How to start an online store using a website builder?

Have you been meaning to use the Internet as a sales channel for a long time, but setting up an online shop has always seemed like too much of an expense?

Relax – you don’t have to pay an arm and a leg for a web developer. It’s really easy to set up your own basic Internet store using an online website builder.

Its catalogue of features allows you to pick and choose whichever functionalities you need: from different payment methods and delivery options to automated stock management.

Your requirements:

  • very easy to use
  • small to medium-sized online shop (fewer than 1000 products)
  • sell digital and/or physical products
  • automated ordering system
  • range of standard payment options available (PayPal, credit card, etc.)
  • low or no transaction fees
  • compliant with e-commerce legislation for USA/Canada/UK
  • search engine optimized
  • customizable design that is optimized for mobile devices (iPhone/iPad/Android)
  • blog and social media integration (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, etc.)
  • fast and reliable technical support
  • use of discount coupons
  • ecommerce tracking options
  • SSL encryption
  • cost: $0 – $30 per month

You don’t need

  • multilingual store

Our recommendations:

Shopify Logo

Shopify – the online store that can make you a champ

Shopify allows both beginners and real pros to create a professional online store that should leave no wish unfulfilled. Why? Beginners can set up an online store without any programming skills and advanced users will be able alter everything due to the very flexible “Liquid” framework. Included are professional features such as cart abandonment emails that can be set up very easily.

Even if your business grows really rapidly, chances are that you will have no reason to move it to another platform – unless you want to run a truly global store. Shopify doesn’t support multilingual web stores. Other than that, it gives you all the necessary tools you need to start smoothly and then set your path to rapid growth.

You can try Shopify 14 days for free to convince yourself. No credit card needed! If you are happy with the design and don’t want to change the template, the plan “Starter” for US $14 is available. The other plans offer more features, like telephone support, better statistics, template modification, and much more.

Find out more in our detailed Shopify review.

>> Read Shopify review

>> Visit


Weebly – makes selling easy, extremely easy

If you already have a website made with Weebly and you don’t want to struggle with a complicated setup process or source code, then you should consider taking a closer look at their built-in e-commerce solution. The online shop works as easy as the rest of the website editor.

Weebly Free allows you to sell up to 5 products. That’s not much, but it’s free; if you don’t need ALL the bells and whistles, it should do the job. If you want to sell more products and need features like vouchers, then you have to pick their “Business” plan. Weebly is made for beginners that want an easy solution. Because of this, you won’t find advanced features, like dozens of international payment gateways or customer accounts.

Weebly brings out regular updates that provide more features and help you to create a better online shop.

Find out more in our detailed Weebly review.

>> Read Weebly review

ecwid logo

Ecwid – the addon that turns your existing site into a fully-fledged store

Ecwid is a particularly attractive option if you already own a website that doesn’t have an e-commerce feature. It includes an impressive range of functions, such as a massive number of integrated payment gateways for credit card payments, PayPal, and even voucher codes for special promotional offers.

You can also sell both physical and digital goods. Varying VAT rates between different states are no problem here either. The only drawback with Ecwid is that there is no real easy way for Google to index your product pages.

Find out more in our detailed Ecwid review.

>> Read Ecwid review

Do you have further requirements? Here you can find even more providers and detailed information about them.

>> Top-Rated Ecommerce Site Builders

>> Online Store Builders Side by Side Comparison

Examples of small business websites

Other Website Types

Online Store

Tip: Our Free Ebook

small business website ebookTo get you started, please feel free to download our eBook “Website Creation for Absolute Beginners,” completely free of charge. This will help you plan your business website and get things right from the outset.



Hi, my name is Robert Brandl and I am the founder of WebsiteToolTester. If you have any questions, please leave a comment.

Your opinion

  • Matt

    The information that was provided was really helpful, but should or could I consider weebly for my online retail store??

    Thanks a lot

    Matt M

    • Robert (Tooltester Network)

      Hi Matt, right now Weebly doesn’t have a very good online store. I know that they are working on expanding this feature but I don’t know when it will be ready. Right now I personally would not go for Weebly if I were to open up an ecommerce business.

