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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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...