Here we look at options for the best and easiest website builder to use for business marketing, a personal blog or an online store. If you want to create your own website online with an easy to use, free or low cost system, then one of these top 10 site builders should work for you.
This article is suitable as a beginner’s guide upwards, and will initially help you through the ins and outs of commonly used terms that can help you get to grips with the world of web design and online website builders.
If you’d prefer though you can jump straight to:
- Best Website Builder for Small Business
- Good Solution for Creative Designers
- Top eCommerce Website Builder
We’ll introduce 10 of the best website builders chosen for their dominance in the market or independent slants / ethos’, and briefly illustrate their respective emphases, strengths and weaknesses in order to help you choose the best one for your needs. The list includes: WordPress (we look at both WordPress.com and WordPress.org), Shopify, SquareSpace, Wix, GoDaddy, SimpleSite, and Weebly. We also give a brief mention to Magento and Drupal for advanced users / web development professionals.
Why Use Online Site Builders?
It is common for people looking to build a professional or personal online presence to want to learn how to create a website. Indeed, if you are reading this you are very likely to be one of those people! Whether you are a tech-savvy business owner or new to web design, if you are considering whether to build your own website there has never been a better time to do it independently.
Often unknown to people new to the ins and outs of online tech is the fact that as well as hiring someone else to build a website for you it is actually possible to make one yourself.
To do this you will want to use an online website builder.
The are many Website builders that fulfil a wide range functions as well as creating your ‘shop front’, offering tips, support and advice, design options and templates, specialist functions and opportunities. These are all geared toward helping people build websites that look as smart, professional and efficient as if they hadn’t taken the DIY approach!
How to Choose the Best Website Builder for Your Needs
Website Builders will offer the different templates, widgets and functions to differing degrees according to their packages or ‘quid pro quo’ arrangements. For example, some website builders will offer a generous free package but want to run their own adverts on your site. You might or might not mind this but this is a good example of the type of decision you will need to make when you choose your Website Builder.
It is unusual and often difficult to move lock, stock and barrel from one to another. It is far more likely that you would need to start your site again from scratch which might interfere with the number of visitors that you have to your site (‘traffic’ in internet speak) and the work you have put in to building your identity and brand. Some Website Builders also offer you a website address for free while others ask that you buy it from an external provider first. Your website address is called a ‘domain name’. If it is free this will almost certainly be because the website builder has their domain name included so it might read, ‘yourwebsite.webbuildername.com’; which is totally acceptable for a personal site or blog.
Many people do this, especially when they are just starting out. If you do need to buy your own domain name first, the people you would buy it from are called ‘domain name providers’. You can go to a specialist domain name provider such as 123reg.com or you can buy one from most of companies on our list of website builders below.
Once there, type in the web address that you would like to see if it is in use or not already. If it is available the domain provider will let you know and tell you how much it might cost to buy.
Feel free to shop around a bit – it is a competitive market and its worth seeing who has offers on. Once you have bought the domain name you will typically own it for a year and it will be automatically renewed every year. If you decide you don’t like it or want it then after a year let them know (so you are not automatically charged) and it will be put back in the pot for someone else. Your domain name is where all your visitors will find your site and, as you can imagine, is an incredibly important part of your online presence.
Finally, website builders may or may not offer you an ‘insights’ or ‘analytics’ function. Insights / Analytics refer to an inbuilt statistical analyses function showing you who is visiting your site, from where, when. This analysis of your visitors (aka ‘traffic’) can be incredibly helpful when considering whether anyone is seeing your site, how long they may be staying for, what pages are performing best or worst and if traffic is hitting certain peaks and troughs.
Some website builders offer basic analytics functions for free and others will incorporate this into subscription packages. Again, it is up to you to choose you want from your website builder.
So now you know the terminology you will want to look around at different website builders! It is important to know which website builder offers you the best value, efficiency and presence for what you want to do online which is where our reviews come in: we want to help you make good decisions.
Top 10 Website Builders
So here is our list of the top 10 website builders, starting with the most popular worldwide…
WordPress comes as both WordPress.org and WordPress.com. They both have distinct differences in what they offer as website builders. First,
WordPress.org is slightly different to WordPress.com in that your website is not hosted (stored) for you. Rather, you are in full control of your website and have a company external to WordPress to host it for you.
You need to start with installing WordPress on your hosting, which makes setting up a website slightly more involved to start with. However, if you want to build a small business website that can grow and evolve over time, you’ll appreciate the flexibility later. Many web hosting companies, such as Siteground, make setting up WordPress very easy, with step by step guides.
Once you have your web hosting purchased and ready, and WordPress installed, you have access to thousands of free website templates (known as themes) and plugins – useful tools that add extra functions to your site of you want them.
