I spend a lot of time thinking about websites, given that much of the branded photography I shoot ends up on my clients’ websites. And while I work with an incredible designer, I also spend a lot of time on my own website: creating new pages, tinkering with content, adding new images, etc.
Clearly, websites are on my mind… but I am by no means a tech pundit.
Which is why I appreciate the wave of easy-to-use, simple drag-and-drop website building platforms popping up all over the internet.
When I first started my business (over a decade ago!) getting a website up and running was no easy feat. You probably had to hire a developer or learn code yourself to get something half-way decent up. No longer!
In fact, we’ve gone all the way to the other side of the spectrum: we have so many options, it’s hard to know which is the best website builder for your business. Not ideal, especially for a solopreneur who might be beginning to grow her team, but is still wearing too many hats.
So, I thought I’d put all my thinking about websites and create a solopreneur’s mini-guide to help you choose the best option.
Wix — Most easily customizable
Wix bills themselves as the “website builder for small businesses”. Like many on this list, Wix is an all-in-one platform that includes modern must-haves like 24/7 hosting and mobile responsive designs, as well as the important features you might not even know you need like a security certificate — all built in!
Wix offers hundreds of designer-created templates to choose from that are easily customizable in drag-and-drop editor. This is probably the most intuitive website-builder making it quick and easy to get your website up and running.
It’s simple and easy to use, but provides you with robust functions to truly personalize your website.
Do you have podcast episodes or songs you want to feature? Wix has a customizable music player. Do you have speaking videos or recorded Facebook Lives you want to share? Wix has a customizable media gallery. Do you have events you want to display to get online bookings? Wix has an event calendar and online ordering.
Seriously, whatever you want to create, Wix can probably handle it. They make it crazy easy to create, customize, and launch your website.
Squarespace — Most ready-to-go templates
Squarespace gets a lot of attention for being the “website for photographers”. Well, as a photographer, I can soundly disagree.
When Squarespace first started, it was certainly tailored towards visually-stunning website creators, but as they’ve grown they’ve expanded. Now, this is a platform for anyone building a personal brand: artists, photographers, musicians, authors, fashion influencers, bloggers, etc.
Squarespace has absolutely gorgeous, modern templates to choose from, but there’s only about 24 to choose from. While they can each be customized, there are limitations that vary depending on the template family you’ve chosen. That said, these templates are beautiful! Once you layer in your own copy, images, and branding, your website will look completely yours.
Due to its popularity, Squarespace also has a growing number of integrations making it easy to incorporate business-building features like your newsletter signups, affiliate tracking, online booking, and even accounting software.
Although it is intuitive, this platform isn’t the easiest to use of all the website builders on this list, and depending on what you want to do, you may need bits of code injected into your site. But Squarespace has a strong community providing free resources on how to DIY it all.
Bottom line, if you’re a personal brand looking for a gorgeous website that you don’t need to tinker or fiddle with, Squarespace provides a top-notch website builder.
Shopify — Most e-commerce friendly
Although other website builders have augmented their services to include e-commerce support, Shopify is the only website builder designed specifically for e-commerce businesses. They even self-identify as being “designed to help people build their own, scalable online store”.
In addition to typical website-building features, Shopify has some neat online store benefits to increase your profits and help you discover new sales opportunities.
Want to sell your goods on social media or Amazon, too? Shopify offers multi-channel integration so you can connect your shop on Facebook Instagram, Amazon, Ebay and more. Want to follow up with online shoppers who never check out? Shopfiy offers abandoned cart recovery, so you can email visitors who add something to their car, but leave your online store without checking out. Want to make shopping in your online store easy and safe for customers? Shopfiy offers hundreds of payment options like PayPal, Stripe, Amazon Pay and Apple Pay.
For those with physical products, Shopify also has partnerships with USPS, DHL Express, UPS and Canada Post, so business owners can easily manage their entire sales cycle — from product listing to fulfillment — through a single platform.
Do you sell things online? Do you want to? If you’re considering moving into the e-commerce space or expanding your online offerings, Shopify is where it’s at.
IM — Most beneficial for one page websites
This website builder is probably the most scaled down to the absolute essentials for solopreneurs looking for a foundational website.
Maybe you don’t need a full blown website to host a gallery or a blog. You just want to introduce people to who you are, what you do, and why it matters — plus how to contact you. This is exactly what IM is designed to do.
It’s perfect for long (or short) scrolling single one-page websites, because they actually encourage you to start small and avoid getting overwhelmed. Instead of templates to choose from, IM has precreated blocks that you can stack together (sort of like digital Legos) to build the site you want. Start with one section and build complexity over time.
IM provides all of the necessary features like mobile responsive, SEO friendly, and easy editing all built in. And you can scale as much or as little as you like!
If you get easily overwhelmed by technology or have been procrastinating launching a new website because you don’t have time to learn yet another platform, IM is for you.