Hidden Costs in Low-End Website Solutions & How to Avoid Them

Every website is a negotiation of time. The amount you’re willing to invest of your own vs. the amount you’re willing to buy from a web designer. The tough part is deciding who is worth the price. Is the kid down the street worth the $500 he’s trying to charge for a whole website? Does he even know what a whole website means? Do you know what a whole website means? If you pay the $500 – are the problems that arise his problem or yours? Are they his fault or yours? The spiraling list of questions is born and whenever you get an answer, it’s hard to know if it can be trusted.

For each set of people offering to help you with a website, the question spiral continues. It starts becoming a bigger problem than you think maybe it’s worth. This is when you seriously start considering two pretty attractive paths.

Path #1 : Abandon the website idea, focus instead on just maximizing your social media.

Path #2 : Build a basic DIY site using one of the ‘websites done easy & cheap’ solutions cropping up all over the place & use social media to do the rest.

Before I break down each path and it’s potential pitfalls, let’s get something out of the way first. If these are the two paths that make the most sense to you right now, I totally understand. What I’m about to say is not an indictment on you. It’s a problem with the web design marketplace. It’s not your fault the market for buying a website is so fragmented and confusing & anybody in the industry with a heart isn’t going to blame you for being wooed by these paths.

Also, let’s be clear about one other thing, websites that don’t make money, are art. If you’re buying art because you like the artist, fine. But if you need a website to help you generate revenue or do something more than just look pretty, please consider how much experience the kid down the street has with helping businesses succeed online. You can spend $500 twenty separate times and never get something worth the investment if you keep spending the money with people that can’t get you where you need to go. Same is true for your own time. Spending a year of your own time heading in a bad direction might do more harm than good. Enough of all that, let’s unpack Path #1.

Path #1, you decide you don’t need a website.

It’s too much hassle for no measurable benefit & social media is just waiting there, ready to connect all the dots. Like I said above, we understand how you might think this. But as a good friend would, they’d tell you the truth if they know something you don’t. So here goes nothing… You might be right, but chances are, if you follow this path, it won’t last & you’ll wish you went another way.

Here’s why…  Social media isn’t a magic bullet. It’s not permanent either. If your business is successful and you’ve invested all your time in building a myspace page, one day all that work will be worthless. Oh yeah, that day has already come and gone. If your business is successful and you’ve invested all your time in building a Facebook page, you guessed it, one day the work will be worthless. If you think Facebook is too big and great to fail, I’m going to break some news to you, some already think it has failed. Some only go to Facebook to check in on their parents. Sounds old already doesn’t it. Because it is. Social media trends come and go and change from one age demographic to the next. One day, your customers will be the very same people that view Facebook as old. Some day down the road, all the current social platforms will be viewed this way by your customers. To manage social media well, never let it become your #1 focus. Nothing is worth your time more than your own property online, your website.

Aside from social media’s temporary nature, think for a moment how opposite your own website could be. Whatever you build your site to be today, tomorrow & the next day, week, month or year – is yours. You can build upon the things that work, prune back the things that don’t. Whatever you do with your time on your own website is a real investment. There aren’t many rules governing what you make on your own site. If you invest $500 today, there is no rule you must re-invest another $500 tomorrow. Likewise, there is no rule you can’t. When you’re inspired to build up the website further, you can, it’s yours. You’ll notice a theme here. Your website is Yours. It’s your property. Unless it’s not, which leads me to Path #2.

Path #2, you decide you need a website, but an uber affordable diy online builder is good enough. 

Like I said above, you might be right, but chances are it’ll stop being enough and the once affordable path starts presenting unforeseen costs. Sometimes these costs are paralyzing. Let’s be specific, the popular builders right now are wix, squarespace & weebly. Does anyone remember GeoCities, AngelFire, Tripod, Homestead or Xanga? If you said yes, you probably remember at least some of the 80s. Like those, something better came along. Eventually, the next wix, squarespace and weebly will rise up. What will you do with your website then? It’s a good question to ask. What kind of hoops do you need to jump through if you choose to stop paying wix or squarespace? How many of those hoops will have a price tag attached to them? What do you get to keep when you make that decision?

