September 20, 2014

7 Powerful and Free Website Builders for Small Businesses

Half of all small companies do not have a website, according to one statistic.  With that in mind, we believe there are many readers who may need some help getting a simple website up and running.  Even if you have a company website, you may know someone who needs one.  Here are 7 do-it-yourself website building services to consider.

There are all sorts of tools and applications out there, but our main selection criteria in this post is whether the tool lets you build a site, for free, in less than an hour and publish it to create at least a basic presence online.  Are these tools all robust enough to create the site of your dreams? No.  Will they allow you to cease procrastinating and put a stake in the online ground? Absolutely.  They also give you the capacity to start using many of the great tools that Lisa Barone shares here on Small Business Trends, such as Facebook, Twitter, Google Places and more.

In many cases, these site builders will not allow you to have your own custom domain name.  Since that is important to many, including me, I have one favorite suggestion I’ll share at the end of the post as #7.  Note:  There are many website hosting companies that offer a free domain name, but that is not the same as a free website and hosting.  This list is about free online website builders that include hosting.

1. Google Sites

I’m a big Google fan, and they don’t disappoint with their free website options.  Google Sites is robust and probably a bit more technical than the busy small business owner wants to engage in.  It does, however, allow really granular changes.  I have tried it out on several projects, and it offers a full WYSIWYG editor.

Like many Google offerings, not everything is super-intuitive or easy to find.  For example, I created this rough page for this review and it took me 5 minutes to figure out how to change the photo to my own.  Still, you cannot beat free, and the Google tool works.  The URLs are ugly, though: http://sites.google.com/site/socialmediaroibytjmccue/.

What I like:  Google Sites templates range from simple sites to classroom-focused to project wikis to intranets.  With a few clicks, you can pick a template and hit publish.  Then you can go deep into the code if you want!

2. DoodleKit

Free Website BuilderDoodleKit is pretty impressive.  Lots of templates and good editing functionality so you can put items and photos where you want.  The free version is limited, but allows up to five pages, plus a blog.  There is lots of space for photos and image albums, and DoodleKit offers lots of examples to get ideas of how others have used it.  After the free level, plans are still affordable. The forum keeps things simple and offers step-by-step instructions so when you ask a question, you can actually follow the answer.

The advanced editing tool had to be installed in my browser, which was a slight disappointment, but not a big deal.  Once I loaded that simple lite app, it was truly easy to see what I was editing.

What I liked:  Literally, in under 5 minutes, I had a website and blog going.

3. Wix

Wix is a free Flash website builder.  Some will argue that a Flash website is not as SEO-friendly (or Google-friendly, if you prefer), but the search giant and other search engines have made great strides in reading and ranking Flash sites.  The beauty of Flash is it allows true drag and drop functionality. Sign-up is just your e-mail, a password and a username.  You then move to Create, Explore or My Account as the three choices of what to do next.  I hit Explore and was amazed at all the site types and creative options, most of them for free.

If you don’t like the idea of a content-heavy site with mostly words, and are a visual type or your business lends itself to a more visual format (photographers, videographers, architects, designers), Wix is worth a serious look.

What I Liked:  Wix is a fun, energetic site that makes you want to start and finish a website in one sitting.  Almost 5 million people have built a site at Wix.  You can get affordable help with the Wix designers.

4. Moonfruit

Moonfruit is a Flash-based website builder.  Right away, they amazed me with this one super customer-friendly step:   They let me start building the site without even registering or providing any info.  I could click through and pick options; when my site was almost done, they asked me to share my e-mail, a username and password, and hit publish.

What I Liked: By far, Moonfruit is one of the most elegant and professional solutions I’ve seen to get a company website up and running.  The free option was advertising-free.  No tiny little links or text ads, and beyond the free option there are very affordable plans.

5. Weebly

Weebly lets you create a free website and blog.  It is Flash-based, which means another easy drag and drop interface.  You don’t have to be a techie at all.  Weebly offers dozens of professional designs and templates.  You can drag slideshows or photos onto the templates where you want them.  They are one of the only tools I saw that allows and encourages a blog within the site structure.  Also, Weebly has simple SEO options so you can put keywords and descriptions into your code and get recognized by the search engines.

What I Liked:  If you already own your own domain name, Weebly will let you use it for free.  So if you just re-registered a domain name you’ve been parking on, you can turn it on and Weebly won’t charge you to do it.  Cool.

