Why Using Free Website Builders Will Work Against You
Are Free Website Builders Your Best Option?
Has your small business been affected by the global pandemic? Of course, it has! Between lockdowns and restrictions, you are just barely surviving. Suddenly any business needs to have a robust online presence. And with limited budgets using free website builders seems the best way to go. But that is not the case!
Using free website builders hardly ever results in the online presence business owners need to meet their business objectives. Yes, they do sound like the best option for many businesses. But most business owners fail to consider all the implications of using a free website builder.
That is not surprising. Business owners are focused on their business. Adapting their business to survive and thrive during the pandemic is their primary concern. That usually does not include building a website. Helping companies and product brands to create an effective online presence is my primary focus. I have a better understanding of the limitations of using free website builders. Let me explain.
Don’t Be Seduced by Free Website Builders.
Times are very tough for small business owners like you. You know you need a website to stay in business. And it is natural to look for the least expensive option. I understand that.
Yes, there are tons of free website builders compared to a few years ago. Using them so simple; drag and drop or use pre-built templates! It sounds perfect! It isn’t! Using free website builders is convenient, indeed. But they are far from an ideal solution.
Simply put, you’re making a mistake if you decide a free website builder can get you a website just as good as a professional designer. I beg to differ. For most business owners, DIY web design is a bad idea!
Look at it this way: sure, anyone can build a website. Anyone can build a house too, but there’s a reason we pay professionals who do it for a living. Professionals provide better results in less time. And often, that makes them more cost-effective as well.
Before you decide that using free website builders is your best option, please hear me out. I may be able to help you find a better option. At the very least, I will help you pay attention to some things you may not have considered.
7 Reasons Small Business Owners Should Think Twice Before Using Free Website Builders
1 – Free Website Builders Aren’t Free
Most “free” websites are not free at all. Keep in mind; they run a business; you’ll have to start paying eventually in some shape or form. Yes, there’s typically a free trial. Still, most users find that they need to quickly ‘upgrade’ their account (the platform’s goal) for certain services. They suddenly find the need to pay for an app integrator, then some tool, more storage, a scheduler, tax calculator, FTP access, image hosting, email accounts, and on and on.
As a rule of thumb, if you’re not paying for it, then you are the product. Free website builders need to make money from you somehow. The terms/conditions allow them to do as they wish with your info, so selling your information (email address, etc.) is common.
2 – You Don’t Own Your Website
Personally, this is a primary reason I would stay away from Wix, Weebly, Squarespace, GoDaddy, Shopify, Yahoo, etc. The website files and code belong to them, not you. Maybe you run into some of the issues listed herein. Or you’d like to increase your website’s capabilities/functionalities and decide to upgrade your website. All the work you’ve done so far is for nothing.
There’s no way to migrate your website from their platform. You don’t have access to your site files, backend, CSS (custom style sheets), code, etc. Therefore, all your time/effort is lost, and you’re starting all over again from ground zero. And what will you do if/when one of these companies closes down? That happens frequently! Your website, its files, and assets will all be gone.
If you build your website on an open-source content management system (CMS) like WordPress or Joomla – you own it all. Everything you invest in your website (time, effort, money, SEO) will always be yours and pay ongoing dividends. You can pack it up and take it somewhere else.
3 – Limited Functionality
Using free website builders means you are limited to the tools developed by that platform. Compare them to an open-source CMS like WordPress. WordPress has more than 55,000 plugins that allow complete customization for businesses of any size and industry. No wonder WordPress dominates the CMS industry with over 60% market share. (Wix, GoDaddy, Weebly average 0.8%).
Look at these WordPress statistics for 2020:
- WordPress has a 60.8% market share in the CMS market
- WordPress powers 14.7% of the world’s top websites
- 500+ sites are built each day using WordPress, while only 60-80 per day are created on a platform like Shopify and Squarespace.
- The WordPress Plugin Directory features 55,000+ plugins.
- WooCommerce powers 22% of the top 1 million e-commerce sites in the world
4 – Limited or No Customization Options
Using free website builders limits you to their tools, fonts, templates, and other design options. This lack of custom code results in a bland, everyday, cookie-cutter website that may not reflect your brand. And there is another crucial consideration. The ‘average Joe’ can identify free websites. And typically, that is not a great first impression of your company. Is that what you want?
5 – No Search Engine Optimization
While many free website builders provide you with what they refer to as “SEO tools,” they all lack what they offer. Proper search engine optimization (SEO) requires access to make file customizations and modify/optimize your server settings. But using free website builders means you have no access to your server. Different free website builders have other shortcomings. Some will give you access to meta descriptions, headings, and alt attributes on the home page, not internal pages, product pages, or blog posts. And that is a significant shortcoming.
6 – No Page Speed Optimization
A free website builder will host your website on a shared server with hundreds of other sites. Limited bandwidth and no access to server settings mean your website will load slowly. The average visitor will leave your site if it’s not fully loaded (desktop or mobile) in 3 seconds or less. Therefore page speed optimization is critical for providing the best possible user experience.
