Building a website on your own without the help of a developer has become easier and easier in recent years, and the best website builders allow you to create a professional product in minutes.
There are plenty of options out there, and many of them come with a fee – but could a free website builder give you the tools you need to achieve similar results?
In this article, we’ll go over some of the key features available in some of the industry’s leading free website building platforms. By the end, you will know what to look for and when to choose a free website builder or go for a paid alternative.
What Can Free Website Builders Do?
Essentially, a website builder allows you to build a professional website whether or not you have coding experience. Even paid website builders cost a tiny fraction of what the price would be if you decided to hire a web developer to do the job.
Today, the best website builders are fully automated and use advanced AI techniques that allow you to build professional websites with just a few simple information. But can a free website builder ever compete with a paid alternative? We believe so.
Wix is perhaps one of the best free website builders. Like many other website building platforms, such as Weebly, Wix uses a drag-and-drop system that allows you to move items to a page from a selection of predefined options.
Using a premium free builder like Wix, you can design a website from scratch using a template. Once it’s on screen, you can adjust the design to suit your brand, adding, removing, and redrawing elements to make them fit. Some free website building platforms also include additional extras, such as Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificates and SEO (search engine optimization) tools.
However, it’s important to note that a free service is always limited compared to the paid alternatives, and the free plans for most, if not all website building platforms are pretty basic.
In the next section, we’ll explain what some of these restrictions might be, when they are important, and when you should still create a free site regardless of the limitations.
When to choose a free website builder?
One of the most important limitations of a free website builder is the storage limit. Most have very small storage limits for text files, images, and other data; some even limit traffic too. So if you are a large business that expects a lot of site traffic, you will need to go for a paid plan up front.
Alternatively, if you want to build a site that will represent a small business and you don’t expect a lot of traffic, such a limit shouldn’t make much of a difference to you. In addition to overall storage limits, there are often limitations on certain types of content as well, such as videos and photo galleries.
Again, if you don’t expect to include a lot of media like this on your site, this limitation won’t be a problem. However, that could become a problem if you want to turn the site into a blog. Although one of the most popular blogging sites in the world, WordPress.com, is very generous with its allocation of content storage (3 GB of storage regardless of the file type), many more are not. not.
This is a problem for bloggers who are considering using alternatives to WordPress.com to build a website, as much of their content is likely to be based on videos or images.
Another area that you might struggle with when using a free website builder is promoting an ecommerce business. If you want all the required features, like a payment mechanism and some customer capture or reservation forms, you usually have to pay for the privilege.
Having said that, free website builders are very useful for many other purposes, such as portfolios or landing pages. One platform that particularly impressed us as a way to build a personal or single page site for free is Carrd. This platform provides users with the tools to build well-designed one-page websites in minutes.
The advantage of a single page site is that you can easily display information, which works for content like a basic landing page or temporary site, and show the best things you want to promote, like a CV or work portfolio.
What you won’t get from almost all free website builders is access to premium themes – for that you’ll have to pay, well, a premium.
As we explained, there are many use cases for free website builders. However, most free services lack a few features that some, but not all, users will find essential.
First, there is the issue of the custom domain name. In most cases, a free website builder doesn’t come with a custom domain option. This means that your website will end with the name of the company you have chosen to build your website with, for example tomsguide.wixsite.com. Many users will be put off by this because having a standard domain name is unprofessional.
In many cases it is possible to upgrade and receive a custom domain name in the extras, but it is also possible to purchase one separately and use it with a free website builder. While many people find it essential to have a personalized domain name in order to prove their brand legitimacy, others cannot. This is not essential, and some may not bother to hide the builder used to create their site.
Removing ads is another key area that many users will consider to be essential. Most free website builders allow you to build a site with all the fluidity and functionality of a paid alternative, but they will include branded ads accordingly. However, it is usually possible to remove them by subscribing to a basic paid plan, although some providers may require you to subscribe to a premium option.
If you just don’t care whether there are any ads or not, and you think they have no effect on the purpose of your website, you shouldn’t have a problem.
A free website builder can be a great option for businesses or individuals who don’t have the budget to invest in an online presence, but want to make sure their brand is present. However, as we have seen, the free versions of these platforms usually have some limitations.
The key is to weigh those limits and determine if the savings are worth the sacrifice. That said, when it comes to features, the functionality available on a free website builder’s platform is almost identical to what you’ll find on a paid alternative nine out of ten times.
However, sometimes a free website builder is not enough, for example, if you need advanced features for a particular use, like an eCommerce site. This is a situation where finding what you specifically need like the best website builder with eCommerce features is key.
The most important thing is not to go for a free website builder just because of the cost advantages. If you do this without doing further research, you may soon find that it will hinder, not help, the growth of your business.
To learn more about the website builders mentioned throughout this article, read our full Wix review, our WordPress.com website builder review, and our Weebly website builder review.