bare hands

It is 2024 and I Still Make Websites with my Bare Hands

houseSoh Apr 22, 2024

In the early days of the World Wide Web, creating a website was an intricate and meticulous process. Web pages were hand-coded using basic text editors, with no fancy interfaces or automated tools to simplify the task. It was a time-consuming and arduous endeavor, yet the resulting code was clean, efficient and ensured lightning-fast page load times.

As the internet grew in popularity and businesses recognized the necessity of having an online presence, a shift occurred. People sought ways to make the process of building a website faster, easier and more cost-effective. This paved the way for the emergence of web development tools like Macromedia Dreamweaver and Microsoft FrontPage, as well as the introduction of website themes and drag-and-drop builders.

Web design underwent a dramatic transformation, evolving from simple text, links and images to intricate layouts with attractive and engaging visuals. The advent of website builders and themes opened the floodgates for web designers and digital marketing agencies to offer website development services at cheaper rates, which naturally appealed to many cost-conscious business owners.

However, this newfound ease and affordability came at a steep price – one that many businesses are still paying today.

The Problem: Website Builders and Themes

In the early days of web browsing, search engines lacked the advanced machine learning and indexing capabilities they possess today. For a brief period, drag-and-drop builders and pre-designed themes served their purpose adequately. However, as search engines became more intelligent and efficient at crawling and indexing web pages, these solutions quickly revealed their limitations.

Millions of websites built on themes and plugins now face a myriad of issues that hinder their online success:

  1. Slow Page Speed: While website themes may appear visually stunning, they are often riddled with excessive code that significantly slows down the entire website. The problem lies in the numerous nested elements that require additional processing to render the page. The more elements a website has, the longer it takes for the browser to load.

    A slow-loading webpage directly impacts:

    • Organic search rankings
    • Cost of pay-per-click advertising in paid search campaigns
    • User experience
    • User time spent on the website

    These factors can have a cascading effect, hindering your website's SEO performance, increasing the costs of ineffective PPC campaigns and ultimately leading to lower conversion rates as users grow impatient and abandon slow-loading sites.

  2. Susceptibility to Malware and Hacks: Third-party themes and plugins require regular updates to address vulnerabilities and security flaws. Failure to apply these updates promptly can leave your website exposed to potential hacks and malware attacks, putting sensitive information like credit card numbers and customer data at risk.

    Alarmingly, some free and paid third-party themes are created by developers as side projects, with little to no ongoing maintenance or support. Outdated themes with unpatched vulnerabilities become prime targets for internet criminals seeking to exploit weaknesses and gain unauthorized access to your website and its data.

  3. Inability to Meet Core Web Vitals Standards: In May 2021, Google introduced a significant algorithm update known as Core Web Vitals – a set of standards used to rank websites and score user experience. Core Web Vitals comprises three key elements:

    • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): Measures loading performance
    • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): Measures visual stability
    • First Input Delay (FID): Measures interactivity

    The lower a website scores in each of these components, the lower it will rank in search engine results. Because website themes often deny access to the underlying code, resolving performance issues becomes an uphill battle. Builders simply do not provide the necessary level of control to fine-tune website performance and meet Google's evolving standards.

As search engines continue to advance, website builders and pre-designed themes struggle to keep up, ultimately hindering the online success of businesses that rely on them.

The Solution: Hand-Coded Websites

Even in our technology-driven world, some tried-and-true methods stand the test of time (and algorithm changes). Hand-coding websites is one such approach that continues to deliver superior results. It's not enough to have a visually appealing website front – what goes on behind the scenes can make or break how users interact with your business.

Here's why investing in a hand-coded website is crucial:

  1. Webpages Load Almost Instantly: What a third-party theme might achieve with 10,000 lines of code, a professional web developer can accomplish with just a few hundred hand-coded techniques. This means that your website is not bogged down by unnecessary elements that bog down page speed. Clean, efficient and organized code makes it easier for search engines like Google to understand and index your website, improving your ranking, enhancing user experience and scoring higher with Core Web Vitals – all crucial factors that work together to impact conversion rates and user engagement.
  2. Responsive Web Design (RWD): Professional developers hand-code websites to be fully responsive across all device screen sizes, including desktops, tablets and mobile devices. While page builders may offer mobile-friendly versions, they often fall short of true responsiveness. Responsiveness is a critical component that Google uses to rank websites and with mobile devices (excluding tablets) accounting for more than half of global website traffic, compromising on responsiveness can significantly undermine your online success.
  3. Search Engine Friendly for SEO and SEM/PPC: Faster page speeds and a responsive design naturally contribute to improved search engine optimization (SEO), increasing the quality and quantity of organic traffic to your website. Furthermore, relevant landing pages can boost the Google Ads quality score, enhancing the performance of your pay-per-click (PPC) advertising campaigns. With direct access to the underlying code, developers can quickly resolve performance issues, efficiently remove or tweak elements and make the necessary changes to improve your Core Web Vitals score.
  4. Enhanced Security: Unlike outdated themes and plugins that are susceptible to vulnerabilities, hand-coded websites are far less vulnerable and significantly more difficult to hack. Experienced developers can implement additional security measures and virtually eliminate the chances of a cyber threat compromising your website and sensitive data.

To Sum It Up

While the low upfront cost of using third-party themes and website builders may seem attractive to businesses, the long-term consequences can be far more costly. Websites that fail to rank well in search engines, suffer from low conversion rates and miss out on valuable opportunities ultimately leave money on the table.

It's tempting to hire a developer or digital marketing agency that offers to build your website for a few hundred dollars. However, if you want to take your business to the next level in this digital age, investing in a hand-coded website is a wise decision. Your competition that ranks well on search engines and enjoys a steady stream of targeted traffic likely has a hand-coded website built by a team of professional developers.

Be cautious of digital marketing agencies that charge exorbitant fees for websites built on third-party themes that are slow, unresponsive and improperly optimized for search engines. Finding a reputable agency with experienced website developers can be challenging, but the investment is well worth it for the long-term success of your online presence.