We've all seen it: sites that offer a complete Web site, ecommerce store with zero coding! Sounds pretty great, right? Cut out the middle man, build and maintain your own site - who wouldn't want to do just that. Ignoring the technical facts that there is still quite a bit of coding happening behind the scenes and ultimately the same kind of code is generated, you often give away your intellectual property rights and waste your valuable time maintaining the site instead of doing things that will help your business grow.
So, what does that really mean for you? There's been an explosion of new site creation tools that "anyone can use", such as Wix.com, SquareSpace, and InstantEstore. These seem like great options until you read the fine print. Let's look at a couple things about these platforms you might not know.
Once You're In, There's No Going Back
As it is with Apple, once you buy into these platforms, it's often difficult, if not impossible to get all your information back out. While Wix.com does offer an export feature as does SquareSpace, they both give you your Web site information in a format that results in the loss of many of the features because they rely on proprietary components. Being able to get the content is great, but there's more to it than that. What about all your images? What about anything you customized yourself over the time you used the platform?
For Sale: Your Company's IP
By IP, I mean intellectual property. Buried in the fine print for the terms of service for many of these services is, in the worst cases, the transfer of ownership of any uploaded content and, in the best cases, loopholes which allow the platform to take and use any graphics, content, or other information and use it as they see fit. That could be for marketing a business success or as copy for their own site. In the digital age, your intellectual property is your company's greatest asset. Before you sign up for any proprietary Web platform, check their service agreement for any loopholes.
These platforms can be a great alternative to a site provided by a Web development firm for those just starting out, but they come with caveats. As with everything, educate yourself on the options - don't just get an instant solution, find the right solution.