About 71% of small businesses had websites in 2017, suggests a survey by Clutch, a business-to-business research firm. If you’re one of the remaining three out of 10, there’s no better time than the present to take the program – and get online.
Having a dedicated website can be essential to kick-start marketing efforts, promote consumer trust, and serve as a buying channel. Additionally, 56% of consumers say their buying decisions are driven, in part, by search engine queries, according to Forrester Consumer Technographics Q1 2017 data.
As for how to narrow down your options? If you’re looking to boost your online presence, here are some of the best platforms to start with.
Image credit: WordPress | Contractor
What we like: WordPress is a classic website builder that claims it powers over 31% of the web, and it has two iterations: WordPress.org and WordPress.com. The first allows you to download and install WordPress software for free on your own web server. It specializes in customization and flexibility: users can insert lines of code, create site applications, and allow different levels of access to site administrators, editors, and contributors. . But reviewers say flexibility can come at the expense of simplicity, which means if you’re looking for something simpler, you might want to give WordPress.com a try. The .com version takes care of all the website hosting for you. It also offers hundreds of templates, as well as plugins like contact forms, security scans, and media integrations.
What users say: One reviewer writes, “I’ve used both the .com and .org versions, and they’re equally robust and customer support is fast. There are a million plugins to choose from and you can either use a theme for your website or code it from scratch. Another says, “A novice can get started and experiment with the basic features of WordPress.com for free (highly recommended).”
Pricing: Options include Free, Personal ($48 per year), Premium ($96 per year), and Business ($300 per year) at WordPress.com
Image credit: Wix | Contractor
What we like: There’s a reason review site Wirecutter chose Wix as their top choice for small business website builders. At last count, it offers 572 building template choices, along with plugins for OpenTable, Google Maps, appointment booking, and more. What if you’re design shy? Consider trying out Wix’s Artificial Design Intelligence (ADI), which automatically designs your website after answering a few questions.
What users say: One reviewer writes, “There aren’t enough words to emotionally describe how much I love Wix and their website building platform…I feel very comfortable with the Wix website editor . Everything is laid out in front of you, and there are very few page limitations. Another said, “After spending many hours researching the best entry-level website development platform, I made the decision to go with Wix…I quickly created and completed my own website in as little as a week, for free.”
Pricing: Options include Connect Domain ($5 per month), Combo ($11 per month), Unlimited ($14 per month), E-Commerce ($17 per month), and VIP ($25 per month) at Wix.com
Image credit: Weebly | Contractor
What we like: Weebly is one of the most cost-effective options for a small business website – not only does it have a free version, but its paid options start at $4 per month and top out at $25. The automaker offers just under 60 model options at last count – significantly fewer than its competitors – but what it lacks in versatility it makes up for in simplicity. Its editing tools are relatively easy to navigate and the user interface is straightforward.
What users say: One reviewer writes, “I struggled with my organization for years to get a website that looked good and was affordable. After three pro attempts at sites, we switched to Weebly…Best of all, it looks really good, especially for what we’re paying!” Another said, “It’s quick, easy and it does the work… If you just need a clean, basic website that communicates what you need to say and you don’t want to waste a lot of time doing it, this is a good choice.’
Pricing: Options include Free, Connect ($4 per month), Starter ($8 per month), Pro ($12 per month), and Business ($25 per month) at Weebly.com
Image credit: Squarespace | Contractor
What we like: Specializing in simple, clean design for categories like art/design, fashion/beauty, health/fitness and more, Squarespace offers around 70 template options and 24/7 customer support – and there are no bandwidth or storage limits. Another advantage? The builder offers purpose-built e-commerce tools, such as unlimited product catalogs, drag-and-drop sorting tools for merchandise, and the ability to send email reminders to customers who have abandoned checkout before procurement. Squarespace has a host of celebrity clients, including John Malkovich, Keanu Reeves, and Leon Bridges.
What users say: One reviewer writes, “I’ve used other drag and drop website builders in the past and although the layouts looked fine when I was editing them, once I viewed them live and on different devices, there were always problems. With Squarespace’s platform, my site always looks exactly how I expect it to. Another said: “Their software is usually very simple and can be figured out with a few quick searches, but the few times I didn’t know what to do, they were there for me and literally walked me through step by step how to do it. whatever.”
Pricing: Options include Personal ($16 per month or $144 per year) and Business ($26 per month or $216 per year) at Squarespace.com
Image credit: Shopify | Contractor
What we like: Shopify is something of an industry darling when it comes to selling goods online. Most website builders have built-in e-commerce tools, but Shopify’s 24/7 customer service, payment processing, and analytics help it stand out in its own right. Customers can create and customize their website through Shopify’s range of templates, although more expensive than competitors (10 free options and 56 paid options). Something else to note: if you go with another website builder and aren’t happy with their e-commerce tools, you can still sell using Shopify by embedding their “buy button” on many others. platforms (WordPress, Squarespace and others).
What users say: One reviewer writes, “If you want to stick to the basics and need a clean and responsive ecommerce site, then Shopify is for you. No programming knowledge is required and there are many quality templates to choose from. Another said: “Amazing customer service. Shopify is totally unmatched in this regard. Their live chat option is not only convenient, but also staffed by people who actually know what they’re talking about!”
Pricing: Options include Basic Shopify ($29 per month), Shopify ($79 per month), and Advanced Shopify ($299 per month) at Shopify.com