Best Website Builder Platforms
TOP 12 CHOOSE THE BEST WEBSITE BUILDER IN 2021 (COMPARED)
Website builders are a perfect solution for individuals and small businesses to start a website without hiring a developer. However, finding the best website builder can be tricky for beginners.
There are so many website builders on the market, how do you know which one is the right solution for you?
In this article, we’ll help you choose the best website builder by going over the pros and cons of the most popular options.
It’s true that a few favorites have emerged — and those are usually a good place to start — but even the front-runnersfor every scenario. To make it easy for you, we’ve compiled all the information you need to make a good decision on the best website builder and get to the fun part of designing your own website. Some factors we considered include whether the builder offers an SEO tool and a solid customization option, we also looked into the strength of the company’s customer support.
BEST WEBSITE BUILDERS COMPARED
|Free trial?||Starting price*|
|Best overall website builder (and best for free)||Wix||”unlimited” w/ ads||$13/month|
|Best prepackaged design||Squarespace||14 days||$12/month|
|Easiest to use||Weebly||”unlimited” w/ ads||$12/month|
|Most customizable||Duda||30 days||$14/month|
|Best no-frills option||GoDaddy||30 days||$10/month|
|Best for writers and bloggers||WordPress||”unlimited” w/ ads||$5/month|
|Best for basic e-commerce||Shopify||14 days||$29/month|
|Best for bigger stores||BigCommerce||15 days||$29/month|
Choosing the Best Website Builder — What to Look for?
Before comparing the top website builders, we recommend that you write down what you want to do with your website? What are your goals and what features would you like to see on your website.
For example, you can write down things like: have a blog section, photo gallery, online store, reservation system, contact form, slider, etc.
If you are unsure about what you want, then check out your competitors or other websites for inspiration.
Most website builders offer a drag and drop user interface to build your website. You can take advantage of the trial accounts to test drive before you make your final decision.
Next, you need to consider your growth options. Will you be adding regular updates to your website? Do you need a blog section? Would you be selling more products on your website in the future?
You need to make sure that the website builder you choose is capable of handling your needs as your business grows.
That being said, let’s take a look at the top website builder platforms to make your website without hiring a developer.
*Starting price doesn’t include cheaper plans if they are ad-supported. Some vendors offer free domain hosting for the first year on some plans as well.
To compile this list, we researched the prices, plans and features of over 12 different website builders and scoured reviews from several sites (including PCMag, Wirecutter, WebsiteToolTester, SiteBuilderReport, WPBeginner more) to see where there might be any consensus. We also surveyed the CNET staff, and ultimately spent time building some test sites using the tools below (if we weren’t already members). We paid particular attention to the categories that not only differentiate one site from another, but that actually matter to business owners, artists and creators such as SEO features, mobile-friendly website builders, live chat options, available plugins and customer support.
If, by the end of the list, you’re still not sure which direction to go with your website building, we’ve included a guide at the bottom, including key questions you should be asking yourself as you start your online venture. Finally, if you already have a website and just need a host or you’re interested in building a WordPress site, check out our list of best web hosting services.
Jump to: How to choose the best website builder
Wix is the clear front-runner in the race for website builder dominance. It’s the biggest player with over 110 million websites built and boasts the greatest quantity of tools, capabilities, and freedom.
Like many competitors in this space, Wix offers a basic free website builder plan that lets you create a free website starter site with ads. If you like what you see with the free website builder, you can spend up for a premium, ad-free site. Pricing falls within industry standards with a $13-per-month “Combo” plan that covers most needs for a personal website. If you need an e-commerce website builder for your store, Wix offers a $49-per-month “Business VIP” e-commerce website plan for your online store. Those prices do not include a domain, so you’ll need to account for that separately. And if you’re interested in stats and analytics, you’ll either need to get a Google Analytics paid plan or another third-party tool, as Wix doesn’t have its own.
Despite being the clear favorite among most reviewers, Wix does have a few drawbacks. Wix was one of the few builders that has data limitations for each of its plan tiers, so if you want to upload endless photos and videos, or expect more than 5,000 visitors a month to your site, make sure you do the math before choosing a plan.
Also, the editor’s freedom and range of options can be overwhelming for folks who don’t have the time or inclination to make lots of little decisions and the web design flexibility means you’ll need to be more hands-on with the format and layout, as opposed to more structured or limited editors where you can’t draw too far outside the lines.
Free and Connect Domain plans will show Wix branded ads on your website. You’ll need to upgrade to their Combo or Unlimited plan to remove those ads.
If you ever decide to move your website away from wix.com then you will find it quite complicated to do so.
Squarespace strikes us as being the cool kid in high school — flashy and hip on the surface but lacking substance underneath. We found it to be in between Wix and Weebly in terms of ease of use, though it did get consistently positive marks from reviewers for the quality of design. Where we think it really might shine is for small- to medium-size businesses who want a nicely designed page and room for e-commerce growth with lower transaction fees.
