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8 Free Design Platforms To Build Your Own Site

Design, Web Development | Jan 15, 2009

Website builders have been gaining more popularity and traction lately, thanks to services such as Wix and Webnode.

These online website creators allow you to create a full website, free of charge, directly in your browser without any prior knowledge of website development.

Many of these services also offer premium packages with additional features, for a small cost per month, if you desire additional tools. The biggest advantage in using these services is the unbeatable development speed, as it all happens in your browser with click-and-drag functionality.

If you’re not a web designer or a creative person but need an easy and affordable solution to creating a website, try one of these free programs.

 

Wix

 

Wix offers a simple, yet powerful online platform to make Flash websites, MySpace layouts and more. Using a browser-based interface, you can choose from a wide selection of design templates or start with a blank canvas. Wix provides more than enough tools to get the job done, with everything from animation effects and photo albums to Google maps and RSS feeds. You can also import photos from Flickr and videos from YouTube with only a few clicks.

The design interface is sleek and quick (on a high-speed connection). Tools are easy to access when needed and can be hidden when not necessary. Creating new pages and editing old ones is straightforward. Your website is hosted on Wix’s server for quick and easy publishing, however unless you upgrade to a premium package (starting at $4.95/month), you don’t have much control over your domain name. All in all, Wix is by far the best choice for free Flash websites.

 

Weebly

Weebly is another top choice and sports a simple click and drag interface that allows you to create a professional website very quickly. Content elements, such as videos, pictures, maps, and text are added to your website by simply dragging them from the Weebly bar to your webpage.

You must choose from one of their templates, yet each template is pretty flexible and customizable so there is some room for creativity. Adding and organizing your website’s pages is surprisingly painless. When you add a new page to your website, it’s automatically added to the navigation bar so there’s no need to update your navigation, even if you add a new page at the last minute. Your website domain is in the format of ‘pagename.weebly.com,’ though if you wish, you can create and purchase your own domain name through the interface (the domain purchase process is handled by bestdomainever.net).

 

Webs (formerly FreeWebs)

 

With over 20 million websites created with Webs, this one is among the most popular free website creators available and features many of the same features of the other online website builders.

It’s worth noting the ability to integrate your site with Paypal or Google Checkout. It only takes a few clicks and your account information in order to add e-commerce functionality to your website. Also, you can create your own social network by requiring visitors to “join” your site, all with a just a couple of clicks. How cool is that?

Webs is probably not the easiest free website builder to use, however with the extra features available, Webs is a viable option for creating a powerful, free website.

 

Webnode

 

Webnode has an interface that could easily be mistaken for Microsoft Word and it’s incredibly ease to use. It’s a phenomenal package and if you’re a Word user, you should be up and running in a few minutes.

What sets Webnode apart is the way that you create and edit your website. It operates more like a content management system. You edit pages by browsing to that page first, then making the necessary changes. This helps to better visualize how your website will look and function exactly. You can change your page layout and design at anytime using the toolbar. The benefit of creating and editing your site with Webnode is that it allows for automatic linking and navigation, so it can be particularly useful when creating large websites with lots of content.

Webnode is the most intuitive program among these website creators, with powerful content management system capabilities and a user friendly interface.

 

Jimdo

 

Jimdo operates much like Webnode, by browsing to each page before editing. You practically won’t notice a difference between the site as it appears online and the site as it appears in editing mode. Jimdo however, is not quite as powerful or as easy to use as Webnode.

On the other hand, Jimdo does offer greater design possibilities with a broad range of customization options.

 

Sprout Builder

 

Sprout has a range of features that will allow you to quickly and easily build, publish and manage rich media Web content including widgets, banners, mashups and more.

Sprout has a powerful design interface, though it’s a bit difficult to use the first time. The interface consists of dragable toolbars with a surprising amount of design options such as opacity, bevel, emboss, drop shadow, etc.

