Based on the conversations we’ve had with clients, building your own website is becoming a popular way to save money. Understandably, it’s an attractive option because you get full control over all of the website building and there are several intuitive “drag and drop” builders on the market. However, before you decide to go with a DIY site builder, you should know what to expect and the issues you might run into.
By now, you’ve probably realized that you need a modern, well-designed website to appeal to customers. But with so many options out there all offering different ways to build one, it can be difficult to know where to even begin. And if you’re a small business owner with a limited budget, you likely don’t have the time or money to try every option to see which one meets your requirements while giving you the best “bang for your buck.”
If you are daunted by the task of building a quality website, or have no technical experience, have no fear, we’ll break down below the 4 best-known options for building a website that are accessible for SMB owners. We’ll give a brief overview of DIY options, namely GoDaddy, Wix, and Squarespace vs. having a firm build your website. Within each overview, we’ll outline the pros and cons, and provide a recommendation for when it might be best to go with that particular option. Hopefully, this will give you an idea of what each service offers and if it’s able to meet what you need.
Note: Unless stated otherwise, price quotes, features, and other service-specific pieces of info are sourced directly from each specific service’s resources (e.g. website, YouTube channel). We are not affiliated with nor compensated by any of the companies mentioned.
GoDaddy Website Builder
Other than for its 2000s commercials, GoDaddy is probably best known for its domain name and website hosting services. However, GoDaddy also offers two options to build a website through its platform. We’ll first go over the less expensive of the two: GoDaddy Website Builder (GWB).
GoDaddy Website Builder is a DIY service that allows users to build their own site via a “drag and drop” type builder. Designed to be relatively intuitive and easy to use for people without much site building experience, features include adding and removing page sections, uploading images and videos, and even creating a basic blog and contact form(s). Pricing ranges from $120 to $300/year, paid through annual contracts. Plans start at the Basic plan which provides a simple, ad-free website and go up to the Ecommerce plan which enables your site to conduct transactions, allowing customers to purchase products directly off of your website. The builder/site editor seems to work well on both desktop and mobile platforms, which means you can edit your website no matter where you are, as long as you have internet access.
Overall, however, there are some glaring drawbacks to using Godaddy’s Website Builder. First, building a GoDaddy site means using GoDaddy hosting, something that StyleSite and the web design community at large do not recommend. Buying their basic hosting means slow server speed, and their support team often takes this as an opportunity to upsell you on a more expensive hosting plan. In general, the GoDaddy support team is not viewed favorably.Additionally, GWB doesn’t have all the features you might expect from a robust website builder. Your options for customizing content and altering the pre-built components are extremely lacking. For example, if you wanted to adjust the text to be higher within a content block or add an additional image slot to a block, you wouldn’t be able to do so. On the ecommerce side, some users have complained that you can’t import more than 100 product files at a time, which can be an inconvenience if you sell multiple product lines. The website builder gives you very little in comparison to other options. See this review of the service for more information.
- One of the least expensive ways to build a website
- Different plan tiers to address different needs
- Exteremely simple “drag and drop” page builder/editor
- Can technically create as many pages as you want
- Ad-free websites
- Mobile optimized for editing on any device
- Lacks many advanced features, e.g. adding videos to blog posts, adding subpages directly
- Inability to customize modules/lack of access to HTML code
- Service only offered through annual contracts, no month-to-month option
- GoDaddy-only hosting option with spotty track record
- Can be time-consuming to build and maintain site on your own
- Sites can look simple, unrefined
Recommendation: Do not use. If you’re set on using a DIY site builder, keep reading, we’ll cover some better options.
GoDaddy Web Design Service
If you don’t feel like you can or want to build your own site, you can pay GoDaddy’s web designers to do it for you through GoDaddy’s Web Design Service (GWDS). With GWDS, you select one of four plans: Standard, Premium, Standard Online Store, or Premium Online Store, and tell your GoDaddy team about your business and what you’d like to see from the website (e.g. features, layouts, color schemes). Although pricing varies and GoDaddy does not list a specific price for their plans, the company has estimated that a “simple” website can cost anywhere from $500 to $2,000. The standard turnaround for GoDaddy-built websites is around 4-6 weeks, although this varies based on the project’s complexity. During the process, GoDaddy allows you to give feedback to the team to request changes, and most plans include on-demand support to make any changes you request after the site build is completed.
