Great article, comments and discussion thread...thanks to everyone. My question is which of the site builders would be best for constructing a service business (versus selling and shipping a product) where different service event activity dates/times must be scheduled, payments processed and confirmations and follow-up details sent after purchase? Appreciate your insight. Thx!

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Then there are a few providers who offer only dated or unattractive layouts on their free plans, and keep the good designs for their paid plans. Also, free web page builders will restrict the number of pages you can build and keep their most advanced features for paying customers. Webstarts, for example, even blocks your visitors from seeing a mobile-optimized view when accessing the site via a smartphone.

Great review, Robert! I was wondering what’s your opinion about SitePad website builder? I’m thinking of creating a website for my restaurant and I saw that this website builder is included in the web hosting plans by BGOcloud, which I will opt for. Have you tried SitePad? If yes, can you say whether it is relatively easy-to-use? Thanks in advance!
One downside of most of these services is that, should you someday want to move to another web host, you'll likely be out of luck because of the custom code they use to display your site. Only a few of the services here let you take your site to another web hosting service: The most complete example of this is Weebly, which lets you download the standard site server folders. Squarespace offers some transferability by letting you output your site in standard WordPress format. As you might expect, the same transferability holds for WordPress.com.
You have probably heard about the Wix web builder, when the company advertised their product during the 2015 SuperBowl games. As a publilcy traded company and market leaders, they aggressively advertise their product, neglecting the fact the the main product is free of charge. If the name Weebly rings a bell, it could be the fact that Tim Ferris, publisher of several best selling books and a top tier consultant recommends it with passion, stating it is one of the top website builders available, helping him build a fully functional web site in less than 2 hours. The rest are widely known as well, may it be for Ecommerce uses, or being a leading internet services company like Web, which is publicly traded at the NASDAQ stock exchange.

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Google recently revamped their website builder Google Sites. Now it’s a cleaner, more modern looking affair. After playing around with it for a few minutes, you will notice two things: 1) that it’s super easy to use; 2) that there are hardly any features: you can choose from six templates that all look pretty bare when you start building as there is no sample content at all. It seems to be possible to connect a domain name via Google MyBusiness, but then you have to be a business with a physical address.

For most users, free themes are the best place to start. When you install a new theme, it doesn’t change the content on your site, only the layout. This means you can download and install a number of different themes to see which theme suits you best. If you feel like you need something more advanced than a free theme, you can always install a paid theme at a later date.
Arguably one of the most flexible and easy-to-use builders, Site123 lets you customize anything and offers a one-click installation wizard with graphics and templates. Site123 stands out as particularly helpful with its free images library, professional fonts to add visual elements to your site, and creative DIY plans for creating multiple pages (which are unlimited). Plus, since it offers web hosting domain registration, 500 MB storage space, Google Analytics, and is ad-free, you won't feel pressured to switch to a paid plan.
The first thing you need to do is choose what website platform to build your website on. There are many different CMS (content management systems) to choose from and choosing the right platform is a top priority. You don’t want to start building your site on a CMS platform to find out that it’s totally wrong for you and your site. There’s a load of free website building platforms that you could use, but these free websites aren’t great for the long term. You’re restricted to using their own hosting and their own sub-domain ( yourwebsite.freewebsitecompany.com ).
These services can host your content on their servers free of charge, but in exchange for that zero cost, your online destination will have a less-than-elegant domain, such as jeffreylwilson.tumblr.com. That might be fine for a personal blog, but it will look too low-rent for a business that wants people to trust it enough to pay for whatever it's selling.
What we like: their eye for design. One of the biggest advantages is that there are hundreds of well-designed templates that you can use for free. Adapting them to your needs is super easy. And then there is the huge range of features. Thanks to their App Market you can easily add new features to your website (ex. a newsletter subscription, an events calendar, a forum etc.).
I had a website with domain and hosting at godaddy. My site was deleted completely by godaddy due to a problem in payment processing of my hosting fees. I do have a backup of that website on my desktop. My domain is still registered with godaddy. My question is: I want to revise my site on my desktop before uploading to any hosting provider. I want to make it a responsive design and mobile friendly site. How can I do the revision of my old site on my desktop so that I can finally upload it to my hosting provider?

What we liked: It’s cool that both their website builder and WordPress are supported for website creation. You can actually connect a domain name you purchased elsewhere with the free version. They have almost 200 templates to choose from and they are categorized by industry. Although their templates aren’t responsive, you can create dedicated versions of your site that will adapt to desktops, tablets and mobiles. Interestingly, they offer a way to easily create multilingual sites. And if you are a backup paranoid, be at rest: you’ll be able to download backups and even restore them.
Spark is pretty much the anti-Dreamweaver in that it’s as easy as it gets. But that has mainly to do with their limited feature set. Rather than building websites, it allows you to create a single web page. There’s no blog, store or any other business features. It does offer nice design possibilities and lets you create really nice galleries. But be aware – Adobe puts its brand top and bottom. To get rid of their ads you’ll have to pay around $10 monthly. Frankly, for this kind of money you are much better off with site builders like Wix or Ucraft.
With WebStarts the drag and drop editor provides a true 'what you see is what you get' experience. You're empowered to create a unique website that conveys the value of your products and services. In addition, WebStarts is jam packed with powerful features that would cost extra with our competitors. All of this is backed up with live support, based right here in the USA. Our friendly and knowledgeable staff is happy to help bring your website to completion.

