You do not have to be hugely technical these days to build a website, at a very low cost, with one of the many do-it-yourself website builders.
There are great packages for the business owner to get their teeth into. They are easy to customise and can be made responsive, meaning they look good on mobile devices.
The three do-it-yourself website builders I write about below each have functionality to incorporate an e-commerce shop, although you have to pay for upgrades and look at payment gateways.
Get started with do-it-yourself website builders
You can purchase the domain from the do-it-yourself website builder of your choice and it usually is no problem to transfer it if you need to.
I advise that you have business email on that address too, it looks more professional to use email@example.com rather than firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are two ways of building a website in WordPress – either WordPress.com or WordPress.org.
My useful post explains the difference between the two, but in short WordPress.com is easier to get going if you are none technical. Hosting can be purchased directly from WordPress, and they set it up.
Using WordPress.org you need to purchase your own hosting plan and use the famous 5 minute install.
If you are more technical WordPress.org is so worth it for the freedom. Further down the line you can upgrade your site, and will not be tied into WordPress.com, where you often lose Google ranks on change over.
Both are free to start with, but you may spend money on themes and plugins. There are many available for free which are developed by the WordPress community.
In WordPress you can change themes or plugins whenever you need to.
Wix free website builder
Wix is a free website builder, which has 100’s of different templates. With Wix you can start with a free hosting plan, only upgrading when you need more features. The full website is then hosted on their servers. You can get online within minutes.
Be careful picking your template, as you cannot switch it without duplicating or rebuilding your website. A big disadvantage with Wix, I think.
The other disadvantage using Wix is that the templates are not automatically responsive at this time. You do have a mobile editor, in which you can tweak the site to look good on mobile devices.
Users start to pay when they would like to remove advert, want to connect a professional domain name or would like support. There are different plans depending on the options you need.
To keep costs low I recommend buying a domain name from a third party ISP and forwarding that domain to your wix site. That way your business cards look more professional. Domain names aren’t free, but neither is professionalism.
Wix does have a much better search engine optimisation system than it once did, they have put work in to it. Go into TOOLS then SITE MANAGER to get started with the SEO wizard.
Squarespace, all in one website building solution
Squarespace is the relatively new kid on the block and is really easy to use. It seems similar to Wix on the surface, but there are lots of differences.
With Squarespace you cannot get online completely free. The cheapest plan is to pay about £10 per month for the personal package.
Pricing depends on whether you would like to build an e-commerce store or a standard website. Hosting is included in the plan.
They have far less templates to choose from compared to WordPress and Wix, but all their templates are responsive and lovely, modern designs. Squarespace has spent a lot of time on template design. You can switch to a different template at any point in building.
The best do-it-yourself website builder
I am a huge WordPress fan. For a website developer WordPress is fully customisable if you have knowledge of HTML and CSS.
However I realise that you are not here because you are web developer.
WordPress.com is very easy to set up, much easier than WordPress.org, but again you need to install plugins and although more powerful than Wix or Squarespace, it sounds like some find it more difficult.
Both Wix and Squarespace are easy to use, but you have less freedom.
My conclusion on website builders:
WordPress.org – My first choice. Go for this if you are technical and would like lots of freedom for your site. Optimised correctly WordPress.org is great on search engines.
WordPress.com – I would be inclined to push people towards Wix or Squarespace. Because WordPress is harder to set up if you are non-technical. If you have technical ability I would push you towards WordPress.org.
Wix.com – If you would like to get online for free and are not too worried about design, choose Wix. However, do remember that adverts are visible on the free Wix websites, so you will probably end up paying anyway.
Squarespace.com – If you have more money to spend and are design driven go for Squarespace. All the templates are responsive and that will likely save you time in the long run. Tweaking for mobile can be very frustrating.
Analysing your website with Google Analytics
Don’t forget to set up and install Google Analytics on your website so you can track how well it does.
Squarespace has a Google integration tool, which is available even on the personal package. With Wix you need a premium plan.
For WordPress there are lots of Google Analytics plugins, which are really easy to use. Try not to use one that is too complicated, so it does not over load your web pages. Simple is best.
Used alongside Yoast SEO you can fully optimise your site for search engines.
Setting up your own website for less
I recommend small businesses have a web presence rather than none at all, but take your time putting your site together.
A website should be written correctly and look professional across all platforms. A website should be an investment that you are proud of. Looking unprofessional can deter a buyer.
Often, non web developers struggle with tweaking the site to make it look exactly how they want it on every platform, and the optimisation for search engines. The online marketing world is very competitive!
Putting a website online will not instantly get you sales or solve all your problems. There are over a billion websites online today and buyers have become very picky.
To achieve something from your site you need to market it properly and find a uniqueness.
Constantly test your site discover your target audience, and tweak it to continuously make the experience better for them.
What is your favourite do-it-yourself website builder?