[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.