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6 Best Business Website Builders for Making Your Own Site in 2020

A list of the top website building software (both free & paid) for a DIY small business website. Find the best website builder for making your own website.

Our guide to the best website builders

A website builder is a great option for beginners who have no experience in web design, yet want to make a business website themselves. If you've decided to take the DIY route and build a website yourself, it's important to choose the right website building software. In this article, we'll cover the top 6 best website builders for making your own website.

In our guide, how to make a business website, we recommend using Wix. Wix is a great choice for small businesses and one of the most popular website builders on the market. It's still our favorite choice, however, there are many different website builders you can use and we’ve listed some other great choices as well. Each website builder offers a unique approach to designing, building, and editing a website and you will need to decide on which one best fits your requirements.

The Best Site Builders at a Glance

Listed below are 6 of the best business website builders that we recommend to our readers:

Website builder Pricing: Recommended for: Learn more
Wix $13.00 to $49.00/mo Small business websites w/ fully customizable templates Visit Site
Squarespace $12.00 to $40.00/mo Artistic templates for those in a creative profession Visit Site
Webnode $3.95 to $19.95/mo Extremely easy to use with multilingual features Visit Site
Weebly $6.00 to $26.00/mo Well-known brand & strong platform for eCommerce Visit Site
Ucraft $10.00 to $69.00/mo Designer templates for portfolio sites, blogs, & online shops Visit Site
BoldGrid $3.99 to $13.99/mo Professional sites that need powerful functionality & features Visit Site

Website builder features to look for

Website Builders 101 – What is it and how does it work?

A website builder is an invaluable tool that puts the power of web development in the hands of any “do-it-yourselfer” looking to build their own website. The key to their utility is they eliminate the need to code in HTML & CSS in order to build a fully functional website.

Website builders allow for a more intuitive development process, using a visual drag-and-drop toolset that feels comfortable and familiar to users of any technical skill level. With a website builder, you can do things like:

  • Swap images in and out on the fly.
  • Edit color schemes, fonts, and page layouts with a few simple clicks
  • Get your site mobile-ready almost instantly without needing to rebuild entire pages
  • Use premade templates to get a professional-looking design

In addition to their ease of use and zero need for code, website builders can also serve as all-inclusive solutions for building, hosting, and maintaining your site.

Platforms like Wix, Squarespace, and Weebly offer complete packages where everything from domain registration, hosting, technical support, eCommerce solutions, and email services are all provided in one place. Not only does this simplify the process of getting a website online for non-techies, but the total cost of their monthly plans will likely end up being comparable or considerably less than if you were to set up these services independently.

Who Should Use a Website Builder?

Chances are if you’re here reading this right now, then you are already the perfect candidate for a website builder. Business owners who want to take charge of their online presence, or who simply want to cut out the high costs of hiring a developer, will benefit greatly by using these tools.

Working with a website builder is a great option for anyone looking to create a blog, online storefront, landing page, digital portfolio, informational site, or just about any low to mid-traffic level website.

For much larger sites (think Fortune 500) that require ambitious backend programming or tremendous eCommerce catalogs, then hiring a skilled development team is the necessary way to go.

Building Websites for Both Professionals & Everyday Users

The small business do-it-yourselfer isn’t the only intended user of popular website builders. Many freelance web designers and digital agencies will now tailor their services towards website builders if the client’s needs or preferences warrant it. Some agencies have even carved out a niche in the marketplace to work exclusively within these platforms.

Some web developers may turn their nose up at the idea of using a website builder, while others recognize the benefits and necessity of using one. I believe that the end product is all that counts; it doesn’t matter what tools were used, just as long as they were used with integrity. Is using a site builder going to help reduce extraneous workload? Or is it going to be used just as a shortcut? Charging premium prices just to swap new text and some photos into a premade template is not the most honorable service for a client—not to mention it will likely do nothing to bolster the client’s unique brand.

Website builders are ideally best served as a launching off point. Although they can be the most useful tool in a web designer’s arsenal, they still require a deft hand and sharp wit to maximize their potential. (More on that later.)

The Different Flavors of Website Builders

In the olden days (the 1990s), if you wanted a website built then you’d have to hand-code it yourself, resulting in a hideously rudimentary page of simple text and gruesome colors. Or you could hire an “expert” in the new field of web design to build a slightly less gruesome web page for you.

