There was a time when building a website took a lot of expertise. You needed to be part coder and part graphic designer if you wanted to DIY. Or you needed some money so you could hire someone with those skills. But today, creating a nice website for personal or business use is far easier.
Platforms like Wordpress or Drupal make it easy to create sites and apply your own designs. But they still require some coding and other skills to get the most from them. That's where GoDaddy's Website Builder comes in. It lets you create a free site that looks great and offers a decent range of features for no upfront cost.
What you'll need
To use the Website Builder, you'll need a GoDaddy account. But you won't need to provide a credit card or any other payment details until you decide whether it's what you want.
Building a site
Once you're into the Website Builder, you start by typing in your topic area and a name for your site. I went with my hobby - trail running. I used the name "Old Man Trail Running" and the software automatically picked a theme for the site and did some basic layout.
Then I could do some further customisation by choosing a different theme, colour scheme and adding a bunch of options such as links to my social media accounts, linking to Google Analytics, and the ability to present your site in multiple languages through Google Translate.
Some of those extra features will require you to have accounts with other services like Google, but enabling them is very easy - usually all you need to do is copy and paste a code into a field and the Website Builder does the rest of the work.
One thing to note - if you already have an account with GoDaddy, the Website Builder will pre-populate some fields with your address and other contact details. Make sure you look through all the settings to ensure any information that the Website Builder automatically adds is OK for you to put in the public domain.
The real work in creating your site comes in creating the various pages your site will present to visitors. This brings us to one of the limitations of the Website Builder. It's designed to create static pages. For many businesses, this isn't necessarily a big problem but if you're looking for a blogging tool, then you'll need to look at a different solution such as Wordpress.
But adding pages is easy - just click on the Pages section of the Website Builder, click the Add button and go for it. This is where you'll spend most of your time. Creating compelling copy that your visitors will read and that is SEO friendly takes some time. And you'll want to make sure you source images that you have access to. That means looking at Creative Commons' licensed images, shooting your own pics or paying for access to a licensed image archive.
Changing the default images is very easy. Click on the image you want to change in the site preview on the left side of the screen and either add your own image or use one of the stock ones supplied by GoDaddy. The Website Builder uses the topic you used to describe your site to show you related images but you can enter your own search terms when using the supplied stock images.
Once you publish a site using the GoDaddy Site Builder, you can keep it live for 30 days at no cost. This is a good way to try things out. Then there are monthly or annual plans that add extra features such as SSL certificates (which are becoming increasingly important), shopping cart integration and the ability to securely receive payments. Those costs start at $8.99 per month at the most basic and go as high as $43.99 per month.
If you use your own domain, you'll need to add that cost as well.
There are some folks out there who will scoff at tools like the GoDaddy Website Builder. It is a very simple tool but many small businesses and startups simply don't have the resources or skills to get a website professionally designed for them.
The Website Builder is quite basic but, in a very short time, it is possible to use it to create an attractive website to get you started.
By default, the Website Builder creates a subdomain under the GoDaddy domain. So, my site is accessible from oldmantrailrunning.godaddysites.com. But you can add your own domain (which is a recurring cost) so you look a little more professional.