Despite a bit of a learning curve, Sprout is still a solid choice and offers many powerful design tools that allow you to create a unique website.

 

Viviti

 

Viviti is primarily a content management system with less focus on design and customization, however it does a good job at getting you on the web quickly and easily.

Select from one of their templates, then create the pages you need and add content. Pretty simple, though if you’re looking for an extremely powerful website creator with endless possibilities, then this is not the best application for you.

 

SynthaSite

Synthasite has functionality that is similar to that of desktop publishing software such as Microsoft Publisher. It offers drag and drop editing features that rival many others on this list. Most remarkable is SynthaSite’s online photo editing through a partnership with picnik.com, which is an extremely powerful browser-based image editing program.

Synthasite service is very reliant on templates, but there are plenty to choose from and they vary from fun and funky to classy and cool. Every now and then you’ll stumble upon a template that has a bit of flexibility – offering the ability to change the background image, for example – but those who want to exercise their design talents will find it restrictive.

Written exclusively for WDD by Michael Shelton. Michael is a freelancer web designer and runs his own website at http://michaeladesigns.com/

Have you used this website builders?  Which one is your favorite?  Please leave your comments below…

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  • http://www.marksten.nl Marksten

    Nice artical! But im a little dissapointed that it’s not possible to just download the software, and upload it to your own website. Because I really liked webnode, the interface is so simple and smooth and it really makes things a lot easier.

    Before I forget, the URL of weebly is wrong, it should be weebly.com instead of webbly.com!

    • http://www.webdesignerdepot.com Walter

      URL fixed, thanks for that :)

      • http://www.stitasguild.weebly.com Kaitlyn

        I use weebly for our public website. It has some decent templates and you can customize to a certain degree. Those who can write code can do that on custom html. But you can’t have a password protected page for members only on the free service.

        Can you recommend a site with free pastword protected ability? We’ve been using Yahoo Groups and it just doesn’t work for us.

  • Carlos P

    Nice Review… and just in time. I am looking to start my own website and this came right on time.. very handy information. I will explore more of these tools and the options they offer.

    In my quest to find a tool or a service to create a website I even encounter a website for outsourcing jobs to China… incredible.. you set your price range and people who wanna get the contract will try to get more $ from you.. it is up to you to decide if u want to go with it or not…

    It seem a viable option if you want a custom made site with many different features the tools reviewed cannot offer and for a small amount of $.

  • http://www.pliggs.com Geoserv

    I can’t believe I haven’t heard of any of these services, good post.

  • Abulafio

    The article is great, thank you, very useful. But, I think, it’s very dangerous promise people that they can create themselves a really good website, because it isn’t true. You can use a blog system like wordpress, and it’s all right (themes are fixed, so you have a way to follow), but you need a webdesigner to project and build a good site. Yes, I can build an airplain (http://www.amazon.com/Make-Your-Airplane-Last-Forever/dp/0070717044) but of course not a Boeing 747… However, probably services are a “wee boy”, need a lot of improvement (like my english…!).
    Bye!

  • http://blog.insicdesigns.com/ insic

    amazing! Ive tried weebly before but i never thought that theres a lot of them offers that kind of services. thanks for this nice article.

  • http://web.raptordesign.eu Bogdan Pop

    If these solutions were that good, why doesn’t anyone make a free car builder. I’d love to put some parts, have a car built, get certificated to be able to use it on the road and, ta-da!

    I am totally against web builders because everyone could throw up on the web who knows what “gorgeous” website and because of social networking we could end up with a kitsch trend in web design, and I don’t think any of you would like a client to come and ask for such a design.

    I am not just saying so, but I actually got a client a few weeks back who wanted me something similar to what weebly has created.

  • http://supersite.me Simon

    And probably the easiest of them, http://www.Hipero.com – which anybody can compete with http://www.WebsiteBuildex.com providing this software

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  • http://www.dileepsharma.com/ Dileep K Sharma

    I have been looking for similar services for a couple of months. But I would find them all at one place I didn’t expect. Its simply great to see all these listed here. Thanks for sharing.

