Building a website does not have to be difficult, as we learned earlier this month in our 7 Powerful and Free Website Builders for Small Businesses post. Here are eight more services that offer free website building tools and hosting.
Thanks to everyone for your comment, e-mails and suggestions for other great website builders that allow small business owners to save money, time and headaches. While these tools might be perfect for building the most advanced website or e-commerce site, each offers something unique that might fit for your particular situation (e.g., no time, no money, no tech skills, just need a super-simple page and so on).
Each tool is pretty straightforward, but sites change, so pay special attention to different offers and premium level descriptions, and read the fine print. The goal of these tools is not to build the site of your dreams complete with every bell and whistle, but to get you a simple and good-looking site with a minimum of effort and money.
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Yola.com offers a very easy process with just four fields to get started. The service then walks you through various options and templates to get your free site going. Here is a screenshot of a site I created in less than three minutes. (No wisecracks about it, either…) There were many professional templates to choose from, and Yola made it easy to change templates before clicking the “Publish” button.
I liked the clean and simple navigation that answers my immediate questions: Pricing (is there a catch?), Site Gallery (who else has one?) Business Websites (what can I do?). Note: the questions are mine.
Webs.com claims to have built 50,000,000 sites (yes, that’s 50 million), and you can’t help but be impressed by that. They have a rich feature set including video hosting space, 300-plus templates, calendar functions, social network capabilities (think Ning), a webstore/online shopping cart (up to five items) and affordable upgrades. Like most of the tools/services here, Webs provides all the tools you need to create a professional-looking website in just minutes.
Jimdo.com has a unique option that allows you to build an actual online store, not just a website. You can list up to five items for free. It comes with free search engine optimization and other great features like RSS feed, but not free e-mail. Small point if you have free e-mail through Google, Yahoo or Hotmail already. The site looks like it is offering a piece of software you order, but it is Web-based (one of the criteria of this review).
Qapacity.com is a powerful free website builder and offers one of the more robust solutions I’ve seen. It is a website combined with a private social network-like functionality and maybe even a social CRM solution. You can import your contacts and see what they are posting, join groups or start your own. Sort of like LinkedIn meets your website. If you are from Spain, India, Poland, Russia, Japan, Germany, Portugal or Holland, you can get a €50 Facebook coupon just for signing up.
GoDaddy.com offers free ad-supported Web hosting when you purchase a domain name through them for as low as $7.49/year (multiple year purchase). Technically, I still count this as a free service because with some other services you have to purchase your own domain and point it to the free hosting option. It’s the same with GoDaddy, except you are registering the domain with them and they bundle a free host option into the package. You can create a five-page Web site with their drag and drop tools.
ezWeb123.com starts you right at the design step of the build-a-website process. They do it in a compelling way, allowing you to see the various templates in a gallery-type setup, which makes it pleasant because you know what you’re about to choose in a large thumbnail view. It is advertising supported, but you get video space, 20 megabytes of storage, picture galleries and more.
Office Live.com is Microsoft’s small business Web hosting offering, and it is, as Pinkerton (below) suggested, quite a deal if you already own a domain at one of the low-cost registration sites. Office Live gives you up to 500 megabytes per site, free domain redirect (some charge for this), e-mail and more. It is hard to beat and easy to use. Hat tip to Pinkerton Web Solutions, which suggested Office Live, but doesn’t work for Microsoft!
Ruxter.com is in a class by itself. It is one of the first sites I’ve found to specialize in building a mobile website, for free. Plus, they give you 100 free texts per month to reach your customers. Smart thinking. They’ve kept it super simple with a three-step process, all on one page.
All in all, you can build a very good website with one or more of these tools. Let us know about your experience with these specific tools and services, or list some new ones in the comments. Remember, our goal with this post was to showcase free (or nearly free) website building tools for small business owners.
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Thank you for mentioning Webs.com as part of your list!
You’re welcome, Irina. Webs is a good offering and sorry I missed it in the first post! Keep up the good work.
Thanks a lot for pointing these out.
I’ve only heard of a few of them.
I played around with Squarespace a couple of seeks ago. It was just ok.
Anyway, thanks again!
The Franchise King
TJ: As I said in your previous post on website tools, Tumblr and Posterous are simple tools to start out with.
Joel: I like Squarespace. It is not free, but you could test the web building platform for two weeks for free. Reliable cloud hosting is including in the price (starting around $14 per month).
Click on my name (Martin Lindeskog) and you could see an example. My other site: http://www.GOT-Tea-Party.com
Many thanks for reviewing our website builder ezweb123.com, much appreciated. We would like to offer any reader a 10% discount off one of our upgrade packages.
Just enter the coupon code ‘EZ10’ when upgrading. Free trial starts here: http://www.ezweb123.com/build.asp
Co-Founder – ezweb123.com
I have had horrible service from godaddy. I would strongly caution anyone to think twice before using them.
Nice list, These are good. However, in todays web, we all want to have an identity of our own. So we seek out custom deisgns and themes. That set aside for newbies this could be an excellent place to start.
