Easy Web Things

July 4, 2023

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For those looking for a New Zealand specific perspective on getting a free website up and running, here it is.  How to create a website for free in NZ.

I think most people looking for a free website are small business owners, freelancers, artists and bands, and people who want to explore web design.  Any others? I’m curious about this, so let me know if you don’t fit into those boxes!

Back in the mid-2000’s I first looked into good free and cheap website options.  Long story short, I ended up having to learn a bit of HTML and CSS to get the results I wanted.

Thankfully, times have changed and now you don’t actually need to write code to create a basic website.  

And, you don’t need to pay for hosting for a free website.

Just remember though, you do get what you pay for.  Free websites may include advertising for the provider, limited features, limited space, or limits on bandwidth.

Often it may be better to pay to get what you need.  A website can be an important business investment.  

But a completely free website is still a great start if you just don’t have the budget, and something is often better than nothing.  

My Favourite Free Website Options

I would recommend a free Webflow site to someone who only needs a couple of pages to start with, is confident with technology, and would benefit from the Webflow CMS system if upgrading in the future.

I would recommend a free Wix site to someone who finds technology a bit more challenging, and is unlikely to need advanced features on their website in the future.

And I would recommend WordPress.com to someone who blogs or is likely to scale up to a fully-fledged WordPress.org site in the future.  

Read on for more details…

Creating a Free Website on Webflow

Webflow has some great options for creating a free website hosted on their cloud platform.

However, you will need to to use one of their branded domains, and you won’t have full access to their content management systems.  There is a limit to 50 CMS items, and 50 form submissions.

That said, you can create a decent looking 2 page brochure site on Webflow for free.

Your site will have a Webflow badge on it, and will be limited to 1000 visits per month.

To build a free website with Webflow, go to webflow.com and sign up for a ‘Starter Site’.

Webflow also has a free comprehensive online course available, if you are new to website building, so a free Webflow site can be great for learning to build Webflow websites. 

The good news is, upgrading to a Webflow CMS plan and adding your own domain down the track is easy.  The free starter site gives you a great introduction, and your site can be later expanded to add more functionality.

Creating a Free Website on Wix

Wix free websites are pretty popular among small businesses in New Zealand.  

The free version of Wix restricts you to one of their branded domains, and includes Wix advertising on your website.  

There are also limits to storage and to google analytics.

To set up a Wix site, go to wix.com and sign up for an account.  

Wix has a shallower learning curve than Webflow, but Webflow has a lot more functionality and options available in the long run. 

Creating a Free Website on WordPress.com

It is worth clarifying that WordPress.org, and WordPress.com are slightly different.

WordPress.org provides a free OpenSource content management system that you can install and use on your own hosting.  

WordPress.com is provides hosting and a web-building platform utilising a version of the WordPress.org CMS.

Want a free basic website with unlimited pages and a blog? Use WordPress.com

The free plan on WordPress.com includes 1gb of storage and unlimited pages.

Plus, once you’ve got the hang of WordPress.com if you later want to move from a wordpress.com site to a wordpress.org site in the future, you can easily export your content, and you will have already learned a lot of relevant information.

If you want an extremely flexible customisable option with room for nearly any future feature you can imagine? Use WordPress.org + paid hosting.

WordPress.org powers a huge amount of the internet.  You can do just about anything online with a WordPress website.

RocketSpark is Free for Designers

RocketSpark is not technically free for everyone, but it is free for their web design partners.  

I’ve mainly included it in the list because it is a New Zealand made website builder.

If you are a web designer and are looking for free options, do consider RocketSpark.

If you are a web designer, it is free for you to join the partner program and use RocketSpark to build clients’ websites.  The clients you onboard would then pay RocketSpark for hosting and support.  

There is also a 30 day free trial if you’re not a designer, but are interested in trying out their platform.

Website builders with free trials

There are many paid platforms out there that provide a free trial but are not free long-term. Here are a couple that I personally think are good for beginners to look at.

Rocketspark has a 30 day free trial. If you continue with Rocketspark you would be supporting a New Zealand made product, and will have your data hosted on New Zealand based servers.  

SquareSpace is not made in New Zealand, but it is very quick and easy for beginners.  It also has a one month free trial if you want to test out its features. 

Other Free Website Builders

I have focused this post so far on website builders that are personally familiar to me. 

Below are some others that I have not tried, in case you have plenty of time on your hands and want to try out a lot of different options.

Responsive Web Design for Small Businesses Websites in New Zealand

Tips for building a Free Website

1. Keep it simple

Use your website to tell potential customers important information about your business, and how to contact you.  Don’t add too many features or irrelevant information.

Don’t use too many different fonts or colours (I know, I know, look who’s talking).  To be really safe, pick one font that matches your logo or theme, and stands out a little, for headings.  Avoid Comic Sans unless you run a kindergarten, and avoid Papyrus unless you are James Cameron. (And even then, think twice about it.) Pick an easy-to-read font for general text.  

