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The Definitive Guide To Website Builders

By Steve Benjamins · Last Updated Jun 14 2018

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This guide explains everything you need to know about choosing the best website builder.

Website builders are typically drag-and-drop.

It covers SEO, themes, ease of use, free plans, and a lot more. It also includes helpful tools like price calculator (find the real cost of a website builder) and theme browser (browse themes from 25 website builders— in one place).

Most popular of all is the list of the top 36 website builders— which I put together after hundreds of hours of in-depth testing.

I've put spent hundreds of hours testing website builders and this is what I've felt. Be sure to read the full review to get a picture of each website builder.

The Top 36 Website Builders

You should feel confident choosing any website builder rated 4+ stars on this list. Reviews are updated every 9 months. My work is supported by affiliate commissions.

  1. Squarespace is incredibly well designed. It's clear that there is a thoughtful team that pores over the details of this website builder. Themes are fresh, contemporary and minimal. The industry standard for website builders.

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    Full Review
  2. Weebly is the extremely easy to use— it's what I recommend to anyone who doesn't feel tech savvy. What surprises though, is that Weebly is also one of the most flexible website builders— it's hard to be flexible and easy to use.

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  3. Wix is a blank canvas website builder, which means you can drag any element anywhere on your website— like how you would edit a Powerpoint presentation. Blank canvas editors can be complex and disorganized, but not Wix, it's the best I've tried. Read the full Wix review now.

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  4. One page websites are long single-page websites where the navigation scrolls visitors up and down the page. Most website builders can't create one page websites. Strikingly is different. It's intuitive sections editor is perfectly suited for creating one page websites.

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  5. Voog is the best multi-lingual website builder— though they don't advertise it explicitly. They have a handy system which lets you create versions of every page for different languages that visitors can access by hitting a flag icon to choose a different language.

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  6. Wordpress.com is not Wordpress— or at least, it’s not what most people think of as Wordpress. Most people know Wordpress as Wordpress.org, the popular open-source content management system (CMS). Though Wordpress.com is built using Wordpress.org, it's not the same thing.

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  7. Ucraft is a block-based website builder— which means you build pages by stacking blocks vertically on top of another. Blocks are then made up of individual elements.

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    Full Review
  8. The interface for XPRS is slick but a bit overwhelming to use. It takes time to learn— there are lots of icons and forms floating around. It lacks features like blogs and ecommerce but shines with fresh and contemporary themes.

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  9. Zoho Sites is a pretty ordinary website builder— a simple drag and drop editor with mostly typical features. It's most standout feature is it's form builder which allows for advanced rules and routing. Themes are mostly outdated.

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  10. Webstarts is a blank canvas website editor— which means elements can be dragged anywhere on a page (sort of like how you would edit a Powerpoint presentation).

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    Full Review
  11. Overall the DudaOne website editor kind of throws the kitchen sink at you. It can feel disorganized and overwhelming— not the easy, unified experience you’d find in other website builders like Strikingly and Weebly. It will take most users time to wrap their head around it.

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  12. Here's something you like to see as a user: I've been following Snappages for a couple years now, and they continually work on their product. While other website builders begin to get stale, Snappages just keeps pushing new releases.

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  13. Everything feels easy and within arms reach in uKit. There's a real coherence to the product— it's thoughtful and intuitive. Unfortunately most themes look very similar and theme customization is limited.

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  14. You'll be frustrated if you try to use Google Sites for building a business website. It's just not meant for that. Instead Google Sites is best used for building collaborative websites and intranets that integrate Google services (Docs, Drive, Calendar, Form etc.).

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  15. A good, usable editor that provides basic elements. Webnode offers a nice selection of 65 themes— unfortunately, it lacks serious theme customization as you're locked into whatever the templates have chosen for you.

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  16. GoDaddy's new website builder is too simple and lacks important features. While you can theoretically get a website up quickly, you will almost certainly find GoDaddy's limitations frustrating.

