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How Free is Free?

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How Free is Free?

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You’ve likely saw the ads during the last Super Bowl. The message goes something like this: You need a website for your business or organization but it’s so hard to figure out what to do and can be so expensive, so use our free website builder. You can just build your own and it’s free. Is it really that simple?hanging-guy

Well, no. Companies that offer “free” websites make up for this by placing ads on your site. Some people might be okay with that, but most professional organizations want their site to be all about them and not distract people with outside ads they do not control. For a site without these ads, providers of “free sites” will impose a monthly fee of various amounts depending on the bells and whistles you want for one of their “premium” sites. Note that even if you only need a very basic one, two, or three page site, you may be pleasantly surprised by the low price a local expert actually charges for such a site.

Other major considerations that are the reasons most people hire someone to build a website include design expertise, programming expertise, time considerations, and return on investment.

DESIGN. In terms of design expertise, a professional and creative web designer is still going to beat a free website template every time in terms of the look and feel of your site. There are design elements to every site. Professional web designers also have graphic design training and this pays off in spades to get you a site that looks unique, is pleasing to the eye, and is easy to navigate. Free website templates are fine for some sites but you will always be limited to the templates offered. That means other people using those services are choosing the same template and colors as you so your site can end up not being very unique.

CUSTOM PROGRAMMING. A good local professional web design company has professionally trained and educated programmers on staff, that means when you want your site to perform some fairly unique function, they just write the programming language to make that functionality happen just how you envisioned it on your site. Maybe you didn’t envision it at all, but through their expertise they took some vague dream you had and turned into a beautifully functioning reality. Free websites use HTML5 only, which breaks in some older browsers and limits any customizability on sites. Fine for cookie cutter sites, but if you want yours to be unique this can be very limiting.

TIME IS MONEY. Don’t forget about the time factor. Many people think they will just build their own site but it never gets done. You have orders and customer to take care of and building that site on your own ends up not being quite as simple as you thought, so another year passes with no new website. In contrast, a meeting with a local professional web company will allow you to really focus on what you want and need. From there, a quote will be developed and site map prepared to be sure the site has all the functionality and page elements needed, pages are created so you can see and approve the look and feel, and then the site is built to the specs agreed upon. You focus on your business and your site actually gets built.

ROI. At the end of the day your website should help you garner more business, and in our humble opinion, a well thought out site designed by a professional web designer will beat a free template site every time in this regard. It will look more reputable, unique, and will show that time and effort were put into it. If you work the right company it will also have functionality unique to your needs, have a look and feel that reflect your organization’s DNA and branding, and may end up actually costing you less in the long term than a so called “free” site.

Tom Hanchette
Identity Works, Inc.



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