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Website Builders

The Best Website Builders

Last Updated May 8 2019

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Written By By Steve Benjamins

I’ve done reviews of over 40 website builders but I wanted to save you some time. So this is my collection of the 6 best. I recommend each one— but they each have unique strengths that may work best for you.

My work is supported by affiliate commissions, so I may earn a comission if you buy a website builder based on my reviews. You can read more about this.

Here are the top 6 website builders for 2019:

The rest of this article will go more in-depth and explain why I recommend these over other website builders and also answer some common questions. You can also wach a video overview of the top 6 website builders on Youtube.


Table of Contents

  1. A Closer Look: Squarespace
  2. A Closer Look: Weebly
  3. A Closer Look: Shopify
  4. A Closer Look: Wix
  5. A Closer Look: Format
  6. A Closer Look: Webflow
  7. Complete List of Website Builders (40)
  8. Best Website Builder For SEO
  9. Best Website Builder For Blogging
  10. Best Website Builder Free Plan
  11. Best Website Builder For Ecommerce
  12. Best Website Builder For Membership Sites
  13. Can You Move Your Website Off A Website Builder Once It's Built?
  14. Domains and Email

A Closer Look

  • Highly RecommendedSquarespace is like the Apple of website builders. It's intuitive, curated and thoughtfully designed. I highly recommend it.

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    Squarespace is like the Apple of website builders— intuitive and thoughtfully designed.

    Squarespace templates are fresh, sophisticated and share a similiar look and feel: lots of whitespace, bold typography and room to showcase photography.

    It's of course a bit subjective, but in my opinion Squarespace has the best themes of any website builder:

    Example Squarespace theme.

    Squarespace also has excellent features. They have the best blogging, podcasting, audio players and photo galleries of any website builder. Plus, their ecommerce is a viable alternative to pure ecommerce website builders such as Shopify.

    To top it all off, Squarespace has honest, up-front pricing. You won't be nickle-and-dimed further down the road— an unfortunate problem with many other website builders.

  • Easiest To UseWeebly is what I recommend to anyone who doesn't feel tech savvy. It's just really easy to use. Everything feels simple and straightforward.

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    Weebly's editor is simple and easy to use— it's what I recommend to anyone who doesn't feel tech savvy.

    Even though Weebly is easy to use, it's not simple. Instead it's actually quite sophisticated. It has excellent ecommerce (it and Squarspace have the best ecommerce among website builders) and one of the best membership systems of any website builders.

    Weebly also an App Center that lets you add all sorts of new features to your website: language translations, paid memberships, powerful tables and more.

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    Weebly App Center has around 300 apps you can install to add new features.

    Weebly has around 70 themes— and they're all quite good. If there is a shortcoming though, it's in theme customization. At times Weebly can be limited in theme customization.

    Over all, Weebly is easy to use and has sophisticated features— it’s an impressive mix.

  • Best Ecommerce Website Builder — Shopify is the best ecommerce builder. If you're building a pure ecommerce website, I highly recommend Shopify.

    Shopify has come to dominate ecommerce software by constantly innovating and improving— while always remaining clear and easy of use. It's a magical balancing act that's unusual in the world of software.

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    Shopify is clear and easy to use.

    The App Store is it's biggest differentiator. The Shopify core covers what 80% of online stores will need and the app store covers the other 20%— that way the core doesn't get bloated with features most stores don't need. Shopify is not the only ecommerce website builder to offer an app stores but they have significantly more apps than any competitor:

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    Shopify has significantly more apps than their closest competitors.

    Besides the app store, Shopify has continually launched innovative features like Shopify Payments, Shopify POS and Shopify Augmented Reality that push the industry forward— at a pace competitors rarely keep up with.

    Beyond features, the thing I most often hear from users is that they love that Shopify is so easy to use. It's clear, simple and intuitive.

    More On Shopify :

    Complete Shopify Review · Alternatives · Examples ·

  • Great For Portfolio Websites — Format is an easy to use website builder focussed on a specific type of website: portfolios.

    It's loved by it's users. Last year I surveyed 1,630 photographers who were using a dedicated portfolio builder for their website to see which had the highest customer satisfaction— and Format scored a whopping 97%.

    Format ui.png?1557324460?ixlib=rails 2.1

    Format is simple and easy to use.

    Format is especially great for photographers— they include proofing features, watermarking and integrations with Adobe Lightroom and Capture One.

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    Format themes.

    More On Format:

    Complete Format Review ·

  • Great For Professional Designers — Webflow is not quite a website builder and it's also not quite a CMS.

    It has a steeper learning curve than website builders such as Squarepace and Weebly. Even though it doesn't require you to code, it's interface is really an abstraction of a code environment. It's roughly analogous to learning Photoshop.

    And though it includes a CMS, it's not like a traditional CMS like Wordpress. Webflow is not open source and it includes hosting.

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    Webflow

    Webflow is most known for it's design tool which lets you code designs visually. Many designers love it as a way to speed up development time. Basically you drag-and-drop HTML elements and adjust the CSS through a right side panel. This might be a bit intimidating for some— but for those who already understand HTML and CSS, it feels quite logical.

