Choosing a Website Builder
Starting a website is much easier and cheaper than it used to be thanks to the wide variety of user-friendly, DIY web builders that consumers can now choose from. We've compiled a list of do-it-yourself website builders above, highlighting the features that each of them offers.
When choosing a website builder, you must first consider what kind of site you want to build and what kind of functionality you require. Below is a list of of key decision-making factors you should consider when picking a website builder to help make the ideal personal or business site for you.
Consider the Software Features
There are a lot of great website builders to compare & choose from, but your best option will depend on the features that matter most to you. For instance, Wix and Squarespace are excellent options for users who desire absolute simplicity. Wix and Web.com both offer excellent stock images and photo editing tools. Squarespace and Shopify are equipped with world-class shopping cart solutions.
If you’re just looking for a quality hosting platform that works with WordPress or another preferred CMS, you might favor iPage or FatCow.
A Great Website Deserves a Great Template
Your template is the backbone of your website. It comprises the entire layout, including your menus, colors, background elements, and photo and text alignment. A worthy website builder will have hundreds of templates to choose from, but the quality of those templates is also critical. For instance, Wix and Network Solutions offer fewer free templates than some of their competitors, but the templates they do offer are among the most beautiful you’ll find. Squarespace is another great choice for quality templates.
To Pay or Not to Pay?
Should you go with a free platform like WordPress or a paid platform like Squarespace? That depends on how much control you want over your website and how big you want to go:
Free website builders are excellent on a budget, but they typically don’t allow you to connect your own domain. Also, you’ll have to keep the company’s ads on each webpage.
Paid builders are definitely an investment, but you get more storage, bandwidth, and tools. Also, you can use your own domain and get rid of those pesky ads.
Here are some additional factors to consider when deciding between free and paid website builders.
The Brand Is Important, Too
We know that trust is important when you’re choosing a website builder. All of the website builders featured & compared on this page are industry leaders, and some of them have been in business for over two decades. Register.com has been around since 1994, Web.com since 1995, and GoDaddy since 1997. Network Solutions has actually been in operation since 1979!
These companies have also received numerous industry accolades. For instance, BigCommerce has received two Stevie awards for Best Overall Business. GoDaddy also received three Stevie awards for their sales and customer service and has been recognized as one of Arizona’s Most Admired Companies two years running.
Industry accolades are another great indicator of a brand’s value. Look at Squarespace, for example, which has taken home myriad Webby Awards over the years for everything from Features & Design to Web Services & Applications and Best Practices.
Looking for Design Services?
Yeah, these website builders offer plenty of stellar designs right out of the box, but sometimes, you need something a bit more custom. If you’re looking to have a professional design a gorgeous website on your behalf, your best bets are Wix, Web.com and Network Solutions. These platforms all offer competitively priced DIFM (Do It for Me) web design services. Once your site is built, you can still use their easy content management system to maintain your site.
If your site includes a storefront, BigCommerce is another excellent option. They can connect you with one of their carefully vetted BigCommerce design partners. Best of all, there are hundreds of partners to choose from, so you can compare rates and portfolios and find the option that works best for you.
Don’t Forget About Google
If you want potential visitors, readers, customers, or groupies to be able to find you, you need a site that is optimized for search engines. SEO (which appropriately stands for “search engine optimization”) refers to all of the techniques and best practices that allow a website to achieve prominent search engine rankings.
If you want to ensure that your website builder is SEO-friendly, look for features such as:
The ability to edit title tags, meta descriptions, and alt image attributes
Automated XML and HTML sitemaps
Search-friendly URLs (good: mysite.com/latest-news; bad: mysite.com/349596)
Keyword density tools and conversion tools
Wix and Web.com are two of the best website builders for SEO. They both offer all of the features mentioned above, and Web.com even employs SEO experts who can optimize your site on your behalf (additional rates apply).
And Then There Are the Hosting and Domain Bundles
Your hosting is like your real estate. But instead of paying for five acres and a duplex, you’re paying for a few gigabytes of storage and enough bandwidth to make your site run smoothly. All of the website builders featured on this page offer hosting services for your website, and most of them allow you to connect your own domain for a small fee. Squarespace is one of the few hosting providers that will give you a free domain when you sign up for a yearly contract.
