I saw an advert on the television the other day, informing me that I could get a great website for just £150 in around 5 minutes. Naturally, working within the web, this seemed such an incredible offer that I just couldn’t ignore it.
The advert was for 1&1 My Website, a new branch of 1&1 Web Hosting which aims to target small businesses and offer them a cheap, easy way to get up and running on the web. However, by offering this at such a ridiculously low price, I think they’re just targeting people who either seriously undervalue or don’t care about their business. Businesses are happy to spend a lot of money on certain things, but something that gets constantly overlooked is the necessity of a strong website for many people. With the declining popularity of the Yellow Pages, it’s important that small businesses invest in their websites so that they can be found and start to flourish. These things take time, and money to get right.
Now 1&1 websites says you can be up and running for just £9.99 per month, and in return you get a fully hosted, “professionally designed, individual website”. Now, as a designer, that sentence sounds wonderfully contradictive. A professionally designed, truly individual website should not cost £9.99 per month.
It’s time for an analogy. Let’s say you’re buying a new car, and you walk into the dealership and they only have two cars left. One’s a shiny new Mercedes sports car, and the other is a banged-up old Lada. You would obviously want the new Mercedes because heads will turn when you’re driving it. Now I know that not everybody could afford the Mercedes, but when you consider just how embarrassing and detrimental it would be to have the old Lada, the Mercedes starts to make a real sense. It’s not just 1&1 that are doing something like this; Yell.com also have their Yellsites product which is extremely similar. And whilst the Yellsites templates do look a little bit better than the 1&1 MyWebsites, it’s a bit like saying I’d rather eat sand than eat mud; both don’t whet my appetite whatsoever.
I know that it’s currently not the best of times economically, however I would argue that means that it’s more essential than ever to invest in a proper, tailor-made website by experts in the field. It takes a lot of effort to make a website successful, and I think 1&1 and Yellsites are offering customers a solution that doesn’t address their problem at all. Sure, the small business gets a website, but if it’s an ugly, awkward design that’s similar to thousands of other business websites who’ve gone through 1&1, and with very little in the way of SEO, is there any point in that business signing up with them at all?
There is a time and a place for a person to be able to create a 5-minute website, but that person was a goth kid, that place was MySpace and that time was 2005. With all the fantastic things happening to the web in the present day, I find this idea of templated, soulless, brand-less web design is a huge step in the wrong direction.