Recently a prospective client came to me asking for a website audit. He had recently updated his website but was interested in a professional opinion. It was clear to me that the website was not built professionally as it blatantly violates design principles and in spite of it being recently updated it looked like it was built in the late 1990s or early 2000. When I scrolled down to the bottom, I saw it — “Website builder provided by Vistaprint.” I was only familiar with Vistaprint for their business card and brochure printing. I had not previously been familiar with Vistaprint as a web host. I thought, oh well, you get what you pay for, thinking Vistaprint provided another free website builder.
Once I started to do some digging on Vistaprint, I found out their “free website” is really not free at all. They offer a one month free trial but afterwards, they start charging anywhere from $4.99 to $24.99. The more I read about their offerings, the more angry I became. This is such a rip off in so many different ways it makes me want to spit!
So basically, you are paying $59.88 (which you really are paying for nothing), $179.88, or $299.88 annually for things that you would generally get for free, as long as you are limited to their website builder. If you decide to get an actual webhost and pay $60-$96 a year for a whole lot more features available to you.
Here are the reasons why you should not use Vistaprint now that I have a chance to look under the hood:
1. Vistaprint’s website builder is a primitive tool that makes your site look cheap. Do you want your site to look like it is built by a high school kid back in year 2000? It looks like they probably do not update their tools since they also own webs.com.
2. Vistaprint is not well set up for SEO. By contrast, WordPress is very well optimized for SEO and it is FREE.
3. You are not allowed to embed code in the website, and you are unable to add your own html/css/php code in the website. This absolutely limits your ability to optimize your website, even if you pay for the premium service.
4. Submitting to search engines is a non-service. Search Engine Optimization is more than just submitting to search engines and Vistaprint won’t help you with that.
5. RIP OFF ALERT! When you buy your domain (part of the premium $24.99 a month service) through Vistaprint, you’re going to be paying to get it back! You will need to pay a $20 domain fee if you want to buy your domain back from them and switch services. Your own domain name costs about $10 a year. At least they let you buy back the domain name. I hear that some services (like Yellow Pages Company) actually takes your domain name if you leave them. Whatever you do, make sure you own your own domain name!
6. They do not offer 24/7 support.
I don’t recommend using a host that doesn’t offer 24/7 support, but then again, they are not a real host. They do offer English speaking support, but I would not recommend using a host that isn’t there 24/7.
Don’t just take my word for it, read the numerous consumer complaints and pay attention to the ones about the website builder.
Vistaprint’s web business makes money by taking advantage of small business owners who don’t really know what they need to build a website, or what is needed to build a good website. Their strategy is clearly to get captive customers who use their printing services and milk their ignorance. Most people don’t read the terms of service, but if you do read it then you realize that they will not be a host you will want to deal with.