Caution: In my opinion, WordPress is not something I will suggest for people with no or limited technology skills, or for those who have never owned a website before. Why? Because WordPress has a much steeper learning curve and setup costs than fully managed website builders like Wix, Squarespace or Weebly. WordPress also doesn’t offer you a dedicated support team so you’ll need to troubleshoot issues yourself (or hire someone).
Thank you for writing this “How To” guide for first-time website builders! Up until now I honestly thought the only way to make a personalized website for a business or with a unique domain name was by hiring a website designer. It was such a huge help to read about the pros and cons of each site builder and to see what costs would actually be associated with each. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
The first thing you need to do before anything else is to get yourself a domain name. This is the name you want to give to your website. For example, the domain name of the website you're reading is "thesitewizard.com". To get a domain name, you have to pay an annual fee to a registrar for the right to use that name. Getting a name does not get you a website or anything like that. It's just a name. It's sort of like registering a business name in the brick-and-mortar world; having that business name does not mean that you also have the shop premises to go with it.
Squarespace gets a lot of attention, and for good reason. It’s sleek, full of features, pretty, and inexpensive. Squarespace will run you $12 a month for the basic package, with rates topping out at $40 a month for its Commerce package. The $12 a month nets you unlimited storage and bandwidth, but a restriction to 20 pages. You also have full e-commerce integration, and an included SSL security certificate.

One of the most common questions I get is whether to try to use a website builder or hire a web designer/developer.  The answer to this question depends on your situation of course.  If you have a really unique project and you have the money to support it then by all means a good web designer will be your best bet.  However, the cost for a truly customized website from a knowledgeable professional can easy run into the multiple thousands of dollars.  For some people that cost is justified, but for most it is not.
Larger businesses spend many thousands of dollars to get their custom-designed and programmed sites, but there's no need for smaller organizations and individuals to go to that kind of expense. For about $10 per month (or around $25 if you're selling products) and a few hours of your time, the services included here can help you create a unique, attractive website.
Getting your own website used to require a lot of tech wizardry, such as knowledge of servers, HTML, FTP, site registrars, and web hosting services. Thankfully, we now live in the age of easy online site builders. The services included here let you make a well-designed, mobile-friendly site with minimal technical knowledge. They can even take a small or sole-proprietor business to profitability with buy links, online stores, and other money-making options.
1) A website isn’t static; it’s dynamic. It’s ever-changing. The moment you accomplish something, you can add it to your website. When you complete a project, you can put it in your portfolio for all to see. You don’t need to print new copies of it and send it out to your contacts over and over; you just update it. People can continually come back and see what you’re up to.
I’ve always been curious about building my own website for personal use. I see commercials and banners saying how “THEY” are ‘free’ or ‘are easy to use’ or ‘best web builder around’, etc, etc. Not knowing who to believe, I, like many others, used the best resource that money can buy… i Googled! Your site was one of the links that I decided to explore and was impressed off the back. I liked your unbiased thoughts and personal 10+ experience in the field so you know what you’re talking about. So thank you for making our research, any potential pitfalls, future headache, possible regrets that we could’ve suffered by making the the selfless sacrifice by exploring these website building companies for the masses.
Great review, Robert! I was wondering what’s your opinion about SitePad website builder? I’m thinking of creating a website for my restaurant and I saw that this website builder is included in the web hosting plans by BGOcloud, which I will opt for. Have you tried SitePad? If yes, can you say whether it is relatively easy-to-use? Thanks in advance!
Hello, I used BigCommerce to build the website, tenbrookeleanne.com, for my girlfriend's brick and mortar boutique. I do not know any code and before making this website, I knew nothing about ecommerce. The customer service for BigCommerce is awesome! Even though they are a WYSIWYG drag and drop site builder, they helped me customize my website by editing the code for me. They changed the background for my chosen (free) template and added an instagram social button even though it wasn't in the template. When making the website I had a ton of questions and they were always happy to help, now I very rarely have to call support. The BigCommerce University and question forums are very resourceful at well. I would highly recommend BigCommerce to anyone who is looking to make an ecommerce site. My only complaint about BigCommerce is that they do not have a native solution to integrate with the brick and mortar store POS to keep the inventory up to date (though they say they are/have been working on it). I have to use an expensive and less than satisfactory third party software for the two platforms to communicate with each other.
Thanks, Robert. I guess it is what you get used to. I went to Weebly several years ago from both Yola and Wix. At the time they were the only one that could easily do drop down menus which was important to me. Also have found them very innovative and have rarely suffered any downtime. Their tech support is excellent. While their selection of templates may be limited, they work closely with another company, Baamboo Studios who produce impressive templates for their users.
GoCentral is a website product that lets you create a website that fits your personal or business needs, regardless of your skill set. You no longer have to choose between a website or an online store – now you can have both. Whether you want an online store, a pop-up site or a professional website to attract new customers, you get to choose how simple or dynamic you want your site to be. Just pick a design and go create your website with GoCentral.
Hi Latisha, Shopify is great for those who are not super technical as they are much easier to use compared to other e-commerce platforms. This is not to say that you can make unlimited number of customizations to the themes without ever touching codes, as some levels of modifications does require touching some codes. But if you just choose a theme, and work within the capability of the theme with Shopify's tools, then you can get a really good store up and running fairly quickly. But if there is a certain look / feel / feature that you want to achieve that is outside the design of the theme, then you may have to code it yourself, or hire a Shopify expert to do so. Hope this gives you a bit more guidance! - Jeremy
The service also provides step-by-step tutorials for importing pages from other sites. It provides forums and even workshops to get you up to speed regarding nearly all aspects of the site. You can’t customize the mobile experience and the platform lacks on-page ad tools, but there a lot to be said for its hands-off approach and immense selling capabilities.
Web hosting is like paying rent for your website's virtual storefront, including the pages, images, documents, and other resources needed to display that site. Web hosting uses a web server, which is where you put those website resources so others can access them through the Web. You can build a fully functional website on your personal computer, but if you want other people to be able to see it, you will need to use a web host.

