These days you needn’t know a single line of code, or even have graphic design skills, to build your own travel website. Just sign up for any number do-it-yourself website builders (like Wix, Weebly, or Squarespace) and you can drag and drop your way to a nice-looking site in no time.
These DIY website builders are often super inexpensive: $20 or less per month (or even free). Depending on which one you choose, that price may include your domain name, web hosting, website security, basic SEO, templates designed for travel brands, and maybe even an AI that does all the work for you.
On the surface it all seems like a really good deal, right? So why don’t I recommend DIY website builders for my clients?
With DIY website builders, you don’t own your website
The #1 reason I steer people away from the likes of Wix, Weebly, and Squarespace is because the software on which they are built is proprietary. That means your web host owns everything, up to and including your content depending on the fine print in their user agreement.
This makes you completely dependent on your web host. You can’t pack up your site and take it with you if you want to switch from, say, Wix to GoDaddy, or from Weebly to Squarespace. And the worst part is that if anything ever happens to them (maybe they go out of business) they can take your website down with them.
You are at their mercy.
DIY website builders have limited features and integrations
Not only are you stuck with your web host, you may be limiting your choice of third-party providers, as well. Your booking engine, email newsletter provider, and any number of other applications must work seamlessly with your website. But when your web host owns your site they have complete control over which applications you can use.
Furthermore, you are limited to whichever features they make available. While this list may seem extensive at first, as your website grows you’ll likely find there are features you want to add that are either unavailable or incur extra fees.
They really aren’t that good at SEO
Another thing you should know is that while most of the DIY website builders boast of their SEO capabilities, they often are not SEO friendly. This is because they are bloated with code you can’t see, can’t change, and don’t need. Excess code slows down your site which can be detrimental to SEO.
What I recommend instead
For my clients, I recommend WordPress. This free, open-source content management system gives you the power to control everything on your website. It’s so popular that a full third of the Internet is currently powered by WordPress.
NOTE: This article references the free software available from WordPress.org. It’s easily confused with WordPress.com which is a hosted blogging platform. Here’s a breakdown of the difference. I do not recommend WordPress.com for the same reasons I don’t recommend DIY websites.
How to get started with WordPress
To use WordPress, you’ll need to sign up with a reputable web host and purchase your domain name. You’ll then need to install WordPress. Don’t worry most web hosts make it super easy and may even install it for you.
Once it’s installed you select a theme that will provide the overall look, feel, and function of your site. In some ways, this is the hardest part because there are tens of thousands of themes available. Some are fully customizable. Many are free. Choose carefully because although you can always switch to another theme later, it will require you to rework your content quite a bit.
Once you’ve selected and installed your theme you can begin uploading content and building your site.
Why I like WordPress
The reason I like WordPress is because you have complete control. You decide what your site looks like, how it functions, and who your web host is (the last two times I changed hosts, the new provider moved my site for me at no cost).
Because WordPress is open source it can integrate with anything. Most any tool you want to use—for email marketing, appointment scheduling, ecommerce, or anything else—will have a ready-made WordPress integration called a plugin.
In fact, plugins are a vital part of making WordPress work the way you want. There are plugins that will help with SEO, backups, security, design, extra features...you name it there’s a plugin for it.
The drawbacks of WordPress
Despite WordPress’s best efforts, it still has a higher learning curve than a do-it-yourself website. And while you don’t have to learn any code, the more you’re willing to learn the more you’ll be able to do.
With WordPress you will be responsible for keeping your website software up to date and secure. This is particularly important if you accept any type of financial transactions through your site. You’ll also be responsible for backing up your site so it can be restored if anything ever goes wrong.
Because WordPress plugins are all made by different developers, they may conflict with one another. And using too many of them will cause the same problem with bloated code that you get with a DIY website builder.
Of course, you can always hire a web developer or pay for services that will help you with all of this.
Ultimately it’s up to you. If simplicity is what you are after and you’re willing to sacrifice features and flexibility to get it, then a DIY website builder may be right for you. But if having complete control over and full ownership of your intellectual property is important to you, go with WordPress.