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    Adjusting CSS in the right side panel.

    Though you can purchase themes for Webflow, it doesn't come with themes. The idea is more that you will design your own theme from scratch.

    Webflow is not for everyone. In fact, it's probably not right for most readers of Site Builder Report— but I think Webflow is an excellent platform for professional designers. It really makes design faster and more accessible.

  • For those who want precise control — The most important difference between Wix and other website builders is that Wix is an unstructured editor.

    Most website builders limit you to dragging and dropping within a pre-designed grid. Wix is different. Wix's unstructured editor lets you drag and drop elements anywhere you want on a page. No constraints.

    Wix's unstructured editor lets you drag elements anywhere on a page.

    The upside to Wix's unstructured editor is clear: freedom. But I've also found the unstructured editor can result in tedious work and challenges— and it's the reason I only give Wix a 4-star rating. (For more on this, see my complete review of Wix.)

    Wix provides you with a lot of options for your website. There are 500+ themes, plenty of features and an App Market for even more features and integrations.

    Wix includes plenty of elements to build your website with— even from scratch if you'd like.

    I recommend Wix to a certain type of user: those who don't want to feel constrained. If Squarespace is like Apple, Wix is like Google or Microsoft— you're more free to do what you'd like.

All Website Builders

There are literally tons of website builders you could choose— this is a list of all the website builders I've reviewed:

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    Squarespace

    Incredibly well designed. Beautiful themes.

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    Weebly

    Perfect for anyone looking for something easy to use.

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    Webflow

    Great tool for professional designers.

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    Format

    Excellent portfolio builder.

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    Shopify

    The best ecommerce website builder.

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    Wix

    True drag-and-drop. Offers detailed control of websites.

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    Voog

    Good for multilingual websites.

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    Strikingly

    The best website builder for one page websites.

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    Wordpress.com

    Great for blogs and users familiar with Wordpress.

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    WooCommerce

    Good for users already familiar with Wordpress.

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    Jumpseller

    Strong multi-language ecommerce website builder.

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    Ucraft

    Flexible design editor.

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    Ecwid

    Lets you add ecommerce to an existing website.

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    XPRS

    Beautiful themes— but overwhelming to use.

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    SnapPages

    Provides the basics.

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    DudaOne

    Tricky to get a handle on.

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    uKit

    Easy editor but too simple.

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    Simvoly

    Strong features, just difficult to use.

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    Google Sites

    Best used as an intranet to connect Google products.

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    Sitey

    Same as WebsiteBuilder.com.

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    1&1

    Licenses other software.

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    Cindr

    Too limited.

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    Moonfruit

    Lacks features. Poor themes.

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    BigCommerce

    Can be difficult to use.

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    Big Cartel

    Simple ecommerce, often too simple.

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    GoDaddy

    Website Builder 8 is a step backwards for GoDaddy.

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    Volusion

    Difficult to use and bandwidth overage charges.

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    Webnode

    Lacks theme customization.

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    Adobe Muse

    Adobe is no longer developing Muse.

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    Yola

    Clunky interface, lack of features.

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    WebsiteBuilder.com

    Poor billing practices.

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    Jimdo

    Basic editor with outdated themes.

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    Zoho Sites

    Solid website builder with a powerful form builder.

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    Vistaprint

    Easy to use, though limited.

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    SiteZulu

    Simple website editor that can get confusing at times.

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    Web.com

    Horrible billing practices.

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    Onepager

    Simple one page websites. Too simple to recommend.

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    CityMax

    Outdated and tedious.

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    Homestead

    Don't bother, they've given up.

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    Doodlekit

    Single-element pages make for a poor user experience.

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    Angelfire

    No web fonts, no mobile website and old themes.

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    iPage

    Terrible billing practices.

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    Virb

    Avoid— Virb is not being maintained.

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    SiteBuilder.com

    Same as WebsiteBuilder.com.

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    Webs

    No longer actively maintained.

Common Questions

SEO

What's The Best Website Builder For SEO?

There isn't one. Choosing between Weebly, Squarespace or Wix will not rank your website any differently in Google. Don't believe anyone who tells you otherwise.

That being said, there are technical SEO features that you need in a website builder— it's just that most website builders include these features.

There are four SEO features in particular that are critical in a website builder. Think of them as the minimum required for Google to notice you. From there you will need links and quality content to outperform your competitors:

1. Mobile-Friendly Themes

For many years Google had two indexes: desktop and mobile. The desktop index was for desktop users and the mobile index was for mobile users.

But that's all changed.

In March 2018, Google announced the beginning of the mobile-first index— basically Google now uses the mobile index for both desktop and mobile users. So the mobile version of your website is more important than the desktop.

This why it's critical that your website builder has mobile-friendly themes. Fortunately most website builders do.

2. Customizable Meta Titles and Descriptions

Every page has a meta title and meta description that Google uses in their results:

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Google uses your pages meta title and description in their results.

