Websites Aren’t Free. So Wix. Please STFU. [Updated]

Tom earned his master’s in IMC from WVU and his bachelor’s in public relations from Utica College of Syracuse University. He joined the Site-Seeker team in 2013 as an account manager.

Every time I sit down to watch TV, I see commercials from website dealers like Wix.com. It’s easy to notice that they are a cheap website provider. They feature these slick-looking sites in their commercials and they demonstrate how the system is very user-friendly with no knowledge of code required in a drag and drop-based CMS.

It looks like a great product – competing with large open-source software beasts like WordPress, Drupal, Moveable Type, and more. The commercials always finish with the message: “If only everything was as easy as creating your website with Wix. Go to wix.com today. It’s free.”

The websites actually look sharp. The software looks easy to use. And I love the strategy from a business perspective because everyone loves things that are free. It’s a great sell.

But as a marketer at an agency? I hate you, Wix.

If you’re in the industry, you feel me. Because you and I both know that websites aren’t free. But guess who doesn’t? The small business owner that is sitting on his couch watching TV after a long day: our potential client. And now we aren’t going to be able to sell him a website because he seems to think websites should be free. Because he has no idea what actually goes into building a business website.

Here’s my dilemma:

Bobby, the guy who owns the financial company down the street, really needs a new website. I’ve pitched him on the idea for months now since he drives by my marketing agency daily and I bump into him regularly at the Dunkin Donuts on the corner. Nice guy. Good salesman. Bad website. He knows I build websites. He knows he needs a new website. But he’s just not ready to make the leap.

Last night, he’s watching Monday Night Football. Giants are getting spanked by the Cowboys so he’s kind of pissed off. Until he sees this commercial for Wix. Now he’s jazzed. In fact, it’s the first time he’s gone to bed happy all season. This is the exact solution he’s been waiting for! A free site that will allow him to elegantly showcase his services, boast his talented team, and urge visitors to contact him. It’s Tuesday morning. We’re both grabbing our dark roasts for some morning fuel, and he asks me to remind him how much a website would cost him from my shop – just to see exactly what he would be saving if he selected Wix. “Well, without knowing all of your goals and needs, a ballpark would be anywhere between $7,000 and $30,000 for a small site,” I tell him. Gasp! He spills his coffee.

But Wix said I could do it for free.

Bob, listen. There’s a lot that goes into building a business website. Many discussions have to take place beforehand to understand what you are looking for it to do and accomplish. We need to know how many pages you’d like to feature, what your messaging will be, and how the site should flow. A sitemap. A wireframe. Design work. Photography. Graphics. Development. Testing. Tracking. And more.

But Wix didn’t explain all of that. Wix said it’s quick and easy.

This would likely be a 4-6 month project. It requires loads of project management, multiple meetings between you and my team. We would want to learn about your business and your customers and what they are interested in when it comes to the web. We need to make sure it’s designed with the target audience in mind – constructed to make it extremely easy for them to convert and for you to boost sales. It needs to be a selling tool, an extension of your team.

Wix doesn’t require any meetings. With them, it’s free.

I hear you, Bob, but please understand. There’s a lot involved here. We would need to write content for every page. It needs to be compelling to grab your audience’s attention and keep it. It needs to be written with SEO in mind to lend itself well to the search engines. We need to develop creative copy for the homepage, the headlines, the call to actions. There’s a ton of writing required.

Content wasn’t mentioned in that Wix commercial. Tell me more.

You probably want it to look unique, right? Not a stock experience that any Joe Smith could whip up. And certainly not like your competitors’ websites down the road. That’s why we need to spend some time developing custom templates and drawing up really modern, impressive layouts and designs. I imagine you’re looking to target Millennials who are starting to get married and have families, right? They love big bold designs with sharp, clean navigation.

But Wix said my designs would look great. I can do it all by myself.

That’s great. But don’t forget about maintenance. You need to tell us how involved you want to be with keeping the website alive and up-to-date. For our solutions, we would need to select a content management system that is right for you and what makes the most sense based on the site’s design and functionality. We also need to select a hosting company for you that will keep your online properties and its material safe and secure from hackers. Did you want integrations with social media sites? Third party software? Phone call tracking? Do we need plugins? These are all things we need to consider and potentially implement.

Wix didn’t talk about any of that stuff. But they told me it would be free.

I understand, Bob, but a new site is going to cost you, if you want it done right. I can’t possibly do it for free. It will likely take up to 200 man-hours when it’s all said and done. From start to finish, you are getting a high quality, custom-built website from us, made from the collaboration of a handful of experts in the marketing and web fields.

Hmm. I appreciate the info and the help. But I think I’ll try Wix and see how that goes.

Free website offers are misleading the small business owner who doesn’t seem to realize all the work it takes to build a [good] website. If he has some extra time and resources, I’m sure he could pull it off. But what small business owner has the time to do all of the items above? I don’t know of any. And that’s why they are often times coming to small agencies to get the work done. But we’re fighting an uphill battle because they don’t seem to understand how a $10,000 price sticker is justifiable based on the :60 commercial they saw last night

Although the best things in life may be free, good websites aren’t. They take time and cost money. And you get what you pay for. Go ahead and try your luck with Wix or one of the many other free websites on the market today. Maybe you have some time, some talent and some creativity to pull off a nice site. But if you don’t. Don’t buy into this message. It’s not reality.

(Wix, no hard feelings. Let’s grab a coffee sometime with Bob.)

Update: After the weekend, I woke up to an email from Eric Mason, the Director of Marketing Communication at Wix.com. He and his team had read my blog post and he sent me a thought-provoking email, sharing his reactions to my piece and his insight on how Wix can serve both end users and agencies. Really cool. Take a look!