There’s really no need to be able to code to build your own website. In fact, even if you have extensive HTML, CSS, and Java knowledge, using a website builder is quicker, easier, and more convenient than taking the manual approach.
At least, a good website builder is, but there are dozens of well-known builders out there, and there is no single piece of software that fits the bill as being the best website builder.
There are website builders designed for small business owners and there are some for bloggers. There are storefront builders that are already used by millions of eCommerce stores. Also available is free software, free trials of paid software, and some apps that are included as part of memberships and other packages.
Choosing the right software could take you longer than it takes to master Weebly’s intuitive drag-and-drop editor. So, we’ve put together a list of 15 of the best site builders, as well as a guide on how to choose the one that best fits your needs.
A website builder is a tool that enables you to build a fully functioning website, without having to have any HTML, CSS, or other programming knowledge. But it is usually much more than this. Most website builders are fully managed platforms.
You get hosting for your website and some subscriptions include a free domain, an SSL certificate, payment gateway, and some even include email marketing and other marketing features. If you shop around, you might even find an account that offers email addresses, if you need them. Although this is rare, and most people opt for Google’s email account options nowadays.
The Benefits Of Using A Website Builder
If you know HTML and CSS, you can develop a website from the ground up. You can create a template and add elements, as required. However, this is time-consuming and is rarely the best use of your time. Site builders are affordable and convenient enough that developers even use them. Using a site builder offers various other benefits when compared to developing a site manually.
No Technical Skills
Using a website builder, you do not need any programming knowledge, although a little knowledge will allow you to tweak and improve the finished design. All builders are drag-and-drop editors. You start with a template and make any changes to various elements of the site design. Some editors allow precise changes to every section of the page. Others offer more restricted changes, but this helps ensure that the page displays properly.
Even if you have the knowledge and technical know-how to develop your eCommerce store from scratch, doing so takes a lot of time. Even if you heavily customize a template to meet your own branding, it cuts out a lot of the time. Agencies and developers use website builders, too. The likes of Duda has been designed to meet the needs of collaborative teams.
If you develop your own website using the manual approach, you really don’t have anybody to fall back on. Need to know why your columns are misaligned? Or why the font changes halfway through your page content? Seemingly small problems can take hours to diagnose, even using a debugger and the power of Google search.
Using a template-based design tool, you can undo recent changes and try again and, if all else fails and something goes critically wrong with your site, you should be able to call or email the website builder’s support team for help. The level and type of support offered does depend on the builder, their technical team, and the level of subscription you choose, but the option is there.
Spread The Cost
Most website builders are web-based applications, usually include your hosting, and they are available with a monthly subscription. The likes of Dreamweaver, which is desktop-based software, also comes with a monthly subscription. Costs vary but they can range from a few dollars a month to a couple of hundred.
Compare this to the thousands of dollars you would pay for professional development. The upfront cost of a website builder is substantially lower, and with professional development you will usually still have to pay for hosting and support contracts.
Choosing The Best Website Builder
Our list of the best website builders includes some of the best-known and best options on the list, but there are dozens, potentially even hundreds more, out there. Even if you don’t choose one from our list, consider the following factors to get the best software for your needs.
Type of Editor
There are two basic options when it comes to choosing a type of website builder: desktop and web-based.
Web-based applications offer Software as a Solution (Saas). You pay a subscription and can enjoy access to the software as long as you keep paying. Access the software anywhere you have Internet access, and enjoy regular updates without having to update your software or even wait for downloads.
Saas builders are far more prevalent than desktop alternatives, but some desktop website builders do still exist.
These are installed on your chosen computer or multiple devices, and they enable you to develop HTML, CMS, Java, and other files. The files are usually saved on your computer and then uploaded to a separate hosting account, although you may be able to upload directly from the software.
Desktop software is a lot more advanced and allows total control over every single element of the website design. This does enable you to get exactly the look you want, and it will allow for the addition of extra, dynamic website elements, but it requires extensive coding knowledge and will take a lot longer to master even the basics.
Type of Website
When choosing a website builder, you should first determine the type of site you intend to build. Ecommerce sites and blogs are very different sites, and they have different requirements. They need to look different, provide different features to your visitors, and they will require different development. Some builders, like Shopify and Bigcommerce, specialize in eCommerce, while others, like WordPress, are geared towards blogs.