6. Webstarts

Once you pick a template with Webstarts, they take you to a page that lists the pages within your site and icons to edit, preview or delete.  Plus, right on that admin dashboard, you can adjust the order of the pages and decide which pages should be on the navigation menu. Webstarts is very intuitive and fast loading.

What I Liked:  As you start into editing mode, a little window drops down with a tutorial video.  You can close it out, but it is nice to have a help item available.  I actually enjoyed working in the Webstarts editing tool.

7. WordPress

Yes, it is a blog platform and not officially a “website builder.”  However, many companies use WordPress as a website platform, and it ranks very highly for small business.  (SmallBizTrends.com is built on WordPress.) My SalesRescueTeam.com site is built on WordPress with the robust Thesis theme (not free).  Here’s the sweet part: If you’re on a tight budget and want to keep it super-simple, you can build a site for free.

What I Liked:  For only $15 per year, you can get a custom domain name you own and have WordPress point to it.  That’s as close to free as any of the free website builders with your own domain.  Most services that are free have a subdomain structure, as does the free WordPress option, with URLs that look like www.yoursite.wordpress.com. Over time, that’s limiting for most businesses. Because the premium features on WordPress are not always easy to find, here they are.

* * * * *

If you are in the alleged 50 percent of small companies that do not have a website, or know someone who is starting a business and really needs an inexpensive option to building their first site, these seven services will help you do it.  Each is worth a look.  As always, feel free to share the ones you like and link to them in the comments.

95 Comments ▼

TJ McCue - Product Editor


TJ McCue TJ McCue is the Product Editor for Small Business Trends and an entrepreneur who publishes Tech Biz Talk. TJ is a former Wall Street Journal columnist. He also writes for Forbes and American Express OPEN Forum. He loves learning about technology apps and software services - share yours with TJ.

95 Reactions

  1. Would love to have Webs.com be added to the list above.

    A bit about the company and site builder:

    Webs.com is the world’s largest free website building solution serving over 50 million users (and counting). Small businesses, organizations and personal users can easily create a website and get free web hosting. In addition to its easy-to-use website building tools, Webs offers an array of rich, dynamic apps to help businesses create an engaging, interactive web presence. Businesses can quickly integrate ecommerce functionality, an appointment scheduler, blogs, maps, and many more applications.
    For more information, visit:

    http://www.Webs.com
    http://twitter.com/websdotcom
    http://www.facebook.com/websdotcom

    • Webs used to be good, but now I just used them for the first time in a long time and they’re terrible! Severe limitations (5 page limit at the time of writing, for example). They’re also more annoying to use than others.

  2. Just as cautionary note to Moonfruit users, Flash-based sites don’t perform well with search engines.

    • Hi Robert

      True but Moonfruit produces a non flash copy which it presents to crawlers which overcomes this problem.Certainly i have no problem with any of my sites. Neat soluton

      Also the latest version is based on HTML% which obviates the need to use Flash at all.
      However, i have not converted my sites yet so i have no first hand experience of how search works on this version

      • well tried Doodle kit went throught the motions of a free website but still asked for my credit card when I asked to publish. Really? Whats free about that? Why do they need that information? This is why i don’t have a “free” website. It’s all a load of

  3. For small businesses interested in free mobile websites, Ruxter.com provides a simple, template-based tool for creating websites optimized for mobile devices.

    Ruxter’s free level of service includes access to the Site Builder application for mobile website creation, and up to 100 text message impressions each month. Additional text packages can be purchased as a organization’s mobile subscriber database increases in size.

  4. Very nice resource page. I warn clients of using flash for sites as Apple has said there will be no support for flash on iphones or ipads. The mobile phone segment for web is exploding so people should know this before taking the plunge into a flash based site.

  5. Another good review TJ. I must say I have only used wordpress with Headway premium theme which is easy to use.

    It seems it is becoming easier for small businesses to have websites with less hassle.

  6. Yes there are free tools, but free websites are not the best route for most businesses. The cost of a professionally designed website has come down with the popularity of WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla.

    If you are a business owner without a marketing budget at least talk to a web developer or designer before going with the free options.

    • Most web designers quote at minimum $1200 (And I have checked with quite a few) – that is an huge gap.

      I have used one that quotes $300-600 and then hosting/maintenance each month, but there is very big lag (“get in line”) time.

