I used to code all my websites from scratch. Now I almost never do. These days it’s just easier and faster for me to use a website builder for most small websites.
What is a website builder? Website builders are all-in-one tools for building websites. You shouldn’t have to do any coding (even HTML and CSS) since they often have a drag and drop, visual editor editor. Typical functionality that a website might need should be included: templates, photo galleries, web hosting, forms and more.
Best overall website builder.
Best for ecommerce.
Great for custom design.
Great for ease of use.
|Try Square Online|
Great for design freedom.
Great for one page websites.
1. SquarespaceTry Squarespace
Who it’s good for: I highly recommend Squarespace for most projects. It’s the best all around website builder and the one I most often choose for my personal projects.
- Templates — Squarespace is known for it’s excellent templates. It’s subjective (to a degree) but I believe Squarespace has the best templates of any website builder.
- Best In Class Features — Features are thoughtful. Squarespace consistently goes beyond competitors in features like: template customization, blogging, scheduling software, photo galleries and even more unusual features like podcast hosting and donations.
- The Apple Of Website Builders - Squarespace is like the Apple of website builders. It’s intuitive, curated and thoughtfully designed.
- Can Have A Learning Curve — Relative to other website builders, Squarespace can have a learning curve.
2. ShopifyTry Shopify
Who it’s good for: Shopify is an excellent choice for ecommerce stores. It has intuitive software and powerful features.
- App Store — Online stores often need features that are unusual— for example, a painter may want to offer a gift wrap upsell. Rather than put all these features into the Shopify core, Shopify lets you add these features individual as apps. This is hugely important. It keeps the Shopify core clean and empowers 3rd party developers to build on Shopify. Shopify has significantly more apps than any other ecommerce website builder.
- Innovative Features — Shopify continually launches innovative features. For example, Shopify Payments, Shopify Augmented Reality and Shopify Fulfillment. Competitors rarely keep up with the pace.
- Intuitive — Shopify’s interface is clear and intuitive— especially in comparison to other ecommerce website builders which are often bloated and overwhelming.
- Learning Curve — Shopify is powerful but learning it takes time. Check out Square or Squarespace if you want a simpler ecommerce website builder.
3. WebflowTry Webflow
Who it’s good for: Webflow is a great choice for anyone who wants to customize their website without limitations. It has a learning curve but it gives the flexibility of front-end coding without requiring you to learn how to code.
- Custom Design Tool — Webflow is an outstanding custom design tool. You can design your own themes from scratch with no constraints.
- CMS — Webflow is one of the only website builders to include a full CMS that lets you define custom collections with fields like rich text, photos, files and more.
- Freelancer & Team Support — Webflow includes a separate, friendlier interface (called Editor) that you can hand off to clients and teams. They also include white-label client billing feature.
- Learning Curve — Webflow does not shy away from complexity. You will need to understand the fundamentals of web design. Fortunately their Youtube channel is a great place to learn.
4. Square OnlineTry Square Online
Who it’s good for: Square (previously Weebly) is what I recommend to any small business that wants to move online and is looking for an easy to use solution.
- Easy To Use — Square Online is what I recommend to anyone who doesn’t feel tech savvy.
- Excellent Ecommerce — While not as powerful as Shopify, Square Online still offers an impressive suite of ecommerce features and is also easier to use.
- Generous Free Plan — Square Online has the best free plan of any website builder. It includes plenty of features and even free phone support.
- Limited Customization — The most notable limitation is that you can only add sections to a page— you can’t just add individual elements. Because of that, Square Online can feel cookie-cutter.
5. WixTry Wix
Who it’s good for: Wix is a great fit for users who want a website editor that lets them customize whatever they’d like. It provides a ton of flexibility.
- Unstructured Editor — Wix’s unstructured editor lets you drag and drop elements anywhere you want on a page— without constraint.
- Plenty Of Features — The widest feature set of any website builder. Includes: restaurant ordering, music distribution, appointment scheduling and more.
