Your website is one of your most important business assets. Free website builder tools are a great first step in getting your business online, however they come with many limitations over choosing a professionally designed website.

If you’ve built your website using a free website builder tool or are thinking about using one, here are a few things you might want to consider:

1) Is a one-size-fits-all template really for you?

Website builders offer a selection of templates for you to choose from that best suit your business. But you’re not the only one who will be using that template, and your options for customising it are limited. These templates are purely for you to slot your details into, and often have a rigid structure which you’ll have to stick to.

Web design agencies have an in-depth understanding of how people use websites, which means they can design a structure and layout that delivers a good user experience. The design will reflect your brand completely (so you won’t look like everyone else using the same template) and will be visually appealing to visitors. However you want your website to look and act, working with a web design agency will deliver in a way that website builder tools can’t.

2) Are there additional costs to get the website you really want?

‘Nothing in life comes for free,’ as the saying goes. Sign up for a free plan and you’ll most probably have access to functions to create a basic website. Website builders have to generate an income somehow – this is usually by offering premium paid packages or added extras at additional costs, which could be:

  • Additional pages
  • Storage (how many files your website can hold e.g. images, videos and content)
  • Bandwidth (how fast your website performs)
  • Personalised email addresses
  • Responsive design (whether it’s mobile/tablet-friendly)
  • Search functionality across your website
  • Your own domain name (see point 7)
  • Removal of their advertising/branding across your site (see point 9)
  • eCommerce (online shopping functions)
  • PayPal integration
  • Social Media feeds
  • SEO

These are all costs which can quickly add up, making that free website not such a bargain after all!

Your website is probably one of the most important pieces of branding you’ll ever invest in. When working with an agency like ours, we’ll take into account your budget and the features that you really want to include – bringing you closer to the website of your dreams.

3) How much are you willing to compromise?

Free website builder tools work with set templates. The quality of these templates can vary and there might be boundaries as to how creative you can be. Not everyone has an eye for design, and some may have limited knowledge in how websites work. How confident are you that your website is going to make the impression you’re hoping for?

When we build websites, we think about how they will engage visitors, provide a seamless experience and drive conversions (i.e. leads or sales). With a free website builder, your thought process should be the same, but bear in mind that a website that ‘wows’ its visitors needs time, thought and professional consideration when it comes to the content, structure, and design.

4) Will it project the right brand image?

A free website builder might seem an inexpensive way of getting your business online and it’s definitely a start. But, does your website say to visitors that you’re a professional and an expert in your industry?

Your website should project a professional image and highlight your position in the marketplace. Visitors expect to see an authentic, high-quality website that they can put their trust in. A free website, put together in a couple of hours using a restrictive template might not do that. To get the results you want and to present a strong visual identity for your brand takes time and experience, and this is where a web designer can really add value.

5) The success of your website is all down to you. Are you up for the challenge?

A website builder tool is just that – a ‘tool.’ They might offer some form of customer support, but does that compare to working with a professional web design agency who will not only do the hard work for you, but also bring their experience and ideas to the table, specifically for your business?

You’ll have a website up-and-running quickly and fairly painlessly when using a free website builder, however you need to dedicate on-going time and resources to maintaining and updating the website regularly. Fresh and relevant content is vital to effective SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) – see point 8.

6) Do you want your website to do bigger, better, things eventually?

Think about the future of your website. Many website builders come with restrictions, so you should check that you’ll be able to move (or migrate) your website to another host should you later want to transfer it to a CMS (Content Management System) so that you can build and enhance it. Often free website builder tools don’t offer this function – so in theory they own your website.

Using a CMS – as a professional web design agency would – will provide you with complete control of all aspects of your website, including much greater flexibility in terms of design, editing and creating content and pages, and your own domain name (see point 7). You can also migrate your website from host to host with much greater ease (although professional help is recommended).

So, if you think one day you might like a much better-looking, better-performing website that’s tailored to your business, you should probably take this approach from the start. It will save you time, resources and headaches in the long run!

7) What will your website address be?

Your website URL (address) and domain says a lot about your business. Online and offline, it will be the main route to your online presence. Many website builder tools will give you a subdomain, meaning that your business name is tagged onto theirs in the website URL. For example, instead of being google.co.uk; you’re google.freewebsitebuilder.co.uk. This doesn’t look quite as professional, right? This could be off-putting to potential customers as not only is the long URL hard to remember; it might also suggest that you haven’t invested in your website, which could damage your credibility. Additionally, this URL structure could have a negative impact on your SEO as it may make it harder for search engines to find your pages.

Having your own specific website URL is most definitely an investment you want to make to give the right impression. There are plenty of domain registration services out there, or this is something we can help with when building a website.

8) How well will you perform in search engine results?

Website builder tools provide a place to present information about your brand online. However, as we mentioned in point 7, not having your dedicated own business URL may affect your ranking in search engine results. In addition, there are many ‘behind-the-scenes’ components of a website that you often can’t control when using a website builder tool, such as page speed, website structure, page titles, and virtually all the coding behind it.

If you have a professionally built website you can be sure that it is fully optimised with quality content and is well-structured to have a much better chance of ranking effectively in search results.

Ultimately your website is there to be found by searchers, so SEO should definitely be a top priority for anyone with an online presence.

9) Is there a hidden cost to your brand?

Free website builders need to reach as many people as possible to generate business. So they often place their own advert on your website, or even adverts of other third parties (which could include your competitors). This screams ‘I built my website for free’ to visitors. Is this the kind of impression you want to give to potential customers?

Stepping away from the templates and advertising of free website builders and investing in a custom website indicates that your business values professionalism and authenticity.

10) Should you work with an expert?

Becoming a professional web designer takes time, skill and experience, so what you get from a website builder tool will be very different to working with a professional.

There are so many factors to building a brilliant website – not only does it need to look visually pleasing, but it also needs to have the more complex elements tied together correctly (e.g. structure, code, security, backups, URL names, title tags, SEO etc.). Firstly, this will ensure that your site is discoverable by search engines, and secondly it will deliver a great user experience for visitors. Getting this wrong could cost you – you could give out a negative impression to visitors if their experience of your site is lacking, which could lose you sales, credibility and trust – providing they can find your site at all.

A professional website design agency has the knowledge and expertise to ensure that your website gets people talking for all the right reasons. Think of your website as an investment, not a cost.

If you’re looking for a website that makes the right impression, contact us to find out how we can help.