Dude with a sign meme- "stop using free website builders"

I think it’s safe to say that e-commerce is at its most critical stage yet. For years in the business world we’ve heard that we must “adapt or die” to the rapidly evolving e-comm world. In 2020, this became clearer than ever before with stores and other commerce spaces limited from thousands to hundreds, to tens, then closed entirely.  Businesses were then met with a harsh reality; adapt or die. 


Many businesses were forced to close to the public multiple times in the last year with the only options to continue sales being curb-side pick-up or delivery. Maybe that required a slight adjustment for sellers that were already online with a selling platform that could be adjusted to meet these limitations. However, thousands of other businesses were stuck, unable to continue sales and sadly, forced to ‘adapt or die’. 


I’ve seen some pretty complicated ‘hacks’ to get around having a strong e-commerce platform such as: tracking all the stores inventory in a spreadsheet that’s then sent to potential customers to browse through, using a Facebook page as a catalog customers can comment on to order, and even printed photos of inventory hung in the store windows with ‘call to order’ underneath. While these are methods of adaptation, they require a lot of work, high organizational skills, and tons of time to manage. Other businesses scrambled to get some form of website together and with limited resources, some even considered building their own, thus, the ‘free’ website builder comes into the picture.


Who would shake their head at a free website? I mean really, if I could build a beautiful website, sell online, and host it all for free, why the heck wouldn’t I? With hundreds of ‘free’ website builders out there like Wix, Ecwid, Weebly and Squarespace, there has to be one that will suit all my needs, right? Well, no, not exactly, in fact, I’m the person shaking my head at a ‘free’ website because it’s not going to be free.


Your business is complex and unique to itself. Even if you sell coffee and your neighbour sells coffee, I promise you, you don’t have the same needs when it comes to selling your coffee online. This is where you’ll realize the limitations of ‘free’ website builders and you’ll start to understand that they’re not really free at all. If you’re in the market for a website and considering a ‘free’ website builder stop right now and read these reasons why these web builders are, more than likely, not for you.


1. Free, Well, Not Forever.

The first issue with many free website builders is that they won’t be free forever. If you have to enter your credit card information to sign up for your ‘free’ website, it’s likely a free trial. You might get 3 months, 6 months, maybe a year free and then, without warning (except in those terms and conditions you just clicked ‘agree’ to without actually reading like we all do), you get dinged. It won’t be just one fee either. You’ll likely see charges for web hosting, custom emails, domain charges and more. This leads to our next point.


2. Hidden Costs

Nothing in life is free, even when it’s ‘free’. These free website builders are just like you, trying to make a profit. They might host your site for free and give you a free web template but if you want to customize anything to suit your business and needs, you’re going to have to pay for ‘pro’ features and these can really add up, especially if you want to sell products online.


3. Limitations

Like I’ve said before, your business has unique needs. Free website builders will provide you with very limited options. You might be provided with 2-10 options for a website template forcing you to fit a mold made by someone else and if you want your domain name to read www.yourbusinessname.com, well you can forget about it. Anything customized to your business will cost you more and these charges are often much larger than the fees to have a website made using WordPress.


4. Advertisements

In order to offer you a ‘free’ web building tool, these companies rely on ad revenue to profit. This means that your site will likely have advertisements display over it or on it that have nothing to do with your business. These ads are distracting, ugly, and can even drive people away from your site. Some builders even place a large banner right across the top of your site, advertising their web builders and you have to pay to get rid of the banner!


5. Bad User Experience

When you use a free website builder, chances are your site is sharing the same server with hundreds of other websites. Hundreds of sites going through the same server means slow load times and that leads to frustration when customers are trying to shop your site. Additionally, depending on the builder you choose, your website may not be secured by SSL, which ensures data transferred between your site and its users is not readable. This can include information such as your customers credit card number or name and address. If your site isn’t secure, your customer won’t trust making purchases through it. 


6. And what about mobile users? 

Most free website builders don’t support mobile device display. This means that your customers can’t browse or shop your site on the go or while binging the last season of their favourite show on Netflix, and really, there’s no better time to shop. Mobile optimization isn’t something that should be overlooked either. In 2021, 57% of all web traffic is coming from mobile phones and tablets (Source: Blue Corona), 70% of which lead to action such as a sale (Source: Convince&Convert)!


7. Where’s My Site?

This is the last question you want to be asking yourself in the middle of lockdown # whatever. These web builders come and go every day and if they go, so does your site and all your data with it. If you purchased a domain name through them as well, your domain will likely not be recoverable either. This is the last thing you need to have happen when your doors are closed to customers. Another way you could find yourself wondering what happened is through hacking. With poor security on these sites, your data, files, and entire site are at risk from hacking attempts and did I mention there’s no backups on these free websites?


Is that it? I could honestly talk for days about why free website builders are a bad idea. As someone who provided coaching services to business owners who used these websites, I can’t stress enough how frustrating this experience will be. Back at the beginning of the second lockdown in Ontario, I watched numerous local business owners pull out their hair trying to figure out how to manage their websites while I desperately tried to coach them over Zoom. The thing is, if you’re technically inclined, these website builders aren’t all bad but, if you and your business got to 2020 or even 2021 without a website, there’s a good chance you aren’t technically inclined at all and that’s ok. That’s why businesses like Nufas exist. 


We don’t want to see local businesses die so we’re here to help you adapt. Our web developers are practiced in building and coding websites unique to each individual business. No, our services aren’t free but that’s because we cover everything free website builders don’t come close to touching on with no hidden fees and 0% financing. Your website will be secure, professional, and customized to fit your business. So please, for your own sake, step away from the computer and the free website builders and pick up the phone to get started on the website of your dreams.