And don’t judge your page speed by how well your site loads for you and on your devices; it is cached for quick loading on your browser. Utilize your analytics account for page speed insights of your visitors. Or simply use a free page speed testing tool like GTMetrix, Pingdom, or Google’s PageSpeed Insights.
7 – No Website Security
The shared server mentioned above leads to security concerns. Using free website builders increases the risk that your website will get hacked or compromised. Even worse, free website builders are usually unable to restore your website.
A Few More Reasons You Should Reconsider Using Free Website Builders
You Will Get in Over Your Head
You can build a website that looks better than most of your competition if you use a free website builder. However, just because it looks better doesn’t mean it’s a well-built website. If you think your website is only a glorified business card, you really should talk to a professional web developer.
Building a website that supports your business objectives is something that people spend their professional lives studying and refining. It’s not just putting up a nice picture, coming up with a well-crafted tagline, listing your services, and adding a contact number.
Here’s an example: should your “about page” be about your company’s history? Absolutely not. Not many people care about your company’s history. Even on your about page, people want to see how your company helps them solve their problem, and you have less than 5 seconds to convince them. Unless you can craft a compelling story, don’t talk about your dog, family history, or your first job.
You Are Not a Designer
I am a photographer in addition to a designer, so let me explain it this way. There’s a difference between a picture and a photograph. You’ve seen that difference even if you haven’t noticed it. Think of it this way: a picture is something you snap at the moment. A photograph is something you could frame and hang on your wall.
Website builders help you get to the next step, like learning the rule of thirds (which helps in web design). It helps, and you can tell the difference between your old pictures and the ones you take after learning composition. But it takes a lot of practice to become a good photographer.
Using free website builders and layouts help you incorporate some design basics. But using them does not mean you are good at web design.
You Don’t Understand User Experience and Interaction.
UX is related to website design, but it takes it to the next level. Staying with my photography example, it might be like learning how to use your aperture and shutter speed. Once you know how to compose a good photograph, you still need to learn about exposure, depth of field, and a lot of other things.
Design is one thing. Understanding how people interact with your website is a different ballgame. Where should the call to action go (your website has a call to action, right)? What’s the flow you want a visitor to take on your site? When they click the button you want them to click, how does the next page capture their interest and keep them going down the path to becoming a customer?
I’ve talked to a lot of business owners who already have websites. They’ve explained to me that their website should not be too salesy. Instead, they want to provide information and generate leads.
What they’re saying is true, but there’s a way to design your website as a sales tool without being “salesy.” A well-crafted website sells your product or service without the visitor realizing it. By providing the best possible user experience, you help your visitors; you’re not selling to them.
But if you don’t understand how they’ll interact with your website, you cannot help them as well as you’d like.
You Don’t Understand SEO
Optimizing your websites for Google is the primary way people find you at the top of their search results. There are ways to do it right, and then there’s throwing spaghetti against the wall. Google is continuously revising its algorithms for ranking. That’s why SEO is a full-time job.
SEO used to be all about keywords and putting them everywhere, even if it makes the title of a page sound weird. Some SEO consultants who aren’t keeping up with the times are still using that strategy. Did you know you shouldn’t even use a list of keywords on your pages anymore?
SEO changes constantly.
Yes, there are certain things you can do that help and are apparent. You can quickly learn how to write posts on other blogs to get links back to yours. But there is a lot more to a good SEO strategy than you might realize.
We use professional tools on our website to ensure we are doing the best we can. I’m not aware of any free website builders that give you those kinds of tools to make sure your site and content are optimized.
Yes, You Can Build Your Own Website. But Is That Your Best Option?
When you’re strapped for cash, using free website builders is entirely understandable. Today many companies are offering simple ‘drag and drop’ free website builders. With the seemingly high cost of hiring a professional to custom build your website, that seems like a good alternative.
And I won’t judge you for using a free website builder. I want you to be aware and informed. Hopefully, you will consider these points before getting started, so you’re at least thinking about them as you build your site.
But I urge you to reconsider. Your job is not to build websites. As a business owner, your primary objective is the survival of your business. Focus on getting your products sold and helping your clients. Leave the other stuff to the pros. It will be well worth the financial investment.
Are You Looking to Build a Website to Meet Your Business Objectives?
As I outlined at the beginning of this post, many businesses and service providers need a website or online store to help them survive the pandemic. Now that you know why using free website builders will work against you, it is time to consider alternatives. The fastest way to create an effective online presence for your business is to hire a professional web designer.
By working with a professional, you will get better results in less time than by doing this yourself. Here is a simple guide to getting the most out of your web designer to help you get started. Or reach out to us, and we will be happy to help you!
Here at PixoLabo, we offer a full range of website consulting and design services for businesses and product brands, including custom web design and development, e-commerce solutions, search engine optimization, and WordPress optimization.
Did You Build Your Own Website?
Did you use a free website builder or consider that option? If so, did the result help you achieve your business objectives? Or did you run into unforeseen problems? If not, what made you decide against using free website builders? Please feel free to comment below so our audience can benefit and grab our feed so you don’t miss our next post! And feel free to share our post with your audience!
Thank you! We appreciate your help to end bad business websites, one pixel at a time!
By Gregor Saita
Co-Founder / CXO