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  17. 1&1 licenses the software for their MyWebsite service from DudaOne. So it’s actually the same website builder as DudaOne. If you decide to use 1&1 just be aware they disable their web-based cancellation in the first month.

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  18. Sitey is the same product as WebsiteBuilder.com. The company behind these websites builders has decided to host the same website builder on multiple domains (it's not entirely clear why).

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  19. Moonfruit recently launched a new editor that's easier than the old editor— though still tricky. The major knock on the new editor is that there's isn’t much going on: no blog, no form builder and no ecommerce.

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  20. Cindr websites are built by stacking "blocs" of content on one another— unfortunately the blocks are too simple and lack customization options.

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  21. Simvoly has some interesting features, unfortunately it's often undermined by an interface that is confusing and language that can at times be incomprehensible.

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  22. Adobe has announced they are no longer developing new features for Muse and will be ending technical support in 2020. Because of that I would strongly recommend you not use Adobe Muse.

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  23. Yola is expensive— and you don’t get much for what you pay for. Pricing aside, Yolo is a simple website builder that’s missing some key features (for example: blogs). You can get much more for cheaper from other website builders.

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  24. Poor billing practices and an overwhelming website editor— users who are looking for thoughtful defaults and an easy-to-use website builder will want to take a look elsewhere.

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  25. Themes are a bit simple and outdated. For example, some themes require a subtitle and sidebar— but most modern websites don't have a subtitle or a sidebar. The editor can also feel poorly thought out at times.

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  26. Vistaprint's website builder is block-based, which means you build pages by dropping pre-designed blocks onto it. The interface is clear and simple— though the simplicity can be a problem when you discover the limitations of customizing blocks.

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  27. SiteBuilder.com is the same product as WebsiteBuilder.com. The company behind these websites builders has decided to host the same website builder on multiple domains (it's not entirely clear why).

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  28. Though iPage sells software, don't think of them as a software company— think of them as a predatory sales company. They license their website builder software from other companies and resell it in a way that's designed to take advantage of vulnerable customers.

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  29. Web.com's monthly plans are technically 28 days long— which means users end up paying for 13 months in a year. Ridiculous. It also doesn't help that the editor is one of the most frustrating I've ever tried. Read the full review now.

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  30. The CityMax editor is bad. I hate to be so blunt— but it's true. You create CityMax websites in a form-based editor that doesn't show a live website preview. This is a really outdated (and frustrating) way to build a website.

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  31. Their blog hasn't been updated in 18 months. Their Facebook page has 1 post in the last two years. The copyright on their homepage no says 2017— even though it's 2018. Homestead seems to have given up.

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  32. Onepager is really simple— and it's not just that it limits your website to one page. It goes even beyond that: there's simply a lot that you can't do with Onepager.

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  33. The Doodlekit website editor is really bad. It's not thoughtfully designed at all. Doodlekit said they were in the process of a major overhaul that would launch spring 2015. It still hasn't launched. Doodlekit needs a lot of work and it's not at all clear that they are doing it.

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  34. There are signs of staleness everywhere in Angelfire. Their social media accounts have been abandoned. The often promoted äóìteam blog' and the Angelfire Twitter haven't been updated since November 2012. It gives off a feeling no one is taking care of it.

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  35. Simple website editor that can get confusing at times.

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  36. In 2014 Virb was acquired by GoDaddy. Since the acquisition, it has been increasingly clear that Virb is not being actively developed— it's simply being maintained.

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  37. Webs has become increasingly out-of-date: there are no responsive themes, and no feature or UI changes are on the horizon. The Webs Announcements blog hasn't had an update since 2015. I believe this is because it's no longer actively maintained.

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By Feature

What's The Best Website Builder For SEO?

There isn't one.

Don't believe anyone who tells you otherwise.

Choosing between Weebly, Squarespace or Wix will have no material impact on your SEO. It's true that there are technical SEO features that you do need in a website builder but it's just that most website builders cover these.