Weebly and Web.com both have hosting plans with unlimited storage and bandwidth. This is a huge advantage for any website owner. BigCommerce offers these perks as well, but if you have an online store with thousands of products and customers, you may be required to upgrade to a costlier enterprise plan.
When comparing your hosting options, just be aware of the difference between “unlimited” and “unmetered” bandwidth. An unmetered plan isn’t truly unlimited. That is, the hosting provider won’t stop you from receiving large influxes of traffic, but it may slow your site down after you reach a certain threshold.
The Advantages of Using a Website Builder
The average cost of a website built by a designer can range between $1,000 - $8,000, but every time you change your mind, your bill can get larger. You also have to wait until your designer is available to make the changes you requested. And in the end, there's a risk that you'll end up agreeing to a website that you're not actually happy with, just because you don't feel that you can afford to ask them to try something else.
Using a website builder is much less expensive. The best website builders offer plenty of choices and give you complete autonomy over your project. With Wix, for example, you can choose from more than 500 templates across 70 categories, and experiment with fonts, color schemes, slideshows, galleries, and video backgrounds. The much-celebrated Wix App Market is a huge boon to Wix users, who will find more than 300 apps at their fingertips that they can effortlessly integrate into their website.
With a website builder, you are in control of everything, from the placement of the call-to-action button to the font on your homepage.
What to Consider When Choosing a Website Builder Platform
The best website builder is the one that best fits your needs. Ask yourself some of these questions about your new website:
- What type of site will it be?
- What key features do you need?
- Are you running an online store? If so, how big will it be? Some website builders have Ecommerce plans that limit the number of items you can sell per month.
- What is the vibe of your business?
Ease of Use
The most important feature of a website builder is its usability. Try out the user interface on the 5 best website builders listed above by using their trial site builder. This will give you an idea of which one you find the most intuitive and easiest to use. If you do have some knowledge of coding, check that the website builders give you access to the CSS code, too.
Hopefully, your business will expand. In this case, you need to ask yourself if you need a website builder that can process more online bookings, reservations, sales, or sales inquiries. Similarly, if you decide to transfer your site to a different hosting option in the future, can you easily download the full site?
You should also check which templates are available. Take the time to check that they aren't all just slight variations of the same template. You'll need templates for your business' specific category, so a builder with hundreds of blog templates, but none for restaurants won't be much help if you're promoting your corner cafe.
All the best website builders offer a number of extra features to make building your website easier and better. Here are some features to look out for:
- Setup wizards which guide you through the building process
- Drag-and-drop, intuitive interface to design your site
- SEO tools such as editing meta tags
- Marketing tools including email marketing
- Built-in analytics to track visitors' demographics, location, interests, and more
- Ecommerce tools such as multiple payment processor options, inventory tracking tools, product descriptions, etc.
- Integrated social media buttons to connect your social media networks with your new site
- Mobile-responsive sites that update at the same time as your main site
- Mobile-editing tools which permit you to continue tweaking your new website from your mobile phone
Site Speed and Tech Support
Your website loading speed is also important. You don't want to lose visitors just because your site takes a long time to load. Twenty-four-hour technical support is vital if you're creating a website yourself and need help when you get stuck, even if that's the middle of the night. Finally, although pricing shouldn't be the main yardstick you use to measure a good website builder, you don't want to pay too much for a mediocre website builder, so compare prices as well.
Is a Free Builder Worth It?
If you just want to build a basic site without an online store, then a free website builder is a solid way to get started. Keep in mind that free plans come with less storage, slower load times, and fewer SEO and marketing tools. If you know that you need Ecommerce facilities, lots of storage space (for high-resolution images, videos, etc.), extra customer support, and/or a lot of webpages, free site builders are unlikely to work for you.
That said, free website builders are ideal for testing the waters and having a ready-made platform to share with contacts and social media followers. And if you decide you’re ready to implement more features, many companies offer easy and cost-efficient upgrades. With Wix, for example, you can choose from 4 premium upgrades that provide increasing amounts of bandwidth, storage, and access to analytics and marketing tools, thereby allowing you to scale up at a rate—and cost—that meets your website’s needs.