We have recently been asked by a couple of people what we think of the free, build-your-own website solutions which are being promoted on TV and by spam. Two which were mentioned were Weebly.com and 1and1.com. So we decided to do some research.
Both sites offer proprietary content management systems (CMS) with which someone can build a website. They each offer a number of templates which you can work with and a variety of functionality you can add, either for free or at a nominal charge. Once you have created your site, it is hosted at the company you used.
The advantages are, of course, it is cheap and easy. Weebly.com even offers a limited free version. Any of the systems we looked at will create a simple website.
There are, however disadvantages which, in our opinion, outweigh the advantages.
- The systems are proprietary. That means you are stuck with the company forever. You cannot move the site to another host if the host decides to change the pricing structure.
- Your site will disappear if the company discontinues its service, or goes under. We have a current client who used a proprietary CMS and the company has since disappeared. We have kept the site going but it has several glitches which we cannot fix as we do not have access to the underlying code and there is no one to ask.
- You are limited to the design and functionality offered by the host. If you want to do something which they do not offer, you are out of luck.
- Although it may look easy, putting a website together will definitely take a considerable amount of time. And you will most likely want some modifications or features that simply are not possible.
We, at CityCenter, prefer using an open source CMS like WordPress, or Joomla!, or Drupal, which can be moved to another host without the loss of data or design. As they are open source, there are developers working on new design templates and functionality which are then available to you. WordPress, for instance, has literally thousands of design templates and functionality plugins available at little or no extra cost.
There are also a plethora of books and on-line tutorials available to assist you with creating and maintaining the site. And with open source solutions there is professional help (like we provide at CityCenter) to assist you in creating a professional looking site which you can then maintain without further assistance.