  • Clarissa

    Great article, except Sprout is no longer free. :[

  • http://BeyondRandom.com BeyondRandom

    Ive uses Webs and Sprout user along time ago but some of these I have never heard of. Great article. Bookmarked!

  • http://ryanburrell.com Ryan Burrell

    Does the increasing commonality of do-it-yourself design programs diminish the need for web design professionals? Joe Schmoe can pay $5 for a web-based service, throw up his chartreuse and hot pink color scheme, with a liberal dose of Comic Sans, and *bam* we’ve have website material. That’s not even considering the information architecture or optimization viewpoints. The world keeps getting scarier.

    • Shawn Pais

      I agree with you, Ryan. In a way, it kind of reminds me of the time when MS Word became available to the public. Every business began designing their own ugly marketing strategies. Oh, how I see the start of The Dark Ages is upon us all. Only a well-planned design will survive.

    • http://www.cowgirlexpressions.com/ Ramey

      Ditto. I’m already cutting costs due to the economy just to try and drum up clients. It just breaks my heart when a client says “I don’t need your services anymore because I can get a free site on Homestead or [one of the above services].” Actually, it usually doesn’t even go like that. I get asked for the “login” to their domain name (which is under my main account) because they can no longer “afford” me and then after the domain is ultimately switched I see the horrid word-like template and semantically coded nightmare from whatever service or DIY software that was used. Such a sad day.

  • kiwi

    Great list! Silverstripe is another east to use CMX type platform – http://www.silverstripe.com and http://www.silverstripe.org for resources.

    • Ivana Setiawan

      I love silverstripe:)

      Thanks for your suggestion!;)

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  • http://www.1klang.de frank katzer | 1klang.de internetagentur

    thanks for the list. many new services i’ve never heard of. what about google sites? http://sites.google.com/

  • http://jorgelinares.com Jorge Linares

    Nice article, I had never visited such websites before or even heard of.
    I just tried “Wix” right now and it has a lot of cool features, pretty good for those people out there with no web design and development experience, also for young people who are always creating personal sites.

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  • http://www.josephdunndesign.com orionstarr

    I think Moonfruit.com is the best online website maker, though it wasn’t mentioned.

  • http://blog.arpitnext.com ArpitNext

    I will praise Synthasite. And, Google Sites is missing :(

  • http://www.whataboutki.com Ki

    Too bad Sprout Builder is going to be charging soon. A minimum of $14 a month!

  • http://www.sidelanes.com John

    Interesting post. I do webdesign and I’ve always told friends who want a website but can’t afford one to go to Squidoo and create their own website. I’ve never tried any of these tools but something to keep an eye on. Thanks!

  • Asim

    I agree. Sprout is the best, but they are now unfortunately going to start charging, and charging a lot.
    I hope they will add some new features soon for those prices, otherwise, i think they will loose with the competition that is coming from everywhere.

  • Benzodiazepine

    I like Jimdo, it’s kinda faster but actually depends on the internet.

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  • http://www.bioirrigation.com Laura

    Great post! I have gotten more information from this post than some of the professionals who have been consulting me. Thanks again for the great info!

  • http://www.jampmark.com Jamp Mark

    I registered a site with weebly.
    Yes, it was very easy but a little confusing though.

    i’m sure they can work it out soon.

    • http://www.whataboutki.com Ki

      I also tried Webbly Chat. Still needs to allow the customer more customization though.

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  • http://www.radiorockonline.com Juan

    Hi have tried all of this online aplications but nothing compares to neositios.com which just finished their beta release, it has many tools as logo editor, image editors, and asome designs… try it for yourself

    • bhuvijain

      Hi I was disappointed to see that the site is NOT in English !! So perhaps it is not in the race at all …

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  • http://www.viviti.com Daniel Insley

    Hi,

    Just some clarification from one of the Developers at Viviti.

