[UPDATED: JAN 2021]
Creating a new website is easier than ever before, thanks to the release of powerful web design platforms that are very simple to use, even for the most “non-techie” folks out there. The web design platforms mentioned in the following articles allow the average person to create a fully-functional website in just a few mouse clicks — without any coding or advanced technical knowledge.
The following tech review will take a closer look at the best web design platforms currently in the market for “Do It Yourself ” web design projects. They can be used to create business websites, blogs, eCommerce sites, forums, social media pages, and so much more. And while this review is only an overview of the various platforms, if you are interested in getting your website off the ground with WordPress make sure to check out my step-by-step WordPress guide to get you started.
Review of BEST WEB DESIGN PLATFORMS
WordPress is the world’s most popular content management system. It powers about 38% of the world’s websites and is currently used by some of the biggest websites in the world, including CNN, fortune.com, time.com, and Spotify.
WordPress was released in 2003 as installable blog software. Initially, the platform was very simple and was used by people to post their thoughts online in a blog format. Over the years, WordPress grew in terms of functionality and is now capable of running very powerful and complex websites.
One of the main reasons for WordPress’s popularity is its adaptability. When first installed, it will function as a website or blog. You will be able to create posts or pages and upload images or videos. However, once you install themes or plugins, the way the site operates and looks will dramatically change.
You can use plugins to transform your WordPress site into a community hub, eCommerce site, news website, event planner, social media website, forum, and much more. The theme system can also be used to change how your site looks and to add useful features. You only need to look at how different TechCrunch.com, BBC America, and House of Whisky are from each other to see how adaptable WordPress is. It’s hard to believe they are all built using the same content management system.
Btw, did you know that WordPress is the preferred web design platform out there? Here is a quick comparison of all the popular content management systems available on the market in 2020 (Reference: w3techs.com).
And just so you know, there are two versions of WordPress available — free and self-hosted. Let’s take a look at both:
The free version of WordPress is obtained via WordPress.com. You simply create an account to receive your free WordPress website, which will be installed on the WordPress servers. However, there are some limitations to having a free WordPress website, namely:
- It will have a WordPress.com subdomain (yoursite.wordpress.com)
- You will only have access to certain themes and design customization is limited
- Only certain plugins will be available
You can overcome these limitations by paying a monthly fee to WordPress.com. As of July 2018, there are three accounts to choose from — Personal, Premium, and Business. The more expensive accounts add additional support, more server resources, and more functionality. The price of WordPress websites includes server hosting. You can learn more at the WordPress.com pricing page.
Self-hosted WordPress websites are installed on your own server. To install a self-hosted WordPress website, you must download the source code for WordPress and upload it to your server, and install the application. You will also need your own domain name when running a self-hosted WordPress website.
Installing a self-hosted WordPress website does require a few technical steps, including pointing your domain at the server and installing a database for WordPress. To avoid these steps, you can use a dedicated WordPress hosting companies like WP Engine, BlueHost WordPress Hosting, or my personal favorite GoDaddy as they can perform the initial installation for you.
Once installed, you will have complete control over your WordPress site. You can decide which plugins to use and which theme to run. There will be no restrictions over what you do with your website.
Obtaining the WordPress source code necessary for a self-hosted WordPress website is completely free. However, there will be some costs associated with purchasing a domain name and web hosting.
OTHER POPULAR WEB DESIGN PLATFORMS TO CONSIDER
While WordPress may be the big player in the league with endless options to turn your creative vision into reality, there are other web design platforms that may work better for you. Therefore, below you will find a few words about Wix, Squarespace, Weebly, and Shopify to find the best solution for your needs and budget to go from #Layout2Launch.
Wix is a cloud-based web development platform created by Israeli software company also called Wix. It is a powerful platform that allows users to create feature-rich websites through a simple drag-and-drop interface.
The drag-and-drop interface lets you change the background for your website, change the layout of pages, add images, add features like web forms, and much more. Users have the choice of starting their website from scratch or using one of Wix’s many web design templates as a starting point.
Wix also recently added Wix ADI (Artificial Design Intelligence). This feature speeds up the website design process by asking a few simple questions then using artificial intelligence to come up with the perfect website design. This feature is particularly useful for business owners or entrepreneurs who need an attractive website but don’t have a great deal of time to design one from the ground up.
Creating a Wix site is free, but there will be certain limitations, including:
- A Wix subdomain domain will be used (username.wixsite.com/siteaddress)
- Wix ads will be present
- Storage and bandwidth will be limited to 500Mb
- Online payment systems won’t be available (so you couldn’t run an eCommerce store)
To obtain more support and features, you will need to purchase a premium plan.
More advanced functionality including events calendars, eCommerce features, and forums are also available from the Wix marketplace. There are usually additional charges for adding these features to your standard Wix website.
Squarespace is an all-in-one platform that provides website-building software and web hosting. It is a popular platform with millions of websites already built using Squarespace — including sites for large companies like PIXAR, Lyft, and Rodarte.
Similar to Wix, Squarespace offers website design software to help you create a site without any coding or advanced technical knowledge. Users can choose from hundreds of layouts created by professional designers. After choosing a layout, the images, fonts, and positioning of different sections can be altered via a simple interface. All web pages come with unlimited pages, galleries, and blogs. Squarespace websites come with a free custom domain, website metrics, and are optimized for mobile devices.
Squarespace also offers eCommerce functionality for users interested in opening an online store. It is simple to configure your store and begin uploading products. It is a powerful all-in-one option useful by many businesses. Squarespace even offers marketing packages, which help you promote your store online. Learn more about Squarespace.
Similar to the other platforms, Weebly has a powerful drag-and-drop interface that allows you to set up your website without coding or high-level technical knowledge. All websites are hosted and configured by Weebly, which makes publishing your site simple.
Users choose one of the Weekly templates and begin customizing it to suit their needs. The basic (free) package includes access to the drag and drops website builder, SSL security, and 500Mb of storage. The only downside is that it is on a Weekly subdomain and must display Weekly ads.
There are four other packages that add more features including the ability to have your own domain, additional storage, site stats, HD video & audio uploads, and membership registration systems. All paid packages will also remove Weebly ads. Only the more expensive packages have access to eCommerce functionality. Click here to learn more about the different Weebly packages.
As the name suggests, Shopify is primarily about eCommerce. Shopify can be used to create standalone eCommerce stores or to add eCommerce functionality to existing websites. You can even use Shopify to add eCommerce features to your Facebook page.
Shopify offers users various templates to choose from, which can be customized using their simple editor. Importing products is easy thanks to a variety of tools added by Shopify. Once the store is live, Shopify will help you handle payments, track invoices, provide support, store files, and much more. Click here to learn more about Shopify.
Focus on Long-term Goals When Selecting Your Web Design Platforms
In conclusion, and after many years of creating websites for clients, I can’t stress it enough if you decide to go the do-it-yourself route don’t look only at what your needs are today. Try to select a web design platform that will allow your brand/business to grow in the future. And while many may think WordPress is the most complicated of them all, there is a tool (i.e. WordPress Service, WordPress Roadmap & Website in Week online course) available to help you plan, design and launch your new website in no time!
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in July 2018 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.