There’s no new news in saying that every small business needs an online presence. Whether you’re a coffee shop, retail boutique, or professional services—a website is crucial for your business. It’s not just a digital placeholder; it’s a dynamic tool that can unlock doors to growth, credibility, and a wider customer base.
Yet, 1 in 3 small businesses still don’t have a website or even a landing page. Of those, 20% rely on social media. But it shouldn’t be a case of one vs. the other.
At its most basic, a website is a place to create the brand narrative, tell your business story clearly, and give you an online brand presence. Step it up a notch, and it is a sales machine, fully kitted out with SEO tools and eCommerce features to drive online sales and nurture new site visitors into long-term customers. It also requires much less upkeep than a social profile.
Building a website has gone from a thousand-dollar outsourced web design project to a tiny web hosting fee, sometimes even a free, do-it-yourself (DIY) task.
Let’s examine the features, functionalities, and suitability of today’s website builders and what they bring to the table for small businesses in various industries.
- No matter the industry, every small business needs a website.
- Website builders allow freelancers, entrepreneurs, bloggers, and businesses to create websites without the need for advanced technical skills or coding knowledge.
- The current range of website builders on the market caters to every possible business need, from simple free solutions to feature-rich business and eCommerce site builders.
What is a Website Builder?
A website builder is a software tool or online platform that allows freelancers, entrepreneurs, bloggers, and businesses to create websites without the need for advanced technical skills or coding knowledge. It simplifies the process of designing, building, and launching a website by offering a user-friendly interface and pre-designed templates.
Not that long ago, these simple drag-and-drop business website builders were primarily used by bloggers and small businesses. Today, they’ve become so feature-rich and effective that they’re the go-to, even for top-tier enterprise organizations.
Criteria for Choosing a Website Builder
Not all website builders are equal. Small business owners need to consider a range of factors that will determine which aligns with the specific needs and goals of the business. These factors are:
Ease of use
A top factor is how user-friendly the website builder’s interface is. It should facilitate intuitive navigation, drag-and-drop functionality, and straightforward editing options. A steep learning curve can be a deterrent, especially for beginners.
Ease of use is extremely important. Unless you have a technical background, your expertise as a small business owner lies in creating products, serving customers, or running your company. As such, your website builder must empower you to focus on your strengths, rather than having to worry about the techie bits.
Website builders often offer tiered pricing plans, each with varying features and capabilities. Owners should consider the budget and the features required. Some builders offer free plans with limited features, while others provide premium plans with more advanced tools. Pricing should be evaluated in terms of long-term sustainability and value. Also, check for setup fees, free trials, and money-back guarantees.
The level of customization provided by your web solution can significantly impact the uniqueness and functionality of the website. Opt for website builders that allow for extensive personalization of templates that enable you to align the site with your brand’s identity. The ability to tweak layouts, fonts, colors, etc., is crucial for achieving a tailored look.
Integration with business tools
For businesses, seamless integration with essential apps or software is vital. These tools should include integrations with social media platforms, eCommerce platforms, payment gateways, email marketing services, customer relationship management (CRM) software, and other tools to operate efficiently.
A good website builder should offer built-in SEO tools, including the ability to add meta tags, customize URLs, and optimize images for faster loading times. Some builders also provide guidance on creating search engine-friendly content.
While website builders make it easy to launch a website, it can still be complicated for site-building newbies to navigate these new platforms. Responsive customer support is essential to round out the overall site building ease.
In addition to multiple support channels, such as live chat, email, and phone support, a documentation and resource hub is a huge plus. Tutorials and FAQs give businesses the information they need to keep the website-building process beginner friendly.
A website is the long-term face of the business. As such, it should be built with long-term potential in mind. Owners need to consider if it will accommodate the business’s needs as it grows. That means adding more pages, products, and functionalities overtime.
To that end, be sure to compare site builders on the features you need today and in the future.
Pro tip: those with add-ons and different plan options will have the most flexibility to grow and change with your organization.
Templates and designs
Some web builders have more website templates and design options than others. You should investigate which builders have templates and website designs that reflect the visual aesthetic of your business. The right template can save time and effort in the initial setup, reducing the need for customization, which may not be in the wheelhouse of every owner.
Top 10 Small Business Website Builders
Now that we’ve covered the basics of website builders, let’s look at some of the top solutions you can consider:
Wix is a versatile website builder known for its drag-and-drop interface and a wide range of customizable templates.
- Features: Extensive app market, eCommerce capabilities, SEO tools, blogging features, mobile responsiveness.
- Pros: User-friendly interface, robust customization options, great for various types of websites.
- Cons: Design limitations with advanced customization, switching templates can be challenging.
- Pricing: Offers a Light plan for $16/month with premium plans ranging from $27-32/month.
Squarespace offers elegant templates and is ideal for businesses that prioritize aesthetics.
- Features: Beautiful templates, eCommerce functionality, blogging capabilities, and built-in SEO features.
- Pros: Stylish designs, all-in-one platform, high-quality visuals.
