Last Updated: February 24th, 2021
Building a website is an important life decision for any startup founder, entrepreneur or ambitious creative.
Creating a site is many of the following:
- fun (it’s the exciting part of starting a business)
- a branding journey
- lifechanging in showcasing your business to the world
As someone who has worked with entrepreneurs and startup teams to create websites for several years, I’ve been around a few different website builders that are worth checking out.
Should I Use A Website Builder or Not?
The first question to ask yourself is…do I actually need a website?
Many people charge headfirst on spending and tearing out their hair on designing and building out a website when they could have gone the route of something more simple.
Here are some platforms to consider first, before aiming for a website.
If you’re a writer who doesn’t want the hassle of a site but still wants to get paid for your views, aim for a platform like Medium.
If you want people to support you through subscription paywalls for content, aim for Patreon.
If you want to start a cash-generating affiliate email list, check out Substack.
Want to start an email or launch list? You can manage an email list, plus get a gorgeous opt-in landing page in Active Campaign, Mailerlite, or ConvertKit. (Any email service provider with landing pages listed as part of their plans.)
If you’re a coach, you can avoid a website completely by booking calls and sessions through Calendly on their free plan.
So ask yourself, my future website-building comrade…
Do you need a website?
Once you’ve answered that question with a certain “yes”, you can proceed with picking a website builder.
What’s a website builder?
Overall, a website builder is one of the easiest ways to get your site up and running in a small amount of time when you’re bootstrapping your business from day one. (That’s most of us, am I right?)
In general, website builders allow you to drag and drop different elements in place to create your website in a relatively straightforward way.
Typically, all you need to do is to pop in your text, images and pick the colors and styling or select a builder’s pre-determined theme from a theme library.
Are website builders worth it?
Short answer – yes.
Generally speaking, you don’t need coding knowledge or design skills.
For website builders, they combine a lot of the initial needs for a site, including hosting, website design, and custom domain registration.
With tech being a common headache for many entrepreneurs, this saves a few Advil.
It also saves you immense time and thousands of dollars working with someone to code and custom develop your website.
We’re talking about saving anywhere from $5000 for the more basic projects to 20k for a full-blown multi-page site. That’s usually in the vast range of how much a website costs to custom build from scratch.
Custom building a website can also take several weeks to months.
In a website builder, you can take anywhere from 30 minutes to a couple of days to launch your site.
How to Choose the Best Website Builder
Overall, here are the main points for you to consider:
- What are you selling/offering?
- Do you need e-commerce tools?
- What does your monthly budget look like for investing in a site builder?
- What’s your knowledge level in designing a site with a website builder?
- Are you seeking strong SEO potential?
Below, I list website builders based on the best use case, ease of use (whether or not they have a major learning curve), notable capabilities, price, and, if applicable, support.
I also sprinkle in a few tidbits it benefits you to know.
The best e-commerce site builder to create online stores is undeniably Shopify. It’s THE eCommerce website builder.
It’s comprehensive, easy to use, and integrates with just about any other e-commerce tool you can imagine. With Shopify and its integrations, you can fulfill, track, and better the user experience for your prospective customers.
There’s so much to be done with Shopify, even if you’re not selling clothes, physical goods, or even selling online. You can still take advantage of Shopify’s ease of experience in building out a proper site.
To start out your site-building experience, they have ready-made templated themes, domain registration, and free SSL certificates (the security “padlock” in the search bar of your site).
This is in addition to several features to make SEO easy and achievable with meta descriptions and alt text that’s easy to add.
Shopify also has a tool to provide you with images for commercial use for business websites, called Burst By Shopify.
This resource is free and available to anyone using any website builder, so take advantage of the polished free images on Burst by Shopify. This is a great way to get a leg up with free and very polished photos to wow your customers.
On a per-month basis, you should anticipate spending $29 for the Shopify Basic plan which includes most of what you need to get started.
If you interlink with extra features or tools through Shopify, like Shoelace or Klayviyo (email tools), etc. you should expect to see these recurring subscriptions added to your monthly bill.
You can also opt to have your subscriptions be deducted from your profits to your store, which can be helpful when subscription fees come due.
Best Platform for SEO & Monetization
WordPress is the leading builder for SEO (search engine optimization) being in mind.
Your business’ organic reach is dependent on how you show up in search engines.
SEO is your answer to reach those people without paying for advertising.
For SEO reasons, WordPress is the go-to for many individuals, from business owners and startups to bloggers.
The platform makes SEO easy and WordPress also comes with a free SEO tool called Yoast.
The WordPress platform also *casually* powers a third of the Internet. As a result, there are plenty of tutorials, videos, Facebook groups, and resources out there to lend support.
There are also many spots that will help you sign up and create your site. For how I got my site set up, you can check out my recommendations here.
Similar to other builders, WordPress offers a selection of templates and themes. After picking a theme, you can move on to inputting your content and customizing it.
The other aspect of WordPress is that it requires a little maintenance.
You’ll need to log in (approximately every week or so) to update your plugins, themes, and the latest version of WordPress itself (this takes a few clicks). This also keeps your site secure. WordPress will email you to let you know what needs an update.
Additionally, you’ll need to renew your domain and hosting on a yearly basis with your hosting provider.
