OK, so you’ve a great idea for an eCommerce business. You’ve identified your ideal customer, studied the competition and figured out how to set yourself apart. You also have a terrific line on the products you’ll offer,at a favorable price point.
It’s time to put up your site. But do you go with a ready-made one, or should you hire a professional web designer to build a custom web presence for your store? You’re seeing some great free offers from a variety of vendors, which has you wondering; are free website themes really viable?
The short answer is yes—they are. If…
We’ll get to the “if” a little bit later, but right now here are the primary reasons for choosing to go this route.
Notice we said reduced expense, rather than “no” expense. This is because while the template is free, you might spend some time adjusting it to reflect your brand values, voice and image. These activities will take a bit of time and time is money. Granted it’s much less money than choosing to go with a custom design from scratch, but free isn’t free—OK?
The good news is you can find templates that look very expensive and professionally done—because they are. The best free website providers have teams of experienced people coding sites specifically to function in eCommerce.
Integrated SEO Solutions
The finest templates are designed with search engine optimization in mind. Pages are adjusted for fast loading, pictures are compressed to require less bandwidth and the sites prompt you to input custom title tags and meta descriptions on every category page to help them rank well.
This can actually save you some of the expense of hiring a dedicated SEO specialist, as they will have less work to do to get your site in prime condition.
Shorter Startup Time
If you go with a clean screen design, you could wait months for your site to be ready to go. With free website themes, like the drag and drop store builders offered by Shopify,all you have to do is upload your product and go.
Even if you want to perform some modifications to make it more uniquely reflective of your ideas, the time to completion is much shorter than it would be if you have a site designed from scratch. In fact, your store could be live in as little as a few days.
Mobile is here and poised to rule. The best eCommerce website builders are aware of this and their free sites are configured using responsive design, so they function just as beautifully in a mobile environment as they do on a desktop. This frees you of the need to produce two different versions of your store.
Getting Back to That “If” …
As you’re evaluating platforms, pay attention to the ancillary fees some providers impose. They will charge extra for things like additional bandwidth and hosting services. You’ll also want to go with someone who offers good documentation, strong 24/7/365 tech support and multiple methods for troubleshooting issues.
Always get your own domain name and email addresses as well. Ask about updates and make sure implementing them won’t knock your store offline. If hosting is included in the price, you want a virtual private server to reduce your security-related issues and every page of the site to have its own SSL certificate.
Yes, free website themes really are viable, IF you choose carefully and understand “free” really means less expensive.