      • could you tell me your web designers info? the $1200 is in my budget limit. Thanks,

        Allen

      • We have experienced web designers that are within your budget. Send us an email today stating what it is that you desire and we can take care of it for at a price that you can afford. Domains and hosting is included with all of our design packages. You may also utilize our live chat option. Have a great day.
        -Lynn Jackson
        Business Development/Web Design

  7. Thanks everyone for the great additions and comments. Before I share some additional thoughts, let me explain who I’m writing for in this post. I’m writing for the small biz owner who has been traveling along without a website, without an online presence and they simply need to put something up. Anything. There are many of them out there. That sort of owner doesn’t care at this point about SEO or mobile. They are frustrated and exasperated and tight on cash. These tools are for them.

    Some can argue that it is better not to put a site up unless it is everything you want it to be, etc. To that, I can only say hogwash. Life is far from perfect and some folks just need a simple page so that if someone searches for their co name they will be found. And they need a site they can point their FB page too and their Twitter profile and so forth. For them, flash is fine. At this point, I have to say I agree professionally with the advanced level, strategic thinking. Like each of you, I

    • Thank you so much for this, like you’ve said I have a very small business but haven’t got far because I don’t have a website so just to get anything up and running so people can at least so what I do!

    • Hi, I so appreciate your post. I see it was in 2010. Are you still around. I am the one you put this together for. I am a small business owner…very small…just starting out. I did find WordPress on my own. I went to the site to try and build and ….ended up so overwhelmed with it. I do not understand any of this…how to build a site…I am so stressed out over all of this. I need help…are you still around?

      • Hi Sharon! I’m wondering if you ever heard back from anyone about this post? I am TOTALLY in the same boat as you! I did the same thing with WordPress. Completely overwhelmed… and when I talked to my brother-in-law, he told me that WordPress is not usually the first place people go for starting online stores.
        ????? I’m searching all over the internet, and am so unsure of which one to pick. But I want to learn how to do it. I don’t want to pay someone else to build my website.

        Anyway, did you decide on something? Has something worked really well for you?

        Thanks for your time!
        Jamie

      • Hi If you are still having issues that are unresolved please shoot me an email at SLSterling@AngelDesignz.com I may be able to help you.

      • Hi Sharon,
        Did you get your needs met? I did our website on homestead.com. Now I’m looking for a decent free site to help build a site for my sister-in-law so she can get her small biz online.
        If I can be of assistance, don’t hesitate to contact me.
        Tina
        t.hogan@live.com

    • Thanks so very much. I am one of those first time business owners that is in need of a web site and appreciate your article :)

    • I as one of those very small just starting out business owners i so appreciate the advice that is exactly what i’m looking for any other suggestions as well as you stated i just need to get something anything up

  8. TJ: You could also start out with sites like Posterous and Tumblr. It is very easy to get started and you could update your site in a “snap”.

    I have purchased a WordPress theme called Headway and you could say it is similar to the Thesis premium theme. We will use it for a new online venture.

    My personal favorite nowadays is Squarespace. I learned about this company when I heard a sponsor message during a Net @ Night podcast show at TWiT.tv with Leo Laporte and Amber Mac.

    For an example, click on my name (Martin Lindeskog) and you will come to my new tea site called GOT Tea Party.

  9. Hey TJ,

    Great followup comment. I do agree with you on your point about small businesses and where they are with websites. Most are not even thinking about mobile at this point (or iphone or flash).

    I do have to take up a bit of issue with your comment that mobile isn’t worth thinking about yet. If you look around, the mobile web is exploding because of the success of iphone and droid. In many ways, what I see here in Silicon Valley reminds me of the early days of the internet. According to a recent study by CISCO, they are predicting mobile traffic to double every year until 2015.

    I think it is important for some forward thinking businesses (definitely not the topic you are covering here in this post–agreed) to think about their mobile presence on the web. This could provide a big edge for business owners competing for customers in this economy.

  10. Hey Mobile Fan! Thanks for the positive comment. I agree with your thoughts on mobile. Just didn’t have time to comment fully. Truly, I see mobile as the place to be, so no argument. But what we’re talking about, what we’re both in agreement about is that some folks lag the market… And those folks may not need a mobile site for another 10 years! ;-) Although, if it were me, I’d skip a regular website and build a mobile one via Mofuse or some other provider. Something viewable on the web and on a smartphone.

    Martin, thanks for the ideas. Much appreciated.

