We have reached a point in business where the importance of having a website for a company of any size is pretty much universally understood. In today's digital landscape, it is simply "the cost of doing business." Despite this, however, many business owners balk at the idea of investing money on website design.
To a certain extent, this reluctance does make sense. Investing in a custom site seems like a sizable chunk of change upfront, especially for start-ups, where money can be spread exceptionally thin.
At this point in the decision-making process, many small business owners decide to self-design a website using a free website builder, like Wix, Weebly, or Squarespace, as a way to cut costs in the short term. Unfortunately, this decision has come back to haunt many small businesses in the long term, due to hidden costs, loss of ownership, perceived lack of professionalism, and poor functionality.
Don't let it happen to you! Take control of your site now, and enjoy the benefits down the line. Need some convincing? Here are five big reasons you should avoid free website builders altogether:
1. You don't own your site
One of the biggest issues with using a free website builder is that no matter what content you've created or special features you've added, you don't actually own your website. Instead, you're merely renting the space from a larger corporation.
Because of this, you run the risk of having your website disappear altogether if the provider decides to remove it as a result of some quirk of their terms of service, or if their parent company gets sold or acquired by another entity. It is also a sadly common occurrence for these sites to decide, down the road, that they want to start charging for their previously free service; at this point, they often start charging premium rates because they can take advantage of their captive audience.
And because you've made yourself reliant on this specific builder's tools and hosting services, your website isn't portable should any of the above scenarios come to pass. You are playing by someone else's rules and conditions, meaning that there is a large likelihood of losing all your work with no legal standing to bring it back to life.
2. You won't appeal to search engines
Did you know that search engines are often smart enough to pick up on whether or not you're using a free website builder?
Free website builders send up red flags to search engines when they are combing through millions of websites to bring up data to a searcher. Even if the content on your website is fantastic, search engines may pass it by, due to these free builders' tendencies to incorporate excessive code and poor URL categorization and structure.
What this means is a serious downgrade in SEO - a.k.a. Search Engine Optimization - which is one of the key ways that companies bring in leads and generate new business. With fair to poor SEO, you will be seeing a lot less action on your website, no matter how your website actually looks and feels.
3. You don't appear professional to clients
Speaking of look and feel, your prospective clients which stumble across your website typically judge your website for the first time based on their initial emotional response to your site's design and functionality. How do you think it will look to them if your website is splattered with ads or branding for the free website builder you're using?
Also, there is a good chance that the free website template that you love so much is already being used by thousands of other users. 99% of the time, free website builders don't allow enough customization to really distinguish your website above or beyond the other competition using the same template.
While users may not be able to articulate what it is about your website that seems off, the subconscious emotional response that users have to these types of websites is one of monotony - a reaction that does not bode well for inspiring trust or developing new business.
4. You have limited support options (if any)
Most free website builders lack any kind of useful support service. Things happen. Mistakes are made, code is broken, versions are lost, functions go down. There will almost certainly be something that you will need external help with at one point or another during your website's lifetime.
Unfortunately, free website builders rarely have any support service that is actually useful. Help videos and forums can, like any DIY fix-it project, often just make your problem worse - especially if you aren't familiar with the finicky ins and outs of the digital world.
With your website, specific personal attention from a pro who knows your site is the only foolproof way to ensure that all of your hard work remains intact, and that your website down time is at an absolute minimum should the worst come to pass.
5. You have limited functionality
Most free websites appear to offer countless add-ons: social media plug-ins, credit card processing options, shopping carts, video players. In reality, most of these services are both extremely limited in their scope and and extremely over-priced for their functionality (especially when it comes to processing monetary transactions).
Free websites actually aren't that free at all when it comes to adding on all the functionality you'll probably want (slash need) in 2017 and beyond. Many small businesses don't realize this until well after they've spent weeks designing and developing their website template, only to find that they must now bite the bullet and pay monthly premiums for services they need. So really, at this point, you've already started to spend the money that you initially didn't want to invest - and now you're dealing with a much less desirable product.
The bottom line?
Free website builders are riddled with hidden challenges for small business owners. Let's review:
- The work you create is not your own
- They do not appear credible to your prospective customers
- They may significantly dampen your potential for SEO success
- There is limited support, at best
- Any extra functionality above the bare-bones minimum almost always costs a premium
The money that you are trying to save in the start up of a website by using a free service almost always gets taken out someplace else down the line - in a rebuild, in needed functionality, in bringing in a private consultant to fix something that isn't working, in the lack of income that you could be generating from a quality website that your free one just isn't.
Invest in a quality website from the very beginning. It will save you in the end.
Looking to start up your own website? We'd love to help set you on the right path to success! Don't hesitate to drop us a line to discuss your needs today; and for more updates on the future of web design and development, be sure to follow our team on Facebook and Twitter.