- eCommerce – If you intend to sell products or services directly online, you will need an eCommerce website. These allow you to upload and display products, add photos and videos of products, and they offer shopping cart and even payment gateway features. Website builder hosting should offer secure SSL certificates with all of their accounts.
- Blog – A blog is regularly updated, usually consists of a combination of text and media files, and needs to be well categorized and paginated. Above all, a blog should include a simple editor, with which you can create new blog posts on the fly, without having to create and add a new page every time you want to include a new entry.
- Community Site – Community sites can include forums, boards, and even social media platforms. Think of them as being similar to Facebook Groups or LinkedIn Groups. They need layers of security, should offer subscriptions and accounts to users, and enable your website members, as well as admins, to post to the site. They are very dynamic and usually require a specialist website builder.
- Portfolio – Portfolio sites are used to showcase your talents as a creator. They are used by artists, graphic designers, videographers, writers, and other creative professionals. Their sites tend to be quite simple designs because this enables your visitors to concentrate on the work you’re showing off. They may be image or video intensive, however, and should have attractive galleries and lightboxes.
- Landing Page – A landing page is a single page that attracts visitors and generates leads. It is simple in its execution, but complex in its uses and varieties. A landing page should be quick to create, easy to deploy, and will include things like lead capture forms. We have written a list of the best landing page builders, which gives an insight into some of the best packages out there.
- Database Driven Website – Database driven websites are more complex than standard sites. An eCommerce site is a form of database site because it uses a database to store product details. Even a blog uses a database, but in this case, we mean sites that use a database to procedurally generate website content. Real estate listings, job boards, local listings, etc… require the dynamic use of a database. This type of site is more complicated, and you will struggle to find website builders that easily allow this kind of functionality. It is possible with WordPress, using a collection of plugins, but it is more likely that you will need to hire professional website developers.
Professionally Designed Templates
Regardless of the type of website you are building, it needs to look the part. All websites should offer a responsive, mobile-friendly design, and this is standard with website builder software.
Check the quality of templates before you start designing, and if you want total control over the look of your website, look for those that offer what are essentially blank templates. Blank templates provide the framework for a site, but without the coffee mugs and business poses of stock photos.
Offering more templates doesn’t necessarily mean better templates, but it does give you more choice and increases the likelihood of finding one that you like.
Cost is an important factor when choosing a website builder. There are free accounts out there, but these tend to be limited, and they rarely include decent hosting.
Expect to pay anywhere from $5/month for very basic features to $500/month or more for something that incorporates marketing automation and other tools, as well as generous disk storage and bandwidth. Pay a little extra, if necessary, to get rid of the branding and ads that some free and low-cost accounts force on you.
One of the big benefits of using a site builder is that it is quicker than developing a site yourself, from scratch. So there’s little point in choosing an account that is so complex that it takes weeks to master. A very basic site should be up and running in an hour or so. More complex and more involved sites may take several hours to a day, but it shouldn’t take any longer than this.
The site features that you can incorporate will be governed by the type of site you establish. A blogging platform like WordPress will offer blogging capabilities such as membership accounts, while an eCommerce site builder like Shopify should offer tools to highlight specific products and to cross-promote items. Think about the tools you will need and ensure that they’re either directly available or can be found in the site builder’s app store, where one is available.
Free Accounts And Free Trials
Free accounts are tempting, and they do serve a genuine purpose. They allow you to try the software building software, ensure that you can get to grips with the editor and that it has the features you require. However, these accounts are usually heavily restricted, either because they force branding and ads on your site or because they offer a restricted set of features.
The better option may be to opt for a free trial. Some platforms offer a free 7-day or 15-day trial. This will give you enough time to fully develop a site before deciding to part with any cash.
Custom Domain Use
Most site builders offer the use of a subdomain or account domain when you register an account. This can be useful if you have yet to register a domain, or while you set the site up and wait for the Domain Name Servers to propagate. However, even the shortest subdomains are clunky, and they are bad for branding. You should always register and use your own domain name.
Fortunately, a lot of the premium and more expensive accounts do offer free domain registration, but you shouldn’t let this sway you to choose one builder over another. Domain registration costs as little as a couple of dollars, so it has little impact on the overall price of your account.