      • Gui

        Tell me what’s your first choice, Rob, thanks.

        • Robert (Tooltester Network)

          Hi Gui, we’re currently creating a detailed Shopify review. Armin just told me that if money is not an issue you should definitely check it out. It’s extremely powerful and customizable – the only tool on our site that allows your customers to create accounts with logins.

          However, the cheapest (rather limited) plan starts at $14 per month and has a 2% transaction fee on top of what the payment gateway charges. Weebly, Squarespace and Jimdo don’t have such a fee.

  • Anastasia

    Hi Matt thanks for this comparison. Is there a reason you did not include Big Commerce? Also would you advise against wordpress for an online store with an added commerce solution?

    • Armin

      Big Commerce is not included in our overview, because we focus on small business / online shop solutions.
      WordPress is a very powerful blog/CMS-solution, but also not our focus. Of course, you can add an e-commerce solution like woo commerce to WordPress,
      but it’s definitely much more complicated to handle than e.g Jimdo or Squarespace. Here is an article about our thoughts on WordPress:

  • Travis

    Don’t forget

    • Robert (Tooltester Network)

      Thanks Travis. As Armin already said we focus on small and inexpensive e-commerce solutions. We also listed Shopify on this page as we know that it’s a solid product but right now we can’t say anything about Volusion.

  • Kay Thompson

    What do you think of Amazon as far as building an e-commerce website?

    • Robert (Tooltester Network)

      Hi Kay, to be honest we have no experience with the Amazon Webstore. Their fees seem a bit steep and I’ve seen some customers complain about their support. The general issue I see when you are selling though Amazon is that they have access to your sales data. If something sells really well they might just add it to Amazon com and offer it themselves.

      • Robert (Tooltester Network)

        Quick update on the Amazon Webstore: they just announced that it will be discontinued in Germany. Not sure what that means for other parts of the world but interesting to know nevertheless. Unfortunately big web companies like Google, Yahoo or Amazon have a track record for abandoning services where they don’t see a strategic focus.

  • renny

    what about wix? I’m newbie at this.

    • Robert (Tooltester Network)

      They do have an online store that is gradually getting more advanced. We think that Jimdo and Squarespace are currently stronger in the ecommerce arena. But if you have a preference towards Wix as a website builder you can certainly give the Wix online store a try.

  • groberson

    I am considering starting an online rental service, so I would need a website builder that had a recurring monthly billing option. Are there any affordable options out there besides volusion? I read somewhere that they are one of the only ones that offer that feature.

    • Robert (Tooltester Network)

      Hi, I am afraid that the website builders we list on our site don’t support recurring payments. There is a way to set this up with Paypal as far as I can remember but I am not an expert in this area.

  • Armin

    Thank you for your comment! Open eShop looks nice, but the big difference is that you have to install it. Fortunately, some hosts offer a 1-click installation. However, we only test products that need no installation or updates done by the user himself.

  • Johannes

    Thanks for the good overview!

    I am working with shopify a long time now and can really recommend it!
    But as much as I like shopify, I dislike the fact that there is no support for multiple languages.

    Thanks to their API I have developed an app to solve this issue (including SEO support) :)
    In case you are interested:

  • Will

    Thanks for the valuable info!
    I plan to open a online wholesale store for small quantity order, need functions like pricing for different quantity or inquiry etc, is there any recommendation? Thanks very much!

    • Robert (Tooltester Network)

      Hi Will, could you describe your requirements in a bit more detail? I’ll be happy to help you find the right ecommerce tool.

  • Trex

    Thanks for this informative website. However, among the reviews, I haven’t come across a website builder with e-commerce platform that offer manual checkout (for bank transfer payment) in addition to Paypal/Credit Card. Please enlighten me if there is a way to integrate manual checkout. Thank you in advance.

    • Armin

      Jimdo offers bank transfer, PayPal and Credit Card payment in its plan Jimdo Business. Check out our detailed Jimdo Store review. In the table you find more information about the payment options.

      • Trex

        Hi Armin, Thanks for the reply.

