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Need creative 
storytelling?

No-code doesn’t mean no-work.

Drag-and-drop web design can make building a website easier, but that doesn’t mean anyone will see it.


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Publishing a website takes optimism.


Back in 2019, there were over 180 million active websites. I learned this recently via an informative article about the number of websites in the world. If I had this data when I crafted my business website in 2019, my starting optimism would still have led me to believe that the world would discover me online.


Five years ago, building drag and drop websites (no-code) was relatively easy, fast, and inexpensive even before the recent influx of artificial intelligence (AI) tools that have lowered bar for everyone to generate digital content.


Seduced by the ease of putting my work online, I published my website and waited for the world to see me. I remained ignorant to the intricacies of SEO and naive about how my custom web design made my site invisible.


What I didn’t understand about no-code web design then and what I have learned since is that no-code design becomes better if you know some code. Understanding the code behind the web elements and how my website performs in the ecosystem of the internet is just as important as my website’s looks and content.

 

Creating a website(s) is relatively easy. Creating a well-designed website that someone will find (much less click through) takes work even with an AI assistant.


Speaking of AI, now that Google is putting AI-driven responses to web queries at the top of search results to keep up with search competitors like Perplexity and ChatGPT 4o, my website optimism is transforming more into an exercise in futility.


Even in the face of this new threat of obscurity, I remain a creator, so here are five things I learned after building my first no-code website.



yellow text on blue background stating lesson 1

1 — Chose your website builder wisely.


When I decided to create my own business website back in 2019, I did what most people did then and googled to compare my options.


I am a digital storyteller but not a web developer. I sought a web builder that had an all-one-package with a low learning curve that was budget friendly.


My goals were to highlight my digital illustrations and to offer illustration services for those in need of digital design help with an emphasis on scientific storytelling.


At the time, three web builder choices came out on top for my needs: Squarespace, WordPress, and Wix. I ended up choosing Wix because I didn’t have a blog at the time, wasn’t selling products, and didn’t want to deal with plugins.


🧠 What I have learned since:


  • Wix has been pretty good but has limitations like an inability to switch templates once a site is live, a clunky blog app, and no access to the HTML code.


  • I like that Wix has a good security protocol and is great for visual content, but as I have evolved, I want more out-of-the-box features, add-ons, and custom code.


  • I signed up for a multi-year subscription for a cheaper rate, but things are changing too fast in the computer world to commit to more than one year.


  • I was happy I didn’t get my domain or email through Wix. The website builders can overcharge for these necessities, but Google just sold my domain management to Squarespace (sigh).


Yellow text on blue background stating lesson 2

2 — Everyone uses their phone.


Five years ago, everyone used their cell phones, and today everyone uses their cell phones. Knowing this fact didn’t help me when I designed my first no-code website.


My Wix Editor design portal did have the option to switch design views between desktop and cell phone, but I focused all my energy on creating a website for a beautiful desktop computer experience.


The illustrative designer in me was focused on parallax, carousels, background videos, and cool grid formats. All these cool interactive elements didn’t translate well on a cell phone screen.


🧠 What I have learned since:


  • Whatever the no-code web builder platform, I now prioritize my website’s rendering and loading experience in the cell phone format.


  • Too many cool JavaScript features slow down website loading on a phone.


  • Breakpoints and responsive design are important. I also ask multiple people to critique my website by using their phone.


  • I haven’t done a deep dive yet, but I am going to set up a mobile app for my website soon.


Yellow text on a blue background stating lesson 3

3 — It is important to learn about website analytics.


Before I built and published my no-code website, I was guilty of tuning out when someone used Google as a noun instead of an action verb. I never understood the hype around changes in the Google algorithm.


Now, I interact with many things Google, Google Search Console, Google Analytics, Google Trends, etc. Without Google analytics data, I would never know how little traffic my no-code website receives.


This sad fact aside, I published my website to be connected to the internet to attract both robots and people. Website analytical tool knowledge is critical for me to make sure I am accurately measuring the success and failure of my website’s internet connectivity.


🧠 What I have learned since:

    

  • For a small business, website analysis tools can be pricey (i.e. Semrush, Ahrefs, etc.). I regularly use Google tools to check website speed, page indexing, and accessibility.


  • Everything I don’t understand about my website analytics, I research using AI chatbots, YouTube, Medium, and Reddit.



Yellow text on blue background stating lesson 4

4 — Search engine optimization (SEO) is always changing.


I did not understand SEO in 2019. I created my first website without any SEO optimization, and somehow, I got traffic in the beginning. I was not on the first page, but the website I published did get some hits at first.


Of all the advantages that no-code web builders can help you with in easily designing and publishing a website, the SEO part is something that remains an ever-elusive target.


I am not sure what will happen now that Google is converting to AI summaries as their top results, but I sense I will need to continue to tweak my creative content with different SEO techniques to keep my site findable.


🧠 What I have learned since:  


  • Wix has improved with SEO optimization, but they don’t allow changes to their websites’ HTML code.


  • I like to use the Screaming Frog SEO Spider to scan my website for broken links and other issues.


  • Writing on Medium or other social platforms gets better visibility on Google than any Wix websites’ blog traffic.


  • Maybe, SEO will die along with my website, but I am a real person, making real content, looking for real people who need my solutions.



Yellow text on blue background stating lesson 5

5 — Operating and maintaining a website is not simple.


Of the over 190 million websites that are active today, only a fraction of websites is updated regularly. I can understand why. Keeping an engaging functional website is not for the faint of heart.


After publishing my first no-code website, I was so proud of myself. I felt sure the act of creating the website was the “field of dreams” that would make people come to me for storytelling visual services, not so.


🧠 What I have learned since:


  • My website is a great place to house my portfolio and to indicate that I am a legitimate business for those who may be interested in hiring me.


  • Creating my first no-code website helped me understand how much code I should know if I want to build websites for other people.


  • Websites are made up of computer code no matter how much the no-code website builders hide the fact in their drag and drop interfaces.


  • I may be too small to care about SEO to compete with bigger businesses, but I want to make my website a good one anyway.


  • Never be platform loyal. Platforms aren’t loyal back.


Final thoughts


I share these five learnings to help other small businesses and freelancers understand the nuanced trade-offs of building one’s own no-code website from my five-year perspective.


My website is not an e-commerce site or an affiliate marketing site so some of my learnings won’t specifically speak to everyone.


Ultimately, I wanted to share that building anything good takes work even when a platform says they can make something easy.


If you read to this point, maybe you will check out my no-code website by clicking this link.


Your feedback can help me refine my digital strategies and ensure that my no-code website can continue to improve and inform.


Thank you!


 

Julia Fletcher is founder of JEFS Storytelling Arts, a graphic design studio, where she uses her unique research skills and artistic talents to create custom visual stories that help clients’ increase engagement and promote the education of their audience.

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