For keeping colours simple, choose one accent colour, and use it sparingly.  Keep everything else fairly monochrome.  (I’m having one of those ‘do as I say not as I do’ moments writing that.)

Spell check, and have someone else proofread.  The occasional mistake is human.  But, as your brain tends to miss your own typos it doesn’t hurt to have someone else take a look too. 

2. Make information clear for customers and search engines

If you are providing a location-dependent service, use your location along with your service, in the main heading of your site.  This helps search engines (and customers) understand where you are.

Include the basics of Who What When Where Why How for your business.

Who are you, What do you do, When do you do it (opening hours), Why do you do it (what problem are you solving), Where do you do it (Location), and How do you do your job? 

You don’t need to include every little detail, just enough to avoid confusion between similar businesses.

Tell potential customers about your unique selling point.  Why should they use you instead of your competitors?

3. Use Quality Images and Logos

Use a smaller number of good-quality images, rather than a lot of mediocre images.  Ensure your logos graphics and photos are the appropriate resolution.  Using overly compressed jpegs, or using images compressed by Facebook or other platforms, can make images look distorted and low quality.

4. Check your Website

Check that your website looks good on a range of mobiles, tablets, laptops, and desktop computers.  

Go to https://pagespeed.web.dev/ and enter your website’s URL.  Wait while your page is analysed and results generated, then review the results.

You won’t always be able to fix every issue, especially on a free site. But you can use it to identify easily fixable problems like insufficient contrast between text and background, or images without Alt text.

Aim to get 100% score on Accessibility, Best Practices, and SEO. 

Unless you have an exceptionally lite-weight site, you will probably need to do a lot of optimising, and maybe set up caching, to get to 100% speed on mobile. So don’t stress about that mobile speed score too much on a free site.  As long as it loads in a reasonable period of time so your customers don’t give up, it should be fine. 

5. Set up a Google Business Profile and include your location

Include all relevant information, and follow process for verification.  Add your website to your NZBN database entry.  You can also set up business pages on social media, and link them to your website.

Other Resources

Make sure you sign up to Digital Boost.

Digital Boost is a great FREE resource for New Zealand Businesses who need help to get online.

Digital Boost has videos on building your own website, and covers WordPress, Wix, and Squarespace.  

Time to upgrade that Free Site?

Here at Easy Web Things, we don’t build websites for free. But we do create websites that are worth the price.

We believe that having us build a website should be solving a problem for you. 

Maybe it’s saving you the time it would take to become really proficient with a website builder.  Maybe it’s making your customers’ lives easier by allowing them to generate quotes or estimates online. Or maybe an online store will bring in more revenue for your business.

A free website may be a great starting point for you, but if you want to step things up a notch, we can convert your free website to something even better.  

Consider moving to a paid website if you want to:

  • add additional functionality
  • use a custom domain name
  • look more professional by removing platform ads
  • find more customers by improving SEO and reducing bandwidth restrictions
  • include more pages than your free plan allows

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Everyone wants to save time and money.  And when you’re busy, time is money!  Spend less time on repetitive tasks, and open your schedule for more productive work.  Websites can often save you more money than they cost, here are some ideas for websites that will pay off in the long run.

Digital Marketing Websites

This is usually what first comes to mind when people think of a ‘website’.

This is a website that is a brochure or advertisement for your business.  It allows people to find your business using search engines and usually offers basic details and contact information.  These often start with a classic 5 pages: Home, About, Contact, Services, and a news/blog page intended to be regularly updated.

In order to be effective in getting visitors through search results, this kind of website should be formatted in a way that allows search engines to understand your services.  Additional landing pages geared towards popular relevant search terms may be added.  Search Engines continuously update their algorithms and how they prioritise results. The aim of the search engine is to deliver useful websites to their users.  Search engine optimisation should be balanced to ensure it doesn’t negatively affect the user experience on your website.  Content marketing, is a way of promoting your website by providing useful or interesting content (articles or blog posts) to potential customers.

A digital marketing website is a form of advertising, and is often supported with a digital marketing campaign including paid ads on social media and google ads.  This can be more affordable than advertising in traditional media. It can also allow you to tailor your advertising carefully so you are not wasting time advertising to people who do not need your product or service.

A digital marketing website is often just a starting point, and may also include any of the following.

Ecommerce Websites

Ecommerce websites allow you to sell products or services online.

Ecommerce Websites allow you to save time by accepting orders and processing payments automatically.  In the case of digital products, they can also deliver the product.

Quote or Estimate Generation Websites

Save time by having an automated quote or estimate generated.  You could have this integrated with your accounting software.  You can have quotes sent out automatically, or keep the human touch. To save time while maintaining a personal touch, the website can generate a draft quote based on details received from potential customers.  The draft is then reviewed by a staff member who also arranges a phone call or meeting with your potential customer to discuss the work.

