Designing a website can be a big challenge for small business owners. Online site builders offer several easy and affordable DIY options.
If you own a business, you may need a website. Sure, you can have a social media account (or several), but a website is home base. It’s where you showcase your products and services, host your content, gather leads, and really establish credibility.
That said, one of the biggest problems that new business owners face is designing the website. If you don’t have a background in web design, or a kind friend willing to help out, you typically have one of three options: pay someone to do design the site, hire a web developer to design and manage the site, or find an online site builder.
Before we dig in, there are a few things to keep in mind. The sites discussed below are all website creators and built for convenience and ease of use. They each offer plenty of features, templates, and apps and are SEO-friendly platforms (a must).
That said, good website creators offer users simplicity, but that does often come with a trade off — specifically features and ease of use for control. That said, these are geared towards business owners that don’t have web developers on staff (or equal experience and know how).
Wix has been around for over a decade, and thanks to a strong marketing program, it probably ranks as one of the more widely known site builders. Marketing efforts aside, it’s notoriety also has flourished due to the all-in-one factor, which makes it a simple solution for those who are overwhelmed at the thought of website design.
One of the most appealing aspect of Wix, at least in terms of overall design, is the extensive collection of templates, themes, designs (all of which are mobile friendly), which allow business owners to customize their look even if they aren’t building the website from the ground up.
Users also express a high level of satisfaction with the “drop and drag” capability, which makes designing a site that much easier. Toss in their fairly new Artificial Design Intelligence (ADI) feature, which helps customize a site based on your business type and goals, and it’s easy to see why Wix consistently tops site creator lists.
In addition to some great design capabilities, Wix also offers a lot of native features, and there are a variety of apps that users can integrate, though some have found them to be cumbersome. However, users who run into problems using Wix, features or otherwise, have access to a comprehensive resource center as well as phone and email support, with VIP plan (the top tier; $25 per month) promising priority support.
Wix does offer free site building services, though storage is very limited (500 MB), but if the end goal is a business site without ecommerce capabilities (i.e., online shop) the Entrepreneurial ($14 per month) plan can be the right fit; if an online store is in the plans, then the eCommerce plan ($17 per month) would be required.
One other thing to keep in mind is site portability. And though Wix is chock full of solid reviews, portability is challenging, as exporting data requires some MacGyver-style planning. Definitely not a deal breaker, but something to keep in mind.
Weebly may not have been around as long as some of the other website builders, but it’s certainly growing quickly and staking a claim in the website builder market space. Part of this is a continual effort is to improve and hone software and capabilities.
Similar to its top competitors, design has that great drag and drop feature as well as customizable templates and designs. It has a quick load speed, and many users are pleased with the onboarding and educational process and claim the site’s resources are reliable and accommodate users at varying levels. This comes from helpful onsite integrations as well as the reliable and responsive phone, email, and chat support.
One thing that does set Weebly aside is their unlimited storage space, which is a step up from many of their competitors. However, though storage is unlimited, businesses owners that anticipate a complex site structure with hundreds of pages may find the Weebly content management system to leave a bit desired, though it’s certainly not a deal breaker — there are ways to work around it.
Weebly offers a pretty robust collection of apps to help users do everything from boost traffic to customize sales channels, making it a favorite for small businesses that need to integrate sales functionality. However, like many of their competitors, ecommerce functionality is limited to the top tiers. Business owners who need that functionality should consider the Pro or Business plans. It should be noted that the Pro plan only allows for 25 products — certainly not a deal breaker for some industries, but it can be for others.
Finally, when it comes to portability, it can be a challenge.
In a complex world, one size does not fit all, and that’s the case for Squarespace. However, for business owners who rely on high quality images to sell their products or services (photographers, florists, boutique owners salons), Squarespace may be the perfect fit.
The template selection is slim compared to other site builders, but those they do have are really clean, well-crafted templates with a minimalist appeal, making them great for, as I mentioned, really showcasing photos of products, be it art, photography or food. Squarespace does offer drag-and-drop and customization opportunities similar to Wix, but they aren’t as intuitive (though this is easily overcome by spending some time playing around).
Users that run into problems or have questions will find a host of resources including videos as well as 24-hour support through live chat and email support, both of which boast quick response times.
As an added bonus, Squarespace does have robust, fully integrate ecommerce capabilities ($18 per month annually) that make it a real contender for those who want to showcase and sell their products. Additionally, they also offer one-click data portability for some data. Granted, this doesn’t include everything, but it’s certainly one click closer than some other platforms.
WordPress has been around for a long time, and many of today’s most successful sites got their start on this platform. It’s open-source, and it benefits from continual innovation (though some can argue that this also causes some wonky functionality in apps and features).
From a design aspect, WordPress holds its own, offering users thousands of templates and design customizations. However, if you’re looking for native drag and drop simplicity, you won’t find it on WordPress. That feature isn’t available, but if you’re interested, you can purchase and download drag and drop page builders, like Divi Builder or Beaver Builder.
Perhaps one of the most attractive aspects of WordPress is the fee, which is free. That said, you will need to pay for the domain as well as hosting, though shared hosting can be relatively cheap (Less than $120 a year) and domains are typically under $15.
Since WordPress isn’t as all-inclusive as some of the others above, this also means users responsible for technical maintenance (keeping things up to date, backing up your site) and security aspects associated with running a website. Again, that’s not to say there isn’t a service that does that.
It may sound like WordPress is an awful choice based on the paragraph above, but that’s simply not true. This site builder has a plethora of functions and features that allow users to have more control over their site, and while there is a tradeoff, if you anticipate scaling your site or know you will hosting significant content, WordPress can be the right choice.
In short, if you want more control over your site, but don’t want to start from scratch, WordPress may be a great option. This is particularly true if you plan to expand your staff to include a web developer.
There are a variety of website creators available to small business owners, many of which have their own unique set of pros and cons, some of which will vary by industry and overall needs. Though these four are popular, there are many others including SiteBuilder, Duda, Yola, and GoDaddy’s GoCentral, and it’s worth including them in your search.
In the end, it’s best to determine your needs and your business goals (present and future), and take the time to thoroughly analyze the pros and cons of any platforms you may consider.