- Cons: Learning curve for beginners, limited third-party integrations.
- Pricing: Plans start at $16/month, with eCommerce plans ranging from $27 and $49/month.
Shopify is the go-to website builder for eCommerce-only sites, providing tools to create online stores.
- Features: Extensive eCommerce tools, inventory management, secure checkout, app and app store integrations.
- Pros: Dedicated to eCommerce, excellent sales features, scalability.
- Cons: Transaction fees on lower-tier plans can be expensive for small businesses.
- Pricing: Basic plan starts at $39/month, going up to $105/month for small businesses.
Square Online (Formerly Weebly)
Square Online is known for its simplicity and beginner-friendly features.
- Features: Drag-and-drop interface, eCommerce functionality, blogging tools, app center.
- Pros: Easy to use, suitable for beginners, affordable plans.
- Cons: Limited advanced features compared to other builders, fewer templates.
- Pricing: Plans start free and go up to $79/month for the Premium plan.
WordPress.com is a hosted version of the popular WordPress.org content management system.
- Features: Customizable templates, blogging features, plugin options, and eCommerce capability.
- Pros: Offers more flexibility and control than other website builders and has a vast plugin ecosystem.
- Cons: Learning curve for beginners, can require some technical know-how.
- Pricing: Plans range from free to $5/month for a personal site and up to $59/month for eCommerce sites.
GoDaddy Website Builder
GoDaddy offers an easy-to-use website builder with hosting services.
- Features: Drag-and-drop editor, eCommerce functionality, built-in marketing tools, SSL certificate.
- Pros: Simple setup, good for beginners, integration with GoDaddy’s domain name and hosting services.
- Cons: Limited design flexibility, fewer advanced features compared to other builders.
- Pricing: Basic plan starts at $18.95/month, eCommerce plans go up to $39.95/month.
Zyro focuses on easy website creation for those who want a simple website.
- Features: Intuitive drag-and-drop editing, versatile templates, AI-generated content, eCommerce tools, logo design, SEO basics, blog management, image galleries.
- Pros: User-friendly interface, AI assistance, affordable plans, eCommerce tools, logo maker.
- Cons: Limited customization, not suitable for complex projects.
- Pricing: $3.99/month Website plan and $6.89/month for the Business plan.
BigCommerce is another robust eCommerce platform offering advanced features for online stores.
- Features: Powerful eCommerce tools, SEO features, multichannel selling, secure checkout.
- Pros: Geared towards larger eCommerce businesses, extensive feature set, scalability.
- Cons: Learning curve for beginners, higher pricing compared to some other builders.
- Pricing: Plans start at $29.95/month for the Standard Plan, including one website, with higher-tier plans available, such as the Plus Plan, for $79/month, including marketing solutions.
Gator Website Builder
HostGator’s Gator Website Builder caters to individuals and small businesses seeking a straightforward online presence.
- Features: User-friendly drag-and-drop editor, diverse customizable templates, eCommerce capabilities, mobile optimization, blog management, basic SEO tools.
- Pros: Beginner-friendly interface, affordability, eCommerce integration, mobile optimization, responsive customer support.
- Cons: Limited customization for intricate designs, might not suit complex project requirements.
- Pricing: Gator has an introductory plan of $4.95/month for a single website and then has plans going up to include marketing ($7.95/month) and online stores ($13.95/month).
Volusion is a comprehensive eCommerce website builder tailored to businesses seeking robust online stores.
- Features: Extensive eCommerce tools, customizable templates, product management, secure checkout, payment gateways, SEO features, inventory tracking.
- Pros: Dedicated to eCommerce, advanced features for online stores, secure payment options, built-in SEO tools.
- Cons: Might have a steeper learning curve, focused primarily on eCommerce, pricing can be higher for smaller businesses.
- Pricing: Plans start at $35/month for the Personal Plan and go up to $79/month for the Professional Plan and $209/month for the Business Plan.
Best Free Website Builder
Most website builders have a free version which will often have limited features but are excellent for those making their own website rather than having great business requirements.
|Platform||Custom Domain||Storage & Bandwidth||Templates||eCommerce||Third-Party Apps|
|Wix||Paid Domain||500 MB||800+||Limited||Available|
|Squarespace||Paid Domain||Unlimited Storage||100+||Limited||Limited|
|Shopify||Paid Domain||Unlimited Storage||70+||Full||Extensive|
|Square Online||Free Domain||Unlimited Storage||Customizable||Full||Limited|
|WordPress||Paid Domain||3 GB||Limited||Limited||Limited|
|GoDaddy||Paid Domain||Unlimited Storage||300+||Limited||Limited|
|Zyro||Free Domain||500 MB||70+||Limited||Limited|
|BigCommerce||Paid Domain||Unlimited Storage||100+||Full||Limited|
|Gator Website Builder||Paid Domain||Unlimited Storage||Diverse||Full||Available|
|Volusion||Paid Domain||Unlimited Storage||11+||Full||Available|
Most Customizable Website Builder
CSS and HTML-free high customization capabilities often come with pro plans giving businesses greater access to other features like Wix’s Artificial Design Intelligence (ADI) or PayPal and credit card integrations.
