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Why WordPress Crushes Squarespace Every Time

If you’ve landed on this post because you’re deciding whether to go with WordPress or Squarespace, let me make your decision easier for you: choose WordPress every time.  There are some “designers” out there who will build your site while touting how Squarespace is the greatest thing since sliced bread, it’s really not.  We’ve done the research for you and broken down why WordPress is the way to go for your Business Presence online.

While both provide a platform for you to build a website, they are vastly different. WordPress is used by more than 27% of all websites on the internet while Squarespace, on the other hand, powers 1.2 million websites or roughly 0.01% to 0.55% . WordPress is available both as hosted and self-hosted options (we’ll dig into that further down), while Squarespace is available only as a hosted version.

In this post, I’ll go through the 27 reasons why self-hosted WordPress is the clear winner over Squarespace every time.

 

 

Reason #1: Free to Download

The WordPress software is open source and free to download for use on the web host or server of your choosing.

On the other hand, Squarespace isn’t flexible – you’re stuck with their hosting, which is strictly on Squarespace’s servers.

Reason #2: Build Upon the Software

WordPress has a GPL 2.0 license, which means you’re free to poke around the code and make changes that suit your needs, so long as you’re willing to share your changes with others as open source.

Squarespace has no such license and even goes so far as forbidding you from trying to reverse engineer their code or platform, in general, to make any kind of derivative work in statements 5.1 of the Terms of Service and 1.5 of the Acceptable Use Policy.

Reason #3: Edit with Code as Much as You Want

As previously mentioned, you can edit WordPress core to create your own offshoot content management system (CMS) thanks to the GPL, but you can also edit WordPress plugins and themes to extend the capabilities of your website. You aren’t limited to how many changes you can make.

There are also many, many plugins you can use to add custom code to your site on the fly such as WP Add Custom CSSSimple Custom CSS, and Simple Custom CSS and JS to name only a few. You can add as much or as little code as you want.

In short, you can edit whatever you want when it comes to WordPress. You can also create your own themes and plugins.

Squarespace isn’t as flexible. Not even close.

While you can add a little custom HTML, CSS or JavaScript to make small customizations, and add your own text or media content as well as some basic animations, you can’t change any major components.

In sections 5.1 of the Terms of Service, Squarespace forbids you from editing the themes’ code or any other major element including any part of the offered services. If you want to dig into some code to change one of their themes or create one of your own, you can’t.

Reason #4: Extensive Features with Plugins

WordPress has a vast repository of over 49,000 plugins to extend the capabilities of the core software. You can find practically any feature you could possibly need or want for your site with plugins, including anything from contact forms and SEO to security and eCommerce.

Like their visual editor, what you see is what you get with Squarespace. If a certain feature you need isn’t available, you’re out of luck.

Reason #5: Unlimited Sites and Networks

The WordPress platform itself doesn’t have any limit to how many times it can be installed, which means you can create as many sites or networks of sites as the resources your hosting plan allows – for free.

When you sign up for a Squarespace plan, you’re limited to only one site. If you want to create another site, you need to sign up for another premium subscription.

Reason #6: Multisite

One word: Multisite. ‘Nough said, but in case you want more detail: WordPress lets you create a network of websites called a Multisite. This means you can run as many sites as you want using one installation of WordPress and access them all in one place.

This makes it the perfect solution for a wide variety of sites and purposes. For example, you could offer your own blog or site hosting, like the popular education website Edublogs, or you could host all your clients’ sites under one roof for easy management.

Squarespace has no such feature.

 

Reason #7: Your Copyrighted Content Can’t Be Used for Free

WordPress has no claim to publish any part of your site for free.

Squarespace, on the other hand, according to its Terms of Service, statements 2.2 and 2.3, can use any part of your site for uses such as advertising, even if the content they take is copyrighted.

By creating a site with Squarespace, you not only consent to this, but you also agree to let them use what they want for free. They don’t even have to contact you first.

No royalty cheques. Nothing.

While you can opt out, it’s not an easy, one-click option.

Reason #8: Features Aren’t Pulled without Notice

The WordPress core gets updated regularly with new features and security updates and there’s a system in place to ensure transparency with what goes in, gets fixed and what’s omitted.

Changes are suggested, reviewed and approved before they’re worked on, then later released. Any amendments or omissions are well documented and announced beforehand. In the event that a feature you need is discontinued, you have time to search for or create a plugin to cover the capabilities you want.

For details, you can check out Make WordPress and WordPress Trac.

On the other hand, Squarespace can discontinue and remove features at any time and without notice. It’s written in statements 4.1 and 6.1 of the Terms of Service.

Reason #9: If You Have Grounds to Sue, You Aren’t Limited

In the unlikely event that you need to sue Automattic, the non-profit company behind WordPress.com, you can and you’re not limited unless as required by law.

In sections 16.1 to 16.3 and 16.9 of Squarespace’s Terms of Service, you’re limited to the amount to which you can sue. Spoiler alert: you can only sue for small sums of money.

You’re also limited to where you’re required to attend court hearings and by creating a site, you agree to mediate a lawsuit before the case goes to court. You also agree to not file any class action lawsuits.

While it’s not likely that you would need to sue Squarespace, you never know and it’s nice to not be so limited in how you can resolve a legal situation.

Reason #10: No eCommerce Transaction Fees

You can turn your WordPress site into an eCommerce store with a plugin. Fortunately, there are options out there like MarketPress that don’t have any transaction fees. WordPress also doesn’t take a cut of your sales.

On the other hand, Squarespace charges a transaction fee for each sale you make, unless you decide to upgrade your plan. You can check out the Squarespace pricing page for details.

