No doubt, if you watch any television at all, you have seen a ton of advertising for outfits like Intuit, Webs.com, 1 & 1 and others offering free online website building tools and low cost hosting. The recent proliferation of this type of software is a direct result of a bad economy as most small business owners have seen a dramatic decrease in available advertising dollars in the last three years. It is a predictable turn of events, but before you plunge into a contract that you may seriously regret a year from now, I’d like you to consider a couple of things:
First of all, it is important to recognize that the companies offering these “Roll your own” website services are not making their money by giving you a free website and charging you a few bucks a month for hosting. These services fall under the classic definition of a Loss Leader. Companies like Intuit and Vista Print are far more interested in selling you their other, high margin products than they are in providing you with an effective website, so get ready for non-stop sales pitches.
Another thing that they hope for is that you will become frustrated using their software and request design assistance from them, which they charge a premium for. This happens a lot because the software is intentionally made clumsy to use.
You will find that there is a lot of fine print in the contracts involved…read them carefully or your $150/year website might cost you many times that.
If you purchase a domain name through one of these companies, you need to be aware that THEY control that domain while you are hosting with them. Should you become dissatisfied and want to move your domain name elsewhere, it is usually an involved process that can take days, weeks or even months…with your website down the whole time.
The gist of all of this is, that on the surface, these things look like a great deal but like most things that appear too good to be true, there are many catches. The fact is, getting a professionally designed, developed and deployed website does not cost much when compared to other advertising. You should be able to find a designer in any city in the country who can produce a beautiful WordPress site for under a thousand dollars that will be unique, SEO optimized and have sophisticated features that you don’t get from the cookie cutter site factories.