Oftentimes we have businesses that come to us and they know they need a new website, but for one reason or another, they’re not able to have us undertake a complete web design & development project. If you find yourself in that position, there are many options out there as far as DIY website builders. Here is a short list of some of the platforms that you may want to look into.
Wix has been around for a long time, and I found it to be quite popular for a while among small business owners because it was relatively easy to use and produced decent looking websites. It fell out of favour for a while because the platform was based on Flash, which produced many challenges when it came to search engine optimization. In 2012, Wix debuted a new HTML site builder – a smart & necessary move on their part.
Wix does offer completely free websites that comes with a wix domain (example.wix.com/example) and it also comes with Wix ads. If you’re building a site for business purposes, your starting point would really have to be their $9.25 (USD) plan that allows you to connect your own domain name (which you would get for free for 1 year), and there wouldn’t be any Wix ads on the site.
Wix has 500+ templates to choose from, so you can surely find something that you feel comes close to what you’re looking for. They also come pre-populated with content, which is also a nice feature. You use a drag-and-drop editor to build the site which gives you complete freedom & flexibility. The templates come with a mobile version of the site, but they’re not necessarily responsive at this point.
Squarespace has actually been around since 2004, but it seems it’s only been on the forefront of discussions around website builders for the last couple of years. All of Squarespace’s templates are responsive, and that’s a huge plus given Google’s recent mobile algorithm update, and the widespread speculation that Google will eventually make a change to actually placing more weight not just on mobile-friendly sites, but specifically on responsive sites. If you’re looking at example websites, it’s typically pretty easy to spot a Squarespace site as they’re all very contemporary-looking & open/’airy’ in their design. In my opinion, Squarespace can work well when you have a portfolio/excellent photography that you want to showcase. One other thing that has to be noted about Squarespace is their excellent customer support. Their team is very helpful and responds very quickly.
The plan that makes sense for the majority of business owners that we would deal with would be their ‘Professional’ program which is $16 (USD) per month when billed annually or $20/month on a month-to-month contract. They do also offer a 14-day free trial.
Weebly is arguably the most user-friendly & intuitive of all the platforms here. And it is a drag & drop website builder. The themes all come with mobile-friendly themes, but again, they are not responsive. On that note, it’s worth saying that at times, I feel responsive websites are overblown in terms of their importance. As of right now, there’s no additional rankings benefit to responsive sites. The average small/mid-sized business website probably only receives 5-15% of their traffic from tablets. Some are definitely higher, but I’m saying average. And typically, your desktop theme looks just fine on a tablet device. Responsive is ideal, but don’t let the fact that Weebly doesn’t (currently) offer responsive themes hold you back if you find that everything else is a good fit for you.
Their free plan comes with a Weebly subdomain, and relatively discreet Weebly ads in the footer. Weebly’s first paid plan is just $4/month and allows you to use your own domain and removes the ads. You also get unlimited pages which you don’t get with Squarespace’s basic paid plan.
I decided to include GoDaddy in here, not necessarily because they’re known that well for their website builder, but more so because so many business owners have their domain through GoDaddy, and may be tempted to keep everything in one place.
GoDaddy has had a website builder for a long time, and in the past, it was seriously lacking. But some recent updates have at least bumped them up into the middle of the pack.
The editor is much different from the other ones – it’s a blank canvas editor. For some, this type of flexibility is welcome because they’re not limited by any constrains a theme may place on them, but it can become difficult to get different sections of a page all aligned properly.
The GoDaddy builder is on the lower end as far as price, with their $1/month (CAD – introductory offer) that comes with a free domain with an annual plan and unlimited pages potentially being a fit for many businesses. When you renew after the first year the price goes to $5.99/month. The most popular plan is $5.99 (going to $9.99 upon renewal and comes with a free domain, unlimited pages + 5 business email addresses.
Similar to Weebly, they offer accompanying mobile themes, but the sites are not responsive.
I decided to include Worksites in this post because, although it’s not a fit for everyone, it does cater to a particular vertical very well. Worksites is a website builder specifically for businesses in the home improvement industry & the trades. We have many clients that are in that industry that didn’t want to invest in professional web design & development, so in those cases, we recommended Worksites. Because they specialize in one particular vertical, the themes tend to work very well for those particular types of businesses. The first themes were very photo-driven, geared more so towards landscapers, renovators & builders who had a portfolio they wanted to display. More recent themes are much less photo-centric and tailored for the trades like plumbers & electricians.
At $27 (CAD) per month, it’s a little more pricey than these other website builders, but you really do get what you pay for. Having a theme that’s well-tailored for your particular business should provide enough value to justify the price tag, but what really separates Worksites from the other website builders is their back end editor & content coach. It’s not a drag & drop or blank canvas editor like the other builders. You basically just fill in the blanks and follow their instructions and emerge on the other side with a great looking, functional & effective website. Some may consider this restrictive, but with too many options, too much freedom, it can really keep you from accomplishing your goal quickly, which is to build a website.
Lastly, fully responsive themes are definitely a plus.