Reason #11: Your Server Resources Aren’t Limited

As mentioned earlier, you can choose where to host your WordPress site, unlike Squarespace, which requires you to host your site on their servers. This means you can’t scale your site later if it becomes popular.

Squarespace advertises all plans as having unlimited bandwidth, but the fine print on their pricing page makes it clear that the service is limited to normal usage.

This means your site can get shut down if Squarespace decides you’re getting more than average amounts of traffic – whatever that means – since there isn’t a clear definition (or any at all) for “normal usage.”

Conversely, WordPress gives you the freedom to choose your own hosting so you can find one that’s scalable and works for you.

Reason #12: Online Stores Aren’t Limited to Certain Currencies

When you use an eCommerce plugin such as MarketPress, for example, you aren’t limited to the currencies you can accept for your sales. The only limitations you could have are with the payment processors you choose to use.

With Squarespace, you’re limited to USD, AUD, CAD, CHF, DKK, EUR, GBP, HKD, MXN, NOK, NZD, SEK, or SGD. It’s also published on the pricing page. This can be limiting, especially for an online store that wants to accept sales from all around the world.

Reason #13: Thousands of Free Themes

In the WordPress.org theme repository, there are over 3,000 free themes available for you to download and use, which was confirmed in 2015 by WP Theming and a script that downloads all free themes to a WordPress site.

This number doesn’t even include all the premium themes that are also available. There’s certainly no shortage of theme and design options when it comes to WordPress.

Squarespace has a grand total of 59 themes to choose from. If you need an eCommerce theme, then your choices are further limited to just eight.

Reason #14: No High-Resolution Images? No problem!

Speaking of all those WordPress themes, it’s easier to find a layout that suits your needs and content. You also have the option to adjust the theme to better fit your images, videos, posts and other content.

You’re by no means bound to use a limited number of themes that call for huge, high-resolution images. Unfortunately, this is exactly the case with Squarespace.

Most of the 59 themes available require these kinds of images and if you don’t have them, your site won’t look great.

Reason #15: Top Companies Trust WordPress

There are many popular, high-profile companies that trust WordPress to power their sites including The New York Times, CNN, PlayStation, LinkedIn, Flickr, Walt Disney, NGINX, Time Inc, cPanel and hundreds more.

Many celebrities also have their sites built on WordPress including Beyoncé, Snoop Dogg, Katy Perry, Jane Fonda, Kim Kardashian, The Rolling Stones, Sylvester Stallone, and William Shatner.

You can check out the WordPress Showcase for details and more examples.

When you visit the main page for Squarespace and scroll down, logos are displayed of the companies that use Squarespace. Most of them are small businesses that aren’t nearly as high-profile as those that are built on WordPress.

Reason #16: Full Control Over SSL and HTTPS

Installing an SSL certificate places the https prefix for your domain in a browser’s address bar. They also help secure your site by encrypting the connection between your site and your visitor’s browser. The encryption prevents hackers from being able to do kinds of hacking like hijacking a visitor’s connection to bypass the login form.

When you install a WordPress site or network, you can choose a Certificate Authority and the type of SSL certificate you want to use. You can pick one that offers a warranty in case you get hacked and experience data loss as well as choose a certificate that’s trusted by more people.

You also have options for forcing the use of an SSL certificate for your site. For example, if you install a certificate for your domain, then use Softaculous to install WordPress, you can choose to automatically setup your domain with HTTPS automatically.

Squarespace automatically issues an SSL certificate for your domain and site, but you don’t get a choice on the type of certificate and the Certificate Authority that issues it. The SSL certificate also can’t be forced automatically. You need to turn on this option in the settings.

If you want your SSL certificate to come with certain features and a warranty, it’s not possible if you create your site with Squarespace. For details, you can check out Squarespace and SSL.

Reason #17: Choose Your Domain Registrar and Price

Both WordPress and Squarespace let you choose which Registrar you use to get your domain for your site, but WordPress doesn’t force you to choose a specific Registrar at any point.

If you create a site with Squarespace and sign up for annual billing for any one of their plans to get a discount, you get a free domain, but you’re forced to get that domain from Squarespace.

While the first year is free, every year thereafter is priced higher than most other Registrars and starts at $20 for a .com domain. Most other Registrars offer a .com domain for about $10-$15 and sometimes less.

Reason #18: You Can Own Your Domain

Some Domain Registrars state in their Terms of Service that the main contact listed in the WHOIS database for a domain is the owner, which means if you opt-in for domain privacy, your Registrar is listed as the main contact and, therefore, owns the domain you purchased.

You have the option to choose the Registrar where you get your domain for your WordPress site. This means you can shop around for one that offers WHOIS privacy and also lets you own your domain simultaneously.

While it’s possible to buy your domain elsewhere, the free domain you get from Squarespace, as mentioned above, automatically includes WHOIS privacy. In the Terms of Service, it’s started in section 11.1 that Squarespace domains are registered using Tucows Inc. and their Terms of Service applies for all domains registered there.

In Tucows Inc.’s Terms of Service, section 21 states that the main contact for a registered domain is the owner of it. Since Squarespace automatically applies WHOIS privacy to all domains registered there and they become the main contact, they legally own your domain.

While you’re technically able to change ownership of a registered domain, it’s not a typical or easy undertaking. Tucows Inc. must be notified by the owner in writing, which is defined in section 26 as a direct email or regular mail sent to Tucows Inc.

This means you would need to contact Squarespace and convince them to email Tucows Inc. to transfer ownership of the domain you purchased. Otherwise, it remains the legal property of Squarespace.

Reason #19: Accessibility Is an Option

As mentioned earlier, with the many themes available for WordPress sites, you can create a site that’s accessible to your visitors who are partially sighted and use screen readers to consume the content on your site.