People choose WordPress because there are none of the restrictions associated with other, more easy to use website builders – creative freedom is yours!
You can choose: what hosting plan you want and with whom; your domain name; design ideas; what plugins you want, how you want the site to look/sound – everything is open to your ideas. This is inevitably more involved than WordPress.com and other systems on the list but for many this is worth it for the amount of creative freedoms you have to create the exact website for you.
There is a reason that over 30% of the websites on the entire Internet are powered by WordPress – it’s amazing and it’s free – you only pay for the web hosting, which starts from as little as about £5 (or $7) per month. This will include your email addresses, the site builder and other useful tools, and plenty of space for your text, images and other content that you want to put online.
Pros of WordPress.org:
- It is 100% free to use after you have sorted your domain name and found your host
- You can customise it as much as you need to
- Despite being more complicated than some other site builders, it is still pretty easy to use
- You completely own the website and all the data
- You can make money from placing ads on your site if you want to
- As WordPress is the world’s most popular website builder, there are hundreds of thousands of design and development professionals who are experienced in using it – just in case you ever want a little help down the line to take it to the next level.
Cons of WordPress.org:
- You have to pay for someone to host your site and you will have to buy and register your own domain name
- It is not aimed at those who are complete beginners to using websites, although there is plenty of free help and advice
- The maintenance of your site is up to you. Updates and back-ups are your responsibility, although many hosting company help to automate most of this and make it easy
- You may need to hire someone to make more sophisticated installations and designs if you are not tech-savvy
- The learning curve is greater than with some of the other site builders on our list.
WordPress.org is our #1 recommendation as the best website builder if you are looking for long-term, future-proof solution. It offers all you need as a small business website builder, but can grow with you and scale up to be just as good for any size company. There’s a reason why well-known brands such as Sony, BBC America, Disney, TechCrunch and thousands more use WordPress.
For a more simple solution – WordPress.com:
WordPress.com offers a space in which to create your own website in a managed way. It is easy to access and you can start building a website straight away for free. They will host (store) your site for you and let you choose a domain name. They offer hundreds of templates to help design and organise your site, different functions and plugins and can be used for many different types of website. It is extremely popular and successful due to its accessibility and ease-of-use.
The pros of WordPress.com as a website builder are that:
- It is really easy to use and looks great.
- Unlike many other website builders it has a free version you can use.
- It has a section you can use to blog on for free – which is great for exposure for your products.
- It offers ‘site portability’, which many other website builders do not. This means that you can pack up and move the website you have built on WordPress.com to a different site builder if you change your mind. Typically, website builders use their own specifications (coding) which means you have to stay with them or, if you go elsewhere, you will need to build a new site from scratch with new templates and design features. This is not necessarily a problem however, if you choose a website builder that you think will suit your needs for the long term.
- It has hundreds of templates and features to design and customise your site with – for free.
- It has a free insights section for you to check on who is – or isn’t – visiting your site.
Cons of WordPress.com as a website builder are:
- If you want to use your own domain name you do have to pay for this.
- There are no image editing tools for your photos.
- Your free site will have ads on it put there by WordPress.
- Free sites have ‘wordpress’ in the domain (website) name title.
- It is comparatively awkward to set up initially – there are quite a few different pages to get through and it can feel a little daunting for a newbie.
Our Rating for WordPress: 4.5/5 Great accessibility and free options but the .org version can be a little tricky for newbies in the initial setting-up phase.
Squarespace is an advanced, visually strong site builder with an excellent standard of professional-looking, mobile phone friendly templates and 24/7 support.
Pros of Squarespace:
- Incredibly sharp, professional looking templates.
- Excellent style editor which lets you access some serious image editing tools. This gives you an extra element of creative control over how your site looks and feels to customers.
- Grows with your business.
- You can connect your own domain name.
- You can blog.
- Transfers brilliantly to all display screen sizes, from tablets to mobile phones.
- Not as expensive as other ecommerce sites.
Cons of Squarespace:
- It is not immediately clear how, once you have opened your site, you are meant to make it. User-friendly and intuitive it is not: perseverance and time is needed!
- You can only get a free domain name from them if you are on an annual subscription service.
- The prevalence of choices when editing style and template options can be overwhelming to those new to site building.
- What you see on the website is what you will get on your phone – you cannot make a separate version that is more mobile-user friendly.
- Tagging on other ecommerce or social media platforms is limited, although improving.
- Staying connected with your audience has traditionally been a limiting factor in using Squarespace.
- The slick, cool elegance of the templates this website builder creates may not be to everyone’s taste.
- There is no free option. Monthly subscriptions start at £10 a month.
Visit Squarespace to learn more.
