Half of small businesses don’t have a website, according to a statistic. With that in mind, we believe that many readers may need help putting together a simple website. Even if you have a business website, you might know someone who needs it. here is 7 do-it-yourself website building services to consider.
There are all kinds of tools and applications, but our main selection criteria in this article is whether the tool allows you to create a site, for free, in less than an hour and publish it to create at minus a basic online presence. Are all of these tools robust enough to create the site of your dreams? No. Will they allow you to stop procrastinating and putting a stake in the field online? Absoutely. They also give you the chance to start using many of the great tools 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 this is important to many, including me, I have a favorite suggestion that I will share at the end of the article as # 7. Note: Many website hosting companies offer a free domain name, but it is not the same as a free website and hosting. This list is for free online website builders that include hosting.
1. Google Sites
I’m a big fan of Google, and they don’t disappoint with their free website options. Google Sites is robust and probably a bit more technical than a busy small business owner would like. However, it allows for really granular changes. I have tried it on several projects, and it offers a full WYSIWYG editor.
Like many Google offers, 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 mine. Still, you can’t beat for free, and the Google tool works. The URLs are ugly, however: http://sites.google.com/site/socialmediaroibytjmccue/.
What I like: Google site templates range from simple sites to class-oriented sites, wiki projects and intranets. With a few clicks, you can choose a model and click publish. Then you can dig deeper into the code if you want!
2. Doodle kit
DoodleKit is quite impressive. Lots of templates and good editing features so you can put items and photos anywhere you want. The free version is limited, but allows up to five pages, plus a blog. There’s plenty of space for photos and picture albums, and DoodleKit has plenty of examples to get a feel for how others have used it. After the free level, the 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 must have been installed in my browser, which was a slight disappointment, but not a big deal. Once I loaded this simple lite app it was really easy to see what I was editing.
What I liked: Literally, in less than 5 minutes, I created a website and a blog.
Wix is a free Flash website builder. Some would argue that a Flash website isn’t as SEO-friendly (or Google, 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 that it allows for true drag and drop functionality. Registration is just your email, password and username. You then move on to Create, Explore, or My Account as the three choices of what to do next. I clicked explore and was amazed at all the types of sites and creative options, most of them free.
If you don’t like the idea of a content-rich site with mostly words, and you’re the visual type or your business lends itself to a more visual format (photographers, videographers, architects, designers), Wix worth the detour.
What I liked: Wix is a fun and energetic site that makes you want to start and end a website all at once. Almost 5 million people have built a site at Wix. You can get affordable help with Wix designers.
4. Moon fruit
Moonfruit is a Flash based website builder. Immediately, they amazed me with this super user-friendly step: they allowed me to start building the site without even registering or providing any information. I could click and choose options; when my site was almost done, they asked me to share my email, username and password, and hit publish.
What I liked: By far, Moonfruit is one of the most elegant and professional solutions I have seen for setting up a business website. The free option was ad-free. No tiny links or text ads, and beyond the free option, there are some very affordable plans.
Weebly allows you to 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 technician at all. Weebly offers dozens of professional designs and templates. You can drag slideshows or photos onto the templates anywhere you want. It is one of the only tools I have seen that allows and encourages a blog within the structure of the site. Additionally, Weebly offers simple SEO options so that you can put keywords and descriptions in your code and be recognized by search engines.
What I liked: If you already have your own domain name, Weebly will allow you to use it for free. So if you just re-registered a domain name that you parked on, you can activate it and Weebly won’t charge you for doing so. Costs.
Once you’ve chosen a template with Webstarts, they take you to a page that lists your site pages and icons to edit, preview, or delete. In addition, directly on this admin dashboard, you can adjust the order of the pages and decide which pages should appear in the navigation menu. Webstarts is a very intuitive and fast loading.
What I liked: When you start in edit mode, a small window opens with a tutorial video. You can close it, but it’s good to have a help element available. I really enjoyed working in the Webstarts editing tool.
Yes, this is a blogging platform and not officially a “website builder”. However, a lot of businesses use WordPress as their website platform, and it ranks very well for small businesses. (SmallBizTrends.com is built on WordPress.) My SalesRescueTeam.com site is built on WordPress with the robust thesis theme (paid). Here’s the coolest part: If you’re on a tight budget and want to keep it really simple, you can set up a site for free.
What I liked: For just $ 15 a year, you can get a custom domain name that you own and have WordPress point to it. It’s as close to free as any of the free website builders with your own domain. Most free services have a subdomain structure, just like the free WordPress option, with URLs that look like www.yoursite.wordpress.com. Over time, this is limiting for most businesses. Because premium features on WordPress aren’t always easy to find, here they are.
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If you’re one of the alleged 50% of small businesses that don’t have a website, or you know someone who is starting a business and really needs an inexpensive option to start their first site, these seven services will help you do that. Each is worth a look. As always, feel free to share the ones you like and link to them in the comments.