According to Verisign’s 2013 small business survey, 71 percent of small businesses agree having a website has made it easier for customers to find their business1. More and more business owners are turning to free website builders as an easy and economical way to bring their business online. Created for the non-technical user, these tools provide easy-to-use templates that let you point and click your way to a new website. Building a successful site using these tools is easier by following these three guidelines before you start:
Identify your website needs
Websites can be as simple as a one-page flyer for your business, or as sophisticated as a multi-media marketing and sales hub. Determine your requirements before you begin building. Most free website builders are great options if you want to start simple with just a few pages, and offer varying levels of upgrade packages as you scale your website. Generally what is included in a free package versus a premium package will vary from provider to provider so knowing what you require now – and what you might need later – will help narrow down the list of potential website builders. Here’s a list of basic features to consider, and which are generally included in a free package versus an upgraded package which has an associated cost.
|Website Features||Typical Free Website Builder Package||Typical Upgraded Website Builder Package|
|# of pages in website||Usually 1 – 5 pages||More Pages|
|Website storage (for storing web images)||Enough for a simple site||More storage|
|Template & design||Yes||More templates & customization|
|Tools such as online forms, blogs, slideshows||Sometimes||Yes|
|Links to your social media pages||Yes||Yes|
|Video and audio players||No||Yes|
|Search engine submission||No||Yes|
|Mobile device optimization||No||Yes|
Pick a domain name
Your domain name will be your virtual address, and your online identity, on the web. Some website builders suggest skipping this step, offering to host your site on their domain. We recommend putting your website on your own domain name for the following reasons:
- Brands your business
- Gives you a consistent address on the web for customers to find you should you switch website providers
- Provides an easily remembered address to use for marketing
- Enables you to have a company-branded email through the domain name
Select the right website builder
Research, research, research. We recommend taking time to compare two to three different website builders. This will allow you to choose a tool that meets your requirements while increasing the likelihood you end up with additional free website features. It’s also helpful to understand what the premium packages are in case you scale your website with them in the future.
Remember not all tools are created equal, and selecting the right builder for your needs will save you time and frustration down the line. Many of the companies that sell domain names offer free website builders, or you can simply do an Internet search for ‘free site builders’ to find the top tools available now.
1. Verisign small business survey, 2013