The marketplace is flooded with companies offering you the chance to create a free website, a quick Google at the time of writing this post brought me 4,630,000,000 results for 'free website'!
It's certainly true, anyone can now sign up to one of these services and put their own website together, paying nothing but time for the pleasure, however you need to ask a few questions of yourself before committing to the process:
Let's start with the main point - who owns a free website? Usually not you! If you decide at any point to move your website to a professional service or even another free service you can't. Sometimes you may be able to keep your website address and move this, but the site itself will disappear once you close your free website account.
If you can transfer the domain, there can often be a few too many hoops to jump through to get this done!
- Search engine optimisation
There is more to a website than just looks - the text content on the pages is very important, and a decent web designer should be offering advice on how best to write this in order to target your desired audience.
On top of what you can see yourself, there are many behind-the-scenes design requirements which further improve how your site ranks in searches. Unless you are aware of these concepts, and keep up to date on changes in search engine behaviour over time, you could be losing out on significant amounts of visitors and therefore customers and income.
- Free is not always free!
Beware the 'Upgrade' options available from these free website providers. At the end of the day these people are out there to make money, so they will always be offering seemingly good value upgrades and options for you to improve your website or even have them design it for you.
Let's take one example without mentioning any names: the free package is limited to 20MBytes of storage, 15 pages and has the providers branding on your website.
Their premium packages start from £7.20 per month at the time I am writing this. That's £86 per year. This gets you a 50-product shop and the 'mobile website' and a limited amount of bandwidth. If you want full mobile compatibility for your store then you need the next package up at £13.50 per month - £162.
You can further pay them to create your 'free' website...from £400 (apparently half price). Then it's £15 per month for hosting and support (I can't find out if this is from day one or applicable at the end of year one)...so that's £180 per annum. For life.
Does this include backups? How often is it backed up? How fast can it be restored if there is a problem?
Done well, a free website can work out great, but if you want to make sure your website performs and delivers the best for your business, it is really worth talking to some professional website designers before you take the plunge - once you work out the full costs for both options, it may work out much better value for money to get the work done properly!