21 Resources to Help You Build a Company Website in Less Than an Hour

Come on. Is it really possible to build a company website in only an hour?

Not if you want a custom design, custom programming, and a custom marketing plan, no. You’ll spend weeks, maybe even months, designing your website, and unless you’re doing it yourself, it’ll cost you thousands or tens of thousands of dollars.

But sometimes all you care about is getting something up in a hurry. You want it to look good, sure, but it doesn’t have to be entirely unique. It just has to work and buy you some time.

If that’s the case, then yes, you can absolutely build a company website in less than an hour. All you need is a hosting company with the right software, a Content Management System (CMS) to keep you from having to write any code, and a nice template to make everything look good.

Here are 20 of the best resources from around the web to help you put it all together:

Hosting

If you install a Content Management System (more info on this below) by hand, you have to download the code, unzip it, upload it to your server via FTP, create a new database, and then install everything. If you’re familiar with the process, sometimes you can do it in 30 minutes or so, but if you’re brand-new to Content Management Systems, it can take you hours to figure everything out.

In response to this, many web hosts now have tools that install your Content Management System for you. Downloading, uploading, unzipping, databases, usernames, passwords — they take care of it all. All you have to do is click a few buttons, and you’re ready to go.

Look inside your control panel for these two tools, in particular:

1. Fantastico

For a long time, Fantastico was the gold standard for auto installers, and some people say it still is. It has about 50 different scripts it can install for you, requiring you to just choose the script, click install, and you’re done. It’s quite common to find Fantastico with web hosts who use cPanel, so if your host is one of them, login and take a look.

2. Softaculous

While not as widespread and well-known as Fantastico, Softaculous is quickly gaining a lot of fans. It has an expanded library of 164 scripts it can install for you, as well as a fresher and easier to understand interface. Once again, many hosts who use cPanel automatically include Softaculous with your account.

Content Management Software (CMS)

By far, the fastest way to set up a powerful, well-organized website is to use a Content Management System (CMS). Developers love to argue about exactly what constitutes a CMS, but in practical terms, it boils down to this:

With a CMS, you don’t have to write any code.

You can login to your website, create new pages, categorize them in different ways, edit them, add pictures, pretty much whatever you want to do. Each CMS has different features and limitations, as you’ll see below, but they all give you a foundation that allows you to start adding information to your website in minutes, not hours or days.

If you’re not a programmer or website designer, they are indispensable. In fact, most programmers and web designers now use them simply because they work so well, and they see no reason to reinvent the wheel.

Here are several of the most popular Content Management Systems:

3. WordPress

WordPress is the CMS of choice for bloggers around the world, and it’s an incredible piece of software. It’s flexible, supported by a passionate developer community, and best of all, free.

The only downside to WordPress is, it’s focused primarily on helping you set up a blog. You can use various plug-ins to make it do almost anything, including running an e-commerce store or building a regular corporate website, but out-of-the-box, everything is going to look like a blog, and it can take some time to change it.

Of course, if you want to have a company blog, that’s not a problem. And even if you don’t, WordPress is so simple and powerful that many of its fans refuse to use anything else.

If you’re not familiar with it though, or you don’t want to have a company blog, some of the other options here might suit you better.

4. Drupal

Although Drupal has a somewhat higher learning curve than WordPress, it’s a powerful and customizable CMS, and it’s also totally free.

Like WordPress, Drupal also has an active developer community that builds plugins and themes for your use. Although the framework is slightly more advanced, Drupal still works similarly to other CMS platforms in that it allows you to “mod” it with add-ons.

The upside of using Drupal’s more advanced platform is that it’s extremely flexible and dynamic, which is perfect for developing more advanced websites and applications, such as communities, e-commerce stores, and almost anything else you can imagine.

The downside is it doesn’t include much functionality out-of-the-box, and if you’re not familiar with it, it might take some time to make it do what you want. In many cases though, it’s worth the learning curve, especially if you’re planning to use it for multiple websites.

