In this episode, sponsored by Weebly, Get-it-Done Guy explains the costs and benefits of all-in-one solutions and more customized "piecemeal" workflows.
This week's episode is sponsored by Weebly. I wrote this episode after trying Weebly's web-building service. I have not tried other all-in-one products, something I plan to do in a future Get-it-Done Guy episode.
Today's topic is choosing between an off-the-shelf, all-in-one tool for building a website, or a workflow you build yourself, with a combination of tools you choose and put together. For the sake of this podcast, let’s call these more customized workflows “piecemeal.”
This is an unusual episode. Weebly, the all-in-one website building company, wanted to lend me their tools for this episode to do a sponsored episode. I won't support a product without actually using and believing in it. The timing couldn’t have been better as I was about to start building two separate websites, so we agreed on Weebly as my platform. This episode is the result, and it’s a win all around, because Weebly is offering a 15% discount for listeners at weebly.com/DONE.
Once upon a time, websites were small, easy things to build. Why, Charlotte's website had only one word: “Terrific!” But today, any website for business will need beautiful graphics, mobile responsiveness, fill-in forms, shopping carts, and all kinds of stuff. Charlotte would have a nervous breakdown.
The question is: if you're starting from scratch, how do you build an amazing website? Do you use a platform that has hundreds of free plugins that do just about everything but you have to put it all together yourself? Do you use a website building site, and then integrate it with web forms and pop-ups and shopping carts? Or do you go for an all-in-one solution like Weebly, that attempts to cover all the bases by curating a collection of best-in-class tools into a single suite for you to use ?
Like all good questions, the answer is, "It depends." But it's a crucially important decision. You'll decide today, and be paying the price for years. So let’s take a deeper look at pick-and-choose, piecemeal solutions vs. an all-in-one tool like Weebly.
The Tradeoff: Integrated vs. Deep Tools
All-in-one solutions let you put all your attention on what they provide, while piecemeal solutions let you customize exactly to your needs, but you're the one who has to link it all together.
Websites aren't the only all-in-one decisions in life. All-inclusive vacation resorts offer the same type of experience where you don't need to think about the pieces, and just buy the whole experience with a single purchase.
All-in-one solutions mean the parts will all work together harmoniously. You make one choice and it chooses all the pieces, too. To create a membership website, for example, you need to build a site, have contact forms, let people buy memberships with a shopping cart, process credit card payments, keep track of members, and make parts of the site members-only. That’s six components right there. If Weebly's your thing, you simply use their site builder, their contact forms, their shopping cart, their membership system, and so on. The list of components is quite comprehensive; I found everything I needed to support my new sites.
Piecemeal solutions let you choose from a variety of options for each feature you want to include on your site. You can select from several shopping carts, landing page services, email marketing tools, inventory systems, and so on. Similarly with a vacation, you can choose the restaurants, the train tickets, and the hotels. You mix and match to create the desired result.
Then you (or someone you hire) has to put all those arrangements together and figure out how you'll get from place to place, staying on budget, etc. You'll have a solid collection, but you'll spend far more time getting it all to work together. It's a classic struggle. Do you want flexibility and variety? Or do you want highly curated feature sets that require zero maintenance?
If you like to spend your time coordinating, planning, and hooking things together, piecemeal solutions are the way to go. I'm an ex-programmer. I live for building stuff on my own, especially when it's exactly, precisely what I want. At least, that’s what I thought.
All-in-One Solutions Buy You Brain Space
What I've actually found building my Weebly sites is changing my tune. With my SteverRobbins.com Wordpress site, most of my time is spent looking for cool plugins, fiddling with the back-end configuration, responding to update notices and security warnings, and so on. When some neat new animated social sharing pop-up thingee takes the world by storm, you can bet I'll find a way to add it to my site.
So if you're a control freak--er, I mean, if you like to be deeply engaged in what you do--you might need the piecemeal solution. But...wait a minute. All that time spent doing all those things is now free time because the all-in-one solution doesn’t require hours of evaluation, choosing, tradeoffs, bugs, re-choosing, and re-evaluating just to get something working. It. Just. Works. Those hours that would have been spent worrying about the platform can instead be spent writing the actual site content.
Weebly's integrated approach let me shift all my attention from being a site admin to actually doing the writing that needed to be on the site! I did not expect this. It was a very good thing, indeed. They even just launched a product photography offering. I’d been expecting to have to learn how to choose a photographer, and then spend a lot of money trying one out and hoping for the best. Nope. I just sent my products to their photography studio along with notes on how I wanted the photos to look. They sent back photos that were exactly what I wanted. All my focus was on getting great pictures, not on the logistics of finding a photographer.
What Happens When an All-in-One Solution Breaks?
All-in-one solutions have another advantage: when things go wrong, there is one, and only one, company responsible for fixing it. If that company provides good support (and yes, Weebly's support is quite good), then you have somewhere to turn when you're in need.
With piecemeal solutions, each individual part may have help in place when things go wrong. After an upgrade to my piecemeal site last month, one of my plugins suddenly stopped working. Sure, they have support forums, but there was no one who really understood the interaction between the plug-in and the site’s main platform. Guess who has to deal? That’s right, me! A day that could have moved the business forward instead gets sacrificed to keep things running.
Of course, gentle listener, you know the solution. I'll just stop upgrading for a while! Get a configuration that works and then leave everything as-is.