    And thanks to others with suggestions and additions. All welcome. Thanks for sharing resources for your fellow small biz owners.

  11. Hi TJ and thanks for the great post. I totally agree with your point that different products serve different needs and different kinds of clients. I think the concerns raised in the comments regarding SEO and iPhone/mobile phones comparability are relevant and spot on.
    I don’t want to hog this platform to praise Wix but it’s important for me to note that SEO and mobile phones comparability are two issues we take very seriously. Wix Sites are perfectly SEO friendly and we’re currently working on a project that will make Wix sites viewable through mobile phones.
    I’ll be happy to address any other questions posted here or via our Fan page at http://www.facebook.com/wix.

    Thanks again.

  12. TJ,

    Nice roundup up some of the available options, and great follow-up regarding on small business just needing to get a website up and not worrying too much about mobile, seo, and all the things that will come in due time.

    In that sense — Jimdo really belongs on the list! Unlike WordPress, it’s a real website builder (rather than a blogging platform repurposed only with some difficulty). It’s true WYSIWYG, and it’s also possible to set up a blog directly in the site structure (but not necessary, as many small businesses don’t need blogs right away).

  13. Hello Tj and all,

    I would also like to point to Qapacity.com, an easy to use, no techie knowledge needed website builder for small businesses.

    There are a lot of themes and modules to choose from, you can add pages, a blog, a portfolio. The sites are Google friendly and social media savvy.

    We would love to know what you think of it. What you like and what you think we should improve or are completely missing.

    Thank you:)

  14. A very helpful review. Very substantial. Kudos to the author. Reviews like this makes my life easy. I’m not sure with the others but it works for me. It saves me time checking every single one of them. WordPress rocks though. :-)

  15. Thanks to everyone for diving in and sharing other website builders for small biz owners. I’m taking a look this week and next at each of the ones listed and may do a followup post very soon. Feel free to add your tools here so I can take a look. I agree with the comments about WP being a blog first and needing some customization, totally agree. See my above comments to understand my logic for including it.

    Don’t be sad if you’re website builder was not included, just post a link to it in the comments and join the conversation. You’ll be amazed at how many people share from this list and tell people to pay attention to the comments. You can simply include yourself that way. Thanks!

  16. I’d like to add microsoft’s officelive.com on the list…I’ve used all but 2 of the above free website builders all of them have their own merits and limitations :) my personal site was built with officelive for no particular reason…I have my own domain name from 1and1 for $7.99/year and redirected to officelive and I also got 100 emails @ my domain name for free :) essentially my site just costs $7.99/yr to run, which is pretty awesome IMHO

  17. Hi TJ,

    Just wondering why you recommended WordPress.com (which is where your link points to) -rather than http://www.Wordpress.org? There is no fee. It uses the WordPress blogging/web software on your own URL/Domain name (and some website hosts even include a preinstalled version or a one-button installation). It has much more robust features that wordpress.com, and has a great community of folks to help small businesses learn to use it.

    One great feature of wordpress websites is that with one change the initial set up- changing your permalinks to include the post name – the site offers GREAT built-in SEO I have seen client wordpress sites be indxed for google and hit he front page in days – if the URL and content are right.(also WordPress offers many plugins for SEO and even to create a mobile-friendly version of your site).

    The costs are:
    $10-15 to purchase a domain name

    Plus $4.95 – $25 per month for website hosting (most web hosting is under $10/month) so that your wordpress software is loaded into your website host – on your own Domain name – mywebsite.com not mywebsite.wordpress.com. Many web hosts have one button install options to install the free wordpress.org software.

    Plus an optional $80 to $100 for a premium theme – (top premium themes are Thesis, Headway, WooThemes & StudioPress) which are not necessary, but make your site look more professional, are easier to customize and often have built-in features that make it easier to setup and maintain your site, as well as including greater functionality. Otherwise you can use one of the free themes that abound for word press.org sites, if your budget is really rock-bottom start up – they are okay while you are testing the waters, but you get what you pay for. You can also hire a designer to customize a theme for your site.

    I have seen many folks talk about starting a site on one of the total freebie blogging sites like wordpress.com, tumblr, posterous etc – but they are not very professional, and then you have to switch to a better type of site – and jump through various hoops to do so. Save time and invest a little bit in your site – your business is worth it.

