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⚙️ Simple, stress-free website builders

⚙️ Simple, stress-free website builders
By Dan Mason • Issue #18 • View online
🌐  Website tools that keep the focus on design and content.
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I’ve been indulging in a little procrastination. For a workshop on personal online branding I’ve been looking at site builders that do the job - a one-pager or portfolio, say - without the tech headache.
The obvious start point is Wordpress: Do the training with a free Wordpress.com site then explain the £3 per month upgrade to add a personal domain; or how to buy a hosting package, install Wordpress, find a theme, add plugins and get building.
If you like a challenge or have used Wordpress in the past, the latter option, with endless flexibility, is hard to beat. But not everyone wants to go to that trouble. Wordpress.com itself isn’t fault free, with too many underwhelming free themes and customisation options that change with the template.
It’s one of the reasons Wix, a one-stop shop for any level of site, and almost any pocket, has rightly become so popular. But even Wix has a learning curve.
So I’ve been asking: How simple can a site builder be?
This is a smart, single-page site builder, free for all core functions. If all you need is an online calling card, simple portfolio or event landing page, Carrd is great. The upgrade costs a whopping $19 a year to connect a custom domain and include forms, embeds, Stripe payments and more.
Carrd: Style on a shoestring
Carrd: Style on a shoestring
Don’t go looking for shopping carts or advanced tools, but for a one-off project or showcase for resources, Sites scores. Completely free and built into Google Drive, the builder is a piece of cake. You can connect a domain or buy one through Google Domains.
There’s a touch of the ‘too good to be true’ about IM Creator. It’s a combined host and site builder, with a choice of modern starter themes which, for the most part, are gorgeous.
With its cool, clean interface, you can create a site in no time by adapting one of 70-odd themes or start from scratch, adding and editing blocks. I like it.
It’s free to publish a website with IM Creator subdomain. But if you are a “student, artist or non-profit” you can apply for a free upgrade (normally $8 per month) with unlimited hosting, online store and option to connect your own domain. I had to send a reminder email, but was given the upgrade with no fuss.
That means for the cost of a domain (under £10 a year for com and less for co.uk at Namecheap or Dynadot) and a free IM Creator upgrade, you have a fully hosted site. Yes, that’s right: Under £10.
To be fair, advanced functions are limited, and there are mixed reviews, especially when it comes to support.
But style and simplicity - perfect for personal brands - are the hallmark of IM Creator and it’s a tool worth trying if only for design inspiration.
IM Creator: The stuff website inspiration is made of
IM Creator: The stuff website inspiration is made of
Site123 appears in most site builder top tens and bills itself as ‘by far the easiest free website builder.’ I’m not so sure, to be honest.
Rather than browsing themes, you start by telling Site123 the style you want and it conjures up a theme ready to customise.
The design blocks on offer are adequate rather than stunning and I find the mix of editing controls within pop-up menus, the sidebar and header a tad confusing.
Free sites are published with a long, jumbled subdomain and prominent Site123 branding in the footer. The basic upgrade is £10 a month including a free domain name for the first year.
Like most hosts, there are frequent deals, but I found the 50% discount countdown above the editor distracting.
Site123: Is it really the 'easiest free website builder'?
Site123: Is it really the 'easiest free website builder'?
Strikingly’s templates are striking enough and there’s a handy portfolio of live examples with link to the template it was based on. The site builder is intuitive and I like the quick access to sections and pages via a sidebar list. The subdomain can be customised on free sites, which carry a smallish promo banner.
Strikingly comes with a built-in store, but you can sell only one item with a free site. The lowest cost upgrade is $8 per month (lower with deals), including free domain for a year and five items in your store.
Another plus for Strikingly is a mobile app, so you can manage your website on the go.
Strikingly: Decent value and a simple approach to site design
Strikingly: Decent value and a simple approach to site design
Customisation and design block options are quite limited. But that’s not always a bad thing and the Yola page builder is even simpler than Strikingly.
Free sites are limited to two pages - no problem if you are building a single-page site - and Yola branding is minimal. You can launch a store with a free account (three items; no transactional charge).
Sites are mobile friendly (but where’s the mobile preview?) and the free tier includes translation between two languages. Upgrades begin at around £4, including free domain for a year.
Yola: Low cost and simple approach to design. But it works
Yola: Low cost and simple approach to design. But it works
It doesn’t pretend to be a full website builder, but Crevado promises a ‘free, easy-to-use, portfolio builder that allows creative folk to showcase their work’. It is and it does, in a clunky kind of way.
Still, the themes and examples are impressive enough. For 9 euros a month you can connect a custom domain and sell goods.
If you need a professional, no-frills portfolio to display your writing, JournoPortfolio excels. Free for a single page, up to 10 articles and JournoPortfolio subdomain. Only £3.75 to upgrade, with 50% discount for students.
JournoPortfolio: Aimed at journalists ... hits the target for quality
JournoPortfolio: Aimed at journalists ... hits the target for quality
Thanks for reading 👏
🌍 I’ve been fortunate to work with amazing creatives and causes around the world as a trainer and educator. I get lots of ‘how do I …’ questions, so I started this newsletter to share the answers.
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⭐️ Main image: Geralt + Alexas_Fotos /Pixabay
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