Why should you believe me? Site Builder Report routinely outranks companies like GoDaddy and Wix in Google for competitive search terms like website builder.

Below I list the four most important SEO features you need in a website builder. Think of them as the minimum you need to get Google to notice you. From there you will need links and quality content to outperform your competitors. I explain this more in my Guide to Making a Great Website.

1. Mobile-Friendly Themes

For many years Google had two indexes: desktop and mobile. The desktop index was served to desktop users and the mobile index was served to mobile users. But that's all changed.

In March 2018, Google announced that a mobile-first index was being rolled out. This means that the mobile index is now Google's primary index— so how you're site works on mobile will effect how your desktop site ranks.

That's why it's critical that your website builder offer mobile-friendly themes. Fortunately most website builders do— but a few still do not. (My website builder reviews always cover this.)

2. Customizable Meta Titles and Descriptions

Every page has a meta title and description. They are what make up the core of your Google result:

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Putting your keyword in a meta title can help you rank for it. Putting your keyword in your meta descriptions won't really help you rank— though a well-written meta description can increase your chances of getting click on.

Almost all website builders offer let you customize your meta title and description— but because it's so critical, it's worth making sure that it's easy to do.

3. SSL

Having an SSL certificate is what gives websites the secure icon in a browser and adds an 's' to the http (making it https).

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This site is secured by SSL.

In 2014 Google announced SSL as a ranking signal. And when Google explicitly suggests something is a ranking signal, it's usually good to implement it. Even aside from SEO, SSL is just a good practice for new websites— and a critical element for ecommerce websites.

Most website builders include SSL in paid plans— though some do not, so it's a good idea to check before you buy.

4. Performance

Google has announced that site speed is a signal they use to rank pages. Because website builders handle millions of websites, they tend to have the architecture necessary to have your website optimized for performance— especially the major website builders such as Weebly, Squarespace and Wix which host millions of websites.

The two best tools to check your website performance is Google Page Speed Insights and WebPageTest.org.


Website Builders for Simple Websites

I'd make two suggestions if you want a simple website that you can build quickly:

1. Use a One-Page Website Builder

One page websites have become extremely popular. If you’re not familiar with one page websites, they are long websites where clicking the navigation scrolls you up and down the page— one single page holds all the content of the website.

Designing for one-page can seem counter-intuitive. Rather than stuffing your website full of content, you actually have to limit your content. But the truth is, visitors don't want to read a book when they come to your website anyways. Instead visitors want quick access to clear information.

Strikingly is the best one-page website builder that I've tried. Seriously— it's excellent.

OnePager is another one-page website builder. I wouldn't recommend it (my review explains why).

I've also heard really good things about Carrd— though I have not had a chance to review it yet.

You can build one-page website with website builders such as Wix, but the interface on website builders such as Strikingly are much simpler because they are designed purely for one-page websites.

2. Use a Landing Page Builder

Landing pages are pages designed to generate leads— newsletter signups, app downloads, sales, signups and more. People often use landing page builders as a marketing tool or as a way to generate interest before launching a full site.

There are about 10-15 popular landing page builders. I talked to 467 real-life users of each of these landing page builders to write an in-depth guide to landing page builders.


Which Website Builder Has the Best Free Plan?

I did a deep dive on the best free website builders here. I also put all together in a popular Youtube video.

I think there are three things to think about when comparing free website builders:

  1. Advertisements - Does the website builder include an advertisement on free websites? How intrusive is the advertisement?
  2. Domains - Very few website builders allow you to add a custom domain name to free websites— in fact Ucraft is the only website builder to allow for this. Some website builders have really wordy free domains— for example, here's what Wix's subdomain looks like: http://random1028.wixsite.com/yoursite
  3. Limitations - Are all the features available? For example, is ecommerce allowed on the free website?

In the end, I recommend Ucraft's free plan because it allows custom domain names.


What's The Easiest Website Builder?

