The other day, I got a phone call from a friendly salesperson. He was thrilled about the special offer he wanted us to take advantage of: a free website! All we needed to do was sign on for hosting with his company, deliver the relevant text and photos, and within a week we would have an online presence!
I asked him to explain how his company could possibly deliver a personalized and dedicated website that would fulfill each customer's specific needs if they offered it for free.
The salesperson paused. That's when I started explaining that I knew full well how they did it. They offer free (cookie cutter) sites to entice customers in, then make their invested time back several times over by overcharging for obligatory hosting, management and upkeep. The result is almost always a disillusioned customer.
Cookie Cutter Sites?
Cookie cutter sites are created using a set template where the company logo/header, content and maybe color theme are the only differentiating factors. Punch has seen quite a few of these types of websites, and they all seem to have several things in common.
- Broken links
- Badly designed
- Difficult to navigate
- Missing information
In short: they're what they seem to be – a website that has been slapped together and made to fit into a common (cookie-cutter) template. Because customers are asked to provide relevant content (photos, text etc), the hosting company can literally copy/paste the received material into their template and be ready to go live in an hour or so.
The Saddest Part
First-time website customers who start their online presence with a cookie cutter website are always left with the impression that 'websites don't work'. They are absolutely right. Cookie-cutter websites don't work. Cookie cutter websites have one function – to line the pockets of the companies offering free websites.