Dec 12, 2018
Table of Contents
I don’t know about you but I was never fond of learning to code. I tried, but failed miserably! Still, I wanted to be able to build a website for myself, mainly to share photos and post articles.
Eventually, this need for an easy-to-use website tool led me to find my first website builder, which was Weebly. This was in 2009, and since then, website builders have exploded in popularity.
I started WebsiteToolTester to help beginners just like you (and me!) find an easy way to create your own website. Funnily enough, for a very long time, we used the Webnode website builder to run this site. But when it grew to more than 200,000 monthly visitors and 7 different languages – bigger than any website builder could support – we made the switch to WordPress.
However, to this day, we still use website builders like Wix, Weebly, and Jimdo for a number of our projects.
The great thing about website builders is that they offer templates for a range of different industries (check out these templates by Wix, for example). You pick the one you like and just add your own text and images. You don’t have to start from a blank slate, which makes it super easy to achieve impressive results in no time.
On the other hand, sites that require a database (real-estate listings, job boards) aren’t so easy to create. They require a different tool and more time. Your best bet in this case: WordPress.
And since we get this question frequently: No, hypercomplex sites like Airbnb, eBay or Facebook are completely out of reach. You’ll need to hire a development team to build a website like that.
So which are the best website builders, and which ones should you avoid? Here are our rankings, based on our own extensive testing:
Designs like no other
Connect Domain: $5
Business & eCommerce: $20
See pricing details
It’s extremely flexible
Wix Artificial Design Intelligence (ADI)
Templates can’t be changed easily
Unmatched Ease of Use
See pricing details
Ease of use
Limited Design Flexibility
Solid All Round Package
See pricing details
Ease of use
Flexibility of templates
The Jack of All Trades
Ideal for multilingual sites
Customer support hotline included
Option to create backups
Blog import option
No option to trial without signing up
Issues with content suggestions
The Language Genius
Site for Life: $299
Great for multilingual websites
Website Personalization Tools
Easy drag-and-drop editor
Backup and Restore feature
No app store available
Great looking templates
Online Store (Basic): $26
Online Store (Advanced): $40
See pricing details
Templates and Designs
E-Commerce with customer logins
The website editor
Only one sub-navigation
SEO and Page Speed
No Preview Mode
The Polyglot Website Tool
See pricing details
Suited to multilingual websites
Great for SEO
Limited ecommerce features
Missing some key features
The Budget Site Builder
No integrated blog
Poor support quality
Good for languages
Ease of use
Great for one page layouts
Best in class support
Single Page Focus
Ease of Use
Limited Free Version
New Website Builder, Same Old Issues
Business Plus: $14.99
Online Store: $19.99
Easy to use
Blog is too basic
Editor layouts are limited
Poor support quality
Option for Multiple Sites
Good value for multiple websites
Yola ad in Bronze plan
No blogging feature
Has Had Its Best Days
Great number of features
Negative customer feedback
No product development
Free plan limited to 5 pages
The Dinosaur of Website Builders
Business Plus: $62.99
high number of features and templates
complicated editor that needs to be installed locally
Paid Extensions: $19-$159 (one-time)
A website software for PC and Mac that also works offline. Decent free plan (hosting costs not included). More.
Bookmark is an AI-powered website creator that helps you build a website in very little time.
Ecommerce Lite: £14.99
A company from London, UK that offers a website builder with ecommerce option.
iPage is a hosting company that also offers Weebly as a website builder. A better alternative is Weebly itself.
Choosing a website builder is relatively risk-free nowadays. However, there are a couple of things that you should be looking into before deciding:
Easy to use
No programming skills required and a lot easier to use than Open Source content management systems like Joomla or WordPress.
Everything is included – your hosting, the software for your website, blog or online store as well automatic feature updates.
Website makers rarely cost more than what you’d pay for a hosting package with a similarly-sized web space. And there are often free plans as well – you only pay if you want to use extras such as your own domain name.
Anyone can use them
Creating a website is almost as easy as setting up a Facebook or LinkedIn profile.
A good provider will develop their site builder on an ongoing basis. Updates will be carried out automatically.
Your provider will install security updates too, avoiding the serious issues that have arisen in this area in the past with open-source CMS (especially with WordPress). All you have to do when using a web builder is choose a secure password.