We rate this as: 3.5/5 Websites look so beautiful when they are done! But building them takes much more time and effort than other website builders do and the limited stock of template designs means it won’t be to everyone’s taste. This is not necessarily one for the uninitiated or those looking for a fun, chatty vibe.
Wix is an incredibly popular website builder offering free and paid packages within which to make your presence known in style.
Pros of using Wix:
- Excellent beginners guide to web building: easy to navigate and organise from the off.
- Good looking templates and design features.
- Free package available.
- Very flexible in creative content.
- Lots of access to widgets and add-ons like Apps you can install from newsletters to reservation bookings, Spotify and SoundCloud.
- Offers a ‘smart assistant’ to help with basic business tasks.
- Has a basic backup system that saves key points that can be restored at any time.
- Can be monetised.
- There is an ecommerce package that you can buy if you are looking for an online store. This is around £8/mth and does not contain transaction fees.
- Excellent for smaller websites.
- It has what it has called Artifical Design Intelligence (ADI). This is uniquely exciting – you answer some basic questions about what you want a website for and then click on a big GO button that then… designs your site for you. This is pretty impressive stuff!
Cons to using Wix:
- Free package does not include a domain name.
- A blog only comes as an add-on you will need to pay for.
- Free and cheapest cost packages contain ads put there by Wix.
- Not so great for bigger websites as navigating can become tricky.
- No built-in insight features.
- You are stuck with the initial template you chose – you can add to it but you cannot change it.
Visit Wix to learn more.
Our rating: 4/5 On the surface it is impressive. The wide-range in offerings and options are astounding: it is flashy, easy to use for beginners, there is the ADI function and there is a free package available. However, staples like an in-built blog or insights access are lacking which can be a put-off for those wanting to create noise around their site and/or build a brand presence. Those who need to create larger business websites could find it cumbersome and restricting.
GoDaddy is an industry long-timer and known as a solid go-to for building your own website. The website creation side of operations has been recently rebuilt and is now called GoDaddy GoCentral. However, the GoCentral element of the name is not really used so you can still look for it using their long term moniker of GoDaddy Website Builder.
Pros to GoDaddy:
- Simple, clear building instructions.
- Easy to use.
- 24/7 customer support.
- Free for a month so you can ‘try before you buy’.
- Website designs transfer well to mobile phones.
- Unlimited storage for data which is useful for bigger sites.
- Great control over your website settings from your mobile phone.
Cons to GoDaddy:
- They do not have a free package but just offer a trial.
- Domain names need to be bought.
- The cheapest package doesn’t include the mobile store.
- Shops need to be bought as part of their store package.
- Unless you buy their add-ons the staple offerings are rather limited.
- Focuses on being a ‘solid’, predictable product rather than fun and imaginative.
- Relies on regular upselling too much making the user experience more challenging than with other companies.
- No image editing tools.
- No control over what your mobile site looks like.
- No insights tool.
Visit GoDaddy GoCentral to learn more.
Our Rating for GoDaddy GoCentral: 3/5 It is solid and easy to use but limited in its offerings. Relies too much on upselling and add-on features in an increasingly generous and vibrant competitive market.
SimpleSite is a small, boutique website builder that was originally created to rival the big players and democratise the website building market. The mission behind it was to be friendly and accessible and enable anyone to produce a good looking website in minutes. This sounds great to us, but is it any good?
Pros to SimpleSite:
- It is easy to use – you really can create a website within minutes.
- There is a free package and a free trial.
- It is really well optimised for mobile devices like phones and tablets.
- It has been made to be suitable for anyone, whether you are creating a place to talk about a hobby or a serious business.
- You can have a mini shop as they have integrated PayPal to sell up to five products with the free package.
Cons to SimpleSite:
- The website building experience is really standardised and so not very ‘fun’.
- The democratised nature of the site means that all the websites look very similar to each other. There is not much ‘playing around’ or individualisation to be done.
- Paid plans cost more than the bigger website builders’ now offer.
- Support is only by email.
- You have to buy a domain name or use theirs with a paid package.
Visit SimpleSite to learn more
Our Rating: 3.5/5 It is a lovely initiative and genuinely builds good sites in minutes. If you want a really small website, are really new to website building and want to sell a couple of things without the cost of a full-on shop this could be the place for you. For bigger or more confident types though one of the bigger players may fulfil your creative needs more.
A huge player on the market, Weebly is a ridiculously simple website builder to use, offers huge variety and is adaptable to the needs of both newbies and the tech savvy.
Pros of using Weebly:
- So simple. Probably the easiest of the big builders if we’re honest, you can literally watch your website take shape before your eyes.
- Looks great on mobile devices.
- Lots of variety and templates to choose from making the process interesting and fun.