        The bank transfer option you mentioned, is it the “By invoice” or “Check (by mail)” option as show in your review (screen captured)? Is Jimdo the only website builder that has this? By any chance if you know if Shopify offers similar options?

        Another consideration I have is whether any of the website builders offer 2 or more different currencies for a store that sell to different countries (eg. USD for credit card payments in US, local currencies for other countries’ bank transfer payment, etc.)?

        Thank you.

        • Armin

          Among our tested e-commerce stores Shopify provides the most payment options, even manual payment options like bank transfer.

          Yes, pick “By invoice” and insert your bank account details. Your customers will receive an overview of the purchase they made with your bank account details in order to make a transfer. Here you find more detailed information about Jimdo payments.

  • Muhammed Bello Abubakar

    Thanks for the requisite information. But my major problem is drop shippers and how do i import product to my site. Please enlighten me. Thank you in anticipation of quick response

    • Armin

      Hi! Shopify offers drop shipping. You get an idea in the Shopify video at 2:00. You could import your products with an Excel .CSV-file. Of course, your current online shop needs an export function.

  • Pixelaki

    That’s a great list! But i haven’t seen any review for Smoolis yet. Perhaps it’s too early as it is a really new system.

    I’ve tried some of the above platforms. Although Shopify it’s a great tool, for me was too expensive and unfortunately it lacks the multilingual feature.

    Currently I have my online store in 2 languages with Smoolis platform (Greek & English), and would highly recommend it to everyone.

    Some of it’s features:

    – Great 24/7 support
    – Multilingual function
    – Strong SEO
    – Free responsive themes
    – Intergrated with mail chimp
    – Affordable plans & prices
    – No transaction fees
    – Intergrated with PayPal & Stripe
    – Easy to use

    So far i’m very impressed with this platform and seems that it is constantly improving and offers lots of benefits. For small-medium businesses and beginners i think it’s perfect! Proud that i’ve found it and just felt i had to share it with you all.

  • Ann Rose

    Hi….. Thanks for the information… I would like to know which is is a better website builder among these?

  • nmchick52 Thanks for the good articles and recommendations. I’ve been using bigcommerce for my online store since 2010 but have found it to be cumbersome to work with and not intuitive, so every few months I look around for an alternative. I’m considering weebly bit was wondering why big commerce is never mentioned in your articles. They do have real-time shipping options and sales tax configuration so that’s not the drawback; it more of a design challenge. They also have product variants, unlimited product photos, lots of payments options to choose from etc. It’s just so hard to figure out how to make changes to my header mostly; it shouldn’t be this difficult. Thanks so much.

    • Armin

      Hi there! Thx for your feedback. We’ve added a Bigcommerce review recently. Their store is similar to Shopify, but less “modern”. It’s hard to compare Bigcommerce with Weebly, because Bigcommerce is really made for larger stores whereas Weebly is a nice solution for a small to medium sized store. If you want, you can compare both in our side-by-side eCommerce comparison.

  • Wayne Christian

    My products include customer supplied labels, logos, and art. What is the best website builder to handle customer-uploaded design files? I am looking for a good order form that can specify sizes, colors, text, and design criteria, as well as retrieve customer supplied picture files. Am I asking for too much?

    • Josep Garcia

      You can use Shopify and allow users to upload files within the confirmation page. With Shopify it is possible to sell digital products such as image files too. Adding add color pickers to the products page is also allowed.

    • Wayne Christian

      Thanks I will start there

  • cstarz

    this was not very informative

  • cstarz

    Ive tried some of these builders and they are all crap! Rediculous to manuever the pages gave me a headache I ended up quitting them! There is no pay pal availabilty for users who just cannot accept credit cards! and believe me there are people who are starting from nothing and want to get to that stage in life so it would be very nice to see a site builder offering PayPal and a big plus the capability to pay PER MONTH and NOT ANNUALLY!! Which SUCKS TO HIGH HEAVEN#

    • Josep Garcia

      Hello, thanks for your feedback. All these website builders but Squarespace offer built-in PayPal integration. Weebly allows you to pay each 6 months. Weebly is the most user-friendly ecommerce builder we’ve ever reviewed,.