The Squarespace editor isn’t as intuitive as Wix and Weebly, requiring a little bit of work until you get the hang of it. It has a fair amount of add-ons, website templates and tools, and the universal style editor and strong photo editing are helpful. The responsive website editor means that your site will always look good on a mobile device, but you won’t be able to make mobile-specific edits like with Wix or Duda. We also found consistent high marks for helpful and responsive customer support, which should put business owners’ minds at ease.
Squarespace starts off with a $12-a-month Personal plan, which includes unlimited storage, bandwidth and a domain, and offers an $18 Business website plan that includes unlimited contributors, a Gmail pro account, and e-commerce store builder capabilities. If you go for an “Online Store” plan, you can choose between $26 and $40 a month, the latter of which includes a few final touches like abandoned shopping cart recovery and gift cards. It’s important to note that the $26 online store plan, while maybe slightly above the market rate for an e-commerce site, comes with no transaction fees. So depending on your sales volume on a given month, those savings for our online store could really add up.
Squarespace offers limited integrations with third-party service which can be a hurdle in growing your business.
Overall, Squarespace’s website is a good analog for what you get with its products: clean, professional and inviting design, but without the layers of design power or freedom you get from other builders.
Weebly flies under the radar relative to Wix with 50 million websites created, but offers some excellent options depending on your needs. If you want a simple and easy-to-use do-it-yourself website editor, a large site (more than 25 to 30 pages), unlimited storage, site portability and affordable yet powerful online store capabilities, Weebly plays a good David to Wix’s Goliath.
The editor is one of the easiest website builder options to use and the low learning curve still nets great-looking sites. That ease-of-use means the editor is more limited in terms of add-ons and design flexibility and it doesn’t have the range of options or mobile customization that a builder like Wix has. Still, in our testing, we never came to a point where we found those constraints to be limiting. For a high-octane web designer, though, it could come up.
Weebly’s prices are similar to competitors like Wix or Squarespace, but its free plan option is one of the most generous among free website builders and for just $5 a month you can get up and running with your own domain name (albeit with Weebly ads). Its $12-per-month plan will give you an ad-free site with analytics and commerce capabilities, while the $25 plan gets you more store tools, like tax and shipping calculators, inventory management and discounts.
Weebly is a good option for those who may be more limited in terms of their time investment and its commerce options outshine competitors like Wix and Squarespace. For those who are wary of committing to a website builder knowing that you won’t be able to pick up and leave later on, Weebly also offers the ability to download site files so you can move to another host, a rarity in the site builder landscape.
Weebly.com offers a fully hosted platform, so you are locked to the features they offer. You cannot hire a developer or designer to add new functionality or feature to your website.
Duda is a smaller player compared to the other builders above with around 15 million websites built and it focuses on a specific market segment: designers and design agencies. It caters to individuals and groups that make a lot of sites, but with a powerful and easy-to-use builder and a number of differentiated offerings, it’s emerged as a good option for anyone looking to develop an online presence.
Duda’s builder boasts a number of features that set it apart, including mobile site customization, detailed data analytics (e.g. advanced metrics like form submissions, time on page and bounce rate) and user personalization so you can easily display specific messages or offers to users based on the time of day, their location or their browsing history. It’s also known for its multilanguage support and a free e-commerce add-on that allows you to sell up to 10 products.
Duda’s pricing is a little bit higher than its main competitors like Wix and Weebly, starting off at $14 per month for the Basic plan. At $22, you can add up to four editors for your site (instead of only one with Basic), access advanced analytics and begin using Duda as a white-label/custom-branded builder, another one of Duda’s selling points. Its “Agency” plan at $74 per month is geared toward web designers who are building pages for multiple clients and includes eight websites and the ability to download site files for portability.
Duda is a little expensive, but fills some of the voids that the main players have, like analytics, multilingual capabilities and better personalization and mobile customization.
GoDaddy is best known for its custom domain names and web hosting services, so it makes sense that it also offers website builder software. The name is a mouthful — “Websites + Marketing” — but it’s a similar templatized experience like the other options on this list, designed to get a basic site up and running in under an hour.
The free tier includes such niceties as email and social media marketing, PayPal payments and an SSL certificate. The $10 monthly plan is straight-up basic; $15 adds an SEO tool; $20 tacks on extended support for appointments and its $25-per-month Ecommerce plan is for online store capabilities, including some impressive product listing and shipping options for your e-commerce store.
It is not as feature rich and flexible as most other website builders on this list. It offers limited set of features with fewer design options.
Despite the fact that GoDaddy is better known as a domain seller, a domain isn’t included in those prices — you’ll need to add that separately. But all in all, GoDaddy’s current website creator is a nice step up from its now-discontinued GoCentral product. Likewise, by switching to a free tier, there’s no longer a 30-day timer on your experience, so you can take your time kicking the tires to see if GoDaddy is right for you.
