If 2020 has taught us something, it is that having an online presence is a must.
If you are finally ready to get that website that you know your business needs up and running, read on. This blog post is going to cover the top website builders that you can use to build your website yourself or even have a professional build it for you.
There are so many free website builders online but not all are created equal. One of the most well-known website builders is Wix.com. Wix has a free website option and to get started building your Wix site is fairly easy, considering there are several templates you can use that are extremely visually well put together. These templates are easy to edit (for the most part) and if you don’t have a lot of time and like how they look, you will be up and running with a new website in a matter of hours. The templates are designed to look great on a mobile phone and you are also able to edit the mobile version of your free site to look how you want. Now although the site is free, Wix has placed ads for Wix on your free site (which is why it is free) including a call to action alert on the top of your site that is most likely what your user will see first when they arrive at your site (and may actually confuse some that are less tech-savvy).
They also provide you with a domain name for your free site but it is also another form of advertising for Wix, as it contains their name. If you would like to customize your site with your own domain, you can do that for a cost. The lowest-priced plan is $14 a month which includes a custom domain that is free for one year (meaning that in year two, your costs will increase without changing anything). This plan also includes the removal of the Wix ads and a free SSL (that means your site will start with HTTPS because it has a security certificate). If you check out the free site that I built with Wix for this article, visit https://designswithalln.wixsite.com/mysite (you will see my free site also has the SSL- just FYI). When you purchase this plan, you also get 3GB of storage for your site and 30 minutes of video hours. Now, this plan is just for the site alone, you have to upgrade to an eCommerce plan to be able to have an online store with Wix. So if you are planning on selling things on your website, you will need to pay a little more. There are several apps add ons you can include on your site like a booking app, QuickBooks add on, social media apps, and more. Some of these are free but most require you to upgrade to a premium version of your Wix site or have an additional cost for the service themselves. Overall, Wix seems like an easy way to get a free site to get started until you can afford something more professional. As a WordPress fan myself, I find that the versatility of WordPress seems much greater than Wix. I think you might start to have a large monthly expense for all of the things your website may eventually need if you continue to scale your business website with Wix. Here is a link to Wix’s pricing: https://www.wix.com/upgrade/website.
You may have seen an ad or two for Squarespace.com which is a popular website content management system that claims to be an all-in-one solution for anyone looking to create a beautiful website. I wanted to know if this was actually the case so here is my review of the website builder Squarespace.com.
To start, I used my Google login to sign up for a Squarespace account which made getting started very easy. Squarespace offers a free 14-day trial for you to play around with starting your own site before you must pay anything. All of Squarespace’s plans are paid but they do not have any ads. You will also get a custom domain free for the first year (it costs an additional $20 after the first year). Right away they show you their popular templates but you can narrow down the templates by telling Squarespace what kind of site you are looking for, i.e.. are you going to be selling merchandise or services, do you need a portfolio, or do you want a subscription site. There are many different templates to choose from (over a 100) and they are all responsive (meaning they will respond to different size screens such as a phone or a table).
Once you choose a template, you can get started customizing it for your use. Here are my thoughts while I was customizing the template I chose. First, I started with the main hero section of the site which was a rather large photo. This photo was rather large and when I went to replace it, I was able to upload my own photo, or I could use Squarespace’s photo search option where they let you get a free photo from Unsplash or a paid photo from other providers. This was nice if you needed a stock photo because you do not have to leave the platform to find one. However, I could not find the size of the photo they provided with the template so when I uploaded a photo that was similar in size, the site looked different from the original template because of the photo difference. There is a photo editor inside Squarespace that you can use to crop, apply a filter, or adjust manually, which is nice.
Next, I went to change the colors and fonts of the site. There was a central location to change your theme colors, fonts, and button styles, site spacing, and animations. This is good and bad, first it makes your site completely cohesive by having matching colors, fonts and styles throughout the site, however, they don’t make it easy to use your own custom color combinations and I found that frustrating.
After updating the site styles, I messed with the layout of the site including the navigation. Here you can upload your logo and change how the navigation will look. I found that you could not customize this much. This was already fixed based on your template. Choose your template wisely because you are not able to transfer your info to another theme, you will have to start over if you decide to go a different way.
After I made some changes, I found that Squarespace does not seem to have an autosave feature or a way to go to other versions of the site. It seems that you can either save the whole of your changes or lose them. This can be frustrating when you are trying out some new design ideas.
As far as price, Squarespace’s plans start at $12/month if you pay annually. If you want an eCommerce site, the price jumps to $26/month if you pay annually. There is a business tier where you can get a free Google Workspace account (an email with your domain name through Google) included for the first year. There is also a more expensive eCommerce level for $40/month if you pay annually. Check it out for yourself at https://www.squarespace.com/pricing.
