The entire free vs paid website topic has been a hot issue for a while now. The answer is more than the sum of its money. However, it does remind me of a mental approach that has often served me well. I wanted to share it with you.
A financial adviser once gave me an analogy. He said each part of our lives is like a bucket. Those buckets had labels like vacation, retirement, college, car, etc. We each have a limited amount of money but we have the choice of which bucket we place our money. The trick is deciding which bucket is right for us.
When we are trying to fill every bucket we have to make choices. Sometimes those choices are hard. Therefore, it becomes tempting to go for the least expensive choice. “Free” is a wonderful, and tempting, price tag.
It is no different with web site design. An engaging and functional web site can cost hundreds or thousands when designed by a web designer such as Crimson Web Design. Yet, there are commercials for web site builders that can be used by anyone. Some even offer perks like a free Facebook page.
Free vs Paid Website
With the “free” price tag, the free vs paid website builder issue is worth considering. So, let’s consider.
1. Coding Options
Most of us don’t know much, if anything, about coding. Even more, most of us don’t want to. Instead, we want a web site that represents our business and draws in customers.
We typically design our web sites in WordPress. It provides a lot of options. But even here we spend our days working through code and technical updates to keep things going. So why not just use a free web site builder?
Well, we see options as a four lane highway. It’s okay to drive in the slow lane but, while you are, you can be assured you will get passed by. We don’t want that for our clients.
If a free web site builder gives you options A, B, and C, we want to give you those plus D through Z. We’ll even add in #, @, and ! because we’re special characters. (see what we did there?)
Sometimes things are easy because easy is comfortable. You don’t want to learn code. We don’t want you to have to learn it. When it comes to creating traffic for your company though, you don’t want to be left beside of the road. Our job is to understand ways to make things happen that our clients might not, then make it happen for them.
2. Beauty and the Ghastly
Do you remember when MySpace was all the rage? Everyone could build themselves a custom web site. And, wait for it… it was Free.
Everybody and their dachshund had a web site. Many people even dived into learning some minor coding (HTML, y’all) to get their spinning disco ball gif to stay in place while you scrolled down the page.
Soon the internet was full of flashing neon banners, midi players that serenaded us with Spice Girls songs, and pages featuring such eye-catching choices as canary yellow font on fuchsia backgrounds. The rise in retinal damage during that time could be related but we can’t prove it.
The point is that just because you can build it doesn’t mean you should. Knowing how to put together boards to make something resembling a house doesn’t make it one people want to visit. They will see the cracks and visit your neighbor who spent a few dollars to have a professional contractor create something beautiful.
When you hire a web design service, you aren’t paying only for them to code the site. You are paying for them to create a masterpiece for your company. After all, your visitors don’t see the code, only the result of it.
3. Support and Maintenance
There’s a reason you return to the same mechanic or doctor year after year. It is trust. You trust in his or her expertise and fairness to provide you with what is best for you.
The hardest part can be finding the right specialist. There are many out there who are professional, loyal, and have your best interests at heart. We would even say it is most of them. Others, unfortunately, don’t measure up.
The trick is finding the right investment. It can be challenging. You don’t have either the time or money to test drive different specialists until you find the right one.
Reading online reviews are an option. One has to be careful, of course, of the source. This will be shocking but some of the things on the internet aren’t true.
One perspective to consider is that a small but skilled company is more likely to invest in your success. This isn’t only server maintenance or coding releases. That should be a given. We are talking about your success. That only comes from working with someone who cares about you, your needs, and your goals.
Most often, the larger a company is the more they lose sight of focusing on their client’s true success. You don’t want, or deserve, a doctor who removes a splinter but doesn’t pay attention whether or not your arm will fall off later. After all, limb reattachment is another revenue stream for them.
That isn’t how we do things at Crimson Web Design. We’ll remove the splinter, sure, but we also want to make sure your arm works as well as ever. Better if possible. Even more, and here’s the beauty of it, we want to learn how that splinter got there in the first place so we make sure it doesn’t happen twice.
4. References on a Resume
I worked in management for decades. During that time, I interviewed, hired, trained, and managed hundreds of people. However, I barely ever looked at the references on the resume page given to me.
No one with any sense is going to put a bad reference on their resume. I called the references to make sure they were real people but I assumed that I was going to hear nice things about the applicant. I was never surprised in that assumption.
No matter what company you explore, they will tell you why you should choose them. Our company is no different in that regard. Companies sort themselves out for you with performance, communication, and loyalty.
Have you ever noticed that many companies have direct numbers that get you to their Sales department right away but their Support department is almost impossible to reach? They focus on gaining the client but trying to talk to a real person when you are an established customer is a different story.
Many have abandoned the option to call them. Some don’t even have chat options anymore, only message boards full of other confused customers trying to figure out what went wrong.
Want to talk to the owner here? That’s not hard. I’m the one writing this post. My phone number is on our Contact page.
5. Free or Paid Website
That was the question, right? The answer is the option that works for you. Can you try free and, if it doesn’t work, go for the paid option? You could.
Here’s our advise against that. And, like the splinter you might suffer, we’re going to tell you why.
Most free web site builders will let you build the site but that awesome business name you created isn’t on your own domain. In other words, your web site address isn’t “MyAwesomeBusiness.com” but “MegaCorporationOwnsThis/MyAwesomeBusiness.com”.
This not only makes for an unwieldy web site address (which matters more than you might think) but also puts you in a position you may not have considered. You want that web site name you are dreaming of. But now you have to take additional steps. And, guess what? That option is not free.
Hmm, it’s almost like the company invested tons of marketing into advertising something that would get people through the door but knew all along they were going to upsell you. Nah, that couldn’t be it, could it?
When it comes to free vs paid website builders, take time to think about all the little things. Might you ever want to move your site to another host? How would that work? (hint: that’s not free either) Want e-mail services? (we bet you do!). Once again, probably not free. The list goes on, but we won’t.
Our goal isn’t to convince you whether to use a free or paid website builder. We are a web design company so we have our own perspective.
Instead, we are urging you to take time and think about all sides of things. This includes not only what you can do for cheap today but where you will find yourself in months or years. We don’t want your business to go away. Your site will be an ongoing part of your marketing and identity. Just like a valuable employee, it has to be protected.
The best decision is an informed decision. When the decision of a free vs paid website is in front of you, we want to help you make the right call on which bucket gets your hard-earned money. If calling us will help, please do.
Whatever you choose, we sincerely hope for your success.