We get it. When you are first getting started, it’s likely that funds are a bit tight, and you’ll find yourself having to prioritise exactly what it is that you want to spend your money on in order to keep your business running. However, if setting up your website is something that you’ve put on the back burner, you might want to reconsider.
The past few years have meant that businesses have found themselves having to adapt to a new way of working, so many competitors will likely already have their websites up and running. To avoid losing potential customers to said competitors, it’s necessary to get your website sorted and get your online presence out there for people to see.
Anyhow, reminding you of the importance of getting your business out on the internet doesn’t actually solve the issue of actually funding it.
Undoubtedly, the most cost-effective option available is to make your own using a website builder.
The less tech-savvy amongst us might find themselves cringing at the thought of trying to build a website from scratch - but that’s what website builders are for. Many of the options available on the market have artificial design intelligence (commonly referred to as ADI) which can automatically build your site based on the design choices you make.
So, even with no prior coding knowledge, website builders are available to help anyone get their site sorted.
Fortunately, there are also plenty of web builders out there - many of which have fantastic free options suitable for small business owners on a budget. However, with the commitment of running your business full-time, we know that it’s also extremely likely that you don’t exactly have unlimited time to spend browsing the internet trying to find the cheapest website builders out there.
That’s why we’re here to help - after countless hours of trialling and testing, we’ve come up with a list of the three free website builders that we think are the best for small businesses.
First on the list of best free website builders is Weebly, which we think is a great option for beginners trying out their first web build. One of Weebly’s stand-out functions is its extensive app store. Whilst many of the apps in the store cost to add to your site, it’s key to remember that these are worth the purchase if they increase site traffic - attracting further sales.
When starting the initial design process, you’ll be asked to choose a template to work with before adding your own touch through the drag-and-drop editor.
Weebly’s drag-and-drop functionality requires absolutely no coding, so when designing your website what you see in front of you is what you’ll get from your published site. Whilst this is appealing for those looking to get a simple site up and running, those hoping to make further modifications will likely find it quite frustrating.
Something else that we noted when testing Weebly was that the amount of templates on offer was quite limited, meaning that customisation capabilities were also lower than they are on other site builders.
Some of the disadvantages to opting for Weebly’s free plan include the on-page ads, limited storage (500MB) and lack of access to a custom domain. It’s also important to note that if you’re planning on using your site for e-commerce you’ll be hit with a 3% fee per transaction.
All in all, we found our experience with Weebly’s free plan to be a relatively positive one - especially if you’re looking for an easier build, but some of the limitations meant that other options out there were preferable.
If you’ve always fancied trying your hand at designing your own website, Webflow is the builder for you.
This is the ideal builder for those who want to take the time to design and customise their own site, without the need to use code. This makes it particularly popular with front-end web designers as it eliminates the need for as much development behind the scenes.
If you’re looking for a quick and easy build, it’s probably not the right choice for you - but it is worth noting that there’s a virtual assistant on hand to give you a demo before you dive into designing. Alongside this, there are also multiple helpful resources available on Webflow University such as video tutorials, courses and articles that can help you mid-design, should you get stuck.
Popular with web designers looking for a code-free option, those who use Webflow can enjoy having complete creative control using its padding, elements panel and fantastic CMS capability.
Another benefit that makes Webflow particularly stand out from its competitors is the ability to customise the mobile version of your site - having a great look on mobile is particularly important as it’s how many customers may opt to enjoy an initial browse.
If you’d like to try using Webflow, their free plan is a great place to start. This plan allows you to build and publish two sites with a webflow.io subdomain name, and also includes 50 CMS items and 1GB bandwidth. Opting for this plan will get your site up and running for customers to see, though admittedly it does not come without its limitations.
These include a lack of access to a custom domain name and advanced design tools, as well as restrictions on the number of sites and pages you can build. You’ll also have Webflow adverts dotted around your site - but this is typical for using any free plans.
In summary, Webflow’s free plan is best suited to those looking for more control over the design elements of their site but can feel quite daunting for those with less tech experience. This is a great free web builder for those who are happy to spend a bit longer on their project for a more personalised result.
Struggling to decide between ADI functionality and designing your own site? Wix is the answer. Wix’s fantastic ADI functionality asks you a couple of questions about your business and the preferences you have on pages, themes and colour schemes.
Using this information, Wix will then give you a choice of several templates to use that suit your site, style and business. You will be prompted to choose a template, which you’ll then be able to personalise by altering colours and adding your content using the drag-and-drop tool.
If you’re looking for a bit more creative freedom, you’ll find that Wix’s Editor tool is better suited to you. Similar to the ADI option, design alterations are done using the drag-and-drop tool, but in the Editor, you can use this to put just about anything you want on your site, wherever you’d like it to go!
Something particularly great about Wix is that if you originally chose to use the ADI function, but want to make more edits, you can swap onto the Editor tool to make any creative changes you’ve got in mind.
With all of these capabilities in mind, we think that Wix is a great choice if you’re looking for a free web builder. Some of the drawbacks to using this free plan include not being able to use a personal domain, limited storage (capped at 500MB), and the on-page ads. For those hoping to use their site as an online store, it’s also useful to know that you can’t sell products whilst on Wix’s free plan.
Given the extensive customisation options and the option to use ADI should you so wish to, we think that Wix’s free plan is an excellent place to get started with your website.
So… which is the best free website builder for your small business?
Whilst all of these are viable options with advantages and disadvantages, ultimately we would say that Wix has the best free offering for small businesses.
To put it simply, this is due to the fact that users can choose how much input they’d like to have in the creation of their site. The ADI function is on offer for those who’d rather have a site built for them, whilst the Editor tool is available for those who’d like more creative freedom - making it a great choice for users of all capabilities.
Although free options are great whilst you’re just starting out with an initial site build, it might be worth upgrading to a paid plan as your business grows. Having a personalised domain, further storage space and no ads on your page will only help your business to thrive more in the long run. All of the builders we have recommended will allow you to upgrade your site at a later date, so whichever one you choose, we’d advise you to consider upgrading in the long term.
If you’re yet to build your first website, and you’re still feeling unsure, why not take a look at our blog post on the easiest website builder to use.
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