Spikes in traffic will not cause downtime
If you host your website yourself, be aware that a significant increase in traffic could cause your website to crash (e.g. if a popular website links to your site). That’s not the case if you rely on one of our recommended website creators; they can easily handle large amounts of traffic as their hosting infrastructure balances increased server loads.
Drag and drop integration
Widgets such as video and audio players, Google AdSense, Paypal, forms, etc. – you’ll find there’s very little that you can’t add.
Technical support is offered via email, live chat or forums, depending on the provider.
This is what it really comes down to. How much flexibility are you prepared to give up? For example, if you have to use a specific layout, you might find a website builder too limited. The only way to know for sure is to give it a try.
Relying on one provider
It’s important that your provider is well managed from a business point of view, because you could lose your website if it goes bust. That’s why it’s generally better to go with an established provider.
Your data is stored off-site. Some providers may be based in your country, others in Europe or further afield.
Installing server-side code
Programmers won’t like this, but web page builders are a no-go zone for PHP, Java and SQL. Then again, if you use these languages, you’re unlikely to be looking at website builders anyway. Nor are there as many add-ons as you’d find in an open-source system.
A database with search functionality (that you can see on real estate websites for example) would not be possible. For that a solution like WordPress is be a much better fit.
Large web projects
These systems are simply not appropriate for larger or more complex web-based projects (300+ pages, database queries, multiple languages etc.).
That’s a really common question and the answer is… well, it depends. Please keep in mind that in order to work with a developer you’ll have to be prepared to have a budget of at least $1.500 and that’s the low end. For any changes and further developments, you’ll pay your developer’s hourly rate. Then there is the ongoing hosting as well as domain costs (which will be another $100 per year more or less).
Using a website builder, you can calculate roughly $80-150 per year (all inclusive), depending on the provider you’ll be using.
In many cases, it’s actually a very good approach to familiarize yourself with the task of creating a website. Even if, in the end, you decide to hire a web designer, you’ll have a much better idea of what person you should be looking for and what your website should look like. Our free ebook “Website Creation for Absolute Beginners” will explain all the important parts of a website project.
The domain name is the web address that your website uses. Our domain is called websitetooltester.com and you can see it in your browser’s address bar:
Such a domain costs right around $8-15 per year, depending on the top-level domain (for example .com, .co.uk or .net). You can purchase your domain name at the usual places such as Namecheap or GoDaddy.
If you are going to use a website builder you can usually purchase it there. That makes handling it slightly easier as you’ll only be dealing with one company. If you are going to use WordPress or you’ll be programming the website yourself, you will also need web space, where you can upload your website’s files and data. With a website builder you don’t need web space as it’ll be already included.
Using your domain name you can also get your very own email address (e.g. email@example.com). That’ll make a much more professional impression than an address from Gmail or Yahoo. This email address can be managed either through your website builder, domain provider or an external service like Zoho or G Suite.
In this Google Trends graph you can compare five of the biggest site builders. It’s easy to see that, measured by search volume, Wix.com is the dominant player in this space. Weebly gets about half as much attention in Google.
Surprisingly, just a couple of years ago Webs.com was the superstar in this space. Their fall into disfavor is unmatched and pretty much reflects the comments disgruntled Webs users regularly leave in our review. The search term Jimdo.com is used about twice as much as the bottom-placed Squarespace.
With an incredible 110m users, Wix is certainly the biggest website builder out there. It started out as a Flash-based platform originally. That’s why you may sometimes still hear old rumors of Wix not being able to rank well in search engines (which you can safely ignore). Today they are the most flexible website creator out there.
Their development speed is breathtaking, which also makes them the best website builder in our table. Hardly a month passes without Wix announcing a major new feature. Among them: Wix Bookings, a convenient self-service appointment booking system for your clients. Wix Restaurants, a (commission free) addon that lets your customers book tables, order food from you and check out your menus.
Thanks to Wix ADI, absolute beginners can now use a guided website creation assistant to build a website in no time.
What we like: their eye for design. One of the biggest advantages is that there are hundreds of well-designed templates that you can use for free. Adapting them to your needs is super easy. And then there is the huge range of features. Thanks to their App Market you can easily add new features to your website (ex. a newsletter subscription, an events calendar, a forum etc.).