I recommend Weebly for those looking for an easy to use website builder. Weebly manages to keep everything simple without ever watering down features. It's what I'd recommend to anyone who doesn't feel tech-savvy.

Strikingly is a good runner up. It's really easy to use and best suited for making one-page websites.

Snappages and uKit deserve honorable mentions. Both are easy to use. Vistaprint is also quite easy to use but too simple (Vistaprint is easy to use to a fault).

Wix and Squarespace are two website builders that I give high ratings to but wouldn't suggest if you are looking for easy to use. Both have a steeper learning curve than Weebly.


Designing a Custom Theme

Most website builders require you to choose a theme— but a few let you build your own theme from scratch.

In my feature comparison table I show which website builders you let design a website from scratch— and there are a handful. Of those I would recommend Wix. Wix is an excellent, highly customizable website builder. It can be a bit overwhelming with the amount of options it provides— but that's exactly what you want if you're designing a theme from scratch.

You might also want consider front-end design tools such as Webflow, Pagecloud and Froont. These are most sophisticated than website builders but are really powerful tools that let you design a website from scratch without coding experience.


The Cheapest Website Builder

I built a tool that helps you answer this question quickly. The price comparison calculator compares 131 plans from every website builder I review. It helps you calculate the real price of each website builder. No BS. Just clear pricing over time. It also takes into account the price of domain names.

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My price comparison table lets you find the cheapest website builder.

The reason I built the price comparison calculator is that some website builders aren't transparent with their pricing. If a price seems too good to be true it's probably an introductory rate that increases after the first year or first month.

For example, 1&1 advertises a $0.99 per month price— but that price increases to $9.99 per month after the first year.

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1and1 advertises a $0.99 per month price— but that increases to $9.99 per month after the first year.

Now most website builders have transparent pricing— and I make it very clear in each of my website builder reviews if they have shady billing practices. So you don't need to worry if you check the review first.


Which Website Builder Should You Use For Podcasts?

Squarespace is the only website builder that let's you syndicate a podcast— which is required for submitting to iTunes.

There are third-party podcast companies such as Podomatic that integrate with website builders such as Weebly but I have not tried them before.


Multilingual Website Builder

Voog has the best support for a website with multiple languages— but strangely they don't advertise their multilingual features very clearly.

Basically Voog websites with multiple languages have a flag icon. Users click the flag to change the language.

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The flag icon for this Voog website is located on the footer.

Each language represents a completely different version of the website. There are no automatic computer translations (people who've actually had to build multi-lingual websites know that you can't just automate translation!). You manually write each translation for your website.

Voog's multi-lingual support will be super helpful for a small percentage of people. For example, in Canada, multi-lingual websites are a requirement for some organizations (French and English).


Best Ecommerce Website Builder

If you're building a pure ecommerce website, you'll probably want to consider a store builder such as Shopify rather than a website builder. Store builders are focussed on ecommerce— so they typically have more advanced, fully-featured ecommerce systems.

As you see in my guide to store builder, Shopify is far and away the best store builder.

Now, this is not to say that you shouldn't choose a website builder for an ecommerce website— in the last few years website builders such as Wix, Weebly and Squarespace have aggressively built out strong ecommerce features. Instead, I'd suggest choosing a website builder for your ecommerce website if you're website needs to do things other than ecommerce. For example, if you also want to have a blog or other content heavy pages.


Website Builders With iOS and Android Apps

I maintain a feature comparison table of around 40 different website builders— on it I've listed the website builders that offer iOS or Android apps:

