Which DIY website builder should you use?

There are many options out there for DIY website building.  If you are a freelancer, blogger, brand, personality, and/or small business wanting to DIY your website, we are outlining six options for you: PageCloud, Squarespace, Virb, Weebly, Wix, and Wordpress.

Our Main Grading Criteria

We wanted to break down the DIY website building grading based on two components:

  1. Ease of use (particularly for beginners)
  2. Features 

If you want a simple landing page: we show you what you can use for a simple landing page.  If you need an all-in-one platform that can do everything in terms of selling products, organizing bookings, storing documents, and more we also show you which platforms are better for that.

We took into consideration price and what gets you the most bang for your buck, functionality, as well as how time consuming it was to start from scratch to make something worth being proud of in the 21st century.  Whether you are a beginner or a professional designer with access to Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, we really help break down the advantages and disadvantages to the six platforms.

How We Assessed the Platforms

We were tasked with creating a new website for a highly-ranked babysitting and CPR training class in Georgia.  They wanted to  create an attractive website that could have the potential for clients book a class  pay for it right then and there on the website (an e-Commerce feature).  Another important consideration for them is something that is easy for a beginner to do themselves in terms of maintenance and content improvements.

We created new accounts on five of the platforms: PageCloud, Squarespace, Virb, Weebly, and Wix.  The reason we didn't do WordPress is because we already have extensive knowledge about the WordPress platform having previously run a WordPress website for two years.  Therefore, we already knew that WordPress wouldn't fit the bill for this particular client.  However, because of this extensive knowledge we still include that in today's post.

Once we created the accounts we gave only a small amount of time to each platform to see how far we could get as if we didn't have graphic or web design backgrounds.  We wanted to assess how much the platform offered itself and how easy it would be to create something attractive to the audience without the need of using Adobe Photoshop or hiring a designer if you simply don't have the money at the time.  Again, we are trying to cover both beginners and professionals with a design knowledge base in this post.

Now, moving on to the platforms in alphabetical order:


PageCloud

We signed up to try PageCloud as very eager beavers.  In fact we were most excited to try PageCloud because it has a lot of possibilities.  

Think of PageCloud as a literal blank canvas.  If you ever used iWeb on the Apple computers, PageCloud will remind you of it.  However, most people don't have time to create something from scratch and the templates offered don't stack up well next to the templates offered by other platforms.  

Price

Flat rate of $24 per month or $240 per year.

Features

Example of copy and paste Facebook "Like" button.

Example of copy and paste Facebook "Like" button.

  • PageCloud quite literally offers a drag and drop option (even from another window or from your computer's desktop)
    • You can also copy and paste from another browser window
    • The drag-and-drop and copy-and-paste feature does offer some cool twists:
      • If you would like to add a Facebook social media link, you just copy the page url and paste it into the canvas you would like to add it to.  Then it automatically generates a code for you and places a graphic link there for you on the page. Super easy concept (example to the right)
      • Video tutorials to help you create your website
  • Ability to work both on the desktop view and the mobile view of your website
  • Ability to add documents or files for download to your pages
  • SEO optimization
  • Statistics
    • Connect with Google Analytics

Pros

Editing the mobile design

Editing the mobile design

  • Starting from scratch
  • SEO optimization
  • Video tutorials

Cons

  • Time consuming
  • Large learning curve
  • Very limited features (no apps, plug-ins, or similar to help if you want to sell products or services directly on website, show an appointment calendar, etc)

Conclusion

We didn't go too much further with setting up a website for our client as we knew quickly PageCloud is not a good option for beginners or those without a knowledge base in web design, graphic design, and access to other software programs.  Plus, we didn't even want to put in the time necessary to really delve into a quality website for a client who needs something much easier to manage and even for the purposes of this article.

PageCloud is for people with a good knowledge base and external software programs who can import in graphics and elements.  It would also be great for anyone who needs a fun, attractive landing page.  Some of the PageCloud examples really show off great landing pages.

The major downfall for PageCloud was the experience simply wasn't very intuitive. Video tutorials help walk you through creating page elements, but watching video tutorials simply wasn't necessary for any other platforms as they were much more user-friendly and easy-to-use.

Lastly, we personally didn't like how we had to set up every little aspect.  