Hello, I used BigCommerce to build the website, tenbrookeleanne.com, for my girlfriend's brick and mortar boutique. I do not know any code and before making this website, I knew nothing about ecommerce. The customer service for BigCommerce is awesome! Even though they are a WYSIWYG drag and drop site builder, they helped me customize my website by editing the code for me. They changed the background for my chosen (free) template and added an instagram social button even though it wasn't in the template. When making the website I had a ton of questions and they were always happy to help, now I very rarely have to call support. The BigCommerce University and question forums are very resourceful at well. I would highly recommend BigCommerce to anyone who is looking to make an ecommerce site. My only complaint about BigCommerce is that they do not have a native solution to integrate with the brick and mortar store POS to keep the inventory up to date (though they say they are/have been working on it). I have to use an expensive and less than satisfactory third party software for the two platforms to communicate with each other.
In my feature comparison table I show which website builders you let design a website from scratch— and there are a handful. Of those I would recommend Wix. Wix is an excellent, highly customizable website builder. It can be a bit overwhelming with the amount of options it provides— but that's exactly what you want if you're designing a theme from scratch.
Michael Muchmore is PC Magazine's lead analyst for software and web applications. A native New Yorker, he has at various times headed up PC Magazine's coverage of Web development, enterprise software, and display technologies. Michael cowrote one of the first overviews of web services for a general audience. Before that he worked on PC Magazine's S... See Full Bio
One factor that may influence your choice is the decision on whether to use SSL for your website. A site that uses SSL will have a web address starting with "https://" instead of "http://". In ancient times, webmasters typically only bothered to use it if they were selling goods and services and needed to collect credit card numbers, or if they had some sort of facility that required their visitors to log in with a password.
GoDaddy is a relative newcomer to the website builder market, although they have been selling domain names and web hosting for a while now.  The template options are pretty poor and the website builder is difficult to figure out, and even when you do it’s not easy to customize your site.  Overall this feels like GoDaddy just wanted to get a website builder product to market and didn’t really put in the time necessary to make it good.
Hi Jeremy! Thank you for giving me a very straightforward and transparent approach to making your own website. My daughter is a visual artist, and she will be applying to art schools in the next year. A website is necessary for her to show her work (all still paintings) to prospective art school admissions councilors and staff. What would be a good builder to use to "bring to life" her paintings and present them in a simple, tasteful and uncluttered way? And at this time, she is not going to use this site to sell her work, just present it to schools.
Users can get started with a free trial package, complete with template themes and hosting, then choose add-ons from the constantly updating collections of apps. Capable of creating complex sites without coding, BuilderEngine goes beyond basic text and images. If you ever get stuck you can also find one-to-one support by using their forums and Ticket Support Systems.
I personally don’t think site builders will ever replace web designers/developers completely. Most site builders are targeted at small businesses and could never meet the demands required for larger businesses with all their complex requirements. I think Shopify plus is the only product trying to take on the larger CMS platforms right now (e.g. Magenta, Demandware) in the eCommerce space
Most website builders have free plans, or at least free trials, that mean you can create a business website for nothing! However, free plans do come with restrictions that can be limiting for your business, for example, displaying adverts for your website builder on your site. This doesn’t give off a very professional image, but you can get rid of them by upgrading to a paid plan for a modest monthly fee.
Support among the services varies widely, from free WordPress.com account's only offering community support, to Jimdo's email-only service, to Wix's telephone-callback service—even for free accounts! Many of the site builders offer rich online support knowledge bases and FAQs, so there's a good chance you won't even need to contact the company. I test each service's support as part of the review process by asking how to connect a domain bought elsewhere to my site and how to sell digital downloads.

Once you have an overview of your website plan/sitemap, you can drill down to the specifics of the content you need to create for a website launch. It will be important to create evergreen content (content that will not be changing much and will appear on the static pages) and also important to have fresh content appearing on your website on a regular basis.
Hi TomN, Thanks for reading and joining the discussion. What you are looking to build is beyond the scope of our discussions here. It is possible but you'll either need to be very proficient with coding or have a healthy budget to hire a capable developer to assist you with your efforts. The reason is that the project you have seems like a very customized project. -Jeremy

Thank you for writing this “How To” guide for first-time website builders! Up until now I honestly thought the only way to make a personalized website for a business or with a unique domain name was by hiring a website designer. It was such a huge help to read about the pros and cons of each site builder and to see what costs would actually be associated with each. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Top tip: Don’t just test your website yourself. You will be blind to some of its faults. Plus, you know how your site is supposed to work, so while you might find navigating it easy that’s not to say a stranger will. Get a fresh perspective. Ask family members and friends to test your site and give feedback. If they’re anything like our family and friends they won’t be afraid of offering criticism.
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