. . . as depicted in Legos (what else?)
All-in-one or free/limited hosting/website design companies are like a simple Lego set depicted above: limited, static, dull. These include: Vista Print, Homestead’s Sitebuilder, GoDaddy’s all-in-one package and more.
Paying for your own hosting through a hosting service like Bluehost or Dreamhost and then creating a website with a WordPress or Drupal developer affords you much more flexibility and expandability.
“But I only WANT a simple website,” you say. “That’s all I can handle!”
I get it. And these $5 per month sites are ideal for certain businesses. But keep in mind . . . There’s no such thing as a FREE website, no matter how many hits come up saying there are a million. There are free 30-day TRIALS, after which business owners have invested hours and hours building a site they don’t want to lose. Then again, after that 30 days, the fee for the site and hosting is only $5/month, which, heck, is as close to free as anything gets these days. After all, for that $5, you get the unique domain name (free of any annoying extensions like “.wordpress.com” or “.blogspot.com”), hosting and web templates. And support! Support is great. How can you go wrong? Here’s who IWC puts up on a Homestead or Vista Print site: a handyman who is sure he will never write or sell anything there and a carpet cleaner who just wants to show up in search results and have an anchor for all of his local search efforts. We’re happy to help with the conversion-optimized- and search-engine-optimized copy writing and uploading of files, photos, etc. Both of these guys just want photos of their bright and shiny faces and a phone number. They want a home page (that maybe a PPC ad could land on), a services page, about page and a contact page. Maybe a client testimonials page. That could be all they need. Without much content, however, they won’t rise very high in the search engine results. IWC makes this very clear to them at the get go. By working with PPC, however, they could get sufficient traffic to their site. The carpet cleaner has a big surfing hobby, after all, that must be maintained. Both guys are local and sole proprietors, so there’s only so much work they can even accept. Most of all: can you imagine the ROI (return on investment) of a $5 monthly outlay? In the future, if either of these clients wants to go bigger, creating a whole new site won’t involve demolishing an expensive blog- and ecommerce-enabled website that cost thousands to erect. These types of businesses have nothing to lose with these limited website platforms. However, businesses that:
– want a fighting chance in the search engine results;
– want to use a blog to connect with clients;
– want to use Social Media tools like Facebook and Twitter to promote their website, products and services;
– sell ANYTHING;
– have a newsletter going out to a client list;
– would like their website to be more than 5 pages;
should pay the extra $4 per month for a dedicated hosting site and then use a wordpress or drupal developer to create a template-enabled website ($1,000 – $1,800). Or pay $4,000 – $200,000 to a website design firm to do a gorgeous, utterly original version. Does the $1,000 up front throw you? Expanding from Vista Print’s basic 5-page package entails a leap from $5 to$13 to $30 monthly. It includes all kinds of “add ins” that you can get for free for your self-hosted (Bluehost, Dreamhost) wordpress website. (I’m not in bed with any of these providers.) Expanding from Homestead’s $5 basic package takes you to $20 monthly (now includes email!), then to $50 monthly for email & traffic stats. $600 per year for 5 years is $3,000 where if you’d paid the $1,000 up front for a WordPress template site, it comes with all kinds of plug-ins including traffic, filters, emails as well as an unlimited number of pages.
5 Dire Limitations of “Free” or Limited Website/Hosting Providers
1. Free or limited hosting plans are usually extremely limited in terms of allowable content. You usually get a pre-installed blog platform or content management system, but you can’t change it easily, you can’t back-up or migrate your information to another server or page, and you can’t add anything outside of the blog (for instance, a separate store or unrelated service page).
2. Anybody who’s ever lost files knows the value of having a backup system. Many pay-for-service hosting solutions allow unlimited storage space, giving you the freedom to back up your pages, documents from your computer, important files, etc. With a little know-how, you can even create pages to help display the data and allow multiple people to access it.
3. As you get more comfortable with your company and your services, you might realize a niche that’s unrelated to your flagship product or service, but you are perfectly suited to supply to eager consumers. This is where subdomains come in. Your site may be www.johnswidgets.com, but down the road you may need to add www.johnswidgetinstallation.johnswidegets.com down the line. This will prevent you from having to set up an entirely new site.
Subdomains are extremely limited in some low-cost hosting packages (and almost unheard of with free hosting).
4. Web technology is everywhere, and it’s always expanding to new domains. In the near future you might need to add a function to your website that you can’t foresee right now. Having a free hosting solution will most likely not allow you to make that change. Having your own hosting provides you with that extra flexibility. There are tens of thousands of wordpress widgets and plug-ins that could make your website more appealing and help it run more smoothly.
5. You may own a small business now, but every major corporation started out as a small business. Free hosting solutions place limits on all kinds of activity, and will stifle your growing business. If you pick the right hosting, it’s all unlimited.
Hosting companies that Informed Web Content likes right now include Bluehost and Dreamhost. Both make installing WordPress easy. Anyone have a great experience with a temporarily free or limited provider like Homestead or Vista Print? Relate it here. This topic can be very confusing. Any and all questions about hosting and website template/platform options will be answered with Lego analogies. Who doesn’t love Legos, after all. Please, if any of this is confusing at all, please post a question in the comments. Believe me, every one is confused by the hosting question. I would love to know exactly where I lost you.