5 Reasons Online Website Builders Will Cost You (Yes, Even ‘Free’ Ones)

5 Reasons Online Website Builders Will Cost You (Yes, Even ‘Free’ Ones)

A price tag reading 'Free, but it'll cost you'.[UPDATE 20/04/15 – Do please note the published date of this post. Website builders have been gradually improving since then so points 1 & 2 are becoming a little bit less of a problem, the overall message is still true though: think twice before you use a ‘free’ website builder for your site]

There are some big players out there heavily promoting online website builder solutions, so it’s no great surprise that a lot of people are attracted to them. On the face of it they offer just the things many a small business owner needs: a seemingly quick and easy way to get a decent website online at an affordable cost, in some cases even for free! Except, in the bigger picture these ‘solutions’ are almost certainly going to fail to deliver for your business and actually hurt your wallet, read on to find out why.

But why should we listen to you Geoff? Clearly you’d criticize your competition, you’re biased!

OK, well obviously a little disclaimer is necessary that you should take my comments as being from somebody who provides a website plan specifically designed for small businesses (we call it the ‘Small Business Starter‘). There are 2 reasons in particular that shouldn’t stop you reading on though. Firstly, simply take my words at face value. I am an honest bloke and these truly are things I believe rather than scatter-gun mud-slinging, but if you have doubts just consider the reasoning behind my points. Secondly, I don’t truly consider these online website builders as competition. OK, it’s a similar side of the market to our ‘Small Business Starter’ but they simply do not offer a similar service as they lack true quality solutions.

On though to those 5 reasons you really should think twice, nay thrice, before entrusting the online success of your business to an online website builder site.

1. Their designs are almost all rubbish.

Well they are aren’t they? Some of them may look ‘passable’ but have a considered look if you yourself have an eye for design, or ask the opinion of a friend with an arty streak.  They’re designs that belong back in the 90’s and really are nowhere close to quality websites. Sure, a couple of the examples provided look half decent, but have you seen how they look once actually put to use? Oh and don’t be fooled by the gallery at MoonFruit, I’ve tried but failed to uncover one of the decent looking ones there which is actually a complete free site (without MoonFruit extras or paid design work having been added on).

2. Their designs are nearly always built heavily on ‘Flash’.

There are a number of very strong reasons for not making heavy use of Adobe ‘Flash’ technology on websites these days but let me start with an obvious one: iPhones and iPads do NOT support Flash. So if you want to exclude some of the most popular ways of accessing the web worldwide sure, go for it. That’s the way to damage your business. What’s more Flash is inaccessible to a wide range of browsers, including the disabled, and is terrible for Search Engine Optimisation as many search engines can’t get at the text content held inside. Flash is bad for business so be wary of the many online website builders which build Flash websites.

3. A dozen of your competitors probably have websites that will look exactly the same.

It’s inevitable at the scale these companies are working at. Take WIX as an example. Currently on their site they have 351 different templates listed. That may sound like a lot, with a good chance of individuality, but consider the fact that at time of writing they have created 14,184,264 websites. OK this is a very rough way of estimating as people will use some of their templates more than others, but those figures suggest an average of 40,411 sites using each theme. As these themes are targeted as well, you’re bound to have lots of direct competitors with that look. For example, WIX have a template called ‘Jewelry Gallery’. Try Googling ‘Jewelry Gallery WIX’ to see what comes up. That’s right, page after page of Jewelry companies all with designs which are very similar or just plain awful (and often Flash based). Needless to say hundreds of sites having the same look is NOT good for your business.

4. They will heavily limit your potential to succeed.

These builders certainly help people get a very basic site up quickly and easily, but they are heavily restricted sites. In almost all cases if you eventually realise you need to add that little something extra and new, social media integration perhaps or you want to tweak the design ‘just so’, you’ll have to pay. What’s more you’ll be locked in to their system where you have little choice but to pay them, adhering to and being limited by their site rules & functionality.

5. ‘Free’ isn’t really ‘Free’.

Finally, there’s the question of these sites being ‘free’. For a start don’t get caught out by some of them whose ‘free’ means ‘a free trial then you’ll be charged monthly’. 1&1 My Website I’m talking about you in particular! Then there are those where ‘Free’ means they put an ugly banner at the bottom of your website promoting themselves. This really undermines your brand, making it seem low-budget & low-quality. Do you want customers thinking your products are likely to be low-budget & low-quality? No, thought not. MoonFruit ‘Free’ is not the way to go then. Above that they charge for what’s in effect a heavily restricted website hosting experience. There are much, much better hosts out there (we like Clook by the way 🙂 ).

So what’s your point Geoff? Do business with Web Propelled rather than them?

Well to some extent of course, we’d love to do business with you because we think we can build something great for you. My point though is more about what businesses like Web Propelled can offer that you’re not going to get from an online website builder.

If you truly care about the success of your business it really is worth putting some money in to get a truly quality solution which will do your business justice and help it grow, now and into the future. It’s an investment in the future of your business. I very much believe a site built on WordPress (the Content Management System we use) is the best solution for this. It makes it affordable to get a truly well designed site (some of the themes we use are by leading web designers) which isn’t in use by hundreds of thousands of other sites. Which is also widely accessible and very much future-proof, limited down the line only by imagination.

I don’t believe you can yet get a quality website solution online for free. You can certainly get one affordably though.

