Getting Open Heart Surgery From Your Grocery Store: Web Site Design

I love VistaPrint for making business cards, letterhead, and other custom branded printed material. I purchased my 2007 Christmas Cards from VistaPrint, business cards and many other things and have been quite happy. Their customer service is in fact quite remarkable and rare – as much hand holding as you need to get things done right.
However, recently I read that VistaPrint is now offering web design services for small businesses. In my opinion this is like getting open heart surgery from the vegetable guys of your grocery store.
When you want a legal contract or need to be represented in court – you go to a lawyer, or maybe even for legal contracts. When your pipes are leaking you call a plumber.
Web sites are such an important part of your business communication, but indeed are quite simple to build with many turnkey web site building services around. Homestead and Microsoft OfficeLive, make two great services.

I’m guessing that VistaPrint is using a private labeled service (maybe even from Homestead) to power their web site creation tool, so maybe what they provide is just has good as one of the dozens of turn-key web site design services on the market.
Or they could have decided to build the service on their own. In any case, for something as important as a web site, it’s best to use the services of a company that can provide a full suite of web building services such as e-commerce, access to the web files via FTP (file transfer protocol), blogging and other features one would find from a full scale web shot. I’ve used Hypermart for years and now use MediaTemple for my own web shoting.
I do applaud VistaPrint’s efforts in expanding beyond its core marketing products, but caution small businesses (and so many do need web sites) to be careful of jumping to the first company that offers them a low cost web site servic.
I’ve tired out VistPrint’s service and it’s simple to use. If you can edit documents in Word, you can create a simple web sites. Forms, are counted as a special (but free) feature and adding a map is only for premium users.
For small businesses who are VERY serious about their web presence, using a turn key web design service is “ok” but it’s best to consider working with a designer who can take your web presence up a notch. Give some training to a smart junior associate who can help add blogging and other rich communication tools to your web site.
Does this mean a company can’t offer other services, or evolve? Of course not. HP is offering remote file access services. Dell offers email hosting and more. But this does mean that you should be very careful where you buy important services from. Some services – if they go down could put you out of business. Email and telephone services fall into this category. Other services, like your web site, aren’t so “mission critical” but are indeed quite important.
I’d love to hear your opinion and insight on this as well.