If you are at the stage of choosing a website building platform, you are already aware of all benefits that a small business website has. It is about not only online representation and growing sales. A solid website is not just the face of your business. It comes as a powerful promotion and marketing tool to let you move forward.
Apart from obvious advantages of having a small business website such as reaching a worldwide audience or having your customers aware entrepreneurs get a full access to a fully customizable platform with featuring flexibility in the face of the latest mobile technologies.
Thanks to innovative website builders and CMS platforms, you do not need to be a web design expert or coder. They are easy to use letting you come up with a solid online representation within a couple of hours.
Choosing the best match is the toughest challenge. With so many software available today, you need to focus on key parameters and specs to pick the right variant for your needs.
We have reviewed some of the most popular CMS platforms and website building software to highlight their hits and misses. Get involved in the detailed guide describing the process of building a small business website from scratch using either CMS or website builders.
Where Сan I Build a Business Website?
As a rule, website builders offer an intuitive interface that is easy to understand. The platforms are followed by detailed tutorials and extended customer support. They proved to be a cost-effective solution as well as offering a simple step-by-step web building process without coding.
Website Builders Pros:
Website Builders Cons:
| ✔ Simple Editing – they are very easy to use. The software was designed to help non-technicians build a great site at no time at all. Some platforms follow the latest web technologies introducing AI-based instruments.|
✔ Great Design – website builders usually come with a diverse selection of templates for any field or niche. Whether you need a stunning portfolio, professional business card or an up-to-date digital store, you will find it here.
✔ Flexibility – a selection of add-ons, widgets and third-party integrations makes the customization process easy and fat. Users can create a unique style for higher customers’ engagement.
✔ Cheap Plans – You can choose from a plan that meets your requirements. Once you have subscribed, you will no longer worry about hosting, domain, security and other issues. You pay once and for all.
| ✘ Limited Customization Capabilities – the platform comes with some code editing restrictions although some builders provide an access to CSS.|
✘ No Import Option – once you have chosen a platform, you need to stick to it for good with no chance to transfer your website to another platform, or CMS.
CMS platforms are programs designed to create functional websites of different types. They let users handle the web building process for different needs including small business or eCommerce. The software is functional enough with an array of functions to implement. Most platforms come with an easy editing process though plugin integration and customization still requires some technical skills.
| ✔ Advanced Flexibility – you can choose from hundreds of plugins, modules, and widgets for any taste;|
✔ Advanced SEO Features – CMS platforms reserve much space to fine-tune your website’s SEO. You are not limited to meta titles and descriptions only but can work on the content making it more relevant and suitable for search engines.
✔ Extended Editing – a full access to website’s PHP and CSS lets users edit practically each and every element creating a stunning design to stand out.
✔ Affordability – opting for CMS is a more cost-effective decision considering lower hosting and domain costs. The handicap will be terminated once you hire a professional developer or get addicted to paid premium themes and plugins.
| ✘ Difficult to Use – They are much more difficult to use if compared to website builders. The lack of technical and coding skills may result in serious stumbling blocks.|
✘ Not All-in-One – you need to take care of several things at the same time apart from the building process. You need to register and prolong the domain name as well as take care about hosting for the site.
Best Platforms to Create a Small Business Website
We have sorted out some of the best options in terms of simplicity, price, flexibility and feature set. Let’s have a detailed look at each option to decide on the one that will definitely meet your business needs.
Wix – The Best Small Business Website Builder
Wix – is a multi-purpose website builder that is perfect for newbies with no technical skills. It offers an array of stylish and responsive templates for small business and eCommerce. They are easy to edit or customize with a set of built-in features and integrations. The platform comes with extra SEO and marketing tools to promote your business, integrations for page customization, and AI-drive technology to create ready-to-go projects in minutes.