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Thank you for writing this. I am about to start this endeavor. I have a couple questions that maybe you can help me with if you don't mind. First I am afraid of my idea getting out there and someone taking it. Is there a way to protect it? I have heard patents are not recommended for Web ideas. Also, my idea is an interactive one, not just a way to advertise etc. Not quite a game but maybe more so than just a web page. That's where my confusion really comes in. I am about to do exactly what you have recommended with the drag and drop but I am naively assuming it won't be something I can use with the public because of the interaction involved. I know I will need the program to watch out for many things and organize them as well. Any advice you can give me on that would be very appreciated.

While our competitors limit you to creating a boring static website, at WebStarts we give you the ability to build a website that includes rich, interactive features, we call them apps. Our integrated apps range from form builders, calendars, memberships, video hosting, music playlists, music stores, maps, SEO, and much more. These interactive apps are designed to help your website attract more visitors, capture more leads, and make your website more sticky.

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If those template customizations don’t look like enough for you (though if you’re building your first website, they will be), you might want to think about building your website on an open source platform like WordPress.org. You will get more flexibility, but if you’re not a coder, learning WordPress takes a lot of time — especially compared to drag-and-drop builders.

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"I am very happy that you guys released this, not only it is a great idea it was executed properly. I will use this to build a basic AMP site for a customer. i looked at the video and demo sites and was very happy with what could be done. I would really like for Mobirise team to add more widgets to your free website design software. I am confident that you will be at the top of the market if you add more functionality without loosing intuitiveness! What makes products like this great is many features but so easy to use Thanks!"

Hi Chad, Thanks for the great feedback I'm so glad you found it interesting! Depending on the level, scale and budget of your business, I would recommend using Wix. The Wix Bookings App means you can take bookings 24/7, accept secure payments, offer appointments, classes, workshops etc., sync with your Google Calendar, send out auto-reminder emails to clients, and manage your business right from your phone with the Wix Mobile App. You can use Wix Bookings for free, but you will need to sign up to a Business Premium Plan to accept payments through your site, and unlock other advanced features. The cheapest Business plan is the Business Basic plan at $20 a month. You can read our Wix Pricing Review for a full look at each plan. If you wanted a more ecommerce focused builder, check out Shopify or BigCommerce. Both are specialized ecommerce builders which have powerful tools to grow and support your business. While they are more focused on physical goods, you can download apps and use their in-built features to sell services and digital goods. You can read our in-depth reviews on each by following the links. Hope that helps and best of luck with the business, Lucy
A domain name is the bit of the URL (the long address in your browser’s search bar) that identifies a web page — in this case your website. You can register them separately at sites like GoDaddy and Namecheap, but website builders offer to do it for you when you sign up with them. Most provide it for free (at least initially), while a handful charge a few extra bucks.

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Although people tend to find your site through a branded search in Google, it’s still important to make your domain easy to spell/type out. If it requires a lot of effort to type correctly, due to trying to spell it, the length or the use of un-memorable words or sounds, you’ve probably kissed goodbye to a good portion of your branding and marketing value.

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Customization on WordPress requires much more technical skill than it does with website builders. You’ll need to dive into the code to make the changes you want. If you’re comfortable with HTML, CSS, and Javascript (or looking to learn more about them), this shouldn’t be an obstacle. Just be wary. WordPress offers more control than website builders, but only to those equipped to use it.
I have personally built two different sites using WordPress and found it very easy to use, setup and configure. Once it is initially setup, maintaining the site is as easy as logging into the WordPress admin site and adding your content. I was initially very surprised by the ease of the setup to get my sites up and running. I was able to get the site online and running on a customer domain within 15 minutes. This was a welcome surprise to me the fist time I used WordPress. While WordPress sites are not as simple as drag and drop configuration for the novice computer user, average users will find it easy to edit text and add content using the built in templates. The price is possibly the most attractive feature of WordPress. The word free will often attract users but the usability and ease of the software is what will make users stick with the platform. After building two sites on WordPress, I would strongly recommend it and will surely use it for my future website building projects.

If you don't have a design already in place and think templates are too limited, consider Adobe Muse CC. This unique little program concentrates on letting you design. Templates are handy, embeddable web fonts are great, and the sitemap view may be the best way to get an overall feel for what your site will have. Export it to HTML and you're ready for upload. It's part of the Creative Cloud bundle and also available individually for $14.99 a month with a yearly plan.
Our Squarespace support experience was not great. There are tons of resources available, but that’s also kinda the problem. There’s too much stuff and it’s not easy to find your way. We went looking for the live chat option, and unfortunately, that wasn’t much better. In order to reach the live chat, we had to fill out three drop-down boxes regarding our issue. Then, it still tries to send you over to an article or email. This repeated multiple times while we were waiting in the queue. They kept trying to send “how-to” articles, instead. Finally, we got on with an agent. But even that was slow. The entire process took around twenty minutes to get a simple answer to our question. And then, how did the support rep help? By sending us another link to a how-to article.
Web hosting is like paying rent for your website's virtual storefront, including the pages, images, documents, and other resources needed to display that site. Web hosting uses a web server, which is where you put those website resources so others can access them through the Web. You can build a fully functional website on your personal computer, but if you want other people to be able to see it, you will need to use a web host.
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