5 Services For Building Websites on a Budget

Image by Marc_Smith via Flickr

Post from Mashable , Authered by Kelli Shaver

This post originally appeared on the American Express OPEN Forum, where Mashable regularly contributes articles about leveraging social media and technology in small business.

There’s little doubt that a custom-designed and developed website is ideal for business. A trained professional can help you optimize your site for good search engine rankings, custom-tailor the look and feel to appeal to your target audience, reinforce your company’s image and ensure that your content is easily accessible and the user experience enjoyable. However, large web-development budgets often just aren’t possible, particularly for small businesses or entrepreneurs who are just getting started. In these cases, a number of web services exist to allow you to grow your company’s presence online, often in just minutes. We’ll take a look at five of them below.

1. Squarespace

One of the most popular of these services is Squarespace. With subscription prices ranging from $12 to $36 per month, you can create an entire website for not much more than you would pay for basic shared hosting. All Squarespace accounts include hosting, the Squarespace content management system, the visual designer tools and access to widgets and add-ons to incorporate into your site. You can also use your own domain name with all levels of Squarespace accounts. Larger plans give you room for more pages, more bandwidth, more management staff and access to advanced features like FAQs, SSL, form builders and member registration.

One thing we really like about Squarespace is its visual designer. You can choose from available themes or create and customize your own, either via user-friendly point and click, or by directly editing the theme CSS files.

2. Weebly

For those of you on a really small budget (or who just like the idea of getting something for free), Weebly is an entirely free service that will have you up and running on the web in no time. For the price (or lack thereof), Weebly’s feature set is quite impressive. You’ll be able to use your own domain name and choose from more than 100 professional themes, which can then be further customized via the theme editor. Weebly also has gallery/slide show functionality, audio and video players, a custom form builder and built-in blogging platform.

The company has been around for five years and gets revenue from several paid subscription plans and is backed by one of the largest VC firms around, so it’s safe to say Weebly will be a player for a while.

3. Jigsy

Jigsy is another easy-to-use website builder offering hosted plans for businesses and individuals alike. Jigsy’s plans range from free (ad-supported, with limited functionality) to $30 per month, and all paid plans will actually let you host multiple websites from the same account. Jigsy also has a powerful blogging platform and utilizes a widget-based system for expanding and adding functionality to the sites. Widgets are available for features like Google maps integration, RSS feeds, PayPal and eBay selling and more. Jigsy also offers tools for easily creating photo galleries and slide shows.

Further, Jigsy allows you to customize the layout and look of your site via the website builder, and unlike some other services listed here, it also handles email hosting.

4. SnapPages

If you feel a bit intimidated by the thought of having to manage and customize your own CSS files or widget code, SnapPages is a drag-and-drop website builder and hosted service provider that aims to make website creation as simple as a few clicks. Many themes are available and, like similar services, each is customizable. Features for all plans include a blogging platform, photo galleries, calendars and basic access control via a “friends” list. Plans range from free to $30 per month, much like Jigsy.

With the paid plans ($8 or $30), you’ll be able to host your own domain name, add your own custom HTML and JavaScript code, gain access to powerful analytics and control various SEO options. SnapPages’ top-tier plan is intended for developers and will allow you to do all of this, as well as manage multiple accounts, track projects and create invoices, so you can use SnapPages to build sites for your network or clients.

5. Yola

Last, but not least, Yola is another web site creation service offering free and paid plans (from $99 to $499 per year). With more than 100 themes to choose from and customization options via Yola’s site builder, you’ll be able to easily create a website that’s just right for your business. Other features include analytics and traffic statistics, premium styles and multi-site hosting.

If you spring for Yola Premier (the $499 per year plan), Yola will also throw in one-on-one consultation with professional designers, and both paid plans include advertising credits on popular ad platforms like Facebook and Google AdWords.

What other website-building platforms have you tried? Let us know in the comments.

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