Weebly.com is a website builder that you may have heard of due to the fact it is one of the largest site builders with more than 40 million websites built (according to webhostingsecretsrevealed.net). It is easy to sign up for an account especially if you have a Google account, as you can login with that. After you create an account, enter your business information and what kind of site you need such as an online store, services based site, or portfolio site. After I made some choices here such as a template choice, it brought me a layout that I could start to customize.
Weebly’s website builder is very easy to use. It is set up in a way that you can drag and drop different items into the site easily. You can even embed code into the website. While you are designing, you can switch from the desktop version of the site over the mobile version and back easily. The builder automatically makes your site responsive, however, it seems you can’t make changes to the mobile version. It takes the desktop version and makes it mobile-friendly.
Adding pictures to the site is easy, you can upload your own from your computer or use their stock photos inside the editor. However, if you need to edit a picture, this is not easily done. So you will need a photo editor that isn’t in Weebly.
There are SEO elements in the builder and on the backend that will allow you to have a SEO friendly site that is easily visible.
If you own your own domain name, you can connect it or purchase one through Weebly with one of their paid plans (which includes a free domain name the first year). The cost goes to $19.95 after that for all tiers. The free plan will show a Weebly ad and will have the Weebly subdomain in the domain of the address.
The prices for the paid version of the plan start at $12 a month and go up to $72 a month for an advanced eCommerce solution. By the way, Weebly has been bought out by the payment processing company Square, so eCommerce has become a much bigger focus as you have access to the online store in any plan, even the free one. Check out their pricing at https://www.weebly.com/pricing.
Showit.co is different than the website builders above. Not only because Showit is less well known but also because Showit uses WordPress instead of a website builder for the content management of their sites and offers beautiful templates (my favorite so far). Showit advertises website templates for creatives such as photographers, web designers, and content marketers. Showit’s templates are so gorgeous that I really enjoyed playing around with them and you can definitely tell that these are designed more for a creative style website rather than something like an accounting firm or retail store. The layouts are more of a portfolio style.
I found Showit to be very easy to start and use. Once you create an account with Showit and choose your template, you can start editing your site. You can start an account without entering your credit card and you get a free two-week trial before you have to purchase anything. The site builder platform uses a drag and drop method making it easy for the do it yourselfer to use. Of course, you can customize the template with your photos, colors, and fonts. They make it easy to create a coherent site by allowing you to change the global design settings so you can change the title, headings, subheadings, and paragraph colors and fonts of the entire site at one time. This is nice to help you keep these elements looking uniform.
Another unique feature about Showit is the mobile versus desktop side-by-side editing feature. When you are editing a section of the page which they call a canvas, they place the mobile version of the site next to the desktop version. You have to edit them separately and it is a little frustrating because there is so much on the screen and there isn’t really the option to resize your editing space. This is not a game-changer and you can still get things done. This also makes you pay attention to the mobile version of your site just as much as the desktop version which is important considering the mobile version will most likely be used more.
One unique and possibly frustrating thing that is different about Showit, is that you have to use Google Chrome to be able to use their platform. If you use Chrome and keep it updated, you would probably never even notice this but if you use anything else for your browser, you will need to switch to Chrome.
There are different plan types with Showit with three different costs (there is no free version of Showit). I chose the middle-priced option to test because this option had a blog included. There are pre-installed WordPress plugins installed with this plan, backups, hosting, and your security certificate. You will need to purchase your domain outside of Showit, which is different than the other website builders I have researched. I used one of the free templates that came along with the package I signed up for but you can purchase a paid template which is rather pricey when you include the costs to use Showit as your builder. Check out their pricing at https://showit.co/pricing.
If you haven’t heard of WordPress.org, you may have been living under a rock because WordPress currently powers over 75 million websites (according to WordCamp.com). WordPress was originally created for blogging but has since morphed into one of the most powerful website content management systems out there (this is what we use for our sites). There really isn’t much WordPress can’t do when it comes to websites. You can have a blog, a small site, an e-commerce site, a subscription site, and so much more. WordPress has many themes, some free and some paid. There are hundreds of plugins you can use to add different functions to your site such as calendars, shopping carts, animations, and so much more. WordPress can have a little bit of a learning curve but there are several page builders out there for those that don’t know how to code.
Now for the newbies, there are two versions of WordPress- WordPress.org and WordPress.com. WordPress.org is where you can find the content management software that is used to make websites and that is completely free. With WordPress.org you will need to purchase a web domain and web hosting. Web hosting is where your website files are stored on the internet. Initially, the cost is around $3-$10 per month. However as your website grows and gets more traffic, the web hosting costs will increase as expected, but then you would be making enough money to cover the costs. You will need to make sure you do your own updates to your website and do your own backups but both of these are manageable. WordPress.com is a website hosting service where you can download the WordPress content management system. WordPress.org is the one that most people are talking about when they are talking WordPress.
Overall, WordPress is a great option because of all the functionality and features you can have with a WordPress website without the high monthly costs of website builders. If WordPress sounds intimidating, don’t worry, we can set all of this up and help you have a great website without all the work. Contact us if you would like to get started with WordPress.