These services can host your content on their servers free of charge, but in exchange for that zero cost, your online destination will have a less-than-elegant domain, such as jeffreylwilson.tumblr.com. That might be fine for a personal blog, but it will look too low-rent for a business that wants people to trust it enough to pay for whatever it's selling.
If you’re someone who doesn’t have the skills or time to build your site, or you don’t want (or need) to pay for a completely customized design from a pro website developer, then a good website builder is a perfect way to get a professional looking website up and running with minimal time. For those just wanting a blog, I recommend using WordPress, which I show you how to do in my guide on how to create a blog using WordPress, but for a full website the top-ranked options on this page are all good choices.
One of the undeniable uKit highlights is its stunning price/quality correlation – $3/mo if you enter our special code SWB-25 during checkout. The service has a free 14-day trial, which is more than enough to check and test all its functional features. At the end of the trial, you’ll be able to subscribe to one of the paid plans that come with multiple benefits. By that time, your website will be stored for a year on uKit hosting, but it won’t be accessible on the web.
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.
After all the work you put into it, I feel not a little stupid, in needing to ask you anything else. The truth is I am a slightly long in the tooth septuagenarian with about as much nous as someone dropping in on a day trip from the fourteenth century. I want to promote (tell as many people as possible) about my new book, and hopefully sell one or two.
Doodlekit is one of the most unusable and unintuitive website builders on the market. Editing the limited number of templates is confusing and convoluted and taking advantage of the advertised features is more trouble than it’s worth. Despite my extensive history with site builders and web design, I found myself confused and frustrated when trying to make even the simplest changes on my Doodlekit website.
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.
More-advanced options found in some builders let you process credit card payments and add your own cart and checkout pages. The more-powerful site builders include product promotions, email marketing, and inventory and shipping tools. Some let you sell digital downloads, while others don't; see the table above to find out which do. Only a couple of these builders let you put ads on your site, though most of them allow some degree of custom HTML code insertion.
You can sell products and services on your website if you have the Online Store plan. You’ll have an online store that will allow you to add products and services, set up different types of payment methods, and even specific types of shipping. Your store will be integrated into your website as a page. You can add featured products for your visitors to scroll through, make quick purchases using PayPal and Apple Pay and promote your store/products through coupons. You can also use the same type of email marketing that is included in the Business Plus plan to send email communications to your subscribers and customers about sales in your store, coupon offers and events. Establishing a strong online commerce can boost your current sales, especially if you have a brick-and-mortar store.
WordPress is the website builder Digital Trends is based on, though we have our own set of professional programmers behind the scenes. The service can be found at wordpress.org and is arguably one of the most capable given its open-source nature (especially for blogs), which allows for an extensive amount of templates, themes, and plugins which can be downloaded for free or bought for a premium price.
Several of the services included here offer free options, too. If you choose that path, however, your site will include branding from the provider, which will necessarily make your site less impressive to savvy surfers—and shoppers. Free offerings vary greatly in the amount of storage and bandwidth they allow, so read the small print to find out how much you get with each provider. Weebly, Wix, and WordPress.com are among the most generous with their free offerings, if that's the way you want to go.
A blog should be about something you love, but it should also be an interest shared by other users as well. You can find out what categories people are interested in by using a keyword research tool and from there you can create customized content that your readers will find fresh and relevant. There is a world of information out there just waiting to be discussed. Why shouldn’t you be the one leading the discussion?
You will need to test your web pages as you design them in the major browsers: Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer 11 and Microsoft Edge. All these browsers can be obtained free of charge, so it should be no hardship to get them. Unfortunately, directly testing your site is the only way you can be really sure that it works the way you want it to on your visitors' machines. In addition, if you have a smartphone, try out your site there too.
Hey Jeremy, Awesome article. I especially like the flow and the logical approach that you took to educate people. This is the article I point clients to, to get them up to speed before starting projects. I think it's important for them to know how their products work. While they aren't making their own sites, it definitely still fits the bill. Also, I'm curious as to what you think about WooCommerce these days. I didn't seem them on the list in the other article you wrote "Best Ecommerce Software". Anyways, I've been sending my clients here for a while now and just want to give you a shout out at a job well done! If you are able to send me an email, I do have a question I'd like to ask if you have the time.
