In 2020, the need for a good and affordable website builder for small business has never been greater. With further lockdowns continuing across the globe, every owner of a physical small business has to make sure they have an online alternative up and running, in case the worst happens. And even if your business is already digital, that clunky, old fashioned site is no longer going to be good enough, now that more and more people are shopping online, and accessing faster and better ecommerce experiences on a daily basis.
But whether you need a new site, or your very first site, where do you go? In this article, we round up the five best website builders for small business available today. Each one of them allows you to build a website quickly and easily, and add an online store if you wish, without knowing anything about coding.
We’d recommend any one of these high quality web builders, which all offer a professional service and good customer support at very reasonable prices. Read on, as we specify the main differences between them, to help you choose which one is the best fit for your business needs.
There are many reasons that Wix is our favourite website builder for small businesses. But the overriding one is that this audience just feels baked in to their DNA. Every new feature they introduce, every sentence they write on their website, feels like they have small businesses in mind, and you get the feeling they’re constantly trying to make life easier for hard-pressed business owners who don’t have a lot of time and energy to spare.
Plus, of course, that commitment is matched by action. So first and foremost, the Wix web building interface is very easy and intuitive for non-techie people to use. There are more than 500 business templates to choose from, covering almost every time of enterprise you can think of, from finance and law to farming and gardening. Adding your own text and images to them is based on drag and drop, so as long as you can use a mouse, you should find it pretty straightforward. And if you don’t, there are Help buttons everywhere, pointing you to clear and jargon-free advice when you’re stuck.
But what if even messing about with templates sounds intimidating to you? Wix has recently introduced an alternative to templates: the Wix ADI (Artificial Design Intelligence) builder. This couldn’t make things more simple: it just asks you a few questions about what you want your website to do, then generates a fully working website for you.
Once you have your website up and running, Wix also provides plenty of options for extending it and improving it. For instance, there’s a special SEO Wiz feature that asks you questions about your business and creates an SEO plan that’s tailored to your needs. Plus there’s a marketing package called Wiz Ascend that helps you connect with customers better via social media and emails.
Need more features on your website? In the Wix App Market, you can choose from over 200 apps and services for adding everything from live chat bots to email newsletters. And as websites capabilities as a whole develop in the years to come, new apps are sure to pop up in the App Market, which you can be sure your website is future-proof.
Finally, Wix has a very decent ‘Free forever’ option that that provides you with up to 500MB storage and 500MB bandwidth. So if you just wanted a ‘calling card’ website with your company’s details and information, and didn’t need an online store, Wix would also be our choice as the best free website builder for small business.
When you visit a famous brand’s website, it’s usually obvious they’ve spent a lot of money on it. Even if you’re not a designer yourself, you instinctively sense that this is a professionally designed website and not something that the owner has got their teenage son to knock together in the garden shed.
However, while multinational companies tend to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on their websites, most of us don’t have that kind of budget. So Squarespace meets you halfway, by offering the most elegantly designed templates of any web builder, with clean lines and lots of lovely white space.
Painstakingly crafted by professional designers, these beautiful layouts really will make your business website stand out from the crowd. You pay a little more for Squarespace than some other web builders as a result, but we’d argue that you certainly get what you pay for. And if you wish, you can go on to customise these templates to your heart’s content.
Squarespace isn’t just about good looks, though: there’s no point in having a gorgeous website if you can’t make money from it. So Squarespace also offers an excellent range of business-focused tools, allowing you to do things like set up an online store and sell any number of products or services, integrate with ShipStation to print shipping labels, and set up shoppable Instagram posts. There are also some superb analytics and email campaign tools.
We’ll be honest: Squarespace’s system takes a little more time to learn than Wix’s. However, you certainly don’t need coding skills, and as long as you’re used to using a computer in general, you won’t find it too difficult to pick up.
Weebly operates in a similar way to Wix, allowing you to create a small business website without needing coding or design skills, via a draq-and-drop interface. There aren’t quite as many templates as Wix offers, though, and the templates aren’t as beautiful as Squarespace’s. The system is slightly trickier to use than Wix’s too, although slightly easier than Squarespace’s.
So why exactly would you opt for Weebly over either of these two competitors? Well, firstly there’s the opportunity to set up member-only pages (available on the Professional and Performance Plans), which would be useful if your business involves a private club or a subscription scheme. We’re also impressed by the Weebly App Center, with more than 300 apps at time of writing, covering marketing, communications, ecommerce, social media and other site tools and features. And the fact that Weebly makes free stock images available to use on your website is a nice touch too.
But the overwhelming reason you’d probably go for Weebly over rival website builders comes down to cost. The value for money on Weeby’s paid plans is quite impressive, even compared with relatively low priced competitors like Wix and Squarespace.
We’re particularly enthused by Weebly’s Pro plan, which for just £9 a month offers some excellent ecommerce tools (including a shopping cart and the ability to accept payments through Square and other third-party providers), advanced site statistics reporting, and for US customers only, phone support and live chat support on top of email.
Hostgtor is a hosting company that’s on our list of the best website hosting services of 2020. But if you don’t yet have a website to host, then it also has its own website builder in the form of Gator.
Like Wix and Weebly, this is very focused on small business owners, and its interface is easy to use through a combination of templates and drag-and-drop. Its features are a little more limited than those rivals’, and while there are more than 200 templates to choose from, they’re all quite similar in style and appearance. So we’d only recommend this service if you just want a fairly standard website, in terms of looks and functionality.
Don’t get the wrong idea, though: we don’t mean ‘standard’ in a negative way. Most of the things a small business owner will need from a website builder are here, from support for password-protected pages to the ability to add an online store. The devil is in the detail, though, so the ability to customise your online store is pretty limited, as are the SEO tools. And Gator lacks a number of specific features that could be a deal-breaker, like being able to run an email marketing campaign, schedule blog posts or let visitors add comments to them.
On the other hand, there’s good 24/7 live chat, phone and email support if you run into difficulties and depending on your plan, Gator will probably cost you less than most. So it remains a good option for small business owners who don’t have grandiose ecommerce plans but just want to dip their toe in the online water, at very low prices.
1&1 is a veteran name in web hosting, and it also provides a web builder service, MyWebsite Now. One thing that sets it apart is that with the £20-a-month online store package, the first three months come free, as long as you commit to the full year. For the cheaper packages, you get one month free. Yes, it’s a gimmick, but if you’re suffering short-term cashflow difficulties (as so many are right now), that might prove very tempting.
So what of the product itself? Well, for a start all plans include a free domain and professional email address. The interface itself is very user-friendly, with lots of options cleverly hidden in popup boxes to save clutter. You can choose more than 400 templates, which can be searched by topic or keyword. You can add an integrated online store with all major payment and shipping options included. And you can benefit from 24/7 phone support, with typically fast response times.
Overall, then, this is a solid and reliable web builder, with a strong focus on helping small businesses. And while it’s a little more expensive than other providers on this list, it’s very much a case of getting what you pay for.