Disclaimer: I did not write this to bad mouth the alternatives to my services. When I first learned of these free and low-cost website builders, I tried to use them. I thought they might add value to the type of services I am offering. Or perhaps even replace the platform I am using. My experience and online research is explained in the following piece.
Nothing Is Free In This World
The prices are just too low. The basic plans for popular website builders go for as low as $8 USD per month. This includes hosting, domain name and the use of the website builder. Looks like a catch! At first, you can’t believe that such a deal exists! Especially when hiring a professional web designer/developer can cost upwards of $800 USD. But read on.
On paper, this do-it-yourself solution seems to be the easy choice. It costs a mere fraction of the services of a professional web designer. And at first glance, the resulting websites look very similar. But think twice before hitting that shiny Buy button. There are some things to consider.
Nope, not yours. Theirs. If you care about having total control over the entire look and feel of your site, using these free or low-cost solutions comes at a heavy price.
More often than not, there will be an ugly badge somewhere in the header or footer telling your users that you are using some free or cheap service. For some, this immediately sends out a signal that you or your business is a cheapskate. Worse, these badges are designed to stand out and steal attention away from your website content. They are often ugly and don’t blend well with your layout on purpose.
While their templates may look “pretty” out-of-the-box, they are far from being immediately usable. Customizations have to be made not just to suit your taste but more importantly, to effectively communicate your business’ message and to actively engage users. These cheap website builders are notoriously known to have little to no customization options available. More often than not, you’ll find yourself having to settle with what’s available rather than what you actually need.
Lost Opportunity For A New Connection
A professional web designer will open new lines of connection and business networking for you. Because web designers work with other entrepreneurs, they can get you connected with other like minded people.
The real meat of my argument, however, is time. When you decide to go for these solutions, it means you are creating your own website. You are using your own precious hours building, developing and designing your website. And yes, I said hours. Even if you are a quick learner or have a background in tech or coding, you can’t possibly launch something you just cooked up in a couple of hours. There is just no way that something at least presentable can be done that quickly. Wake up, smell the coffee and quit believing their taglines and slogans. There are several things to do:
- Choose a template (can take hours, trust me)
- Learn how to add pages (maybe a few minutes)
- Learn how to insert pictures and text in those pages
- Learn how to properly layout these pictures and text (can take hours)
- Learn how to place a menu
- Learn how to structure your menu
- Learn how to create and configure a contact form (if it’s even available)
- Learn how to place the contact form in your web pages
If you encounter an error or a bug-
- Spend HOURS researching on the error and hope that there is a solution or –
- Hope to God they have a support team you can get in touch with
- Spend HOURS or DAYS trying to contact their support team
- Hope to God their support team responds at all, if they do –
- Hope to God their support team responds in a timely manner
- Hope to God that there is a fix for your problem or abandon the task / functionality you were trying to accomplish
What if you need special functionalities, like what if you want a Facebook share button? What if you’d like to display your Instagram feed in your website? What if you want a certain element displayed on the sidebar or footer? You will literally spend HOURS trying to research if your wanted functionality is even available for the website builder that you chose.
A “just ok” website will take at least 20 hours of work. A great one, even more. It is not outrageous to say you will spend up to 30 hours (even more) on your DIY website. This is almost equal to four working days. Now the question is – how much is 30 hours of your time worth?
The Things You Gave Up For Your “Free” Website
Just think of what else you could have accomplished. You could have spent this time improving your business processes. You could have spent this time coaching and teaching your employees. You could have spent this time brining in new clients.
Think of all the leads you missed. Think of the opportunities that passed. You could have spent this time looking for new clients. Think of all the connections you could have made. That single big-name client with all the big time connections could have passed you by because you were too busy trying to fix the error in your crappy image gallery.
Now ask yourself, was it worth it?
I’d love to hear your input, please share your comments below.