Two examples with illustration:

  1. The page height and width:
    Other platforms dictate that for you so that it flows better with the audience's browsers.  If we select a standard height and width for the website and then someone on a smaller or larger ratio views the website, it ends up throwing off the aesthetics.  Then we had to select these settings each time we created a new website page.  The full bleed setting (which is supposed to help with this) also didn't work too well for us.
  2. The location of page elements:
    For a full website (which most websites are), you need a navigation bar.  We manually had to go into each page and line up the header bar on the page so that it was in the exact same location on each page and therefore flowed correctly.

To see our live sample, click here.


Squarespace

As a little disclaimer, Skill Space currently uses the Squarespace platform.  Therefore, you can tour an example Squarespace website with our own, or you can scroll down to see the sample website we created for our client.

Squarespace is an all-in-one DIY website builder, with options to create anything from a portfolio to an online shop depending on your monthly payment.  There are many different templates with options to mix and match in order to best customize your own website.

price

$8 per month for a website that doesn't have a shop attached to it; $26 per month if you do have a shop (eg, an eCommerce website), even if you sell services or digital products.

However, there are additional features associated with the $26 per month tier including unlimited amount of pages (which Skill Space needed to create profiles, but our client did not need for their website).

features

  • Drag and drop content builder
  • Image gallery to tap into, including free and paid images
  • Mix and match capability with the template options for cover pages, websites, and storefronts
  • The storefront has plenty of options for inventory, offering discounts, and management
  • Analytics and statistics
  • Smartphone apps for managing your Squarespace blog, managing your portfolio, accessing your statistics, and taking care of your orders and inventory
  • Your own domain name (URL) if you don't already have one

pros

  • A lot of business features
  • Drag and drop content builder
  • Extremely customizable templates and pages
  • Image gallery

cons

  • No access to coding
  • Slight learning curve
  • No manually manipulative SEO optimization
    • Eg, if you're hoping you can manually type in the meta-description, for example for this blog post, you are out of luck.  Other platforms do a great job of allowing their users to manually do this (or at least offer plugins), but Squarespace simply doesn't.  They do have automatic SEO optimization, but you really have to know a good bit about SEO when you're doing the content creating on your end.

conclusion

Though we love Squarespace ourselves, we believe that it isn't for everyone -- especially since there is a slight learning curve.  At least a basic graphic design knowledge base may or may not be necessary, but a little bit of time is required to play around with the many different options.  Even for us who designed our website using Squarespace all by ourselves discovered it took a little extra time to start all over on a completely new website that had a different look and feel than our own.

Also, some elements and features aren't as intuitive as other platforms make it which adds to our determination that there is at least a slight learning curve.  It took a lot of playing around that perhaps beginners might not get satisfaction from doing if they are trying to DIY their own website.

We do believe Squarespace has a great use for shops, blogs, landing pages, brands, personalities, and portfolios (did we leave anyone out?  If so, insert them here).  With time and patience, any one definitely can make a successful website with Squarespace! But for all you fresh beginners out there, you might want to keep reading...

See our live sample here.


Virb

We have previously used Virb ourselves for about two years now for another website. It's best to describe Virb as a mini Squarespace: the options aren't as plentiful as with Squarespace, but the basic premise remains the same.

Price

One flat rate of $10 per month.  Bonus awesomeness: Students get one year free!

Features

  • Document storage
  • Statistics
    • Connect with Google Analytics
  • Storefront connects with Etsy and Big Cartel
  • Widgets
  • Your own domain name (URL) if you don't already have one

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Access to source coding
  • SEO optimization

Cons

  • Limited amount of templates compared to competitors
  • Lack of functionality and formatting options (eg, not being able to resize pictures)
  • Cannot sell products unless connected through Etsy or Big Cartel
  • Limitations with adding attractive visuals and modifying layouts

Conclusion

We believe that Virb would be great for portfolios -- the reason we used it ourselves.  For a low-maintenance portfolio it suited our needs perfectly, most especially at that price point of $10 per month.  It is quite easy to use but does lack some pretty competitive features (but, of course, you could argue you pay for those features with the competitors).

For our client, we recommended against Virb because many people and beginners might actually want a little more options.  Someone might be wanting to, for instance, resize a picture and place it to the right of the text versus only below or above a paragraph.  

