If there’s something we can be 100% positive about, is that 99% of the time FREE stuff comes with a catch, social media networks you subscribe to for example know far more about you than you, your family, friends, hairdresser and doctor combined. Of course such things as tracking cookies are becoming increasingly impossible to avoid simply because the free browsers that we use, and the fact that most people who have a website use some form of analytical tracking software namely Google Analytics which requires tracking cookies to supposedly help improve your internet experience, or in layman terms helps Google not always the website owner to sell you stuff you don’t need. Unfortunately no matter what you choose to use online will result in at the bare minimum some form of tracking cookies and cached data being used, it’s pretty unavoidable. Many websites rely on advertisers and therefore wouldn’t be able to offer their services for free to you if they couldn’t use your cached search data to tailor adverts.
That said, there are many tools that don’t track everything you do to make additional money, they want you to use their product or software in the hope that you will require their pro version at a later date, and your actions will still be tracked as the software maker will be using your interactions on their site to either improve their service or tailor marketing emails to send you, so either way free or not comes usually with some form of catch.
Now as IT support specialists we know that if you are starting out or looking for alternative free software to use, it’s advisable that you don’t cut corners, of course as you will discover many of these free tools work just as well and sometimes better than the paid-for alternatives but there are certain tools and services we advise you should always pay for such as internet security, yes there are some excellent free antivirus protection software out there but they aren’t as robust in preventing an attack, so for that reason we won’t be recommending any free antivirus, if you do however wish to discover the best IT security options for you and your business then you can call us for a free to discuss those options available to you instead.
And finally before we dive right in; just like with all of these things, make sure to use different, strong passwords for everything you sign up to and use, and make backups! You certainly don’t want to lose any information.
The first thing to make you aware of is that if you are choosing to go with a completely free website is it will be hosted on that platforms subdomain, so for example instead of the web address looking something like ‘example.co.uk’ it may look more like ‘example.wix.co.uk’ why you may ask, well simply because you do not currently own a domain name, or web hosting which you will need to purchase separately if you wish to have a personalised web and email address, and that’s where your free website plan will become a paid for service as the website building platform you choose to use will require you buy or at the very least transfer that domain name to them. However as time is of the essence and we are not talking about paid for services we are not going to go into the full details on how to set up and use a domain name…
What’s a free website good for? Any small startup or freelancer/self-employed individuals who cannot afford to have a bespoke or tailored website built and have no knowledge on how to code. Basically anyone who knows how to turn a computer on, open up a web browser and search for stuff will be able to put one together.
And not all free websites are free, many providers offer the ability to build your website for free on their platform, however the clue is in their wording, in many instances it’s not always clear until you have built your new website that you have a 14 to 28 day trial before you have to start paying for that service, bit of a cheek if you ask me.
But anyway that said below are four web-builders that are completely FREE to use!
1) WordPress.com not to be confused with WordPress.org, yes I know it is very confusing! Instead of me trying to explain the differences the lovely people at WPBeginner have written an excellent explanation and comparison, which you can find here: https://www.wpbeginner.com/beginners-guide/self-hosted-wordpress-org-vs-free-wordpress-com-infograph/ and they also have a ton of how-tos to get you on your merry way!
WordPress.com is possibly not the most straightforward and easy to use initially though one of the best options, if you don’t mind spending a few hours playing around and learning how it works then you will definitely be pleased with what it has to offer, which according to their website is:
- WordPress.com Subdomain
- Jetpack Essential Features
- Pre‑Installed SSL Certificate
- Community Support
- Dozens of Free Themes
- Basic Design Customization
- 3 GB Storage Space
- WordPress.com Advertising and Banners
2) Wix.com is one of the most popular platforms for first timers, it offers a lot of functionality and templates. The editing suite like many of these on the list do require a bit of getting used to though very simple to use once you know where everything is.
Unfortunately however, unlike WordPress.com the free version of Wix doesn’t provide the ability to use Google Analytics tracking or the means to take online payments.
A free Wix website comes with the following:
- Assigned URL: accountname.wixsite.com/site address
- Wix ads appear on every page & favicon in URL
- Up to 500MB Storage
- Up to 500MB Bandwidth
3) Yola.com is a slightly lesser known platform though very simple to use with a drag and drop interface, it’s not necessarily going to set the world alight but it’s a great quick and simple option for those who found the two options above a bit of a headache.
The free plan is extremely limited with themes, functions and add-ons which though sounds a bit disappointing actually plays well in the hands of those who feel overwhelmed with too much choice. But again like Wix, Yola’s free plan doesn’t provide e-commerce (a means to take payments online).
That said the free version of Yola does provide the following:
- 2 Websites
- 2 Pages
- 2 Languages
- 1 GB Storage
- Yola Subdomain
4) Weebly.com is not wobbly, sorry if you didn’t get that bad joke reference. Anyway Weebly you may possibly have heard of like the first on the list WordPress, simply because of its popularity and understandably so, its an extremely straightforward to use platform with an very well throughout CMS (Content Management System) basically the area you login to to edit the website, making it another ideal option for anyone who hasn’t the patients of the likes of WordPress.
So what does Weebly offer? Well the following:
- Free SSL Security
- 500MB Storage
- Domain with Weebly Branding
- SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)
- Lead Capture and Contact Forms
- Community Forum
- Chat & Email Support
NB: All of the above free website options are mobile friendly, though one or two of the template/theme offerings are not, so be sure to check that the theme you choose is. It is usually clearly stated if it is not mobile friendly/centric.
SEO or on-site optimisation as it should really be called as you are only optimising your website, which accounts for 15% of the whole SEO process, comes as standard with all four options.