I've had a great experience using Blogger to create my blog, so when I found out I could also use this type of software to build a website, my ears pricked up. Nowadays it seems like everyone has to have their own site, so companies are scrambling to come up with ways to make programming more user-friendly, and that's good news for solopreneurs, freelancers and small business startups like us.
One of the companies my business counselor, Karen-Michelle Mirko, from the Lower Manhattan Business Solutions Center suggested I check out is SquareSpace. They have various packages to choose from but the basic one starts at 7$/month and you get a wide variety of layouts, hosting, visitor stats, and the ability to place ads with Google Adsense, so you can make money. The business packages start at $25 and also include domain mapping (that way your url will show your own domain name), polls, and a FAQ page, among other things. The only problem is tech support...they're only accessible through email - no live assistance - which might become a problem in an emergency, if people can't download your site for some reason.
Another blogging software company to consider is WordPress. It's very similar to Blogger except that they allow you to add additional pages, which Blogger doesn't at the moment. You can get your site started for free but in order to use your own domain name it's $10/ year, which is nothing. Unfortunately they too only offer email support, and they don't allow you to place ads, although they're apparently working on a premium upgrade to bypass this.
Other companies to look into: TypePad, SiteRubix and Microsoft Office Live. One caveat is that this type of software is best for service firms that are interested in generating leads. If what you want is to sell products you'll need e-commerce functionality, which is more complicated. For that you can try GoDaddy, Kingdom 247, Template Monster, or 1&1.com.
So here's a list of things I look for when deciding which programming software to choose from:
- do I like the templates they offer? can they be customized? can I change the color on their fonts and backgrounds, etc.?
- how many pages can I add?
- how many email addresses will I get? (you'll want to set up different ones to target different types of clients)
- can I place ads with Google Adsense?
- what kind of customer support do they have?
- can I use my own domain name?
- what plugins/widgets are available?
- do they offer down-loadable file backup so that I have copies of all my files?