- Wix Ascend CRM – a tool for business marketing and customer management. It offers instruments to capture leads and turn them into paying clients. Users will be able to improve customers’ loyalty and manage business communications via LIve Chat, effective SEO strategy, and other built-in features to engage with the target audience.
- AI-Based Website Builder – the platform follows the latest technologies and offers its AI-driven solution. It is able to create a ready-to-go website in less than 10 minutes. It will have all the necessary integrated options following your business niche and preferences.
- eCommerce Features – those who want to sell products online, will appreciate a set of Wix merchant tools. They include eCommerce-oriented templates, seamless payment integration, intuitive product management system, instruments to create special deals and promotions.
- Wix App Store – an ultimate marketplace for users who need to connect third-party services that may include email marketing tools, analytics and metrics, security features, image galleries, user acquisition forms, and more.
Users will be able to choose from more than 550 different templates. All layouts are mobile-responsive. They look pretty stylish in addition to web design tools to change background colors, fonts, element dimensions, etc. The editor has a mobile preview option letting you not only check how the website will look like on different devices but also edit the layout.
Users can create different layouts and use them any time you need thanks to Wix Dynamic Pages. For example, you can create a template for the product page and use if for various items over and over again without manual editing.
Wix has an unlimited free plan, which is great. You will have a chance to test the editor and some other baseline features. But it will never work for a live and long-running project, as it has a limited tool option without a chance to connect your own domain. So, to launch a solid website, Wix offers several types of plans depending on your needs.
When it comes to a small business site of a portfolio, the following plans are available:
- Combo – $13 per month.
- Unlimited – $17 per month.
- VIP – $22 per month.
- Premium plans – $39 per month.
Each plan provides access to the Wix collection of templates and includes hosting and domain. If you want to build a digital store using Wix, you will need to choose from 4 of the Business & eCommerce plans. The price starts at $23 per month and may go up to $500 depending on the store size and features you require.
Summing Up: Wix was designed to create websites of any type. It is a good solution for small business sites as well as offering a whole pack of features and editing tools for non-technicians.
Shopify – #1 Platform to Create an Ecommerce Website
Shopify – is an eCommerce-oriented website builder developed with a focus on merchants. The system makes it easy to create small online shops or huge digital stores with access to such global marketplaces as Amazon. Site owners will get access to a range of marketing and promotion features, eCommerce-oriented templates, advanced product management system, and more.
- Product Management – Shopify delivers full control over the product page with advanced management tools. Apart from item descriptions and photos, users can create product categories and featured lists, keep control over customers’ accounts, monitor orders, fulfillments, and products on stock.
- Integrated Services – the website builder comes with built-in eCommerce functionality that includes integrated shopping cart features, seamless connection with more than 100 different gateways, multilingual website support, tax and shipping calculations, free SSL, and more.
- SEO and Promotion – each page can be optimized in accordance with SEO requirements. Shop owners can edit meta titles and descriptions for product pages and website sections, add blogging features, use product marketing and promotion tools to offer special deals, promo codes, discounts, etc.
The software has a range of templates featuring various styles. They are mobile-friendly and look professional. On the other hand, they are pretty basic. Luckily for experienced users, they can access template’s PHP or CSS to implement any style and stand out from competitors.
The platform offers three major plans that cost from $29 to $299 depending on the instruments you look for. The price will depend on the website complexity and features you look for it:
- Basic Shopify plan costs $29 per month.
- Shopify plan costs $79 per month with extra reporting tools.
- Advanced Shopify costs $299 per month feat advanced report Builder.
Even the entry plan has all eCommerce features you might need. You can switch between plans any time you want.
Summing Up: Shopify is a flexible eCommerce platform that is limited to only digital store web building. Newbies may find the platform a bit hard for the uptake from the start. However, the editing process is still pretty simple.
At the same time, it offers some extended features as well as the ability to enter the digital market without actually building a website. Simple go to Shopify Exchange Marketplace where you can buy ready-to-use business to match your preferences and competence. A simple way to start selling products online.
