I see it almost every day. Someone comes to me complaining about the free (or almost free) website they have. It won’t allow them to do something they need to do, or they don’t know how to do what they need to do, or they have outgrown the free option and don’t want to pay the extraordinarily high upgrade fees.
Sometimes they are ready to move away from the free website so that they can expand, but they don’t own the website code nor their domain name, so they are stuck where they are.
Unfortunately, ‘free’ always sounds better than paying the usual web design and development fees that professionals ask. But, you get what you pay for.
Then again, on the other hand, I’ve also seen people pay ungodly amounts to people who supposedly know what they are doing and then find themselves locked into contracts that don’t serve them but take a lot of their hard-earned money.
You don’t need to know everything there is to know about building websites to have a website, anymore than I need to know how my car works to drive it, but the more we know, the better informed decisions we can make.
Here are some things you need to know before you decide to go for the free website:
- How much work will it take on your part to get the website up and running? So many of my clients used to have free websites until they realized that they had to do all the work. Even the drag and drop website builders needed some design skills to make it look half-way decent. Those tools usually give you very little control over what you are building and unless you know exactly what you are doing, it will probably come out looking like a crappy, free website. NOT something you want for your business.
- Do you own the code? Can it be moved? What happens when you outgrow your free site? If you start getting a lot of visitors and you need a bigger server, can you move your website? Many of the website builders are using proprietary code that can’t be moved later. To move, you will have to build a new site. And if you don’t have access to the domain name, you lose it too. Make sure you own your domain name and your code so you can move later if you don’t like the service.
- Can you optimize the code for Search Engines? Many website builder tools do not allow for customization or for search engine optimization. Make sure that you can alter the title and alt tags as well page names, meta tags, etc. These all help for search engine optimization.
- Do you have support? If your site is free, who do you complain to when the site goes down? You can’t complain if you aren’t paying anything. If things aren’t working correctly, do you have someone to call? Will they help you get things working correctly?
- Will you have to have a bunch of ads on your site? Many times free sites are free so that they can put their ads on your site. This gives them advertising space, but also allows them to get back links to their sites to help them in the search engines. Will those ads help or hurt your site? Do you have control over what is being advertised on your site?
- How long will your website stay up? If you aren’t paying for your site, there are no guarantees that the website company will be around tomorrow. They could take your site down tomorrow and you won’t have any rights. You are at their mercy. No matter what changes they make, you have no grounds to complain.
- Can you get statistics? Website statistics are an important factor in your business. You need to know what is working and what isn’t. You need to know how many visitors you have, where they are coming from, which pages they are visiting, etc. The more statistics you have, the better. You may not get access to any statistics with a free website.
These are just some things to think about before you invest your time and effort into a free website option. The free websites have their place, but they aren’t right for everyone. You certainly don’t want your business to depend on a free option. Take some time to learn enough to make wise choices. You will be happy you did.