Business Gateway’s Web Building Courses
I see that the local Business Gateway is once again advertising short one-day workshops to show businesses how to build their own website. The advertisement says ‘Learn from scratch how to build and manage an attractive website for your business’.
What they don’t tell you is that Business Gateway is promoting a proprietory website design system known as Spanglefish which is run by a company based outside Argyll, and that they are bringing in and paying tutors from outside Argyll to do the training.
There are several aspects of this that I have isues with. Firstly, there is plenty of web design and training expertise within Argyll, so why is Business Gateway not using this internal talent pool and supporting local businesses? I thought that was their function.
Secondly, why Spanglefish? It is a proprietary system that supports its costs by running advertisements on your site. If you point your own domain at the site it will probably kill your site’s visibility in the search engines, and if you don’t then you have a ‘fishy’ URL and everyone knows that you are a cheapskate using a free sitebuilder.
There is a superb free open-source content management system available in the form of WordPress which is ten times as capable as Spanglefish. In fact, WordPress now powers 15% of the world’s top one million websites. Why oh why are Business Gateway not promoting this superb business tool? With WordPress you are not tied to any specific company or internet service provider, and you know the software is under a programme of continuous development with a massive worldwide support community.
So – wrong trainers, wrong software, no support for local web designers and developers. Otherwise it’s all great is it?
Not really. A business website is for many small and start-up businesses their most important and cost-effective marketing tool by a long way. I have seen some nice Spanglefish sites, but I have also seen some horrors. Amateur sites that are never finished, that are poorly designed or even an eyesore, that can’t be found in Google – these are an abomination and can actually harm a business. Sometimes no website is better than a bad one or an incomplete one. In addition, transferring a Spanglefish site to another server or ISP should you wish to is far from straightforward.
As already mentioned, there are various small web design businesses in Argyll with decades of experience between them. By suggesting that small business owners or new starts can save a few pounds by creating their own websites Business Gateway is undermining these existing small businesses and devaluing public perception of their expertise.
I am sure that Business Gateway would not run vehicle mechanics courses to encourage businesses to maintain all their own vehicles as well. Ostensibly doing your own vehicle maintainance could save more money and possibly be easier to learn than web design, but somehow the idea seems daft. It is obviously more sensible to use a local garage, so what is the difference when it comes to a company’s main marketing vehicle, their website?
Encouraging businesses with limited IT skills and limited time to waste a lot of their valuable energy learning a new skill that others have taken years or decades to acquire is not necessarily doing them any favours. Steering them towards a limited and proprietory system that locks them into a specific provider strikes me as downright irresponsible.
So – is it worth anyone’s while attending these workshops? Well, if you are thinking of starting a business and know nothing about web design then why not? There are worse ways to spend a few hours and you will pick up some useful information. Don’t commit yourself to Spanglefish though, or to anything or anyone else, until you have done a bit more research and some hard thinking. ‘Free’ websites can carry a hidden price tag.
If in the end you are determined to do it all yourself then I suggest finding a cheap host that provides WordPress pre-installed or as a ‘one-click install’ and use the most successful, best-supported, free and flexible content management system available today.