WordPress – Free CMS for Small Business Website
WordPress – is one of the most popular platforms over the years. It boasts millions of websites across the globe. They include blogs, small business sites, digital stores, etc. The system is very easy to use though customization still requires at least basic HTML skills. However, it comes as a flexible solution considering a selection of plugins and integration capabilities.
- Thousands of Themes – the software boasts the widest selection of themes with thousands of templates to choose from. It can be either a small business or eCommerce mockup with options that refer to any industry or niche. Most of these themes are free to use and customize.
- Customization and Design – as an open-source platform, WordPress ensures endless web design and customization capabilities with a chance to modify any template. Users are free to develop and add scripts of their own, have a piece of code embedded to their websites, add extra functions, site elements, and components to stand out. However, you are supposed to have at least a baseline coding experience.
- Plugins and Integrations – from eCommerce plugins to analytic tools, forms, ad banners, security widgets, and thousands of other add-ons are available for WordPress users. You can seamlessly integrate third-party services for email marketing, SEO optimization, reporting, and more.
The CMS platforms offer a wide selection of different templates that are mobile friendly. Some templates are free while some are paid. Free themes generally look the same with some slight differences. However, you will hardly find it difficult to customize them in case you have a deep HTML or PHP knowledge. Premium templates are more versatile and unique though they also require some slight customization.
Initially, you do not have to pay for the CMS itself. Users may access it and start building a website at no cost. However, you are supposed to have a domain and hosting to keep your website files. Also, users will have to pay for premium templates in case they want to use an exclusive theme while some plugins and extensions are also paid. The best solution is to opt for a WP-optimized server solution with all settings and integrations already included in the plan along with a domain name. Bluehost is yet the best option offering seamless WP integration, access to WP plugins and themes, great performance, and advanced security starting at $2.95 per month. Advanced plans with expanded functionality include:
- WP Pro feat ranging from $19.95 to $49.95
- Plans for WooCommerce costing $6.95, $8.95, and $12,95 depending on the shop size
Summing Up: Although WordPress maybe not the best option for newbies if compared to website builders, it delivers endless customization and design capabilities, in addition to endless plugins. The platform certainly serves well when it comes to small business websites.
uKit – Simple Small Business Website Builder
uKit – is one of the cheapest and simplest website builders. It was developed to help newbies build responsive small business sites, professional portfolios, and attractive landing pages. The software has a baseline eCommerce functionality as well. Although it hardly works for huge digital marketplaces, it will meet the needs of small online shops.
- Intuitive Interface – Editing a uKit website is very easy. Based on advanced drag-and-drop technology, the platform lets you easily customize each page, change and remove blocks, add content and media files.
- Flexibility – Apart from built-in features, uKit brings great integration opportunities. Users can integrate their website with analytic and marketing tools to grow email campaigns. CRM integration feature is perfect for small digital stores whenever you need to track your sale stats. Users can implement such popular services as Google Maps, Analytics, Vimeo, SoundCloud and more to make the site as engaging as possible.
- uKit Alt – do you have an existing Facebook page? uKit will help you to convert it into a fully-featured website. It uses API to generate necessary info from the page along with content and images and import the data directly to the web page.
uKit delivers a decent collection of templates for different categories of business. All templates are optimized for mobile usage. You can choose from a list of ready-to-use landing page templates as well.
uKit mobile customization feature makes it easy to ensure proper mobile website running. Mobile and Tablet View mode is simple function to fine-tune the way your site looks like on various mobile devices featuring different screen dimensions and specs. Feel free to hide some blocks that might look off-putting from a smartphone or tablet without harming the desktop version.
If you want to test the software first, there is a 14-day free trial. Those who are satisfied with the service will be able to choose from 4 different plans that include:
- Minimal (best to get started with a small portfolio for only $5 per month).
- Basic (the plan costs $10 per month with more features to create a business site).
