I could have probably named this post: “WordPress vs Hosted Template Sites” too but either way, Read On!
At least once a month we run into some who needed a quick (& cheap) website. Instead of building their site on something like WordPress, they went with a hosted solution.
Most of you have probably seen the commercials for Wix.com for free easy to build websites. Another popular one is SquareSpace.com.
Here’s a screenshot of the Wix.com paid Premium Plans & the pricing from SquareSpace.com:
We won’t even talk about the Free version of Wix unless you are OK with WIX ads on your site.
To most people this pricing is very attractive. Why should I pay a WordPress developer $2500 or more for a site when I can do one of these without laying out much if any money. Let me tell you why.
1. Product Lock In
If at any time you decide the particular service doesn’t work for your needs, you will have a hard time getting your website exported. As far as I know, Wix.com does not provide any way for your to export your website or website data. Squarespace does offer some form of exporting. If you are currently using or plan to use one of these types of services, I would recommend you keep a copy of all the website text in Word, Pages or whatever your favorite text editor is. Keeping some screenshots of your website is good idea too. (With SquareSpace use their export function on some regular basis, but I doubt most people will do this. When it comes to backups I am all about automation)
2. Product Lock Part Deux – Website Portability/Longevity
If one of these hosting companies goes bankrupt or their data center gets swallowed in an earthquake, you will have no website and likely no data from your website. You will be in a desperate position to quickly get another site up. If you don’t have copies of any of the website text or screenshots of the site layout (as mentioned above), you will likely be starting from scratch but with much less time to get it operational. If this website was a business website and part of your job responsibility, good luck explaining the situation to your boss(and make sure your resume is up to date!)
3. Hidden Costs
As your website needs grow, you may need additional features. If these feature are even available with one of these hosted solutions they will cost you additional money. These costs could add up and equal or exceed the cost of doing the site in WordPress from the beginning.
If you are using one of these hosted features and they do not have a feature you want to add, you are pretty much out of luck. Even though SquareSpaces includes ecommerce, you are limited to one payment gateway.
Many of these hosted website services will not be as quick as WordPress website(with dedicated WordPress Hosting). Speed is important for SEO ranking and also for user experience. If your website takes more than 5 seconds to load most users will just abandon it. We usually aim for under 2 seconds.
For a more in depth review of Wix.com check out Steven Benjamins recent Wix Review
For a good comparison of SquareSpace vs WordPress read Servando Silva’s post HERE. Make sure to read all the comment too.
Another type of these Hosted Template sites comes in the form of Trade specific “solutions”. All of the cons above apply but I will go into these in more detail.
Here’s an example of one that caters to Certified Public Accountants: CPA Site Solutions
Prices range from $49.50/month to $99.50/month and I can see is tempting for many small CPA firms. If you want customizations that are not included with their templates, they offer “Deeply Discounted Custom Web Design” :
“Completely Custom Website Design
If you want a completely custom website design, we can do that for you. The process is simple. You tell us what you like. We design mockups. Once you like the design, we build your site. Custom designs start at $1,995.”
Not so cheap if their templates don’t fit your needs, but I would think most firms can get away with the provided templates.
I do see at least $600 of other “Custom” add ons that many firms would want such as “Using your Own Picture” on the header or “Customized Graphic Welcome Page”
But that’s not really the main issue with these hosted solutions.
The Website Designs, Financial Guides, Frequently Asked Questions, Service Pages, Monthly Newsletters, Tax Center and other content and information provided by CPASiteSolutions (WebContent) are protected by federal copyright law. Photocopying or reproducing them in any form other than for personal use by Subscriber or Subscriber’s clients is strictly prohibited.
Your use of the WebContent over any period of time gives you no rights other than those rights granted by this license. CPASiteSolutions reserves the right to add, delete or modify WebContent, as it deems appropriate. Subscriber will relinquish the license to use WebContent upon termination of its subscription to CPASiteSolutions.
WebContent is to be used only in regard to your accounting practice and shall not be used in connection with any commercial venture, directly or indirectly and whether or not related to the accounting practice.”
They actually reserve the right to “add,delete or modify” this web content or WebContent as they refer to it as.
What is this WebContent they are referring to? It is all of these pre-written content & pages you will likely use to make your site look full and complete. See this screenshot:
What are some scenarios that can happen to a business that goes this hosted templated website route:
1. The company that you are paying $49.50/month goes out of business. You have no “backups” of your website(remember it’s not really yours). Hopefully you might have some Word files of the content that you added to the site. You will either have to get on another similar hosted plan and somewhat start from scratch…or hopefully at this point you will choose to have your site done in WordPress and own your website content going forward.
2. You outgrow the templates or need some features they do not offer, such as e-commerce. Once again you will need to build a new site from scratch or you will pay them for the customization you need.
3. You realize your Search Engine Rankings aren’t what you would like them to be. This could happen from their “Website Content Features” shown in the screenshot above. You are using pre made content that other similar sites (in this example other CPA sites) are also using. This won’t help to distinguish your content as unique and relevant when Google and other search engines crawl your site. If a hosting site company is not using rel=”canonical” tags on this duplicate content, Google might actually penalize your site and rank it lower.
(You can read more about Duplicate Content at this Google Webmaster Support Page)
Make no mistake, it takes time and effort to get regular unique content on your site…but the SEO rewards are well worth it!
Sites Built On WordPress
When you build your site with WordPress, you are using an Open Source solution. After your site is built, you will pay a company to host it, but the big difference from the above mentioned templated hosted sites, is that you will own the site and all the content. If you wanted to(and you should), you could have a backup copy of your site stored on your local computer or even in the cloud on DropBox(both would be my preference). If your current hosting company data center went down due to a natural disaster or they went out of business, etc. you could use your backup copy to get up and running on another host within an hour or so.
If you do not like your WordPress website developer, fear not! Because WordPress powers 22% of websites, there are literally thousands of developers who could help you.
These are some reasons Why You Should Own Your Website Content!
If I missed any, please add them to the comments.
I also wanted to point out I am not specifically singling out CPA SiteSolutions but just using them as an example. I am not saying they are bad company to deal with or anything like that. You will find these types of templated hosted solutions for just about all of the trades(Dentists, Chiropractors, etc).
It is always good to know the pros and cons with any services related to your business website.