How to Choose the Right Website Builder for Your Business

It took me three years and four platforms to create a website that I was proud of. Coming up with a design that I liked and suited my needs was hard enough—executing it was even harder. Plus, whenever I tried and failed to craft the perfect site, I blamed the platform, not myself.

While that probably wasn't fair, it's true every website builder plays to different strengths. To help you avoid the online musical chairs I played, I've outlined the pros and cons of the top four most popular DIY options and which type of small business user they're right for. Read on to decide which platform will work best for you.

1. Wix

Wix offers an option for every skill level. If you're looking for a beautiful, relatively simple website but don't have any desire to design it yourself, you'll like Wix ADI: Just answer a few questions, and the platform will create a customized site for you.

For more hands-on users, there's Wix Editor. Start from scratch or choose from more than 500 templates. The drag-and-drop interface makes it easy to tweak details, personalize the layout, add cool effects, and more.

If you've got some coding chops, try Wix Code. This tool takes Wix Editor to the next level, letting you set up dynamic pages (meaning you can update information that appears in multiple places all at once), interactive forms, quizzes, and more, and add content that updates automatically.

Pricing

Standard website: Free-$12.50/month

Online store: $16.50-24.50/month

Pros

Wix is easy to use for all skill and experience levels—and that easiness doesn't come at the price of quality or variety.

While having so many templates can be a little overwhelming, it also means your site won't look like everyone else's, even if you're using a premade design.

When it comes to ecommerce, Wix has some interesting features. If you want to let customers make reservations or bookings through your site, that's easy to set up through the native tool (meaning no integrations required). Wix Contacts is also worth mentioning; it's essentially a Contact Relationship Management system so you can track your leads, manage appointments, and send invoices.

Cons

If you want traffic analytics (who's visiting your site, how long they're staying, what they're looking at, and so on), you'll need to embed an extra tool. That can be tricky when you're doing it the first few (or, if you're me, 20) times.

Also, switching templates is no quick feat. You can't simply pick a new one and watch your site flip—you must rebuild your content from scratch.

Best For

Thanks to Wix Contacts, Wix is definitely worth taking a look at if you generate a lot of prospects or establish continuing relationships with your customers (think anyone who buys your product or service multiple times over a year)—the CRM will make it easier to stay organized and manage a contact list. Service-based businesses, I'm looking at you!

2. Squarespace

Squarespace's interface is fresh, clean, modern, and most importantly, fun to explore. There are more than 80 templates, each of which can be deeply customized.

You don't need to know a lick of code: Just an idea of what elements you want to go where on the page. That being said, I've had some frustrating moments using Squarespace in the past trying to get my website to behave. It may take some time for you to feel comfortable with the tool.

Pricing

Standard website: $12-$18/month

Online store: $26-$40/month

Pros

Squarespace offers lots of sophisticated ecommerce features, including product categorization and tags, high security, automated emails when your customers leave something in their online shopping cart, and single-page checkout. You can sell multiple types of products (i.e. digital, physical, and service-based), which will be helpful if you sell, say, cooking class videos (digital) along with ingredients (physical). And Squarespace even takes Apple Pay.

Cons

As I mentioned, the tool isn't always super intuitive. Fortunately Squarespace offers plenty of resources online (including 24/7 customer support).

Best For

I'd recommend Squarespace for people who want a sleek-looking personal website or small online store, and are willing to spend a little time figuring out the interface.

3. Weebly

Weebly is another no-coding-skills required platform. All you have to do is point, click, drag, and drop. That being said, any advanced customization does call for HTML and CSS.

To take your website to the next level, there 200-plus apps in Weebly's App Center—from custom printing fulfillment services to automated social media posts.

Pricing

Standard website: Free-$12/month

Online store: $8-$25/month

Pros

Looking for a tool you can master quickly that'll still result in an awesome site? Weebly could be the easiest-to-use website builder. It removes sections of the interface you're not using at the moment so you're never overwhelmed by all the options.

Cons

If you make a change you end up later regretting, undoing it isn't easy—you'll need to email Weebly's support and ask them to revert your site back. In comparison, Wix automatically saves previous versions of your website and lets you “turn back time" at any point (even four or five weeks later), and Squarespace offers undos up to 30 days in the past.

Best For

Wix is probably best for those operating brick-and-mortar stores who want to get a basic business website up quickly. It may not be the most customizable, but the style and speed make up for it.

4. WordPress

Like many bloggers, my first blog was on WordPress. This is the OG blogging platform, and it has stood the test of time—30% of websites are powered by WordPress!

You can pick from nearly 300 themes. And since WordPress an open-source community, anyone can build plug-ins ( tools that you add to your site). There are currently more than 44,000 plug-ins.

Pricing

Standard website: Free-$25/month

Online store: $25/month

Pros

WordPress offers the most powerful blogging platform by far. The editor is super easy to use, and there are tons of writing, social media, and SEO plug-ins to help you create, share, and optimize your content.

Because WordPress has been around for a while, you can find a huge collection of resources and support online.

Plus, WordPress makes it relatively easy to put ads on your site and monetize using impressions.

Cons

If you want to set up a full-fledged website (versus a blog), WordPress probably requires the most time and effort. Some plug-ins are fantastic, others are sub-par. It'll take some trial-and-error to design your ideal website and make everything work together.

Also, it's not the right platform for ecommerce—WordPress doesn't offer any built-in ecommerce features, tools, or support, so trying to sell anything would require jerryrigging a ton of third-party tools together.

Best For

I'd recommend WordPress for people whose businesses is built on content and who aren't afraid to get their hands a little dirty. Anyone who wants to use their website as a virtual store-front should steer clear.

There's another option we haven't discussed yet: working with a designer. Consider hiring someone if you're more concerned with saving time than money—or the thought of fussing around with code, colors, and columns is incredibly unappealing.

A professional designer can turn your vision into a reality and give you ideas and insights you would've never come up with on your own. They also help you create a site that's tailored to your objectives, personality, and aesthetic.

No matter which road you take, creating your own website is an exciting (and rewarding!) process. And hopefully, with these pointers, it'll be a relatively simple one as well.

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Thursday, March 29, 2018