Hello Richard, Thanks for your comment and for your support! WooCommerce is a solid ecommerce tool (they were purchased by WordPress last year, I believe). They're flexible and you can bolt on a lot of different tools, but the downside for a "typical" business person is that to use WooCommerce (and WordPress) well, they'll need to invest more time into learning and managing the tools, or hire someone knowledgeable for help. A lot of new small businesses just don't have the mental bandwidth and time to learn the in's and out's of operating a WordPress site efficiently and effectively. The article you mentioned focuses more on hosted ecommerce builders, versus platform where you need to get your own hosting services (and there more technically and administratively challenging for users). We did highlight WooCommerce briefly in this guide where we dig into the differences between hosted and non-hosted ecommerce platforms. Jeremy
Before you can start building your home on the web, you need an address for it. Most of the site builders here can register a unique domain for you, and all can give you a web address using the provider's domain, for example, yourname.sitebuilder.com. The services also let you use a domain you've acquired from a third-party registrar such as pairNIC, but you usually must pay the site builder for that privilege.
Nowadays, however, it looks like the whole of the Internet is slowly moving to a state where everything has SSL. If so, it may be a good idea for new websites to use it from the very outset. This will allow you to avoid the hassle and risk involved in moving an existing website from HTTP to HTTPS, which you may find yourself doing in the future if you don't get it done at the beginning. For more information, please read the first few sections of that article, namely those explaining what SSL is (in greater detail), and the advantages and disadvantages of it.
Trouble is, and I’ve tried to navigate quite a few, but within minutes, as a complete Luddite – I get completely bogged down. I even managed to make a mess of the WordPress option. All I need is the most basic site with detail and a pic of my book. I don’t need a pay page and am happy just to direct people to Amazon etc. should they wish to purchase. Even writing this I feel sure you have covered everything I am asking here. But could you offer some suggestions on the best way forward. I should add here (and I know there would be options for me should money not be a problem) that unfortunately throwing a lot of money at this is (unfortunately) not an option.
The back end, also known as the WordPress dashboard, allows you to fully manage your site’s content, community, functionality, and design. It’s accessible only by users who have an account on your site. To access your WordPress dashboard, you need to type yourwebsite.com/wp-admin in the address bar of your browser and login using your WordPress username and password.
The basic plan is free, but is extremely limited. Their personal plan starts with $4 per month billed annually and includes a custom domain. Premium plan costs $8.25 per month billed annually and it gives you the ability to monetize your site and advanced design customization. Business plan costs $24.92 per month billed annually, and it gives you the ability to have Ecommerce and custom plugins.
Website uptime is a measure how often your website is available to everyone on the internet. Ideally we are striving for 100%. Websites are loaded from what’s basically a big computer called a server, and since it’s a computer it occasionally needs to be restarted, updated, etc. in order to continue to function well. Because of this maintenance 100% uptime isn’t realistic, but somewhere in the 99% or greater range is. What we are basically looking for here is any red flags where the site is not working for long periods.
Weebly is not the best website builder. Yes, it’s convenient and has intuitive interface but their web templates aren’t good. Compare them with free templates from Wix or with paid ones from Squarespace – they are really worthy and beautiful web templates. Weebly doesn’t have such. I think that many believe that Weebly is the best website builder because everybody talk about it and not just because it’s the best. It’s like about IKEA furniture – many like it but I wouldn’t say that it’s the best. You could better try to work with another platform.
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
Hi wbs, Getting started is definitely the easy part - no doubt about that! And I take your point that it can be challenging to make a design that you're 100% happy with. So, I guess we're pretty lucky that website builders like Wix and Squarespace offer such eye-catching templates that we can edit to our liking or use as jumping off point! (Our 3-step guide can help you pick the right template too..) Not having to work with a blank canvas certainly makes things much easier and gets the creative juices flowing. I think the best thing we (as amateur designers!) can take from sites like Facebook, Twitter, etc is the simplicity of their design. Your users want to find what they need quickly and easily, so the key lesson is to keep designs eye-catching but user-friendly (oh and don't forget the importance of color on a website!). Thanks for joining the conversation, - Tom