesn’t seem a problem. Some may actually find it fun! But as a down-side it actually becomes costly if you want to change your template from one style to another further down the line. Some customers have found it difficult to change their style completely. Some have even resorted to copying and paste the text directly from the website to a local text editor. Very painful if you’re a blog writer.
Storage and Bandwidth:
Depending on the All-in-one Website Builder the Client chooses to use, there are limitations when it comes to space and how much bandwidth can be used. Because your using their servers, limiting the space and bandwidth is a must. The logic behind this is; there usually are hundreds, or even thousands of Clients sharing one server, of course it’s impossible to allow all their Client Unlimited Space and Bandwidth. These restrictions have to be applied in order to maintain space and bandwidth for a new customer “on-boarding” or an existing customer hope to pay more for further bandwidth.
Most All-in-one Website Builders have an array of in-house add-on tools, plugins, widgets and features. Purpose-built by their own in-house team of Developers or externally by Third Party Developers. These Advance Feature can help to give added-value to the Client’s website. The drawback is highlighted next in the Shopping Cart sections. But, as these are websites are meant to handle real-world issues such as communication, whether through Web Forms, Social Media, Newsletters and Live Chats. All of these require upgrading to high tariff and in most cases do not include the cost of the Advanced Feature, that usually comes later.
As soon as a website is built and launched most Professional Designers and Developers think about the next step. It’s difficult for the Client nor the Design/Developer to leave a website as Done for too long. The next step usually involves growth through Advanced feature such as the Shopping Cart and E-Commerce. With a lot of All-in-one Website Builders, E-Commerce is covered to a degree. Details such as Shipping Tax are limited. The ability to generate a detailed report is non-existent, this is fine if you’re a local small trader. But, if you choose to expand, then the rule change. There are subtle details a Professional Website Developer can iron out, but in the realm of Package Add-ons the Client is limited. For example, If the Client is focused on selling tickets for an event, this would be impossible in any packages available on wix.com as an example. If the Client to sell downloadable PDFs, again this feature is not available wix.com. The problem lies in the Client assuming that these features are standardised and will work seamlessly.
Sadly, there are costs to upgrading, changing and moving away from the All-in-one Website packages. Even with All-in-one packages such as Prestashop, Shopify and Magento, this requires foreknowledge from the Client, and in most cases this idea of tackling E-Commerce first isn’t on the Client’s mind. The main starting-point is to build their own website then move on to E-Commerce.
Getting what you pay for:
The reason why All-in-one Website Builders exist is purely for the Client to achieve acknowledgement, presence and commerce on the world wide web. If the Client’s goal is to attain a Personal Website or a Small Local Business, then these All-in-ones maybe the right solution for them. But, they will find themselves in a gated community that gives them little exposure and traffic.
The future of the Client’s website is at the back of any Professional Website Designer/Developer’s mind. Room for expansion is part of the process. The conversation with any of my clients has always been “Well, what’s next?”. This usually is in the back of the Clients mind too. Some of my clients have moved away from the All-in-one’s; the costs may be competitive, but what’s been skimmed-off is what makes a website unique and versatile. Unfortunately, they are the ones that pay the higher price, not only to leave the All-in-ones, but to migrate the content and rebuild a better SEO reputation.
But, if you ever have an idea, growth and expansion is key. Your domain and content matters, and as this article states “Truly Owning your website” means that the domain is yours and the content is yours. If you should choose to move from one Hosting company to another then these should come with you, no matter what. In the end It’s not the fault of the All-in-ones for putting these restrictions in places; as bandwidth and space is limited, code is tightly consolidated to drag-and-drop functions and advance features shoe-horned in. The fault lies with the Client’s capability and the possibly that something could go wrong if the design and development is left in their hands.
All-in-one have made a business of making it easy for the Client to build their own website, but in the end, consolidating code and setting restrictions have and will fail them. These technics may seem as though they are following the best practices applied by Search Engines and the World Wide Web, but Web Designers and Developers know that the rules change all the time and the All-in-ones will always be playing catch-up with the trends.