    • Thanks for info on WordPress.org I have site built using sitemaker at Moonfruit, you get get a ‘flashy’ site but two probs arise. Flash is required to be installed in your browser and the SEO on Flash sites means that pages don’t get ranked as high as they should. I’m thinking on migrating over to WP but have nearly 10 sites to migrate from MF, or I could wait until MF get HTML5? Can anyone advise? What are your thoughts? Cheers Howard.

  18. Hi Cathy
    You share some great points. Thanks.
    You are correct in that someone can or should go through these extra steps, but the purpose of this piece was to give super low cost tools and steps they could take to just get something going.

    To be clear, I don’t disagree with you, but some folks simply don’t have the bandwidth or desire right now, despite your good advice and all they want is to point the existing domain they own to a site or blog. I talk to small biz owners every day who call for me to set up their WP blog, but some of them just aren’t there, so I tell them about this super inexpensive path. The link I shared for WP will allow you to do that for about $15. That’s it. You start a simple blog on their site (the free one) and then you upgrade it for $15 so your domain name is what gets people there. It is one of the cheapest ways I know of to get a site, with your own custom domain (not a subdomain or subdirectory from another free host). BTW, there could be other reasons that someone wants a cheap blog pointing at a specific domain.
    TJ

  19. Hey Ramon
    I was going to include Homestead, but they are only a free trial. I’m trying to show only sites that are totally free. But $4.99/month is pretty inexpensive.

  20. Great article, TJ.
    I love your focus here on the brand new to the web business user. When you’re online full-time like us, it’s easy to forget but there are still far more people offline than there are online.
    It’s great to give the new folks the basic intro advice they need to get started inexpensively.
    Best,
    Scott

  21. Bless you for breaking this down for the rest of all of us. We end up needing more from this! Thank you.

  22. Thanks for your comments Scott and Stewart. Getting started inexpensively is half the battle, right? It is also a time issue and helping those who don’t spend a lot of time online to get started is needed. Your point, Scott, is well taken — there are a lot of people not yet online (or at least not living and breathing it) because they are living and breathing in a traditional small biz and don’t have time or energy or inclination to spend on an elaborate website creation process.

  23. Hi TJ,

    I would also like to let people know about Viviti.com

    Viviti.com is the best of both worlds, as it is Content Management System and a Website Builder that allows you to easily build your website, either by selecting one of our premade themes or make your own theme by using html and css.

    Please check it out and let me know your thoughts.

  24. I’m really glad I came across this informative article. I have been using wordpress for most of my small website and I have had good results especially when it comes to SEO. You have opened mind my quiet a bit here and I will definitely be trying out most of these platforms

    Thanks again

  25. Free Website these days is easy. Search for free hosting, search for free website template, buy $2 domain name and you good to go.

    Good Luck

  26. Do not forget to check ucoz.com – a free website builder

  27. Thanks, this is helpful to many small businesses. Once they build a site, they will need to continue doing inbound marketing and reaching out through social media, advertising, etc. But these are a great place to start until their needs grow.

  28. Great list. I would also pitch that mobile sites are even more important for small business especially retail and F&B businesses.

    There are a lot of mobile marketing companies around and we have some partners using our mobile site builder (mobdis.com) to build mobile sites with coupons and lead generations which leads to real business revenue.

  29. I’m very impressed with your list of suggestions. I would caution, however, against building a business on a domain you don’t have control over. I’ve heard too many stories of people having their site taken down for a minor violation of a site’s TOS. There are enough cheap hosting options out there, that I think the wiser course is to pony up a few dollars a month.

    Nonetheless, these options are a decent alternative if you’re starting with a budget of zero.

  30. Hi Lucas
    Thanks for your comment. Others feel the same as you do; in fact, so do I. But, as you said, if you are on the tightest budget on earth then use one of these.
    TJ

  31. I could not disagree more. If you are on the “tightest budget on earth” you should not be opening your business. If you can’t afford to pay someone to build your website, you should not open a business. You can find many very talented web developers to build you a starter site, that is optimized, has analytics on it, and has a sitemap for less than $1,000. Usually around $700, and that will include a professional email, 1 year hosting and a blog.

    “Free” Website builder tools almost always have a downside to them. Ad’s placed on them, links in them and the worst of them all – BUSINESS OWNERS WHO DON’T KNOW HOW TO BUILD A WEBSITE using them. With very few (and I mean VERY, VERY few) exceptions, when a business owner try’s to build a website themselves, it is horrid. It looks bad, the layout is bad, and the content is usually some boring “welcome to my website, we are a family owned business….family owned and operated since 1957….” blah, blah, blah.

