Many aspiring entrepreneurs and freelancers rely on free website builders to create a website quickly from scratch. While this is certainly quick and inexpensive, it has a number of limitations that could compromise your future business potential.
The Promise of Free Website Builders
These days, free website builders come in a variety of forms. There are dozens, if not hundreds of options to choose from. But most of them follow the same basic formula. Any user can sign up for this service, for free (at least to start), then begin piecing together the components necessary to create a functional website.
Oftentimes, users are granted access to tools like WYSIWYG editors and drag and drop mechanics that make it easy to customize the design to your liking, even if you have no web design or web development experience. You may also have access to pre-existing templates that allow you to create a website that looks professional.
The idea is that any amateur should be able to put together a website that looks great and works properly without spending any money and without having to learn anything complex.
Why Website Builders Aren’t Good Enough
Unfortunately, website builders rarely deliver on their ambitious promises.
- Missing features. For starters, website builders don’t have all the tools or features you need to create a perfect website. If you want your website to have dedicated hosting, you’re going to have to pay for it. If you want your website to have a specific feature, like auto-playing video, you may or may not be able to get it.
- Hidden costs. Website builders like to market themselves as free, but there are usually a number of caveats to the free deal. For example, if you want to build a website for free on a platform like WordPress, you’ll usually have to deal with someone else’s advertisements on your finished website. If you want to remove those ads, you’ll need to pay a fee. You’ll also need to pay for an assortment of other features, like a domain name that’s all your own, hosting, security, and even access to premium templates. Most business owners find that by the end of their experience, they’re shelling out hundreds, or even thousands of dollars to get the website they wanted from the beginning.
- Unoriginal templates. Using a template is fast, convenient, and easy enough even for an amateur to understand. But there’s a downside: templates are ubiquitously available and in demand. Using a template for your website is going to make it look unoriginal and make it blend in as white noise. Your website will never be able to stand out, hindering your brand’s visibility and potentially suppressing its reputation.
- Lack of flexibility. There isn’t much flexibility with most website builders. The design tools may be inventive and intuitive to use, but there are hard limitations for what they can accomplish. If you’re creating a basic website, like a traditional blog, this isn’t going to be much of a problem for you. But if you have a complex development project in mind, free website builders simply aren’t going to do the job.
- Lack of support. What happens if you don’t like how your website turns out? What if you find it hard to use one of the tools and you don’t understand how to change your approach? What if your website stops performing adequately on mobile devices? Unless you’re paying a subscription fee, you’re not going to get any support from most free website builders. You’re entirely on your own.
What Are the Alternatives?
At this point, you’re ready to learn how to choose a web development partner. You understand that free website builders aren’t ideal for most people trying to develop a website. So what are the alternatives?
- A website development agency. One of the most popular and most effective options is working with a website development agency. Agencies have full teams of experts ready to help you design and develop your website from scratch. They also offer a number of services, supporting your website well after launch.
- Freelancers. If you’re interested in saving some money, you might also work with a network of freelancers. Freelancers tend to be less expensive, but they also tend to be less reliable; it’s hard to find experts you can count on.
- Internal teambuilding. You could also assemble a team of full-time experts in your own organization, giving yourself more transparency and control (at a significantly increased cost).
With the number of free website builders available, it’s tempting to jump in and start building your next website from scratch. But with the scope of limitations inherent in most free website builders, you’re probably better off working with a professional team. Analyze your needs carefully before moving forward, and make sure you prioritize your website’s look and effectiveness over personal convenience.