- eCommerce ($13 per month for a small digital store).
- Pro costs $15 per month feat outsourcing functionality.
Summing Up: uKit is a good software at a reasonable price. It delivers all the necessary instruments to build a professional small business website from scratch. On the other hand, it is good for simple sites that do not require extended features or customization capabilities.
What is the Best Domain Name for My Business?
Choosing a proper domain name is vital for your business. It is the “face” of your website. Besides, it is the first thing your potential customers see. It must be associated with your brand and niche. It must be short, capturing, and easy to remember. Depending on the platform type you choose, the process of domain registration will be a bit different.
Domains Provided by Website Builders
We often say “an all-in-one solution” about website builders. This means all major features are included in the plan along with the domain name. However, its type will depend on the package you choose.
For instance, if a user opts for a free plan, he or she will never have a chance to connect an SLD (second-level domains) or 2SD domain. As a rule, website builders provide a default custom subdomain that contains the name of the product you use along with the brand name, which is bad for SEO optimization and company recognition among potential users.
Besides, users need to understand that free plans hardly contain the needed set of features for a long-running small business or eCommerce project. Anyway, you will have to opt for a premium plan that makes it possible to connect an already-registered domain or your own (for example, SLD) or register it right here with the help of a website builder (as a rule, you get a 2SD domain for free).
Note: you are recommended to register a separate domain name. If you have the one provided by the website builder, you are actually stuck with it, as once you have decided to move to another platform, that might be a tough challenge. A separate domain name ensures enough migration freedom and flexibility in terms of changing the platform if something goes wrong.
Domain Registration Services
Users should take the process of choosing a domain seriously, as it will eventually become the official business name for the project. This is where traditional domain registration services are a good option. First of all, a registered domain belongs to you but not to the website building platform. If it goes down for any reason, you still have the brand name with a chance to switch to another platform.
Secondly, you obtain an official license under all state regulations. In other words, you are the only authorized owner unless you share the rights with a colleague or business partner. Also, you have the right to decide what to do with the domain keep it, pass to another owner, or even sell.
The process of registering a domain is very simple. You get to the service, type in the name you want, and receive several variations with different extensions. The payment ensures 1-year (or more) ownership with a chance to renew.
Note: try to stick to SLD (.com, .org, .net) domain extensions while the name itself should refer (coincide) with your business niche or brand name.
How Much Does It Cost to Build a Website for a Small Business?
Now, let’s have a look at costs required to build a small business or eCommerce website either with CMS or website building platform. First of all, we need to decide what kind of project it is going to be. If it is a shop, what features it should have and how many projects you are going to sell.
If it is a small business site, decide on the promotion and marketing instruments, content type and volume, website structure, blogging section, etc. The price will depend on the website complexity and instruments you need to bring the idea to life. If we consider using any of the reviewed platforms, the average costs are as follows:
Website Building Сosts with Wix
The software works great either you need a professional business card, portfolio, or online shop.
- Plan – while the free plan will not work for a long-running project, you will need at least a Pro ($22) for full-scale business site or Business Basic ($23) to start selling products and accept online payments.
- Templates – custom Wix themes are free. They include ready-made business cards and stores.
- Domain & Hosting – premium plans already include a 1-year domain and hosting. So, you do not need to buy them separately.
Verdict: the average starting price of building a small business site or digital sort with Wix is less than $25 and $180 in case you decide to use a premium theme.
Website Building Сosts with Shopify
Shopify is a platform to build eCommerce projects. It will not work for small business sites. It is aimed at selling products online.
- Plan – that starting plan costing $29 per month is enough to start and grow your business. The only difference between Basic Shopify and plans that are more expensive is the lack of advanced Report Builder. The rest of the features are the same.
- Templates – Shopify has free and premium templates to choose from. While the theme collection is not as rich, users may opt for paid layouts that cost from $140 to $180.
- Domain & Hosting – all platform’s plans come with a free domain and hosting.