    As a small business owner – how valuable is your time? What is your time worth. You can spend hours, and hours building your own “free” website and the end result is, you have a website that scares away customers.

    If building websites was “free” and easy – everyone would be doing it.

    The one exception is WordPress…but that still takes a working knowledge of how to setup wordpress to behave like a website and not a blog…how to create custom menus, how to do SEO on it, how to install plugins and widgets etc…..Again – I ask you, how valuable is your time Mr or Mrs small business owner.

    Odd’s are, it will take you weeks, and then you will do 1/2 (if you lucky) the job a pro could have done, and you will have an end result that will not help your business in any way shape or form.

    Save yourself the headache, hire a pro, and get it done right the first time. And don’t hire the pro that has the cheapest price – do your homework, ask to see examples of sites they have built, and then do keyword searches for those sites. If they show up on Google AND look good – you probably found your pro.

    • How much do you charge .Whom would you use .Which web browser.I do not want a turtle site.Which.I am not to savy, but would believe u get what u pay for.I have seen some that take ten days to load a page and others like lightenining.Thanx JP

      • Joseph…if you click on my name – it will take you to my website. Price always depends on what you want done. The most expensive site I have every built was $1,500.. and that was giving the guy a great deal…. it was a huge site.

        Good luck in your search…hopefully you have found someone to help you out already…if not – feel free to contact me via my websites contact form and I would be happy to answer any questions you have.

  32. This is a great review TJ, thanks. I’m looking for something a little different, though. All the sites you mentioned use a pre-designed template platform. I want a more dynamic site that looks unique, and that doesn’t look as if it was built in a few minutes even though it was. A few people recommended Exai.com – do you have, from your experience, a review for this one?

  33. Nice resource page TC, webs.com, yolasite or jimdo are other good alternatives

  34. Very good article I must say. Would there happen to be an updated one available? I found this article by searching “seo friendly website builder”. I was looking for a site that was either free or low cost that would host a domain name, be seo friendly and Etsy friendly as well. On forums ppl recommended wix, moonfruit and weebly. Also, on that forum someone said wix was not google/seo friendly. But I see on their site there is a way to set up seo. Also, they have HTML now, so maybe seo friendly? I’m looking for a quick and easy site to build just to get out there, but I don’t want to have to start over later.

  35. These are all great hosting sites with template builders. If you want to really drive traffic though, build your site and content optimized. It’s difficult not going through the code to do this, which many site builders do not allow!

    Best of luck!

    – Jordan

  36. This is a really good review what you’ve written TJ. You’ve provided holistic viewpoints that will surely help small business owners in their quest to get started online.

    If I may add an additional point…

    Small business owners may also want to consider not just “getting a website that looks great”, that’s just part of the story. They should also take into consideration the copy that goes into their sites.

    In other words (excuse the pun), the words that are going to make the visitor take some course of action. Now in the small business owner’s case, that’s most likely going to be:

    1. A phone call
    2. A walk in client
    3. A captured lead
    4. A coupon redemption
    5. An actual sale

    There are more examples of what we’d like visitors to do on our websites, but those are some of the main ones. Ignore these age old proven factors and your new website, whether paid for or not, will fail to serve a specific purpose.

    So my message for all those thinking of getting started online is to use a website builder, or web design company that encourages the use of direct response copy methods that compliment the great looking site you’re getting.

    Hope that helps.

    Thanks again for the great review TJ, much appreciated.

    • Stewart which website builder do you recommend? Thank you

      • TJ did a great job of breaking down the pros and cons of various website builders. If that’s what you’re after (a website building tool), then take your own goals into mind and align them with the tips that TJ provided in his original post.

        If however you are wanting more than just a great looking site, s in a site that looks good, but also gets your phone ringing with new inquiries, then I highly recommend you click on the link next to my picture.

        Yes, that may sound biased or even bordering on self-promotion, but you did ask :-)

        Hope that helps, take care and have a good one.

        Warmest regards,

        Stewart

  37. Hard to beat Google Sites for making a free site. Your Google site turned out looking not too different than what some of the other paid website builders would provide. Except for some like Wix that provide really nice themes, it’s hard to produce very nice results with a website builder.

