Problems with many "E commerce" online builder sites

Build a website and have it live on the web in as little as 5 minutes!

How many times have you seen this on the web ? Lots I bet, they are everywhere, all promising to have you up and running your own web business, with no knowledge what so ever, oh and by the way, they are cheap too !

I am not a personal fan of most of the so called, "online builder" e commerce sites out there, not for the reasons you might expect, which is I am a site designer and they cut into my business. Quite the opposite is true as a matter of fact. I get a great deal of business as a result of these, pre programed, often pre populated stores. The reason being, most of them fail to live up to the promises made for them, and their holders come to me, all but begging me to tell them why are they failing.

The reasons they fail are many:

Things to consider before you invest in a typical "online builder" site:

Ease of use:

One the biggest claims made for these things, is they are easy use, no programing knowledge needed, etc. etc. Which on one hand, is quite true, most of the interface is a fill in the box and save, and wa la, the sites changed for new products or pricing etc.

However ... What they don't tell you is the price you pay for this ease, is an almost complete lack of being able to change anything else. The site gets old, and stale looking, quickly, as changing things like, where things are, is almost impossible, as you are locked into their template. Colors ? Same thing, it's a major fight to do it. Even changing such a simple thing as the header, is almost a programers job to accomplish. Adding new pages can be a chore. How do I know this ? I know due to sheer number of people who have come to me asking ... how do I ? or Can you show me how to ? Who own such sites.

Customer care:

Customer care, and site support is often almost non existent with a lot of these set ups. Most often you are directed to a forum, a forum full of customers, all trying to figure out how to resolve problems, on their own. This sounds cass on my part, but it also happens to be, unfortunately, quite true. Run a check of any online builder seller name you want, and plug in "customer service problems", and see the results you get. It's a real eye opener. And I also know due to live person reports, because people who have paid good money for these sites, who, to a person, complain to the skies of the help they didn't get when they had questions, or problems.

Back door problems:

Changing the meta tags, or titles on these sites is a often a nightmare. Very often, the sites are so branded with the maker name for the site builder, that its almost impossible to get decent indexing on the engines, for your own site name. Even your domain name is often buried behind a wall of the makers redirected urls. Time and time again I have seen this, when the site holder, who has had the site up for a year and more, comes to me and asks me to review the site and tell them why they are not getting any customers ?

The answer is a simple one, they cannot properly be indexed by the engines, as every page they have, has the makers logo branded there first, for one, so the main keyword is what ? The maker name, not theirs. The same thing happens in the site description, the maker name is all over it, often in a fashion the site holder cannot remove. Which equals the likelihood of them being found for their pages, practically zero.

I have run the domain name for such sites, and found, almost without fail, every page that manages to get in the indexes, is listed under the maker name, not the site holder, if their domain name shows up at all, as often, it doesn't. It literally does not exist in many cases. So for all intents, their site, and all that's on it, is taking up space on a hard drive on their host and the only one befitting, is the host.

Locked into the host:

Yet another thing, most of these sites, cannot be moved. They are locked into whatever hosting the online builder is attached to or associated with. So in effect your stuck with the host, no matter what, as due to the formatting, you cannot just pick it all up and host it somewhere else. As a rule, if you cant move it ? You don't own it, no matter what your paying for it. One to two year contracts being mandatory, are common place and common practice with such services, and again you are given no options.

No backup:

The much vaunted "benefit" of online builders, is ... there is no software to download, no programing to learn, all you need is a mouse, it's all online. Yes it is isn't it, and unless you know how to download and save your site, at least for its text and images, if anything happens to the host, which is a hard drive, just like yours, which can crash, or pick up a virus, just like yours, and if they do, your site and all it contains, can be gone, which means your business is gone, and you have to rebuild entirely. As it just as easily could have taken out the so called "backup" they tend to offer too, as that back up is also online.

Locked into their services:

Another selling point is the host of services they offer with these sites. However, again, what they don't tell you is that you most often "have" to use their services, as none of the others will work. So if you are not happy with say, your shopping cart, you don't have any options in the matter to use another service. Ditto your guest book, hit counter, etc. etc., no matter what it is, you have to use theirs, no matter if you like them or not. The online coding often does not play well with other codes, so you can't bring things in from outside, which means, if they don't host it, you can't have it.

Even more branding:

Often the site builder plasters its name all over everything, as stated before, from the title, to the description, which is bad enough, but very often it's all over the rest of site too. I have seen these online builder sites that were worse than any free hosting I have ever seen in all the ad space they take up, and this is on a site were the holder is paying for it, often a lot of money, and yet, like their free hosted cousins, who at least have an excuse for such branding, they have ad logos and site branding for the maker, everywhere you look.

Which, when you consider how they have taken over titles and the description, just axed whatever small chance the site holder might have had, for their own keywords to be picked up.

Now, as if all this were not bad enough the last insult, is how most of them are set up.

Problems with the layout:

Forced resignation:

Almost a hall mark of such sites, is this demand to register with the site, before it will allow you to even tentatively put something in the shopping cart, not check out to buy mind you, just window shopping.

News, everybody hates this, and I do mean almost everybody hates this. I have yet to see a survey that didn't come back so overwhelmed with that answer, as it made the few, and I do mean very few, individuals who like such a thing, stand out like a sore thumb. The last such survey I saw, out of a hundred people surveyed, only 2, count em , 2 said they liked this idea, everybody else gave it a complete thumbs down on the whole idea.

Make the buyer run a gauntlet, to get to the shopping cart:

Another hall mark of these sites, the grueling effort it takes to get to the shopping cart. There is no sensible reason to force your viewer to load an entire gallery page, then load another page with only one product on it, then have to load yet another page to see details, or another page in order to buy it. Often a 3 to 4 step process, and they haven't even reached the cart yet. Sounds time wasting doesn't it ? Yet, quite astoundingly, a great many online builder sites, are set up just this way, to the point were its almost a standard for the online site builder industry.

I guess part of their research, as the programs were under development, didn't involve asking the net customer what they wanted ? As no one appreciates this, post any survey you like on this subject, and you will get the same answers, the buyer wants as little between them and their purchase as possible. And this mulit stage process, of having to load page after page before they get to were they can buy a thing, doesn't even come close to fulfilling that wish.

Most who own them, dump them inside of a year or so:

Very telling is their life span. I have revamped, or should I say, scraped the whole thing and started over for quite a few people who had such sites, who had invested a lot of time and money in them, before they finally gave up on them, and had to start from square one.

I refuse to even attempt to work on such sites, due to the fact that as a rule, there is little help for them. That's how bad they can be. I have suggested possible aids and solutions, but they are stop gaps at best, as they often can't overcome some built in problems that are not amenable by the site holder. Almost without fail, my recommendation to those who come to me for a review, and ask how to fix their online builder site ? ... is start over.

Do not make the assumption, that just because there are a million sites just like this, that this is what the buyer, your customer wants. People tolerate this from E merchants, as they are given little choice in the matter, as so many merchants use this format at the moment, as such programing has been heavily marketed, to the business community in the past few years, that the buyer will put up with it in order to net shop is one thing ... but it doesn't mean they Like it !

It also means the first site they find that has the same goods as you do, at a comparable price, who doesn't make them jump through hoops like this to buy something, news ... you just lost a customer.

Something to think about, before you commit a lot of money and time, in most of the e commerce site online builders that are out there. They might look neat, and sound easy to maintain, but keep in mind, most of them make these very fundamental mistakes.

So investigate wisely, before you invest money.

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