Sometimes in my search for great products to write about here, coupled with my day jobs, I run into a whole category of products that do not impress me. Yes, I am sometimes a curmudgeon, though I try not to be. For sure I am often a contrarian, all this is not on purpose and in reality it usually means I am not alone, simply one of the minority with a different point of view.
Which brings me to the market segment for “free” web site generators. The ones that require no computer experience and can make you and your business, hobby or club look fabulous by just picking a template and following the easy to use instructions. I know thousands of you sign up daily, but do you know there are millions of websites languishing on the internet vine – that look ugly, haven’t been updated in days, were never finished, cannot be extended, don’t show up in search engines, are now billing your credit card for you know not what as they hold you, your site and your domain name effectively hostage.
So when you see new ads for great colorful do-it-yourself websites from Hibu or Wix or Weebly or Yola Yahoo or Homestead (from Intuit), don’t run off to your boss, your club, your group or your friends and say “how about I quickly put up a free website?”
For one thing, have you ever wondered if these sites are Free how do they pay the rent and all those programmers? Secondly, if anyone can do it, how come you don’t see any serious sites using these tools? Plus Hibu is over in UK and part of a company recovering from bankruptcy plan (reminds me of hibernation their wierd name), Wix are up to so many tricks the servers allocated to you might be in Israel or Russia, and Weebly sounds kind of wobbly.
At least Yola says “start for free” but at one stage they had a massive security breach and a lot of people had to redo their sites (which is tough since you don’t have local copies with most of these tools). Of course, they have customer support people to help you with these easy to use no help required tools.. and I see Weebly pays their support people $15 per hour – same as my gardener!
I have rescued so many of these it drives me crazy. They have to get a professional like me just to get their billing stopped and domain names back so they can go off and use some proper tools that do not make them beholden to any specific vendor or ISP. And they can learn where to get their hosting and what they are really paying for each year.
Yahoo bought the popular GeoCities free website and community builder tools (one of the originals) but have now shut it down with no easy migration path for users. Of course it was free, so no use complaining. Go try their SiteBuilder instead. So slow and awkward and ugly and difficult – wear a hat so you don’t pull your hair out. And like many Yahoo products (which I will never understand), some obscure long path name to get back to your working area or their tools. Along the way, just like many of their web reg and other tools, they keep reminding you to save your bookmarks. Why can’t they just give me a higher level domain entry point instead of this outrageous mess? Don’t they understand how many bookmarks a busy professional researcher already has? And we access the tools from many different computers and don’t always have all our bookmarks with us? And simply because they can’t set up short paths like their Google neighbors? How smart aren’t they!
Now what if your club organization set up a free site a few years back? But that member has moved on and his credit card has expired (yes, free sites sooner or later require credit cards) and all you know it is hosted by Yahoo? Prepare to dial for dollars and email your heart out – assuming you can even find the gateways. I recently rescued another of these for a fellow far away – embarrassing how weak their security is even with the must talk to a human step.
And even some of the ones that work better (like Intuit’s Homestead offering), have their own schemes for building sites on the fly. Which means there are no site hooks, words, titles, etc for the search engine robots to discover you in the middle of the night. Not to worry, for a small fee they will sell you SEO services – and most novices don’t even know what that means.
Well I think you get the picture. Enough of my ranting. Now you see why almost every ISP supports one button install of WordPress. And for just your domain and hosting costs (I charge my clients $60 per year for both of these) you too can have a site based on the most popular content management system in the world. I have had sites up and live with their first blog in under 4 hours start to finish, though I must confess I think about and plan the graphics in advance. And some of my sites grow to hundreds of pages and thousands of blog entries. Let’s give a big cheer to the whole WordPress community and all the people around the world building sites, themes, widgets and plugins for that environment.
PS You should see some of the stuff my colleague Kyra at Brighter Scribe is now getting up to with WordPress for herself and smaller marketing clients. (See www.juicesalon.com, www.thescribesdesk.com). Like consumer magazines Writers Magazine and even Rock and Gem have said, get started on WordPress and you too will soon be rhapsodizing about dashboards, blog postings, themes, widgets as you happily extend and build your own website and/or blog. And if you really don’t have the time and no graphics or writing talent, look on Craigslist under Creative Services. For every town in the country there is a web person offering low cost services to quickly build you a WordPress based site that will endure as you grow.
Disclosure: While WordPress is free, many of the themes now require a small one time fee, typically less than $60.
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