When most people talk about WordPress, they’re usually referring to the free open-source software available through WordPress.org. That’s very powerful, but it takes some time to learn and still requires that you find a website host and domain name. If you’re interested in going the advanced route of WordPress.org, we recommend you check out a tutorial or guide such as those you can find on Webguideblog or WebsiteToolTester to learn how it works.
The WordPress.com website builder is something else. It’s similar to the other builders listed above and is primarily geared toward bloggers and writers. The WordPress website editor is fairly limited compared to other services, but is easy to set up and has everything you need for blogging. We should also note that it’s not an intuitive drag-and-drop website builder like Wix or Weebly.
Its pricing is fairly cheap, starting off at $5 per month to remove WordPress ads and giving you 6GB of storage. From there it goes to $8 for 13GB of storage and online selling capabilities, and finally a $25 option that allows you to use custom WordPress theme options and add-ons. The $8 option seems like the best deal if you’re setting up a blog and thinking about monetizing it at some point.
Overall, WordPress caters to bloggers who don’t want or need to spend a lot of time on website design, but it feels very limited for most other use cases. That said, anyone who’s looking for more robust off-the-shelf CMS (content management systems) options should consider Joomla and Drupal. Both are arguably less user-friendly than WordPress, but offer more customization options. At least one CNET editor also felt that Drupal and Joomla also offered faster page loading speeds.
If Wix is the clear favorite for most website building needs, Shopify fills that role for an e-commerce store. The platform offers an easy and user-friendly way to get an e-commerce website store up and running online, and it supports business owners throughout the process with their e-commerce tools. Shopify is a safe place to start for most “e-tailers,” though similar to Wix, that doesn’t mean it’s perfect for every scenario.
Like most other commerce-focused builders, Shopify’s platform is geared toward your product and sales details. Fortunately for those without a ton of experience setting up a retail operation, Shopify’s process ensures you won’t miss an important step as it guides you through inventory, customer information, and tax and shipping rates. And if you still have a question, Shopify offers 24-7 phone and chat support and an active online community forum.
Given that its user base is fairly defined, Shopify doesn’t offer a plethora of plan options, and its prices come in above the market average. The “Basic Shopify” plan is $29 a month and covers most of the basic needs for an online store, while the $79-a-month plan offers gift cards and more staff accounts. From our perspective, it was hard to rationalize the $50 jump from basic to standard, but if you factor in the reduced transaction fees and shipping discounts, it might make sense. If you’re running a bigger operation, they also offer a $299-a-month plan.
The main drawback of Shopify is probably its pricing model. If you want the support, guidance and a builder that will take care of most of the technical details, the extra costs are worth it. And the many apps available are enticing, but can also add up if you’re using those that cost extra. If after considering the different e-commerce features you’re still on the fence, we recommend you calculate the total cost of additional add-ons and transaction fees based on your sales, and then compare with competitors like BigCommerce, which offers more product variants and combinations and lower fees.
Shopify is another popular eCommerce website builder designed specifically for online stores and ecommerce websites. It powers more than half a million businesses with 1 million active users. Over 40 Billion dollars worth of products have been sold on Shopify’s platform.
BigCommerce lives up to its name — it’s best for medium- to large-scale online stores that can cash in on the lack of added transaction fees and unlimited product variants. The store site builder might not be quite as easy to use as Shopify’s, but the amount of time you spend getting used to it could save you a lot of money down the road.
The editor has a lot of features and flexibility when you’re getting set up, but similar to Wix, that can be overwhelming for newcomers. If you have a little experience, however, those features and tools — like product variants and tax rates — will probably come in handy as you grow or if you’re already at scale.
BigCommerce’s price tiers are identical to Shopify’s at $29 (Standard), $79 (Plus), and $249 (Pro), but what you get at each level differs. Even the lowest BigCommerce plan at $29 gives its clients unlimited users, unlimited bandwidth and storage, unlimited products, and no added transaction fees. You can even link your e-commerce site to eBay, Google Shopping and Amazon. Where the pricing gets a little tricky is with the sales thresholds: The Standard plan only supports annual sales of less than $50,000, while Plus supports up to $150,000 and Pro up to $400,000. So basically you save a lot of money on transaction fees the more sales you rack up, but if you have enough sales, you have to upgrade to the next plan tier.
BigCommerce comes with many features built-in to handle conversion rate optimization such as cart abandonment, improved product search, product reviews, coupons, and more. For additional features, you can connect with third-party applications from their app store.
The best part is their dashboard that lets you see the metrics to help you grow your business with confidence.
As with all the online store builders, it’ll be worth it to do a little math based on your product inventory and expected sales. No transaction fees — they even have a discount deal worked out with PayPal where you can save an additional 0.5% to 1% — strikes us as a major deal-maker depending on your size, so if you’re a bigger operation, take advantage of the 15-day trial and give BigCommerce a shot.