Standard support usually takes the shape of email, and these can take several days to receive a response. During this time, you may be unable to develop or improve your website, but you will still be paying for your account.
Support tickets can have a similar response time, while customer support phone lines are either charged at a premium rate or are included only as part of the more expensive, premium packages. Consider the level of support you need and find an account that offers it. Also, read online reviews to find out how responsive the customer support team is.
Plugins And Apps
WordPress is best known for its massive range of plugins, some of which are free, many of which have a one-off fee. They turn WordPress the blogging platform into WordPress the eCommerce platform, community builder, landing page builder, and even the database-driven website builder. But, these plugins aren’t developed by WordPress, they are made by third-party developers. Their quality and effectiveness can be hit and miss.
Some other website builders also offer access to additional apps and, in most cases, these are developed by the company themselves. They usually cost extra but can enhance and expand the functionality of your site.
A few years ago, eCommerce and membership sites were encouraged to use Secure Sockets Layer encryption for their website. Today, every website is encouraged to use SSL, and it is believed to be an important Google ranking factor.
For those site builders that include hosting, ensure that they offer SSL as standard, or that it doesn’t cost too much extra to incorporate it into your site. Some browsers will flag a site that does not have SSL, and this will put some prospective visitors off clicking through and visiting your pages.
Storage And Bandwidth
Most plans come with some storage and bandwidth limitations.
- Storage is the amount of space that your website and other files, including media files like images and video, take on the server. The actual amount of space that a website needs is determined by the number of pages, how many images you serve, whether you have any dynamic content like apps, and more. An average website takes up less than 200MB, and a single page is 2MB. There are ways you can reduce your total page weight.
- Bandwidth is the amount of data that your website uses during a monthly period. It is the amount of data that your visitors download each month, so if you have a single 2MB page and 5,000 monthly page views, you will need 10GB of bandwidth.
When it comes to features with limitations, like bandwidth, it is worth choosing an account that can be upgraded, or that enables you to buy bolt-ons. You may only envisage having a dozen pages and 100 visitors per month, but with any luck, these requirements will grow over time.
A big business starts small. – Richard Branson
The 15 Best Website Builders
- URL: Wix.com
- Price: $0/month – $39/month
- Best For: Small Businesses
Wix is THE name in website builders. They have around 200 million users across nearly 200 countries, and that number continues to grow. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should add your name to that list, but Wix does a good job of letting you create good looking, basic sites, with a small investment and minimal ongoing costs.
Their WYSIWYG builder is easy to use, has some great templates, and their products start at $0/month, although these are only suitable for personal sites because you have to use a Wix subdomain, and Wix branding will appear on your site template.
The subdomain is clunky and looks like username.wixsite.com/siteaddress which looks like you’ve created a free site and won’t instill confidence in your potential customers. Although you will have to upgrade to one of Wix’s premium packages to use your own domain, these are still reasonably priced and start from a few dollars a month.
You can also add some dynamic elements to your site, but it is best when used to create brochure-like websites: a few pages of fairly basic content. For improved functionality and dynamic content, you will need a database-driven website, and you should look elsewhere for this kind of functionality. With that said, there is still a lot you can do using Wix.
- URL: Zyro.com
- Price: $3.19/month – $13.99/month
- Best For: AI Tools
Zyro has some features we like and some we’re not so keen on. Starting with the good, Zyro has an excellent grid-based editor. You start by choosing a template, add a title and tagline, and then choose from a decent selection of stock images. Page elements can be easily moved around the page until you get the design you want. And, for a little more than $3/month, you can remove Zyro ads, use your own domain, and access their AI tools.
I’m not a huge fan of AI tools, especially for creating content. Results tend to be varied, and it is normally quite obvious when content has been “written” by a computer, no matter how intelligent it is. But some people love this kind of feature, and if it’s good enough for the Guardian newspaper, it must at least be worth investigating.
You can just choose a category and let Zyro present you with a few categories. Alternatively, write two or three sentences, choose the length of text you want, and Zyro will produce some half-decent text for your site. It’s not perfect and it may take some tweaking to get the results you want.
Zyro also has AI tools that generate a user heatmap and to create a brand name and tagline. If you’re still in the highly experimental stage of setting up your business, these AI tools could prove useful.
