Jan 1 2019 · By Steve Benjamins
I've spent the last month testing free website builders for 2019 and here's the truth: these days website builders aren't jumping at the opportunity to give away something for free— but with a little research you can definitely make it work.
Weebly has an excellent free website builder plan.
For starters, they provide good free subdomain:
Plus they are the only free website builder to offer unlimited bandwidth— which means your website won't be shut down if you're getting too many visitors. I like this because bandwidth limits tend to be a success tax.
Like almost all free website builders, Weebly includes an ad that scrolls alongside the page— so it's a little intrusive. You'll only want to use Weebly if you can live this:
This ad scrolls along your website.
Weebly offers the most fully-featured ecommerce for free website builders. There are limitations (of course) but I was able to multiple products and connect to payment Paypal as a payment provider. That's huge.
Overall, if you can live with the scrolling ad, Weebly's free plan is the best free plan of any website builder.
Weebly is a great website builder. It's really easy to use— so if ease of use is important to you, you'll want to use this. When it comes to paid plans, Weebly is my highest rated website builder (tied only with Squarespace, which does not offer a free plan).
Weebly is not just easy to use, it's also flexible. For example Weebly offers an App Center that lets you add additional integrations and functionality to your website. The App Center lets Weebly keep the website editor clean and simple— while still allowing advanced users to add more features.
The best thing is that you can connect a custom domain name on Ucraft's free plan (ex:
yourname.com). This is awesome— it alone makes Ucraft worth considering. The only other free website builder to allow this is Google Sites (and it isn't suitable for small business websites).
If you don't want to connect a custom domain name, Ucraft provides a solid free subdomain:
Ucraft also includes unlimited pages. This is a recent change— they used to limit free plans to one page.
Ucraft used to have a smaller ad— but unfortunately they have recently changed to a more intrusive ad that scrolls alongside visitors:
Ucraft displays an ad in the bottom of free websites.
Strikingly is an excellent website builder: thoughtful and easy to use. It was originally designed as a tool to build one-page websites— and it's the best at that. You can see how it's interface lets you scroll between sections on a page:
Strikingly is great for building one-page websites. They do support multiple pages— but only on paid plans.
Strikingly includes an ad that appears on free websites once a visitor starts scrolling. It's a bit intrusive:
Strikingly includes an ad on free plans that shows once the visitor starts scrolling.
But if you can live with that ad, Strikingly's free plan is excellent.
For starters, Strikingly is one of the only free website builders to include ecommerce— though it's limited to one product. (But at least they offer it!)
Strikingly's free domains are good:
yoursite.strikingly.com. Plus, while researching this article, Strikingly CEO David Chen told me they were considering making it possible for free websites to register a custom domain name through Strikingly. Though nothing is confirmed, that sounds very promising!
Strikingly also provides 5 GB of bandwidth— a good amount of bandwidth when compared to free website builders such as Wix who only offer 500 MB.
XPRS doesn’t put include advertisements on free websites— which is awesome. That alone makes it very worth considering.
Unfortunately the subdomain they provide free websites is pretty unusable and there is no way to edit it:
im-creator.com/free/yourusername/yourwebsitename. But if you use my domain name tip (explained later in the article) you could actually mask this long URL.
As a website builder, XPRS has a slick interface but can be a bit overwhelming. It's not as easy to use as Weebly— it takes time to learn. The upside to XPRS is that they offer some really stunning themes.
Jimdo includes ads on free websites— but the ad is small and hardly noticeable. Other free website builders have much more intrusive ads. Jimdo's ad is so small, it could easily be missed:
Jimdo's ad on free websites.
Jimdo offers a pretty nice subdomain:
yoursite.jimdofree.com but I find the free in the URL doesn't feel very professional. In the past, Jimdo provided free subdomains on the jimdo.com domain— I wish they'd return to that.
I don't typically recommend Jimdo's paid plans because it can have an overwhelming editor and themes are outdated. But Jimdo's tiny ad and decent domain name make it a solid, free option. If you can live with outdated themes and an overwhelming editor, you might find it works for you.
Adding a product in Jimdo— an example of how the interface can get overwhelming.
Google Sites is the only website builder that is completely free— they don't even offer paid plans.
The thing is, Google Sites is not really a website builder for small businesses. It's more of a way to connect Google Services for a collaborative tool.
The elements you use to build your website are mostly Google products— Google Docs, Google Calendars, Google Forms etc. There's also an option to restrict your website to users in your Google Apps organization (further evidence that this is a collaborative tool for Google Suites— not a website builder meant for small businesses.)
Google Sites doesn't offer a selection of templates. Instead there is only one single template with 6 styles. It's very, very minimal— but remember, Google Sites isn't meant for building small business websites.
There's an ad on the bottom of your website which you can't remove— even if you want to pay Google. It's stuck there for life.
