How to Build a Business Website for Free

By Ian Heinig / 26 March 2018

Nearly 40% of small businesses use a website builder. Read below for a quick guide to the best website builders for your small business needs.

These days, the customer journey begins with online research. A robust website for your business is an essential part of getting found, educating your audience, and converting your customers.

Nearly 30% of small businesses spend less than $500 on their website, according to a survey by the B2B reviews site, Clutch. Of those surveyed, 36% of small businesses report using a website builder.

Website builders are a valuable and cost-effective tool for establishing and managing a web presence. 

So, how do you choose which website builder is best for your business?

We discuss how to create a small business website for free and review the top website builders to provide the relevant data you need for building an effective DIY website. 

Here’s what to expect: Determine your website needs, and choose from the leading free website builders:

  • Squarespace
  • Wix
  • Weebly
  • Shopify
  • WordPress

1. Determine What Your Website Needs

How you build a business website depends on your customers, marketing strategy, and product or service. 

Uploading videos and blogging? Opt for a platform that offers versatile design elements. Selling merchandise? You’ll want a platform that can process payments. Looking to optimize your website and run numerous marketing campaigns? Aim for a feature-rich and customizable option. 

Your website should be easy for you to use

Often, greater website functionality leads to a more challenging user interface. For example, WordPress gives you endless options – but can be difficult to use effectively.

However, if you know how to code or have tech-savvy friends, a more complex platform might be manageable. Consider your business aims, your digital skills, and how much time you can devote to learning a new platform.

Every website builder will do the following:

  • Help you get found online 
  • Build trust and credibility for your company
  • Educate people about your product or service
  • Inform prospects about how to solve their problems (with content marketing)
  • Link to your social media accounts
  • Nurture leads with email marketing campaigns 
  • Convert prospects to leads and leads to customers (via email signups, gated downloads, and web store purchases)

2. Choose a Website Builder

Let’s look at the web platforms that help you create a free business website. These services offer a range of DIY template designs, each with varying degrees of customization. 

While the setup is free, there is a small monthly service charge.

Squarespace Offers Elegant Templates, Lacks Mobile Editing

Screenshot of Squarespace website

Squarespace is website builder known for its beautiful templates. 

Each theme comes preloaded with features and design elements, so there are certain limitations to what each design will do.

The Squarespace user interface is easy to navigate, though less intuitive than other drag-and-drop platforms. It’s well-suited for blogs, e-commerce, and creative portfolios

Squarespace offers 24/7 live, interactive chat and a library of articles and videos to assist with any issues.

Squarespace logo

Squarespace Pros

  • Accepts web store payments via Paypal, Stripe, and Apple Pay.
  • Offers Squarespace Analytics to track website metrics.
  • Customizes your web address for optimal search performance and submits your sitemap to Google Webmaster Tools for search engine optimization (SEO).
  • Allows you to export your web data if you’re ready to migrate to a more robust web platform (rather than re-create your entire site).

Squarespace Cons

  • Lacks a dedicated mobile editor, so you can’t create a separate website for desktop and mobile browsers. Certain elements will be un-optimized for mobile without tweaks.

Pricing: Business plans start at $18 per month and reach $46 per month for the advanced ecommerce options.

Wix Offers Functionality, Requires Creativity  

Screenshot of Wix website

Wix is a black canvas website builder that boasts over 119 million users

You can craft an entirely custom website by picking all your features and layouts from the drag-and-drop editor. While this leads to impressive functionality, the lack of structure may be overwhelming to less design-oriented users.

Like Squarespace, these sites work well for blogs, ecommerce shops, and member-aligned sites.

Wix logo

Wix Pros

  • Can create custom actions based on website behavior to make your site more interactive (for example, can show only first-time visitors a video).
  • Generates SEO-optimized pages with page URL customizer.
  • Can create mobile-friendly sites with the Mobile Editor.
  • Can boost website functionality by downloading plugins from the massive Wix App Market.

Wix Cons

  • Zero access to HTML or CSS code for edits or exports.
  • Unable to upload your own video for use as a background.
  • Limited photo customization, since there’s no photo editor.
  • Lacks live chat support.
  • Certain web templates aren’t mobile responsive.
  • No template switching without recreating the entire website.

Pricing: Plans range anywhere from $10-$25 per month, depending on your website needs.

Weebly Offers Ease But At Cost, Limits Functionality

Screenshot of Weebly website

Weebly is a drag-and-drop website builder with 40 pre-designed themes. Created with non-technical users in mind, it’s easy to use and cost-effective. 

While customizable, the design interface only allows alterations in certain predetermined areas. However, if you’re feeling adventurous, Weebly allows you to edit your website code (unlike Wix or Squarespace). 

These functionalities will suit entrepreneurs, ecommerce brands, and small businesses.

Since the platform offers a free version, you can also trial it before sign-up.

Weebly logo

Weebly Pros

  • Automatically create a mobile-responsive version of your website.
  • Hosting costs and routine site updates and maintenance are included.
  • Export and download your site data for off-site backup, editing, or migration.

Weebly Cons

  • Drag-and-drop feature is limited. For example, column width is fixed without using code.
  • Limited integrations and innovative features.
  • Blogging feature is lacking in functionality.

Pricing: Basic packages start at $8 per month. Full-featured packages cost $25 per month.

Shopify Enables Sales, Incurs Added Costs

Screenshot of Shopify website

Shopify is the leading ecommerce web store and offers 100 beautiful templates. 

With over 1,200 native app integrations available, it’s a highly functional choice that frees you from the hassle of coding. 

Shopify provides a complete online merchant toolkit, including 70 different payment processors for different countries. It also allows you to turn phones and tablets into a point-of-sale terminal.  

Businesses looking for a web store – whether basic or robust – will enjoy the practical ease of Shopify. However, other website builders may be less expensive.

Shopify logo

Shopify Pros

  • 24/7 live support via chat, phone, or email.
  • Use the integrated cart abandonment tool to follow up with prospects and close the sale.
  • Offers mobile-responsive web templates.
  • Fully managed web hosting.

Shopify Cons

  • Payment processing costs 0.5 - 2% per transaction unless you use Shopify Payments.
  • App store costs can accumulate, as many charge per month.
  • Full customization requires the use of “Liquid” code language.

Pricing: The basic package is $29 per month. The advanced packages run $299 per month.

WordPress is Limitless, Demands Time and Energy

Screenshot of WordPress website

WordPress is a massively popular open-source website creation tool.

With thousands of plugins, this platform excels for those with a content-driven web presence. Given its full code-editing capabilities, you’ll need time and patience to learn how to customize your perfect website. 

However, if you’re tech-fluent or willing to hire a developer, WordPress is a completely bespoke and robust DIY website option.

WordPress logo

WordPress Pros

  • Offers absolute customization.
  • Choose from over 1,000 templates.
  • Design and feature elements are robust and varied.

WordPress Cons

  • Lacks an e-commerce option but offers multiple web store plugins and pairs with Shopify.
  • Requires regular updates, maintenance, and security checks.
  • Involves a steep learning curve and investment in time.

Pricing: WordPress is “free.” However, you may end up hiring a web developer or designer to help customize the site. Certain plugins and themes will also cost extra.

How to Build a Business Website 

The best route for creating a cheap business website varies depending on your needs, your offering, and your fluency with technology. 

Website builders range from bare-bones to bespoke, so it’s best to find the solution you’re most comfortable working with. 

As your business needs evolve, you can always migrate to a different platform.

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