    I get a lot of clients who come to me after trying website builders. They work for many people but a lot of people are tricked into thinking they are SUPER simple, only to find out that it does take a pretty big time commitment to figure them out.

    To help small businesses decide if a website builder is right for them in the first place, I wrote this article for DIY Marketers ( http://diymarketers.com/2012/10/diy-website-builders-are-they-right-for-your-small-business ).

  38. I would love to see an update on this list for 2013. DoodleKit is great and I think those guys are (or were) from here in Kansas City.

  39. Hi.. anyone tried cubender.com? love it! 5 stars from me! I really like the fact that it’s all drag and drop and even I can do it and it looks amazing! Great product with a strange name.

  40. I always used wordpress because it’s quite simple and because I didn’t know anything else. I might give a try to any of the mentioned alternatives

  41. All of these are a HUGE waste of time and money for any business. Look closely…big rippoff. Better off to talk with a professional web designer/developer. Don’t forget, all these “Free” services are frowned upon by search engines.

  42. Thank you for doing the research!

  43. Hi there, I love the article, all tools are presented in a user friedly way, simple and clear so everyone can have a quick idea of what website builders on the market can offer.

    I would also like to add one more revolutionary platform in here:
    http://puzl.com/

    Very functional free tool enabling you to build your professional website at no cost and with no programming knowledge needed. A lot of great widgets to help you build a site eye-catching and unique. You should definitely try that!

  44. Some great sites here, – I’m the lead designer for a website builder called Webcard. All you have to concentrate on, is adding content – and it’s really easy. What really sets it apart, is that you get a bespoke design for your business. Our clients love it!

  45. Hi TJ and thanks for the insights! I chose weebly when I designed our website. It all went great but when it was time to publish I had to figure out how to switch my domain to godaddy from at&t. The folks at godaddy had never heard of weebly! Because I know next to nothing about “hosting” and “domains” etc I found myself talking to one employee after the next explaining what I needed done, even though I didn’t really understand it myself. It was an awful process. I almost gave up on godaddy; then I finally met a nice young man who hung in there with me and helped me till be got it published. But I dealt with many condescending unwilling employees before I found him. Now it’s time for me to build my next free website for a second business and I want a seamless publishing experience. I purchased my website name from godaddy; would it just be easiest to design through them? I wish I understood the language better for this one step so I could use wix or a similar site and not have to worry at publishing time… Thanks for your time!

    • Megan, it shouldn’t be that difficult to publish your site. Weebly gives directions for pointing your domain to their servers. http://kb.weebly.com/domain-registrar.html

      These days, you’re better off looking for online instructions than calling a company. You usually get better information in the online documentation.

      It’s as simple as logging into Godaddy and just changing a few settings as directed by Weebly.

  46. Nice list but incomplete. There are at least 30+ serious website builders. For example where is Jimdo which is very similar to Wix and which is listed? Jumdo should be on the list. But there are also smaller website builders. I’m using for example Ailo.la to build a one-pager and it’s free. I think there are a lot of “hidden pearls” which should be added.

  47. How do these compare to the higher end business specific website builders like Just Add Content? They don’t have a free trial (or a free version) so I can’t try them, but they’re just for businesses and supposed to be better. How do these compare? Are they worth the extra cost? I like the idea of it being business specific but not sure how different it really is. These free ones are cool, but not sure if I should spend more because it’s my business you know.

  48. This is an excellent list of website builders. My partner and I use Weebly for our online business. It’s so easy to drag and drop elements.

  49. Waste of time. A website should be more than a “stake in the ground” so you can use social media..your website is the CROWN JEWEL of your total online presence ( or it’s some freebie replicated website search engines don’t like much) .

    If you don’t get your website on the first page of google for search terms crucial to customer acquisition for your business you might as well not have a website. If building a website was so simple there wouldn’t be legions of web designers and SEO experts out there dedicated to pushing your website to page 5 where no one will ever see it . 75% of customers interact with the business they find on the first page of Google 25% might go on to pages 2-infinity…do you want to shar 25% with an almost infinite number of pages or 75% with just TEN. If you want your hunk of the 75% get with a PROFESSIONAL web designer and Search Engine Optimizer.

    • So you can’t use social media with a website created with a website builder? That makes no sense. There are plenty of people out there that should spend $10,000 on their website, but there are plenty of people that will do just fine getting an affordable DIY website from a website builder.