- 500+ Themes — Though the quality is inconsistent, Wix offers more themes than most website builders.
- Unstructured Editor — Wait. Isn’t this also in the What To Like category? Yup! While the unstructured editor provides a lot of customization, it also introduces bugs and workarounds that other website builder do not. See my Wix review for more.
Note: Wix’s Combo plan is their cheapest plan but be aware that it does have a bandwidth limitation.
6. CarrdTry Carrd
Who it’s good for: Carrd is for simple, one-page websites— so it can work well for personal websites and landing pages.
- Purposeful Design — Themes and features are all centered around creating one page websites.
- Low Price — Carrd is way, way cheaper than competitors. It starts at $19 per yearfor a plan with support for custom domain names and no ads.
- Customizable — There’s a wide variety of style customizations that you can make— people have even re-created Amazon pages with Carrd.
- Learning Curve — You’ll need to wrap your head around concepts like containers and CSS classes. Check out Strikingly If you’re looking for an easier to use one-page website builder.
|Easy to use but limited.||Try GoDaddy|
|A Shopify competitor.||Try BigCommerce|
|Wordpress, as a hosted website builder.||Try Wordpress.com|
|Stylish themes but too simple.||Try Webnode|
GoDaddy’s website builder has dramatically improved over the last few years— overall it’s easy to use but limited.
- Easy To Use — GoDaddy is really easy to use. I recommend it to anyone who doesn’t feel tech-savvy.
- Additional Tools — Included with the website builder are several business tools: appointment scheduling, email marketing, social media management, a graphic design tool and a simple CRM.
- Limited — There are some major limitations you should understand before choosing GoDaddy. For example, you can’t add individual elements to a website and you’re often not able to make simple style customizations.
- Poor Ecommerce — GoDaddy is missing major ecommerce features. It’s the weak point in GoDaddy’s website builder. See my review for more.
Can Be Difficult to Use — The elephant in the room is Shopify. At one time BigCommerce and Shopify competed for the same customers— but that’s no longer. Shopify has won and BigCommerce seems to understand this. Their homepage now targets enterprise sales— pivoting away from small and mid size businesses— and they recently launched a Wordpress plugin (part of their “headless” commerce push).
I found one consistent complaint after interviewing several BigCommerce users: it can be difficult to use:
“I find it a little clunky and challenging.”
“Not the most intuitive. “
“Before signing up with Shopify, I started with BigCommerce and honestly it was more difficult to understand for me so I cancelled it. “
BigCommerce has an app store but like other ecommerce builders with an app store, it lags significantly behind Shopify:
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).
- Wordpress Ecosystem — Wordpress.com lets you install any Wordpress theme or plugin if you are on one of their more expensive plans.
- Blogging — Wordpress began as a blogging platform and Wordpress.com inherits the fantastic blogging features.
- Stuck In Between — You’ll find yourself switching between the Wordpress.com editor and the WP-Admin editor. Having two seperate editors with overlapping responsibilities gets confusing— especially for users new to Wordpress.
- No Live Preview — Wordpress.com is not a drag-and-drop, visual editor. Instead, it’s a form-based editor that separates the content of pages from the design.
Webnode has stylish themes and a simple website builder. Unfortunately it’s too simple at times.
- Themes — Strong collection of fresh, modern themes.
- Easy To Use — The interface is often clear and straightforward.
- Customization — There’s no way to set a custom color for your theme. Instead you choose from preset colors… This means you can’t use your own brands colors unless you can edit CSS code— not ideal!
|Poor themes and features.||Try Google Sites|
|Poor editor.||Try Site123|
|Clumsy and outdated.||Try Yola|
|No longer being developed.||Try Adobe Muse|
|No longer being developed.||Try Webs|
|Don't bother.||Try Homestead|
|Cancellation issues.||Try 1&1|
|History of mistreating customers.||Try SiteBuilder.com|
|Horrible billing practices.||Try Web.com|
Google SitesTry Google Sites
Google Sites is free— there are no paid plans. Even still, Google Sites doesn’t top my list of free website builders.
