Whether you’ve been searching for ‘build your own website’ or are looking to hire a web designer or website developer I’m sure you would have come across several advertisements on the search results pages advertising free website templates.
The case ‘for’…
These advertisements will attempt to present a compelling value proposition – at a quick glance there will probably be several claimed advantages to using these free website templates or website builders to get your website underway, including:
- they are free – so none of your budget needs to be spent on the design
- quick to build – they may even claim to have you up and running in 5 minutes!
- easy step-by-step instructions to follow – even if you are not a technical expert
- they allow for a DIY approach – so no need to find or pay for a website developer or webmaster
The case ‘against’…
The website templates all look colourful, have a well organised top tier navigation and look very simple. Sound good so far? However, there must be a hidden ‘but’ right? Yes – and here a few of the unstated disadvantages:
- the colour palette may not be compatible with your existing brand
- the templates may be unable to be customised sufficiently, if at all
- you are unable to build for your targeted customer’s requirements
- may be difficult to expand in the future
- will not have that unique ‘one of a kind’ feel
- unable to run one-off promotional campaigns
- may not be mobile responsive or even incorporate social media sharing functionality!
- often do not rank highly in the search engine results due to the way they are configured/coded – some templates actually make it impossible for your content to be passed onto the search engines!
At the outset, a free website template does seem like a good starting place – but as with so many things there are often catches which may be harming your chances in the long-term.
I am strongly in favour of hiring a professional web designer/developer to build to build your website – ensuring that your website will be well-designed, with easy-to-follow navigation, a good balance text to image ratio (i.e. lots of white space) and a design that allows you to write and upload keyword-focused, customer-friendly website content yourself.
Future-proof your website: find a good web developer
Seek out a web developer who is able to work with you to better understand your current and future online & offline business plans – so that your website can be built with as much future-proofing or anticipation of your future requirements as possible: this will hopefully help you avoid undertaking a major website redesign in the future earlier than you had planned for. However, in saying that, I do think that a website’s look and feel (i.e. its visual design) does age and become dated. On average a website should have a complete refresh or makeover every five years as styles and looks change over time – and this will certainly be an easier and less painful process if the underlying technical structure has been well thought through with a web developer.
It is important that you develop a good working relationship with your website developer so that you can share with them where and how you want your website to grow. A good website designer will listen to you and suggest how they can help you accomplish those goals with appropriate web tools and good web practice when they are building your website.
‘Free’ is not necessarily better
Your website should reflect your personal and business goals and the future expectations you have for your business.
If you have found someone to design your website who is a good ‘listener’ rather than simply a ‘salesperson’ full of “cheap, quick fixes” then they will be able to translate your business requirements into a web-friendly, cost effective, working online presence.
In setting aside a budget for your website development, I would encourage you to consider the expense to be a business investment rather than a nuisance cost.