Tips on Do-it-Yourself Websites using
Site Builders, Website Tonite, Wordpress, Web Site Generator, WYSIWYG* Editors.
*What You See Is What You Get

What are site builders, WYSIWYG, CMS Content Managers
and Hosted shopping carts and why avoid them?

Hosted shopping carts, CMS systems and WYSIWYG website generators like Website Tonight, Wordpress, Frontpage, DevHub, SnapPages, Google Sites and so many others can present some serious problems. Among those are:

  • They can break (not look right or stop working)
  • Any elaborate page can be slow loading, especially with images or videos.
  • The code may not be not accessible to fix or adjust, or more often after being fixed, the CMS or site generator destroys the fixes.
  • Image management and placement is by complex long codes, and for each change or ajustment the codes become voluminous, impossible to find manually, so that moving the site becomes impossible (hosts count on that to lock you in).
  • Internal and page links are cryptic, requiring replacement relative pretty-name links complexity.
  • Formats are less flexible than fine placement by an HTML and php programmer, such as dealing with image and text adjustments for multi-browser compatibility fixes.
  • They often get mis-alignments in some browsers, or shift when text is entered (form parts).
  • They are difficult or impossible to fix when they break after several changes (ie: They often quit just when the business made many changes and is starting to get bsiness.)
  • Some lose content, and don't accept all content updates sometimes (especially hosted CMS systems and Shopping carts).
  • Updates to new reelases or versions may lose content OR custom PHP changes, especially in "mods", which all has to be re-created each couple of years, at great expense.
  • Server updates may not be compatible with hooks, routines and security features of the CMS or WYSIWYG code
    means it may stop working or working right
  • Most CMS customization REQUIRES an expensive PHP programmer, about twice the price of HTML programming AND customizations are harder to fix, sometimes many hours for one bug.
  • IF you get a programmer to customize or "fix" either a CMS or WYSIWYG or hosted system, the fixes are usually obliterated-lost when the generator is restarted- Customization has to all be by a single programmer who may not allow the generator, install or reconfigurator to run.
  • Hosted shopping carts are often plagued with lost content, freeze-ups, outages, are prime targets of hackers and difficulty to adequately customize-- along with many of the other problems noted.
  • Some have problems with keeping content clean and propagated and use cryptic links.
  • For hosted ones, you usually don't own the software, can't move them and end up paying high fees.
  • Images become huge coded number messes which are assigned for each adjustment and version with no way to know what to choose in a move.
  • Even generators like Dreamweaver can have issues under common conditions of a developing real business website needing frequent improvements, changes and updates.
  • For hosted sites, the ownership issues are huge, and moving is often impossible; You have to start over, IF you aren't challenged as not owning it.
  • Some hosted sites demand or represent that the domain must be registered in their name.
  • Some hosted CMS shopping cart services often do not provide the level of service or response when they have problems, , and sometimes fail during busiest times like Christmas (using shared servers subject to hacking and volume issues).
  • On the hosted CMS shopping carts, email is usually inflexible and part of the system, like the forms and often fail so messages and orders get lost (this goes in phases); The inflexibility and losses of mail can be a major issue.
  • We have seen many complaints that announced features do not work right.

If you think this looks a little complicated, YOU HAVEN'T SEEN ANYTHING till these mess up. You site is often messed up for days and your repair costs skyrocket, IF they can fix it. This is all OK for a BIG company with lots of sophisticated expensive technical staff.

Configuring and adapting templates for a CMS is NOT easy, taking considerable time and expertise. For tweaking and customizing, add THOUSANDS of dollars, and then it might not work right. And much of may be lost in a failure, CMS over-right, or mistake by staff.

For these kinds of reasons and more, we believe most site generator editors are to be avoided for real business websites. They can be OK for testing a draft of a site and appeals' interest, as a place-holder to start propagation of basic site content (like headlines and main points, for a temporary drafting tool-preliminary draft or example to a web designer, or even for a preliminary very small business or personal website.

You see, all the "Cheap, Quick and Easy" is more than lost in the long run.

A business deep into a CMS system must hire an EXPENSIVE PHP programmer to find and fix problems, which can take many hours or days. Or starting over with a clean HTML site would have been better and cheaper from the beginning. Plus it would propagate better and faster, be faster loading, and NOT break when updated.