- Free — Google Sites is completely free. You can even add a custom domain name— though it requires some technical understanding.
- Integrates With Google Products — For example: you can restrict website access to members of your Google Apps organization and embed Google Calendars, Maps, Docs, Slides, Sheets and Forms.
- Themes — Every Google Sites theme has the same layout with limited customization options. You can choose an accent color for your theme but not where to apply the accent color. No font choices.
- Missing Features — Features that would be standard on other website builders (example: blogging, ecommerce) are often not included with Google Sites.
Unlike the other website builders on this list, Site123 doesn’t have a visual, drag-and-drop editor. Instead you edit your website by filling out forms.
- Editor — Instead of a visual editor, you edit elements with a lightbox form— so you have to switch between the editor and the website preview in order to get things looking how you want. Frustrating.
- Unusual Limitations — For example, the page title has to be the same in the navigation as it is in your actual page title. What?!
Clumsy and outdated, Yola’s website editor has hardly changed over the last few years— so there are few signs that this will improve.
- Confusing Interface — Inexplicable icons and buttons throughout the interface. Often unnecessarily confusing.
- Lightbox Editor — Making edits is done in a lightbox that also obscures your website— so you can’t see your changes as they’re being made.
Adobe MuseTry Adobe Muse
Webs was acquired by Vistaprint in 2011. Since then it’s basically been abandoned.
So why did Vistaprint abandon Webs? Well since 2011, Vistaprint has launched their own website builder. I guess they decided it wasn’t worth it to run two website builders.
Acquiring products and abandoning them is common in website builders. The unfortunate thing is that companies like Vistaprint never communicate this to customers— which sucks.
Don’t bother with Homestead. Their best days are long gone.
Homestead was acquired by Intuit in 2007 before being sold to Endurance International Group (EIG) in 2012. EIG has a reputation of bad customer support and poor server uptime.
So if you really, really want to use Homestead just save yourself some money and use SiteBuilder.com instead— it’s the same software!
I have had two separate incidents of 1&1’s billing system having “bugs.”
That’s a bad track record.
After reviewing 1&1 (and signing up with my own credit card), they invoiced me several weeks after I had cancelled.
Customer support told me sometimes the system generates “crazy invoices.”
Billing systems should NOT generate “crazy” invoices.
I signed up again to test 1&1’s billing system. When it came time to try cancelling, the billing system wouldn’t allow me to cancel. It kept giving me a bug that said “no cancelable single items present!”
So I bought another product with 1&1 (rankingCoach Pro) and tried cancelling it. It also gave me the same error when trying to cancel.
So I called customer support and they explained that they send error messages if a customer tries cancelling in the first 30 days in case the customer accidentally cancels the product.
SiteBuilder.com is owned by EIG— a conglomerate that owns multiple website builders: Homestead, WebsiteBuilder.com and Sitey.
All these website builders run the same software— but some are priced differently than others. For example, Homestead.com is significantly more expensive.
What really bothers me is that WebsiteBuilder.com has automatically added items to customer shopping carts in the past without telling the customer.
This was happening as recent as 2018. Basically WebsiteBuilder.com would add a “SiteLock” upgrade to your shopping cart without telling you. You had to notice it and de-select it:
No company should ever slip something into their customers shopping cart. That’s extremely customer hostile!!
I’ve asked WebsiteBuilder.com to acknowledge that they did this in this past and they never do:
I just can’t in good conscience recommend a company that has been this hostile to their customers. Maybe in a few years I’ll take another look but not anytime soon.
Web.com’s website editor is super frustrating— the sidebars cover large chunks of website, which means I couldn’t even see my full website on a normal-sized laptop! But that’s far from the worst:
What Not To Like:
- 13 Months In A Year — If you read the Web.com’s fine print you’ll notice their “monthly” plans are technically 28 days long— which means users end up paying for 13 months in a year. Wow.
