It doesn't matter who your customers are or what you are selling, a website has become today's standard calling card. The prospect of setting up a website can freak out just about any small business wannabe – but it need not to. You don't need a big marketing budget or HTML know-how to get a great business website up and running in less than 10 minutes. Listed below are ten free(ish) online and EASY-TO-USE website design tools suited for the small business:
“Create your own free website that looks and functions the way you want. Wix is an online editor with a drag & drop interface that lets you learn how to make a website without the need to bother with any code or web programming.”
This is a free flash-based site host and creator, offering a good range of templates. If you want your own domain, not business.wix.com, you will need to upgrade to paid membership (about $100/year). Word of caution: these sites are built with flash technology and Google reader’s (who rank your site based off SEO) typically have a harder time with flash. Wix does have some work arounds for this, but if you plan to have an aggressive SEO strategy, I recommend you research the pros and cons of Wix.
“Yola is ideal for small business websites. With our free business website building tools and website hosting, we've helped thousands of entrepreneurs like you create professional-looking business websites to grow their businesses.”
A great web tool with simple drag-and-drop editing. There are a lot of different feature add-ons, including paypal shopping cart for ecommerce capabilities. Yola seems devoted to the small business. Like most of the site’s listed, this offers a free version, but to have a unique domain you will need to upgrade to the premium, which is around $100/year. I recommend all businesses have a a unique URL, not something like business.yola.com.
“Weebly was named one of TIME’s 50 Best Websites of the year in 2007 and we’ve since made our service even more powerful, while keeping it simple. We have 3 million customers who would likely agree that there’s really no better place to create a website online.”
Weebly gets my biggest bang for your buck award. The free version is packed with value. Weebly won’t place ads on your website (many free website providers do this), there are no bandwidth restrictions, and if you already own a unique URL, you can point to that URL for no extra cost. It offers a blog, ecommerce capabilities and the ability to connect with Google Adsense to start making advertising money. The con is limited template selections. A nice tool for a small budget.
"At Webs, Inc., we combined our website building savvy with our affinity for small businesses to create the most popular website building and hosting solution for entrepreneurs."
Webs is the world's largest do-it-yourself website-creation solution. 50 million sites have been built with Webs. This tool offers a large selection of templates, ecommerce options, SEO tools, social media plug-ins and a professional business look and feel. They have a free version, but it is essentially useless. Their most popular premium small business package is only around $8 per month.
"Creating a unique website is easy: free domain name, professional design layouts, and point-and-click editing."
Web.com offers many different small business packages to fit your unique needs. All packages are paid, and if products will be sold on the site, an additional ecommerce package will need to be purchased. The benefits here are over 9500 design templates. They also have a package where they will custom design the site for you, including SEO optimization. The lowest priced package is $20 / month.
"Easy drag and drop interface. No programming skills needed. Includes your hosting, web address, and design tools."
A robust tool with many template options for the small business. The free version offers many features, but to get a custom URL, a paid plan will be necessary. If your business would like to add a shopping cart feature, you will need to subscribe to one of their ecommerce packages. The free version of the shopping cart feature only allows you to sell five items a day, but their pro version offers unlimited. Pricing varies based off your business' needs.
"It's a fast, easy, inexpensive way for any business to get a customized website without hiring a designer or having to learn complicated computer languages like HTML. We host your site for you, and you can update your site at anytime."
Intuit is a small business solutions provider - you know its products like Turbo Tax and Quicken. It also offers web creation services. The features and offerings are similar to the other providers, but the customer service and live help seems more robust. Their templates also seem to be more reflective of the appropriate look and feel for the small business. Their service is around $5/month and allows for a unique URL. For additional costs you can purchase an ecommerce feature.
"WebSite Tonight is not only fast and easy to use, it’s packed with powerful features. Expand and enhance your site with a huge variety of tools and options that will keep your site fresh and interesting — and your visitors coming back for more."
GoDaddy isn't just domains. Here you can get the URL, host the website and add on all the tools you need for your specific business. Their website product, Website Tonight, offers the typical hosting and design. You also gain access to reputable add-ons like SmartSpace®, their social media aggregator, and Quick Shopping Cart®, one of the most popular shopping cart tools on the web, which integrates with Google and eBay and includes shipping rates and options. Prices vary.
"So what if you’re not a web designer ...you don’t need to be. You just need to know what you like."
Another great site builder with lots of template options. There is a free version, but in order to get a unique URL it is about $12/month. What I like about this tool is its desire to help with SEO. Their site claims: “All of our sites are search engine friendly and our tools automatically 'mark up' your content so that it is easy for search engines to read and understand.” I don't know how true that is, but it is at least a start in the right direction. It also links with Google Analytics (the reporting feature for SEO on Google). There are add-on features like a shopping cart.
"Doodlekit is a fully hosted online free website builder and CMS (Content Management System) that helps you build a personal or business website. It’s perfect for anyone from first-timers to advanced web developers and web designers."
This is a very simple tool and editing is easy with a large array of templates. The free version comes with ads, so I would recommend upgrading. Each site comes with a blog (which is an important feature to keep website content fresh). The business package comes with ecommerce tools, which integrate with Paypal or Google. Paid versions start around $14/month.