- The diversity makes you feel that you have ownership over how your site looks and feels to customers.
- While the site is immediately available to non-techies it is unique amongst website builders in that it also lets you use your own code to tweak and personalise if you want to. This makes it accessible to everyone without compromising on its flexibility.
- The themes are plentiful, really rather cool and if you change your mind you can swap templates after you have set up your site.
- They prioritise improving their user-friendliness over new tech. This enhances their credentials as being a democratic, approachable place to have your site. They want to please new, non-tech people.
- Has a function that sends emails from you for you.
- Integrated with social media for extra reach.
- Inbuilt insights function helps you learn how to grow your business.
- Decent ecommerce function for a small shop.
Cons to Weebly:
- It is still a website builder so you are still limited to their ideas of what your site should look like.
- The blogging feature is rough around the edges.
- There is no free package to choose from.
- If you are very techie this might run out of steam for you as it does focus on being newbie friendly.
- It has been accused of compromising sophistication for popularity.
- If having a shop online is your main priority this may seem a little limited compared to other options like Shopify.
Visit Weebly to learn more.
Our Rating for Weebly: 4/5 An excellent all-rounder that doesn’t compromise quality or accessibility for aspiration. Some small glitches and no free package, but all-in-all, a truly brilliant platform for new and savvy techies alike.
Shopify is an ‘ecommerce platform’ – somewhere you can build a shop online and sell your products or services. Shopify will host and manage your site so you can just do the fun stuff and not worry about updates or techy behind-the-scenes stuff. You can choose from high quality themes and designs to create your ‘storefront’ that have been professionally designed to help transform browsers into buyers. You want an online shop that is easy for you to set up and looks impressive and professional to customers? Shopify is the place.
Pros of Shopify:
- It is pleasingly intuitive to use from the off for the least tech-savvy of newbies.
- There are over 100 high quality storefront designs for you to choose from.
- The web hosting, setting up of payment, taking of and responding to orders, and product organisation is all done on Shopify.
- You can have a free domain name from them.
- It has a two-week free trial.
- It is easy to scale up as your business grows.
- You can hook-up your own domain name if you want to avoid having ‘shopify’ in your website address.
- It is mobile-phone friendly.
- 24/7 support.
Cons of Shopify:
- It is not free. There is a monthly cost for hosting the site, dealing with the technicalities of having an online store and payment processing. This starts at around £26/mth for a month-by-month subscription but varies according to which payment plan you want. There is also a transaction fee for each payment received and obviously the cost of buying and registering your domain name, if that’s what you choose to do.
- Templates can feel limiting if you want total creative freedom.
Visit Shopify to learn more.
Our rating for Shopify is 4.5/5: Wonderfully accessible and friendly to anyone who wishes to set up a shop online but it has a couple of cheeky payment add-ons as well as the monthly subscription fee. It is no good for anyone who doesn’t want a shop though!
For advanced users / web development professionals:
Drupal is often considered the most robust, powerful website builder and content management system, with security and flexibility as key strengths. It’s been used by the likes of the White House…
Magento is the more powerful ecommerce platform, favoured by large online stores with huge inventories and complex variables and customisation requirements.
These 2 solutions deserve a mention for those who are (or who plan to hire) professional web developers, but are not easy to use software solutions for the masses.
And that’s our top 10 website builders! In conclusion, for ease of use and accessibility, Wix and Weebly offer the most with the latter nudging ahead with being open to coders as well as non-coders and more flexibility overall. GoDaddy are argued to lack an innovative focus, upselling and advertising add-ons that, if you shop around, competitors offer as standard.
Almost in opposition to GoDaddy’s big, brassy presence, SimpleSite was created to democratise the web building process and create a platform that was open to everyone, novice and skilled techie alike. This is lovely but arguably unnecessary in today’s more competitive market. However, the websites it makes are quick, easy and you get a lot in the free package deal.
WordPress.org could be criticised for being slightly cumbersome when initially setting up, but once finished, the sites can be professional, clean and powerful. WordPress.com makes things easier for beginners, but loses some of the freedom and flexibility of the .org version.
This is rightly the most popular website builder in the world, and if you have seen a site (or can imagine one) that is perfect for you, you can build it with WordPress.
SquareSpace is your quieter and cooler neighbour. It is user-friendly, but creates enigmatic and elegant boutique sites for more creative types that want sharp visuals. For ecommerce? While SimpleSite has the option to sell up to five items on its free package, and other sites have shop functions you can add-on to your template, if you want a proper shop it is all about Shopify.
As all-rounders though, Wix and Weebly are the big, fun, super-friendly cousins helping you to create sites that are varied, exciting, easy to get going and want, really, for very little.