This ad is not removable— even if you want to pay Google.
So why use Google Sites? Well there's an intriguing upside: you can add a custom domain to your Google Sites website.
Google Sites is actually only one of two free website builders (the other is Ucraft) that lets you connect a domain name for free. Just heads up: it requires a bit of technical know-how to setup and you'll still have to pay the annual domain name fee.
So in conclusion: if you love the one template Google Sites offers, and the idea of a lifetime free website intrigues you— you might want to give it a shot!
yourusername.wixsite.com/yoursite) is clunky.
Wix is one of my highest rated paid website builders. It offers a blank canvas, drag-anywhere editor that's perfect for users who want precise control of everything.
But here's the thing: Wix's free plan is too limiting for me to recommend.
For starters, Wix's includes an intrusive ad that scrolls alongside free websites:
Wix includes an ad that scrolls alongside your page.
The free subdomain that Wix provides is not as friendly as other website builders. Your free URL is:
yourusername.wixsite.com/yoursite . (A better URL would be
https://mysite.wix.com ). You also can't add your own favicon— the favicon is a Wix logo (favicons are the icons in a browser's tab):
Wix has a 500 MB bandwidth limit on free websites. You'll run into that limit quickly if you're getting much traffic— since the average Wix homepage is 1.4 MB. Other free website builders are more generous with bandwidth.
In summary, Wix is an excellent paid website builder but not so much for free plans. Consider Wix if you plan to upgrade eventually— otherwise there are better free plans available.
First things first— Wordpress.com is not Wordpress.org. Wordpress.org is what most people mean when they talk about Wordpress— it's the free, open-source CMS. Wordpress.com on the other hand, is actually more like a website builder.
Wordpress.com provides a good subdomain:
yoursite.wordpress.com. They also customize the "Powered by Wordpress.com" text in your footer— always nice to have options.
The major downside is that Wordpress.com randomly insert ads into your content. There's no way to control where the ads show— it's random. This is a big problem. With other free website builders you can at least anticipate and design around the ads.
Wordpress.com randomly inserts ads onto your page— you can't control where.
I've been a longtime critic of WebsiteBuilder.com's terrible billing practices. If you ever consider upgrading to a paid plan, I'd avoid WebsiteBuilder.com— they add items into your shopping cart without telling you and make you jump through hoops to cancel your account.
WebsiteBuilder.com's editor is good, but not great. It's similar to Wix— you can drag elements anywhere on your page— though not nearly as feature-rich.
The free subdomain looks spammy:
For a long time, WebsiteBuilder.com allowed free accounts to use ecommerce. That was a big reason to use them. Unfortunately they no longer allow ecommerce on free plans.
They include this intrusive, bulky ad on free websites:
WebsiteBuilder.com includes an intrusive ad on free websites.
This is a hack to add a custom domain name to your free website builder— even if it doesn't allow them. It doesn't work perfectly but it gets you some of the way there.
Let's say you built a free website on Weebly at
You can actually register
yourgiftologist.com with a domain name provider such as Namecheap and set it to redirect to
Now when visitors type in
yourgiftologist.com they are automatically forwarded to
Now yourgiftologist.com redirects to yourgiftologist.weebly.com
This isn't a perfect solution— observant visitors will notice the URL change in their browser. This is more of a halfway solution— get's you enough to put a domain name on your business cards.
So how can you include ecommerce on those website builders? Use Ecwid.
Ecwid lets you embed an online store onto any website. All you have to do is build the store on Ecwid and then you use their embed code to put it on your website. It's as simple as embedding a Youtube video.
Some website builders require an upgrade to add Google Analytics— but you really don't have to.
Instead, if the free website builder lets you edit Head code (typically found under Settings) you can actually just paste the Google Analytics tracking code. Here I'm able to do it with Jimdo:
Quickly scan the features and limitations of free website builders:
|Name||Rating||BW||Subdomain||Ecommerce||No Ads||Domain Name|
You can't. There's just no way around this.
Website builders provide free subdomains (example:
yoursite.weebly.com) but they don't provide free custom domain names (example:
Most website builders will include a "free" domain name if you pay for an annual plan— that's about as close as you can get. Otherwise free website builders provide free hosting— but not a free domain name.
I use Namecheap for my domain name hosting. It costs about $14.95 / year.
Weebly. Fortunately it's also my highest recommended free website builder.
Weebly is perfect for people who aren't particularily tech-savvy. If you can use Microsoft Word, you can use Weebly.
Heads up: if you plan to upgrade to a paid plan and domain name further down the line, you'll lose any SEO reputation you've built up by changing your URL.
For example, if you build your website on
yourwebsite.jimdofree.com but years later decide to upgrade to
yourwebsite.com, you'll lose any domain authority you've built up on