    We do support quite a bit of theme customization with our CMS using standard HTML/CSS/Javascript, and you can upload your own completely custom built themes from our theme manager.

    The only requirement for our themes is that certain elements have specific ID’s or classes to designate them for the appropriate content. You can take almost any theme and convert it to work with Viviti pretty easily by changing the existing class/id’s and updating the style sheets to reflect the changes.

    We’re constantly adding our in house designed themes, as well as themes from all around that have the compatible licenses that allow us to add them.

    Thanks!

  • http://www.freebiesup.com ummu sina

    great post!! thanks

    freebiesup

  • Janice Sclafani *~*TheGrinningDoggy*~*

    Michael,

    WOW ! :-)

    I loved your *article* on the various free web design providers that are out there and want to thank you for taking the time to share this info with your readers.

    While I am presently hooked on WIX, I was pleased to see you offered reviews on a wealth of other options for people to choose from.

    I am familiar with some of the free website providers you mentioned, but not all- so I came away from this article learning a few things, in addition to being excited to know there are still more out there, for me to try my hand at. :)

    I had dabbled with Freewebs but was not enthralled with the interface.

    While in search of something new , I came upon WIX; and I have to say I am pleasantly surprised at the ease of use and how quickly one can set up a site in no time, once you get the hang of the various features.

    Getting the hang of it is hardly daunting.

    It just takes a bit of quiet time (with your undivided attention) and before you know it, you are rolling!

    I think each site you listed has something to offer many people that want/need to create a website.

    It is just a question of what one’s needs are, if the free web design site can meet those needs, and if the user likes the interface they will be using to design a site.

    So part of it is ,”Does it meet my criteria?” and part of it is” Do I like working in this design enviroment?”

    If you don’t enjoy creating in that particular enviroment, even if it meets your needs, you won’t be happy working on your site.

    Which means that the allure of it being a free design site, becomes pretty meaningless.

    Face it, website design is a creative endeavor.

    And if one is into unleashing their creativity, and does not find web design a chore, then the site that best lets them do that, is usually the best bet to go with.

    To those readers that have not gotten a chance to *play around * in Wix?

    Give it a try. I will certainly try the others listed – just for the sake of comparison.

    I can say this, it looks like I am going to end up dumping my paid web host soon, if more free website providers prove to have offer the kind of quality that I have found in Wix.

    Thanks again for the valuable info. I will be sure to share! :-)

    Janice Sclafani
    Animal Rescue/ Welfare Advocate
    New York

  • http://www.menandcats.com brooklynbee

    Can you use any of these w/ your own web host? I’ve been using WordPress for blogging but I might want to have a separate site that is not in a blog format. My web host comes with a site builder but it’s not very good.

  • http://melissa-brandon.com Brandon Hansen

    The issue with these is that they really do serious damage to the web design/development community. Not only do they take away a lot of business, but they lower values across the board. When people see that they can get a website for $15 per month, they assume that it is the same quality that a web developer would give them. So if they go looking for a developer, and the developer is going to charge $5000 they run.

    We can either see this as a threat or as a challenge. It is our job guys (and gals) to show that what we do as designers/developers is much more than just giving a client a website. If they just want a website, get a free site. If you want your brand promoted, traffic driven, and some support, come see me.

  • banks

    i think this thing is sit just like your mum last night but hell she was only a tenner… hahhahahahhaha ……. supreme ltd coming soon to a store near you… future millionaire….. haters sit back an enjoy the show.. hahahahahha

  • http://deanperry.net Dean

    I was very surprised SquareSpace wasn’t mentioned.
    squarespace.com

  • http://www.edicy.com Kajar

    Nice article. If you guys should ever do an updated version of this list, I’d like to throw our hat in the ring as well. Edicy (http://www.edicy.com) is another program for getting a website fast and easily.