- URL: SquareSpace.com
- Price: $12/month – $40/month
- Best For: Personal Sites
When we think of personal websites, we tend to think of blogs. And when we think of blogs, we usually turn to WordPress.
WordPress is the most popular blogging platform and it can be highly and heavily customized to do just about anything you like. While this is a big benefit to tech-savvy users, it is also its biggest downfall.
Squarespace is much easier to set up and it allows drag-and-drop editing straight off the bat. You can choose from 100 templates and then move, add, or remove page elements, as you see fit. When it comes to the actual blogging, you can, of course, add multimedia elements.
You can use multiple user permissions, which means that you can have multiple authors and editors set up, and it comes complete with Google AMP functionality. You can even schedule the publishing of your posts so you can write half a dozen posts and line them up, ready for publication.
It might not be the cheapest option out there, but with prices starting at $12/month, it certainly isn’t the most expensive, either. And, for that price, you get a free domain as well as advanced features like an SSL certificate and unlimited bandwidth and storage. But, it’s the professional look and simple design that makes Squarespace the best website builder for blogging and personal sites.
- URL: Weebly.com
- Price: $0/month – $29/month
- Best For: Simplicity
Weebly is also good for blogging, but it can do much more, and it manages to offer a variety of features while remaining easy to use. You can even manage an email marketing campaign directly from their tool.
Although it isn’t quite as popular as Wix, it does still boast around 50 million websites built using its intuitive platform.
Weebly has undergone some changes, recently, and they arguably represent a step backward. You don’t have the same level or degree of control when it comes to adding and removing elements from your page. But you do still get access to the Weebly App Center, which allows you to incorporate plugins.
You also get eCommerce access and the Weebly platform can be used to easily manage larger sites. Pricing ranges from a free plan to $29/month. You will have to pay at least $9/month to use your own domain, and for advanced eCommerce features, which is the direction that Square seems to want to take Weebly, you will need the most advanced plan, but its pricing is still more than reasonable.
- URL: Shopify.com
- Price: $29/month – $299/month
- Best For: Small Ecommerce Stores
Strictly speaking, you can use Shopify to set up any business website. But where the service stands out is in its eCommerce website builder. You can expect features like the ability to use your own domain, SSL certificates, and access to an app store, that are fairly standard with other website builders. But you also get access to 100 payment gateways and prices can automatically display shipping rates and tax rates.
You will have to pay more for a Shopify site than most others on this list. The basic package is $29/month, but this should prove enough for most owners, including access to 70 professional templates and omnichannel selling. You can add and update a blog and, through the use of Shopify’s additional apps, you can add features like table booking or appointment booking management.
Managing an eCommerce store can be hard work, but Shopify does a good job of keeping it as simple as possible. Only add the features you need to retain this simplicity. If you add too many apps and incorporate too many features, it can become unnecessarily complicated.
- URL: BigCommerce.com
- Price: $29.95/month – $299.95/month
- Best For: Large Ecommerce Stores
BigCommerce costs around the same as Shopify, at all levels, but it does include some features that make it beneficial for the large eCommerce store.
First, and probably most important, is the matter of transaction fees. Shopify does not charge a transaction fee, as long as you use its Shopify Payments system. If you use any external payment gateway, you will be charged between 0.5% and 2% per transaction, depending on the Shopify package you pay for.
That may not sound a lot, but it soon adds up. BigCommerce doesn’t charge any transaction fees and provides access to a ton of external payment gateways. It also tends to work out cheaper for credit card payment fees and allows you to more easily, and more affordably, change the design and layout of internal pages, whereas this is only a free option on the home page, with Shopify.
BigCommerce’s free templates don’t look quite as professional and are not as varied as Shopify’s, but its paid templates are better. That might not be a coincidence, of course, because if the free templates were better, there would be less incentive to pay for a premium template.
All in all, Shopify and BigCommerce offer very similar functionality to one another at similar price points. It will likely come down to a question of transaction fees and template preferences, but there isn’t really a wrong choice here.
- URL: Ucraft.com
- Price: $0/month – $69/month
- Best For: Creating Multipurpose Platforms
It’s rare for a business to want to set up just a blog, just a booking app, or just an eCommerce store. Most businesses will want a website that includes details about the business, a blog where they can update customers on the latest developments, and an eCommerce or booking feature.
