If you’re looking to build your first website, saving money is probably at the top of your list of priorities. Do a quick Google search, and you’ll find numerous free website builders offering a fast and easy way to help you.
What a deal, right? But not so fast, my eager budding webmaster. As is the case for most everything in life, it’s a good idea to read the fine print on any deal, and that’s especially true with free website builders. While they seem to be a great deal on the surface, the truth is that you’re going to run into a ton of caveats when using a free builder.
The biggest issue with free builders is ads. Since you aren’t paying to use the website, companies assume that you’ll have no problem with shilling their website. Maybe some of you don’t, but for most of us, we don’t like being blasted with ads when we visit websites, and we don’t want to put our visitors through the same torture. Companies offering free website builders know this, and that’s why they offer paid alternatives that don’t force ads onto your visitors.
Wix is one of the most popular free website builders in the world, and everywhere you turn you’ll see how “easy” it is to build your website. While that’s true, using the free version comes with a couple of significant drawbacks. First, you’re going to be stuck with a subdomain of Wix.com. Next, and perhaps most important, your website is going to be littered with ads from Wix.
These ads are hardcoded and forced onto your website. The only way around them is by upgrading to at least Wix’s paid Combo plan. Note that Wix offers a Connect plan that allows you to use your own domain name, but your website will still display Wix ads.
When you upgrade to at least the Combo plan, you’ll get all of the following:
3GB or more of storage
2GB or more of bandwidth
30 or more video minutes
Free domain for one year
In some cases, a premium plan will unlock certain templates. While over 500 of Wix’s templates are free, some require a subscription. E-commerce templates are the most common example.
To learn more about Wix, read our expert review.
WordPress.com is another popular free website builder, especially for bloggers. The problem with the free version is that you’re going to run into the problem of ads. Both standard ads and banner ads will be prominently displayed on your website, making your blog a running billboard for other companies.
What’s worse, you’re not allowed to monetize your website with WordPress’ free version. You can make them money, but you have to find another way to pay your own bills. Also, you won’t have a customized domain name, but rather a WordPress subdomain. And if you have any problems, good luck with support, as free users get only community support.
The easiest way to get around these limitations is by upgrading to a paid plan. If you upgrade to the Personal plan, you’ll get a custom domain name, email and live chat support, and double the storage of the free subscription. Best of all, you won’t have WordPress ads on your website.
However, you still won’t be able to monetize your website. To do that, you’ll have to upgrade to Premium. Upgrading to Premium or better also unlocks access to Premium templates.
If you’re interested in reading more about WordPress’ features, you’re welcome to check out our expert review.
SimpleSite is another popular free builder because it’s targeted at beginners looking to easily create their first website. Like every other builder on this list, SimpleSite’s free version is going to plaster ads on every webpage of your website, and you’re going to use a SimpleSite domain name rather than a custom one. Also, your design options will be very limited, and your account won’t come with an email address.
Upgrading to a paid account is going to take care of the ads issue, and you’ll also get a free domain for a year. You’ll unlock all design options on your templates and receive five email addresses. The biggest selling point for SimpleSite is that paid plans have no limitations on media. You get unlimited images and video minutes on all paid plans.
For more on SimpleSite, read our expert review.
You Don’t Get a Free Website — You Become an Unpaid Salesperson
Those looking to create a website for the first time are often lured in by website builders offering free websites because they want to save money. Who wouldn’t want to get a website for free? It almost sounds too good to be true!
That’s because it is too good to be true.
While your website will not incur you any monetary cost upfront, the costs of using a free website are high. For starters, you won’t get your own brand identity. You’re the equivalent of a tiny chapter in a large novel, and chances are that many people will never read you, no matter how great your website looks.
Next, when you use a free website, you’ll become an unpaid salesperson for the company. If someone happens to come to your website, he or she will be blasted with ads for the website builder. Instead of advertising your brand, you’re forced to shill the website builder. And there’s no real way to circumvent this. In fact, most free website builders will forbid you from advertising for anyone but them on your website.
Most people getting a free website never consider the real costs involved, and they quickly soon become frustrated when they aren’t getting traffic, or they realize the massive amount of restrictions that come with a free account.
Your best option is to go with a paid version of the website builder. You’ll be able to showcase and promote your brand, and in all cases, you’ll unlock extra features such as increased storage and bandwidth, enhanced templates, additional design features, and more. All free website builders offer premium plans, and most provide affordable plans for beginners. While a free website is appealing, in the long run, it will cost you less to go with a paid subscription.