Thankfully, websites have since evolved into much grander beauty and functionality—and so too have the tools that build them. To clear any confusion, it should be noted that there are different types of builders out there; some of them serve certain types of users, and others have now become obsolete. Here are some examples of what we mean by a website builder:

The WYSIWYG Editor

WYSIWYG (pronounced “whizzy-wig”) editors were a web development breakthrough. Short for “What You See Is What You Get”, this type of editor appropriately allowed designers to build websites visually as it automatically handled the HTML markup underneath the hood.

Their output, however, was hit or miss (largely a miss). The old versions of GoDaddy’s site builder may have allowed the average user to get a website up, but their limited features and bland themes look antiquated and unprofessional by yesterday’s standards. You’ll likely find many websites still out there haunting the Interwebs from this initial boom of GoDaddy sites. Let’s hope their owners find this article.

Macromedia’s Dreamweaver (now an Adobe product) was tailored as a professional WYSIWYG editor that allowed for advanced website creation without the need to code. Again, the results rarely looked state-of-the-art—and, arguably, the learning curve required to master the software made it even more unwieldy than just learning to code anyway.

The Modern Website Builder

In just a few recent years, the capabilities of visual drag-and-drop website creators have grown exponentially. Now you really can build a website without touching a single line of code. The leading platforms offer everything one would need to get a website up, including hosting and domain registration.

Screenshot of a modern website builder
A screenshot of using Wix's website builder, a modern and all-in-one solution for building a complete website yourself.

Their predesigned templates are often enough to satisfy most users’ requirements. If you’re a restaurant owner, there are many excellent restaurant-themed templates on Wix. If you’re a photographer, Squarespace offers beautiful portfolio themes to work with. If your only objective is to sell products, there is no better solution than Shopify.

When advanced styling is needed, many all-inclusive website builders will also allow you to tweak the page’s CSS if you’re savvy enough—although not all will allow this level of freedom. Also, depending on which platform you use, many additional plugins and apps can expand the functionality of your site, such as form builders, media players, and members-only portals.

It truly is possible to create professional-quality websites with easy-to-learn builders. They look stunning, and they’re capable of almost anything…

SEND US FEEDBACK! Have you used any of the companies above? Please leave a comment at the bottom of this page with any particular pros or cons of the website builder. We would love to hear what particular features (or lack of features) it had (or didn't have) to support your needs.

The Professional Builders

There is one more type of website builder out there, and they are generally reserved only for the true professionals or design experts. These serve a specific niche of freelance web designers or mid-size agencies who excel at creating pixel-perfect designs but also—you guessed it!—don’t want to code.

Platforms like Webydo, Webflow, and Adobe Muse are structured similarly to the more consumer-friendly website builders previously mentioned (and even offer similar pricing models), but their design freedoms and more complex toolsets are better suited to professionals who probably could write code but just don’t want to. (Nobody wants to write code.)

If you’re experienced using software like Adobe Photoshop, you may find it worth your while to try out these advanced website builders. For the purposes of this guide, however, they will pretty much be excluded from the discussion.

What About WordPress?

WordPress is the most popular content management system (CMS) on the internet—and about one third of all websites in the world are powered by it. It’s a bit of an interesting beast in that, yes, it is technically a website builder, but in order to customize it you will likely need to get your hands dirty in code.

There are two options when going the WordPress route:

WordPress.com

WordPress.com is a traditional site builder service that offers all-inclusive plans with page design tools, web hosting, domain registration, templates, and other additional features. Their monthly plans are reasonably priced and suit businesses of all sizes.

While there’s not much inherently wrong with using WordPress.com as your website builder of choice, you’d be better off with using one of the major three listed above to accomplish the same thing. In order to harness the true power of WordPress, you will need to pursue WordPress.org…

WordPress.org & Page Builder Plugins

WordPress.org is a whole different monster. This open-source software is free to download and start using to build websites. However, you’re pretty much on your own here. You will need to set up your own domain, hosting, and perform all the customization yourself. There is also no technical support—but thankfully an enormous online community is always there to help.

When you build a site with WordPress, you do have an enormous resource of themes at your disposal to assist with its design and layout; however, there is no getting around the fact that in order to customize the appearance and functionality of those themes you are going to have to mess with code.

Luckily, that’s where various page builder plugins come in. Plugins are add-ons that expand the functionality of WordPress themes, which are usually installed in order to accomplish something that dozens of hours of coding would otherwise require. Page builder plugins offer the same drag-and-drop interfaces and ease of use that services like Squarespace and Wix offer – but with the level of freedom WordPress allows.

