Building a website for your business may seem like an ambitious task if you don’t have any web design experience. Thankfully, there are site builders that let you create a website without writing a single line of code.
In a nutshell, these builders allow you to drag and drop elements like images and text onto a web page. This way, you can create a variety of websites from one-pagers to fully-functional e-commerce sites. Best of all, you can spend less time designing and put more attention to growing your company.
Is a Small Business Website Builder Right for You?
It’s a fair assumption that even a total novice can eventually build a website using WordPress or a similar platform.
So the question of using a small business website builder mainly comes down to three factors:
- How much time do you have before your site needs to go live?
- Who is going to manage your site regularly?
- How are you going to integrate e-commerce functionality?
A website builder gets your online store up-and-running in a matter of hours if need be. It also shouldn’t take more than one person to manage. Plus, most builders have built-in tools for online businesses. This includes payment handling and inventory management.
However, there are instances when a website builder isn’t the ideal solution. These scenarios include:
- When you need customizable e-commerce features
- When you want to integrate search engine optimization best practices
- When you want a unique layout and design
Now don’t get us wrong. There are website builders that address these concerns. However, most of your options are limited to what the builder can deliver.
For example, a blogging feature is crucial for SEO as they allow online shops to drive traffic organically. But some site builders are only good for static pages where content is rarely updated.
Speaking of SEO, some website builders lack SEO-centric plugins or applications. You may not find a tool for creating XML sitemaps, for example. And because website builders make use of templates, you run the risk of having your site look like other online stores.
How to Choose a Small Business Website Builder?
While they may look like it, not all website builders are the same. And your needs will probably not be the same as someone else’s — even if you’re operating the same type of business.
Here’s a list of website builder features we think you should consider.
Ease of Use
The whole point of using a site builder is to lift the burden of designing and launching a site. That also means being able to do everything from within the builder. You want services that include domain registration and analytics. You want to be able to customize your site. But at the same time, you don’t want to feel overwhelmed with options. And because most site builder users are first-time designers, you want to work with a platform with a comprehensive library of how-to videos and articles.
If we’re honest, sites built through a builder end up costing more – on paper, at least. A2Hosting’s Lite Plan starts at $3.92 a month. And while web hosting plans differ from site to site, that’s more or less the going rate these days. Squarespace, one of the builders featured in this list, costs $12 a month. For startups, the difference might turn them away from using site builders.
But when you factor in the cost of hiring a web designer and the time it would take to get you started, that could end up costing you $2,000 on the lowest end.
Site builders also include features that make up for the premium pricing. That said, look at the pricing and decide for yourself if the added features are worth paying for. And while doing so, keep in mind that most of the basic packages exclude e-commerce integration.
It’s good to have the option of being able to design a site from scratch. But for those who aren’t keen on building from the ground up, you’ll be relying on templates instead.
Templates make the process far less complicated. But if a site builder offers a limited amount or is not customizable, your site will look similar to businesses who ended up using the same template. There are site builders that show you all the templates they have without having to sign up. Take this opportunity to find a template that works for you before you commit.
You’re building an e-commerce store. So it only makes sense to choose a website builder that caters to entrepreneurs.
Not only do you want the e-commerce tools that go along with your subscription, but you also need a builder that knows what kind of website business owners need. Users need a landing page that can display high-resolution product images and videos. There should also be no cap on the number of items you can sell. Also, having the option to add a calculator for shipping fees would be nice to have.
Website builders make it easy to handle things on your own. But should you run into problems, you want a customer service team that’s both responsive and helpful.
Find a site builder that you can get in touch with through phone, email and chat. Test their response time by asking questions before signing up.
These days, transactions take place on mobile devices.
In 2018, 58% of site visits came from mobile devices. Google itself is placing some emphasis on mobile and encourages users to switch to a responsive design. So you want to use a website builder that is responsive.
Top 5 Website Builders for Small Businesses
Here are our top 5 choices of website builders for small businesses.
With Squarespace, you can put product images front-and-center without compromising on image quality. Users can even zoom in on images so they can appreciate your product’s finer details.
You can use more than one template on your website. That’s excellent news for those who are looking to make each page unique. All pages built on Squarespace are mobile-responsive.
- Good selection of responsive templates
- Focused on small businesses
- You can integrate your site with social media (sync your Facebook product catalog with your Instagram posts)
- Squarespace is pricey (Personal plans cost $12 per month)
- Basic e-commerce integration is only available on the Business plan
- Not as easy to use as some of the site builders on this list
Squarespace has all the tools you’ll need to get you off the ground. Just keep in mind that their e-commerce features are locked behind higher-tiered plans which can get expensive, especially for businesses that are just starting.
Like Squarespace, they too have several small business website templates. They’ve even gone through the trouble of organizing them by category. That way, you find precisely the template that suits your enterprise.
Will you be using videos to promote your product? Wix lets its users play background videos. And you can set this up without having to mess with code.
Wix is also introducing Wix ADI (Artificial Design Intelligence). It assists you by having you answer a questionnaire. After you’ve given your response, it will build a site for you based on the information you’ve provided.
- Pricing is competitive ($12 for Unlimited Plan)
- Good selection of templates
- Wix ADI keeps it simple for new designers
- Once your site goes live, it’s going to be hard to make revisions
- Starter plan displays Wix ads on your site
- Limited storage bandwidth
Wix is a good starting point for new designers. However, Wix’s app extensions are not really apps but iFrame counterparts. This means integrations are a bit wonky. The Etsy app, for example, will launch a new window where visitors can browse through your products.
Outside of its simplicity, Weebly has additional features you will like. Weebly sites are fast and secure. They also provide refunds (within 30 days) if you’re not happy with the service.
- Onboarding feature will guide you through the site build
- Has e-commerce features like checkout, delivery tracking and more
- Great customer support
- Not as easy to use if you’re adding a blog feature
- Limited number of updates and upgrades
If all you need is a simple site to start, Weebly is up to the task. Just note that their blogging features are limited.
At its core, 1&1 Ionos is a web hosting platform. But they do have a website builder feature that lets you configure your site to your liking.
- Web hosting starts at $1 per month (for the first year)
- Offers chat, email and phone support
- Website builder is a feature you’ll have to pay on top of web hosting ($5 a month, $1 for the first month)
- Knowledgebase is lacking
Those who have been exposed to a cPanel before might find 1&1’s interface jarring at first since they have their system in place. This shouldn’t be a problem for first-time users, though. Be wary, reports online show people having issues with billing.
The site lets you change templates even after the site has gone live, which is convenient for its users. The drag-and-drop builder is easy to work with. They also have their version of ADI that lets you build a site by simply answering a few questions.
- You can create a website in under an hour
- You can manage the site from a computer or a mobile device
- GoDaddy’s site builder tool comes at a cost (with a 1-month free trial)
- You will have to use a separate store builder to set your site up for online business
You can launch a site reasonably quickly with GoDaddy. But you will have to contend with using a separate store builder to add e-commerce functionality, which may not be suitable for first-time users.