5. Joomla

Joomla is Drupal’s closest competitor, and it’s also a great platform for anyone looking to build anything from a simple static website to a robust online user community. Like the others, it uses plug-ins, also called extensions and templates, to expand the functionality of the base platform, and it’s totally free.

The advantage of Joomla is that it does a lot straight out of the box, and you can be adding pages to your website and fiddling with the design within minutes. It’s easy-to-use, powerful, and with the right modules, you can make it do almost anything.

The downside is sometimes you can’t find the modules to make it do exactly what you want, and if that’s the case, Joomla isn’t quite as easy to customize as Drupal. If you’re looking for an ultra-simple website, you might also be overwhelmed with everything Joomla gives you, making one of the other Content Management Systems here more appropriate.

6. Squarespace

If you want something that’s even easier than the options we’ve shown you thus far, then consider checking out an all-in-one, hosted CMS, such as Squarespace.

I like Squarespace so much that I built my website with it, and I was able to do so without any knowledge of code or Photoshop. Although hosted CMS platforms like Squarespace aren’t as flexible or as easy to expand, they do eliminate the need for hosting, software installation, and theme purchasing.

With Squarespace, you simply buy an account and start building your website. You can have it up and running for less than $20/month, and you don’t have to install anything.

The downside: it’s not free. For many businesses though, it’s more than affordable.

7. Expression Engine

Expression Engine is the new kid on the block that is quickly making it’s rounds and asserting it’s newfound influence in the CMS Market.

Like Squarespace, Expression Engine is not free, but it differs in that it’s sold as a one-time purchase, rather than as a monthly cost. Like other CMS platforms, Expression Engine is downloaded and installed to a self-managed web host and is easy to use and customize. In fact, it’s becoming so popular that many WordPress developers and theme sites also offer Expression Engine Themes.

Although I’ve yet to try EE, I’ve yet to hear anything negative, and it seems to offer a growing number of plugins and advanced business solutions.

8. Tumblr

Granted, Tumblr isn’t going to get you a fully functional website, but if you don’t need one, then it might be the perfect solution for you. Tumblr offers a large selection of free and premium themes, but also allows you to modify or create one of your own.

Unlike the rest, Tumblr does not allow you to upload files to their servers, but you can fix that by obtaining an inexpensive hosting account. If you don’t need to do much other than to blog or embed multimedia content, then you can have a Tumblr website up, complete with as many pages as you need, in less than 15 minutes.

Did I mention it’s free?

9. Concrete5

 I’ve not used Concrete5, but I keep hearing about it from blogging and developer friends. It’s free, open source, features WYSIWYG editing, and is developer friendly. However, unlike other open source platforms, Concrete5 is not “designed by committee” and is much more discerning with the code they allow into their core.

Interestingly enough, Concrete5 boasts of being enterprise friendly and stable at 1 million+ pages, which is where many CMS systems get slow and unstable.

Shopping Carts and E-Commerce

 Technically, shopping carts and other types of e-commerce software are another type of CMS. They are such a specific type though, and they’re so essential for many companies, that I decided to put them in a separate section. If you’re selling any type of physical products or services with your website, you might want to consider some of these packages:

 10. osCommerce

 osCommerce is an open source e-commerce solution based on the popular GNU General Public License. It’s a solution that was created in 2000 and now used by over 10,000 web shops worldwide.

While immensely powerful, a potential drawback to using osCommerce is that it can be complicated for novice users, but luckily, there are plenty of online resources that explain installation, setup, and upgrading, including an active developer forum on the project’s website.

 11. CubeCart 

CubeCart is no slouch, in fact it’s so popular that it’s used by over 1 million E-commerce sites across the world. The great thing about CubeCart is that they have a free version, and a free 30 day trial for the premium version. As a one-time purchase, this is much cheaper than a hosted eCommerce solution.

The downside is that you must install and manage this software on your own, but if you have a handle with HTML and CSS, then you can probably find your way around this one just fine.