Most WordPress sites pass the most basic requirements for accessibility since links and the main site content can be consumed by screen readers. While there are sites out there that differ and range between fully accessible and not at all, full accessibility is a goal that can be reached.

Squarespace’s site and most sites that are created on the platform can’t be considered fully accessible. Most Squarespace sites including the main site can barely pass as accessible since screen readers can typically read links only and not always all of them to boot.

Since you cannot modify or build upon the Squarespace platform, as aforementioned, you aren’t able to work on the accessibility of a Squarespace site.

Reason #20: Unlimited Pages and Contributors

With WordPress, you can set up as many pages and contributors as you want. WordPress doesn’t limit how many you can have in either case. Your only limitation is what you can manage to fit into your current hosting plan.

Squarespace offers up to 20 pages and two contributors on their Personal plan and you need to upgrade to add more.

Reason #21: More User Role Flexibility

When you use WordPress and plugins like Membership 2 Pro or User Role Editor, you can customize the default user roles to create what you need for your users.

For example, with Membership 2 Pro, you can enable the Member Capabilities add-on and its Advanced Capability Protection option to turn user roles and capabilities on its head.

You could create free or paid memberships to your site and assign user roles to memberships manually or automatically when a user signs up. You could also customize your memberships further by mixing and matching capabilities, and choose specific capabilities a membership can have assigned to it with the Advanced Capability Protection option.

WordPress itself gives you ultimate flexibility because you can create your own plugin to adjust the user roles as you see fit.

Squarespace has set types of user roles they call Contributors and you can’t customize them. You’re stuck with the user roles already available.

Reason #22: Choose How to Edit Your Site

There are so many themes to choose from for WordPress that you can edit with code and adding content to your site is pretty easy, but you have other options when it comes to editing your theme, design, layout and content such as starter themes, page builders and theme frameworks like Upfront.

With Upfront, you can easily and intuitively drag and drop page parts and content to create an unlimited number of completely different layouts and designs. You can also use Builder in tandem to drag and drop your way to creating an unlimited number of new themes. While it’s only optional, you can also add your own custom code.

 

Whether you want to code or drag and drop your way to a new theme, it’s up to you if you have a WordPress site.

Squarespace has its own platform and interface for creating sites. You can click through sections of the menu or page to add page parts and you can arrange them where you want. While you can drag and drop some elements of the page, not everything is that flexible.

While you can drag and drop some elements of the page, not everything is that flexible. There’s a labyrinth of options in the menu that can be difficult and time-consuming to find.

 

 

Reason #23: A Choice in Page Builders

While we’re on the subject, it’s worth mentioning that you have multiple choices in page builders, starter themes and theme frameworks with WordPress, unlike Squarespace, which only has one editor and no alternative.

Reason #24: The Theme Customizer is Better

If you decide to use a free WordPress theme for your site, many support the Customizer, which you can use to make quick design changes. It’s a lot easier and more intuitive to use than Squarespace’s site editor.

Reason #25: A Vast Community

WordPress has a unique community that’s also humongous. There are volunteers that help contribute to the WordPress core and also many that answer questions posted by other users in the WordPress Support Forum.

While Squarespace has a community, it’s not nearly as vast as with WordPress. There also aren’t Squarespace conferences like there is with WordPress. WordCamps happen all over the world every year and are attended by hundreds and thousands of people.

Reason #26: WordPress Can Be Used by Anyone

Anyone can create a WordPress site as long as they have access to hosting. Squarespace is limited to people aged 13 or older and more specifically, Squarespace’s target audience is people wanting to publish media and photographers.

Reason #27: Better Analytics

There are many WordPress plugins out there that can add analytics straight into your site’s back end. Often times, you can get incredibly comprehensive analytics.

For example, you could sign up for Google Analytics and use the Google Analytics + plugin to add all the stats to your WordPress dashboard.

Squarespace includes an analytics feature, but it only has basic information that isn’t nearly as detailed as Google Analytics and you aren’t able to connect the two together in the admin area.

The Bottom Line

When it comes to comparing WordPress and Squarespace, there’s no contest. Yes, they are different – WordPress.org is a self-hosted option while Squarespace is not, and both options have different target audiences. The purpose of this post is simply to point out the obvious (and maybe not-so-obvious) reasons why WordPress is a clear winner if you want greater control of your website.

Yes, you can create a great-looking site using Squarespace, but the platform is severely limited when compared to WordPress, which you can use to do practically anything you want.

I hope you’ve found this post convincing and enlightening! And don’t forget, if you need help getting set up, our support team is available to help you with any WordPress question.

BOGUS DIGITAL MARKETING: Impressions Do Not Equal Sales

One of the most over-hyped metrics in the digital marketing world is the “impression”.  The idea is simple – if an ad is shown on a webpage or search engine result, it’s an impression. However, this can give advertisers a false sense of exactly how much their ad has made an impact.

Google has just put out their own stats, showing that 56% of ads aren’t seen. Nothing new to see here! But please keep wasting your money on CPM ads!

A comScore study in 2013 found that 54% of display ads are never seen. Maybe they were displayed on the page, but they were below the fold, or the person left the page before the ad was fully loaded, or a million of other issues.

This feels like the in-joke of the internet, a wink-wink between traditional agencies and publishers – those that sell display ads to unsuspecting clients and the sites that accept ad revenue. Both of these parties know that display ad metrics aren’t just inaccurate, they’re a hollow and not but ash.

Impressions have ended up being the “look how great we are!” measure that agencies that are more focused on trying to obfuscate what’s really going on so that they look good, rather than report on real results. It’s a big number and it looks amazing to say that your ad had 1 million impressions instead of the sad trombone of 10 clicks. This kind of reporting is particularly rife within so-called “traditional” advertising agencies, who are used to reporting on offline campaigns and are still struggling to understand all this internet stuff.

