What is the most user-friendly website builder?

Once I start publishing books, I want to have an ecommerce site to sell them. I have next to no coding experience, and so wordpress intimidated me as a website host. In my brief research, square space seems like my best option. Do you have any other suggestions/insight?

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7

This is a common question from those looking to start out a business, but what most don't realize... there is more to a website then meets the eye. Yes, you want a clean, attractive, professional looking website, which many builders can do, but if you want to sell anything online it also needs to found by your target market! On-site SEO is an essential first step in getting found online and many website builders don't allow you to build on-site SEO into a website. The most stunning website online does you no good if no one can find it.

Is it possible to build a professional looking site that is also effective... yes... but it takes more then finding the easiest to use website builder. If you are going to build your own site, take the time to learn about what goes into a professional looking site, how to incorporate marketing principles into it and how to build on-site SEO into it. If not, you may end up like most do-it-yourselfers... either giving up in frustration or hiring someone to build a new site that functions the way you want it to. I am not trying to discourage you from reaching your goal, I'm just trying to help you see what to takes to reach your goal.

So... to answer your question... as the answers here have shown, there are a number of user friendly ones you can use... but a better question is... is that what you really want? Wordpress is pretty user friendly, but there is a learning curve to figure it out, and it has plugins that allow you to do many things to make a website effective.

Wordpress for simple sites, is a definite.

You hit the nail-on-the-head! Perfectly put!

6

I'm going to have to agree with Stephanie on this one, the easiest and most professional website builder would definitely be wix.com. You can create stunning, HTML5 powered websites, with its simple to use drag-and-drop builder. It also has an ecommerce feature, a whole boat load of apps you can add to your website, and is one of the "better values" out there. No offense to squarespace, but it just pales in comparison.

One of my clients (a coffee shop who was also looking to start selling stuff online) wanted a website that would look professional and be simple to manage. They LOVE wix!

Another good option would be Adobe Muse, if you're familiar with Adobe Illustrator or have a friend who is, it's set up in a similar fashion. That might be a good fit, because it gives you the capability to create stunning websites without a lick of coding as well.

6

We have been building (and marketing) websites for almost 20 years and the big mistake businesses make is not paying enough attention to target marketing.

You could have the most amazing site in the world, but if you don't get visitors, your site is useless.

The number of sites out there - an estimated 649 million - makes your task even trickier!

If you want to be a published author, why not try Createspace on Amazon? This print on demand service is inexpensive and a great way to test the marketplace.
And don't forget the Kindle route!

I agree that a website is essential in this digital age, so anything that takes away the pain is a good thing. Wordpress is excellent, but does require a healthy dose of ongoing maintenance, so to concur with some of the earlier replies, a hosted solution is a good option. But do make sure that you retain your own domain name though! Switching from a SaaS provider to your own hosted solution when you have grown sufficiently can be painful in terms of lost traffic and consequently lost sales.

The other isue with SaaS is the ongoing cost: most require a monthly fee and this can mount up as you grow the business.

6

I have used Wix for my Wedding photography business and it's easy and OK although you will probably want to upgrade to a "pro account" at some point. Yes, Word Press and Googles Blogspot may also work for you but I personally look at those for a blog site that I link to from my primary website. I am currently using Hostmonster and they (along with other hosting services) offer fairly easy website tools that don't require any coding skills. I can only offer this...Jump in and see what fits.
And yes, WIX is working for me as a specialty website. Easy and free is a good thing and a great way to start!
Best of luck!

6

Finding the easiest solution for creating a Website does not insure you will accomplish your goals. How are you going to drive traffic to your site? What are you going to do to keep them coming back? Are you going to Blog? Tie in social media to develop followers?

There are a lot of good, well integrated eCommerce sites where you can open a Shop and sell your product far easier than building your own Website. Even with the cost of commissions, such sites handle the sales transactions, deliver the product digitally, offer tools for managing your products, and typically much more. They also offer the opportunity for a greater visibility because of the breadth and variety of content, not to mention their dedicated marketing.

I'm not trying to dissuade you from creating your own Website but understand the commitment such an effort demands. In addition to creating the site, you need to regularly update content and promote it. Depending upon your skills and interests, your time may be better spent writing books and than building, maintaining, and promoting a Website, and your return may be greater partnering with those better qualified to promote and distribute your books.

