5 February 2016
As a small business with overheads to control, the cost of actually building a website may seem huge when compared to the relatively small costs of registering a domain and paying to host it. Yet your website is one of the biggest paths to success in the online world – having an email address and social accounts will only take you so far, so it’s important to get a website built and get it right first time for maximum exposure and ROI.
The Profit Key have found that many start-ups choose to build a free or cheap open source website as their first foray into the world of web development. There’s nothing wrong with doing this for pure exposure, but it’s important to keep in mind that a website built on a standard template (especially a free one) will have limitations and is unlikely to ever perform well in the bigger search engines such as Google. Platforms such as Wix and WordPress will allow you to register your own domain name but will be hosted on the main website as a sub-domain (such as www.mydomain.wordpress.com) so it will never earn value in its own right. This can be upgraded for a small fee, and other plugins also purchased to allow for different themes, SEO options and essentials such as sitemaps and meta content, but always at a cost that may seem small as a standalone item, but put with everything else soon adds up.
- Initially free, open source web builders allow small businesses freedom to launch a small website and gain some exposure
- The website will be more than likely hosted on the parent site, so no hosting costs to account for
- If you have anyone with coding experience in the business, they will be able to help out, and most open source builders offer basic support
- You have the freedom to update the website as little or as often as you want, at no cost, within the remits of the system being used. This means you won’t be paying by the hour for someone to work on the website for you.
- Most use HTML editors, so they’re easy to learn and use
- Some (not all) offer free emails to go alongside the domain. If they don’t, you’ll need to sort this separately or pay for an upgrade.
- A lot of open source builders come with limitations, such as small file size uploads, no options to customise meta or design, maximum number of pages allowed and little to no SEO functionality
- Extras will often cost, and these all add up, especially if you have to pay every-time you make a change (such as updating an XML sitemap)
- The look and feel will not be customisable, so your website will look the same as many others in terms of navigation and template.
- You need to make sure the website is mobile-friendly, as many users access the internet via smart devices and will want to visit a website that renders properly on all platforms
- If your website is an ecommerce site, you need to ensure the shopping platform offered is robust and can support multiple transactions. This may also incur an additional cost.
- You’ll have no support beyond the basic service offered by the host company, so if you need anything complicated doing, you’ll have to find an external 3rd party to do it for you (and pay them to do so)
- You’ll need to supply bespoke designs yourself (and creatives play a huge role in whether or not a website is successful with users), again at a cost unless you have someone in-house who can design for you
- Having a website hosted for free as a sub domain can look unprofessional, and make your business look smaller than it is to potential clients. You might also struggle to fit the domain name onto your marketing materials in a professional manner.
If you do decide in the future to move to a “paid for” website, designed by a web development company and hosted separately, then it may be hard or impossible to redirect your original site properly. This can cause issues with SEO and also mean your hard work goes down the drain! Customers will also have to be informed about your new domain name, which can mean new business cards, marketing materials, and anything else with your website address on it!
The Profit Key know that however you choose to launch your website, it is important to keep on top of current trends in design and development and ensure your site looks and acts properly for users. You could pay for the most expensive website in the world, but if the usability is not there, it’s unlikely it’ll perform well. Likewise, you need to market it properly – free or not, if nobody knows it’s there, it won’t be returning ROI anytime soon!