Consider these aspects first
A website is a website, isn't it? It is this perception that causes so much friction between web developers and their clients. Yes, it is a very competitive industry and the barrier to entry is low. As with anything in life you get what you pay for.
Unless you are technically inclined, it is difficult to understand the amount of work that goes into creating a decent, functional website that looks good, loads fast and does what you want it to do. Once you have your website it is critical to have it professionally maintained, secured and backed up.
Some Pitfalls of Having A Free Website And Free Hosting
- You are unlikely to be allowed to have your own domain name for free. You might have to have the hosting companies domain name with your company name tagged on at the end or in the middle eg. www.XXXplumbers.freehostingcompany.com.
- You might have to pay additional monthly fees for e-mail addresses which are usually included in most reputable hosting packages.
- Initial features are usually limited which may not be a problem if all you want is a very basic site. Inevitably you start to want to add features to your website and the website is no longer free as you pay per feature you add or you buy a support contract. Free is not really free. You might have to start building your site from scratch.
- Support may be limited or non-existent if you haven't bought a support contract.
- You may not be able to add important features like Google Analytics and other Search Engine Optimisation tools which you need to ensure your website gets found by Google Search.
- You may be forced to accept unwanted advertising on your website that does not fit in with your Business ethos.
Ask Yourself These Questions
- Am I in the business of building and maintaining a website or am I manufacturing or selling different products and services?
- How much time do I have to devote to learning about websites?
- What is my time worth?
- Can I afford to have my site offline for long periods if something breaks?
- How often am I going to add new content? This is very important because a website that doesn't change and grow is as bad as not having a website at all.
- Who is responsible for content creation? This includes writing articles, finding images, creating videos etc.
- Is someone from your company trained to do basic site management – upload articles, pictures, social sharing etc or are you outsourcing these functions to your Site Manager?
Ask Your Prospective Web Host These Questions
Hiring someone to manage and support your website is not a decision that can be taken lightly. The person who designed your site may or may not have the time or skills to devote to managing the site on a daily, weekly, monthly basis.
- In simple language what will he do to earn his fee? If possible spend time with him/her so you can see what is done and how long it takes?
- What security features does your website have?
- Are all the necessary backup and security features built in or is your site going to be problematic from a hacking aspect?
- Will you have access to the backups if you should decide to change hosts or their company goes bust? If you have paid for the development of your website in full it is YOUR property.
- Is the domain registered in your name? It should be!
- What features does your site have that need to be maintained? Are they paid add ons? Do you have to pay an annual, monthly or quarterly subscription fee to continue receiving updates and upgrades?
- Mailings – how many do you do a month and how many subscribers do you have?
- Lots of image galleries
- Search Engine Optimisation
Your website is the face of your business. You have no doubt spent a significant amount of money having it designed but maintaining it is a whole different ballgame.
You need to have clearly defined roles where each party's expectations are clearly understood.
- Expecting your Web Developer to also Create Content, find images, manage your Social Pages, send your newsletters and do the technical side is simply not realistic.
- In the same way you don't want your Marketing Team messing around on the back end of your website updating extensions, fiddling with the code etc.
Your website should grow with your business. Your company needs will change as you grow and your website becomes more active. You will probably want to add more bells and whistles all of which have a cost implication.
Be prepared to pay for technology updates. Keeping your software up to date is critical from a security aspect.
The more clearly your requirements are defined the less acrimonious your relationship will be.
Build a strong relationship with whoever hosts your website for you. You may need them in the middle of the night.
Do you still want that free hosting and website?
If you have realised that you need help to Take Your Business Digital:
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Note: I am currently doing a 30 Day Blog Challenge and this is my post for Day 15. If you enjoy blogging I urge you to sign up for this challenge as I am learning so much and meeting great people.