Website builders are our go-to tool for putting up a website. Though web hosting provides greater flexibility, nothing beats the simplicity of a website builder. Given that, we’ve amassed a series of website builder reviews to help you find the best website builder you can buy.
For scrolling down this far, we’re going to reward you with a brief explanation of how Cloudwards.net tests website builders. Below, we’ll show how we analytically evaluate providers in five categories, which make up the overall rating and, ultimately, the ranking of a particular builder.
We’re going to talk about the methodology behind our reviews, then give our top five best website builders and answer common questions. This is just a brief look into how we do things, so if you’re interested in a particular website builder, read the corresponding review above.
How We Rate
We rate website builders in five categories to ensure our approach is as analytical as possible. Each category gets a score and the combined scores make the total score for the particular builder. Because we did it that way, you can rest assured that the website builder we think is best truly is.
There’s no shortage of free, easy-to-use website builders, so features are what sells the sizzle. In this section, we dig through the interface to uncover the things you can do with it, as well as how the website builder’s tools are laid out across its paid tiers.
We’re looking for a few things in particular, including an app store, search engine optimization tool and design services. Anything else is gravy. We also look at the usefulness of the features. For example, Wix isn’t the only website builder that has an app store, but its app store is large and of a high enough quality to help your website.
As mentioned, there are a lot of free website builders. As with password managers, category leaders — in this case, Wix and Weebly — have set the trend for solid website builders to make a free plan available. That said, you’ll need to upgrade to a paid plan to use your own domain and access advanced features.
We try to balance features with price to show the overall value proposition, like we would with any other service. That said, website builders are unusual in that the number of plans is important, too. A large lineup consisting of multiple tiers isn’t a bad thing, considering some features, such as e-commerce integration, may not be relevant to your website.
Design and Tools
In this section, we talk about the raw power of the website builder. Instead of focusing on how easy the tools are to use, we focus on whether the tools exist. Some website builders are easier to use than others, but we’re looking at how many options the builder puts at your disposal.
This is also where we talk about templates and the level of design you can achieve with the builder. For example, Webnode has excellent ease of use, features and pricing, but the interface for designing your website feels less than, especially if you’re launching an online store (read our Webnode review).
Ease of Use
After discussing the possibilities of the website builder, we try to put them in the right context. We talk about the tools in practice, assessing whether you can achieve a beautiful website and how easy it is to do. There isn’t a secret sauce for an easy-to-use website builder. Rather, we’re interested in interfaces that are as intuitive as they are powerful.
This section is also where we talk about concessions that were made in power. For example, Site123 is ease of use incarnate, but the limited number of options shows that it sacrificed power in favor of usability (read our Site123 review).
We can’t leave any review without talking about support. Website builders are simple tools, so it’s unlikely you’ll need to reach out to support much. Because of that, we focus less on the contact options and troubleshooting in this section and more on the tutorials and self-help.
That said, contact options are still important. Though website builders hide the intricate workings of your website behind a curtain, they’re still present and things can still go wrong. Because of that, it’s important to have helpful, friendly and responsive support agents ready to answer questions around the clock.
The Best Website Builders
Now that you know how we judge providers, it’s time to showcase the five that satisfy our criteria best. Below, you’ll find the five website builders that ranked highest in the above categories overall.
Wix is the only website builder that truly combines power, usability and accessibility under one roof. Though some website builders lean harder into gorgeous templates and others focus on streamlined interfaces, Wix does a bit of everything, making it the perfect website builder for experts and novices alike.
The builder is powerful but intuitive, the prices are low and the templates are beautiful, but what sets it apart is the list of features. For a sampling, you get a logo designer, a large app market and a complete SEO toolkit. You can learn why we like Wix so much in our Wix review or try a free website yourself.
Weebly nips at Wix’s heels. Though it also combines ease of use, features and value, the more streamlined interface trades a small amount of power for usability. That said, raw power isn’t everything. Weebly doesn’t always keep up with Wix, but the interface is so streamlined that it doesn’t matter.
Though almost all website builders advertise a drag-and-drop interface, Weebly is the only builder that delivers. You simply drag elements from the toolbox on to your website and watch them appear. Weebly is easy to use, making it the perfect choice for newcomers. You can learn more in our Weebly review or try the builder with a free subdomain.
Squarespace caters to a specific crowd. If you want a beautiful website with little to no legwork, it’s the perfect option. That said, the high price tag and lack of integration with other platforms make it feel limited, which, depending on what you’re doing, may or may not matter.
Like the Apple of website builders, Squarespace is a closed system, though it still provides plenty of tools to build your website. The template designs are the best we’ve seen, too, making it the fastest way to put a gorgeous website online. You can learn more in our Squarespace review or see how you like it with a free two-week trial.
Jimdo is focused on one thing: ease of use. In fact, you don’t need to do anything to build your website. Jimdo includes Dolphin, which is an AI-driven design tool that’ll put together your website based on a short questionnaire. The tool is best for personal websites, such as portfolios, but it isn’t a bad effort overall.
Other aspects of the service are good, but not as good as Wix or Weebly. For example, the templates work well, but many of the elements are broken. Instead of a functional website, Jimdo simply hands you a suggestion. You can learn more about that in our Jimdo review or try the builder yourself with a free plan.
Strikingly is another middle-of-the-road option, but unlike Jimdo, it doesn’t lean in any particular direction. It’s similar to Wix and Weebly in that regard, balancing features, price and user-friendliness, but with less efficiency than the top-shelf options.
