Easy websites. That’s the promise of Squarespace, Wix, Weebly and the like. Easy and cheap! Do-it-yourself! But…Buyer Beware!

“No, I will not build you a website on ____________!”  Fill in the blank here with any number of proprietary platforms like Wix, Weebly, and Squarespace.

I always add, “Would you build your house on rented land?” Would you build your house on property owned by a corporation that claims, in fine print, that they can change the terms or confiscate your property at whim?

An emphatic NO!

Easy Websites Aren’t as Easy as You Think

Yes, these businesses may offer easy-to-build, pleasing templated designs. You pay for them monthly for the life of the website. That might be similar or only slightly more in cost than managed WordPress hosting. OK, then, what’s wrong with that?

You are placing all your assets on a platform totally owned and controlled by someone else.

My friend and colleague Patricia Meyers dug into this in detail on her blog. I’m sharing her four biggest reasons not to “rent your website”, even if it is an “easy website.”

  1. Sorry, your access is denied!

If at any given moment they decided you have violated one or several of the terms of their agreement, without notice to you, they can and will shut your website down. Remember accepting the terms of the agreement? Did you read it? More than likely not, because who does that? Once you discover your website is missing, you will then spend the next several hours or days pleading with them to get your files back. Some by telephone, others on “live chat.” Those on live chat are usually working with several people at one time.

  1. Who really owns your content?

In the various agreements, they all state that you retain the ownership of your content, BUT they have permission to use it. It’s not just that you’ve given them permission to use your content, you’ve also given them permission to change and/or modify your website. Remember it’s legally theirs, you are just a renter.

  1. Terrible SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

On all of the rental platforms, their SEO is terrible. Many consider this to be one of the worst issues with using them. By not having access to the code, you can’t structure your data properly. Proper structure is how you rank higher in Google or other search engines.

  1. Are their platforms ADA compliant?

For me, this is the worst issue of them all. In November 2018, I wrote on this topic and I’ll be doing an update shortly. Quickly, last year there were 2,258 lawsuits filed by 50 plaintiffs. In order, the three highest states were New York, Florida, and California. As I discussed in the prior article, fifteen wineries in New York had just been sued by one plaintiff.

Wix’s ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) Compliance statement:

Important – Wix.com cannot guarantee or ensure that the use of our services is compliant with all accessibility laws and worldwide regulations.

You are responsible for reviewing and complying with local legislation applicable to you or to your site visitors.

Weebly’s ADA Compliance:

From the community forum, as of July 2018, they are still working on a solution. Currently, it’s up to the person developing the website to make sure they build a website that is compliant. This is from one of their users:

“I use Weebly drag and drop builder specifically because I don’t have the time to figure out where, or how, to change HTML & CSS codes.”

Squarespace’s ADA Compliance:

Note: This guide is available as a resource to help you get started but shouldn’t be construed or relied upon as legal advice. Squarespace can’t provide advice about making your site compliant with specific web accessibility laws or acts.

With respect to the various hosting companies that offer website builders, the information on their websites was much the same.

Sadly, not one of them has anything in place to fully protect their renters. Further, if litigation is brought against one of their renters, the renter has no recourse against them.

Your Website Is an Investment Just Like Your Home

How excited were you the day you bought your first home? Finally, you could stop making someone else rich and begin to build your own wealth. Renting your website from Wix, Weebly, Squarespace or using a template from your hosting company is doing the exact same thing. Making someone else rich.

Yes, you’ll still have fees with owning your own website, but just like owning a home, you now own the design.  Further, nobody will use your images and content as theirs. At least not legally.

If you decide you don’t like your hosting company, all you have to do is download your files and move to another one. Usually, in about 45 minutes you’ll be up and running with the new hosting company and you continue to grow your business.

What happens when you get sick and tired of the company you are renting your website from, or they decided they are sick and tired of you. You have nothing. Well, hopefully, you still have all of the images and text that you wrote on your own computer. How long is it going to take you to recreate all of that into a website? Longer than 45 minutes.

With respect to the fees I pay my hosting company, I look at it as a utility fee. I need lights, internet, and electricity to work. I also need a company with a powerful server to host my website.

Regarding the ADA compliance issues, if your website is developed in WordPress, there are currently three plugins you can use to become compliant. Two are free Accessibility by UserWay and WP Accessibility. Then from the International Association of Accessibility Professionals, you can purchase one for $347 per year. I still feel comfortable with the free one from UserWay.