Impressions are also sacrificed to the altar of vague reporting metrics such as “brand awareness”.

We had a real-life example of this recently when working with a client who used another agency for their web design and marketing before talking to us. The client claimed that an ad had resulted in “brand awareness” due to the large number of impressions the ad received. But in reality, the creative was boring and blended into the site. There wasn’t even a call to action. Just because your ad had 1,000 impressions, it doesn’t mean that:

a) 1,000 more people know about your company.
b) 1,000 more people feel good about your company.
c) 1,000 people looked at your ad at all.

If you need to measure brand awareness, try measuring it on social media or count people visiting your landing page. Did someone talk about your brand on social? Did they go to your site, maybe sign up for your newsletter? That’s brand awareness! Someone glazing over your display ad on a web page that they viewed for two seconds isn’t brand awareness.

Someone glancing over your display ad on a webpage that they viewed for two seconds isn’t brand awareness.

(Facebook is also guilty of this. The “boost” button on page posts is paying per impressions, although they call it reach. Reach is also a poorly understood metric that’s becoming a stand in for impressions on social media. Buyer beware.)

How did we get here? In the beginning of advertising, we paid per impression. Billboards cost a certain amount depending on how many cars drove by. Nielsen ratings determined how much advertisers should pay for TV shows — sweeps weeks were how television shows inflated their numbers so they could charge more. We didn’t have a better way to measure things.

Then, the internet happened. Instead of thinking “hey, we can measure all kinds of things now!”, pageviews became the default metric of success because it was comfortable and nobody in advertising had to shift too much. You could say “this site gets 10,000 pageviews a day”, put down your client’s money and then tell them that they got 10,000 ad views. Just like buying a radio ad, right?

Pageviews should never have been the default measure of advertising. It’s resulted in awful clickbait headlines (You won’t believe what happens next!) and multi-page slideshows used by these types of sites. But pageviews are a metric that could be easily measured and sold to people who understood the old school of advertising.

What they didn’t understand (or willfully ignored) was banner blindness. Spend 5 minutes on the internet, and you’ll start to zone out the ads. Some pages make it hard by shouting at you, showing popups, and pushing giant page takeovers, but loud isn’t the new good. You can’t make someone want to pay attention to your creative that was recycled from a billboard. The internet is not just a cheaper billboard. If your ad isn’t compelling, if it doesn’t speak to me, then you might as well save your money and take yourself out for a nice dinner instead.

We can target based on behavior, what you’re searching for, your age, your Facebook interests, whether or not you already visited our site – a million different ways to show exactly the ad that you’ll be interested in at the moment you see it. But instead, most advertisers submit web page visitors to the blunt force trauma of multiple ad impressions, hoping for a nice big number they can show on their PowerPoint presentation the next time they’re at a client meeting.

People on the internet aren’t lemmings, just waiting around to be shown something flashy so they can jump off a cliff after it. We all see ads every single day, and we’re smart enough to decide what’s interesting and what’s just more crap to ignore. Recycled creative and scattershot advertising isn’t just lazy, it’s disrespectful to you and to your client. Reporting on impressions reinforces the idea that if you show an ad enough times, we’ll just have to give in to the message. And we all know that isn’t true.

Contact Us for a free website and social media presence evaluation and learn how we can help your business in the age of digital and social media marketing.

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6 Reasons Why You Should Hire a Professional Web Design Agency

Why Should You Hire a Professional Web Design Agency?

In recent posts we went over the problems with small business websites and things to do before you hire a web developer. Many of the problems we outlined in these posts came from not hiring a professional web design agency to handle your project in the first place. Yes, professionals are more expensive. But if you think professionals are expensive just wait until you hire an amateur!

 

98% of business owners who attempt to build their own website fail at the task and never launch a website at all! US Small Business Administration

 

In today’s digital and increasingly mobile world your website is no longer static, but rather an interactive online presence that needs to constantly adapt. This includes optimizing for new mobile devices, updating content and keeping it fresh, and adapting search tactics to the latest Google algorithm changes. And of course you still need a killer design to stand out in the market!

Yes, you can figure most of this out by yourself. But the result may not be all that good. Roughly 97% of websites designed by amateurs fail. Doesn’t your brand deserve better than that? By hiring a professional web design agency you can focus on running your business and not learning the intricacies of web coding and SEO.

 

 

6 Reasons for Hiring a Professional Web Design Agency

By hiring a professional web design agency all the components of your new website will work together from the start. A modern website is a lot more than just a bit of code with a few words and images added. A professional web design agency has all the resources you need to succeed at a lower cost than you might expect.

1. Vision

Professional web design agencies work with innovative technology. What will your website look like in two years from now? A professional web design agency not only designs and develops websites, it also keeps an eye on future developments. With many new apps and ever-increasing web functionality to appeal to the social-mobile-local shopper a professional web design agency can show you how to plan and not get left in the digital world.

Even if you only have a vague vision of what you have in mind a professional web design agency can help you refine it and make sure it works in life; the latter comes in really handy! And if you don’t have an idea a professional web design agency can help you create your own unique look.

2. Experience

Building a mobile friendly responsive websites is no easy task. If you don’t believe me you should try it yourself! Unless you are highly skilled in software applications, the latest web standards, and speak a few machine languages (Parlez-vous PhP?) you have a learning curve ahead of you. A professional web design agency is already experienced, so you don’t have to pay them to learn.

And what if you get stuck? There are any number of problems during the design and development of a website. Some of them are fixed relatively easily, but others may need looking through 1000s of lines of code or even creating custom solutions. That is best left to a professional web design agency.

Professional web design agencies can also help you with domain purchases and registration, email configuration, website hosting, IT services, and other non-design related services. Even if you already have some of this in place a professional web design agency makes sure that everything works well together.

