You don’t need a big budget to create a rocking small business website or Web presence. There are many inexpensive or even free Web building tools out here. And we’ve documented quite a few of these Web design resources in the past here at Small Business Trends.
Since technology continues to change, however, and since it’s often an important topic for small business owners, we thought we’d update our past lists. Here are some Web building tools that vary from inexpensive to free. One might be a good fit for your small business needs.
Website Building Tools
The domain registrar and Web hosting company is rapidly broadening its offerings to small businesses. And the company’s Website Builder is a good example of the tools GoDaddy has to offer. The company says you can get started for as little as a dollar a month. But realistically the $4.99 per month business package offers many more templates and banwidth (and five business email addresses. There’s also a Business Plus package, should you need it as your business grows.
Another well-known tool, Homestead offers packages that are a bit more expensive. (A business posts starts at $19.99 though there are cheaper options.) But, in addition to hundreds of templates and more than a million royalty free images, Homestead also offers marketing tools. These include things like SEO services, paid ads and “Traffic Booster,” though they are available only as add-ons to most users.
No list would be complete without mentioning the big boy on the Web. Google makes putting up a site easy, with easy-to-use and intuitive tools. Drop-down menus provide a huge number of options including inserting text, images, scripts, YouTube videos, and much more.
Blogger has been around longer than just about any other blogging platform, and it is starting to look its age. But Google has spruced it up a bit, trying to give it a fresh new look. And it is still an effective platform for starting an easy website.
As with Google Sites, Blogger is very easy to use, with drop-down lists providing all of the options you need. When you are finished, you can either have your site as a sub-domain of Blogspot (http://mysite.blogspot.com) or you can hook the page up to a domain of your own.
This is arguably the most popular of blogging platforms, and the one upon which a great many websites are built and run. It takes a bit more time and effort to get a WordPress site up and running, but the effort is well worth it.
WordPress has two versions – one where you can host your page on the WordPress servers (WordPress.com) and one which you download, install, and host the software on your own domain (WordPress.org). Installing WordPress on your domain is not for faint-hearted beginners, but a lot of website domain companies will now offer automatic installation of WordPress on your site if you want it. Just ask your hosting company.
The purpose of Google Places is to register your business, so it shows up in Google search and maps. So how does this help you make a site? Well, once your business listing has been approved by Google, type it into Google Maps and you will be taken straight to it. Then use the URL in the address bar to get a shortened URL or a custom domain name.
Your “website” will then be an interactive map showing visitors the location of your business, along with business details such as opening times and directions.
Weebly is one of those Web design options that let you put it all together with drag-and-drop. The elements are on the left hand side, and you just drag what you want to the right hand side to create your finished page. Weebly also offers multiple templates to choose from. And you can either select a Weebly sub-domain, or hook your page up to your own domain.
Moonfruit offers an HTML-5 powered website builder, which is useful since HTML5 is set to become the new standard on the Web. The service will make sure that your site looks the same on mobile and PC and will take care of your SEO needs.
Using the Moonfruit website builder only requires you to select your template, colors, and fonts. Then upload your images, and send everything to Moonfruit. The company will publish it for you.
Wix is also powering all of their sites via HTML5, and on the main page, you will see the various categories of HTML5 templates which you can choose from (business, music, online store, restaurant, and more). Once you have the template in place, you use Wix’s drag-and-drop website builder to customize the site to your needs.
Wix has a variety of templates and you can even add an e-shop to your site.
Like Wix, this site builder seems to be about offering a simple drag-and-drop design experience. With a variety of designs, Pikock also makes the point that your website can be viewed on any device. What Pikock doesn’t seem to offer is a free version. However, there is an option to try it free for 30 days. And it does have one fairly affordable version though it offers only a one page Website. A more fully featured option is higher priced than some competitors but offers an unlimited number of pages for your site.
WebStarts claims to have your site online “within minutes”, as well as offering a 100% search engine friendly finished product. Starting a website with WebStarts will include Instagram integration, customizable templates, the ability to accept credit cards from your online shop, and what’s even better is that WebStarts is offering all new customers $395 in free advertising on Google, Bing, Twitter, and more.
What is also interesting is that WebStarts enables you to make a “members-only” area on your site. So you can offer pro content or special features for a subscription fee, and not have to worry about any unauthorized visitors breaking in.