- Poor Cancellation Policy — You need to phone support in order to cancel Web.com. When I called in they transferred me twice before I ended up in tier 2 support. Tier 2 support repeatedly asked why I was cancelling / how they could get me to stay / blah, blah, blah. I just kept repeating, please cancel my account.
- Terrible Password Security — In order to cancel an account Web.com requires users to give their password over the phone to customer support. This is VERY DANGEROUS. Databases are designed to encrypt passwords so that not even a developer can ever see it. Many people use the same password for multiple services so keeping passwords private is CRITICAL.
The world of website builders is highly competitive and customers are price sensitive— so website builders all price their premium plans somewhat similarly.
If you compare the cheapest one year plan (with no-ads) of my recommended website builders, you can see that they are all priced very similarly:
The two exceptions are Carrd— because it’s for one page websites— and Shopify— because it only offers ecommerce plans. (Most website builders do not include ecommerce in an entry level plan.)
Should I just hire a web designer?
There are freelancers who work with website builders who can help you with your website design but website builders are most often DIY tools.
You should expect your costs to rise considerably if you hire a good web designer. I would caution against hiring a cheap web designers to create your website. I’ve done that before and it always burns me several years down the road. Hire a professional who can deliver high-quality service.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a website builder?
Website builders are all-in-one tools for building websites. They often have a drag and drop, visual editor editor and include everything a typical website might need: templates, photo galleries, web hosting, forms and more.
What is the best website builder?
Squarespace is the website builder I most recommend— and the one I most often use. It has outstanding templates, an intuitive interface and excellent features.
What's the best free website builder?
What about Wordpress?
Wordpress is not a website builder— it's a CMS. There are key differences. For example, Wordpress needs to be installed on a web host while website builders include hosting. Wordpress is also open source while website builders are not.
Why use a website builder?
Because everything just works. Website builders take care of all the technical details: image optimization, web hosting, SSL certificates, basic search engine optimization (SEO), domain name registration— it's all included.
How much should a website cost?
Typical website builder plans start at around $12 / month and ecommerce plans start at around $28 / month. Most website builders include a free domain name for one year if you pay annually.
What's the easiest website builder?
Square Online. Square Online is really, really easy to use for website building. It's a good fit if you're not particularly comfortable with technology. The only downside is that Square Online websites are not very customizable.
Can you move your website away from a website builder?
No. It's really difficult to move an existing website to another website builder without just manually copying over text and images. Website builders aren't being frustrating on purpose— in many cases there are technologies (example: CDNs) that can't be exported.
What about email hosting?
Most website builders provide email hosting through Google Workspaces (Gmail). Google Workspaces has a baseline price of $5 / user / month— so you shouldn't be charged more than that by the website builder.
Should I register my domain name with my website builder?
We often do. It's just easier— but you should make sure you have the option to move your domain name off that website builder. As an alternative you could also register your domain name with a third party provider like Namecheap but you'd to setup the DNS (which can be intimidating).
What's the cheapest website builder?
What is the best website builder for small business owners?
Website builders are designed for business websites— that’s their most lucrative customer. So there isn't really a best website builder for small businesses, instead there's just the best website builder. (So see our top recommendations.)
What's the best website builder for bloggers?
Is it worth paying for a website?
Yes. It's almost always worth paying for a website. You can build a website for free but it will likely have ads and no domain name. That's not ideal.
Are SEO tools a waste of money?
Sometimes. There's a lot of snake-oil being sold. We don't recommend buying any SEO tools offered by website builders. Instead, we'd suggest you start learning from the Ahrefs Youtube Channel, Backlinko or Moz.
What tutorials do you recommend for building a website?
I'd suggest starting with our How To Make A Website tutorial— it goes over the basics, step-by-step.
What's the most popular website builder?
What about Weebly?
Weebly was acquired by Square in 2019. The Weebly product is now called Square Online.