3. Resources

It takes a lot of different resources to create an engaging online presence in the digital age! A professional web design agency usually combines the ability and vision of different creatives and strategists to offer the desired results. Depending on the scope of your project you will need experts ranging from content creators and digital marketers to web designers and developers to SEO experts and social media strategists. A professional web design agency has all of them in-house or on-call. That ensures continuity from beginning to end while greatly reducing the risk of delays.

Have all required professionals involved in your project from the beginning. This allows you to anticipate problems and shortcomings in advance in advance instead of fixing them in the development phase. Having non-designers involved in the creative process is very helpful in developing creative solutions. And our content strategists learned a lot since they started hanging out with our SEO team!

4. Process

Building a website is a complicated project, and careful planning definitely helps. A professional web design agency usually has an established process based on their experience. This makes sure your project keeps moving forward without overlooking any details. A typical process workflow could go like this:

  1. Strategy – The research and preparation in this step is the foundation for the design and development work.
  2. Design – The visual look of the website begins to take shape and any custom design elements created.
  3. Build – This is where the creative vision turns into reality. Developers build the website functionality and add the content.
  4. Test – This is where the new site undergoes extensive beta testing, including functionality on different browsers and devices.
  5. Launch – This includes any last touches and moving the site to a live server.
  6. Report – The last step is tracking the new site’s performance and making required tweaks and content updates. Repeat this step as needed.

The process usually includes timelines for design and development of the new website from beginning to end. Here is a sample outline showing the individual responsibilities of the client and the designer. A professional web design agency can develop a custom time line for your project based on your specific requirements.

 

5. Scalability

Many first business websites are relatively small in scale. In some cases there are just a few pages and maybe a contact form. But that usually doesn’t last long. Soon business owners want to add other essential website elements such as a blog, enhance social interaction through video chat, and sell both real and virtual products. Add some enhanced interactivity such as payment options and maintenance requests or custom search functionality and you are talking about a pretty complex digital presence. And how will all that work with the first website?

A professional web design agency not only can help you with your first online presence, but with future enhancements as well. By keeping a close eye on professional developments in their field a professional web design agency can help you expect future trends and help you plan to take advantage of them as they emerge. Your first online presence is more limited, but our experience has shown that clients quickly want to take add content and functionality to their site. By planning ahead you can do this quickly and easily and avoid having to re-develop all or part of your site.

6. Cost

Yes, you read correctly! Cost savings are a big part of hiring a professional web design agency. Here is how it works: You try on your own, and you really give it your all. But after about 200 hours* you give up. Instead you ask your neighbor’s kid to help. And after a few days (or weeks) he gives up. You go on Craigslist and hire a “professional.” Most likely they will just take your money. So here you are, a few months and a few thousand dollars (*yes, your time costs money!) with really nothing to show for it.

A professional web design agency costs a few thousand dollars as well, or even more depending on your project scope. But after about 2 months a professional web design agency completed your project, which means you start earning money and not paying it out. Isn’t that what you wanted in the first place?

And a professional web design agency will design your site based on a content management system (CMS) such as WordPress. This will allow you to update and keep up your website yourself, thereby eliminating the need for a webmaster. This will cut both time and cost required for making updates. A professional web design agency can always help you with more difficult tasks, such as adding a new product gallery or shopping cart, but you can save money by making your own content updates.

 

 

The Benefits of Hiring a Professional Web Design Agency

The above are only the most important benefits of hiring a professional web design agency. Depending on your specific project there can others, such as developing a custom mobile app for your business, creating a custom shopping cart, or helping you get the most out of your blog. If you are not sure what a professional web design agency can do for you just ask one!

Of course, you have some responsibility for working with a professional web design agency.  If you are not sure what your professional web design agency expects from you go ahead and ask them. They will prefer explaining their process to you up front than having your project derail later.

Regardless of the type of website your business needs you can count on a professional web design agency to deliver on time and on budget. But the benefits don’t end there. Most professional web design agencies offer ongoing support and training, website maintenance programs, and are very helpful in third-party vendor conflict resolution as well.

And many offer related services such as content curation, search engine optimization, and social media services as well. By working with just one vendor you ensure continuity in your online presence and simplify the process for yourself. And that’s what you wanted in the first place, isn’t it?

 

 

What To Do Next

You have the facts, now you need to decide. If you really want to design and develop your own site we admire you and wish you the best of luck. We mean that! If your new site turns out awesome let us know!

But if you are like most business owners we know you already have enough to do just running your business. So search for a professional web design agency in your city, or simply reach out to us and we will be happy to help you!

We are experts at carefully crafting custom mobile-friendly websites to meet (almost) any budget. From highly customized corporate sites, to responsive e-Commerce websites to small business websites and personal blogs we work directly with the client to prepare them for the ever increasingly social, mobile and local consumer. Why not get started by requesting your free web design estimate or get a quick estimate of what your site might cost.

And if you are still not sure why or if you need to hire a professional web design agency don’t worry! Simply reach out and contact us. Our expert team will listen to you, answer your questions, and find the best way for your business to get the online presence you need. As a professional web design agency it is one of our specialties, after all!

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50 Reasons Why Having A “Free Website” Is A Bad Idea

Do a Google search for “free website” and you’ll get back pages of results, all offering you a quick and easy solution for building your website without spending a cent. Interestingly enough, Google itself is giving away free domains and websites for a year.

Sound too good to be true? Often it is – without wanting to come across as too cynical, whenever someone is offering you something for free, it’s always a good idea to ask yourself, “what’s in it for them?”

