These days it seems like everyone is on a budget, and launching a new website doesn’t initially do your pocketbook any favors, just like any other business investment. There are several “free” or economical options out there, but these options may end up costing you in the long run.
If you need a website up yesterday and have zero budget, then a free site would be the quickest way to get your brand out there, so long as you don’t mind putting up with ads or not being found on Google. Some have no upfront hosting or design costs, a 30 day trial period, and access to hundreds if not thousands of templates. Nicer templates may cost a little bit, but hey, it’s worth it, right? Here are a couple things to keep in mind when going this route:
Some sites like Wix will use a combination of your name with a backslash, meaning a nice tidy “www.youresitehere.com” URL is out of the question, unless you’re willing to spend anywhere from $5-$25/mo. Creating a custom domain through a site like this also means they own your domain, so if you’re ever thinking about upgrading to a custom website, you can… with a new domain.
There are so many options when it comes to choosing a template, and most of the time, you can find one that is close to what you’re envisioning. Again, the “cooler” ones aren’t usually free, but any content used in the design process is proprietary. This means when your custom clothing business starts to take off and you need to upgrade, that cool design you picked out will stay with Intuit. But why would you need to upgrade…?
Two things people rarely consider when going with a free website are bandwidth and storage. When a new client clicks through your website, that uses up bandwidth, and your free Webs.com site doesn’t come with much. What does this mean? If you reach your bandwidth limit in the middle of the month, your website will become unavailable until the following month or you decide to buy the next package. If you plan to incorporate photos, video or other content on your site, your web design party might be cut short due to insufficient storage space, which could be as little as 10MB. Furthermore, if selling items directly from your website is in your future, you may only be allotted a few items, if any.
When you sign up for these “free” websites, you’re required to enter your credit card information, along with several other bits of personal information and your email address. Curious as to why all of the sudden you’re getting a little more spam than you’re used to? Don’t think for a second these companies aren’t selling your information and information about your web business to marketers.
One question that always arises concerning editing options and design is, “Wait, isn’t Wordpress freeware?” Quite simply, yes, however, on their own, Wordpress and others of its like are rather useless. In order for Wordpress to be functional, it must be uploaded to a server and connected to a database. Once set up properly, you can upload Wordpress templates (sometimes free) or design a custom website around it.
A great handful of these sites charge “setup fees”, which are usually minimal, but everything is on the monthly. Having a website that you don’t even own can cost up to $1500 over a 3 year period, but initially is more economical. If being creatively limited is a good trade for financial freedom, then by all means free websites are your Godsend. For those of us that understand the necessity to make the best impression possible, there’s no such thing as a free lunch.