The builder stands out, though. Strikingly only gives you a few options, but combining them can make something greater than the sum of its parts. As with Squarespace, you’re dealing with a closed system that, on its face, has limited options, but you can combine them to create a beautiful site.
You can learn more in our Strikingly review or try a free website to see how you like it.
Website Builder Frequently Asked Questions
Website builders are simple tools, but there’s a lot of confusion surrounding them, specifically the difference between a website builder and a web host. We’ve answered a few common questions below.
What Is a Website Builder?
The term “website builder” is self-explanatory. It’s a tool you use to build your website. Rather than define a term that most people understand, we’re going to go over how we define it.
As opposed to tools like WordPress, which we’ll get into in a minute, a website builder is an all-in-one tool designed to build your website as quickly as possible. Though Adobe Dreamweaver, for example, is technically a way to build a website, here we’re talking about tools that don’t require any particular technical knowledge to use.
That usually looks like a drag-and-drop interface that lets you interact with your website directly, meaning you can move and update elements as a user would see your website. A website builder may offer coding flexibility, but it isn’t necessary. The website builders listed above offer tools that will help you build your website without knowing a single command.
Design knowledge is the same way. The services above come with premade themes that offer a simple starting point for building your website. That said, you can’t just pick a template, change the photos and call it a day. You’ll still need to do some designing, just not at a professional level.
Depending on the website builder you choose, the templates may look good but not provide functionality. That comes in the form of broken links, dummy blog entries and buttons that don’t work. Website builders are simple design tools, but the burden of designing your website is on you.
Website Builder vs. Web Hosting
There’s a lot of confusion about the difference between a website builder and web hosting. Even certified techies have a hard time discerning it. Website builders are design tools while web hosting is a service that gets your website online.
By purchasing web hosting, you aren’t purchasing a website, just like purchasing a domain doesn’t automatically grant you a webpage. Web hosting provides a server to, well, host your website. The hosting provider stores the data about your website and serves it to visitors.
Website builders, on the other hand, are tools for designing your website. In fact, many web hosting providers include a website builder with your subscription (read our Hostinger review for an example).
That said, you don’t need to purchase both. Website builders include web hosting, though web hosting providers may not supply a website builder. With the reviews above, you can act as if web hosting doesn’t exist. Website builders do a fantastic job dealing with the dirty work for you.
Can I Build a Website without Coding Skills?
With a website builder, you need zero coding knowledge. As per our definition above, website builders offer all-in-one solutions for building your website, usually in the form of premade themes and a drag-and-drop editor. That said, knowledge of a design language is still a useful skill to have.
Many of our best website builders allow you to edit the code of your website. Though the included code is optimized well, you may be able to dig in the guts to add a feature to your website or optimize a certain aspect of it.
That’s not essential, though. Some website builders make it easier than others — our ranking above provides a general overview — but the tools you need to build your website will be at your fingertips. Coding knowledge may add another layer to what you can do with your website, but it isn’t a necessary skill.
Website Builder vs. WordPress
When creating a website, it boils down to two options for newbies: a website builder or WordPress. As for the one you should choose, it depends on your website’s purpose. Unfortunately, there’s no hard rule for whether you should use a website builder or WordPress, but we’ll try to provide general guidelines.
Website builders are best for websites that have a hands-off approach, meaning you design your website and only update it as needed. For example, you may start a first-party online store where you add new products and run promotions or use your website to advertise a business. Those types of websites may have content, say a blog, but it isn’t focus of the website.
WordPress is better for a hands-on approach, meaning you’re constantly adding content to the website or changing aspects of it. Though all websites are, in a sense, living documents, WordPress websites are generally driven by content, which is confirmed by the back-end being centered around blogging.
Those are general guidelines, but there are other things you should consider. WordPress has deeper integrations and more flexibility, meaning it’s an ideal solution if you need something special for you website. Though website builders are getting better about allowing you to dig into the code, WordPress is a superior solution for proprietary integrations.
That comes at the cost of usability, though. WordPress is flexible, but it’s also vulnerable. You may purchase a theme that isn’t what you expected or hire a designer who doesn’t deliver on their promises. Likewise, you have to be much more cognizant of how SEO-friendly your code is than you need to be with website builders.
There’s also the issue of traffic. Though website builder hosting works well, it isn’t the proper solution for high-volume websites. In that case, you may need to contend with the complexities of a WordPress website so you can purchase higher quality hosting.
If you’re interested in WordPress, read our guides to get started:
- Beginner’s Guide to Using WordPress
- Intermediate Guide to Using WordPress
- Advanced Guide to Using WordPress
Can I Use My Domain with a Website Builder?
Most website builders allow you to use a domain you own. For example, Weebly offers its “connect” plan, which is built for connecting a domain you own to a Weebly website. Providers that don’t offer such a plan usually allow you to connect your domain to any standard plan, too.
If you don’t have a domain, most website builders include one for free with your subscription, whether that be a free subdomain when you use a free plan or a top-level domain when you purchase a plan.
Though all of that’s true for most website builders, it isn’t true for all. If you have a domain that you want to use with a website builder, make sure to reach out to support or poke around in the control panel to verify that you can connect. The answer is usually yes, but a sanity check doesn’t hurt.
Website builders are useful, even fun, tools that can help you build a stunning website without the technical nonsense that comes with the field. They’re a prime example of evolution in technology, one that shows how easy it can be in the modern day to build a website.
For our money, Wix is the best option, but Weebly and Squarespace aren’t far behind. Jimdo and Strikingly work well for what they do, too, but they don’t reach the level of our top three builders.
If you have questions or experiences you want to share with us, feel free to drop a comment on any of the reviews above.