BoldGrid, Beaver Builder, Divi Builder, Elementor, and Visual Composer are premium plugins (often for a one-time fee) that can create stunning websites without writing code. Bear in mind that their main objective is to simplify the design process, and they may not offer on their own the same feature set as all-in-one solutions like Wix—but that’s where additional WordPress plugins come into play.

While WordPress requires a steeper learning curve to master, its freedom and level of control is unmatched. You can literally create any type of website within this powerful system, and with the help of the right plugin, it’s now much easier to do so. If WordPress is not your cup of tea but you still would like to maintain a high level of flexibility you should also take a look at Webflow. It's made for designers with basic coding skills.

QUICK RECAP: Platforms like Wix, Weebly, and Squarespace are all-inclusive solutions best suited to consumers. Webydo, Webflow, and Adobe Muse are more advanced platforms better suited to design professionals. WordPress.org is the most powerful option but requires advanced coding knowledge—but with page builder plugins the design process is simplified..

The Pros & Cons of Using a Website Builder

All the website builders mentioned are technically sophisticated platforms that bring a simplicity and control to the web design process that just wouldn’t have been possible five years ago. While the benefits may seem obvious, there are still a few shortcomings to be aware of when using one to build your website. Here is a rundown of some pros and cons of website builders.

Pros of Using a Website Builder

  • Ease of use – Website builders are the best solution for beginners with little technical know-how. There is still a small learning curve involved, but our free online course will help get you oriented and quickly building your first site with ease.
  • No Code – Did I mention there’s no code? That’s the whole point!
  • Affordable – Many platforms can offer you everything you’d need for under $15/month. Compared to the thousands of dollars you could spend hiring a professional web designer, you’re looking at a real bargain!
  • Support when you need it – Included in your monthly plan is helpful email support if you ever get lost.
  • Customizable designs – Although you may be sharing premade templates with other businesses in your industry who use the same website builder, many platforms nowadays offer advanced customization for design-savvy users.
  • Responsive, mobile-ready designs – Responsive design is the norm on the modern web, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a reputable website builder that doesn’t use mobile-ready templates. This is an invaluable time saver!
  • Clean & SEO friendly markup – Your site’s HTML markup plays an important factor in search engine rankings. Site builders that make it easy for users to include keywords, meta tags, and descriptions on each page will produce more SEO-friendly markup.

Cons of Using a Website Builder

  • Limited functionality – Functionality may be limited to what your website builder offers. Website builders are typically not the best choice for websites that require unique features or advanced backend functionality. You’ll need to hire a web developer to accomplish things like that, which brings us to the next point…
  • Code – Did I mention there’s no code? Oops… While it’s true that most anything can be accomplished without writing code, it is often quite useful to have at least a working knowledge of HTML & CSS in order to modify a template’s aesthetic to fully suit your needs. JavaScript also comes in handy when it becomes necessary to expand a site’s functionality.
  • Transferring your site may be problematic – Website builders often use their own specific system, and switching over to a new one may be tricky. You may even need to recreate the site from scratch. For example, Wix doesn’t offer an export function so you’re pretty much stuck if you ever want to leave them.
  • Cost – Although website builders certainly cost less than hiring a good web designer, not all the services they offer are free, and the final bill may come as a surprise. Quite a few website builders advertise a free plan, but they usually come loaded with ads and limited functionality, such as not allowing you to use your own domain name. Though if the service is great and frees up the time you need to run your business, try viewing the extra money as an investment rather than a cost.
  • Ownership concerns – If you use the builder’s images and assets, it’s likely you can’t copy them over to your computer or publish them somewhere else. However, you should be legally entitled to do whatever you like with any piece of content you create and upload yourself. It’s very important that you check the user terms and conditions regarding intellectual property of your website’s content before committing to a website builder company.

Tips for Website Builder Beginners

Website builders, magnificent as they are, should not be viewed as a magical solution that will do all the work for you. While there seems to be a popular belief out there that you can have a fully-fledged website up in a matter of minutes, it’s worth noting that this type of result is highly unlikely and will most definitely not serve your business well. Good websites take time, careful planning, and plenty of nurturing if you expect results for your business.

