So, you have a new business and you need a website. Perhaps your current website is looking tired and obsolete. Out with the old and in with the new!
In today's world, it's essential to have a website for your business. Most people will turn to the Internet first when they want more information about you and what you do. There are many different ways to create a website, and they can cost anywhere from nothing all the way up to thousands of dollars.
With that range of options, it can be hard to find the right solution. Whatever your needs, it's all about balancing SEO and functional requirements with design that is gorgeous, modern, and user-friendly.
If you don't have thousands of dollars budgeted for a fully custom website, what are your choices? My first recommendation is that if you only have $500 to spend, don't give it to a web design company. The good ones will laugh in your face, and anyone who does take $500 for a website will surely provide a disappointing finished product.
Instead, I suggest that you use an affordable DIY website builder like Wix, Weebly, or Squarespace and save the remainder of your $500 for some custom images, photography, or Photoshop work instead.
Wix, Weebly, and Squarespace are three of the most popular DIY website builders/hosting providers for people on a budget. Their combined user base is around 100 million people. What makes them so popular?
Here are a few of the features all three offer that will help you churn out a website in just a few hours:
- Free domain for the first year
- Easy and intuitive drag-and-drop builder
- Flexible interface for adding images, pages, and functionality (with apps)
- Mobile-ready with single domain URL (though only Squarespace is truly responsive)
- Built-in analytics and/or ability to add Google Analytics
- Ecommerce options
- Free trial (from 14-30 days)
- Low entry-level price (for business websites prices are around $12-20/mo)
So, if you need a quick and easy solution for creating your website, there are decent options available. Once you narrow the field to these three, how do you know which is the best choice for you?
Here are the two most important things to consider:
- Can you make it YOUR website, or are you stuck with a cheap template look and feel?
- How easily can you modify or customize the functionality of your website with apps/plugins (e.g. for ecommerce, contact list management, website promotion, advanced analytics, Google AdSense, restaurant reservations, appointment booking, and email marketing)?
How They Look
Wix, Weebly, and Squarespace all include templates to choose from and allow you to customize the template to make it yours.
In terms of sheer volume, Wix is leading the pack with hundreds of templates (450 as of now) that range from modern and sleek to old and dated. Weebly offers fewer templates (around 124), and Squarespace offers just 28.
But while Squarespace may have fewer options, its templates are quite lovely and require the least amount of editing to look great out of the box. Wix and Weebly will require you to replace images, swap text fields, and in general take longer to create a site that you are happy with. You can change these things with Squarespace templates too, but you may not need to.
How They Work
Once you've found the look and feel you want, you may need to extend the usability of your site. Do you want to take reservations for your restaurant? Do you use email marketing? Is social media an important part of promoting your business?
Of the three, Wix is far ahead when it comes to the potential for modifying website functionality, while Weebly has the smallest selection of apps you can add. Squarespace doesn't do the whole "app" thing, but does make it easy to add code for third party apps (even if you've never touched code before).
Template-based website builders are great for people who have little to no budget and don't need much advanced or custom functionality. However, there are some downsides.
First is the AJAX URLs used by Wix. A web address like http://xxxxxx.wix.com/mytest#!our_story/component_74511 (as compared to http://xxxxxx.wix.com/mytest/our_story/) doesn't give me a "Google loves my URL" kind of feeling. While Google supposedly won't mind that kind of URL structure, I still think it looks terrible.
Some people have suggested that website builders like these could cause website designers and website design companies to go extinct. Hardly! DIY website builders have been available for years. Remember Geocities?
The need for fully customized business websites will always exist, and people and companies with the skills to produce them will continue to be in demand. Sure, future website builders like "The Grid," which promises websites that design themselves, seem exciting. But the day when a single solution meets the need of everyone (or even most people) will never come--business challenges and opportunities, not to mention taste, will keep evolving right alongside the technology. That's why web design companies like VIEO will stick around!