Recently a potential web development client decided to go instead with a company that offers “free” websites. Hard to argue with that right?

While one could argue the semantics of free, when the  company actually take a rather large percentage of all future sales but everything has a price. The real catch hit me at 4am as I lay listening to a storm growing outside…

They won’t own their own website!

This is the primary channel for connecting with customers, the method for making sales, and the online face of the business in a digital world but it won’t be theirs.

Immediately I dug into the Terms & Conditions of the free website provider and there it was in black and white (copied below).  I've removed the providers name as the intent of this post isn't to single them out.

From time to time {Removed} may create websites, customer relationship management tools and other online features for use by Provider and Booking Agent (the “Online Assets”). Provider and Booking Agent acknowledge and agree that the Online Assets are the sole property of {Removed} and, notwithstanding the inclusion of Provider’s marks, are not a “work made for hire” under the Copyright Act or any other law.

….

Further, Provider and Booking Agent agree to stop using and return to {Removed} the Online Assets at {Removed}’s request or upon the termination or expiration of this Agreement.

The business must accept all of terms, including pricing which is subject to change, and if they leave the platform then all rights to the website remain with the free website provider.

That should be a deal breaker for any business with an online focus.

Freedom > Free

herekorenga
1. (noun) freedom, liberty.

Maori Dictionary

There is a common saying online that “if you're not paying for the product, then you are the product”. Originally referring to adverts on free TV shows, the concept has has exploded online and is now even capturing entire businesses in its web.

While this company may set up a free website for you, they are really building walls around your business. Once you are fully reliant on your website, you are essentially locked into paying (through a perpetual sales percentage) for continued access to your own business.

If you don’t own your platform, your platform owns you.

Freedom & Business Online…

“Freedom is widely accepted as a basic human right in our societies … “Freedom from” is a necessary condition for success in life, society and business … Enterprises that devote themselves to fostering “freedom to” will be best suited to generate sustainable growth that is resilient over the long term.”

Dov Seidman, CEO of the LRN Corporation, at the World Economic Forum.

Whilst the above quote is not specifically talking about web platforms, the same framework can be applied here. When selecting an appropriate web platform you should be looking for.

Freedom from…

  • Restrictive platform & integration rules.
  • Enforced design decisions.
  • Risk of platform shutting down or selling to hostile investors.
  • International fees on local transactions.
  • Overseas regulation impacting local business decisions.

Freedom to… 

  • Remix, Reuse, & Modify Website Assets.
  • Set your own pricing structure.
  • Work with technology that works for you.
  • Use cost efficient payment gateways.
  • Customise your website in any way.
  • Partner with preferred companies.
  • Review the software running your site.
  • License your content as desired.

Essentially the freedom to run your own business.

Our Freedom Stack…

Open source technology is at the heart of the web, and the websites we build are no different. We've selected WordPress as the basis for the majority of our websites because it's values align with ours. But more than that, it empowers businesses to fully own and control their website no matter who builds it, hosts it, or works with it.

Due to a quirk in WordPress licensing, pretty much all software that runs on it also follows the same freedoms that allow you to run, modify, and distribute everything freely. While you will still find yourself paying for related licenses, they are some of the most open licenses on the web and if you don't like something you can usually change it down to the code level or at the very least export your data for use in another platform. 

Your website shouldn't be there to restrict you as a business. As professional WordPress developers; our websites may not be free, but they do offer you freedom. We like it that way and we hope you do too!

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