While WordPress requires a little extra legwork, it does come with the benefit of being one of the cheapest website builders that you can possibly use.
If you were to use a hosting provider like BlueHost, you can potentially get your site up and running for less than $4 a month.
The final point is the monetization piece.
WordPress is the best platform to build an affiliate website. You have more ability to place ads and make money on your site on your terms. This is compared with other website builders that tend to have more limiting Terms of Service to do this (i.e. Wix).
If you’re a blogger, this is especially critical to understand before setting up shop elsewhere.
For a business owner, your monetization comes from you sharing content with SEO practices in place to get that free advertising on Google. In that, WordPress is your best friend.
Squarespace is one of the more popular options by being a very design-friendly website platform. It’s also been around for almost 20 years now. (Crazy to think how long ago 2003 was…)
From some of the website builders that I’ve seen, they come bearing an eye-catching selection of templates, elements, and designs. You’d be hard-pressed to not find a great theme for your website.
The templates they have are also fairly flexible to your changes and needs in terms of branding to the way that you want.
You also get a fairly great blogging experience that only plays second fiddle to WordPress for some of the reasons I stated above in terms of SEO and monetization potential on various fronts.
The monthly plan for Squarespace starts out at $12/monthly and comes with a free custom domain name of your choice for the first year and a free SSL certificate. (If you opt for Squarespace’s per-month pricing plan, that comes out to $16 per month.)
In general, when it comes to monthly versus annual investments on your site, I recommend purchasing for the year unless you are explicitly working on a relatively shorter-term project (like a portfolio or planning a wedding).
With the design layouts, Squarespace makes a great statement to customers if you are offering professional services, building a travel website, or showcasing photography.
Squarespace is also known for having fairly good support. Throughout the process, you have someone to chat with regarding issues on your site, which is a major blessing if tech frustrates you to no end.
The other piece of Squarespace is your ability to connect with a community of web developers and designers to help you.
While this is not included in the monthly pricing of Squarespace this is a great chance to see prior existing website stylings, gain inspiration and reach out to other professionals.
Get guidance in your efforts later in your journey if you want to upgrade your site and presence.
In general, it is best to try creating your site hands-on and then determine when and where you want to invest in design and development help.
Regarding SEO, Squarespace has a few items to bear in mind.
Squarespace may have some issues with redirection potential. Meaning if you change your domain (www.mysite.com) and need to change all your pages and posts to be on that new domain (www.website.com), it can lead to some goofs.
This may relate to links to your pages and posts being broken if you’ve shared them on other sites and social media. And you may lose site traffic and search engine ranking as well if the redirects are not organized properly.
The award for ease in website building goes to Weebly.
This site builder really sets the standard for a small learning curve when it comes to using a builder. They also include guides and how-tos to get you started in less time.
For the price and how simple the editor is, you gain a site with advanced effects to rival custom-developed sites and builder competitors.
Like other sites, Weebly does allow you to purchase your own custom domain to get your dream company site out into the world. Otherwise, you can transfer a domain you purchased elsewhere easily.
Similar to Shopify, they also have powerful e-commerce tools to help you sell your products online.
This includes tools for inventory management, order fulfillment, and processing payments and returns.
If you’re not relying on the Burst By Shopify for site photos, you can lean into the Photo Studio tool on Weebly.
Send in your products, have them photographed at competitive pricing and gain gorgeous photos for your site. How cool is that?
With their various plans, you can also get access to marketing tools, like Facebook and analytics to help power your business growth.
As a bonus, Weebly also offers support through a Customer success team through email, chats, and by phone. Even if you’re on their free plan, you still get chat and email support.
In terms of pricing, you can get away with a free site.
This means multiple pages, unlimited products, coupons, inventory management, and gift cards (since they are part of Square’s suite of products).
You’re probably wondering…why would I ever pay?
If you’re a business that wants to put your best foot forward and appear professional, it’s essential to have a custom domain and pay the $6 per month (if annually charged) at the Personal Plan level.
This means your domain and site are not branded with Weebly-related advertising.
If you’re getting really serious, they have their Professional Plan for business owners at $12 per month (billed annually).
This comes with a free domain, unlimited storage, site stats, the ability to remove Square advertising (their partner), phone support, and a wealth of other perks.
Duda has many specific perks that make it competitive with other larger platforms.
It’s fit for designers and developers with numerous design control capabilities. You can even edit the site based on the specific device you want to optimize the website view for future customers.
Duda also allows team collaboration in building out your site. Team members can leave comments on the website elements on pages in the design stages. There’s no need for shuffling Google Docs of notes back and forth.
A huge part of what makes Duda stand out is the ability to support over 55 languages on your site.
You can also easily edit and all changes are reflected across every language you support. If you ever need to make changes to automatic translations from Google Translate, that’s easy to do as well.
As with other platforms, you get the SEO capabilities of adding alt text and meta descriptions. Like WordPress, you can generate sitemaps and edit URLs with ease.
Pricing includes a free SSL certification, hosting through Amazon Web Services (AWS), site backups of your content, and access to privacy and cookie templates that already make you GDPR compliant – so your life is made easier.
Another interesting point about Duda is that if you are a domain provider or hosting platform, Duda offers white-labeling for their website building for your clients.