A Free Website Builder?
When someone says you can make your own website, it sounds like a great deal. This is especially if you have a low budget, or you’re just starting out. As a web designer, I am often asked “I bet you hate those free website builders don’t you?” What’s funny is that most people are surprised by my reply. On the contrary, I love every free website builder. They make selling my website building services even easier. To understand my answer, let’s explore some of the top website creators, and why they actually help bring me business.
You Can Definitely Build Your Own Website
It’s true, you can! The trick here is that I never said it would be good, or that it would be the best route to go. Let me explain. The actual act of building websites isn’t rocket science, from a structure standpoint. You can choose any website creator out there and throw up a website in a few days, depending on the size. There is web site builder software out there that will even design the whole site for you, using artificial intelligence.
The problem is that it will only get you so far. Let’s take a side step for just a moment and look at another industry. Imagine you’re financially set to the point where you can afford to build your dream home. There are infinite numbers of home and architectural styles out there in which you can build a home. You have a certain taste and a certain sense of style. How successful do you think a computer would be at judging your taste and sense of style? Would you let a computer or artificial intelligence design and build your home? What about all of the pre-built home plans out there? How well do you think any of those would fit your vision?
It’s likely that they won’t. They won’t even come close to creating anything that matches your personal vision, sense of style and the atmosphere you are wanting when you set foot in the door.
An Online Website Builder Is A Great Start
That’s all it is, just a start. Using a web builder will only get you so far. Many of these platforms will let you customize elements and make it your own. This means you can design your own website, but do you know where to start? Starting a website is intimidating enough, even when using a web page builder. However, there are so many other factors that go into a successful website. Some of these factors are, but are not limited to:
- Messaging and positioning your business in your industry.
- Data collection, for building long term customer relationships.
- Social media integration.
- Search Engine Optimization (on-page and off page).
- Site Structure and page flow.
- Page speed and load times.
- Media (audio and video).
- Website Hosting and maintenance.
- Creating and updating news and blog post content.
- Lead generation and on-boarding for new customers.
Most people don’t know how to design a website, let alone trying to implement the items listed above. Sure, you can create a free website to start out. The problem is that it should be a short term solution to a long term vision. Why? Because most online website generators have limitations.
Free Website Builder Limitations
Before you decide to make a free website for your business, you might want to consider that most sitebuilder applications are severely limited to what they can do. You’ll run into issues where they might do 60% of what you need for the long haul. However, if you need anything more than a typical brochure website or informational website, you’re in for a rude awakening. Here’s a few issues you may encounter:
- If a website maker works with an email marketing platform, it will likely only work with one or two. Then, they won’t be the one you prefer.
- So much for a free website! They say they’ve made their website builder free, but you’ll be nickel and dimed for any features more than just a website built on their url.
- Website templates are available, but they are limited. You’ll spend 2 hours sifting through their free website templates. Most of the time none of them will do everything you want. You’ll always be lacking in some area.
- Easy Website Builder – Good luck! Some are glitchy at best, while others allow you to draw almost anything. It also never turns out the way you envisioned.
- Brand solidarity goes out the window with their name in the website url. If you want to use your own domain name, you’ll have to pay.
- Building an online store? Forget about 3rd party payment gateways or credit card processors. You’ll get to choose some of the main online payment gateways. You can forget bank credit card processors like First Data and Elavon. Even the best free website builder has limitations.
So what should you do?
You can look for someone offering a small package deal. You need something well built to get started. You can also still make your own website for free. In the mean time you should start saving funds from your business income to hire someone to upgrade it quickly. Even the best websites probably didn’t start out that way. They evolved over time.
Just keep in mind that to start your own website on one platform and then transition over to another can take some time. You might also have to pay a little extra to move content and features over to your new site. A lot of times, a web designer or marketing agency will want to rewrite the copy and improve it.
Things to look for in your new website
I would look for a web designer that uses WordPress as their platform, and uses a web page builder. There are several out there, so pick the one that is right for you. Once the website is built, you can use their easy web editor to edit the content.
You don’t want to have to pay someone every time you have to make a small change to your website. You want the capability to go in and edit text, without fearing that you will mess up the website. The best option would be a drag and drop website builder. This is because it enables you to add to or edit your web pages in a visual way. We do this for our clients and it works very well.
We also offer training, in person or on the web through screen sharing software like Skype of Google Hangouts. We train business owners to make small edits to their websites if needed. It’s a lot less daunting to edit a page or 2. It is much less than having to create a business website in its entirety.
Also, look for a web designer that will be available for more advanced tasks. If it goes beyond editing some text or swapping out an image, simply pay the hourly rate for them to handle it for you. Trust me, it may cost a little money to do it this way, but you’ll save a lot of time and headaches, and even money in the long run. The time spent trying to figure out something extremely difficult is better spent on running your business.
I don’t get stressed out about free website apps. I also don’t worry about if people can learn to build their own website for free online. It doesn’t bother me, because people learn just how hard it is to build a good website. They find it hard to gather all of the ingredients necessary in order to be successful. Some people just aren’t designers or artists. They also aren’t technically inclined, so they see how hard it is and end up hiring me to do it anyway. The funniest thing about it is that they never bat an eye at pricing, because they have an understanding of just how much goes into a website.
It comes down to service and quality, and business owners wanting a something much better than they can deliver themselves. It’s enough to run and own a business. Then, to stack learning a set of new technical skills on top of that just isn’t practical. Artificial intelligence doesn’t bother me either. No matter how hard a programmer tries, they will never build ai powerful enough to emulate empathy.
Also published on Medium.