Thanks to everyone for your comment, e-mails and suggestions for other great website builders that allow small business owners to save money, time and headaches. While these tools might be perfect for building the most advanced website or e-commerce site, each offers something unique that might fit for your particular situation (e.g., no time, no money, no tech skills, just need a super-simple page and so on).
Each tool is pretty straightforward, but sites change, so pay special attention to different offers and premium level descriptions, and read the fine print. The goal of these tools is not to build the site of your dreams complete with every bell and whistle, but to get you a simple and good-looking site with a minimum of effort and money.
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offers a very easy process with just four fields to get started. The service then walks you through various options and templates to get your free site going. Here is a screenshot of a site I created in less than three minutes. (No wisecracks about it, either…) There were many professional templates to choose from, and Yola made it easy to change templates before clicking the “Publish” button.
I liked the clean and simple navigation that answers my immediate questions: Pricing (is there a catch?), Site Gallery (who else has one?) Business Websites (what can I do?). Note: the questions are mine.
claims to have built 50, 000, 000 sites (yes, that’s 50 million), and you can’t help but be impressed by that. They have a rich feature set including video hosting space, 300-plus templates, calendar functions, social network capabilities (think Ning), a webstore/online shopping cart (up to five items) and affordable upgrades. Like most of the tools/services here, Webs provides all the tools you need to create a professional-looking website in just minutes.
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. It comes with free search engine optimization and other great features like RSS feed, but not free e-mail. Small point if you have free e-mail through Google, Yahoo or Hotmail already. The site looks like it is offering a piece of software you order, but it is Web-based (one of the criteria of this review).
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 and maybe even a social CRM solution. You can import your contacts and see what they are posting, join groups or start your own. Sort of like LinkedIn meets your website. If you are from Spain, India, Poland, Russia, Japan, Germany, Portugal or Holland, you can get a €50 Facebook coupon just for signing up.
offers free ad-supported Web hosting when you purchase a domain name through them for as low as .49/year (multiple year purchase). Technically, I still count this as a free service because with some other services you have to purchase your own domain and point it to the free hosting option. It’s the same with GoDaddy, except you are registering the domain with them and they bundle a free host option into the package. You can create a five-page Web site with their drag and drop tools.
ezWeb123.com starts you right at the design step of the build-a-website process. They do it in a compelling way, allowing you to see the various templates in a gallery-type setup, which makes it pleasant because you know what you’re about to choose in a large thumbnail view. It is advertising supported, but you get video space, 20 megabytes of storage, picture galleries and more.
is Microsoft’s small business Web hosting offering, and it is, as Pinkerton (below) suggested, quite a deal if you already own a domain at one of the low-cost registration sites. Office Live gives you up to 500 megabytes per site, free domain redirect (some charge for this), e-mail and more. It is hard to beat and easy to use. Hat tip to Pinkerton Web Solutions, which suggested Office Live, but doesn’t work for Microsoft!
is in a class by itself. It is one of the first sites I’ve found to specialize in building a mobile website, for free. Plus, they give you 100 free texts per month to reach your customers. Smart thinking. They’ve kept it super simple with a three-step process, all on one page.
All in all, you can build a very good website with one or more of these tools. Let us know about your experience with these specific tools and services, or list some new ones in the comments. Remember, our goal with this post was to showcase free (or nearly free) website building tools for small business owners.