No product is for everyone even when they’re free. Surfing the web, you may notice there is an abundance of ways to build a website. Some services you pay professionals for, like a web design agency, other services offer complimentary web hosting. No matter what phase you’re in with your company’s website, whether you’re just starting out or even thinking about migrating some content from a free website builder to another platform, discussing these pitfalls of free website builders will inform you of the caveats of these enticing platforms.
Are Free Website Builders Too Good to be True?
When something is free, a common instinct is to think: what’s wrong with it?
The same goes for free website builders. Like all products, these platforms are not for everyone. For example, if you’re a student needing a mockup website for a project or a hobbyist that doesn’t intend to grow their business, then they may be fine.
Consider that free website builders start as complementary, but when other features are desired, they quickly become more expensive. Do you need to post high-definition website images or videos? Do you want to have your own custom domain name without the web builder tool mentioned? Do you want to perform secure booking and credit card transactions on your website? Do you want to rank high on Google? If any answer is yes, or eventually yes, then it’s worth paying for a professionally built website. In the end, these platforms run a business too, and they want you to eventually pay for them. It’s imperative to keep that in mind when signing up for these services.
Discussed here are numerous pitfalls of free website builders that will affect long-term aspects of your website.
Slower Shared Servers
You understand that a slower server means slower speed, but how does this affect your website otherwise? There might not be an immediate concern on the surface, but there are some key issues with shared servers that come with reduced bandwidth.
Users are Accustomed to Fast Information
In our modern era, most people have become accustomed to fast loading speeds. Slow web pages on free website builders are proven to drive people away, as load times have a direct relationship to bounce rates. Did you know that at least 32% of users bounce if your load time is 7 seconds or more? Research suggests people expect load times to be below 3 seconds and that upwards of 40% will click away if it takes longer. These numbers directly hinder your sales, subscriptions and any type of call to action on your website.
If any of these terms were confusing to you, check out our blog post outlining common SEO terms.
Negatively Affects Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Laggy load times also hinder your ability to rank on Google and other search engines. Google uses web crawlers to identify, index and rank your site. Slow pages are assorted at the bottom of Google’s stack, which means your pages might never get identified.
From an even more technical standpoint, SEO coding on free website builders can be unfriendly to Google. Some builders don’t allow you to update or change image alt text, meta descriptions, or even headers to pages. If you’re unable to make these critical changes, your site will remain in the dark for future customers. Various web builders feature plugins and widgets to help SEO, but these often can make the site run even slower, further punishing your Google rankings.
Do you have sensitive information collected on your website? Another problem with shared servers is they can leave your website open to breaches and hackers. A shared server hosts other websites as well as yours. Your website is at risk even if one of them is hacked on the server. Ensuring you have a private server will negate this problem.
Lack of Website Freedom & Expansion
It’s difficult to expand a website if it’s not directly owned. Sometimes, the website’s code belongs to the free website builder. If you’re ever interested in making additional functionalities to your website, you’re often limited to their tools and systems. It’s possible to migrate a website off their platform, but it can be difficult and time-consuming. Sometimes the site may need to be rebuilt from scratch when migrating to a private server, costing you additional resources.
If you didn’t pay for your domain, you're likely using an unprofessional domain name. When your website says ‘yourbusiness.webbuildername.com’, it can be viewed negatively by visitors and future customers. It’s often an easy fix to pay for and change your domain, but keep in mind that it isn’t free.
Free Website Builder Support is Limited
Customer support is usually provided with free website builders but it’s likely stretched thin. Let’s suppose your site goes down at a crucial sales period. Your customers are perplexed, impatient and going to competitor sites while your own team is struggling to reach someone who can help. You or a member on your team in this scenario would be on hold for a support agent - assuming you can even phone them - or on email and chat diagnosing the issue.
This pain point can easily be avoided by having a professional web design agency build your site. Let us know if you’re leaning towards asking us for help on continually building, designing, and developing your company’s website.