I was asked by two people yesterday this question: "What's the best way to build my website?" One had started on Wix and was running into limitations and was thinking about WordPress.com. The other was on Weebly and having some complications.
It's a very good question. I'll give you MY opinion.
I haven't used either of these sites. I did go sign up, mostly because I had to before they showed me their real prices... their Business plans. All of them have plans that you can pay for when you realize that you need more than their free plan offers. The thing they are betting on is that you will have spent so much time building your site that you would rather pay the $25/month (that's the price at the time I'm writing this article - it may have changed) than start over somewhere else.
I have to admit, this is a really good idea. One I thought of doing myself several years ago. Even went to the expense of buying several designs from professional designers so that I could have them built in for my users. I wanted a way for them to start for free - or close to it, and grow from there.
I dropped the idea when I realized that to do that, it was not going to serve my clients well, because when they outgrow the free site, like I hope they will, they wouldn't be able to take their site with them. They would have to start from scratch again. In other words, those kinds of sites are not very scalable.
So, instead of offering a free version (which was really taking a risk that you will buy something from me later to recover the costs of your free site), I decided to come up with an inexpensive solution to get you started that was more scalable in the future. I'll get to that a little later.
The thing these three options - Wix.com, Weebly.com, and WordPress.com- have in common is that they are hosted solutions, meaning that you don't get to choose your hosting, you have to stick with them, because it is SaaS (software as a service) software.
This means that the Website you use to build your site is a web application and your site becomes a part of that site. You may have your own domain name attached, but it's still pointing to their website... your website is just a subset of theirs. So, when you get ready to move, whether it's because you get upset with them or you outgrow them, you can't take your site with you. You *may* be able to take your domain name if you've registered your own through them or somewhere else, but that all depends on your agreement when you bought it.
Do you want to start your business out this way? I don't think so. But, "It's FREE!", you say.
Well, you get what you pay for and if you aren't willing to pay for your website, and you are building it to start a business, then I can almost guarantee your business will fail. Your website is a huge investment, not an expense. In today's world, your business DEPENDS on your website. It can be your best employee and draw customers to you, or your most negative aspect and turn people away.
Most people choose these free options because they think that it's either that or pay through the nose to get a website built by a professional. I want to assure you that that just isn't true.
I did drop the idea of a SaaS solution because it was not a good option in my opinion. And because I decided to go forward with WordPress.org. This is the same as WordPress.com only different. WordPress.com started as WordPress.org which is an open source blogging software. WordPress.com is basically the same as WordPress.org, except that it's a hosted solution and has a few limitations because of that.
In other words, you don't have the freedoms with WordPress.com that you have with WordPress.org. What's the catch? You have more freedom and control which brings more responsibility on you to find hosting, keep the software updated, and to make sure it's secure and stable.
You may be saying that it's too much responsibility and you don't have the time. You don't want to worry about it. I have a solution for that.
First let me explain the real difference between WordPress.org and the other solutions I've mentioned above. WordPress.org costs the same - it's Free. You can download it for free because it's open source. However, you then have to have a place to host it.
There are many different places where you can host your new WordPress.org site, but let me remind you, you get what you pay for. If you want cheap service then pay for cheap hosting at some place like GoDaddy or HostGator (don't get me started on them, that's another article for another time. I'll just say my clients and I have a lot of headaches because of these hosting companies - this is why I do my own hosting.)
I offer hosting (You can see the current pricing and everything that's included with this service here). You have all the responsibility of taking care of your site, but your hosting, backups, email, etc. are all taken care of by me or one of my developers.
If you want me to take care of the hosting, updates, security, and stability of your WordPress site, I can do that for about the same cost you pay for those other site's business plan, which you'll eventually need anyway. But, they stop there, because that's where their limits lie. They just can't scale much further.
You may say that those other sites make it really easy to build your website with drag and drop features, you don't have to know any code, etc. That's true.
Of course, WordPress.org, makes it relatively easy to start your website too and you'll have many more options. Sometimes all those options can be overwhelming and you don't know what to chose.
So, I've also added another plan. One of my developers will set up your site, give you advice on which options to choose, help you get images to match your business model, help you learn WordPress, and hold your hand through the whole process, usually for under $1000.
That sounds like a lot, and it is, but usually once my clients start building their own site, they soon find that it's not quite as easy as they thought it would be - regardless of which platform (Wix, Weebly, or WordPress) they use. Building websites today is just not easy. There's just too much you need to know and it's well worth paying someone $1k to get it done for you.
In my mind, that's even better than the other free options. To have a serious business, there's going to be a cost. For less than $1k, you can forget about the tech and just build your business. When you are ready, your website will be ready to grow with you.
Yes, there are some limits to your WordPress.org site as well. I wrote about those limits here. But, as you can see from that article, I can help you with that growth as well.
I want to make the whole web tech obstacle really not an obstacle for you anymore. I believe that start-up businesses should start small and grow from there. I also believe your website should do the same. It should start small and grow with you.
The investment you make in your online presence should help that growth, not over-extend your budget. Nor should it be free. You must invest in that online presence to grow in today's economy. It does take money to make money - it's an investment.
So, my opinion is to start with WordPress.org so that you can scale as you grow. Yes, there will be additional opportunities for investment down the road, but you will have those anyway. Play it smart. What you chose today will affect the costs you incur later.
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Want my opinion? Don't waste your time with the hosted web solutions at Wix, Weebly, or WordPress.com.
Go with WordPress.org.
But, if you choose to go to one of those free website options, then we fix Free websites 🙂
Contact us to help you switch to WordPress.org or to help your site grow.
If you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur.
-- Red Adair