Yes, I do get asked that question, should I use a “free” website builder to create my website? The answer is, it depends. Sorry to say, it’s not a straightforward question to answer. It depends on your business goals, budget and your personality (really).
Are you a recent college graduate or starting a new business on a limited budget and computer savvy? It may be your only option for web presence, and if so, you can try the Weebly and Wix’s of the world. This article is not a comparison of the various web builders, since there are many resources already online. This is to guide you and help determine what options may work for your business and some caveats.
Let’s get right to the caveats of using a web builder:
1- Your website may look unprofessional, unappealing or hideous. Your website is one of your most important marketing assets and if it looks like a hot mess, potential customers may go elsewhere. Research and plan carefully if you are going to use a website builder and make sure to check out the support section first. It helps if you are computer savvy, too.
2- It’s not all FREE. While you may be able to build the site free, there are monthly charges for web hosting and other services depending on the company, so choose carefully. It looks much more professional to see a url such as www.jagmedia.net or www.abbotkinneyfirstfridays.com then www.websitebuilder.mywebsitename.com for example.
3- It’s TIME consuming! I know people who spent months working on their website to get it right, and while I’ve seen 2 total (ever!) websites created with a web builder that look good, consider the time factor. Where can your efforts be better spent? If you are a DIY’er, then go for it because there’s no convincing you otherwise!
What can I do if my budget is zippo?
There is hope for you! My recommendation is to use WordPress for your website builder. In a nutshell, you can start with the free version and upgrade when you have the budget to make it more spectacular! Once you signup, you can choose from a number of default theme options – while they are basic, most look decent and will work for a basic site.
The great thing about using WordPress platform, THE solution I recommend and use to build websites, due to it’s scaleability, longevity and universality. For more details on that, see my article on why Wordpress is the platform of choice.
It’s important to stress that having your website url which requires buying the domain name (your www) and website hosting (most web hosting companies offer monthly plans). I recommend doing this first when using WordPress. Many web hosting companies have an automatic WordPress Installer, which makes it MUCH EASIER to setup your site and get it displayed on your url.
Let’s say you’ve taken that step and created your site; you’ve got a budget for a web design studio to create your site… How is that different – and BETTER?
1- Visually more appealing and professional!
2- Creating your unique look, aka branding, that sets your company apart from the rest of the crowd. Customization is a big part of WordPress; there are many themes available, that typically have options for customization – a key factor here. Plus access to more plugins that increase functionality. Keep in mind, not all themes are created equally. That’s where your website designer comes in- see #3.
3- Guidance from your website design company can benefit your company greatly! An experienced web designer will give insights on what looks good, which themes work well, what needs to be added, such as social media integration and answering your questions are a few examples of how a web design firm can assist your company. In addition to peace of mind. Oh, by the way, how about time? Saving your company time that can be spent on other aspects of the business is invaluable!
Do keep in mind that when you’re working with a design firm that it’s a two way street; good design is a fluid process that both parties must take part in and schedule time for review, edits, etc. (More about that in a future article.) If you have a budget established, start talking to web design firms you know and/or ask for referrals.