5 Best Website Builders of 2017
A guide to website building software and a list of the top website builders that are easy to learn & use for beginners.
In this article, we'll cover the top 5 best website builders for making your own website. In our guide, how to make a website, we recommend using Wix. Wix is a great choice for small businesses and one of the most popular website builders on the market. 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 site and you will need to decide on which website builder best fits your requirements.
The Best Site Builders at a Glance
Listed below are 5 of the best website builders that we recommend to our readers:
|Website Builder||Starts at:||Recommended for:||Learn more|
|Wix||$4.08/mo||Small business sites with fully customizable templates||Visit Site|
|SiteBuilder||$9.95/mo||Simple & easy for making basic informational websites||Visit Site|
|Weebly||$8.00/mo||Strong platform to use for eCommerce||Visit Site|
|SquareSpace||$12.00/mo||Artistic templates for those in a creative profession||Visit Site|
|BoldGrid/WordPress||$3.49/mo||Professional sites that need powerful functionality & features||Visit Site|
Overall Best Website Builder & Great for Small Businesses
www.wix.com offers one of the best website builders on the market. Wix is a bit more complex than SiteBuilder, but offers more advanced features, a better eCommerce platform for selling online, and now includes clean/semantic URLs for all pages. They also have numerous templates with over 70 different categories to choose from. Their user-friendly drag and drop site builder is intuitive and lets you fully customize your website. Wix is great for beginners who want a managed, easy solution to make their own website. Wix is also one of the largest website builders with over 63 million users world wide. You can start Wix for free, but will most likely need to upgrade to their paid plans which range from a little over $4 to almost $25/mo… Read our full review
- Free trial
- Our top choice
- Easy to use & build
- SEO & mobile friendly
- 500+ templates
- Perfect for small businesses
- Excellent customer support
- Various plans & pricing
Best for Easily Creating & Managing Your Own Website
www.sitebuilder.com is one of the simplest, most intuitive site builders on the market. They make it easy for anyone to build and publish their own website without having to be a computer whiz. Their powerful site builder offers all the tools you need to get your small business website up and running, including a basic eCommerce store as well. They also offer one of the largest selections of pre-made templates so you can always find that perfect design. They do offer a free plan without a custom domain name, although we would highly recommend choosing a paid plan (starts at $9.95/mo) to unlock all their professional features. They have a few downsides, including questionable billing issues and non-clean/semantic urls… Read our full review
- Free trial
- Great for beginners
- Easy to learn
- 1000+ templates
- Free domain name
- SEO friendly
- Intuitive drag n drop
- eCommerce through Ecwid
Best for eCommerce Websites & Popular Choice
www.weebly.com is a popular choice for making your own eCommerce website. Their website builder feels a bit more challenging and less intuitive than SiteBuilder or Wix, but does offer great eCommerce plans for businesses. They are a popular choice for those who are looking to sell their products/services online. Their business plan is pricey at $25/mo, but does offer everything you need to setup a professional online store. Weebly is easy to sign up with and has a relatively straight forward process once you get the knack of it. Unfortunately, they only have a very limited number of themes to choose from – approximately 30 at the time of this writing… Read our full review
- Free trial
- Great for eCommerce
- Popular website builder
- Drag n drop editor
- Relatively easy to use
- Competitive pricing
- Can edit HTML/CSS code
- SEO & mobile friendly
- 30+ templates
Best for Creative Businesses & Portfolio Type Websites
www.squarespace.com is a website builder geared towards anyone in a creative profession. Squarespace has a lot of great website templates for photographers, artists, restaurants, musicians, weddings, and bloggers. Their designs are typically simple, yet elegant and very visual with large images. Like Weebly, their templates are less customizable, but do include clean URLs and truly responsive designed templates. SquareSpace starts at $12/month for a personal plan and $18/month for a business plan. You can start a 2 weeks free trial with no credit card required, but will need to upgrade to a paid plan at the end. Squarespace also has a great community knowledge base where you can ask questions and get help on how to use their website builder.
- Free trial
- Personal sites
- Small business sites
- Creative professions
- Large, visual designs
Best for Sites that Need WordPress Features & Functionality
Last, but not least, is BoldGrid. BoldGrid is a website builder that uses WordPress. While technically a CMS (Content Management System), WordPress is arguably the best choice for building a website. It’s used not only by beginners, but by professionals as well. WordPress is such a powerful platform & has so many features, that most web designers & developers love to use it. In fact, over 25% of all websites on the internet are now built with WordPress! It’s the industry standard for a website building platform. Unfortunately, WordPress itself, is more complex and has a much steeper learning curve than a website builder. However, there are a few website builders that are now being built on top of WordPress, such as BoldGrid. Using BoldGrid, you can harness the power of WordPress and build your own professional website more easily. BoldGrid has hundreds of templates to choose from and offers the most professional choice on our list for building powerful websites with advanced functionality. It is also free, but you will need to pay for web hosting… Read our full review
- Uses WordPress
- Powerful & feature rich
- Exportable & transferable
- Can edit HTML/CSS code
- 200+ templates
- Great for advanced users
- SEO & mobile friendly
- Choice of hosting
Understanding Which Website Builder You Should Use
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. Most of you reading this guide are small business owners who want to build a website yourself. 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. And for those of you who have problems turning on a computer, hiring a professional web designer is going to be your best choice!
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.
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 and blogging. 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 important to ensure that the templates that your website builder offers are fully responsive and not just mobile-friendly. 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. Having templates that are fully responsive also cuts out some of the work for you. Traditionally, after a website was built for a desktop or laptop computer, then a whole new website had to be coded to look good on mobile devices. Many website builders have cut a lot of the extra work out for you, but it’s still important to find out which ones offer fully responsive templates versus just mobile-friendly ones.
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. 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. Simbla, BoldGrid, and Weebly are great examples of website builders that 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.
One of the things that makes 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 has 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.