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How to Start a Website for Free or Low Cost - 18 Tools to Consider

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How to Start a Website for Free or Low Cost - 18 Tools to Consider

By TJ McCue
Published: July 5, 2011 Updated: August 12, 2013

Sales today often hinges on a website. You need some sort of presence online to participate in the many marketing channels available. While you can build a site or page within Facebook or other walled gardens, as they are often called, your best strategy will entail having your own presence directly on the Internet.

Various studies from sources like eMarketer, Selling to Small Business, and other authorities show that approximately 50 percent small business owners either do not have a website or dislike their website. I started to ask clients and prospects why and the two answers I received were: “It is too expensive to build a good website” and “I just need something simple.”

This post is to help you solve both of those problems. The following 18 services offer free to low cost website builder tools. I’ll make two important suggestions at the end of this post after you’ve read about these tools.

1. Google Sites offers a good range of templates. You can publish with just a few clicks and publish.

2. DoodleKit offers a limited free version with up to five pages, plus a blog. It offers step-by-step instructions so when you ask a question, you can actually follow the answer. Plans start at $14/mo.

3. Moonfruit is a Flash-based website builder. I liked the ability to start building and testing it without even registering. The free option was advertising-free. Affordable plans start at $6/mo.

4. Webstarts is very intuitive and fast loading. As you start into editing your site, a helpful little window opens with the option to watch a tutorial video.

5. WordPress offers free blog hosting, but for $15 per year, you can get a custom domain name of your own. Most services that are free have a subdomain structure, as does the free WordPress option, with URLs that look like yoursite.wordpress.com.

6. Yola.com offers a very easy process with just four fields to get started. The service then walks you through various options and templates to get a free site going.  

7. Webs.com is one of the best known site builders. They have millions of users and sites. Like most of the tools/services here, Webs provides all the tools you need to create a professional-looking website in just minutes.

8. Jimdo.com has a unique option that allows you to build an actual online store, not just a website. You can list up to five items for free.  

9. Qapacity.com is a powerful free website builder and offers one of the more robust solutions I’ve seen. It is a website combined with a private social network-like functionality.

10. Intuit owns Homestead.com which provides a low-cost website builder. 30-day free trial, then $4.99/mo. You can add a Paypal shopping cart, too.

11. Yahoo.com has a robust small business website offering that starts at $7.46/mo when you purchase a year at once.

12. Network Solutions, one of the leading domain registrars, offers a low-cost website builder tool. Their offering comes with a free domain name and plans start at $6.95/month.

13. Bluehost.com is another host that I use and recommend. I manage a number of my own sites through them and have found their tech support to be excellent. Plans start at $7.95/mo.

14. Ruxter.com will let you build a mobile-enabled website for free and then plans and text options start at a per message charge of $20 per 500 messages (which do not expire). Great if you have a mobile consumer as a target customer.

15. ezWeb123.com starts you right at the design step of the build-a-website process.  

16. Microsoft offers Office 365 as a small business suite and part of it includes building a website via Sharepoint. Free trial, then $6/user/month.

17. Jigsy.com offers a free plan, then pricing starts at $10/mo.

18. Sitecube offers a range of templates and starts at $5.95/mo.


Overall, when you build your own, you’ll have to invest about two to three hours of your own time to understand how the templates and galleries and tools work. After you build your site, head to Google and register your site within Google Places aka “Claim Your Business Listing.” Even the simplest of sites can bring you traffic and business if you are found by local searchers. Also, If possible, look for options at these site builders to enable your site for mobile users (think Smartphones like the Android-powered or iPhone/iPad powered devices). If you make your site load faster and cleanly on a mobile device you’ll be one step ahead of your competition.

__________________

TJ McCue runs TechBizTalk, a product review site for small biz owners and a do-it-for-you website builder service called Simple Website

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Comments:

I love WordPress, it is strong CMS for SEO
Bartering... such an interesting way of getting things that you want (an amazing way, but interesting none-the-less). We have gotten some pretty great offers, some inappropriate, and some just flat out crazy (so at least you know that people are following your tips, but in their own way). Someone actually offered to change our oil for life if we did their website. Thought that was kind of weird seeing that our websites are actually CHEAPER than getting our oil changed every 3 months (synthetic oil change). We create simply great websites (for cheap) and donate 50% of all of our profits to wounded veterans to help in ways that we couldn't physically. Read our story on our site: http://www.TheCheapWebsite.com. Thanks!
Decent post, I would like to add a great E-commerce website solutions company to the list. http://cartbin.com/ Great low cost alternative to those who are looking to take advantage of the selling products online.
I have to say that I'm quite partial to this post because it has everything to do with my core business. Just for the sake of disclosure, I am the Ceo of Handzon.com. First I'd like to thank you for posting your list, and I would respectfully like to also add handzon.com to the list of low cost web site builders and storefront offerings. As a matter fact, the very website, handzon.com was built with our software which is a testament to the capability. I might also want to add... Squarespace should also be part of that list. Both Handzon and Squarespace offer a very powerful solution for an online business. May I suggest that you add these two website builders as well?
Now a days Everything got cheaper, we can FInd Domain for 0.99$ so what more you need....... Professional Hostings are as well cheap, and if you are lucky as i was i got 1 year unlimited Hosting with Domain Name for Just 1$ i think you cant get any thing Less then This......... Still if you wish to have a Website on Free Tool Then i must appreciate for the great list mentioned
Wow... this is really helpful especially those who are just starting small business online and just have low budget. I've checked the Sitecute website builder and I saw their elegant portfolio's. I believe following these lists will definitely come up with sophisticated website design yet economical.
Now this once challenging activity has been made easy with the advent of new technologies including the various website builders that are circulating the Internet.
I would highly recommend getting your own domain and and using wordpress with a quality web host. It's only a few dollars each month, yet adds the customization needed for branding. Plus, most web hosts offer one click wordpress installs and free domains making it very easy (for more see the site below). And if you want to run ecommerce, there are plenty of tools for doing so within wordpress.
This is a great article, and I know quite a few people that have created very successful websites utilizing these tools. Another thing to consider is content creation and keeping your website updated. In order to be effective, you need to work to optimize your website for search engines. This includes everything from ensuring your webpages have keyword density, to adding new content regularly, and backlinking from reputable sites such as popular news sites. Websites are a great tool, but they are also a huge project that requires continued attention.
I love testing new applications and a site builder that I am constantly watching out for with their constant improvements is Easy WebContent. I recently read a review on them on AppAppeal where they out beat competitors Squarespace and Weebly. This post was edited to remove a link. Please review our Community Best Practices for more information about how best to participate in our online discussions. Thank you.

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