Is a Free Website Builder Right For You?

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If you’ve spent much time online recently, you’ve probably seen an advertisement for a free online website editor platform, such as Wix, SquareSpace, Weebly, Shopify, or GoDaddy. Some of these advertisements feature popular celebrities who demonstrate how to use these online website builders — with just a few clicks, they add new pages, graphics, and content, and their website is ready to go!

But is it really that easy? Perhaps you’ve tried building or updating your own website in the past using software such as Adobe Dreamweaver or Microsoft FrontPage. While these applications certainly make it easier to create a web page without much knowledge of programming languages like HTML or PHP, they still have a bit of a learning curve, and the process of actually publishing your pages to a live website could become a serious headache.

Compared to these programs, free online site builders like Wix or SquareSpace might seem like a dream come true. Just pick a pre-built template, update the content and images, and you’re all set! Right?

Well, yes and no. It’s true that online website builders allow you to skip the process of designing and building your website and jump right in to adding your own content and images. However, while this may help save some time and investment, it also places some serious limits on the flexibility you have to tweak and adjust the design of your site.

For example, you’ll need to update the images included in a pre-designed template to reflect your business. Unless you replace the template images with new images of the same size & shape, odds are good that you’ll need to spend some time tweaking, adjusting, and cropping to ensure your own images fit properly within the template layout.

Generally speaking, when it comes to online site builders, you can expect that the easier it is to create a web page, the less control you’ll have over the finer details of the page layout and design.

Another thing you should know before committing to an online site builder: while it’s free to build a website using their online tools, the website itself isn’t completely free. In order to publish your site to a domain, you’ll need to sign up for a hosting package from whichever online builder you choose.

The standard hosting plan from Wix runs about $168 a year, SquareSpace and Weebly charge $144 a year, and GoDaddy charges about $120 per year. Note that if you plan to incorporate eCommerce into your website, you may need an upgraded hosting package. For example, eCommerce plans from the providers listed range from $240 per year for GoDaddy’s eCommerce plan, to $480 per year for SquareSpace’s premium eCommerce package.

(Note: while all of these providers offer a low-cost, “basic” hosting package, these packages generally include stipulations such as including ads in your website, the inability to use your own custom domain name, et cetera.)

Finally, but perhaps most importantly, a major limitation of any online website building tool is that you will not truly “own” your website. For example, if you build a website with Wix, you must always host that website on Wix’s servers — if and when you cancel your Wix account, the website will no longer be available, and it is not possible to download the website files in order to host them with a different provider.

So: Does all of this mean that nobody should ever use online website builders like Wix and SquareSpace? Not necessarily! They can be a great option if you need to establish an online presence as quickly as possible. However, it’s important to have a clear understanding of both the benefits and limitations of these platforms, as well as the tools and skills you might need to craft a design and layout that suits your vision.

You may ultimately find that an online website builder simply isn’t the right tool for you. Perhaps you have a clear idea of the overall design concept you’d like, and the pre-built templates and options available within the builder aren’t suitable for bringing this concept to life. Or, perhaps you find you just don’t have the time, design skills, or technical know-how to adapt the builder templates to your business.

Whether you’d like a bit of help with updating your Wix, Weebly, SquareSpace, or GoDaddy website, or are interested in exploring other options for website design and development, we’d be more than happy to help! Simply fill out the form below and let us know what you need.

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