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The Best Website Builders

I try every website builder— so you don’t have to. Here’s what I recommend in 2020.

Last Updated September 17 2020

Steve Benjamins

Written By Steve Benjamins

I’m a professional web developer but I don’t code most of my websites anymore. It’s stupid. It’s overkill. In 2020, it’s easier and faster for most people to just use a website builder.

My job is to try every website builder so you don’t have to. This is a roundup of my thoughts on the most popular website builders. Hope it’s helpful!

Note: My work is supported by affiliate commissions. Read more »

The Best Website Builders

I try every website builder— so you don’t have to. Here’s what I recommend in 2020. youtube.com

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:

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

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:

This site is secured by SSL.

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.

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.

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 Website Builder

I’ve actually done a deep dive on this in my in-depth look at free website builders. So you’ll want to read that.

Advertisements are the major limitation of almost all free website builder plans.

These ads range from the obnoxious…

Constanct Contact includes a large, bright blue ad on free websites.

… To the more tolerable:

Webflow includes a small ad on free websites.

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 (user12.wixsite.com/site).

Further Reading:

Best Website Builder For Ecommerce

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.

A Shopify store dashboard.

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.

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

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.

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:

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

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.

Written By Steve Benjamins

I’ve been building websites for over 20 years and websites have been featured in Wired, The Next Web, Smashing Magazine, The Huffington Post and Forbes. Read More →