Hidden Cost of Free Websites

The Hidden Costs of Free Websites

In Web Design Tips by David Hamilton

If you’ve ever been on Facebook you’ve probably seen the ads. They promise a free website. You create the content and design. No web design experience required. We’ve picked up the pieces after a lot of these free websites. While they may work for some, here are five reasons why you should leave that couch on the curb and keep walking.

#1: Drag and Drop Editors Don’t Build Code Structure

Sure, you can drag a photo to the right spot on a page, but there is a reason that web developers spend years or decades learning coding languages. Without a proper code structure your site doesn’t have room to expand. The code template of individual pages aren’t linked together, making it difficult or impossible to make sitewide changes. Imagine a car that looks okay and that moves down the street but that doesn’t have any linking interior parts. Something goes wrong with that car and a mechanic just can’t fix it.

#2: Separate Mobile Versions (If You’re Lucky)

These drag and drop editors aren’t mobile responsive. Without code tying the elements together, they can’t be. So the best of these free websites let you make a mobile version of your site. Of course the mobile version isn’t really tied to your website so any changes that you make in one you have to make in the other. Plus the elements of the site don’t move responsively so your mobile site won’t look good on all devices, just the ones you are targeting.

#3: Search Engine Optimization Soup

There are a lot of specific tags that search engine robots check. They scroll around the internet looking at alt text tags on photos, checking out H1 tags on your headlines– when they hit one of these free websites they are often built in JavaScript, a language that isn’t actually intended for search engines at all. Plus the truly free domains never make use of one of your best search engine optimization tools. Which leads us to #4…

#4: Domain Names that Mean Nothing

Getting business cards? Hope you’re planning on having them say “Visit us at www.s904930.mybuilder.com/mysitename.” Not only is it unprofessional, but it doesn’t give the search engines any keywords in the vital domain name spot. Speaking of unprofessional…

#5: Killing Your Groove With An Ad Bar

Want your message to be finely tuned? Hope part of that message is a highly visible and obnoxious bar saying, “I got my free website courtesy of freewebcompanynamehere.”

The Sad Truth About Free Websites

Once you start buying add-ons to make free websites actually competitive (get rid of the ad bar, get a custom domain name) the costs quickly start to mount up. We’ve had customers come to us for a new website because their formerly “free” site is costing them $30-$50 per month, is drastically outdated, and has no flexibility to grow or change. In the end, if you are even remotely serious about your business – it pays to do it properly in the beginning.