Also, Virb does require a bit more playing around to get the look and feel you might envision, particularly since they have a smaller selection of templates than the other platforms do coupled with the lack of formatting and layout options.

Those two aforementioned reasons alone have us not recommending Virb for small businesses wanting more of an all-in-one feel.  Like we said, for portfolios Virb would be perfect.  In addition, Virb would do well for landing pages and online shops that are already listed on Etsy and Big Cartel.

Virb does have a blog feature, which includes the manual SEO optimization that Squarespace lacks.  One could easily argue Virb would be great for a low-profile blog to accompany, for instance, a small business owner that also lists their products on Etsy or Big Cartel.  This might actually be the best way to utilize Virb, especially at their price point.  But for anyone that wants to make blogging more of a job, then we wouldn't recommend Virb.

See our live sample here.


Weebly

We originally were not going to research or include Weebly.  It was a late contender to the game, but we are thrilled that we added it to the list!  It ended up being what we recommended for our client.

Weebly is a perfect cross between Wix and the Squarespace/Virb team.  It provides pre-made templates and layouts and is incredibly easy-to-use.  It is an excitingly easy way to create a website.

Price

The limited plan is free!  There are an additional three tiers: $8 per month for basic, $12 per month for professionals, and $25 per month for business and commerce (essentially to have a storefront).

Features

  • Drag and drop content builder
  • Document storage
  • Beautiful templates that are easy to customize
  • Apps
  • Image gallery with free and paid pictures to insert into your website
  • SEO optimization
  • Ability to work on the desktop view and the mobile view
  • Analytics
  • Smartphone app for managing your website
  • Your own domain name (URL) if you don't already have one
  • Assess to coding

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Beautiful layouts and template options
  • Drag and drop content builder
  • Apps
  • Minimal time commitment
  • Access to coding

Cons

  • Couldn't find any!

Conclusion

We kind of spoiled the conclusion by already admitting this is the platform we recommended to our client.  Weebly is incredibly easy to use and is 100% the most intuitive of the six platforms we're reviewing.  Though not as many options as Wix, that is actually a good thing.  It has the right amount of options to create an attractive website with a clean design very easily. 

We are truly impressed by what Weebly can do and really makes it easy for a beginner to just kick off their website.  From sign up to near-completion, we took 30 minutes.  We got further with Weebly than we did with any other platform and had created a pretty attractive design with a great flow from page to page.  We met all the clients needs and the client can easily manage, maintain, and improve their website on their own from here on out.  It was a very intuitive platform making it very easy to build a website.  

Though we couldn't find any cons, we know from both general and personal knowledge that full-time bloggers do tend to prefer WordPress and Blogger with Squarespace following in as a heavy hitter giving Blogger a run for it's money.  There are endless resources supporting the use of WordPress or Squarespace for businesses as well.  However there is a steeper learning curve for WordPress.  Business owners who want a great website in an easy way plus all the frills that WordPress can offer, we recommend Weebly hands down.

See our live sample here.

*At the time of this post being written, the website is still receiving finishing touches.


Wix

Wix was what we initially recommended for our client: it is a super easy platform making DIY website building incredibly simple.  We weren't actually a huge fan of the interface but we can definitely see how the interface is absolutely perfect for beginners.  It was, therefore, a very intuitive platform.

Price

Multiple tier options.

The two middle tier options include the unlimited plan for entrepreneurs and freelancers for $12.95 per month if billed annually (or $15.95 per month if billed monthly) and the eCommerce plan for small business for $16.58 per month if billed annually (or $19.90 per month if billed monthly).

Features

  • Drag and drop content builder
  • App market
  • Beautiful templates that are easy to customize
  • Document storage
  • The storefront has plenty of options for inventory, offering discounts, and management
  • Your own domain name (URL) if you don't already have one

Pros

  • Drag and drop content builder
  • App and image gallery
  • Starting from a blank canvas
  • Beautiful templates that are easy to customize

Cons

  • Not as easy to use for content creation as competitors
  • There are actually a lot of options, including a special effect option to add a page transition (are we the only ones that immediately think of those cheesy transitions in Powerpoint?).  Sometimes this can just be overwhelming and unnecessary.

