Want to know the fastest way to get your website online? Use a free website builder tool.
Oh the price is right, of course. Prices start at free. (And for just a little extra you can add on bells and whistles if you want to — although you can have a professional-looking website without add-ons or premium features.)
But one of the biggest benefits you get is speed. Your time is valuable. A good website builder app gets your website up and running with a minimum of time investment. You can go from no website to a professional website in a single afternoon — sometimes less.
You don’t need to be a Web designer or programmer, either. Most free website builder tools are based on templates or layouts. You choose a template that looks appealing or perhaps is designed for a business similar to yours. Then you add images such as your company logo and photographs. Or choose from a selection of stock images provided. Then tailor the text to describe your business, offerings, location, contact details and other information. Before you know it, your website is ready for prime time.
To get the most out of using tools like these, it helps to have a plan. Don’t forget these three things:
1. Do an Inventory of Your Needs
Please don’t skip this step. It doesn’t take long, and will save you time in the long run. Not every website is the same, and it really depends on how you plan to use yours in your business.
Do you need a one-page flyer for your business? Or are you looking for a multi-page website with pages to outline your services and products in detail, and collect email leads? What about e-commerce — are you planning to sell anything on your website?
A benefit of using free website builders is that you can start small and add to it over time. As your business grows and your needs get more sophisticated, you can choose from varying levels of upgrade packages for an additional fee. What is included in a free package versus a premium package will vary from provider to provider. Knowing what you require now – and what you might need later on – will help narrow down the list of potential website builders. That way you won’t have to start all over again six months or a year from now.
This chart from Verisign includes a list of basic features to consider, and identifies which are generally included in a free package versus an upgraded package.
2. Choose Your Domain Name From the Get-Go
Your domain name will be your virtual address online. Some website builders suggest skipping this step, offering to give you an address as a subset of their domain name. Verisign recommends putting your website on your own domain name right from the start. Your own domain name:
- Brands your business. Being memorable is key. You can pick a domain name that matches your company name, or choose a descriptive name that highlights certain aspects of your business.
- Gives you a consistent address on the Web for customers to find you. When you use an address provided by your website builder (such as: mycompany.xyzabcdefreewebsitebuilder.com), your domain name will go away if you switch website builder tools later on. With a domain name you own, you assure continuity.
- Provides an easy-to-remember address for marketing.
- Enables you to have a company-branded email through the domain name. Having an email address such as firstname.lastname@example.org will look more professional than using a general email address such as email@example.com. It looks more permanent. It builds confidence in customers because it says that your business is here to stay.
3. Compare a Few Website Builder Tools
We recommend taking time to compare 2 or 3 different website builders. This will allow you to choose a tool that can give you what you need. It’s also helpful to understand what each offers in their base package, versus the premium packages in case you want to scale your website with them in the future.
Remember not all tools are created equal. Over the years, free website builder tools have gotten easier to use, more feature-rich, and yield more stunning end results. Choosing the right builder for your needs will save you time and frustration down the line. Many of the companies that sell domain names offer free website builders, or you can simply do an Internet search for ‘free site builders’ to find the top tools available now.
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Hi, Amanda. Which free website builder tools would you recommend, please? What are your top three?
WebStarts is the best free website builder.
Adam, I asked for the top three, not one. Your recommendation also seems pretty biased.
Sorry for a late reply.
In my opinion I think wordpress is the way to go.
There are tons of training tutorials, both free and paid, the one thing I like about wordpress is the availability of helpful plugins you would normally not find outside the wordpress environment.
A point to note though, selfhosted sites are far better than leaning on platform hosted sites.
There’s a new website builder called SiteKit. You can build an unlimited monthly website with no monthly fee. You start by selecting a template, upload your content and there’s no coding needed.
It will help to learn a little HTML because this will help you customize your website more. It is not like I don’t like free website tools. It is just that these tools can be somewhat limiting.
For most professionals and small businesses requiring brochure-type sites, I recommend Weebly for its easy to use drag and drop feature. Squarespace is a very tight second, namely for the beauty of its templates, although it’s entry level price is $8/month. It takes a little bit more practice. Both platforms allow you to customize the look and feel; and they each take plugins for additional functionality, like embedding an email widget. Mobile options and responsive templates are also available. Both offer ecommerce for selling goods, but for storefronts, you’ll want to use a tool like Shopify.
As for WordPress, it has too steep a learning curve for most of my clients who don’t have time to learn how to use it. However, if blogging (or content publishing) is your business, I’d go with it.
Why is everyone so afraid of HTML? With a free template and Notepad++ you can easily build a website in an afternoon and not have any restrictions or invite WordPress hackers to your party. You just open the template in your Notepad and Browser at the same time, then as you edit the copy you can refresh your browser and see the results. When it’s finished, upload all the files to your hosting account and take a nap.