What's the best simple website construction and hosting service?
January 3, 2018 9:38 AM   Subscribe

I need to build a website for my small app business. I currently have a splash page which I built in Wix, but I didn't love their tools. It's time to build out the site, and I'd like to go with whatever is currently the best. Is it Squarespace? Wix? Something else? My modest requirements are inside.

The site will be relatively simple. One feature that may be more complicated is video. I want to have a bunch of short videos on the site. I'd like these to be hosted locally, or to look like they're hosted locally.

The contents, roughly speaking, will be:
  • Homepage with images, a little text, a link to the App Store and maybe an embedded video.
  • Support page with a FAQ. It would be nice if I could have embedded videos included in some of the FAQ items.
  • Contact page, where people can fill out a form to ask me a question or give feedback. I'd like to find out about these via e-mail. The actual message from the visitor could just be included in the e-mail, or it could be put in a database somewhere or something. I don't really care at this point. Long term it would be nice to have it go into a ticketing system.
  • Tutorial page. This could be similar in structure to the FAQ.
  • Privacy policy. This will just be a bunch of text.
The site should look good on smart phones, tablets, and computers. This is very important.

The design will be simple. I'm planning on doing it myself, and I'm hoping to find a service that will make it easy for me create something that looks pretty good. (I may bring in a professional to advise on the look, but I'll be doing the actual web construction myself.)

I currently use Fastmail for the email addresses associated with the domain, and I'd prefer to keep doing that unless there's a super great reason to switch.

Ease of use is much more important to me than having lots of flexibility and bells and whistles. I'm just going to have the features listed above. I don't need e-commerce, I don't need lots of other stuff. I just want a tool that will let me easily create this modest site and have it look good.
posted by Winnie the Proust to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Just use Squarespace. It'll take no time at all to set up a simple site like this, and the default templates look good without any editing. They don't host video, but you should be able to fuss with the embed codes to make it look good.
posted by sonmi at 9:42 AM on January 3, 2018 [2 favorites]


Wix and Squarespace sound like they'd work. I used Weebly for my website because it's even cheaper. It can be a little clunky to use sometimes, but it does do everything you mentioned. For the video, you'll probably want to upload on YouTube or Vimeo and embed that.
posted by AppleTurnover at 10:09 AM on January 3, 2018


Have you looked into Wordpress? They have a professional version that you could use with your own domain name. How does this meet your needs?

1. Homepage with images, a little text, a link to the App Store and maybe an embedded video.
You can select from thousands of free themes (paid ones are not expensive as well). Its a simple matter to port to another themes of you don't like. Just choose themes that come with a static home page, since many common themes are blog-oriented. But for any theme, you can create additional static pages easily.

2. Support page with a FAQ. It would be nice if I could have embedded videos included in some of the FAQ items.
Create a static page with your FAQs and link it from the main page.

3. Contact page, where people can fill out a form to ask me a question or give feedback. I'd like to find out about these via e-mail. The actual message from the visitor could just be included in the e-mail, or it could be put in a database somewhere or something. I don't really care at this point. Long term it would be nice to have it go into a ticketing system.

Use Wufoo forms and embed them into your page. All responses are sent to your email address. If you use a free ticketing system (or even the free plans of Trello/Asana), you can create a new ticket using an email id.

4. Tutorial page. This could be similar in structure to the FAQ.
Privacy policy. This will just be a bunch of text.


Create additional static pages for each one. If you need some javascript magic, there are snippets available to show/hide content.

I am concerned about the long-term viability of some of these sites like weebly and hence prefer something that you can backup and go with any other provider (Wordpress platform is open source and free - you can run it on your own web servers/AWS, if needed)
posted by theobserver at 10:40 AM on January 3, 2018 [1 favorite]


Just go with Squrespace, save yourself the trouble of anything else. You're their target market. Their offerings value simplicity, a good responsive design and things just working over the bells and whistles and customizability. I know several geek types who are more than qualified to homebrew their own setups who use SS just because it works it's not worth their time to do it themselves. Make sure you use a coupon.
posted by cgg at 10:45 AM on January 3, 2018 [3 favorites]


I've been using Jekyll + Github Pages for the last few years to host a simple site for free. I'm not sure of your comfort level with Git (or similar tools), but your affiliation with the app business suggests that you might be interested in poking around with Jekyll a bit. With your relatively modest requirements for the site, you might be able to find a freely-available pre-built theme and make some small tweaks for your brand and content.
posted by nordic_hammer at 11:21 AM on January 3, 2018 [1 favorite]


Another vote for Squarespace. Web development is my day job, but I still use Squarespace for personal projects so that I can focus on the project, not the website. It looks good, the support and customer service are good, the hosting and domain renewals and updates all hum along without me doing anything. Everything just works.
posted by xylothek at 12:38 PM on January 3, 2018 [2 favorites]


Thanks all. Looks like Squarespace is the way to go. Will do that.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 9:29 AM on January 16, 2018


Sigh.

It looks like Squarespace offers 6 gazillion templates that all have the exact same design: a home page in which the entire above-the-fold content area is taken up with a branding image, forcing the user to scroll down or click on little menus before they can get anything done.

Is this considered state-of-the-art usability in 2018, or is it a function of Squarespace's technology and/or their target market?

Maybe I'm just an old fuddy-duddy, but I like to be able to go to a website and accomplish my task without having to first get a visual spa treatment aimed at reminding me how great the website is. But, then, my customers are mostly senior citizens so they're probably old fuddy-duddies too.

I'm told by their tech support so that I can use a cover page to get some of what I want, so I'll try that. If it doesn't work out I'll be back with another AskMe looking for alternatives.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 11:49 AM on January 18, 2018


Well, I just got a pointer from someone (not Squarespace tech support) that branding area can be hidden, at least in some templates. So I'm back in business. Sorry for the venting.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 12:43 PM on January 18, 2018


Nearly all Squarespace templates have multiple page designs--a default homepage design and one or more subpage designs--and you can choose to skip the default homepage design and designate a different page as the homepage.

(Also, good for you for skipping the obnoxiously-large, mostly-useless branding banner and its horrible cousin, the full-screen autoplay video-behind-a-call-to-action-button. I do not understand the ubiquity of this design, other than the fact that it impresses clients, many of whom want to shove their Glorious Brand in their users' faces with no regard for what users actually want to accomplish on their site.)
posted by xylothek at 6:23 AM on January 19, 2018 [1 favorite]


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