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I can get get it for free – why should I pay for a website?

An issue that a lot of web developers and designers are currently facing is the rise of the free website. It’s not a particularly new thing, with packages having been available since at least 2003, with Microsoft FrontPage being the main WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) package available to businesses that needed a quick, cheap way to get a site online.

What has changed, is the convenience of these packages. The likes of Wix and 1&1 offer the ability to build your site online, under your own URL, without the need to setup any proper hosting that could be accessed through File Management software. A lot of people consider a template website a reasonable option for their business, and it may be in the beginning. However, there are many reasons why using templates to build your site are a bad idea in the long run.

Flexibility

If you’re wanting to add images, text and a navigation, a template is fine. You can do all these things with the greatest of ease. However, when it comes to adding functionality and it particular, bespoke functionality tailored to your business, then this can range between incredibly difficult to achieve, and simply impossible due to a lack of access to the core site files.

Even if you take some of the available WordPress themes, these have been built with a core functional goal in mind. Adding or changing this functionality more often than not breaks the theme. The time spent cutting an existing theme to pieces will almost always usurp the time spent building a well planned website theme from scratch. Time is money and when it’s your money, you want to make sure every penny is well spent.

Identity

The main aim for the design of a site should be to stand out from the rest. You want visitors to remember your site in amongst the other pages they may have seen that day. You want that unique factor that really represents what your business stands for. Can this be achieved by using a service that has 50 million users and yet only a few hundred designs to choose from? The numbers would suggest not.

The other issue is search engines. Google will rank you higher based on not only unique content, but unique code. Even if your content is excellent, you’re sharing identical core code with millions of other websites. This will undoubtedly effect your rankings.

Bloat

When a site is built from scratch, it’s planned out on paper and discussion before a line of code has been written. This ensures that the site is tailor made, without any extra baggage that isn’t required. The code is as lightweight as possible and the file sizes are optimised.

Whilst using a theme or WYSIWYG package, it’s all or nothing. Just because you’re not using a widget or section of styling in the CSS, doesn’t mean that they’re not being loaded. Load times influence traffic and engagement but most importantly, SEO. Google are putting a heavier weight on performance in terms of rankings (you can test your site here), so every kilobyte saved will be of a benefit to you and your users experience.

The Adverts!

The last thing you want on your professional portfolio or shop, are adverts all over the site that are potentially taking customers away. Free services have to make money somewhere and the heavy use of advert banners, buttons and icons will bring down the look of your site. It’s just simply not a professional look.

Even if templates save you money in the short run, long term they’re not a great solution for you and in some cases, the short term use may be detrimental to your long term standing on the internet. Search engine rankings are a lot easier to break than they are to fix, so it’s better to do it right from the beginning.

If you wish to discuss a new web project, or have issues regarding your existing site, please get in touch or find me on twitter.