A Publishing Empire
I have been doing website design since the end of the 1990′s. It all started with a free Tripod.com web space, and a lot of assistance from friends. Back in the day, it was easy to become a self-taught web guru. HTML, once mastered, was pretty straightforward – there was no fancy coding involved in most websites.
I had enough artistic ability to want to go beyond the standard linear pages that prevailed. I re-worked my personal website virtually every month, using the free HTML editor that was part of the Netscape browser. Tripod then started taking over the real estate of the website with extremely intrusive ads; it was in 1997 that I purchased this domain, wuli.com. 100 megs of webspace came as part of my internet (dial-up) service. These modest beginnings were enough to get me hired first at XPress Electronics as a web designer, and later at Bellco Glass as their webmaster and graphic artist.
FREE WEB SITES
In the beginning there was Tripod and GeoCities. They offered free web space, and also some really crappy templates. It wasn’t long before their banner ads took over the top 1/3 of the page – and they lost their following. Yahoo bought GeoCities, and proceeded to destroy the brand – at one time it was the most visited site on the web. Tripod was bought by Lycos, and beside destroying the user’s sites with intrusive ads, they frequently deleted user’s pages and offered virtually no support for the free accounts. A lesser entity was Angelfire.
I actually had to do some research to find out which of these free services were still in operation. GeoCities is only available in Asia, and Tripod is limping along, but no longer the presence that it used to be. Lycos offers both Tripod and Angelfire, andit seems that the in-your-face ads have gone in favor of subtlety. And now along comes Wix.com. With GeoCities out of the picture, Wix and Lycos are holding down the fort. Why do I bring this up? Who cares?
Ever since 1999, I have been freelancing with my web design experience. HTML, while not difficult to learn, is not intuitive. Most web builders were hinky at best, temperamental, and frustrating to use. People wanting a website would gladly pay an “expert” to design and maintain theirs. As a small business, I was able to offer competitive design prices, and built up a small clientele.
My rates are competitive, and I research webhosting companies in order to recommend the best back-end for the most affordable price to my clients. However, it has become next to impossible to bring on new clients. The website templates and web-builders have become more polished. A half-way tech-savvy person can have a website up in 15 minutes. For free. How do I compete against that?
I decided to give Wix a test drive. For me to sell Wuli Web Design, I had to know what I am up against – asking someone to pay for something they can get for free is the job of a salesperson. I am not oriented that way.
I have been publishing books under the Inferno insignia for several years now. Inferno was my newspaper, and we had a great seven-year run. However, advertizing dropped when the economy bottomed out, and I was not about to run the paper as a charity. I focused instead on publishing books, which relieved me of the incessant deadlines while removing the burden of coming up with enough advertizing revenue to go to press.
With eight books under my belt, I realized that I actually do need a professional website to list my resume of published books, and also to describe the services I offer such as editing and transcription. So, I killed two birds with one proverbial stone – I created a Wix.com account and in 30 minutes hobbled together a website for Inferno Publishing.
The web-builder is fairly straightforward and intuitive. I never had to resort to the FAQ to figure out how to configure anything. The text editing feature does have a mind of its own – it constantly changes the font from “body” to “header” in the middle of freaking paragraphs – and that gets exasperating fairly quickly. You cannot simply select the text and change the font format, the line spacing goes hooey, keeping the larger font line spacing even after you reduce the font size. The only solution is to delete the entire text and start over. But, you get what you pay for, right?
That complaint aside, the new generation of templates and online editors have come along way. The templates are modern, and the site is nothing to be ashamed of. But, and there is always a but, you are stuck with their advertizing. Presently it seems they are only advertizing themselves. There is a bar across the bottom of the page – much better than a banner at the very top, for sure. I dropped my old Tripod account simply because the banner ads they ran were extremely annoying – flashing colors and distracting graphics. I am so happy that the new phase of internet advertizing seems to be shunning these tactics – as they apparently only serves to dissuade people rather than attract customers. Or perhaps the juveniles that used to run the internet advertizing companies have grown up…
So setting up a web page is fairly painless. The biggest problem, as I see it, is the URL of the completed product. The purpose of a webpage is to allow your customers to easily find you on the internet. The URL for my Wix Inferno page is: http://webma9269.wix.com/infernopublishing. WTF is webma9269? How is anybody going to remember that? I can’t remember my own phone number, let alone a stupid nonsensical series of numbers and letters.
In order to create a site with an easy to remember URL, Wix allows you to upgrade to the premium service and they include the domain name “free”. I recommend NEVER bundling your domain nae with any hosting service – it creates a myriad of problems later on, if you ever want to move to a different hosting platform. There is no guarantee that Wix will be around next year, their free website service might just not be a real money-maker. Perhaps they will suffer a lot of downtime, or experience slow servers or any number of situation that will cause you to want to relocate your site. If they administer the domain name, you now have added at least a week, in the best-case scenario, to any change you feel impelled to make.
Also,the fees that Wix charges for their premium site is not really that competitive. If you want to connect your own domain name to the site, you’ll pay close to $50 a year – and you still have to put up with their ads. Double that price to do away with the ads, and they control your domain name. For $100, I can get my clients three years of webhosting. If you don’t mind the ads, there is an easy work-around where you own your domain name, and can use it to access the free site. For my standard consultation fee, I can set you up!
And my final complaint – I do not have an easy to provide URL to lead people to the website, and it does not get a high ranking in the search engines because the free websites are optimized to place them ahead in the search engine rankings – it is all about self-promotion.
Anyway – there you have it – I gave you all the information you will need to build your own website presence, as it were, for free.