An infographic by Webydo reveals a sobering statistic that only 2% of website DIYers actually succeed in publishing their website on a domain. This suggests that many business owners begin with bright ideas and good intentions, but along the way they become discouraged by the challenges of web design.

Don’t give up. Creating a website is no small feat—even with the aid of a website builder—but with enough determination you can absolutely succeed in the end. To encourage you on this journey, here are some useful highlights to consider when building your first website.

  • Start by learning the basics of web design. Gaining an understanding of the fundamentals will lessen the initial panic you might feel when opening a website builder for the first time.
  • If the endless options of color palettes and fonts are leaving you with a spinning head—or worse, if you’re mixing and matching without really knowing what you’re doing—take some time to learn about color, typography, and font pairing.
  • Planning the right user experience on your site will ensure it is generating those ever-important conversions for your business. After all, you’re not just building a website for aesthetic reasons.
  • If you find that web design just is not your forte, or if you end up getting in over your head with ambitious customization, then hiring a professional is really the smartest solution. If you’re bringing a developer on board to deal with only piecemeal modifications, the cost won’t totally break the bank—and the time and frustration you’ll save is absolutely worth it in the end.

What to Look for in a Website Builder

It's important to choose the best website builder for your needs. Although most website builders do allow you to sign up for free, as a business owner, you don't have the time to play around with multiple different ones to figure it out. It's important to research first. Below are the relevant factors to consider when looking for a website builder.

Functionality

This is probably one of the most important areas to look at. Even if at the moment, all you need is a one page, informational website, you'll want to be open to the possibility that your website can grow in the future to include features like eCommerce, blogging, and multilingual capabilities. Think about what features and functionality your website will not only currently need, but also in the future. Most website builders have an App Market where you will find useful widgets and apps to extend functionality. Wix has an extensive app market with a mix of Wix apps and third-party apps. Some are free and some are paid, but the selection is huge. This will significantly add to the functionality of your website. Some other points to note are storage, bandwidth, and speed.

Clean Semantic URLs

A clean URL will look like “yoursite.com/about-us” but unfortunately, not all website builders are capable of producing clean URLs. With some, you can end up with ugly URLs like “yoursite.com/?locID=23&?tag=gobbledegook?pricemax=?sessionID=as8ss889“. Therefore, it is important to make sure that your website builder produces websites with clean URLs. This feature is not just good for appearance but it is also good for search engine optimization (SEO). Clean semantic URLs ensure that each page on your website will rank well and not just the homepage.

Accessible Customer Service

Having a website builder that offers great customer support via multiple channels is a big plus for obvious reasons. A number of things could go wrong while you are creating your website, especially if you are new to the whole process. For example, Hostgator is known for their helpful customer service team which you can access via phone, live chat, and email. You need immediate answers from knowledgeable customer service representatives and they make that possible. It’s also good if the website builder that you choose has a support forum where other customers ask questions and give input. This can be very helpful to you as well.

Fully Responsive Website Templates

This is very important because people view websites on multiple devices. Mobile smartphones are growing even more in popularity, but tablets are also very popular. And of course, people still use laptops and desktops as well. Therefore, it is preferable if the templates that your website builder offers are fully responsive (e.g. Squarespace and Webnode) and not just mobile-friendly (e.g. Wix).

Responsive means that your website automatically adjusts to fit whichever device it is being viewed on (desktop, mobile, tablet ect.) while mobile-friendly means that you have a mobile designed version of your website that will show up whenever your website is being viewed on any device other than a desktop. The look of your website on tablets is something that is often overlooked.

Variety of (Industry-Specific) Themes

You can always create your site from scratch with any website builder. However, one of the biggest advantages of their themes is that they feature pre-built layouts for many different industries. Wix, for example, has more than a hundred different categories, including salon websites, dog-walking services, actor portfolios, space planners, and many, many more. Chances are that you'll find a theme that's a decent match for your niche. And that's important because it gives you a head start.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Friendly

SEO is probably the most important area to focus on after the design of your website. Correctly executed SEO ensures that your website will rank highly for specific keywords on search engines like Google, Yahoo!, and Bing. You want to ensure that your website builder allows you to optimize every piece of content on your website. Simbla is very good with this because their website templates are built with Bootstrap 3, a great framework that is very SEO friendly.