A need for an editable text area can be met by an "area editor or area CMS". Don't put your entire site at risk.

A Site Generator Might be OK for a Draft or Temporary test site:

For these we might use a better-quality proprietary website WYSIWYG editor-generator like Dreamweaver or Site Builder, or a Hosted WYSIWYG website builder such as "Website Tonight" (a hosting company DIYS (do it yourself) site builder), or for a small temporary shopping cart (knowing the risks). We would avoid "Frontpage"-a proprietary format WYSIWYG generator. (Microsoft Frontpage is not supported/not repairable by most Web Designers)

Some hosted WYSIWYG website providers are Homestead and Yahoo, but many hosting companies now have their own web site generators, such as GoDaddy's "Website Tonight". The hosting company loves this because customers get pretty well locked in to their system or community and their fees forever. A few are very cheap but require that you allow ads on a banner, usually on top, or at least remain with them. Clearly no serious business would ever allow that, and people evaluate your business accordingly as too cheap or financially weak to really be a business or in business. They WON'T buy.

Similar to WYSIWYG generators are Content Management Systems (CMS) and hosted CMS-like carts. Most of these are considered real "dogs" by professionals. They are difficult to customize, work cumbersomly and usually don't allow fine HTML code corrections or code validation. Some content managers like WordPress are overgrown blog managers, never intended for major websites, and the complex ones were never intended for small companies (require great skill) and still are not maintainable when they eventually break. Wordpress can create beautiful sites, but it was adapted from a blog site generator; Formatting can become degraded, AND if hosted the site may be difficult to move. Although touted by many, they can trap the unwary to make quick and beautiful (sometimes not) websites that can degenerate into not-maintainable and are often targets of hackers because though widely used, when one is understood and defeated, then all can be. Here are some of the problems to examine:

Problems with Site Builders and Content Managers

These generators provide up to intermediate quality and complexity and customization. Usually things like textures and fonts and layout are limited and occasionally have glitches. For Yahoo and Homestead, a serious issue is that no one but you and your PC can update or attempt to repair the site or functions. A recent customer had previous problems with their email not functioning, which was integrated into his Yahoo Site Builder site, but had difficulty getting hold of Yahoo to help fix it. None of the code was accessible for a web designer to diagnose. Clearly you are at their mercy. There can even be problems with simple things like backgrounds, fonts and alignments.

Another issue is when the site is repeatedly modified and updated, the generated code becomes degraded, sometimes causing glitches. If your PC has problems or your master copy gets corrupted, the site may fail to function or become frozen at that design stage.

A serious problem that often occurs is incompatability with different browsers and html version conflicts. This means your site or your pages may be viewable in one browser such as Internet Explorer but not visible in other popular browsers such as Firefox, Safari, Chrome, etc. or vice versa. This is the type of issue that could be cured or prevented by an expert web designer using the correct version of code with a standard website (not a program generated website).

The most serious drawback is that website generators typically overwrite any delicate manual repairs done to correct browser incompatibility. Some generators will not allow you to perform any manual edits to correct problems. A real business cannot afford these types of problems occuring with a business website.

The other approach is using PC-based WYSIWYG editors like Frontpage. Most professional web developers will not work on a website generated by Frontpage and can not upgrade a site generated with Frontpage. Though Dreamweaver is better and less Microsoft-oriented, it still generates excessive code in its own peculiar ways which is confusing even to professional web designers.

The real problem is when you repeatedly update and change a WYSIWYG generated site. Eventually even the best site generators become a bit confused and the code gets messy and is difficult to decipher. About the time you start to have a serious business and really need to make serious improvements and functionality, the generated code is too messy to efficiently modify.

You can't move the hosted site easily or at all:

Image management and identification on all of these can become a nightmare, and impossible to move without starting over.

A serious problem on site generators is handling of images, which all seems easy and automatic, until it breaks or you want to upgrade or move the site. If the image handler of the CSM or generator is sophisticated, and places and sizes your images, you are likely in big trouble at time to move, or when a major upgrade is required of the generator. Many major upgrades are not automatic. All the time you "saved" is lost trying to find and resize and install images and start over. It is short-sighted.

