October 5, 2020
Name something expensive that's difficult to build and trashed after each use.
Did you say rockets? No, SpaceX figured out how to reuse those in 2015.
I'm talking about your company's website. Completely overhauling the website has become so routine that we've become numb to the pain of throwing it all away, over and over again.
Let's explore why this happens.
Imagine you're the cofounder of a new company. You need to set up a website, but your product partner is already behind on features so that leaves it solely up to you. What's your plan? Given the tight budget and schedule, the disciplined move would be to quickly use a template in an inexpensive website builder. You can graduate to something a little more custom once you have more resources and your brand, positioning, and voice figured out.
Sounds like a good plan, but anyone who's gone down this path knows it's never as simple as it seems.
For one, the template never lasts as long as you need it to. You realize the design isn't working, or your competitor just unexpectedly made a move. So you start trying to make changes. Swapping out the text and images comes easy, but as soon as you start adjusting the layout, frustration begins to set in. You've got a million other things to do and for some reason you can't get the page to look right on mobile.
As it turns out, the same features and guard rails that made it easy to stand up the template have now become the reason it's hard to iterate. You're stuck, and whether or not you were ready, the time has come to deal with the classic website building dilemma:
Do you stay put and compromise on your vision, or invest in another solution that might be better?
After researching more advanced solutions for a few days, it starts to become apparent that you're out of your depth. There are so many different products, and every time you begin stepping away from the template you're consistently met with a giant learning curve. Frustration sets in again so you decide to call that technical friend. You're in luck! She's got her favorite tool and she's available to help.
Unfortunately, all you're about to do is move your bottleneck. You may think once things are set up you can say your goodbyes, but the reality is you're never free. As your team and ideas grow you'll need more and more help, and she'll be the only one who can make the big changes. Your projects will start moving slower and slower. But on the bright side, at least you'll be able to get it done... eventually.
But what happens if she leaves? Nobody likes stepping into someone else's mess, so it ends up being cheaper to just rebuild using whatever tool the new technical expert is comfortable with. Is it any mystery, then, why we're stuck in this constant build, trash, move, build cycle? The solutions have changed, but the underlying trade-off hasn't. All options are either too basic and restrictive, or too technical and complex.
Founders building out early marketing for their startups are not the only ones who experience this. At some point, all marketers feel this pain.
The problem is so widespread that it's given birth to a whole category of products called landing page builders.
Marketers are so fed up with being sidelined that they're willing to duct tape their site with mostly on-brand pages, just to have some operational independence when it comes to web content. Sure, landing page builders can have extra features bolted on like A/B testing and analytics, but they aren't the real reason marketers are out shopping for a solution. Marketers are looking for a place where they can get creative and not break anything.
We know this because we built and eventually sunset a landing page builder, Landing Lion. Many of our customers wished they could build full websites in it, and some actually did. Despite its many shortcomings around bulk management, a surprising number of customers were willing to put in extra manual work to build and maintain full websites. The reason? Our user experience was actually designed for them—intelligent and tech-savvy generalists who wanted to break free from the template without having to go get a degree. They could finally build exactly what they envisioned and they could do it by themselves, quickly.
The real problem was that for the rest of our customers, their websites were locked down. They'd been delicately constructed by the real owners, the technical experts. But who is ultimately responsible for the entire brand experience, website included? The marketers.
That's why we're building Makeswift.
Marketers need a website builder designed just for them. Our mission is to tackle the issues holding back marketing teams from building, shipping, and iterating on all web content, on their own schedule.
To do this, we need to fix the user experience. More specifically, we need to move away from the split "template & content" user experience found in nearly all advanced website solutions. This approach exposes two distinct experiences to the end user: One for a technical specialist to build a template, and another basic experience, usually a form, to plug in content. This creates a problem where the people responsible for the content can't change the template—sound familiar?
To move as fast as possible, the people in charge of what to build need to also control how it's built.
That's why we're focused on designing a single, elegant user experience that can be easily taught to an entire team of tech-savvy generalists. The challenge is to provide enough power for advanced use cases without making the product difficult to learn. Learning to build completely custom websites should be no more complicated than learning to design a slide show presentation.
So why build another website builder? With what feels like a new website builder popping up everyday, it's apparent that we're all still searching for something better. If you're interested in shaping the way we build, ship, and iterate on web content, sign up for Makeswift today and let us know what you think.