You’ve heard about them. You’ve used websites created with them. Maybe you’ve even used one to create a website yourself. Free website builders have taken over the internet, making it not only possible, but relatively easy to create a website from scratch – all by yourself.
There’s no question that these tools are good for at least some bloggers and entrepreneurs, as they’ve been used to create amazingly popular blogs and revenue-generating powerhouse websites. But are they really all they’re cracked up to be?
Free Website Builders: The Basics
There are many examples of free and inexpensive website builders. WordPress and Wix are two of the best-known examples. But most of them work the same way.
You’ll sign up for a free account, then use a variety of tools (including a WYSIWYG editor) to flesh out the website you’ve envisioned for yourself. With a free account, you’ll have access to a handful of free templates, with limited capacity to make tweaks to that layout. You can also choose to pay for things like a domain name, better hosting, premium templates, and more freedom to make changes to the backend of the site. If you stick with the free option, you may be forced to host third party ads on your site.
What Are the Alternatives?
If you don’t go with a website builder, what other options are there?
The most common route is working with a website design agency like Website.design , but other business owners choose to work with freelancers – or even hire an in-house design team of their own. In any case, you’ll be working with a team of professional designers to put together an original design from scratch – then develop and launch it.
Advantages of Free Website Builders
There are some impressive advantages to using free website builders:
Free (or cheap) nature. Here’s the greatest thing about free website builders: they’re free, or at least somewhat free. You can typically create a free account and build a website without paying money, but if you want an original template, a domain name, or control over your own advertising, you’ll need to pay a fee or subscription. Even then, the costs are relatively low.
Accessibility. Even if you have no familiarity or prior experience with web design and development, you can probably still use a free website builder. These tools are created with average non-experts in mind. If you can drag and drop, you can create your site from scratch.
Flexibility. If you’re willing to pay a bit, you can get a lot of flexibility from website builders. You can modify your templates, rearrange your layout, and use a variety of plugins for exactly the experience you want.
Templates. A key feature of website builders is their provision of templates. You can usually choose one of several free templates, or pay to get access to better, “premium” templates. If you aren’t sure what kind of site you want, it’s a great place to start.
Scalability. Because website builders are so easy, accessible, and inexpensive, they’re highly scalable. If you plan on building many different websites for many different domains, they’re a solid option.
Disadvantages of Free Website Builders
However, there are also some prohibitive downsides:
Unoriginal designs. There are more than 455 million different websites created using WordPress. That’s a lot of people designing websites from the same set of templates. If you rely too heavily on preexisting template designs, you’ll end up looking unoriginal – and unimpressive in a sea of competitors.
Inherent limitations. There are some inherent limitations to what you can do with a website builder – and even more limitations if you’re trying to build a website entirely for free. This can completely prevent you from getting the site you want.
Domain and hosting problems. The free and inexpensive options for domains and hosting generally aren’t worth it. You’ll need to pay to upgrade your package if you want decent service; even then, you may be better off going independent.
Branding and image issues. Justified or not, free website builders have a stigma attached to them. If your visitors see that your site was built using one of these tools, it may cause mild reputational damage.
Customer support problems. What happens if you’re dissatisfied with your web design? And what if your website isn’t working correctly? Most website builders don’t offer great customer support.
For some businesses and individuals, free website builders are well worth the time and effort. For others, they’re more trouble than they’re worth. Take all the pros and cons into account when making your decision – and make sure you get the high-quality website your brand or idea deserves.