CubeCart features a “plug and play” module system capable of working with Paypal, UPS, Google Checkout, and more.

12. Magento

Magento claims to be the world’s fastest growing e-commerce platform, weighing in at over $25 billion in transactions, 60k merchants, and 2 million downloads.

It’s open source and offers everything from free to enterprise solutions that include warranties and support. What’s impressive about Magento is that it features some of the most dynamic tools, user options, and management features on any open source platform, and is likely to have a scalable solution that meets your businesses’ needs.

You can view their comparison chart to see which version is right for you.

13. PrestaShop

 Yet another free open source e-commerce solution is PrestaShop, which features everything from catalogues to shipping modules. Using this software, you can take payments, manage customers, track important metrics, and handle customer orders with ease.

What’s nice about PrestaShop is that both their website and software are easy to navigate and use, which is something sorely lacking with the competition.

14. ZenCart

Most people are familiar with ZenCart because it’s one of the oldest and most trusted e-commerce solutions on the market today. It’s also featured as a quick installation module within most Fantastico control panels, which means you can install it onto your CMS with ease.

ZenCart is template based, and it’s simple to use. The downside of course is that it’s less flexible than other platforms, but since we’re looking to build a website in under an hour, this might be the way to go.

15. WP E-Commerce

 This is a WordPress plugin that installs in seconds and although it cannot be used with other CMS platforms, it bears mention because of it’s popularity in the WP community. Although many WP themes do come with built-in ecommerce features, WP e-Commerce tops 99% of them.

Theme Marketplaces

Content Management Systems all come with built-in designs and themes, but you’ll probably want one that’s better suited to your business. For most CMS’s, there are thousands of free themes available for you to download and use, but in general, the premium themes have the nicest designs and offer the most functionality. Also, because premium themes cost money, less people are using them overall, meaning it’s usually less likely someone will see your design on someone else’s site.

Here are a few marketplaces that offer themes for multiple Content Management Systems:

 16. Theme Forest

Owned by Envato, Theme Forest is an enormous marketplace of themes and templates for all types of websites. Currently, they have themes for WordPress, Joomla, and Magneto, as well as HTML and PSD website templates that don’t require a CMS.

17. Template Monster

Perhaps the largest collection of high-quality templates and themes on the web, Template Monster is another place you should look, if you’re shopping for a quick design. They have templates for WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, osCommerce, Magneto, and ZenCart, as well as half a dozen other Content Management Systems. You can also buy logo templates, turnkey websites, stock music — everything you need to get a website up and running fast.

18. RocketTheme

 Taking the prize for the most energetic and exciting theme marketplace, RocketTheme offers solutions for Joomla, Drupal, WordPress, and phpBB3. Their themes are sold as a membership, meaning that for $50, you get 90 days to download up to 2 themes, or for $250, you get a year to download as many as you like.

19. WordPress Specific Marketplaces

 Since WordPress is the most widely used CMS, I thought it would be worthwhile to list a few WP specific theme shops to choose from:

  • WooThemes – Single, Developer, and Subscription licensing
  • ElegantThemes – Subscription and Developer Licensing

Logo and Identity

If your company doesn’t have a web-ready logo, then you’ll need to pay someone to create one for you. With logo houses, there are essentially two choices, ready-made design or from scratch.

These companies offer both, with quick turnaround times for service:

20. 99 Designs

99 designs is one of the first websites to bring the concept of “crowdsourcing” to graphic design. You can post a design contest, and designers will compete for your business, submitting different designs for your approval. Or you can buy one of their ready-made logos and have them customize it for you.

Either way, it’s an easy way to get a logo made fast.

21. Inkd

I recently discovered Inkd while shopping for a custom logo service, but they also offer website-ready design and identity packages. Their prices are extremely reasonable and they often run sales, giving you anywhere from 15-30% off.

I’ve used both custom and ready-made services and have been extremely satisfied with the results.

How Do You Know What to Choose?

 So many options and so little time, right?