If you have multiple income streams and use various marketing channels, you will want a multifunctional website. Unfortunately, while some builders like Shopify excel at one of these elements, they tend to fall behind in those areas that they don’t concentrate on. You wouldn’t use Shopify to set up a blog, for example.
Ucraft offers a landing page builder, blogging platform, eCommerce store builder, and it enables you to create a logo while offering SEO and other marketing tools.
Although you can get quite a lot of these tools and create a half-decent website using Ucraft’s free plan, you will want to upgrade to one of the premium plans to get rid of the Ucraft branding, although even the free plan lets you connect your own domain, which is rare in the world of website builders.
- URL: Hubspot.com
- Price: $0/month – $350/month
- Best For: Marketing Tools
If you undertake any type of marketing campaign online, there’s a good chance you will have heard the name Hubspot. They offer lead generation, marketing automation, CRM, and more. It turns out they also offer a decent website builder, although, as with all Hubspot offerings, you shouldn’t expect it to be cheap. What you can expect, however, is for it to integrate with Hubspot’s marketing tools.
When other website builders say they incorporate marketing tools and apps, they usually mean that you can submit your site to directories and search engines. When Hubspot says that marketing tools are integrated into their site builder, it means that you get full email marketing, list management, and CRM tools, and they aren’t bolted on after the event. Your website will generate list members and build leads. You can even install chatbots, and the retargeting features are exceptional too.
If you’re serious about marketing, and you intend to manage the reporting and optimization of marketing campaigns yourself, you cannot look past Hubspot. Unfortunately, these features do come at a premium. CMS Hub is going to set you back $350/month.
- URL: WordPress.org
- Price: $0/month + addons
- Best For: Community And Plugins
If Wix and Shopify think they have a large userbase, they’ve got nothing on WordPress. It’s estimated that more than a third of the websites in the world are built on WordPress. This is partly because it is free, can be installed on an existing domain, but also because it is open source and has the biggest community of programmers and app developers pumping out new plugins and free content that can be used to further enhance your WordPress website.
While WordPress is technically free, you will need to spend a little money to get the most out of it. For a start, you will need to pay for hosting, but there are numerous companies out there that offer specialist WordPress hosting. This will save you having to unzip and install the platform yourself and, if you shop around, you will find hosting that includes a free domain name and free SSL.
You’ll probably want to pay for a professional theme, too, because although free themes do exist and there are some really good ones out there, the best free themes are found on thousands of websites. They’re far from unique.
However, while WordPress is often billed as being a blogging platform, it can do anything, and that is thanks to the plugins that are available. Want to turn it into an eCommerce store? There’s a plugin for that. Want to stream your own gaming videos live to your website? There’s a plugin for that. Want to publish a regular podcast to listeners? You guessed it, there’s a podcast for that.
WordPress does require that you have some programming knowledge or, at the very least, an incredible ability to Google and copy and paste everything you need to know. It will take time and it will take a lot of trial and error unless you’re looking for a simple blog, but there is nothing you can’t make a WordPress site do.
- URL: Carrd.co
- Price: $0/year – $19/year
- Best For: Single Page Sites
Carrd is an excellent landing page builder. As such, it is designed for the primary purpose of building single-page websites, and it is good at it. It is cheap, costing just a couple of dollars a month for everything it has to offer. Editing is easy. You choose a template and then click on any of the elements that you wish to change.
You won’t get the exact page design you want, because the options for moving pages around are restricted, but this helps ensure that the page lines up when you’re finished, and it also helps ensure that it displays properly on all devices.
The builder is somewhat limited, but if you’re only after a single page site, it is a good option, not least because you can add PayPal buttons and incorporate lead capture forms into your design.
In our review of the best landing page builders, we found Carrd offered the best page building features for those on a restricted budget, and that’s why it features in this list of the best website builders, too. It’s cheap, it’s easy, but it generates surprisingly good results.
- URL: Pixpa.com
- Price: $7/month – $16/month
- Best For: Portfolios
A lot of website builders are geared towards small businesses and eCommerce stores, which is great if that’s what you’re offering or what you do. But, what if you’re a service provider? Specifically, a service provider that offers creative services? You’ll want a site that showcases your talents while enabling you to communicate with prospective clients. And, it should go without saying, the site needs to look incredible.
