Getting your message out these days requires good helpings of Facebook and Twitter, with maybe a dash of Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Tumblr. But that's not enough: if you want an internet presence that truly represents you or your organization, you also need a website that sets you apart from the crowd. A real website, as opposed to a social media page, gives you complete control over design and content. This lends credibility to your business, organization, or personal brand. Facebook pages all look alike in terms of design, but on your own website, you can realize a brand image, offer products for sale, and integrate third-party web services.
I’m pretty new to the whole web development/design aspect of things. I’ve tinkered before with free things but more specifically with forum design. I’m very interested in building a website but aside from having a main traditional website feel I’m looking to incorporate a forum to it. Would it be possible to do this with this WordPress/BlueHost tutorial here? Or would there be something you recommend for that sort of thing?

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
If you are going to use a website builder you can usually purchase it there. That makes handling it slightly easier as you’ll only be dealing with one company. If you are going to use WordPress or you’ll be programming the website yourself, you will also need web space, where you can upload your website’s files and data. With a website builder you don’t need web space as it’ll be already included.

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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.


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.
The best way to begin your search is to sort the themes by category. If you are opening an eCommerce store (using Bigcommerce for example), there is no reason to browse through blog-optimized themes. Most online website creation services use categories like portfolios, online shops, and blogs to differentiate their templates. Some go even further by creating more specific categories like sites designed to showcase bakeries or sell sunglasses.

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Let's face it, one of the things we like best about the web is looking at pictures. The site builders here all offer some degree of photo and gallery display. Some, like Gator, Squarespace, and Wix, also offer loads of stock photography for you to use. Some let you touch up images with editing tools such as cropping, brightness, and in some cases even Instagram-like filters. Others, such as Gator, Simvoly, and uKit offer no photo editing at all, aside from resizing and positioning.

Speaking of usability, website builders are also made to be extremely functional and usable by even novice users. An average website can be built in a matter of hours and changes can be made in minutes. Something that users often fail to keep in mind is that a website is never completed. It is always a work in progress that requires changes and edits and they give users the ability to make snap edits and changes.

Doodlekit is one of the most unusable and unintuitive website builders on the market. Editing the limited number of templates is confusing and convoluted and taking advantage of the advertised features is more trouble than it’s worth. Despite my extensive history with site builders and web design, I found myself confused and frustrated when trying to make even the simplest changes on my Doodlekit website.
Are their prices comparable to the other options on the market? We review not only the different website builders’ prices, but also the features included under each package, the price models, the paying options, any hidden discounts, and even their billing practices. When it comes to money—especially yours—we want to make sure everything is safe and sound!
Gator Website Builder has more than 200 templates that are professionally designed and available for free. And yes, all of them are mobile design compatible. You don't need to do anything to activate the mobile design. Gator does allow you to edit the content in your mobile version without affecting the desktop version. Editing content on the mobile version can be handy if you have special mobile-only sales or if you want to optimize the experience people have on their phone.

Maybe just like you, at first we didn't have a darn clue about how to build a website, nevermind write half a line of code if our life depended on it! We wanted to build a website to start a side business, and felt overwhelmed, confused & scared about how to actually do it, which builder to use, and making wrong decisions. After years of trials & errors using different website builders, we're here to share our experiences with you.
With professional templates, customizable features, and instant responsive design, Spark Page just may be the best website builder you've never heard of - a fast and easy tool that anyone can use. Spark Page offers a variety of features to make your content look its best no matter where it’s viewed. Spark's design tools are based on the essential features of Adobe's professional tools like Photoshop and Illustrator, but you don't need to know how to use them or any other dedicated design software.
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.
Accept online payments/set up an online store: On some builders like SITE123 and Strikingly, you can create an online store on the free plan, and sell one or two items, but to sell any more you have to upgrade. On some you can create a store, but you must be on a paid plan to actually accept payments through your website, (like Wix). Others won’t let you create a store at all unless you’re paying, such as Weebly. So it varies, but one thing remains the same: in order to have a successful and scalable online store you will need to upgrade to a paid plan sooner or later. Once you’re on a paid plan you can unlock features such as connecting different payment types, (for example PayPal, credit/debit cards etc), get rid of transaction fees, track and manage your inventory, and more!
If you prefer a more traditional URL, you'll need to purchase one from the likes of GoDaddy or Namecheap. Domain name pricing can range from extremely cheap to extremely expensive, depending on whether or not domain squatters are looking to flip a valuable piece of online real estate. You'll want to get something short but evocative and catchy, and depending on what you do, you may find that many of your first choices are taken by either other legit domains, or by squatters who've scooped up the names as an investment. For more, please read How to Register a Domain Name.
Modern website are more complex than websites in the past. They aren't just HTML, CSS and Javascript being passed from a server. Those assets are optimized, cached and accessed through special content delivery networks (among other things) to ensure performance. The reality of disentangling all of this from the website builder and moving into a third party host is messy and would require a level of technical competence that most users of website builders don't have.

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Wow! I cannot even begin to thank you for this article. I spent hours today with a site that was supposed to be easy to use. Their tutorials didn’t actually match the user experience, the tech support was haughty, and it was NOT beginner friendly. After reading your review I accomplished more in 45 minutes with Sitebuilder than I did in 4 hours! Meanwhile, still trying to figure out how to cancel my web.com account for an old site.

Responsive design is a popular web design strategy used by some of these site builders. This approach reformats the same webpage content to fit different screens. But in terms of SEO (search engine optimization), the search engines only care about whether a site displays suitably on mobile screen sizes. Both Bing and Google have pages where you can enter your URL to see if your site plays on mobile acceptably.
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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.
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