Creating Free Websites
So you're thinking about saving some money and creating a free website? Don't start until you read this!
Although creating free websites can save you money, it also comes with some major disadvantages. Before you go ahead and create your free website, you should try and understand the pros and cons.
Advantages of Free Websites
- They're free.
That's about the only thing completely free websites have got going for them!
Disadvantages of Free Websites
Here are some of the major disadvantages of most free websites:
- No Permanent Address — A completely free website means no domain name. This means that your website doesn't have its own, permanent address. Unless you get your own domain name, the address of your website will be attached to the address of your hosting provider's website.
For example, your site would be located at something like http://www.hosting-provider-website.com/your-site or http://your-site.hosting-provider-website.com (no domain name).
On the other hand, if you had your own domain name, it would look more like this http://www.your-site.com (much better!)
- Ads — Most free web hosts display advertising on your web pages. This is how they earn money.
- Here today, gone tomorrow... — If you are able to find a free web host that doesn't display ads all over your page, chances are they'll soon go out of business. Otherwise, how are they going to make any money? I've heard lots of stories of free hosting providers going out of business (and taking their customers' websites with them)
- Free today, expensive tomorrow... — If they don't go out of business, they could simply start charging you instead. I've heard of this happening too. Plus, those who didn't want to pay lost their websites.
- No Support — Free web hosts will often provide little or no support. And this is understandable — they probably aren't making enough money to pay for proper support staff. How many times have you heard the term "You get what you pay for".
- Slow Website — If a web host isn't charging customers, they'll need to cut corners somewhere. One way of doing this is to cram more websites onto each server. The end result of this? Your website becomes increasingly slow.
If you aren't happy about the disadvantages of creating a free website, you might prefer to create a more professional website.
If you're happy to accept the disadvantages of creating a free website, read on...
Try to get your own Domain Name
If you really must create a free website, at least try to register your own domain name (that's the thing that looks like "your-site.com").
Without your own domain name, your website will always be attached to another website. On the other hand, if you do register a domain name, your website's address will be 100% yours. Plus it will always stay the same — no matter where you host your site in the future.
Advantages of Domain Names
The main advantages of having your own domain name include:
Permanent Web Address — As long as you have the domain name, your website will always be located at the same address. Even if you move to a different hosting provider, your domain name stays the same. Without your own domain name, your website is at risk of disappearing — and this is completely outside of your control.
If you don't have your own domain name, the free hosting company could one day decide to change the location of it's customers' websites. If this happens, your visitors will probably encounter an error when they try and access your page (because they're trying to use the old address). And if you think this is unlikely, think again — it's already happened to many thousands of free website owners all over the world.
- Search Engine Friendly — Having your own domain name can give you an advantage with search engine rankings.
- More Professional — Having your own domain name shows that you are serious about your website. Also, a domain name could be a better reflection on what your website is actually about.
- Better URL — The web address (URL) of your website will be shorter, look nicer, and probably more appropriate.
What is a Free Website?
This might seem like an obvious question, but there are several aspects to keep in mind when creating your free website.
This is the actual website itself — the collection of pages, images, and other files that make up your website. There are usually two ways of getting a free website:
- Build it yourself (i.e. you learn how to code your own website)
- Use a free, online website builder (i.e. you sign up with a free hosting provider who offers a free online website builder).
All websites have to be "hosted" on a server (so that it's available to the world). Usually this is with a hosting company. Some hosting companies provide free hosting. In return for the free hosting, they usually display ads on your website. This is how they earn money — by the advertising revenue earned by displaying ads on your website.
Free URL ("Web Address")
A URL refers to the location of your web pages. You have one URL for the home page, and one for each other page. To get a free URL, your website needs to be attached to another, larger website. This is usually the site that provides the free hosting.
Unfortunately, having a free URL means that you can't have an address like "http://www.my-site.com". It will be more like "http://www.another-site.com/your-site". Sometimes it could be even worse, like "http://www.another-site.com/customers/websites/~your-username"
The reason you can't have a proper URL for your free website is because this part costs money. The part after the "www" and before the first "/" is the domain name.
One problem with this (apart from the ugly URL), is that, the hosting company could one day change the format of your URL. If they do this, your website will no longer reside at the previous address — nobody will know where it's gone! Then, all you can do is start giving out your new URL (and hope it doesn't change either).
The good news is that domain names are cheap. You can register them for as little as $10 — $15 per year. Once you do this, nobody else can touch it — it's yours, and only yours. That way, you can give your website's URL out to anyone, confident that it won't change.