  50. It should be noted that Wix is no longer Flash but HTML5. I’ve been reviewing Wix for the past couple weeks and it’s really solid. It might be one of the favorite website builders I’ve reviewed, especially for people who want more control over the design of their site.

    As far as WordPress, it’s important for people to decide if they should use a website builder or make the step up to WordPress. I made this video to help people decide: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AkCTgkvltn8

    I’d recommend WordPress to almost anyone over a website builder because of the functionality and expandability, but it’s not as easy to use as website builders no matter what people say.

  51. I am starting an internet business but don’t know all the technical jargan about websites. I need help! I am on limited funds and haven’t even purchased any product for sale yet. I have set up a seperate bank account and know where I can buy things in bulk. I plan not only to sell on the internet but to go to trade shows as well. I would love to have a website on my business cards so that those that don’t buy now, can always check back with me by simply going to my website. once it is up and running, I think I can figure out how to use it. however, I am low on funds and need something that looks interesting and that literally Jumps Out at the customer so that they will visit and hopefully buy from my site. can anyone help? thanks.

    • I don’t mean to sound rude, but there is no way around it.

      You want a BMW, but you want to pay for a used Toyota!

      Time for a reality check. There is no such thing as a “cheap” E-commerce website. You will either pay for a pro, or pay with your time (and then wish you had paid a pro).

      That’s not to say that you can’t setup WordPress Hosting on Go Daddy – activate WordPress – pick a theme – integrate an ecommerce system (assuming you have a merchant account) – then upload all the images, descriptions, prices, tracking, keywords, SEO, run a campaign to drive traffic to it etc, etc, etc.

      There is a reason it cost money to do this work – BECAUSE IT TAKES TIME AND NOT EVERYONE CAN DO IT!

      Build it yourself, and you will get what you paid for. It will look cheap, will be missing key components of good web design (For SEO & your customers) and it will not perform.

      In the meantime, your competitors will continue to dominate Google, and you will be out of business in under 2 years (like the bulk of all new small businesses are).

      Here’s a better idea – shop around, get bids, write an actual business plan that INCLUDES 10% of your gross revenues for advertising / website upkeep, research the competition, SAVE YOUR MONEY, and then open your business when you can afford to. If you can’t afford a decent website (the cornerstone of every business in 2014), then you most likely can’t afford to open a business.

      Or don’t take any of my FREE advice, in which case, I wish you luck.

      • I don’t agree with your opinion. Yes, it was so but time goes by – current IT technologies stepped forward so much that it differs a lot from what we had 2 years ago. First website builders were really simple comparing to current ones. I don’t encourage everyone to use website builders but this is a myth that website builders have web templates with boring design, unoptimized for SEO, have limited opportunities and differ to much from custom websites. Yes, they differs and first of all – by versatility and price. The last one is the most important.

        Why a novice businessman should spend $5000 for custom online store if it’s not clear how successful his business idea will be. It has more sense to use ready website based on SHopify or BigCommerce and it will be inexpensive. At the same time opportunities of these platforms are very wide. And it’s better to spend saved difference on online marketing. It’s much more important, because a website visited by a few people – couldn’t be effective platform for business.

        People just need to be more rational.

  52. Wix and weebly the best free platforms for small business. For ecomerce – Shopify or Bigcommerce.

  53. This was really helpful.

  54. Great post. Some website builders are really worthy alternative to WordPress and very often to use them is much easy than to use WordPress. I think it’s one of the reasons why people continue to use online builders. Opponents of website builders often indicate the impossibility of editing code and its transfer to other platforms or hosting. But this trouble was successfully solved by Weebly – this website builders allow to edit code of its websites and has such important Export feature. Thanks to it site can be transferred to other hosting and can be absolutely independent. Though in most cases it doesn’t make any sense in my opinion.

  55. All great suggestions for helping people without a website easily throw one up.

    As a web designer, I offer my skills and abilities for free, allowing my clients to give anything they would like to return for the value they find in the work that I do. So, if you need a quote, that’s easy: FREE!

    My hope is to infuse trust and generosity in the client-designer relationship, at least in the way that I want to live and work.

  56. If you want to build a business website self-hosted WordPress is the way to go. Setting up a wordpress website is slightly more difficult than online website builders it will pay off in the long run. For an e-commerce website, website builders like Shopify is a better choice. This is especially true if you want to get your offline business online.

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