Free Website Builders: The Best, and What You Need to Know about Them
Free site builders from Wix, Weebly and Jimdo
Plenty of online providers offer free plans for you to build your own website. These are usually based on free website building software, and because hosting is included, you don’t even have to worry about web space.
This sounds like a pretty good deal, and it’s often worth taking a closer look. We decided to save you some work and do it for you.
So who really pays for these free plans?
It’s true that the best things in life are free, but this generally only applies to the intangibles. Hosting a website, on the other hand, clearly costs the provider money. They have to cover the cost of running their servers and marketing their services, not to mention ongoing development.
Free web page builders are almost always based on a freemium model. This means that the free, entry-level plan is funded by those customers who go on to purchase a paid (or premium) plan.
That’s why it’s worth doing your research before choosing which free online website builder is best for you.
Which free website creators are worth checking out?
Here are some details on the free plans offered by four of the best website creators.
|Logo in footer||Free subdomain||500 MB||Solid product with unlimited pages. Minimal advertising.|
|Logo in footer||Free subdomain||100 MB||Could do with more storage, otherwise very good. Unlimited pages.|
|Logo & expandable sign-up form in footer||Free subdomain||500 MB||The ad-bar at the bottom of the page could be less intrusive.|
|Logo in footer and Header||Free subdomain||500 MB||Good product, but very intrusive logos both in the header and the footer of the page. Bandwidth limit of 1GB per month.|
|Logo in footer||Free subdomain||500 MB||The free plans are limited to 5 pages. They keep the most modern-looking templates for premium users.|
Need a proper domain name? The free online website builders in this table only provide free subdomains. If you’re looking for a “real” domain name you may want to take a look at One.com. Currently they offer the first year for free. It renews at a relatively affordable $37 per year (including domain name, web space and web editor). Find out more in our One.com review.
Free web site builders: video overview
What do you miss out on with a free business website builder?
You won’t get a proper domain name, because .com or .net domains always come at a cost. Most providers will give you a subdomain such as yourname.providername.com.
This may be fine for a personal website, but a subdomain is not recommended for professional or commercial sites for the following reasons:
- It looks unprofessional.
- You’re not doing yourself any favors in terms of search engine rankings. Weebly, for example, won’t let you index your website in search engines at all on their free plan.
- It’s not easy to remember such a long name
In addition, many providers will run advertisements for their own or other businesses on your free website – again, not a professional look.
Then there are the providers who offer only dated or unattractive layouts on their free plans, and keep the good designs for their paid plans. Also, some free web page builders will keep their most advanced features for paying customers.
Is it possible to create an online store with a free website builder?
Now that we’ve seen it’s possible to have a website at no cost, you might be wondering if you can also create a free online store. We’ve taken a look at these two tools and checked their offering:
|For small projects without budget||Jimdo does not offer the most advanced online store features. However, you will be able to create a complete online store for free. Payments go through PayPal and you’re limited to 5 products.|
|For small projects that already have a website||This plugin will turn your current website into an online store. Be aware that the free plan is limited to 10 products. You can also add Ecwid to one of the aforementioned free site builders.|
In a nutshell, if you’d like a really simple, free ecommerce site, you can use a site builder such as Jimdo. The other free alternative is Ecwid, but you’ll need to already have a website to add this ecommerce plugin. Also, we would only recommend a free store if you have means, other than Google, of getting traffic to your website. Without your SEO features, it will be very difficult to receive organic search engine traffic. For more information, check out our article about online store creation platforms.
Free site builders: Our conclusion
Jimdo’s and Webnode’s free plans (links open in new window) are very attractive. But it’s important not to be blinded by the word “free.” If you can afford it, stay away from free plans for your business site, even if it’s a small business. Of course, if the alternative is no website, then a free one is still better than nothing. But free plans come with certain restrictions that can give your business website an unprofessional look, such as strange domain names and ads on your site.
Once you’ve built your website, moving it to a new provider can be quite a hassle. So remember to take your future plans into consideration when weighing up your options, especially if you might want to get a proper domain name, matching email addresses or an ad-free version of your website at some stage in the future.
There are also many other criteria to take into account, such as technical support or extra features like an online store or overall ease of use.
Update 18 May 2016: Weebly Free’s storage is limited to 500 MB.
Update 13 Apr 2016: General update. Ecommerce free site included.
Update 4 Apr 2015: It is not longer possible to use an existing domain name with your free Webnode site.
Update 9 Jan 2015:We included Wix.com in our selection; it provides a free plan, which is excellent for creative people. We added a new video with all the updated information.
Update 17 Jul 2014: Webnode states on their pricing overview that you can’t connect an existing domain name to a free Webnode site. However, this only applies in a few cases, generally it should still be possible. If it doesn’t work in your case please let us know and we will check it for you.
Update 10 Jun 2014:Weebly’s free plan continues to deteriorate: now there is an ad bar in the footer with a Weebly sign-up form.
Update 24 Oct 2013: It’s no longer possible to use an existing domain name with your free Weebly site. That’s why they are only second in our ranking now.