What’s wrong with free?

If you’re in businesses, the need to have a website is almost as important as the need to have a phone. The customer has to be able to find you to buy from you. However, if you are looking to build a website for your business, and are tempted by the opportunity to build your own site for free, read on.

If you do a search in Google for “free websites” you will discover many companies offering that service. So what’s the catch? Since these companies still need to make money, if you are not giving any to them, you will probably be giving them advertising revenue instead, by having banner ads appearing on your site. For some people this is not a bad trade-off, but if you are a business, you may lose some credibility advertising the fact that you built your site for free.

Your business name for the web is also very important. Having your company name attached to a free website provider’s name, like “yourname.websitebuildername.com” is definitely not advisable. Registering your own Domain Name is not expensive and definitely worth getting. A short name that is easy to remember is ideal, but finding a name that is still available can be quite difficult. Keep in mind, free website builder companies charge extra for you to use your own domain.

The look of your site should not be taken lightly, since this is likely to be your customer’s first impression of your business. Some free website builders have a great selection of beautiful free templates to choose from, but most keep the simple basic templates for free users and the more professional looking ones for the paying customers.

Another factor to consider is being able to edit your site. Many of the “Build it yourself, without knowing HTML” sites offer WYSIWIG (what you see is what you get) editors. The advantage to using them is being able to edit your site any time you want without paying for a web developer to make the changes for you. The downside is some features you want may not be possible to implement, depending on which builder you are using. Also, if for some reason you want to move your site to a different host provider, it may not be possible since most of these editors create proprietary website code.

An increasingly popular option for creating websites is to create it using a Content Management System (CMS) like Joomla, Drupal, and WordPress. These software programs are Open Source (free), and allow users to create and manage their site without knowing HTML. Even though they come with a lot of great features, many more features can be obtained with plug-ins, however some may need some modifications by an experienced web developer to work properly. Also, many nice looking templates can be downloaded for free. Of the previously mentioned CMS software, only WordPress.com allows you to create a blog on their server for free, however the main purpose of the WordPress.com site is for publishing articles.

If you are looking to use WordPress for creating a company website, you can download the software from WordPress.org (.org not .com) and host it on a server. This will allow you to have more storage space on a server, and the ability to install plug-ins that are otherwise unavailable on a WordPress.com hosted blog. Customizing a WordPress site to meet your personal needs is possible if you are experienced with web applications, and this could be a great inexpensive option, but a less experienced user may get overwhelmed. For example, this site was built using WordPress, but it took some behind the scenes coding and graphic work to customize it for my needs.

Although building a website for free is possible, in my opinion it is not advisable for a business unless you are just using the free version as a temporary solution before moving to a paid solution. Spending a little money and hiring a professional can help to ensure a professional image for your company, which is very important for any business to succeed.

There are many Web Design companies out there who will do a great job, although some of these companies can be fairly expensive. When asking for a quote, it is advisable to decide exactly what you want your site to do beforehand, because anything that you want to add to your site after that time will cost extra. The price for a fairly simple website could cost a few hundred dollars, but considering the potential value it offers to your business, it is a worthy investment.