Why using a free website builder is a bad idea

May 19 by Tess Horsley

If you haven’t got a website at all, or yours needs some serious updating, it can be tempting to jump onto one of many free website builders and spruce it up yourself. While the cost of professional web development might seem daunting, there are a whole host of very, very good reasons why using such free site builders can be a recipe for disaster. Here are 17 reasons why generating your website from a free builder is a bad idea, both for you and your consumers:

Why a free website is bad for you:

1. You’ll have an unprofessional web address

Most free site builders require leave you with a domain name that features a permutation of their own domain name. Not only can this be difficult to remember, but

2. The service might not actually be free

A lot of the time, “free” site building services appear free, but are actually elaborate free trials, meaning that, after a certain time, you could be hit with a hefty fee.

3. Hidden charges

Often, what you’re getting from a free website builder is a very limited, fill in the blanks template. If you want anything extra (which includes most basics of functional web design), they charge you for it, usually for a higher price than you’d get from a web specialist.

4. They could shut down your website

If you are going to use a free site builder, make sure you thoroughly read their terms and conditions. You’ll more likely than not find a clause that allows them to shut down or delete your site at their will, often without notice.

5. They might on-sell your information

You’ve probably heard this before: if you’re not paying for product, you are the product. By signing up to some free web services, you may be unwittingly signing up to have your details sold to every spammer under the sun.

6. Security

One thing you can never be sure of when using a free webhost is how tight their security measures are. Chances are, using a free web hosting service will leave you vulnerable to hacking attempts, putting your personal information at risk.

7. Limited pages

Many free services place a limit on the number of pages your site can have (and this limit is usually extremely low). This can restrict how much of your content you can actually get online, as well as impacting your page’s bounce rate (the number of visitors who leave your site after viewing only one page).

8. There’s not much help

Most free web builders offer next to nothing by way of help and support. They may have a short FAQ section, but you’re on your own when it comes to most of the questions or needs you may have during your building process.

9. There are no analytics

As we’ve said before, analytics are vital to and effective website that actually meets customers’ needs (and hence drives sales). A free web builder will offer you nothing by way of insights into your audience and their online behaviour, leaving you shooting in the dark when it comes to improving your users’ experience.

10. They don’t offer mobile support

The online world never sleeps, so being able to update your site instantly is important, and these days that means being able to update and alter your website from your phone or tablet (something offered by very few free builders, and even then it’s often at a price).

11. They don’t offer contact forms or email forwards

A huge part of having a website is offering your clients an easy and efficient way to contact you. A free web builder will offer you very little by way of email forwards or contact forms that directly funnel enquiries from your website into your inbox (-no contact forms or email forwards

12. Limitations of file uploads

We all know that an effective website absolutely has to include more than just text (a no-brainer, really). However, incorporating multimedia elements into a free website template or builder can cause numerous headaches. You may run into barriers to file size and type, leaving you with a low impact, one-dimensional web presence.

13. Search engines don’t like them

We all know that getting found online is half the battle of having a successful website, and this depends largely on your site’s relationship with search engines, and they favour paid domain names. So, if you’re using a free site builder, you’re already losing.

14. Your site is not your home

The easiest way to think about the relationship between your site and the free builder it’s hosted on is this: your site is the tenant and the host server your landlord – your online home isn’t completely yours.

Why a free website is bad for your users:

15. Speed

Free web builders host all sites on the one server, allowing things to get pretty loaded up. This will unavoidably affect your website’s speed, something that makes for a very poor user experience. Not only that, but a slow website will also get you punished by search engines.

16. Irrelevant advertising

If free site builders aren’t making money from you, they’re making it somewhere else. Often, that somewhere else is on your website, by giving third party advertisers space to display their messages. Not only will your page feature irritating or pop up ads (never a good thing from a user’s point of view), but you have no say in just who is advertising on your site, meaning ads that do appear will likely be irrelevant, and could be inappropriate.

17. Limited design choices

Using a free web building service usually means pouring your content into one of several pre-designed templates. This gives you only a small amount of choice in terms of the look and feel of your site. Even if you’re a fan of the particular template you’ve gone with, you’ll have little room to move if your users (and potential customers) don’t.