If your business does not have a solid online presence, you will lose out to your competitors when potential customers cannot find your services online. Fortunately, building a simple website to give your business a voice is not difficult if you use the right tools.
There are three elements to setting up your website. First is the URL, then the Web hosting, and lastly there is your e-mail. Many Web hosting service providers in South Africa offer a one-stop shop, registering your URL, providing you with hosting space, and giving you access to control panels to allow you to manage your e-mail. You’ll still need some technical know-how to create your website, but some hosting providers do offer tools that will allow you to build your own website with little fuss.
For the purposes of this article, we look at online services that feature website building capabilities. These services also offer URL registration, domain hosting and some provide e-mail services, too, but you’ll have to upgrade from free versions to unlock these features.
Below we have curated a list of five of our five favourite website builders. Try them all, or pick only one. What’s your favourite? Have we missed one? Use the comments box to tell us.
Moonfruit is an HTML5 website builder. It’s easy to use use and you can have a website up in a matter of minutes. Moonfruit is free for the basics, but the features are rather limited, so it’s best to go for one of the subscription plans. This Web builder has a large number of themes to choose from and making changes to any part of the layout is easy — you simply drag and drop elements. The design interface resembles the Microsoft Office layout and, if you can use Word, you’ll be able to build a website with Moonfruit.
This platform also allows you to set up an e-commerce store with ease, but you’ll need a little deeper understanding of Web technologies should you wish to build one. Should you get stuck, Moonfruit support can be contacted from any page on the site builder’s website. We love the mobile Web editor, which allows you to customise the website should someone visit it from a mobile phone. Moonfruit is a competent website builder, but don’t expect any advanced functionality. You don’t have access to your website’s nuts and bolts. Pricing for Moonfruit’s Web services start at US$6/month. Try it here.
Wix is an HTML5 website builder with an easy to understand user interface. Once you have selected your theme, you will be able to tweak every aspect of that website by simply clicking on it and tweaking its properties. While you build your website, you can easily switch between desktop and mobile views to ensure that you get the elements on the screen just right.
There are loads of e-commerce features, including support for Facebook’s Online Store. Wix has strong social media integration, making it easy to build social media elements into your website. There are a number of other utilities you build into your website to offer added value to visitors, including live chat support, e-mail marketing, and it even has a reservations module, perfect for restaurants, for example.
Wix includes a bunch of search engine optimisation (SEO) tools that make it easy for non-technical people to understand and utilise the technology. For business users, Wix built in a number of dedicated tools to deliver features such as Google Analytics and you can even have Wix duplicate your website so you can experiment on it without affecting your live site. Wix is a great looking website builder with modern elements and easy to understand help modules and videos. Subscription plans start from $4/month. Try it here.
Webydo is a stylish Web builder platform that has put a lot of work into the workflow of designing a website using drag-and-drop tools. When you sign up, your first option is to choose a pre-made design, start with a blank layout structure, or simply start with a blank page. Once you get to the design screen, you are greeted by a fairly complex-looking interface, but it’s actually easy to master.
Webydo offers a remarkable number of tools and options available and you can easily jump between design and content views, giving you much easier access to those website elements that you want to focus on.
To preview your website, Webydo offers a great selection of preview tools that will allow you to see what your website will look like on any screen size, in any rotation. Those users who like slightly more advanced tools will love what Webydo has to offer. It provides users with the ability to customise much of its platform’s branding elements, allowing businesses to make the platform its own, much like a white-labelled solution. Webydo’s price plans start at $9/month, making it one of the more expensive Web builders available. However, the higher fees are put to good use. Try it here.
Squarespace is by far one of the most beautiful of the website builders available. A lot of effort has been put into the construction process, making websites not only look good but also function very well. This is particularly important for novice users who want to get a premium look and feel on their website, without looking like it was a DIY job. Squarespace is focused on responsive design, meaning that the website will scale according the to screen size it’s viewed on, even on mobiles. While the other website builders also offer this feature, Squarespace’s platform is particularly good at handling various screen sizes. There is also a strong e-commerce platform behind Squarespace, making it easy to set up shop. Take note that some of the payment features are not yet supported in South Africa.
Squarespace also has a developer mode that gives advanced users the opportunity to get their hands dirty with the code.
Other great features include the ability import a website from a number of other platforms. You can also export your website again to another platform should you choose to take it elsewhere. This open policy is a great feature.
Pricing starts at $8/month and for businesses wanting some guidance on good Web design, Squarespace is elegantly simple. Try it here.
The popular WordPress platform comes in two versions, a self-hosted version for those who have their own Web hosting, and a hosted version, which allows anyone to log on and create a website without worrying about the nitty gritty of setting up a server. Both are essentially identical, apart from the flexibility that comes with a self-hosted website.
WordPress was launched in 2003 and since has become one of the best content management systems. Indeed, it powers TechCentral.
There is a thriving theme development community, too, so there is no shortage of free and paid-for themes online. And because it’s an open-source platform, you can be in as much (or as little) control as you choose.
The hosted version of WordPress is ideal for those wanting the power of WordPress but none of the hassle. Although the free version will be sufficient for some, to get your own URL and to remove the ads, among other features, you’ll need to pay $99/year. The various elements that make up this yearly subscription can also be purchased individually if you want to spend less. The user interface for creating your website is easy to use, but not as slick as some of the other website builders listed here.
WordPress is a workhorse with almost unlimited expansion potential. It’s easily our number one choice. — © 2014 NewsCentral Media