Over the last month I have talked with several business owners who have expressed a need for something different with their website. They have one of two problems: they are paying too much for their website with not enough return, or they currently don't have a functional website.
The good news is that there are some great do-it-yourself website options available today - options that are affordable, beautiful, and easy to use. Honestly, I have seen these DYI drag-and-drop sites look and perform MUCH better than “professionally developed” sites.
While there are numerous website platform builders available, I have chosen three to discuss. These have been chosen based on popularity, functionality, design, and ease of use. You really can’t go wrong with either of these three options though each has a slightly different benefit.
I have used Squarespace for several sites and this is my recommendation of choice for the semi-computer savy business owner (no coding required - optional, but not required). Squarespace uses an intuitive drag-and-drop platform that is easy to use and provides extensive smiling options that you won’t usually find with other website builders. This platform is great for any business that can provide pictures - most of the templates rely on good pictures. They have some built in SEO and have mobile-responsive sites - meaning they look fantastic on mobile devices.
The limitations are that you really are limited to the Squarespace templates. While they are beautiful, there are some things that are not easily changed. Personally, I think that the limited number of (beautiful) websites is actually a perk as they are able to ensure they all work properly as well as make it easier for users to choose. Another great perk to the templates is that you can easily switch from one template to another - something that cannot be done on some other platforms (like Wix).
If you want to get more advanced, you will find that intgrating other sites like Leadpages can be difficult (but not imposible). They do have options for coders to get into them, but if you are this advanced, you probably aren’t going to be leaning toward a drag-and-drop platform.
Squarespace offers e-mail support where they provide a reply within an hour. Yes, an hour. They also have a great forum of Q&As to answer many of your common questions. Squarespace currently offers 4 different plans to choose from and prices start at $12 a month and range up to $40/mo for the most advanced full e-commerce site. At that price, you really can't go wrong.
Bottom Line: Squarespace is my pick. With a very affordable e-commerce platform, great customer service, and a quasi-easy-to-use drag and drop platform, Squarespace sites look absolutely beautiful.
Similar to Squarespace, Wix offers an intuitive drag and drop interface with their easy to use website builder. Having over 500 professional templates (much more than squarespace), Wix has an option for everyone.
The Wix interface truly is a drag and drop option. You can insert photos, text, or whatever you like, anywhere you like. For this reason, Wix is extremely popular and leads the marketshare of site builders.
The pricing has a wide range of options starting with their cheaper options having ads on the site, while the premium options offer more features. Out of the 5 premium options offered by Wix, the cheapest is $7 per month while the highest is around $30 per month.
One of the biggest downfalls to Wix is that you cannot easily change a template once you have selected one. If you want to change templates, you have to rebuild your content. You also cannot export your website if you are looking to change platforms. To me, that is a BIG disadvantage. They do, however, offer phone and e-mail support and have comprehensive tutorials on using their platform.
Bottom Line: There is a reason Wix is the most popular. You can start with a free account and work your way up from there. With over 500 templates to choose from, there is an option for everyone.
If you are looking for simple and easy to use, Weebly may be the answer for you. Weebly’s website builder is one of the easiest to use and that is why they are the second most popular platform behind Wix.
Like Squarespace, Weebly has consistently been increasing their number of mobile responsive templates. This means that your website automatically looks beautiful on mobile devices.
One of the biggest downfalls for Weebly is also one of their greatest strengths. Since they are so simple to use, this also limits you on what you can do and how basic the templates look. If you aren’t too particular about how your website looks, then you may find the ease of use to outweigh this limitation.
Offering 4 premium plans, Weebly prices start at $14 per month and range up to just over $45 for the highest price pan. There are discounts available for a two year plan option.
Bottom Line: If you are looking for a simple option and don’t care too much about how your site looks, Weebly may be the route to go.
Even though I have already discussed the three options I wanted to discuss, I can’t write a post about website platforms without mentioning Wordpress. This platform is slightly different than the three I already discussed because it is a free and open-source content management system. Wordpress is probably the most popular website platform today and for a few good reasons. First, there is a free version (wordpress.com) and a self-hosted version (wordpress.org) where you have to use your own servers or pay a hosting service to host your site for you. The wordpress platform is also fairly intuitive but allows much more customization than Squarespace or Weebly. The benefit is that you can do almost anything on the platform, but that also requires a greater amount of technical expertise.
Individual developers offer Wordpress templates and they range in price from free to several hundres dollars. The Wordpress platform also allows for "plug-ins" - the ability to add features that don't automatically come with the template. If you are going to go with Wordpress, it would be worth considering a pricier premium template and to get one that has many features already built in.
Bottom Line: If you are looking for an option that allows you to get more involved in your website management and design, Wordpress may be the option for you.