Should I DIY or Should I Self Host? You and Your Content Strategy

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DIY vs. Self Hosted Websites

An organization wishing to have a dynamic website has many more options today than just ten years ago. Some of them seem too good to be true. Services such as Wix, Weebly and Squarespace are now offering cloud-based "DIY site builder" platforms. For a relatively small monthly fee, any organization can go in, set up a series of website pages of their choice, and using a drag an drop browser based interface, build their own website.

Given the complexities and cost of hiring someone to build you a self-hosted, custom built website on an open source platform such as Drupal or Wordpress, these DIY site builders seem like a Godsend. You might find yourself asking, "is there a catch?"

Yes, there is. In fact, there are more than a few catches. In this blog post, which is the second in a series, we'll explore some of the risks involved in relying on DIY site builders as your website technology.

Compared to dropping several thousand dollars on a custom-built, self-hosted site (the next step up from such a DIY site, which is the type I build for my clients), the DIY site builder prices can be enticing. Why spend several thousand dollars up front for a custom built site, when you can get what appears to be the same thing for a small (generally under $30 per month) monthly fee?

The beginnings of an answer can be found in the Book Content Strategy for the Web, 2nd Edition, by Kristina Halvorson and Melissa Rach. in a foreward to the book, Sarah Cincilla, who signed her preface as a "Content Strategist" for Facebook, tells the story of making a small change to the positioning and text of a particular link on one page. The small change led to a 56% greater click through rate for that link, or for Facebook 6 million more clicks, in other words, more of what Facebook wanted from their users.

This speaks to the power of content marketing. Not only writing content, but also finding a good place for it on your site and thinking about how people can best find it, can often lead to better results. But in order to do so effectively, you need a flexible platform. Having your own platform gives you full control over content placement on your site. Having a DIY site builder, in a word, does not. You are basically tied to the templating system and the look of the DIY site builder. You will want to do somethiing that sooner or later, the service provider will say, "No we don't offer that."

This can be new information to owners of previous generation websites. Back then, just getting some information anywhere on the site, just so it was there, was good enough, because the site was just a side attraction. Things have changed since then, and you need to be more attuned to the nuances of how people see websites when they vsit them.

On top of that, many of the DIY "drag and drop, point and shoot" site builders give you too much flexibility. What do I mean by that?

Go take a look at a few sites built with DIY site builders and you'll soon see the difference. Part of that improved response described earlier on Facebook is not just about content. It's about better site design and information architecture that leads to a good user experience. When you build a custom built site, you pull in professionals that are used to dealing with those issues and are more likely to give your the site the best user experience. And that's what you're after, isn't it?

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