New to the Business Web? Looking For Cheap Web Hosting? How Does Free Sound?
Free. I love the word. It’s a great way to start any new endeavor and if you’re reading this article you are probably just getting started on the Internet. Maybe you’ve been thinking about it for a while but you’ve been slow to put any money into it because you’ve been put off by all the conflicting claims. Every web hosting site you visit says they have the best prices and the best service. They can’t all be right! Or maybe you went into sticker-shock after talking to a web designer and you decided to forget the whole thing rather than gamble a small fortune on a site you’re not confident will work for you.
So let’s talk about free sites. There are at least three possibilities and there may be even more. First of all, be sure you get a free website when you purchase your domain. “Purchase!” you say. “I thought ‘free’ was the operative word here.” Well, Ok, you caught me! You are going to have to buy a domain name. That will cost you all of eight or nine American dollars–actually you can get a darn decent Dot Info for less than two dollars the first year. And, if you’re as tight with a buck as I am, it’s possible to even get a free domain name–as I’ll explain later.
As I was saying, be sure you purchase your domain from a registrar that gives you a free website with your domain purchase. These munificent folks aren’t at all hard to find on the net. I think a majority of domain registrars and domain resellers probably give a free site with every purchase. If they do, they probably brag about it on the first page of their website. So don’t buy until you see it. These free sites usually give you a number of basic templates that allow you to choose from several font types and color schemes. Five pages is probably the average length. You won’t be able to set up a shopping cart but you can put up tons of photos and text. Depending on your needs, you might find yourself satisfied with one of these sites as your web presence. At the very least you will come away with a good idea of what you actually do need and a better grasp of what is possible.
Now we all know there isn’t any such thing as a free lunch (actually one of the sites we’re discussing is truly free, breakfast, lunch and dinner–more on that later. What the domain providers we’ve already talked about will require of you in exchange for the free space is advertising on your new domain. Discrete ads for the most part, nothing likely to embarrass you with flashing lights or spam-like promises to increase your sexual prowess. Needless to say, any revenue from these ads will not be showing up in your bank account.
Our second type of free website is not difficult to find, simply type the words “free websites” into one of the search engines like Google or Yahoo, and you will discover a number of hosts ready to provide you with free space and build you a complete site in return for ad space on your web pages. Be a bit more careful here than in the sites we discussed previously. Be sure you know what kind of ads they intend to stick you with; unlike the larger registrars and their resellers they are basically unregulated. On the other hand, the sites they can build for you are limited only by your imagination; you want a shopping cart, no problem.
Our last free site is the one I’ve been promising you from the beginning: the completely free site; no fee for space, no charge for your domain. There are a few purveyors of this sort including WordPress and Blogger; my favorite is Blogger.Com by the giant search engine, Google. That’s right, Google. Google can afford to give it to you for free. Completely free. There are some restrictions of course, but the site is completely, totally, free. No charge for the site. No charge for the domain. Ok, I’m so excited I’m repeating myself.
The free domain, however, has a restriction that you might have a problem with. Let’s say you want to call your site EvilGenius.Com. If you want to host the site on Blogger you have to add another word, another level as it were. Your site becomes EvilGenius.Blogger.Com. Your site is completely your own and the space is free but it is a sub domain of Blogger.Com. The problem, as you will soon discover, is that potential customers or whoever it is that you want to find your site will remember the Evil Genius part of your name and forget the Blogger part; that means lost customers. If you don’t like that idea, you can still buy your own domain for a couple bucks and forward the name to your free site on Blogger. Trust me, it’s worth the few bucks to have your own domain name.
Another restriction is that Blogger was actually developed with blogs in mind. That means you have a home page and the other pages are archived. While that might seem too restrictive at first, you will find that with a little creative navigating you can still put together a very useful website for business and other purposes. Take a trip to Blogger.com and look at what some of the other site owners have done. There are some other restrictions but their impact is minor.
Like the first two free websites we discussed, a Blogger website has a number of Templates for you to work with. You can also upload pictures and text and flavor the fonts and colors to your own specifications. And, while I haven’t tried it myself, you can apparently attach a shopping cart to Blogger and sell product.
Remember those ads that all the other free sites insist you carry? With Blogger you don’t have them-unless you want them. And then you get the revenue when people click on the ads. How’s that for a good deal for free?
I always caution my clients to learn something about the Internet and websites in general before they start spending their money. One excellent way of doing this and still being productive is using the free websites I’ve talked about in these articles. As your business grows you will likely find yourself wanting a site with more bandwidth or design possibilities; at that point, after the experience and education you will have received working with these free sites, you–not some designer, however artistically talented, who knows nothing about your business–will be better able to decide what is best for you and your business.