Imagine for a moment you need a website. What can a website do? Is it only what these diy solutions suggest? Is a website a place for a logo, story about your company and a slideshow of your favorite pictures? When I see these commercials for Wix & the rest, they act as if in a few days ‘you too could have a beautiful website’. Is it true? Is a ‘beautiful website’ all your business needs? What’s worse, is the ‘website designers’ that are reselling Wix and Weebly and passing it off as a professional solution. That’s another future post of it’s own.

So, you might be thinking. Wasn’t the title ‘Hidden Costs in Low-End Website Solutions’?
Yes. You’re right.

In Path #1 – the Low-End Solution was an illusion, a fraud for a real solution. The hidden costs come when you realize none of your investment of time or money will pay off over time. Instead it’ll evaporate as the social platform itself falls out of favor with your audience. We’re not suggesting you abandon social media. Instead we just caution you not to make it the basket you put all your eggs. The only payoff you might be able to argue for is brand awareness marketing or as a trust signals platform (reviews and likes). Both are benefits that can be had with a small bit of effort, they don’t require 100% of your focus. Less than 10% would be sufficient.

In Path #2 – the illusion includes the diy web solution. Just like the social media platforms, those too, come and go. They also represent a ceiling of capability many companies need to grow beyond and as a result are limited by. Costs exist when you switch from one solution to the next & inevitably some loss in time and investment.

In both of the paths above the biggest error was thinking too small/short-term. Thinking for now instead of 2, 4, 6+ years from now. Thinking about who you will be in 5-10 years is tough especially when you’re just getting started, but it’s one of the most important factors for success in business. Know the direction in which you’re steering your business. Know where you’re going.

“People are working harder than ever, but because they lack clarity and vision, they aren’t getting very far. They, in essence, are pushing a rope with all of their might.”

So, how can you avoid the pain caused by the low-end websites?

In our opinion, for about 80% of business owners it makes sense to build a website that does the basics well and doesn’t require a massive budget. Considering the world we live in, we think most of the budget (whatever size it may be) ought to be invested in areas that can be tracked for effectiveness. Print, radio, tv are almost entirely ruled out – which leaves the web. Your website is the hub of everything you do. It’ll be on your business cards, it’ll be in your email signature, it’ll be in every social media profile – which is why it deserves the lion share of your marketing budget.

The U.S. Small Business Administration recommends spending 7 to 8 percent of your gross revenue for marketing and advertising if you’re doing less than $5 million a year in sales and your net profit margin—after all expenses—is in the 10 percent to 12 percent range. This largely depends on the growth stage you’re in (among other factors, industry, size, etc). Retail business in the branding phase for example are usually spending up to 20 percent of sales on marketing.

So far we’re probably on the same page. This first website design and build is something we call the ‘MVP’ or minimum viable product. It’ll serve as the foundation to your future. It’ll allow for a second, third and fourth expansion. If those expansions are years out as your business grows, fine. But at least path #3 doesn’t require you to throw away the MVP as you grow, it allows you to use it as a foundation to build bigger, better, more complex features. Partnering with a web design professional that will work with your budget even if it’s small is incredibly valuable. Make sure they’re a legitimate pro, and will work with you years and years from now as you grow.

In the book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” Author Stephen Covey makes it abundantly clear in habit two: Begin with the End in Mind, that successful people put their energy into the things they can control and build toward a destination, a vision for who they aim to be & what they intend their business to be.

You’ll never control a social platform like Facebook. You’ll never control a DIY website builder like Wix. But you can invest in your own domain name, web hosting space, carefully designed website files, etc. Those you can own. Those you can control. Because you own and control them, you can build on that foundation over time.


Kyle Hart

Creative Director, Website Strategist at PIXSYM, LLC. with over 20 years of experience. My passion is creating solutions to complex problems through web design.

Last Updated: 12 Jan 2024