SEOs see a lot of different Content Management System (CMS) driven websites in the course of a day. Some are very well designed and some are not. The ones that are well designed are often delightful to work with, even the most technically complicated. The ones that are poorly designed however, even the most basic; provide an unlimited well of headaches, extraneous lines of code, and frustration.

A few minutes ago, one of our sales staff asked me into his office to look at a site that was submitted to our review queue. It was a real estate related website designed using a CMS. The site structure was awful, the template looked like dog-food, internal links led to pages four directories deep and the image based navigation system was built on buttons that looked five years out of date.

A note attached to the review request stated that the template and CMS had been purchased from a firm that is possibly the oldest domain registrar on the commercial internet. That information prompted a quick visit to their website where I came across a page bearing this message:

Build Your Web Site Yourself

Create your own Web site, even if you don’t have any technical or design skills.

  • Use our online Web site builder tools or (even easier!) templates, or products such as Macromedia Dreamweaver or Microsoft Frontpage.
  • Build the site you need, yourself – and update it yourself as your needs change
  • All packages include Web hosting
  • Many packages also include e-mailboxes and free domain name registration

Now, I dislike raining on anyone else’s parade, especially when the leader of that parade is one of the largest Internet related corporations on the planet but someone’s got to say it. No one is doing anybody any business favours by offering the opportunity to build substandard sites using substandard tools.

If one is building a vanity page, a family images page or something non-commercial, the use of free tools is a very good idea. If, however one is trying to build a commercial enterprise, and they expect to be found anywhere near the Top10 on a major search engine, the use of such templates is not such a good idea.

Those tempted towards the free side of things should remember that in business, free is a four-letter F word that often produces results that are best described with a commonly used four letter S word. The only thing that beats investing in professional designers when building a commercial site is learning to do the job properly in house.