One of Doomby’s features is the ability to embed an MP3 player into your page, which sets it apart from other site building options. You could use this to record a welcome message to your visitors. But make sure it isn’t set to automatically play. Such a feature will turn off many visitors who may then go to another site instead.
Doomby also offers forums, polls, built-in RSS feeds, private website content (similar to WebStarts), Paypal integration, a video gallery, and Google Adsense integration. So monetizing your website is a possibility.
Endorsed by the influential German news magazine “Der Spiegel”, if you want your site to be multi-lingual, then Edicy seems to be the site to use. You do the translations yourself, but Edicy will make sure that all of the pages fit into the proper page structure. So when a visitor jumps from say English to German, then back again, it will be nice and smooth and trouble-free.
Apart from that, Edicy offers all of the usual tools that the others here offer.
About.me allows you to upload a background picture then get to work building your bio box. Besides the usual social media links, you can also link to any page you want, choose the colors and fonts, uploading additional photos, and much more.
About.me gives business owners a quick webpage with a minimal learning curve.
With over 5 million sites created, IM-Creator’s front page is full of satisfied customer testimonials. And it isn’t hard to see why. The Web designing service has many templates. IM Creator says it uses professional designers to make its templates and it shows. The company has templates for lots and lots of different categories.
If you upgrade to Jimdo Pro, you can have up to 5 different VIP areas on your site, all password-protected. The free plan only gives you one, which may be enough for most businesses. You are also given unlimited bandwidth, which is handy if your site attracts an unexpected number of customers.
LifeYo doesn’t have a free plan – plans begin at $8 a month. But you get the first 14 days free to try out the company’s website builder, so you have nothing to lose by taking it out for a spin, and kicking the tires.
You get 500MB of data, hosted on Amazon Web Services. So you can be assured that your site isn’t going to crash at any second. Then get to work building your site with photo galleries, social media, videos, and Google Maps integration.
OnePager includes an email subscription service where you can collect customer email addresses and send out newsletters. This can be enormously helpful in your email marketing efforts.
The themes on the site aren’t very impressive, but you can customize them by changing the CSS, the fonts, and the background.
SquareSpace has some beautifully made templates, and, what’s more, the company offers “template switching” where you can work on multiple designs at once. When your site is live, it is hosted by a Content Delivery Network, which includes hundreds of servers all over the world. Your website is loaded by the server closest to the visitor’s geographical location, thereby making website loading times faster.
Other features include Amazon Associate support, Dropbox synchronization, and Facebook Page integration.
These Aren’t Really Web Building Tools But…
We’re aware these last few aren’t really Web building tools in any traditional sense. But we though it made sense to include them anyway since there are some who use them that way.
It is very possible – and a lot of people do this – to make a Facebook page, and then link it to your domain. So it is not really a proper site per se. But if your Facebook page is the central hub for your customers to come and communicate with you, then you may very well decide to just use this as your website.
Be aware though that Facebook is starting to demand that all page owners start paying for advertising to have their posts shown to followers. If you don’t, then a lot of posts will not be shown to customers due to “lack of engagement” – which is Facebook talk for “pay up now”.
People use Evernote as a “digital brain” to store everything that they don’t want to forget. But if you are a premium customer, you can also make notebooks in Evernote which can be shared with anyone, even those without an Evernote account. These notebooks can then be given a domain name or a shortened URL. It’s not the perfect website for every business, but it’s one low cost option to consider.
Angie’s List is similar to Yelp in that businesses are reviewed by customers, and you can use those reviews, as well as your business details, as a basic webpage. You can claim your “business profile” on the site, and apparently Angie’s List visitors look for companies that they need on the site. So Angie’s List could end up becoming one of your biggest sources for referrals.
Every reviewed business on Yelp has its own page URL, and this can also make an ideal webpage for, say, restaurants, bars and other brick and mortar businesses. The page shows your business’s opening and closing times, photos, customer reviews, and directions. For many businesses, that will be more than enough. And having Yelp as a website requires zero effort on your part. The customers keep the page updated with their reviews. So all you need to do is keep them happy.
What tools or web apps have you used to build your website? Let us know in the comments below.
Guitar Photo via Shutterstock