9 thoughts on “5 Reasons Online Website Builders Will Cost You (Yes, Even ‘Free’ Ones)

  1. Cristian B.

    I don’t support the use of website builders – but your article either is very outdated or you are not a master of this subject.
    Firstly – Flash is not used in website builders, even in most primitive ones.
    Secondly – many website builders are really free (not a trial versions) and they are free for many years since they were launched. This is not cheating.
    Thirdly – quality of website template offering by leading website builders is very high. Check templates of SqauredSpace or the same WIX – they will be much better than most free WP themes and even some paid ones. Now many website builders have proffesional web designers and they make ultra modern website templates.
    Fourthly – I’m agree that each website builder has its own problem areas and website builders don’t want to tell their clients about them. Pros and cons of many popular website builder are listed here: [PROMOTIONAL LINK REMOVED]

    1. Geoff Moss Post author

      Let me reply to your points one by one Cristian (disregarding the casual insult), starting with the fact that the article very clearly states the date it was published at the top. You must always bear such in mind when reading anything online, yes things have changed somewhat in the 3 years since this was posted. So:

      Firstly: Most services have now introduced non-flash builders. They are of varying quality.

      Secondly: You give no example of a good quality truly free service. My post acknowledges there are some truly free services and my points stand: most of them aren’t actually free but trials, and most of those that are free look bad or arguably compromise the appearance of your site by forcing you to show their promotional banners.

      Thirdly: Squarespace offer some good themes, sure. Wix do now as well. In my professional opinion though they’re still not nearly as high quality (or as diverse) as premium themes available for WordPress. At no point do I suggest they should be compared to free WordPress themes, I don’t use them on sites I build and my overall point here is that it’s worthwhile investing a little in your website (so paying the typical £30 for a premium WordPress theme would be worthwhile, although our ‘Small Business Starter‘ plan provides a premium theme for free as part of the service). My point regarding countless people using an exact replica of the theme you choose to use stands. A rough count of the latest total templates on Wix suggests there are something like 600. Wix now has more than 51 million registered users. You could double my 600 guess to 1,200 and that’s STILL an average of 42,500 other photographers/jewellers etc. using the same theme! As a very quick comparison to WordPress, leading WordPress theme provider Themeforest currently has 5,236 themes available for WordPress (& there are plentymore available out there) and self-hosted WordPress websites have a far, far smaller user base. You can do the maths.

      Finally, sorry but I’ve removed the link you’ve included as it’s a promotional link and may be intended to help provide SEO ranking to that site. If any visitor is looking for further website builder comparisons I’m sure they can find them easily enough with a quick Google search.

  2. john jake

    wow, you don’t take criticism well do you? and i disagree with a lot of what you said. moon fruit free is good free

    1. Geoff Moss Post author

      Haha, if you mean the comment above I don’t take it personally 🙂 (and I’d suggest if I couldn’t take a comment that disagrees with me then I wouldn’t have even let the comment appear on the site!) You and anybody else out there is entitled to their opinion, and you’re entitled to disagree and I’d be interested to hear if you actually have good reason behind it. I’d be particularly interested if you have a background in web design or development and know what you’re talking about, otherwise I’m likely to respectfully disagree as I do above and as I do with you on Moonfruit being “good free”.

      If you ask me ‘Is Moonfruit free’ although they have a free option (which you have to alter every 6 months or they’ll remove it) in my professional opinion it’s not sufficient to run a quality site – you have to pay to use your own domain [UPDATE: they no longer charge for this], you have to pay to remove their adverts, you have to pay to get a good level of hosting space etc. etc. And ‘is Moonfruit good’? Sorry. No. It does the job for some people sure, and all the best to those who it does the job for, but it’s not a serious solution for running a professional website. It has restricted designs (which you can’t customize with your own CSS), you can’t integrate your own extensions of the functionality just a few basic widgets made by them (for example: want to integrate some table booking technology for your restaurant website? Sorry, no can do).

      All in all you have to invest a little to get a professional website, any business that wants to be taken serious should probably think twice about whether Moonfruit will do that job for them. So I’m sorry, I have to disagree with you as I don’t think Moonfruit is either good or free so it’s not “good free”. That’s just me expressing my professional opinion as a website developer, not me getting upset that somebody disagrees.

  3. Beth Wilson

    Hi Geoff, You do not have to pay moonfruit to use your own domain, my domain is with namecheap.com & i built my site for free on moonfruit & got my own domain with name cheap on the moonfruit site. Recently i opted to a monthly payment for other reasons…

    But you are wrong in saying moonfruit make you pay for your own domain, thats not true

    1. Geoff Moss Post author

      Hi Beth,

      Thanks for your comment. Fair enough, apologies I stand corrected on that then, they must have changed their approach. (As you decided to use their registration service they will have taken a cut of the money you paid namecheap.com though of course, and it’s interesting that you did find that the free service wasn’t sufficient for your business purposes so ended up signing up for a paid service).

      Regards.

  4. Mvanloenen

    I am still looking for a website building and/ or hosting tool that is quite flexible and more or less free.
    I am willing to pay a small annual fee. I already have a domain.
    Online I cannot find any properly displayed charges of places such as Wix, so I do not trust them.
    Plus they want you to straightaway have a google account or similar. Why?
    My business is in Design so it has to look good and original.

    Any sensible advise would be greatly appreciated
    Thanks

    1. Geoff Moss Post author

      Hi. With all due respect if your business is in design and “it has to look good and original” you should seriously consider investing in yourself and your business, because that really does warrant more than just the “more or less free” you suggest you’re looking for. Invest in having something custom built that really does showcase your design and is 100% original.

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