Back in the early days of the Internet, when AOL still mattered and Hotmail was actually hot, setting up a website was a traumatic experience. Unless you happened to be a hardcore nerd with few social skills and fewer friends, you would end up overwhelmed and confused as you tried to figure out exactly what went where.
If you really wanted a website, you could pay an exorbitant amount of money to a computer geek named Chad, who would then build you a site from scratch. Any time you wanted to make a change to the site, you had to pay said geek more money. It was kind of like the Mafia, minus the guns and the killing and the copious amounts of cocaine.
Thankfully those days are gone. AOL is no longer top dog, GMail rules the email world, and many companies are making it simple to set up a website.
Here is a look at my top picks – 10 solutions for setting up your own website:
Shopify—a website builder, blogging platform and hosting service (all wrapped into one)—is the ideal option for someone wanting to sell their products on the Internet. With hundreds of themes to choose from and drag and drop design, creating an elegant ecommerce store is a snap. They also make it possible to sell on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. With prices starting at $9 per month, this is an affordable solution for everyone.
Over 75 million sites are hosted using WordPress, making it one of the most popular options on the Internet. WordPress, a free and open-source content management system (CMS), offers two primary options: Create a site on WordPress.com or Install WordPress on another host. The first option is the simplest, by far. Simply sign up, name your site, pick a theme, and get started. You can literally start a website in ten minutes with a .wordpress extension in the domain name of your site. Another option is to use WordPress files (available for download and installation) on other web hosts. Once the files are installed, your site can be modified with plugins or templates.
LCN is a UK-based domain registration and web hosting company. They offer simple one-click installation of WordPress or Joomla (another free and open-source content management system (CMS) for publishing). With free web-design software, around the clock support, and prices starting at $4 per month, LCN is a great option for anyone wanting to build a WordPress site. They also make it simple to purchase your own domain name.
Wix is a cloud-based web development platform that allows user to create a website without any knowledge of coding or web design. Offering modern templates and drag and drop design, Wix is great option for someone just getting started in launching a website. The basic service is free, but they also offer paid upgrades if you want more functionality.
Like Wix, Weebly offers simple website design with no knowledge of coding required. They offer drag and drop design, e-commerce functionality, blogging, and a host of other options. Like Wix, the basic service is free with paid upgrades also available.
With a focus on beautiful design and ultra simple editing, Squarespace is like a more elegant web publishing platform in comparison to Weebly or Wix. While not quite as robust as BigCommerce or Lemonstand, Squarespace also offers an easy-to-use ecommerce function. The variety of templates are perfect for bloggers, businesses, restaurants, musicians, or just about anyone else looking for an elegant website.
Website Builder offers a free custom domain name, thousands of drag-and-drop templates, e-commerce functionality, free images for your site, and web analytics. They also give users SEO tools and a free business email. While not ideal for larger businesses, Website Builder is a viable option for someone who needs a small starter site.
Like Shopify, BigCommerce (an all-in-one ecommerce platform) makes creating an ecommerce store a snap. Offering fully customizable themes, flexible product management, built in SEO, online promotion tools, and a host of other options, Bigcommerce is an excellent option for anyone building an ecommerce store. Pricing starts at $29 per month and goes up from there.
LemonStand provides a flexible platform for growing eCommerce businesses. It is geared more toward larger brands and web agencies. They offer easily customizable ecommerce sites, advanced analytics, inventory management, advanced workflows, and a host of other options. With pricing starting at $49 per month, they are a more expensive ecommerce option.
Like LCN, GoDaddy is a web hosting company who offers domain registration, online marketing, email services, and website hosting. They have one-click installation of WordPress, DIY website building software, and ecommerce functionality. At as low as $1 per month, GoDaddy is a high value option.
Starting a website isn’t the massive headache it used to be. With a little bit of time, minimal tech knowledge, and little to zero cost, you can create a site that puts the early days of the Internet to shame. Eat your heart out AOL.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Ryan Stewart is a digital marketing entrepreneur who has launched a number of successful ecommerce websites. Currently, he owns WEBRIS, a Miami based digital marketing agency. Connect with @ryanwashere on Twitter.