Whether you are a small business owner looking for a website to represent your brand, or you collect maritime antiques and you want to reach out and network with others who share your passion, having a good website is vital to your online identity. People aren’t simply going to find you in a crystal ball and knock on your door asking if you have a brass lantern off a 17th century tall ship, nor are they going to use a honing beacon to simply find your business.
Having a website is no longer a luxury, it is a necessity in order for people to find you. But fear not. You don’t need a degree in computer science from MIT, nor do you need thousands of dollars to pay a web master. In fact, you don’t need a single cent. There are many good, free website companies out there. But choosing the right one is crucial to your success, as there are equally some horrible ones, and you don’t want one that will drive business away.
When a Free Website Is NOT a Free Website
Have you ever driven past a house with an old beat up sofa with a “free” sign propped against it? Sure, for a split second our heart rates jump at the word “free”, but then we calm right down because, after all, the quality of the free object settles into our brains and we realize the sofa looks like someone met a cruel death on it. But being able to tell a good free website from a bad one is not as easy as deciphering good roadside furniture from the junk. Here are some tips to help you make the right decision:
- Avoid using a company that plasters your free website with advertisements. This will distract others from your own content, and it will make you look cheap. Would you conduct a business meeting with someone while wearing a sticker on your forehead that says, “Drive a Chevy”? Of course not. Your virtual storefront shouldn’t do this either.
- Avoid cheap-looking templates that replicate what thousands of others have. Make sure the company you choose has professional designs that are unique and contemporary.
- Make sure the free website has content pre-loaded and that you can customize your self. This will save you time, and give you a better experience.
- Customer service is key. You will want to find a company that has a customer service department that is able to answer your questions or respond to your concerns within 24 hours.
- Affordable paid upgrades should be available. Though the free website should be fine, you will want a company that offers a free upgradable and affordable site that offers a custom URL, SEO options, and other bells and whistles that you may want down the road.
Prepare to Be Judged
Aesthetics are everything. As mentioned above, you should always avoid using cookie-cutter templates. But also, make sure the aesthetics and design of your site is relevant to your services. If you own a coffee company, don’t have images of white sandy beaches, as inviting as they may look. In an article published by Conversion XL, the author states that it takes Internet users 0.05 seconds of glancing at a website to determine whether or not they like it, and whether they will stay or leave. This finding comes from specific studies mentioned in the article, and simply testifies to the fact that any company you entrust to build you a free website MUST ensure your site is eye candy for the masses, and pleasing to the pickiest consumers.
You may not be caught in ‘The Matrix’ and are faced with the detrimental task of swallowing either the red pill or blue pill, but when it comes to choosing the best free website, you should take your time in doing some research. Your business, passions, and online reputation are at stake. Make sure that when “free” builds your website, it is of solid, strong materials based on integrity, and not some flimsy cardboard that will topple at the first gentle breeze.