Putting your keyword in the meta title will help you rank for that keyword— though putting the keyword in your meta description won't directly help you rank, instead meta description is important because it's an opportunity to entice searchers to click on your webpage.

Almost all website builders let you customize your meta title and description— but because it's so critical, it's worth being sure about.

3. SSL

SSL certificates give 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.

Google announced SSL as a ranking signal in 2014— and when Google explicitly announces something is a ranking signal, it's usually good to implement it.

Most website builders include SSL in paid plans— but some do not. Check before you buy.

4. Performance

Google has said that site speed is a signal they use to rank pages. Fortunately, website builders tend to have good performance infrastructure— 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.

If you'd like to learn more, check out my SEO chapter in How To Make A Website.

Blogging

What's The Best Website Builder For Blogs?

It's a two horse race between Squarespace and Wordpress.com— no other website builder matches their features.

Both cover all the features you need: tags, categories, comments, moderation and customizable URLs. Both have support for multiple contributors in different roles (editor, moderator, writer etc.) and both have beautiful post editors:

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Squarespace's post editor.

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Wordpress.com's post editor.

If I had to recommend one over the other I would recommend Squarespace— but only because it is the better over all website builder, not because it has better blogging features.

Best Free Plan

What's The Best Free Website Builder?

I recommend Ucraft if you need a free website. It's one of the only website builders to let you connect custom domain names (i.e.: yourdomain.com) on a free plan— and that's a major plus.

Ucraft also offers a good free subdomain (example: yoursite.ucraft.net) and doesn't have any unreasonable limitations— for example, you can add unlimited pages.

There are a number of runner-ups: Weebly offers unlimited bandwidth and a solid free subdomain (yoursite.weebly.com), Google Sites let's you add a custom domain name and XPRS has no ads on free websites.

Advertisements

Advertisements are the major limitation of almost all free website builder plans. The only website builder without ads on free plans is XPRS). Otherwise they almost all display some kind of ad.

These ads range from the obnoxious...

WebsiteBuilder.com includes this intrusive ad on free websites.

... To the more tolerable:

Jimdo's ad is tucked away in the footer of the website.

To see more examples of the ads on free plans, check out my in-depth look at free website builders.

Domain Names

The other big limitation with free website builders is domain names.

Only Ucraft and Google Sites allow you to connect a custom domain name on plans (i.e.: yourdomain.com).

Otherwise you'll have to use a free subdomain. Some website builders like Weebly offer simple, readable free subdomains (yoursite.weebly.com)... While others like Wix are quite clunky (http://random1028.wixsite.com/yoursite).

Note: There is a way to add a custom domain to free website builders— it's not perfect but it works. You can read about it here.

Articles:

Ecommerce

What's The Best Ecommerce Website Builder?

The best ecommerce website builder is Shopify and it's not even close.

I did a survey of 944 real-life users of ecommerce website builders and found that Shopify had the highest customer satisfaction— at 97%.

Why is Shopify loved so much? Well, the important thing to understand about ecommerce websites is that they quickly get complex.

Ecommerce involves logistics, email receipts, taxes, automated shipping labels, integration with point-of-sale systems, refunds, discounts and much, much more. Shopify is loved because they make this complexity seem easy.

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A Shopify store dashboard.

A major reason why Shopify is easy to use is it's App Store. There are hundreds of apps that will add specific features to your store. These apps cover shipping, marketing, retention, SEO, customer support and more. The App Store allows Shopify to maintain a simple core, while still allowing you to add sophisticated features when you need them.

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Shopify's app store is home to hundreds of apps— and a huge reason why users love Shopify.

Other than Shopify, I would also recommend looking at Squarespace for ecommerce— especially if you're looking for non-ecommerce features in addition to the ecommerce.

I'd also suggest trying WooCommerce if you're familiar with Wordpress.

Membership Sites

What's The Best Website Builder For Membership Sites?

Membership sites are growing in popularity— and so there are a number of options to consider. For website builders, I suggest Squarespace + Memberspace or Webflow + Memberstack.

Squarespace itself doesn't offer membership features but Memberspace is a 3rd-party software company that adds membership features to Squarespace. It supports tiered plans, coupon codes, forums, member emails and more. I haven't tried it yet— but it seems interesting.

Weebly lets you create private pages that require people to register with your site (this is handy for creating an intranet, or a conference portal for registered members). You can also add apps from Weebly's App Center that allow you to charge members for access.

Besides website builders there are other companies you may want to look at— though I haven't tried these:

Moving Your Site

Can You Move Or Export A Website Once It's Built On a Website Builder?

Unfortunately no, you can't. It's also really difficult to move on existing website to another website builder without just manually copying text and images.

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 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 & Email

Domain Names & Email

You can register a domain name with your website builder but you may want to consider registering it with a third party provider such as Namecheap— 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.

For email, most website builders provide an integration with Google Apps— which basically allows you to setup Gmail for your custom domain name. I highly recommend Gmail— for most users it's the right email solution.