A very serious drawback to us is not being able to actually correct and tweak HTML code which would be trashed by the WSIWYG generator anyway if you adjusted it before or after a move. This is very serious when working with forms and database interaction or trying to interface to useful scripts and JAVA scripts such as Adwords tracking code.

A most-serious limitation which destroys the value of most of the work done in developing the Host-based generated websites is that a) you don't own it and b) you can't move it "as is"! (unlike real business websites).

Hosted Site High Bills for normal business volumes or peaks:

Then when you finally get some serious traffic, the CMS shopping cart hosting company may surprise you with huge overage fees for exceeding the transfer limit (sounds like a cell phone company when you use too many minutes). We hear complaints that in fact billing looks like a cell phone company with overages, on some:

Sometimes deficient SEO content limits and propagation:

If all that weren't bad enough, some users complain that the host generated sites don't seem to propagate normally, as if they are not being normally spidered. Hosts constantly have barriers to hackers, and the web site genterators are targets and subject to being hacked, which may interfere with their being spidered properly. Regardless, you face issues of not being able to add proper tags unless you can access the code, and you may have difficulties resizing or changing images. To aid propagation some, like Wordpress, offer special add-ons to attempt to write proper tags and even friendly URL's, but that does not always work and are not easy to use. Though they may work, these modules take you deeper into the enticing quagmire.

Main reason is limit on updates for improvement:

The reason we avoid these, except for very selective use, is that a real business website must be improved and updated in campaign and improvement cycles. Most business people are not lucky or smart enough to always get it right from the beginning, but must improve, test and adapt to changing markets, business and competition. And they want to own their site and code and be able to move it to the  best hosting company.

Take a look at some Web Site Generator Problems People have experienced:

The problems range widely, including even slowness of the site to load and inability to get changes to stick, including backgrounds. Besides the many problems we have seen, here is a small sampling of problems people have had with just two of the more popular web site generators (don't necessarily believe the guy who gets development business from the system):

" ... wasted countless hours on formatting issues like it not maintaining colors or fonts I want."

Cannot transfer

A shopping cart system 3Dcart:
QUOTE (excerpt fair use):
"We have consistently had nothing but trouble over the past year or so. Their billing policies are worse than most utility and/or cell phone companies. Do you self a favor and look elsewhere"!

This review starts out well but ... read to end--> "... formatting changes after hitting the save button. Removing text will reappear after hitting the save button…I can go on."

may not work with adsense paste!topic/adsense/d9kChYHQwRU

Does not propagate well

Allternatives and Limited Usefulness

A customized quality website template, is often a much better choice, allowing you to own your code, move the site at will and fix weird HTML issues. Better templates start with excellent code and then modify layouts to custom appearance. Even better, really good templates have been debugged, saving lots of time and money. Such templates are highly customizable also, so even from the same template, no two look much alike. Warning however, only about one in five template providers have good clean maintainable coding, and only one or two have excellent coding techniques.


We believe that a website generator or a WYSIWYG editor is best used to practice finding the look you might like and testing features, so that when you decide to go professional to have your own own website and code to be highly transportable, the web designer has a good idea of what style, colors, textures, images and layouts you prefer.

Or a generator or content manager, if used in a manner to enable real coding of your own site later, can be useful as a "quick and dirty" test or demonstration sample to build upon. It can also be useful to begin propagating a site and testing appeals and headlines.

In either case, do not become overly enamored of the images and videos you can add to a site. The pages must load in less than one second and be readable by search engine spiders with good content matching any advertising you want to do, and matching other hooks you intend to generate and promote traffic and conversions.

A good alternative is to use your own HTML-coded movable site in combination with a blog, Wordpress or content manager, or temporary hosted-shopping-cart (such as use same domain name plus "shop")---and only update carefully as seldom and as little as possible, such as on a quarterly or similar basis.

So, have at it, but be informed. Know where you are going. Talk to a professional web designer at every stage so that when you do go professional, you are compatible and few changes are required.

It might go well, but if not, don't say we didn't warn you.

Good Luck !!

Top-Rated Hosts:

Lunarpages Internet Solutions

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