It’s practical to have full access to everything about your website.
You can easily be dazzled by the cutting edge templates and easy-to-configure tools of cloud-based website builders such as WIX or SquareSpace. But do you care about owning your website’s source code and database? When you cancel a website subscription then you might lose your website and can’t take it with you.
In some cases a ready-to-go website builder service may provide options to export your data to WordPress or a similar feature, though often this will be a hidden detail or difficult to find information on. Which makes sense to the software firm as they want to keep you subscribed and not go elsewhere.
An alternative approach is to install your website on a hosting-only service (such as Fasthosts or Bluehost). Both will provide one-click WordPress (or Drupal) installations via the control panel. There will also be a facility to download a copy of your MySQL database. You can also grab your website’s source code anytime via secure FTP.
Having easy access to your website’s files and database means you can easily move to a new server
While you might miss the convenience of wow-factor editing tools with website builder platforms such as WIX, there are many perfectly fine Drupal or WordPress themes available for free, ready to customise with little effort.
You then own your website, can make site back-ups, or change your hosting provider.
The hosting-only method means you can migrate your website to a new server very easily. You might even want to use the existing design template as a framework for more advanced customisations when your business grows.
If you are working with a freelance developer, ensure the contract terms state that you are the copyright owner of the website too. Many times I will offer to host and maintain a website on the client’s behalf but will always hand over a copy of the website’s files if our relationship ends – or even help them migrate to a new server.
Don’t be locked-out of your website
Locked-in subscription models for creating generic, showroom style websites are becoming more common online. You will almost certainly not own your website outright and may have difficulty keeping your site when you cancel.
There might also be an issue with design sameness, your website looks like a thousand others with identical templates, images and stock graphics. There is an interesting article by developer Justin Blaisdell on the limitations of cheap website builders such as SquareSpace.
So if you have some extra budget then it is certainly worth considering working with a developer to build a more customised experience – which could also improve business.
Photo by Storyset