  • jason Chambers

    I have tried a bunch of these and they all have pro’s and con’s. I am going to try webnode to see if it easier than the other one’s. I find it funny that some people are actually bothered by these editor’s. I would imagine most people using them are like me sharing a little hobby with other people they know, using it as a place to paste thier resume. For instance I know a cabinet maker who use’s his to display his work. Most people don’t really need a slick website and the companies that do know they have to get a real designer. There will always be people who can produce websites better than basic editors, but the editor’s are only going o get better and better.

  • http://www.companylogos.ws/ Design your own logo and website

    Remarkable post, we’ll give reviews on these web design templates, tools Plus Website Builder and It is very good way to give information on these tools to client. Enjoy, as well as make own web or logo, Appreciation and Enjoyment!

    I was extremely surprised and like Viviti, Sprout Builder and SynthaSite
    Great work!! Thanks for Designs

  • http://www.contussupport.com Offshore Software Development

    Excellent post…..thanks for sharing this blog.

  • http://www.phuket-dental.com/ PD

    Thank you for sharing this blog.

  • http://francisablogz.jimdo.com francisa

    great post!! thanks

  • jimmy1982

    I love websitedesignerdepot.com but why are you posting and advertising these companys. they could be future of web designe and they will only get better down the road. Some day there will be no need for designers because the 10 year old next door can get on to wix and put a website together in minutes. wix is only $5 a month, they will have millions of clients (our clients) so they will have lots of money to advertise and do what they want. while we will have to lower our price to compete. also have to finnish work extra early to join the homeless queue.

    • http://www.webdesignerdepot.com Walter

      Hey Jimmy,

      This is only one way for people to make sites. There will always be room for talent. A platform is not a designer, it serves a purpose for a very particular group of people.

      I don’t think designers will ever be out of work, especially if you’re good. ;)

  • GrandJSukkaru.

    super we site

  • http://www.chotrul.com/skills/design-markup.html Chotrul Web Design

    Strange stuff! I hadn’t come across any of this before – I didn’t know such a ‘one size fits all’ approach existed off the shelf. I guess it fills a need at the bottom end of the market.

  • Joe

    This is helpful. I get approached by small non-profits looking to establish a web presence with little to no budget – and knowing these options is helpful.

    I have some questions that I am hoping someone can address…

    If you want to build a site that you can migrate to other platforms, hosting solutions… what is best.

    Do these sites include free hosting/

    What are good rules of thumb for choosing platforms listed, versus Google Sites, or Yahoo Groups , or Google Groups?

  • Nadz

    i have been using wix for the last two weeks to build my site, and to be honest now that i saw all the other options i am changing it. Wix has truly some beautiful template, but the problem is that the more you add content to it the more the site on browsing mode become slow ( it can take up to 3 minutes to load the page???).
    Customer support is also rubbish at answering queries, they always direct you to the forum support. I contacted three times and still my problem is not solved.
    Also the editor screen freezes most of the time.
    If you want a three pages website go with wix, but if you want a photo gallery or an e-business don’t bother with them…
    I am going to try weebly now and will let you know…
    N :0

    • http://Weebly Kaitlyn

      Weebly is fairly easy. We have 8 -10 pages. It is limited to some degree but easy to use. Also you can’t add CafePress or anything like that. It does have some lovely templates that you can modify a bit with personalised photo’s. Check mine out to se an example. http://www.stitasguild.weebly.com

  • http://sideradesign.com Paul – WordPress designer

    you’d be better off installing WordPress and a free theme, rather than these services

  • http://celeberitygossipss.info/bookmarks/ Christin Poczobut

    Is usually blogengine superior to wordpress in some manner? Really needs to be because it’s increasingly popluar lately.

  • http://ishouvik.tk Shouvik Mukherjee

    What about SocialGo? They are good too.

  • http://Webs.com Kaitlyn

    I use Webs.com which is fairly easy to use, but limited a bit. Only problem is it frequently won’t let you upload stuff when you need to and it takes a while for the webmaster to get it fixed when reported.