Customer Support and F.A.Q. Websites

Save time on customer support, by making the answers to Frequently Asked Questions easily accessible.  This could include an extensive FAQ list, a technical documentation library, online user manuals, forums where questions can be asked and answers made public to help others.  Customer Support could also include integrating contact forms, pop-up chat windows, and chat bots.

Technical Documentation Websites

Make technical documentation and user manuals easy to search and navigate online.  Many customers will check online for answers before contacting support.  It can be helpful to include basic information in an easy to understand format, as well as more technical information for advanced users of your product or service.

Learning Management System (LMS) Websites

Save time on staff and customer education, by using online courses to deliver important information in an easily digestible manner.

Speed up your staff onboarding and ensure they have the technical knowledge required, by providing online courses that can be completed anywhere at any time.

You could also provide relevant learning to your customers, either for free to support your products and reduce customer support calls, or charge a fee for certification, to generate additional revenue and cover the cost of course development.

Event Ticketing Websites

An initial investment can set you up with an ecommerce website where you can sell tickets directly to your customers, with options to scan a QR code on the attendees entry to the event.

You will still pay your payment provider a small amount for processing the payment, but in most cases, this is significantly less than the per-ticket cost charged by third-party ticketing providers.

Having your own event ticketing through your website is a great option if you will be running events year after year.

QR code Websites

Websites designed to only be accessed via a QR code, usually from specific locations.

QR Code Reporting

In this example, a reporting website is used with onsite QR code posters, in a large area such as a warehouse or orchard.

QR codes are displayed in prominent places encouraging staff or contractors to report issues when noticed.  Each QR code is associated with a location so the issue can be easily found by maintenance teams later.

When staff or contractors scan the QR code with their phone camera, a form comes up in the browser of their phone.  This allows maintenance or health and safety issues to be quickly and easily logged without excessive interruption to workflow.  An email can be generated to relevant teams, or the problems can be logged in a database, or both.

A QR code accessible site can be a simpler solution than using an app, in cases where short-term contractors or temp staff are often working. It reduces the time and effort in making a report. (eg. with some popular apps temp staff or contractors are having to download a different app for different locations, sign up for accounts, verify email addresses, and register to a location, all before a simple report can be submitted.)

Additional interactivity at an exhibit

Another example for a QR code accessible website is using a QR code next to features at an exhibit or event, providing additional information to attendees who are interested in learning more.  This can save on sign printing costs, as QR code posters can be reused and the linked webpage adjusted to the occasion.  The web page can also display a larger amount of information than is practical to print and can include video and audio media.

Requesting Donations

A frequently seen example is requesting and processing donations on entry at some art galleries, museums, and even hiking trails.  This is because it is more affordable to set up a QR code poster linking to an ecommerce website, than it is to provide payment processing hardware or staff to process payments, at the location.  Obviously, if entry payment is compulsory this isn’t a good option.  But for collecting optional donations in an increasingly cashless society, it’s the perfect solution.

Online Booking Websites

Online booking saves a lot of time for people who use bookings when providing services.  Spend less time on the phone, and have less back and forth over email.  Link it up to your calendar so you don’t get double-booked.

You often see online booking websites for hairdressers, car servicing, vets and pet groomers, customer support services, and accomodation providers, pretty much if your business ever uses appointments, you can benefit from an online booking system.

Community or Social Websites, and Blogs

This includes classic online forums, social media, and blogs that allow discussion and comments.  

These may require dedicated community managers to avoid spam and unsavoury content making it online.  

However, in some cases community interaction can be invaluable for providing support and solutions to customers with technical problems.  

Software as a Service (S.a.a.S.)

Software As A Service, is software provided over the internet, usually via a cloud-based service.  It may look like a website and may involve a website, but behind the scenes, it often involves complex infrastructure and functionality beyond what the previously mentioned websites offer.

Another difference is that SaaS is intended to be your service product, and earn revenue.  The previous websites I’ve mentioned are intended to support a core business (though of course, the core business could still be SaaS!)

Software as a Service usually uses subscription-based models.  This supports the creators to continuously improve their product, (and replace it with something better at the end of the products lifecycle).  

Examples of SaaS include Xero, Netflix, Salesforce, Microsoft 365, Zoom, and many many more.  

SaaS products are also often integrated into other websites.  Examples include booking systems like Calendly and payment processors like Stripe.

Use a Website to solve a Problem

The line between a ‘website’ and ‘software’ has blurred more and more over time.  The benefit of technology moving online is that it can be accessed from anywhere, from any modern internet-capable device.  You can automate things, or deal with work on the go, spending less time tied to an office.

Think about your repetitive tasks.  Whether it’s picking up the phone to answer the same question 20 times a day, or manually creating 20 similar quotes.

Talk to us today about your ideas.  We can help you put together a plan, and figure out a way to save you time and money in your business.

A clock, and wooden blocks spelling out the words "wasting time".

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