What they should improve: it’s not the best site builder to create larger websites of, say, 30+ pages. The navigation isn’t very deep and doesn’t allow for very complex structures. Also, it’s not possible to simply switch to an entirely new theme if you get bored of your existing one (other website builders make this easier).
Weebly is one of our all-time favorites and it’s not hard to see why. The ease of use of their website editor is still unmatched, probably the easiest website builder. No wonder 40m websites have been created through their platform already.
Every new feature they add just makes sense – their online store and the membership area being two good examples. Their content management system is also laid out to support rather large websites as we know of Weebly websites that easily count more than 150 pages. Best of all, you’re not constrained by any storage or bandwidth limits in their paid plans.
The Weebly Pro plan at $12 per month includes a site search feature as well as video and audio players, allowing you to stream media directly from your site. All in all, you can’t really go wrong with Weebly.
What we like: their themes are not only stylish but also responsive, adapting perfectly to mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones. They have a clever page template system, allowing you to further customize it to your needs. Through the App Center you can add a wide range of extra functionality made by Weebly and third parties.
What they should improve: while the App Center is great, you won’t find as many apps as in Wix’s App Market. Also, Weebly is not a great choice for multilingual websites.
Jimdo is a German website creator with more than 20m websites to its name. Ease of use is also their credo. That’s why they introduced Jimdo Dolphin, a new system that promises a working website in only 3 minutes, alongside with their core product Jimdo Creator.
It’s a solid website creation suite accompanied by a decent online store. They allow website creation from start to finish using their iOS and Android apps. Another positive thing is that email accounts are integrated right into the core product and quite affordable ($12 per year per inbox). All their templates are fully responsive and display well on desktop and mobile devices.
What we like: you can optimize your website for search engines quite well (SEO). Even their free plan is relatively powerful, providing features like password-protection and a small ecommerce website with up to 5 products.
What they should improve: they lack a bit of an edge in features compared to website builders like Wix and Weebly. Their templates could be more flexible, the online store should boast more features and a marketplace for apps (external add-ons) would be really desirable.
Duda’s website builder started out in 2008 and is special in many ways. For once, they get all the basics right: the templates look great, you get all the SEO settings you need, the blog is decent and there is an online store.
On top of that, there are two areas where they manage to outshine their competitors: for once, you can create multilingual websites with it (an area that barely any site builders masters). Plus, they also offer what they call “website personalization tools”. Using them you can show fully customized content to your visitors, for example, based on their location or the time of the day. A very powerful feature!
All this comes at a price: Duda is not exactly cheap. The lowest plan (Basic starts at $14.25 per month and doesn’t include a domain name or email accounts. However, they have another, unique payment option: Site for Life is a one-time fee of $299 for one website. If you are planning to keep your website for at least two years, this can make sense for you.
What we like: ease of use, their stylish templates, and their unique site personalization tools. Also, in our eyes, Duda is second to none for multilingual websites.
What they should improve: there is no app store for the easy integration of third-party applications. Prices are quite steep compared to the competition.
Squarespace has been around since 2003 and speaks of “millions” of websites created on their platform. It’s hard not to like the clean design of their website and the powerful aesthetics. The question is, though, whether their product is just as good as their self-marketing.
To begin with, it’s not cheap: their lowest no-frills plan starts at $12 per month. Squarespace’s claim to fame is to offer one of the best blog functions of all website builders, second only to WordPress. And as of recently, they are increasingly pushing their online store. So what else do you get?
You can choose from their numerous, and admittedly, beautiful themes. They are all tablet and smartphone-compatible and feature different types of photo galleries. While there are a lot of good things, there are also flaws. With regards to SEO, Squarespace doesn’t let you fully customize the titles for blog and product pages. This can be a show-stopper in competitive industries.
What we like: the designs are brilliant and also the fact that you can just install a new template whenever you like and switch to it. We’ve also had pretty positive experiences with their support. It’s not the easiest website builder to use, other alternatives are better suited for beginners.
What they should improve: the aforementioned SEO flaws are pretty disappointing for a product at this price. There is no backup and restore feature, which, again, at this price point should be a given. Finally, when we tested their page speed (also an important SEO factor), it wasn’t exactly impressive. A Wix-like app store for external applications would be desirable as well.
