For most users, free themes are the best place to start. When you install a new theme, it doesn’t change the content on your site, only the layout. This means you can download and install a number of different themes to see which theme suits you best. If you feel like you need something more advanced than a free theme, you can always install a paid theme at a later date.
WordPress (either version) is a blog-focused content management system that accepts plug-ins and themes that extend its capabilities to what most of what the other products here offer, including commerce. In fact, WordPress.com uses plug-ins such as JetPack to provide many of its features. As a whole, WordPress (either .com or .org) is not as easy to use as the other options in this roundup, but if blogging and site transferability are of key importance and you don't mind digging into its weeds a bit, you should consider the platform. Furthermore, the ability to use WordPress is a valuable skill, as some estimates say that WordPress powers 30 percent of the internet.
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I personally don’t think site builders will ever replace web designers/developers completely. Most site builders are targeted at small businesses and could never meet the demands required for larger businesses with all their complex requirements. I think Shopify plus is the only product trying to take on the larger CMS platforms right now (e.g. Magenta, Demandware) in the eCommerce space
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Maybe just like you, at first we didn't have a darn clue about how to build a website, nevermind write half a line of code if our life depended on it! We wanted to build a website to start a side business, and felt overwhelmed, confused & scared about how to actually do it, which builder to use, and making wrong decisions. After years of trials & errors using different website builders, we're here to share our experiences with you.
All of the web services listed here have you start by choosing from a selection of templates for your site. The better ones, such as Duda, Gator, Squarespace, and Wix, use templates that automatically reformat your site for viewing on mobile devices. They also offer specifically targeted templates based on your site's purpose, such as for promoting a bakery's sales, getting gigs for a musician, or keeping wedding guests informed.
A blog should be about something you love, but it should also be an interest shared by other users as well. You can find out what categories people are interested in by using a keyword research tool and from there you can create customized content that your readers will find fresh and relevant. There is a world of information out there just waiting to be discussed. Why shouldn’t you be the one leading the discussion?
While the the best of them offer surprising amounts of flexibility, they also impose stringent enough restrictions to page design that you shouldn't be able to create a really bad looking site using one of these services. Typically you can get a Mysite.servicename.com style-url with no commerce abilities for free from one of these services; you have to pay extra for a better URL and the ability to sell. One issue to consider is that if you eventually outgrow one of these services, it can be hard to export your site to a full scale advanced web hosting like Dreamhost or Hostgator. If you know that's where you are eventually going, it may be better to skip the sitebuilder step.
Robert, while a very good review, the problem with yours and other reviews of design sites is they don’t account for growing businesses. What I mean is that they are fine if you are one- or two-person shop, but paying $5/month extra for every email quickly becomes expensive. if you grow to 10 employees and now are paying $50/month plus the cost of the website and domain hosting. Most of these sites provide either no email or very few emails (like one) as part of the plans. This is silly expense because you can get unlimited email addresses for virtually no added cost through any reputable domain hosting site, some of which also off free design sites. So, for those same 10 employees you can pay $3/month all-in with hosting including or $50/month just for the emails and more for domain and site hosting . Perhaps it would be helpful to author an article on this issue and suggest for people who want more than 1-2 email addresses to consider hosting elsewhere and, if they still want to use one of these content management design sites, point to the domain.