Many have fallen prey to the lure of free websites over the years and lived to regret their decisions. I don’t want you to fall into the same trap so I’ve compiled 50 reasons why you shouldn’t have a free website that you may not have considered:

  1. It looks unprofessional. Whether you’re marketing yourself or your business, having a website address like coolwidgets.myfreewebsite.com is not going to make a great first impression.
  2. “Free” doesn’t always mean free forever. It’s become common practice for businesses to lure in customers under the “freemium” model. This involves providing a service for free initially and then starting charging a few months down the road. By that point you’ll have got used to using the service and it’ll be a hassle to change so you’ll probably just pay up.
  3. If they start charging later, it’s not likely to be cheap. One of the other tricky aspects of these freemium services is that they often work out to be more expensive than just using a paid service in the first place. As they’ve already got your custom by drawing you in with a free trial, they don’t need to compete on price as much as other website providers.
  4. You lose ownership of your content. Using a free website service is like renting instead of buying a house, except you’re not even paying rent. While you can add lots of great content to your website and make it look beautiful, you never really own it – the provider does.
  5. They might even use your content. It’s unthinkable that you would be renting a house for free without providing something for the owner. The same goes for a free website and in some cases, the content you upload is considered “payment” for hosting it. Make sure you check the small print – once you’ve uploaded content to a site, it’s possible that you’ve agreed to give up your ownership rights.
  6. Your site could go down at any time. As you don’t really own your website, you have no control over it being live. Your host can decide to pull your site at any time and don’t have to give you any warning.
  7. You have no control over your site going down. Free hosts are notorious for pulling websites for a host of dubious reasons and no matter how much you protest, they don’t have to put it back up. Once it does go down, your content is probably gone for good – or they’ll charge you to bring it back.
  8. If your site goes down, you’ll also lose your domain. If you had a website like coolwidgets.myfreewebsite.com you’re probably not sobbing over the loss of your domain anyway. But with your domain, also goes any SEO benefit that you’ve built up over time. If you had a decent page rank or page authority, you’ll have to start from scratch.
  9. You can’t set up automatic redirection. When you host your own site, it is possible to retain the SEO benefit of an old domain when you move to a new one by setting up a 301 redirect. This is not possible on free sites, so if you move your site, you’ll have to include a link for your visitors to manually click to get to your new site, as well as losing all your domain metrics.
  10. Your site may be plastered with advertising. As we’ve already mentioned, it’s unlikely that anyone will give you a free website out of the goodness of their heart. No, they want to make money, and one of the ways of doing this is by sticking advertising banners in the premium space on your site. This not only looks ugly in most cases, but you may even end up advertising one of your competitors.
  11. Your site may be used in a link farm. Selling links is another easy way for website owners to make money. If you have a free website and the provider has sold links on it, you’re putting yourself at risk of Google penalties and even being de-indexed.
  12. It may be vulnerable to hackers. Security is often not of the utmost concern to free website providers so don’t be too surprised if you’re the victim of a hacker. Not only is it difficult to secure a website on free hosting, but restoring it can be a huge pain and you may well lose data.
  13. You’ll have limited disk space. Free services are almost always limited in terms of disk space (because it costs money). If you upload a lot of photos or videos, you could find you’ve reached your limit in no time at all.
  14. Bandwidth is limited. For the same reason, free websites usually have quite strict bandwidth restrictions. If you suddenly have an influx of traffic or you host a lot of videos on your site, expect your site to be pulled without warning for going over its bandwidth limit.
  15. Sites may be limited to a certain number of pages. Another common limitation in the world of free websites is number of pages. Think you can live with a 3-page site? You may end up frustrated when you want to expand.
  16. Moving your site is a hassle. Free services often make it incredibly difficult and time consuming to move your site. This is especially true when they’re trying to get you to upgrade to a paid service – they hope that you’ll find it so hard to move your site that you’ll just stick with their service, and in many cases this is exactly what people do.
  17. Site visitors may doubt your credibility. If you’re trying to run a business from a free website, forget it. Would you buy anything off a free website?
  18. Your design options are limited. Free websites usually come with a limited number of templates and you don’t have the option to create your own design.
  19. They’re difficult to customize. Sometimes you may be able to change the colors or fonts on a template or theme and upload a header graphic, but that’s about as far as it goes.
  20. You can’t add additional features. If you want to add some useful plugins to your site or set up an online store with shopping cart, you’re probably out of luck. Free websites are usually limited to the basics and you’ll have to pay up if you want to upgrade.
  21. Your ability to do SEO is limited. As you can’t really get into the backend of a free website, any on-site SEO you can do is limited to including keywords in your titles and content. Want total control? If you end up using WordPress to power your website (which we highly recommend) you should definitely checkout the WordPress SEO plugin by Yoast.
  22. Search engines give less priority to free domains. Free websites are usually considered to be less important and come up lower in the listings. Whole domains may even be penalized if there are a lot of websites on them considered to be spam (which is a high probability for a free service).
  23. No branded email address. As you don’t have your own domain, you also don’t have a branded email address. This looks rather unprofessional.
  24. Limited or nonexistent help for setup. Confused when you’re trying to set up your site? You’d better hope there’s a good support forum. Support staff are expensive so free site providers often don’t hire them.
