Free Websites (Really!)

How Not To Create The Homer Car of Websites.

Now we all know free and pay monthly websites are all out there, some better than others. But is there a hidden cost to your business by using one? The answer is maybe, but hopefully this post will shed some light on what you need to be cautious of before you sign up. (In other words it’s the stuff you won’t find in their T&C’s.)

We understand that this kind of website option is fundamentally about saving money. Which is no way a bad thing. But the problem is time (and more precisely, your time) and lack of understanding. For most small start up businesses just looking to get something up and running, these types of websites seem very appealing, easy to use and quick to setup. But before you start signing up here are 4 key points you should consider:

1. Will your website have a key role in winning new business?

If so, you need to make sure the website is 100% focused on the right target users. For example, a boutique B&B would require stunning photographs that really seduce the user, great friendly copy that warms the user to the friendly and thoughtful owners, and finally a seamless booking / contact form that completes the user’s journey and confirms that this is the right place to stay. This can’t just be thrown together overnight, it has to be considered and planned to flow in the correct manner. Free websites won’t teach you how to do this. So make sure you find out as much as you can from your target users, and really think about what type of experience you want them to have as they explore your website.

2. Do you have the time and resources to learn the tool?

Websites can take anything from 4-8 weeks to complete, and this is without learning a new system. So be prepared for a steep learning curve. Never underestimate the time it’s going to take to get all your content together. This is the most important aspect of the website. Without it you just have a frame.

3. Who’s creating the content?

As mentioned above, this is probably the most important. Content is key. Make sure you take the time to write suitable copy for the website, throwing together a load of copy one late night is not going to help your chances of success. Make sure you put yourself in the shoes of the user in order to engage them. Also make sure your graphics, photos and branding are considered, professional and appealing. Again, make sure you research the market and understand your customer base, and give them something original and inspiring in order to separate you from your competitors. The amount of sites that just look and feel the same is becoming more apparent these days with the extensive use of cheap template and stock imagery websites.

4. Don’t forget you’re tied to a system

You don’t own anything. So if you plan to add integrated tools and functions to the website to fit seamlessly into your expanding business over the next few months or year, then this could be a waste of time and resources. It may be worth looking into open source platforms like WordPress or Magento and speaking to a local web design agency.

Hopefully these points have helped you understand that once you’ve signed up the really hard work is just beginning. So if you’re looking to do this yourself, just make sure you have the time and patience to create something effective. These cheap alternatives can end up costing more than just money. We’ve worked with all kinds of different sized businesses over the years and they all have to start somewhere. Generally the company has had 2-3 failed attempts of trying to get an effective web business up and running, and in our experience the biggest mistake they seem to make is not considering who it is that’s using their website, and what problem the user is trying to solve. Don’t just think about what you want, consider the user. A little bit of forward thinking and planning goes a long way.


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