I’ve tried to provide a few of the pros and cons for each CMS, but to really get a good idea about which might be a good fit for your website, take a look at these more in-depth comparisons:

What Have I Missed?

Did I leave out your favorite CMS or a great site to get templates and themes? Have other tips for getting a website design fast?

Tell us about them in the comments, and we’ll compare notes.

Delicious If you enjoyed this post, click here to bookmark it on Delicious.

About the Author: Nathan Hangen is the co-founder of Virtuous Giant, creator of IgnitionDeck, a crowdfunding plugin for WordPress. You can follow him on Twitter via @nhangen.

  1. It is amazing how fast and easy it can be for someone to get something functional and professional looking online these days.

    With so many tools available it becomes more of an issue of how to choose which is best for me and my project.

  2. Very beautifully explained article.. Drupal is too complex for freshers and for beginners start with wordpress.. You forgot to mention kissmetrics..these are some of add one to your site that will really bring your site into competitions with mainstream website

  3. Ian Paul Marshall Aug 18, 2010 at 8:56 am

    WordPress is my fayv. And there are more and more fantastic free premium themes out there. And even in the least the neoclassical theme can do the trick for you pretty well.

  4. Well, there are some good resources here but many are for a little to more experienced people.

    Concrete5 is not a be-all to end all. OSCommerce and Zen are not the best solution and modules are somewhat incomplete – been waiting for an update for years now on a V release.

    WordPress is probably the best one, and most powerful to use.

    • WordPress is certainly the most supported and probably the easiest to use, although I recently started using Squarespace and have grown to love it. If you’re looking for quick, that might be the way to go.

      • So glad to see Squarespace mentioned.

        I created my design studio site there when I needed to get something up in a hurry, and was a little embarrassed to have relied on it. It was easy, the result is great, and updating is a breeze. What’s not to love?

        Thanks for a very thorough article, Nathan.

  5. Thanks so much for bringing WP E-Commerce to my attention. It was on my “to do” list and thanks to you, it’s done! I don’t think you deserve any of the comments about how their are better options out there. The point of the post was to get a website up in an hour!

  6. Nathan,
    This is one post i really liked. Concise and with a lot of information.
    Must we understand that you blog anywhere but not at your site?

  7. I think its misleading to think that anyone can build a site in an hour. I know most programmers/developers would, but there are many of us who need help setting things up and managing content on a regular basis. What most people need is something inbetween self managed and completley outsourced. Even wordpress (as easy as it is) can be confusing to someone who hasn’t built websites or blogged before. Sometimes working with a local company or consultant can be that middle ground.

  8. This is really a great post, Nathan. Picking the right tool can be such a challenge. And thanks to linking to my post comparing Squarespace and WordPress. You sir, are a gem. :)

  9. Brilliant, comprehensive, and will save me hours and hours and hours. This is truly a great site for novices like me.

    I am looking at a shopping cart for a digital download, with a Weebly based site – any suggestions?

    Out of curiousity – no mention of Weebly? I have used that for site design and found it very easy to use.

    Thanks again,

    Sean

  10. Great article, Nathan!

    A few comments to add.

    ExpressionEngine isn’t really new, it’s just not as popular as some of the others probably because it’s commercial. It’s been around for 10 years or so though, I believe.

    Another thing I want to note about ExpressionEngine (we use it for our design biz site) is that the service is fantastic. Whenever I’ve written, I’ve gotten service from the same few people and I used it the first time in 2004. They are small, but fantastic and human. And everyone in the forum is extremely helpful too. I adore them.

    As far as shopping carts go, I’d recommend Zen Cart instead of OSCommerce. It’s a fork of OsCommerce, but the code is so much cleaner and it’s a million times easier to customize.

    • Oh, I forgot to add something else about ExpressionEngine. They don’t have a click and install theme function. You start out with a blank slate. So, I doubt you’d be able to build a site in less than an hour. But, in turn you get greater flexibility over other CMS’s.

      • Ah darn, so even with a template you’re taking a bit of time then?

