I’m super-excited about this Guest Post from Kelli Wise! We get lots of questions about the free and cheap website options, and Kelli is the best expert to answer those questions. Enjoy!
When you need a website but you don’t have a lot of money.
There are a lot of options out there for getting your practice out on the web and the price range runs from free to thousands of dollars.
In the past, if you wanted a free website, your biggest option was to use the website builders provided by the AMTA or ABMP. Ugly, search engine unfriendly, and loaded up with ads for other massage therapists, they really weren’t a great boon for business.
That left you to hire someone like me to design your website. While hiring a professional will get you the best results, when you are just starting out you may not have the budget. You’ll have to DIY for a while until you get more cash flow.
If you’re on a budget and you’re looking at the free end of the price range, your options have improved from the old days. There are several options open to a massage therapist on a budget. We’re going to look at the three that are most popular.
3 Free or very low cost website alternatives
The big 3, currently, are WordPress, Wix, and Weebly. There are many others out there, and they are all fine and dandy, but these three are popular for a reason: they produce good looking websites on a budget for the non-technical do-it-yourselfer.
I’m a WordPress gal. I’ve been designing websites since 1997; back when websites were primarily coded by hand and uploaded with odd sounding software. In 2010, I made the switch to using WordPress. While I still do quite a bit of coding to create custom sites, you don’t have to and you can still get pretty good results.
I wanted to see what the options were and how easy they are to use, so I took one for the team and created accounts with Wix and Weebly. I already have an account with WordPress. This is what I found.
Yes, it powers 27% of all of the sites on the internet. It’s big. It’s everywhere. And it’s ‘open source’, meaning that anyone can use it anywhere they want. For free.
There are two flavors of WordPress, though. The one you’ll see powering your local newspaper is the self-hosted version that developers use. You’ll need to get some webhosting to use it. We’re not going to talk about that version here, because we’re looking for FREE and simple.
That leads us to the version hosted by WordPress.com. WordPress will take care of all of the technical details, keep things updated, and cover security so your site doesn’t get hacked. You just create an account, pick a theme, and start adding pages and content to it.
WordPress domain name
The free site on WordPress has a decent URL. The format is: sitename.wordpress.com. This should be fairly easy for you and your clients to remember.
Ease of Use
There are 315 free themes to choose from but none with drag and drop capability. Customization is limited to what the theme designers have provided. You can get a beautiful website very quickly, but you are limited by the lack of a drag and drop editor.
Adding pages, menus, media (like photos) is very simple and there are thousands of tutorials and videos available to help you get started. The forums are busy and questions get answered pretty quickly.
When you finally grow your business and need more functionality or a customized website design, WordPress makes it easy. Moving a site from WordPress .com to a self hosted website is pretty simple. A click to export all of the data at the original site, download the data, and then a one click import at the new site is really all it takes. Your web designer can do this easily and you will save her a lot of time and save yourself a lot of money.
Wix sites are hosted by Wix. They, too, take care of the technical stuff, security, and maintenance. You just create an account and get down to creating your websites.
Wix domain name
The free site on Wix has the ugliest URL of all three. The format is: username.wixsite.com/sitename
So my free site is dev905.wixsite.com/kelliwise. That’s a mouthful and very hard to remember and likely hard for your clients to remember.
Ease of use
Wix has a site builder that is almost automated. Tell it what industry you are and it will make suggestions. Then it will create a design. The whole process took about 2 minutes and I had a very attractive website. I can add sections using the drag and drop editor for even more customization. Of the 3, Wix was the easiest to create an attractive website that was very customizable.
Nope. Wix sites must be kept on the Wix platform. If you outgrow Wix and want to transfer the data, you’re going to have to do it one page at a time by copy and pasting and downloading images. Your web designer will charge extra for the time spent doing this.
Weebly, like Wix and WordPress, hosts the site for you and takes care of the technical stuff, security, and maintenance. Create an account and you can start creating your website.
Weebly domain name
The free site on Weebly has a decent URL. The format is similar to WordPress.com’s: sitename.weebly.com. This should be fairly easy for you and your clients to remember.
Ease of Use
Weebly has a drag and drop editor that is pretty powerful. It also allows you to make an ugly website. Really ugly. There are themes, but you’re going to need to take some time and fuss with things to get them looking pretty. Of the 3, I found Weebly the most challenging to use.
Yes, but it’s not as simple as WordPress and hosting Weebly on your hosting isn’t free. You’re also limited on hosting companies since not all of them will host a Weebly install. GoDaddy is one of those that doesn’t support Weebly websites.
Custom domain and removing ads
All of the services offer a low cost, paid plan that will let you use your own domain name and will remove the display ads. WordPress is by far the least expensive.
I would strongly suggest that if you are getting a custom domain name that you use a domain registrar company and NOT WordPress/Wix/Weebly. This will allow you to move your domain name in the future if you outgrow the hosted service. My favorite is Namecheap.com but GoDaddy.com is pretty good, too. A custom domain will cost about $10-12/year above the price listed.
If you are on a budget, any of these services will get you a website that will help you connect with your clients, explain what services you offer and provide the means to add links to online booking. They’ll present your practice in a professional manner.
If you are in business for the long haul, I really recommend WordPress.com. It is more limited in customizability, but it is also the easiest to move to your own host in the future. It’s also the least expensive and provides the most storage space for photos and other media you have.
If you want a site that makes it easy to create something attractive, then Wix would be the best choice. You’ll be locked into Wix until you decide to start from scratch, so keep that in mind as you think long term strategy. You are going to want to pay for the custom domain unless you want to try to remember the Wix URL they give you.
If you want to spend the time, and you have the talent, then Weebly will give you the most power over the appearance of the site. You’ll be locked into Weebly until you decide to start from scratch, so keep that in mind as you think long term.
Kelli Wise is Head Honcho at Pint Sized Sites where she has been designing websites and teaching online marketing for small businesses since 2010. A former massage therapist, she wrote for the industry on her blog, Massage Therapy World, which is how she met Allissa Haines. She has taught ethics and business to massage therapists at conferences and in massage schools. She’s active in the local WordPress community and is one of the organizers for the Olympia WordPress meetup and the Seattle Women’s WordPress meetup. You’re likely to see her speak at a local WordCamp where she specializes in helping new and intermediate users. You’re not likely to see her in her kitchen because she hates to cook.