  25. Limited or nonexistent help when you have problems. For the same reasons, don’t bother looking for a number to call when your website is down. You’ll just have to wait for it to come back up (if it ever does).
  26. You could lose your domain name. If you opt for a package that comes with a free domain name, you may think this is a good deal as it looks more professional. That’s fine until the time comes when you want to move your site and realize you don’t own your domain. You’ll usually have the option of buying it back at a premium price.
  27. You can’t make money from your website. Thinking about making a bit of extra cash by putting adverts on your website? Check the site rules and you’ll probably find this is forbidden – if there’s any money to be made off your site, it certainly won’t be coming to you.
  28. Other websites will look the same. The problem with having a free template website is that there are hundreds of other people all using the same design. Don’t expect your site to look any different from all the rest.
  29. Backups are difficult. When you have a self-hosted website it’s easy to backup your files by making sure they’re saved to your computer or by using a backup service. With free websites this is less easy and it’s often impossible to backup properly at all.
  30. Someone could steal your website. I already mentioned that security is often lacking on free services. As well as making your site vulnerable from hacking attacks, this also means it’s easy for people to steal your whole website. If you let your user account expire, it’s usually the case that someone else can register it again straight away, stealing all your traffic in the process.
  31. They make you look like a cheapskate. As well as just looking unprofessional in general, using a free site shows you aren’t willing to invest any money in your business. Who wants to work with someone who scrimps on the basic business essentials?
  32. Free sites are ugly. Those free templates aren’t only incredibly common, they’re also not usually the best example of great design. Stick a few advertising banners on top and you end up with one ugly website.
  33. They’re difficult to delete. The internet never forgets and there are many hundreds of people haunted by a free website they set up in their teens and now can’t get rid of. Don’t be one of them.
  34. They look childish. If you’re 12, this is fine. If you’re not, get a real website.
  35. You can’t use custom error pages. With WordPress and other self-hosted websites, it’s possible to set up custom error messages so you can direct lost visitors to files they may be looking for and other useful things. With free websites you’re stuck with the default error messages.
  36. Analytics are limited or nonexistent. In order to grow your website, it’s important to know how many people are visiting your site and where they are coming from. With free websites it’s common for this information to be limited or for there to be no analytics available at all.
  37. You can’t move your template to a new platform. Even if you like your common, ugly, free theme, you can’t take it with you when you move. If you want to move your website, you’ll have to create a new design.
  38. There’s no guaranteed uptime. You’re not paying for anything so the provider owes you nothing. If they’re unreliable and your website is down every 10 minutes, there’s no point in even trying to complain.
  39. Your details may be insecure. As well as your site being vulnerable to attack, your personal details may well also be at risk. There have been a number of high-profile cases where hackers have gained access to lists of users from free services including names, emails, dates of birth, addresses and even credit card numbers.
  40. You may be bothered with emails and upsells. It’s a common practice in online marketing to give away something free in order to get your email. They’ll then continue to bombard you with emails trying to sell you products and other services. Often unsubscribing means that you’ll lose your website.
  41. The owners may sell your contact details. As well as using your email for their own purposes, it’s not unheard of for companies to sell lists to other marketing companies. Make sure you read the small print and that your details aren’t being sold on.
  42. They encourage you to be lazy. Free website builders may be easy to use but learning how to do something yourself is rarely a bad thing. Self hosted websites and platforms like WordPress are great to help you learn how to build your own websites so you can make changes yourself and fix things when they go wrong.
  43. Free websites often load slowly. Your site will likely be on a server with thousands of other websites, also sharing bandwidth and resources. If it crawls along at a snail’s speed, you’ll know why.
  44. They’re not responsive. Want a responsive design that works well on mobile phones and tablets? You’ll be lucky to find one on a free website.
  45. They’re difficult to fix when something goes wrong. As you can’t get into the backend of hosted websites and support for free services is limited, you’ll probably be stuck for ideas if your website breaks. Another common trick of these “free” services is to provide premium support for when things do go wrong so your free site could become surprisingly expensive
  46. File uploading is limited. While you can upload files to a self-hosted site via FTP, with free services you’ll usually be limited to a web-based interface. These are often a pain to use and very limited so you may only be able to upload one file at a time or files that are within a certain size.
  47. There’s no way to stop people stealing your images. If you’re an artist or photographer, you should seriously think twice about using a free website. Not only may your images become property of the provider on upload, but there’s also no way to stop other people from hotlinking them as you would with a plugin or editing your .htaccess file on a self-hosted WordPress site.
  48. They may be run by unethical corporations. As I’ve pointed out several times, these free services are out to make money, not to do good deeds. You may well be supporting a somewhat undesirable business.
  49. They have a bad track record. Scores of free website services have come and gone over the years. Remember Geocities? The chances are that if you host your website on a free service, it won’t be around for very long.
  50. They’re just not cool! Having a free website won’t do anything for your image or your online street cred, so just put your hand in your pocket and hand over the few dollars a month it costs for a fully hosted site – you’ll thank me later!

