Yes, companies such as Wix.com, Yola, and Google — offer free websites. Free website plans are limited, but you can build a legitimate business website. The operative word being YOU. You will be offered a choice of blank templates. From those templates, YOU build the website. The company will tell you that is an easy process, and it is as long as you have had experience with similar tools. Most people don’t have that experience and oftentimes end up calling a website designer.

No problem! 🙂

Some are completely free, while some are free until you implement advanced features. BUT … the website designer is still YOU. You use their free online builder and platform to design and build your website. Does that make for a free website? It depends on how much you value your time as a business owner.

Can a business owner develop their own company website? Absolutely yes! Just be sure to follow Google’s Webmaster Guidelines!

Can a small business owner develop their company website for free? If you are to stay in business, you must spend your time running your business. Your time has great value so every minute spent developing, or even maintaining a website costs money. When you develop your own website — be it on a free or paid platform — your website isn’t actually free, you’ve simply deferred the development costs to yourself.

Beyond development cost, can a small business owner effectively maintain their company website and web presence (for free)? No. Day over day, month over month, and year over year, the amount of time and effort required to really make a website work is more free time than any business owner has available. The cost of maintaining a site, no matter which way you look at it, is not free.

Content is King! Content updates are what many regard as website updates, even though the two are quite different. One is technical administration while the other is creative development and Search Engine Optimization. As regards content updates, there can be no cheating! New content must be original and that takes MUCH  time to develop engaging people-friendly, and search-engine-friendly content.

From day 1, websites require careful & constant updates. This is akin to updating an Operating System. You usually won’t directly see the benefit of an Operating System update, but your computer is more secure and runs better overall. The exact same idea also applies to website updates.

Over time the technical burden of maintaining a business website increases: What originally took an hour each day to maintain may require more and more time as the website ages. Replacement of outdated software may require new solutions. Hosting requirements may change resulting in the need for data migration — the process of moving a website, product and customer data to an alternate location. Migrations aren’t for the faint-of-heart!

When technical problems arise you must be adept at finding quick resolutions, or shell out cash on a per incident basis to have them resolved. Repairs aren’t something you can sit on because your business depends on a working website.

SEO – you want people to find your website, right? You can spend all day everyday on SEO. (Truth.)

No matter what platform that you use, this happens. I live it everyday. Your overall cost to maintain your web presence will increase. I have an obvious bias but my recommendation is to hire a pro who constantly maintains it and can be there if/when things break.

What are the disadvantages of a free website?

There are too many to list. For the purposes of this article, the initial considerations are:

An obvious goal of having a company website is to develop YOUR company’s online presence. There is ZERO equity in using somebody else’s platform to build your company website. (no offense, Facebook.)

If you are new to website development, you will have a steep learning curve; you will need to familiarize yourself with everything — from registering your domain name and choosing the right hosting package to choosing a template that is both aesthetically pleasing *and* one that offers the right set of features.

Once past the technical hurdles, there is still the planning and design phase. Before you can design, you NEED to plan. Failure to plan things out from step A to step Z will result in time lost.

Development. This part is easy … at least that is what the free online website companies will lead you to believe. The truth is, if you don’t have a solid background in multiple disciplines (design & layout, graphics editing, color themes), your website will not look as good as it could.

In 100% of the cases that I’ve been witness to, free (and sometimes even paid!) online website builders’ feature sets are too basic. Oftentimes they don’t offer the basic features required in a ‘real’ company website. The worst part is, most people won’t find out about the shortfalls until after they’ve already invested a significant amount of time trying to develop their ‘free’ website.

Website maintenance. Plan on spending 2 to 3 full days (over time) each month maintaining your website and performing SEO. The straight-up truth is — if you fail to maintain your website, you might as well not have created one in the first place. Ongoing maintenance is important and is the ONLY way that you’re your website becomes successful.

In summary

If your time is valuable and you want a website that gives you a strong web presence, let me design, develop, and maintain your custom business website. Alternatively, I am happy to develop your choice of template from a free website platform such as Google or Wix. In both cases the end result will save you potential frustration and valuable time. I have standard rates, and depending on how fancy or plain your website is, I can have it up and running within one or two afternoons.