At TeachersNotebook.com, we offer a similar service for teachers who seek to market their original classroom educational resources. Many have tried the go it alone route in hopes of making more by keeping 100%. In most cases, they find they make much more, are more creative, and have more free time by earning less per sale but generating far more sales on a site like ours. I am sure you can probably find a venue that fits your market.

Sometimes a piece of cake can be more filling than a whole cupcake.

Best wishes for success in the New Year!

Very good point! I can speak from personal experience that this is often a much larger undertaking than you'd expect with multiple variables (such as how to maximize SEO) that you might not consider when creating a website on your own.

5

You'll have to accept a balance between features/functionality and ease-of-use if you want to manage such a website yourself.

This also largely depends on what you're selling. If you only have a handful of books to sell, a Wordpress page dedicated to each particular book with a Paypal button could suffice. This would give you the freedom to customize each page around the particular book instead of a standard product detail page that most e-commerce systems use (if you have a lot of books though, this would obviously be unrealistic).

But, if you have an entire collection of books and you want a more "Shopping cart-like" approach with more bells and whistles (and higher costs), you should look at shopify.com, bigcartel.com, and squarespace.com (which I think you mistyped as Foursquare). These are specifically e-commerce website builders so you shouldn't have to concern yourself with adding and managing plugins to provide basic e-commerce features.

5

I have to say you may be putting the cart before the horse by asking this question. Ease of use is important but it isn't the ONLY factor. You should consider:

Your overall Marketing goals
Your overall Marketing goals from the site
Search Engine Marketing goals
Social Media Goals

If you think holistically and more long term it might make more sense to look at something that will help you on multiple front with your overarching Marketing goals.

Sadly, most of the "easy" or "easy to use" website creation tools fail completely on most anything other than a simple ineffective webpage. I highly recommend you DON'T go in the direction of this "simplicity" over getting the functionality you will need moving forward.

I've been working with Internet technologies, SEM (Search Engine Marketing) since 1995 so I've a bit of time behind my opinion. In the last 10 years I've worked with nearly every CMS on the market and trained in many of them. I sincerely hope you will take a look at Wordpress if you check out anything. It will more than fit your needs but give you EVERYTHING you need to succeed online with out the limitations of the "simple" tools.

Best of luck in all your efforts!

5

Hi Caitlin,
I also write and publish books. I sell them online and use them as giveaways at presentations etc.

Unfortunately many authors are led to believe that they just need a website and some SEO, then the money will roll in. Unfortunately this is not the case. Last year there were almost 2 million new titles published.

So the question to consider is how will you get your book found ?
Also is your book just a stand alone one time sale or is it the front end for a product or service. If it's not then you are leaving lots of money on the table.

Maybe you don't write for financial gain but whatever the reason, you invested time and energy in that book.

I have just written a book on web marketing that employs some of the smartest technology and marketing systems available today. I will send you a copy if you agree to give it a fair review.

it's win win...

5

I have to answer this with an extreme degree of bias, considering I am a web designer: the best avenue in every case is to own your own website.

Every "website builder" (these services have become the new flavor of the month) from GoDaddy to 1&1, Squarespace, Wix and all of the other 'clones' are all dirt cheap, and they'll make your business look similarly, well, "cheap." You're also near-guaranteed to never rank in search engines for anything significant when you use these services because most of them are pooling their site structure from pre-baked templates, which have already been used by tens of thousands of other customers. They also "backlink" to their parent site and are basically leeching 'clout' off of your site (for instance, visit any GoDaddy Website Builder site and it will have a link pointing back to GoDaddy at the bottom - this is murder in terms of SEO).

They also rely on you (presumably, someone who probably does not have a marketing & web development background) to structure your own site, which is something that traditionally involves a marketing plan and a website flowchart in a professional setting. It's like attempting to fix the gas main in your backyard when you've never held a tool in your hand before.

With your own website and your own domain, you'll be able to expand your site in the future. Expandability is everything, and you can only get it with a content management system like Wordpress, Drupal or Joomla. These "build your own" services are cheap for a reason: no serious business or brand owner would even think of using them to build a serious website.

If hiring a web design agency is too expensive, look toward sites like eLance and find a freelancer who will set up a simple Wordpress site for you -- you'll thank yourself for it in the long run.

This topic is the most frustrating one in my industry. Basically, Godaddy and others are attempting to hijack the web design industry and cheapen it with these "build your own" services, which are glorified in TV commercials, but in reality, produce awful looking sites that are elementary in nature and not properly designed to bring in leads nor sales.

Thanks for the perspective- I'll keep that in mind! Those all sound like fair points.

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