I think none of the websites is really free for a small business, so it is a bit misleading. I don’t think that any business (who wants to give a professional impression) can settle with a free version of such services. E.g. I think any business should have their own domain name and this requires an upgrade.
I prefer to work with something that gives me everything I need for the business. If there is a small cost included then it’s fine – at least I know all the costs that I will get into and am not tricked into a “free service” that is not going to be free in the end.
Nevertheless, thanks for the overview!
TJ, which of these tools are SEO-friendly (let you customize URL strings, your title tag, alt attribute, etc.)?
Its a really very informative. I want to know if any of these hosting services you mentioned allow us to advertise on the freely hosted websites apart from google sites and godaddy.
Wow, thanks for the great responses. I’ll answer a few here.
On GoDaddy, I’ve heard a few stories like yours Carmen. Let’s see if their social media monitoring picks this up…. 🙂 I’m not a customer of theirs, I use Bluehost and have had exceptional results with them personally. I’m working on a review of them because I like them so much.
Joel, I’ve not tried Squarespace. I’ll take a look.
Thanks Pete for the discount offer for readers. That’s a pleasant surprise offer that I hope people take you up on.
Hi Robert, I know that a number of them are SEO-friendly, but probably not in the ways that you or I would prefer. I respect your opinion and expertise, you know that, and these site builders are often not in your league.
Hi Helena, I don’t follow your comment completely. Most of these services are free, completely free as in no cash out of pocket. Some are ad-supported, for sure. Some have a few little things that might drive some people crazy, but I would have to ask you to clarify further how they are not free. If you are positing that “there is no free lunch” then I can’t argue with that. Are these sites perfect, no. Are they professional enough? Absolutely.
Here’s the thing and my complete reason for doing these lists: To help the small biz owner who simply has not gotten around to building a site or needs to rebuild an old site. Time is more critical than money to this person. Just get something up, on the web, that helps share part of the message they have to tell. To spend time iterating with a designer is simply not in their plan right now.
I meet them every day because I build blogs and content for a living, so I see a seriously large number of small business websites. These website builders offer a superior way to build a site compared to some of the static, horribly designed, code-hog, SEO-busted, bandwidth-crippling sites that exist now. There are at least two popular websites that poke fun at these type of sites. I don’t approve of those sites — lift people up, don’t slam them.
On SEO, the average small business is rarely, rarely going to show up for a core competitive term on Google even with a ton of effort. Let’s be honest. His or her sole hope in having a site is direct traffic that comes via other means from a business card to a brochure to a referral to more hip social media methods. Direct. Google Places? For sure. But does GP care about SEO?? Yes. Is that the only way into it? No.
There. I’ve stirred the hornets nest.
Thanks for your reply to my comment.
I agree that you can really build a free website with those tools. However, as a small business owner myself, I know that this is not the whole solution for your online presence via a website.
E.g. let’s take your first example, Yola. Very good tool, no bad words. Yes, it advertises itself as a free tool, BUT should a company (even a small business) want a website that has a domain name mycompany.yola.com? I don’t think so. So for getting your own domain name makes you immediately pay $49.95 per year. It’s not much for having a website, but it’s also not free. Therefore I personally wouldn’t really go for “make a website for free” option, but am rather looking for “i want the whole package for as low cost as possible” option.
I hope I clarified my point of view. This list is still good, because they really allow you to make a website for free, but I just don’t think it’s the best option for any business.
Your approach is refreshing and professional and you are totally right that any ‘proper’ business website should have a good domain name etc. There are so many start up business owners that make the mistake in creating an unprofessional looking site and then wonder why they aren’t getting any business through it!
There are also those that create a professional looking site and still wonder why they don’t get much, or any traffic. The reason obviously is that creating a website is just stage 1. You then need to optimize it for search engines and really work at it on a daily basis to increase traffic organically, or pay per click if you can afford burning a load of money for a while.
Here at ezweb123 we do provide a totally free version of our website builder. But, it has adverts on the site, limited space, no email, and is unsupported. We do however provide free hosting and other support like our beginners and SEO guide.
Our free option is really designed for people who want to create a very basic website or a product or service landing page, or perhaps need a simple site for a forthcoming event that will obviously come and go. It’s unsupported because we have a full time team of technical people here in the UK answering queries and obviously they need to get paid. To spend time answering queries from people who have no intention of taking their online business presence seriously isn’t profitable unfortunately.
With us, our ‘Standard’ package at $8.99 per month covers all bases for small and start up businesses. It has all the space and bandwidth a small business could need, has one-to-one unlimited support (we now have dedicated account managers for members), plus you get 5 business email accounts, free hosting, e-commerce facilities, plus a free domain. You can also create up to 5 individual sites under this one account.
We’re really working hard on support to our members by creating professionally produced video tutorials. We are also looking to allow our paying members to promote their sites to fellow members through a new ‘Community News’ section on our blog. This gives members free traffic and free business from within the community itself – who needs Google! 🙂
So it is ‘do-able’ to have a proper professional web presence for $8.99 per month, or if you pay annually it costs $79.99, so you save around 25%.
I’m not really here to pitch (honestly), but I agree that there isn’t really a free option out there that will really deliver what a small or start up business needs to have a successful internet presence for their business.