Ease of Use

The whole reason for website builders is that they make the process of building a beautiful website so easy that anyone can do it with no coding knowledge required. There is a good chance that you’re not a professional web designer or web developer, so “ease of use” is very important to you. Wix has one of the most user-friendly interfaces and an intuitive website editor. You can place content and objects anywhere on your website with little to no restrictions.

Free of Banner Ads

Even though many website builders offer free plans that allow you to design and publish a website without any cost, it is also important to note that these free websites often come with banner ads that promote the company. Regardless of how good your website is designed, it looks unprofessional to have banner ads appear on it. You will want to look at what it will cost to have a banner free website and use this a comparison point.

Ability to Export Your Website

Your website is your property – with your images and your text, so you should be able to move it to another company if you wanted to, right? Well many website builders don’t think so. In many cases, if you want to switch to another one, you would have to cancel your old website and re-build it on the new one from scratch. This can be a very tedious process, especially if you have a blog with a large number of posts.

Exporting your website means that you will be able to extract the data from your old website and import it to your new website in a relatively easy process. BoldGrid easily allows for this since it is built on top of WordPress. Weebly also allows for exporting your website but there is no way to restore it. Webnode offers a better way with its Backup and Restore feature.

It may not be a huge deal-breaker when deciding which website builder to choose right now, but you never know what could happen in the future. Having full ownership of your content and website is very important.

Clean & Well-Written HTML/CSS Code

HTML and CSS are important for separating the design from the content of your website. Ideally what you want, is a combination of great design and content that is optimized for search engines, so that your website can actually be found and looks great once it is found. BoldGrid, Squarespace, and Weebly are great examples of website builders that employ well written HTML5 and CSS3.

Monthly/Annual Cost & Refund Policy

Without question, cost is an area of concern for most people when selecting a website builder. You want to make sure that the cost is something that can comfortably fit into the budget for yourself or your small business as this is going to be a recurring charge either monthly or annually. On an annual plan, the cost may seem like quite a lot to pay upfront – especially if you’re on a tight budget – but luckily, most website builders offer monthly plans which make it easier to afford.

Another thing that you’ll want to look at is whether or not your website builder has a refund policy, just in case after using it, you decide that it’s not for you. Each company has different policies. For example, Wix and Simbla have 14-day money-back guarantees while SiteBuilder and Weebly offer 30-day money-back guarantees.

Template Customization

One of the things that make website builders easy to use is templates. Templates act as a guide to help you build a stunning website in a matter of minutes, versus building it from scratch. But it’s important to look at how customizable these templates are to meet your needs. Some templates are a bit restrictive and only allow you to edit/replace content within the set design. Other templates are truly drag and drop, allowing you to move any object or piece of content to any area on the page. For example, Wix is fully customizable while Weebly and Webnode have more restrictive templates. Both kinds of template options can be beneficial to you depending upon your needs.

Additional Goodies & Extras

Look at what additional offerings your website builder provides to its customers, such as SEO help or credits for Ads and marketing. If they do offer these extra goodies, it’s a sign of a good company that cares about its customers and that they are willing to go the extra mile for you. If a website builder offers the bare minimum, it may be a sign that the customer service you’ll receive will be the bare minimum as well. Even if it costs a little bit extra, it will serve you well in the long term to go with a company that shows deep interest in making their customers happy by offering extras like this.

Custom Code/Script Implementation

While website builders are typically known for being drag and drop only, some do offer the capability to add your own custom HTML code or script into your website. This may not be necessary if you’re a complete beginner to web design, but if you’re more advanced and have some coding experience, then this capability will be very useful in helping you to fully customize your website. Wix, Weebly, and Simbla are known for having this feature.

Quick Tip: Most website builders allow you to sign up for free and start building without payment. You can try 'em & test 'em first! But be forewarned… the free versions are not adequate for a professional business and you WILL eventually need to upgrade to a paid plan.

Conclusion

Most website builders are meant for beginners who have no experience in web design and development. That being said, there is still a little learning curve involved. It’s definitely a doable thing – and anyone with a little patience and determination can do it using the help of website building software.

You just need to spend time familiarizing yourself with the website builder you choose. Fortunately, they all offer free trials. And for those of you who have problems turning on a computer, hiring a professional web designer is going to be your best choice!

About the author


  • Jay is a web guru with nearly a decade of experience building and hosting websites of all kinds. He is an online consultant and founder of How To Get Online – helping small businesses learn about web technologies and getting their business online. Jay loves learning and he loves teaching. That’s what the Web is all about for him!

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