The available themes, of which there are around 35, are image friendly, which means that you can let your work do the talking. There’s also a good selection of gallery layouts, so you can choose the one that best suits your style of work. There is eCommerce integration, so you can sell paintings, clothing, and any other pieces that incorporate your work. With prices starting from $6/month, you don’t have to receive too many commissions before your website has paid for itself, either.
- URL: Mozello.com
- Price: $0/month – $14/month
- Best For: Multilingual Websites
Multilingual websites are a challenge in themselves. Once your visitor chooses a language, every page clicked thereafter needs to be displayed in this language. There are alarmingly few website builders that offer the functionality of creating multilingual websites, but Mozello is one of the few that does.
It doesn’t offer automatic translations, but it enables you to group pages by language. When your visitor then chooses the language they want, it will display the proper pages. It does offer a decent site builder, although it is perhaps too basic and doesn’t offer enough customization options for the typical website owner.
The benefit of limited features and customization is that it takes a lot less time to get a decent looking site online.
Overall, the Mozello service is no-frills. But, if you envisage having a multilingual following, and you want a basic site up and running in next to no time, it is an affordable alternative to the likes of Wix, and far easier than WordPress.
- URL: Ning.com
- Price: $25/month – $99/month
- Best For: Making Community Sites
Fancy yourself as the next Facebook? Think you can do better than Bebo? Ning is a website builder with a difference. It aims to let users build their own social networks. In all honesty, you won’t be able to develop a site as complex as Facebook, but it does enable you to set up your own networking using a drag-and-drop editor.
You could set up your own Facebook group or Twitter chat, but ultimately this means that you’re still operating on somebody else’s platform. You don’t have any freedom, you can’t brand it as well as you can brand your own network, and while the big social media platforms do offer some methods of monetization, they offer cents in the dollar compared to hosting your own network and integrating advertising yourself. With a Ning network, you can even charge subscriptions.
If you pay for the premium package, you will be able to use your own domain name. User accounts are secure, you can integrate existing social networks, and you can manage your network from Ning’s mobile app. When done well, it looks professional and it gives you the appearance of being an industry expert.
- URL: Duda.co
- Price: $14/month – $44/month
- Best For: Collaboration
Duda does offer a basic plan, available for $14/month and even that plan lets you collaborate with one other team member, but it is the Team Plan where the platform really comes into its collaborative owner. This allows full collaboration rights and allows for five team members to collaborate at once. On the Agency Plan, you can have ten team members helping you out.
Choose from one of Duda’s templates, of which there are 100 pre-designed templates and 10 blank ones, make changes using the drag-and-drop editor, and invite contributions from your other creative team members. Duda is geared towards web designers and agencies, but it can also be useful for small businesses with their own pool of talent.
One handy feature of this platform is that it enables you to display elements like pop-ups or videos, according to any of various factors. For example, you can show a popup with an in-store voucher when your website recognizes that a visitor is local. Or, it can play a video ad when a visitor tries leaving.
- URL: adobe.com
- Price: $20.99/month
- Best For: Desktop Website Building
Dreamweaver is a completely different beast to the website builders above. It’s desktop-based, so you will have to download and install it and it does have a WYSIWYG editor, but it also allows and even encourages the use of actual code to get the best results. It is incredibly powerful and it can be used to develop virtually any style and type of website, online app, or web-based database.
If you’re new to building websites, expect to spend a lot longer than a day getting your first half-decent looking site up and running, because the power of Dreamweaver means that there is a serious learning curve involved in its use. It does offer mobile-first design, though, which is already important and only becoming more so, as Google adopts a mobile-first indexing policy.
Dreamweaver does have a considerable following, and many of its users are seasoned programmers. This means that there are plenty of resources online to help hone your Dreamweaver skills.
And, if you get really stuck, there are Adobe certified professionals that, for a price, can finish your site off, for you.
Although the software is designed to be as effective for single use as it is for collaborative and ongoing efforts, it is overkill for most single-site projects. If you have plans to build multiple websites, each offering different features and functionality, however, it could be worth the investment of cash and time that you will need to get to grips with it.
There are dozens upon dozens of website builders out there. We have listed 15 of those that we believe to be the best, whether you want to develop a single landing page, an eCommerce store, or a multi-user blog and online community. No single piece of software represents the best option for all users or all circumstances, so you will need to choose according to your requirements, as well as those of your website visitors.