Conclusion

The sole reason we went with Weebly over Wix was because we just felt like Wix was a less polished version of Weebly, but there really are a lot of great features for beginners wanting to create a website on their own.

The lesser polished aspects that made the final decision for Weebly over Wix were minute details and arguably nit-picky based on user preferences.  For instance:

Example of how a document download looks on Wix

Example of how a document download looks on Wix

  • Wix isn't as easy as other platforms when creating content (eg, text blocks and editing the formatting)
  • Wix doesn't have as clean of a look when adding documents and files to download

Details like those could simply not bother a beginner who doesn't know any differently.

Wix has a feel similar to PageCloud in that you are starting from a blank page or canvas but it is much easier to create content blocks, add a gallery, insert an app, and do many more attractive visual and important site elements.

With all that said, Wix would be a great option for anyone from beginners to professionals, whether you are setting up a landing page, an online storefront, or a blog.  

See our live sample here.


Wordpress

WordPress.org is essentially the go-to recommendation for "serious" bloggers and even small businesses.  Offering an almost limitless amount of options and customization, WordPress.org an online software for website building and is best accessed when going through a domain company who will offer a hosting option in conjunction with WordPress.org.  In the hopes to minimize confusion, read on...

Price

The price point varies based on domain provider.  

With our experience, we accessed WordPress.org by purchasing a domain name with GoDaddy.  GoDaddy has an option for their customers to connect to and access the world of WordPress.org's online software to build a fully functioning website and blog.  

GoDaddy, not unlike it's competitors (eg, BlueHost, HostGator), often has deals and discounts for new customers signing up as well as established customers wishing to add more perks (like an personalized email address).

Features

  • Endless options for customization
  • Plugins add additional features that can tremendously improve performance and experience
    • CoSchedule as an editorial calendar and social media manager
    • Options to have a storefront and manage your eCommerce
    • Enhance security features
    • Add SEO optimization with Yoast SEO
    • ...countless more options
  • Large community and user support system
  • Open source platform

Pros

  • Unlimited amount of options for customization
  • Apps and plugins
  • Most third-parties exclusively create their apps and programs for WordPress
  • Smartphone app for managing your website
  • Open source platform

Cons

  • Steep learning curve
  • Time-consuming
  • Not very intuitive compared to competitors and therefore not as easy to use
  • Many resort to paying extra for a template or web/blog design either pre-made or custom made
    • Though WordPress comes with many free templates, they are quite noticeably subpar examples of the WordPress.org potential
  • Business features aren't inherent
    • You often need to purchase plugins in order to create business features that competitors offer within their own platform (eg, having a shop and selling products or services on your website)
  • Open source platform

Conclusion

Though the endless amount of options is a significant plus, we went back and forth several times on whether we should grade WordPress an "A" or a "B."  The ultimate deciding factor was when we reflected back to our grading criteria: ease of use and bang for your buck whether you are a beginner or a professional.  WordPress costs can stack up when you start having to outsource your website design and even if you don't there is a significant learning curve and time cost.

WordPress can truly be anything and everything you want it to be... when you get the design right, have the right plugins (possible additional costs there), and maybe have a little bit of extra talents using Adobe software programs like Photoshop to create bangin' graphics.

Lastly, we categorized that WordPress.org as an open source platform is both a pro and a con.  As an advantage: anyone and everyone can develop coding to create a beautiful website, where closed systems are limited to the platforms' own in-house coding team (think Squarespace and Virb).  As a disadvantage: that means that WordPress can't always offer the help and support you need if you develop a bug within your coding.  An in-house team usually overs 24/7 support (Squarespace does) and is more on top of that with their templates.  WordPress.org only offers an online forum and your domain host can usually help with generalized questions.


You made it this far, congratulations!  We originally started this post with four platforms: PageCloud, Squarespace, Virb, and Wix.  We are very glad we included Weebly and give a little mention to WordPress.  With this post, we were striving to give some confidence to people who want to DIY and can't afford the time or price commitment associated with using WordPress.  

Fortuantely, there are so many options to create beautiful websites than there were when we first got started in 2007.  This whole Internet thing has come a long way!

Regardless of our opinions, PageCloud, Squarespace, Virb, Wix, and Weebly all have free trials for you to play around with and see which one truly works best for you and your needs.

Let us know what ended up working for you!

 

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