        Oh well, still looks like sturdy software, and if you use it, I’m definitely game!

        Was going to look at it for my recent site, but went with Squarespace because I was in a hurry. Still, I just love having so many options outside the norm.

  11. There are a few here that I’ve yet to try (Joomla is too geek for me and will leave that to those more able), including Squarespace – something I’ve not really looked at so far.

    I do wonder if something to watch is Posterous – that is pretty strong for some things, I suggest, and growing…

    Isn’t it great to have these tools available for most people to work with, when not that long ago you really did need to get a web designer or geek to put something sensible together.

    Whatever next…?

  12. Loved the come on title! Totally titilliated after reading the content. :)/arthurbarbato

  13. I keep an eye on Sixapart, though I still hang with WordPress.

  14. “wootheme” and “ThemeForest” are most recommended marketplace for themes.

  15. You could have not intended to do so, but I think you’ve managed to express the state of mind that quite a lot of people are in. The sense of wanting to assistance, but not knowing how or where, is one thing a lot of us are going via.

  16. I would say definitely Shopify for E-commerce!! I used to develop osCommerce websites, and it takes forever to set up. You can be up and running with Shopify in literally less than an hour.

    • yes.. but with shopify they charge you a % of your sales.. like profit sharing with your shopping cart, that is just to much for me. if you want out the box ready to then probably corecommerce or bigcommerce.. but i think that is for another blog!

      • For the simplicity involved, the 1% they charge you isn’t a big deal. Unless you’re doing really high volume, then you may want to consider something else.

  17. The one major issue that isn’t brought up in this is flexibility, and that pretty much starts with buying a domain name so if you decide that you’ve made a mistake, you can move the domain name to any other CMS, Service, or Host you need to.

    • And if you know anyone who has turned their web venture into a successful one that actually turns profit, speak to them first, maybe they can refer you to others who have had success as well.

      Also, it is fairly safe to say that if you do go with easy installer scripts, that you should find a reputable host that has a proven track record.

  18. I vote for WordPress with Headway theme. Headway isn’t free but is affordable (<$100) and has a "visual editor" that makes it remarkably easy for the non-technical person (I'm a lawyer for Web 2.0 startups, not a developer) to get something relatively professional-looking up and running quickly, using "leafs" and templates. I've added a lot of bells and whistles since then, but getting the basic site up was a breeze.

  19. The ecommerce websites are shifting more and more to hosted platforms.

    Solidshops is an example of an hosted platform where both designers and shopowners can focus on what really matters.

  20. Great post – thanks kissmetrics.

    I have worked on Weebly and Webnode a lot and Weebly rocks for simplicity and price!

    Also – no mention here of bigcommerce – am working with a client on this platform now and they are really easy to use for ecommerce.

  21. Great post! I think you guys have an awesome blog and it looks like a wordpress site. What WP theme did you guys use for your blog? Did you do a lot of code editing to manipulate it and add a lot of the extra buttons and text that encourages people to check out your core kissmetrics.com site. the marketing buttons and text on this blog is beautiful! It’s everywhere yet classy and not tacky at all. Very cool.

  22. While I’m yet to actually try it out, CoderBuddy seems to be best choice. It offers CMS style editing and also takes care of hosting everything on Google App Engine. And yes, its free.

    Granted, without some effort and knowledge of CSS, you can’t create themes and such – but to get an editable website up – in less than an hour – for a newbie, I’d give it a shot first before anything else.

  23. Huge fan of WordPress & Joomla!

  24. Hello, for all time i used to check website posts
    here early in the morning, since i enjoy to find out more and more.

  25. Heidelberg Kindergeburtstag Apr 16, 2013 at 8:45 am

    I’m amazed, I must say. Rarely do I come across a blog that’s both educative
    and amusing, and let me tell you, you’ve hit the nail on the head. The issue is something which not enough people are speaking intelligently about. Now i’m
    very happy that I found this in my search for something relating to this.

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