Personal websites have been around a long time. But now, Internet users have a dizzying array of free, feature-rich services to choose from — no coding skills required.
Still, Brian Blau, a research director at Gartner, a technology research firm, said the free model has drawbacks. "The free is always the hook. What they'll sell later is shopping carts and all these other add-on services.''
Still, for Web users seeking to promote their work or business on a small budget, these sites are useful. Below is a roundup of some free platforms.
Questions to ask
Having a wealth of services to choose from is both good and bad. Simply because a company offers 300 fonts doesn't mean you need anywhere near that. So before you get started, ask yourself three questions: What am I looking to get out of the site? What features must I have? Which ones can I live without? Figuring out these answers before settling on a service can help you avoid potential pitfalls.
General purpose sites
When it comes to creating personal sites, the former AOL-owned About.me is a great first option. About.me offers social media buttons, a mobile application and a simple signup. But if one of your must-haves is themes, look elsewhere.
Weebly is a better alternative if you want themes. The company offers more than 100 of them. A large majority of its services, including domain name transfers, are free.
If your top priority is social networking, consider Flavors.me. The site aggregates and posts photographs, blog posts, status and other updates from more than 30 services, including SoundCloud, Instagram and Tumblr. Like Flavors, DooID is big on social network integration. The site places your profiles on a single landing page, along with a vCard button on the Web version, so others can download and import your contact data.
If customer service support is high on your list, Wix is a great option. The company's contact form offers support in nine languages. Additionally, Wix has a call center in San Francisco with more than 70 agents to field questions from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern time. On the user end, Wix has an HTML 5 drag-and-drop editing tool, integration with the image editor Aviary and hundreds of fully malleable templates. On the downside, such malleability often comes with more upkeep.
Breezi is less laid-back than Wix, which means that you can't, say, drop an image anywhere you like. But this more restrictive model also makes it less likely that you'll run into broken links and screen resolution issues. Most impressive is the company's relatively new design engine, which generates designs on the fly.
Breezi lets you select your category, then you can choose and lock in colors, fonts and other features until you're happy with what you see.