Why you should not use a free website building service

Free website builders have been popping up like … well, like things that pop up a lot. Some are okay, some are terrible, but all should be avoided as there are pitfalls to all of them which could end up hurting your brand in the long run. Now, I’ll be honest, I’m biased. I’m a web designer and I want your business. But there are some thing you should be aware of if you decide to go that route.

1: You’ll have a site that looks like everyone else’s

Virtually every free website builder is only going to allow you to build your website based on certain specific templates. You’ll recognize them if you wander around the web a bit and sadly, I’ve even seen web designers websites use them. And that’s fine if you want a site that looks like every other site on the web. But your brand should be unique and your site should be unique. If you use a template, your competition is just one click away from having a site that looks just like yours.

2: Basic sites have very basic functions

And if all you want is a basic site, that’s fine. But as your business grows (and that is the point of your website … to grow your business, right?) you’re going to want more and better functionality which a basic website isn’t going to give you. Or, they’re going to start charging you more for the added functionality.

And, when we combine #1 and 2 together we get …

3: Form should follow function

Don’t get lured into the trap of trying to fit your website into a box that it may not fit in. Your business, and the functionality you need in a website should take precedence over the box you’re trying to fit it in. Create the box that your business will fit in; don’t try to stuff it into a box where it may not fit or where it may not be appropriate. A good designer will create a site that fits your business. A free template design tries to fit your business into their box.

 4: Overcoding

Free website builders have to be all things to all people. When that happens, they end up adding a ton of code to your site that you don’t necessarily need. This is what I call “overcoding” and it can really slow down your site. As one who looks at the code behind websites on a daily basis, it drives me a bit crazy to see all the unnecessary coding behind the simplest of sites, especially when it’s taken a while to load in. The prevailing wisdom is that you have seven seconds in which to get your customers attention on your site before their attention wanders off. And overcoding can use up a lot of those seven seconds.

5: The host may require you to add their own advertisements

I was reworking a site for one of my customers one time and they asked me what in the world an advertisement was doing on their site. It turned out that as part of the free service, they were required to put an ad for them at the bottom of their page. (I actually tried this at one time; it worked out that I actually ended up showing an ad for my competition!)

6: Hidden costs

Nothing is free. No matter how much they try to convince you that you’re getting a free website, somehow, somewhere along the line, you’re going to end up paying for it. You’ll pay for it in charges for extra functionality, more web space or bandwidth, or fees after the first free month. You’re going to pay for it with me as well, but at least I’m honest about it and I’ll tell you what your fees are going to be up front.

7: Support

How much support are you going to get from the free services? True, many of them have online tutorials, but as far as talking to a real live person who can hold your hand while you try to sort things out? Not likely.

And do you really want to? You have a business to run. If your sink backs up, are you going to stop running your business to fix your sink or call a plumber? It’s the same with your website. You probably don’t have the time to try to sort out all the ins and outs of web designing. You have widgets to sell! So, go sell your widgets and let us take help you navigate the maze of getting your business on the web.


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