  • Squarespace — There are a suite of beautiful apps: Commerce lets you manage your store. Blog (iOS) lets you compose blog posts and manage your blog. Metrics (iOS) gives you website analytics. Portfolio (iOS) lets you manage photos and galleries. They also have an Android app that is similar to their iOS Blog app. Having a suite of apps is great— rather than stuff everything into one app, they're able to make a beautiful interface for each use case.
  • Weebly — Weebly has iPhone, Android, iPad and Apple Watch apps. The tablet and phone apps are fully featured— meaning you can design your entire website using them. This is awesome— no other website builder offers this on both phones and tablets. The Apple Watch app is mostly for stats and store notifications (new orders, new form entries etc.).
  • Wix — Wix has an iOS and Android app that lets you manage your online store, chat with visitors and manage your blog.
  • Strikingly — Excellent, fully functional iOS and Android apps let you edit your website, manage ecommerce orders, view analytics and more.
  • Wordpress.com — iOS and Android apps let you check analytics, write blog posts and respond to comments.
  • XPRS — Strangely the XPRS website says an iPhone app is 'coming soon'— yet one is already available in the app store. The app is a full website editor— which means you can add text, videos, blog posts, photos and more from your phone. Nice!
  • Webstarts — WebStarts has an iOS app called WebStarts Blog that allows you to write blog posts on your iPhone or iPad. There is also another app called WebStarts AI that promises to let you create a website using artificial intelligence.
  • Jimdo — Jimdo has iPhone, iPad and Android apps that allow you to do full website editing— I honestly can't think of any other website builder that lets you do full website editing on mobile devices. So if you need to build a website using an iPhone or Android app, Jimdo is your best option.

Can you export or move your website once it's built on a website builder?

Unfortunately, you can't.

This is a common question I get and admittedly, one of the downsides of a website builder.

You might think that website builders don't let customers export or move their website because it's a good way to lock them in, but there are actually some very good technical reasons why website builder websites can't be moved.

Modern website are more complex than websites in the past. They aren't just HTML, CSS and Javascript being passed from a server. Those assets are optimized, cached and accessed through special content delivery networks (among other things) to ensure performance. The reality of disentangling all of this from the website builder and moving into a third party host is that it's messy and would require a level of technical competence that most users of website builders don't have.

Plus, features that require server-side processing (such as forms, ecommerce) would not work.

If this is a problem for you, I'd suggest going to the next level in complexity and checking out a CMS like Wordpress or a front-end design tool such as Webflow. Both are more complex but will let you export and move your website.


Domain Names

You can register a domain name through most website builders and web hosts but you may want to consider registering the domain name yourself at a third party domain name provider— that way you are in control of your domain name no matter what.

It's a question of trade-offs. Registering the domain name provider at a 3rd party is a bit of a technical hurdle but it means that you always have control of the domain name. If the domain name is bought through a website builder, you'll have to work through them to move the domain name if you ever decide to change your website provider.

I typically buy my domain names at a 3rd party provider: Namecheap. That way I'm always in control.


What About Webflow?

I hear great things about Webflow. The reason it’s not on Site Builder Report is because I only review website builders and Webflow feels more like a tool for designers. While Webflow doesn’t require you to learn how to code, it has a code-like environment— similar in complexity to Photoshop.


What About Wordpress?

Most people know Wordpress as Wordpress.org, the self-hosted, content management system (CMS). I don't review it because it's not a website builder.

I do review Wordpress.com because it is significantly different from Wordpress.org and is very much like a website builder.

Wordpress is a good option for building a website— the key is to know when to use it instead of a website builder. I wrote a blog post about this here.


About This Site

My name is Steve Benjamins and I’ve designed and coded websites for the last 20 years (since I was 10 years old). My websites have been featured in Wired, The Next Web, Smashing Magazine, The Huffington Post and Forbes. I am the sole developer, designer and reviewer at Site Builder Report— you can read more about my story in my interview with IndieHackers.

Over the the last 4 years I’ve written over 100 in-depth reviews of website builders— which, at over 100,000 words, is the size of a big book. In that time Site Builder Report has grown quickly. Today over 60,000 people every month use it to choose a website builder.

My work is supported by earning an affiliate commission when readers choose a website builder based on my reviews.

Read more about me here.

Do I use a website builder for this website? I do not use a website builder for Site Builder Report. Instead I designed it myself and coded it in Ruby on Rails— a popular programming framework. I do use Squarespace for my band's website though!