So there you have it – 50 reasons why you should ignore that tempting offer of a 100% free-for-life website and back away from the computer. Free websites may be fine for your grandmother to upload her crochet patterns or for a temporary school project when you’re 9, but for anything else, forget it.

You may be wondering if free websites aren’t the answer, what is? Well, there are some paid website services which are worth considering, but most of them suffer from at least some of the problems we’ve discussed with free websites.

The ideal solution, which offers you complete control and customization is to have a self-hosted website on a platform like WordPress. Not only can you make your site look and work exactly how you want it to, but you also keep complete ownership of your content and have full control over security and backups.

Bad Web Designers

Hiring a web design / development professional is often like an episode from Kitchen Nightmares.  The cook really believes he or she is great.  But a quick peek into the kitchen almost always reveals frozen, pre-made food.  The “cook” usually was a great construction worker or successful business person–but for some reason they thought cooking was a good idea, despite their inabilities.  They price their food either far too high or far too low.

The world of so-called “web designers” is incredibly parallel.  These folks might be great print designers, IT professionals, or advertisers.  But somewhere along the way they thought a jump to web would be easy, and since there’s so much pre-made stuff out there–why not make some money?

So how do you know when to hire someone, when to do it yourself, and how much a site should cost?  Here are a few tips:

To Cut Cookies or Not to Cut Cookies

No one likes to think they need a “cookie-cutter” website.  But if your budget is less than $1,500 or so–it means you’re going to get a cookie cutter site (unless someone is a beginner, fairly desperate, or will cut corners).  What I mean by “cookie cutter” is that someone out there has created a website that is fairly generic and easy to edit.  Simply swapping out the logo and making textual changes will take the template and make it “yours”.  This can be just fine if you’re a very small business with a low budget.  If what you need is nothing more than an online business card, just so you don’t look outdated, these options can work.

However, if you fit any of these categories, you should probably save up or shell out the cash for a professional, unique design:

  • You’re a business with serious competition in your area
  • You would benefit greatly from search engine optimization
  • Your business is a “parent” business that others look to (a manufacturer, a distributor, product supplier, network of professionals, etc.).
  • Your annual advertising budget is over $20,000
  • You advertise your website in radio, tv, or other publications

Cookie Cutter Hybrids

To be fair, there’s another viable alternative to having a completely “blah” template, cookie-cutter website.  A good designer can start with a pre-made template, and customize it enough to make it very unique.  This can minimize cost and still give you a unique design.  True web professionals may suggest this option if you have a lower budget, but still want a customized look beyond changing a logo or a header.

BEWARE:  Opportunistic “wanna-be” web professionals are numerous.  These are designers, IT people, or advertisers who are just tech-savvy enough to install a content management system, buy a pre-made template to install, and make very minor changes.  They think “there’s money in that!” so they charge premium prices (either because it takes them longer than a real pro, or because they want easy money).  I cannot count how many times I’ve seen businesses pay tons of money for a website I could produce in a day or two.

Made from Scratch: The Real Deal

These websites tend to start around $5,000 as a baseline cost and go up from there depending on functionality needed.  These are websites that work like this:

  • A designer mocks up a unique concept in a design program and sends a jpeg (or similar file) to the client for approval.
  • Once the design is approved, the design / development team codes the site, line-by-line.  They don’t go out and purchase a template from WooThemes for WordPress or RocketThemes for Joomla; they write the code themselves.
  • It’s likely they’ll use a content management system (CMS) like WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, Silverstripe, Concrete5, Expression Engine, etc.  But the development company creates their own unique theme that can plug into such systems.

While the creation of a custom theme (design) is vital, and the ability to program custom modules (custom functionality) into a website is paramount–it’s also important to note there are acceptable, time-saving options that exist that real pros will use:

  • Real pro’s may very well use a CSS grid-system like 960.gs, Yahoo’s YUI grid system, or something similar–but these are not design templates, these are frameworks that make for efficient code.
  • True professionals will likely use a javascript library such as jquery.
  • Content Mangement Systems that are not “proprietary” are OK.  In fact, if someone’s CMS is “proprietary”, I’d be careful.  More on this in another post.  It’s not bad to use a CMS, but the key is whether your designer / developer really knows how to create custom themes (designs) or modules (programming).  If the answer is no, you’re dealing with a hack.
  • Modules that are provided by the Content Mangement System are OK, too, to add functionality more cheaply.  But the web pro must be able to make fairly serious customizations to such modules, and should be able to build his/her own when needed.

Is My Web Professional a Hack?

The sad truth is that many who deem themselves web professionals are not proficient enough with web code (HTML, CSS), scripting (Javascript), or web development (programming languages, SQL languages) to create unique, effective websites.

Here are some clear indicators of fakers:

  • They cannot program and either avoid programming or outsource it.
  • They charge serious money for websites that use a WooTheme, a RocketTheme, a ThemeForest theme, etc.  Their “customization” of these sites will be minimal (changing headers/footers, content, etc.).
  • They may be overly expensive for template websites, or overly cheap because they do very little to the website.

These folks are not all devious, though many are.  Some had to become all things to all people because clients demanded it.  So they’re learning or doing the best they can.  But when they become parasitic–claiming they’re in the same tier as web professionals who know what they’re doing–they always rip off their clients.  Whether they lowball for a cheap website that won’t be effective, or whether they charge top dollar but rely on cookie-cutter solutions–it’s you, the client or the business, who’s left with the website equivalent of a limp handshake.

How Can I Be Sure I Get a Real Pro

Despite whether you’re doing a cookie-cutter hybrid or a from-scratch, unique design, you should find a true web professional.  The middle-tier options such as a “cookie cutter hybrid” will cost you middle-tier prices from a web pro, so you actually save money for a better web professional.  And if you ever need customized functionality, your pro will already be equipped.  If you hired a hack, they’ll be glad to “help” by outsourcing and up-charging.

If you’re screening a web professional or web development company, here are some things to ask:

  • Are you capable of building a completely custom theme from scratch for a content management system?
  • Can you program using PHP, ASP, or another web language?  If so, what are some custom modules or programs you’ve written I can see?
  • Do you have any education in database theory?
  • Are you proficient enough with HTML and CSS to take a photoshop file and create a web page from it?
  • Can you write JavaScript?
  • Can you create a website that is search-engine friendly?  (If yes,) Do you rely on a CMS module to optimize your website for search engines, or do you understand SEO well enough to do this from your own expertise?
  • Do you outsource any portion of your work?
  • What is your primary business?  Branding / print design?  IT work?  Or is most of your time spent in web development?

If you have a low budget, I commend you for recognizing the need for a website anyway.  I hope you create the best DIY option possible.  But inevitably, as you grow and recognize how high the return on investment (ROI) is with web services, you’ll need to upgrade.  Just be ready to weed out a lot of professional print designers, IT professionals, ad agencies, and inexperienced freelance desperadoes.  True web professionals aren’t scarce, they just tend to get buried under a pile of wanna-be bakers who have pre-made cookie dough, and cookie cutters at the ready.  Just be sure to peek into the kitchen when they pretend it’s from scratch.