One of the main drawbacks of GWDS is that if you’re not 100% sure about if their service is right for you, you may end up having to pay $50 for a consultation call, where a GoDaddy representative will help you determine if it’s the right option. Another downside is that the plans only go up to 10 site pages, meaning that you may need to pay extra or find another developer to build the remaining ones if you need more. because pricing can change quickly with each additional site feature, what starts as a $200 offer to build a site could easily balloon to $2000 or more by the final quote.
Ultimately, if you want to leverage a web design team or company, there are endless other options that likely offer competitive rates. Try googling “web design” and looking at local listings. You’re guaranteed to find multiple companies nearby that can offer you their services. They may charge a little more, but in our opinion, that’s because you’ll likely end up with a much higher quality site.
- Relatively fast 4-6 week turnaround time
- Dedicated account manager for each site project
- Ability to give “live” feedback and request changes
- Sites built in WordPress, a popular and well-supported content management system
- May need to pay $50 for a consultation call
- Relatively low build limit in terms of site pages
- May not offer the best deal for every site build project (from examples we saw, site quality left something to be desired)
- Results may vary based on which developers are assigned to your project
Recommendation: Like their website builder, GoDaddy’s web design teams should be a last resort. Speak to other web development firms and don’t be afraid to “shop around” for the best value. If you’re considering working with GWDS, ask for sample completed websites for similar companies and/or sites with features similar to the ones you want: make sure the GWDS team is likely able to deliver what you want. Keep in mind, a good quality site from GoDaddy may end up costing you more than the base prices they advertise.
Similar to GoDaddy, Wix provides users a “drag and drop” editor to create their own websites. Users can either start with a template or, if they want to customize as much as possible, start with a totally blank site. Wix offers a free version for users that allows you to build your site, albeit with Wix advertising and an assigned domain name ([username].wixsite.com/siteaddress). If you wanted to remove Wix branding and add your own custom domain (along with higher storage, bandwidth, etc.), paid plans start at $156/year for Personal sites (up to $468/year) and $276/year (up to $6,000/year) for Business/ecommerce sites. Site building and updating is totally user-controlled, although there are Wix-certified developers that can be hired through Wix’s platform if you want help to build your site.
Like with GoDaddy, Wix sites do not have full customizability: it’s difficult to add in your own HTML or CSS code, and for the most part any built-in modules cannot be changed. In addition, if you plan on using video frequently on your site, you’ll need to pay at least $588/year to unlock unlimited video hours. This may be an inconvenience if you heavily feature video but don’t need ecommerce features on your site, as Personal (non-ecommerce) site plans only allow up to 2 video hours on a website. Several templates and designs on Wix also struggle with responsive design, appearing jumbled or warped on mobile devices. Similar to GoDaddy, sites may appear simple and in some cases unprofessional for a business, and hosting is only available through Wix.
- “Forever” free version available
- Support available even with free plan
- Affordable premium plans, tiered for different needs
- Simple, intuitive “drag and drop” editor
- Ad-free websites with paid plans
- Inability to customize modules/difficulty adding your own HTML or CSS code
- May be a “no man’s land” for businesses that don’t need ecommerce but need Business plan features
- Annual contracts, no month-to-month option
- Hosting only available through Wix
- Can be time-consuming to build and maintain site on your own
- Sites can look simple, unrefined
Recommendation: Use if you have a very tight budget and need a simple website without bells and whistles. Make sure you also have the time to build/maintain the site, or can hire someone to do so. Wix should be considered for only the most entry-level websites, e.g. if you just started your company and need a quick, easy website built, with the understanding that a site upgrade will probably soon be needed.
Founded in 2004, Squarespace provides templates that users can use to make their own websites via a “drag and drop” editor. Like the other DIY website builders mentioned, it’s designed for people who aren’t web development experts but want to create their own websites. Users can choose to start with a free trial, or pay for and start directly with one of four plans ranging from $120 to $480 per year. Squarespace also offers month-to-month payment options, which are $4 to $6 more per month compared to paying annually (from $16 to $46 per month). Users have over 100 templates to choose from, with most template themes being well-designed. Sites are responsive and display properly on both mobile and desktop, with AMP (accelerated mobile pages) support available for blogs.
