WordPress.com is not to be confused with its bigger brother WordPress.org (read our beginners’ guide). The latter is fantastic if you are not scared of diving into technical terrain, but surprisingly, the .com version is not that much easier to use and has a lot of restrictions. Having said that, if all you want is just to create a blog, WordPress.com could be a great solution for you. For a website, though, we find there are better solutions. Paid plans start at $5 per month.
Eric narrowly averted a career in food service when he began in tech publishing at Ziff-Davis over 25 years ago. He was on the founding staff of Windows Sources, FamilyPC, and Access Internet Magazine (all defunct, and it's not his fault). He's the author of two novels, BETA TEST ("an unusually lighthearted apocalyptic tale"--Publishers' Weekly) an... See Full Bio
Let's face it, one of the things we like best about the web is looking at pictures. The site builders here all offer some degree of photo and gallery display. Some, like Gator, Squarespace, and Wix, also offer loads of stock photography for you to use. Some let you touch up images with editing tools such as cropping, brightness, and in some cases even Instagram-like filters. Others, such as Gator, Simvoly, and uKit offer no photo editing at all, aside from resizing and positioning.

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You have probably heard about the Wix web builder, when the company advertised their product during the 2015 SuperBowl games. As a publilcy traded company and market leaders, they aggressively advertise their product, neglecting the fact the the main product is free of charge. If the name Weebly rings a bell, it could be the fact that Tim Ferris, publisher of several best selling books and a top tier consultant recommends it with passion, stating it is one of the top website builders available, helping him build a fully functional web site in less than 2 hours. The rest are widely known as well, may it be for Ecommerce uses, or being a leading internet services company like Web, which is publicly traded at the NASDAQ stock exchange.
You have probably heard about the Wix web builder, when the company advertised their product during the 2015 SuperBowl games. As a publilcy traded company and market leaders, they aggressively advertise their product, neglecting the fact the the main product is free of charge. If the name Weebly rings a bell, it could be the fact that Tim Ferris, publisher of several best selling books and a top tier consultant recommends it with passion, stating it is one of the top website builders available, helping him build a fully functional web site in less than 2 hours. The rest are widely known as well, may it be for Ecommerce uses, or being a leading internet services company like Web, which is publicly traded at the NASDAQ stock exchange.
If those template customizations don’t look like enough for you (though if you’re building your first website, they will be), you might want to think about building your website on an open source platform like WordPress.org. You will get more flexibility, but if you’re not a coder, learning WordPress takes a lot of time — especially compared to drag-and-drop builders.
Where they should improve: Some of their templates are modern and slick looking, but most of them look a bit aged. A big limitation of the free plan is that your website will go down, every day, for one hour; if you ask me, this is a no go. It has some of the basic features and add-ons, but there are key elements missing (e.g. a blog or on-site search). When you change to a new template, all the content you had will be lost.
These services can host your content on their servers free of charge, but in exchange for that zero cost, your online destination will have a less-than-elegant domain, such as jeffreylwilson.tumblr.com. That might be fine for a personal blog, but it will look too low-rent for a business that wants people to trust it enough to pay for whatever it's selling.
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.
Trouble is, and I’ve tried to navigate quite a few, but within minutes, as a complete Luddite – I get completely bogged down. I even managed to make a mess of the WordPress option. All I need is the most basic site with detail and a pic of my book. I don’t need a pay page and am happy just to direct people to Amazon etc. should they wish to purchase. Even writing this I feel sure you have covered everything I am asking here. But could you offer some suggestions on the best way forward? I should add here (and I know there would be options for me should money not be a problem) that unfortunately throwing a lot of money at this is (unfortunately) not an option.

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"We needed a simple web site creation tool. We needed to quickly and easily get an attractive web site. We needed to do all of this without having to work through a “developer.” And, since 1995, I and millions of others have been living in frustration, because that tool has never, ever existed. Never. This tool is the holy grail, a flying unicorn… the loch ness monster… rare and amazing, and something nobody has ever actually seen." 

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They are also currently running a massive 50% discount. So if you purchase a 12 or 24-month plan, you’ll not only get a free domain for 1 year, but a lot of savings, too. For example, we paid $143.76 for two full years. The $16 domain was free as well. Just keep in mind that renewal prices will adjust back to the normal rate. That means you’ll often lose the initial discount. You’ll notice below that pretty much all website builders do this. Therefore, try to lock in a longer term if possible to save the most.
Back in the days, knowing how to create your own website required knowledge about HTML code, CSS and Flash. Making your own website nowadays doesn’t require you to have these skills anymore. Content Management Systems (CMS) like Shopify, Wix or Wordpress can help anyone build their website from scratch. These website building platforms are user-friendly and help you manage your online content easily. Most websites make use of Wordpress, so we’d suggest that you do too.
Connect a custom domain: On a free plan your website address will look something like this: https://mysite.strikingly.com or https://joebloggs.wixsite.com/mysite. These web addresses can be long, confusing, and difficult to find if you’re a visitor searching for your site online. A custom domain allows you to choose a more personalized address, such as www.mysite.com which is a lot better for promoting a brand and getting found by potential visitors to your website! Even if you buy a new domain for your site or already own one that you want to transfer, you will need to be on a paid plan to actually connect and use it as the address for your website. Usually you can buy and connect your custom domain on the cheapest upgrade available, such as Weebly’s ‘Connect’ plan, so it’s an affordable option.
After all the work you put into it, I feel not a little stupid, in need to ask you anything else. The truth is I am a slightly long in the tooth septuagenarian with about as much nous as someone dropping in on a day trip from the fourteenth century. I want to promote (tell as many people as possible) about my new book, and hopefully, sell one or two.
"We needed a simple web site creation tool. We needed to quickly and easily get an attractive web site. We needed to do all of this without having to work through a “developer.” And, since 1995, I and millions of others have been living in frustration, because that tool has never, ever existed. Never. This tool is the holy grail, a flying unicorn… the loch ness monster… rare and amazing, and something nobody has ever actually seen."

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If you’re trying to build a large ecommerce store, here’s how to setup WooCommerce and WordPress (one of the most popular ways to add products to your store). Less tech-savvy beginners may prefer using a simplistic website builder. The most common choice is to build an online store with Shopify. Although website costs can vary, but consider reading up on the top questions to ask when hiring a website designer.
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