Getting your message out these days requires good helpings of Facebook and Twitter, with maybe a dash of Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Tumblr. But that’s not enough: if you want an internet presence that truly represents you or your organization, you also need a website that sets you apart from the crowd. A real website, as opposed to a social media page, gives you complete control over design and content. This lends credibility to your business, organization, or personal brand. Facebook pages all look alike in terms of design, but on your own website, you can realize a brand image, offer products for sale, and integrate third-party web services.
It’s never been easier to set up a professional-looking, design-forward website. Prominent site builders such as Squarespace, Weebly, and Wix are constantly improving. And newer competitors, such as Simvoly, Strikingly and uKit, are popping up all the time with their own clever twists on the process.
You Need a Website
First, let’s discuss why you even need a webpage in this day of social media domination of the web. On a personal level, you wouldn’t want to send prospective employers to your Facebook page, so a personal website makes more sense as an online, customized resume. Another reason worth consideration, for both personal and business sites, is that building your own site gives you endless design choices. You also have total control over products and services you may sell and how they’re delivered.
Further, having a real, dedicated site makes a business seem more authoritative and trustworthy than a Facebook or Tumblr presence can on its own (though you should certainly also consider those services as elements of your online presence). It’s as much an opening ante in the business world as having a business card for your company.
Getting your own website used to require a lot of tech wizardry, such as knowledge of servers, HTML, FTP, site registrars, and web hosting services. Thankfully, we now live in the age of easy online site builders. The services included here let you make a well-designed, mobile-friendly site with minimal technical knowledge. They can even take a small or sole-proprietor business to profitability with buy links, online stores, and other money-making options.
Larger businesses spend many thousands of dollars to get their custom-designed and programmed sites, but there’s no need for smaller organizations and individuals to go to that kind of expense. For about $10 per month (or around $25 if you’re selling products) and a few hours of your time, the services included here can help you create a unique, attractive website.
With all these services, you build everything yourself, using simple drag-and-drop interfaces. The services even let you include items such as social share buttons, photo galleries, blogs, and media players. Some even let you restrict viewing with a password and let you have people join up as members of your site (see the table).
Free Website Builders
Several of the services included here offer free options, too. If you choose that path, however, your site will include branding from the provider, which will necessarily make your site less impressive to savvy surfers—and shoppers. Free offerings vary greatly in the amount of storage and bandwidth they allow, so read the small print to find out how much you get with each provider. Weebly, Wix, and WordPress.com are among the most generous with their free offerings, if that’s the way you want to go.
Register Your Domain
Before you can start building your home on the web, you need an address for it. Most of the site builders here can register a unique domain for you, and all can give you a web address using the provider’s domain, for example, yourname.sitebuilder.com. The services also let you use a domain you’ve acquired from a third-party registrar such as pairNIC, but you usually must pay the site builder for that privilege.