by Tim Madison
Why should a business pay for a website when there are so many free website options available. That's a question I was asked the other day. It's a very good question that I don't believe is always answered correctly. There is one question you have to ask yourself when considering a website for your business. Do I care how my business is represented online? If the answer is no, then go ahead and get one of those "free" websites. If the answer is yes, read on.
Excellent, you decided to continue reading. I can certainly understand that the thought of getting a website for free is enticing. But as I'm sure you know, nothing is truly free. Here are some of the things you'll need to consider when getting a "free" website.
Many of the so-called free websites come with hidden costs. You'll likely have to still pay for a domain name, and if the domain name is free it's because it's a sub domain of their domain name. Sometimes they'll charge you to remove certain things from the site like ads (see next topic). There are also some that start out free, but only for a trial period or with so many limitations that you'll end up paying in the end just to get rid of the limitations.
Almost all free website builders will post banner ads on your website that you won't have any control over and can't remove unless you go for their paid options. It's bad enough having ads on your website that you can't control, but that's not the worst part of it. The worst part is that those ads are based on what your website is about. So if you're a furniture store, the ads placed on your website will be about furniture sales and other closely related items. In other words, your competition will be advertised on your website.
Like banner ads, this is another way they will get paid (you didn't think they'd give you a free website out of the goodness of their heart did you? They are out to make money just like you). You'll start out with a very basic site. If you want an ecommerce site (selling products online), you'll pay extra. If you want a custom design, you'll pay extra. Now other web development companies will do this as well, including Cyber Connection, but we are all up front about it. More options cost more money. But we're not luring you in with the claim of a free website just to hook you with hidden costs.
If you don't understand what bandwidth is, just remember it's the amout of data transfers your website can handle. This includes the browser(s) requesting your web pages from the server. Having videos on your site, animation, lots of images all can drain your very limited bandwidth on a free website. If you go over your bandwidth for the month they could shut your website down, or you could see severe latency (slowing down of your website's load time). Either of these will send your customers and/or potential customers to your competitors and they will likely not come back.
Some of these website builders will offer many theme options to choose from. But they won't tell you that once you have selected a theme, you're stuck with it and can't change it without starting again from scratch. You site may be limited to only a few pages or only a few menu options. You will also likely have a link somewhere on your website telling people how they too can get a free website. This is definitely not how you want people to see the online representation of your business.
If not a free website, then what do you get when paying for a website? Well most of the time you get professional design and development that suits your business needs. No banner ads advertising your competitors. Support when you need changes on your site. Peace of mind knowing you made an investment in your business. I said most of the time because there are still bad website companies out there who care more about the sale than about you and your business. There are others who are so cheap that they have most or all of the cons associated with free websites. Consider that a company or individual offering website for less than $100 certainly doesn't value their services very high, and probably for good reason.