TJ, thanks for following up with this post with on all the website builders out there. We’re really happy with the success the online store integration has been having, it’s a great addition to the websites that all the Jimdo users have been creating over the past few years (over 2 million now!)
I appreciate your willingness to clarify and that you keep tabs on your conversations. Kudos. Let me ask a question — what does your company offer/do? I’m not trying to badger you, but I’m curious. Are you a services or products co: b2b or b2c?
You see, my position would be, and I know I’m going against the tide here: I don’t believe that every co needs a super-duper website. The stats range from 40-50% of small businesses out there do NOT have a website. They are either badly missing the mark and barely surviving OR, they are prospering without one. I honestly don’t know which it is, but my guess is the latter. I’m an optimist…
Again, I don’t have anything but anecdotal evidence, but I’ve seen a growing number of businesses that have only a Twitter account. Mexican Food vans are one category jumping into micro-blogging. My big example is the Creme Brulee Man in San Francisco. Link below. 13,000+ followers and the dude, the man, is making good money. No website.
There are plenty of people, small co, who have only a Google Places listing (or Yahoo). I’m not trying to argue, honest, I do this for a living and believe me — I WANT people to build sites, blogs… Make ’em look great. Spend solid money on a professionally done site. But I’ve simply stopped drinking the Kool-Aid. One size doesn’t fit all and if you can run your biz off Twitter or a Facebook Fan page or a Google Places listing, do it. Save your money and pour it into serving your customer better. I believe these people are spending their time as wisely as they can and building a co without a site. And if a free tool, with a subdomained site like Yola example works, go for it. Half the good links are often bit.ly shortened anyway.
I super appreciate the discussion and value your thoughts and opinions. I believe we can agree to disagree and still be friends. My goal is to explore what works and for many people, as you point out, they need a certain type and level of site. That’s awesome, too.
With the best intent,
To all those who love creme brulee and live in SF, send me notes on how delicious these are. Next time I’m in town, I’m there! He sells out every day from what I hear. So I’m spreading some love starting now so maybe he’ll tuck one away for me. Chocolate Creme Brulee… 🙂 Follow the Creme Brulee Man
Great article. You mention GoDaddy which is a fabulous source for inexpensive domains and, unlike one poster, I’ve always gotten exceptional customer service from them. One double freebie that I’d like to mention (and no, I’m not affiliated with them) is from HostGator. If you get a business hosting account from them, you can get a free 800-number AND a free SSL certificate. I regularly get my domains from GoDaddy and then head to HostGator for the web hosting. My clients love the additional freebies and that SSL cert alone can save quite a few dollars.
Thanks Brigid. I’m a fan of HostGator. I like the recommendation you shared.
Thanks for the great web tool summaries. I’ll be sure to take a deeper look when I get to work tomorrow.
Firstly thanks for the info above, nice to have a clear overview, but I’m kind of on Helena’s wavelength. I’ve been trying for days now to find a website which reviews PAID website builders. I don’t want to know about the free sites as I’m willing to pay for the extra services I need but I can’t seem to find a site that reviews these options. If anyone has any suggestions I would be really grateful. Basically I’m being picky and want the style of Moonfruit but with a lot more functionality (or should I say easy functionality!). I’m not into writing my own script so I need more of a drag and drop scenario but I need a good gallery function (this a photography school website), a decent blog area, a good email interface and plenty of design options. What I like about Moonfruit is being able to change the designs/themes to suit my style but its not a great site for any other functionality. i also think it’s important that the site is mobile compatible (also with iPhone). You probably all think i’m being incredibly fussy but any tips would be greatly appreciated. I’ve looked at Weebly, Jimbo and Wiz but can’t change simple things like the colour of the menu buttons (my manager is keen to have different coloured menu buttons!). Sorry for the long post!
Thanks in advance of any feedback!
Please see my comment on Squarespace. I think this web building platform will suit your needs in a good way.
Check out Squarespace. It has a gallery feature, great blog engine and nice templates to work with. You could test the web building platform for two weeks for free. Reliable cloud hosting is including in the price (starting around $14 per month).
Click on my name (Martin Lindeskog) and you could see an example. My other site: http://www.GOT-Tea-Party.com
The list is great, but there are more personal/customized options. We are using http://webexpress.ventom-solutions.com/ to create and host our websites, as it costs as much as the automated software and in the same time they create a custom logo and website design for your website. Still it takes around 2 days for their websites, so if you are looking for a faster solution, the automated ones listed are the way to go!
A great compilation of free resources. Though personally for a small business sometimes investing a little into your digital presence can go a long way. Especially since these days websites are quite cost effective.
With that said this is still a good post for any beginner to get started.
Thanks for the post. I would suggest http://puzl.com/. It’s a good and profesional solution for non-techie users not familiar with coding.
Seems like there are many good free website builder tools online these days. It’s nice to have so many options for building a free website. My personal favourite is: ScrollySite.
can you list which website hosting are best for today ‘s blogging
How about webstarttoday? They are offering free website building and hosting service with Superior Cloud Hosting as reliability and speed offered by Amazon AWS cloud services.