|Platform||Drag-and-Drop||Code Customization||Design Flexibility||Third-Party Integrations|
|Gator Website Builder||Yes||Yes||Limited||Available|
Best eCommerce Website Builder
eCommerce sites have the most complex and demanding needs of all website types. Setting up the eCommerce store and shopping cart needs to be seamless and full of features.
|Platform||Product Management||Payment Gateways||Checkout Options||Inventory Tracking|
|Gator Website Builder||Limited||Limited||Limited||Limited|
Best Business Plan
Unlike free or personal plans, merchants looking to drive business through their website will need a paid plan of some sort that gets them the best insights and tools to get attention online. Google Analytics and page ranking insights should come as a standard.
|Platform||Business Templates||SEO Tools||Analytics||Customer Support||CRM Integration|
|Gator Website Builder||Yes||Yes||Yes||Email/Chat||Limited|
Tips for Building a Successful Business Website
Select the right template
The website template is the face of the business. So, take some time to view and compare different website templates, styles, and layouts. The right one must align with your business identity and goals. Look for a template that suits your industry, style, and desired functionality.
Publish relevant content
Clear and concise content conveys your message and value proposition. Your content should state what products or services are offered and how they solve your customers’ problems. Make it a point to use language that resonates with the target audience.
Use high-quality images
Visuals play a crucial role in capturing visitors’ attention, and high-quality images help you do just that. Striking imagery helps in showcasing your products, services, or team in the best light. Professional photos also establish credibility and create a positive first impression.
Use effective call-to-action (CTA) buttons
Strategically place call-to-action buttons throughout your website to guide visitors toward desired actions, such as making a purchase, signing up for a newsletter, or requesting a quote. Make CTAs visually distinct and use compelling language.
Don’t forget about mobile optimization
All website builders will be mobile responsive, meaning that the site will automatically alter the layout slightly to fit the screen on whatever device the viewer is on. However, not all designs look good on all device layouts. It’s important that you check what the site looks like on all devices before putting it out online.
Implement consistent branding
Attention to detail, like maintaining consistent branding elements such as colors, fonts, and logos throughout the website, goes a long way in building a strong, professional reputation. This branding should also be consistent elsewhere online, such as on social media.
No matter the industry, every small business needs a website. Free options like Square Online and WordPress are excellent free options for freelancers or small businesses with minimal needs. But the possibilities are really endless. Website builders like Shopify and BigCommerce power the eCommerce industry, and builders like Volusion offer businesses the insights to go further.
At the end of the day, remember that it’s not just about the tools. It’s also how they align with your business goals, branding, and user experience. A strong idea of your business needs and branding aesthetics will make it easy for you to identify the best solution.
FAQs about Website Builder
Q: What does a website bring to a small business?
A website brings growth, credibility, and a wider customer base to a small business. It’s also a crucial tool for creating brand narratives, driving online sales, and maintaining a low-maintenance digital profile.
Q: How does a website builder work?
A website builder is a software tool or online platform that simplifies the process of designing, building, and launching a website. It often provides user-friendly interfaces and pre-designed templates, thereby eliminating the need for advanced technical skills or coding knowledge.
Q: What should a small business consider when choosing a website builder?
Businesses should consider ease of use, pricing, customization options, integration with business tools, SEO features, customer support, and scalability before choosing a website builder.
Q: What are the top 10 small business website builders?
Some top small business website builders are Wix, Squarespace, Shopify, Square Online, WordPress.com, GoDaddy Website Builder, Zyro, BigCommerce, Gator Website Builder, and Volusion.
Q: Which website builders offer free plans?
Wix, Squarespace, Shopify, Square Online, WordPress.com, GoDaddy, Zyro, BigCommerce, Gator Website Builder, and Volusion all offer free versions of their websites, often limited in functionalities.
Q: Which website builders are the most customizable?
Website builders like Wix, Squarespace, WordPress.com, Zyro, and Gator Website Builder are highly customizable with drag-and-drop functionalities and code customization options.
Q: Which website builders are the best for eCommerce?
Shopify, Square Online, BigCommerce, and Volusion are widely regarded for their extensive eCommerce tools, from product management and secure payment gateways to inventory tracking.
Q: What tips should businesses consider while building a website?
Businesses should select the right template, publish relevant content, use high-quality images, place effective call-to-action buttons strategically, implement consistent branding, and ensure mobile optimization for a successful business website.
Q: What are some of the best website builders for small businesses according to industry experts and users?
According to various sources, Wix, Squarespace, Shopify, and GoDaddy are among the top rated website builders for small businesses due to their ease of use, diverse functionalities, and affordable pricing plans.
Q: How do website builders support SEO for small businesses?
Many website builders offer built-in SEO tools. Features might include the ability to add meta tags, customize URLs, optimize images for faster loading times, and guidance on creating search engine-friendly content.