Verdict: if you use Shopify, you will need to send from $29 per month + about $160 one-time payment for a premium template.
Website Building Costs with WordPres
WordPress is free to use. But it makes no sense without hosting and domain name you will need to buy separately or opt for WP-optimized server solutions instead.
- Domain – the average domain price is around $10 per year. The price may vary depending on the register and extension.
- Hosting – a self-hosted platform requires enough server capacity to run a digital shop or small business site. Get ready to pay around $5-$10 per year.
- Templates – with a wide selection of free themes, you may still want something different. WordPress premium templates range in prices and styles. To stand out with an exclusive theme, prepare to pay about $30 per small business theme and about $50-$60 for a digital store.
- Plugins – while business projects do not require much customization, to create a digital store, you will need a separate WooCommerce plugin. It is initially free and delivers only baseline options to run a simple store. If you want to grow big, you will require extensions and extra services that are paid. They vary from simple features like Product Add-Ons costing $48 to more complex solutions such as WooCommerce Bookings costing $249.
The best bet is to use WordPress-optimized server solutions like those delivered by Bluehost. The starting plan costs $2.95 per month. It is good for small business sites and already includes all major WordPress features (WP integration, plugins, themes, security, domain hosting, etc.). So, you do not need to handle them manually. A separate WooCommerce hosting starts at $6.95 with a preinstalled Storefront theme, free SSL, and 100GB of storage. Pro plan is perfect for growing stores costing only $12.95 per month with unlimited features.
Verdict: running a small business with WordPress will cost you form $2.95 when using Bluehost + about $30 for a premium theme. The price for a fully-featured digital store starts at $6.95 per month, again when using together with Bluehost WooCommerce server solutions.
Website Building Сosts with uKit
uKit is probably the cheapest way to launch your online business. For only $10 you get all features in the pack to establish a recognizable brand while a tiny digital store will cost users only $13 per month.
Verdict: uKit will work well enough for small projects only. It is not good for growing businesses and marketplaces. So, if you opt for this website builder, you’d better register a separate domain (about $5 per year) name with a chance to switch to a more versatile platform.
Business Website Building Costs, ($ for the first year)
Is It Possible to Create a Small Business Website for Free?
In theory, it is. But when it turns out to real market conditions, users will clearly understand how free services can be even to the detriment of the project development especially in the long run. The main downsides of using free services to build a business website are as follows:
- Free Features are not enough – free plans come with baseline options. For example, some website builders limit access to theme collection, add-ons, or even page components. You may not even be able to place a contact form box or Features section to highlight the company’s key benefits.
- Custom Domain – a fee domain will never let your business grow. Besides, it may have a negative effect on the website SEO and search engine ranks not mentioning users’ recognition.
- Zero eCommerce Options – you will never find a free plan that offers at least minimal eCommerce functionality. As a rule, selling features are available in premium plans. So, you will not be able to create an online shop with a free plan.
- Hidden Costs – when you finally realize a free plan will never work out, you will need to pay for a premium plan or even switch to another platform. A few services offer migration services or website export/import. In other words, you will need to do everything from the start.
What Is the Best Platform for Small Business?
Selecting the right platform to build a website is the same as choosing a house for a living. You expect it to be comfortable and durable despite weather conditions. The same thing is to your project. You probably want to start a long-lasting business or online shop that will serve your and customers’ needs round-the-clock.
Users are supposed to clearly understand what they require and what they can expect from a chosen platform. If you need a tiny shop or digital shelve to highlight a few of your products, uKit might be a good option with minimum cost. If you plan to launch a growing digital store as well as promote and market your goods, you will need a merchant-oriented platform like Shopify.
WordPress comes as a more flexible solution in terms of customization. It will suit the needs of demanding users in terms of customization and those who know how to code. Wix appears to be the ultimate solution that can meet all requirements despite the project type you want to launch.