Unlike the other DIY website builders, Squarespace’s editor may not be the easiest to use. There is no option to save changes as drafts, so any change you make and save will be published immediately onto your website. There also currently isn’t an autosave feature, so all changes must be manually saved by the user. Additionally, in terms of page navigation there is only one level available below the main navigation, limiting the ability to create subpages. In terms of loading speed, some templates can take longer to load, which may cause site visitors to grow impatient and leave the site. Squarespace also doesn’t offer telephone support at the moment, which means you need to rely on text-only support (i.e. chat, email, community forums) to resolve any issues.
(Shout out to Website Tool Tester and its review on Squarespace. They dig deeper into the platform and we encourage you to check out their review if you want to learn more about Squarespace.)
- In general, well-designed templates mean sites look more professional
- Affordable plans, with free trial available to test features
- Ability to pay annually or monthly
- Wide variety of templates to choose from
- Advanced features like AMP support available for blogs
- No autosave and saved changes publish immediately
- Business plan charges 3% commission on transactions; must upgrade to Basic Commerce plan to avoid commission fees
- Limited page navigation depth
- Some templates load slower
- No support for 3rd party plugins, which may limit customization
Recommendation: If you want an inexpensive site and have some experience using website builders, feel free to give Squarespace a try. Make sure to start with the free trial first so you know if the plan you’re thinking about actually meets what you need. However, be aware that the site builder is not as intuitive as some others and that, as with all drag-and-drop web builders, customization is still rather limited.
Independent Web Development Firms
If you aren’t really into a DIY website project, you can always work with a person or firm that specializes in website development (maybe a certain company with a flamingo in its logo). These firms range from large, multinational agencies to one- or two-person operations. The beauty of working with web development firms is that no matter what you’re looking for in a website, you can probably find a firm that is an expert in what you need. Firms of every size can provide great value for your money: for smaller firms in particular, there’s a decent chance you might find even more value given they don’t have the large overhead and personnel costs that larger firms have (less costs may mean a lower fee). In fact, we can think of one firm in particular that’s offering up to 50% off its services.
With web development firms, as you might expect, a quality website build will probably cost more than DIY options. However, if you find a firm that knows what it’s doing, your new website can be good for 5 years or even longer, since you’re paying for a higher quality product made by someone with expertise. Other than higher pricing, another possible drawback with firms is that because there are so many around, finding the right one can be confusing. This is why it’s important to either create a list of features that you want before contacting a developer, and/or identify sample websites for reference to show what you’re looking for. A third possible drawback is that some agencies are secretive about their pricing and may end up charging you markups beyond the project cost. To avoid this, we suggest asking for a contract or other pricing agreement beforehand that specifically outlines the services to be provided, along with the price quote. Make sure you also clarify if the firm will get your approval before approving any extra costs (e.g. additional graphic design work) so you don’t get hit with any unexpected price increases.
- Easy to find firms with expertise if you know how and where to look
- Higher expertise: website building is their career
- Higher quality websites that last longer and provide best value in most cases
- Can work with multiple content management systems (WordPress primarily) and reputable hosting providers
- Reputable firms provide a developer site for review/approval before creating your final website
- Usually higher cost than DIY
- Number of available firms can be difficult to navigate for best deal
- Changes beyond the project scope can cost extra
- Miscommunications can happen if working with overseas firms
- Larger firms may charge markups/higher price quotes
Recommendation: Unless you feel very comfortable with building your own site and are fine with something very simple, a web development firm is probably your best bet. Feel free to contact multiple firms for the best deal, and make sure that the firm you’re working with is transparent with pricing and clearly communicates each stage of the project. It’s perfectly fine to ask for sample sites that the firm has done in the past: in fact, it’s something we encourage to verify if the firm knows what it’s doing.
Although “you get what you pay for” may be an overused cliché, when it comes to website building services it holds rather true. DIY options do tend to be cheaper than working with a firm, but you might be stuck with subpar hosting, limited customization, or may find you simply don’t have the time to add website management to your list of responsibilities. So, we recommend you only go with these options if you have a good idea of what you want your site to look like and understand that you will likely need to upgrade in the near future as your business grows. On the other hand, web development firms can be more expensive but with the right firm, you’ll have a partner that will work with you closely to build a high quality site that can be used for years to come. In fact, there might not be a better time than now to find a firm to refresh or rebuild your website: prices are the lowest they’ve ever been and, with the right partner, you can find excellent quality at exceptional value.