Microsoft launched a free tool for creating websites this week. The tool is aimed at small businesses that don't have a website. While I don't own a business, I run multiple American football teams in the UK, so I was curious to see if the tool could be a useful way to make a website.
The tool is free and has an option to create a website from content from a social media account. I know quite a few teams that only have social media pages, which could benefit from having a website. There are plenty of options out there, but I wanted to see how Microsoft's offering stacks up.
Setting things up
The setup process was as easy as advertised. When setting up my account within Microsoft's Digital Market Center, I had an option to link social media accounts. I then just clicked a few buttons to create a website based on our social media page.
We're relatively active on social media, and I do my best to keep the page up to date, so the website builder had a fair amount of information to go off of. The website the tool created did a decent job of pulling our "About Us" section and other core content from our Facebook page.
Customizing the site
The tool did a good job of pulling our information, but there were a few things to tweak. I had a few edits to make and a few items to delete. It isn't that surprising for an automated tool to leave a few things to change, and the edits were easy enough to do with the site builder.
I was happy to see that I could customize which images and social media posts appear on the website. I can also hide or add specific components. You can also upload your own images if you have ones that aren't on your social media page. These tools make it easy to get the content that you want onto a website.
Would I actually use this tool?
The real question is: if you're a small business, is it worth checking out this tool? There are plenty of options on the market, both free and paid. I'd say that this is a promising start to a tool that I hope expands over time.
When Microsoft announced this feature, it highlighted that over 36% of small businesses don't have a website at all. That means that this tool isn't meant to convert someone over that already has a website. It's also not meant to compete with paid designs or professionally-built websites.
In my time working with it, it's a barebones tool that can quickly and easily make a serviceable website. Is the site I made with the tool as good as our actual team website? No. Is it good enough that I'd consider it if I needed a free website? Sure.
Sean Endicott brings nearly a decade of experience covering Microsoft and Windows news to Windows Central. He joined our team in 2017 as an app reviewer and now heads up our day-to-day news coverage. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at email@example.com (opens in new tab).
I needed a quick and simple way to set an appointment setting site. I have no interest in maintaining a full website and I’m not active on social media. This did the job in about 15-20 min of setup time. Now, hopefully I won’t get bombarded with account specialist wanting to Help! “improve” my business with paid services. Clean and minimal, just the way I like.
As a web developer, I welcome new tools like this. I charge $30 per hour for large businesses and have no shortage of clients but there are many businesses who can't afford that, especially during this crazy time. Like Wix, it may not even begin to compare with all the things a proper web developer can do for a business, but kudos to Microsoft for attempting to fill a need for small businesses!
It is a good start. I like it.
Does it work with custom domains or only .biz.site? I already have my own domain for the work I do, but it does become a pain to to update it frequently since web coding or design is not the thing that I do. I recently switched to Word Press because it's relatively easily to post updates and stay current, but it's pretty ugly and generally hostile toward tweakers like me who want some control over the look and feel.
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