Although not as popular as other tools like Weebly or Wix, it is still one of the most globally used website builders, especially among European users. Webnode is a hit and miss: some features are really advanced and almost unique in the industry, but it also lacks some basic functionality that can be a no-go for some.
A free domain name for most of their plans is included for the first year. On top of that, some tiers also come with custom email accounts (e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org) for free.
What we like: The most exciting feature about Webnode is that they offer an easy way to create multilingual sites; very few website builders have a feature like that. We also like their designs, which are modern and responsive – so they automatically look good on all devices. Their SEO features are also solid and have everything that most sites will need.
What they should improve: Their blogging system is missing some key features like categories, tags or a native commenting system. If you are looking to create an online store, forget it – they haven’t yet implemented one in their newer editor. Unlike Wix or Weebly they don’t have an app store; these can be really convenient as they let you install extensions that enhance your site’s capabilities.
One.com is one thing: cheap. This Danish provider stormed into the website builder (and hosting) market a few years ago offering the lowest prices we’ve seen. They also provide hosting, which is really convenient if you need to use both a website builder and a CMS like WordPress.
But One.com can get expensive. If you are going to need more than 5 pages, you’ll need to get the Premium plan. Then it is almost as expensive as Wix and Weebly (two of the best website builders), and rather limited in features if compared to these.
What we like: They have templates that look modern and are responsive. These will make your site look great on any device. They also offer solid support that you can reach by email or live chat. Another positive aspect is that they are extremely generous with the storage they offer.
What they should improve: Sadly it has some important limitations. For example, if you need a blog it needs to be added separately using another editor. You won’t be able to password-protect your site either as this feature is not included. Another flaw is that their ecommerce system is very basic, and only suitable for the smallest online stores.
Obviously, this is a very legitimate question. After all, many reviewing websites (whether they compare website builders or another kind of service) claim to be independent. Sometimes, however, this could not be farther from the truth.
The core problem is the fact that reviews are generally funded by affiliate revenue. This is the case for us, too, mainly because there are no viable alternatives. As a result, there are some people (who feel at ease with morally questionable practices) who rate a provider strictly based on the commission they generate instead of their actual merits. Unfortunately, dubious practices like these do enable website owners to put significant pressure on a provider by saying, effectively, “either you increase the revenue you generate for us by x%, or we kick you off the site.”
For reasons completely foreign to us, some providers give in to that way of doing business. Several website builders have offered us significant increases in commission if we agree to “re-arrange” our rankings. As we put our readers’ interests first and want to focus on the bigger picture and long-term goals, we cannot and will not agree to any such deal.
Regardless of whether you consider us a trustworthy website or not, here are a few bits of advice on how to easily spot questionable reviews:
The web has become a wonderful resource of knowledge, opinions, reviews and all those other good things. Only be aware that sometimes you need to take certain information with a grain of salt.
Should you have any other questions, please do not hesitate to ask!
We test website builders. Site builders or website makers are a kind of content management system (CMS) that are particularly easy to use and don’t require any specialized technical knowledge. Some of them are installed on your computer, while others are hosted by the provider and run completely within your browser (e.g. Mozilla Firefox). This means you don’t need to install anything locally.
We’ve decided to test the builders that run through your browser only because we think these are the ones that will stand the test of time. And it doesn’t matter if you are on a Mac or a PC!
Note: Rest assured, we don’t allow kiddie toys in our test lab! We only test and review builders that will enable you to easily and quickly create clean, professional-looking websites.
People who benefit most from website building toolkits are those who run small businesses such as freelancers, graphic designers, clubs, bands, or entrepreneurs who sell goods or services via online stores. Website builders are also used to create personal websites and blogs.
So why are these systems so popular? First of all, they allow you to get your website up and running very quickly. And second, they enable you to make changes to your website yourself – without having to pay extra for a programmer.
If you purchase your domain name it belongs to you. You can also transfer the domain to a different company if you like. For example, it’s perfectly possible to have the domain name managed through GoDaddy while your website runs on Weebly.
The key difference between a CMS (content management system) and a website builder is flexibility, read this article for more information. WordPress.org, for example, is a lot more flexible than a site builder. But the problem is that it’s also a lot more difficult to set up and to maintain. We’ve compared WordPress to six website builders here. And here you can find our WordPress beginners guide.
Generally, the answer is yes. But since we get pitched all the time, please keep the following in mind: