Most small businesses don't have the budget to spend thousands of dollars on a developer to create a website for them. At $61-$80/hour (and often much more), the costs are downright prohibitive. That's where website builders come in: These tools give individuals and small businesses the ability to build an internet presence without breaking the bank. They do the heavy lifting for you—both the back-end and the front-end—and you just make a few choices along the way.
If you're looking to build a complex website or an interactive application, you'll want to hire a programmer. But if you're building a blog, a portfolio, or a website to market a small business, a site builder is the right choice.
What Makes a Great Website Builder?
Here, we've gathered 10 of the best website builders available. Every app on this list meets the following criteria:
Security. Paid tools that don't include HTTPS / SSL services as part of their service weren't considered. Security for users of your website—and for you—is non-negotiable.
Reliability. You need a site builder that will work every time you use it, and one that you can trust to create a site that will work for your customers 24/7.
Ease of use. Features are fantastic, but if a website builder is too complex, it defeats the purpose. The goal is for you to be able to create a website using the builder tools without any programming experience.
You may have heard people refer to some of these website builders, like the self-hosted WordPress, as content management systems (CMS). That's because they host your content—makes sense. But when it comes down to it, all of the tools on our list allow you to build a website without hiring a developer, so they've made the cut as website builders.
The 10 Best Website Builders
Best Free Website Builders
Jimdo Dolphin for an assisted site builder
Site123 for site-building extras like form builders
Weebly for a balance of simplicity and customization
Wix for built-in membership features like bookings and reservations
Best Premium Website Builders
WordPress.com for simple ad revenue options
Squarespace for the most streamlined process
uKit for SEO- and promotion-readiness tools
Shopify for eCommerce
Best WordPress Add-on Website Builders
Best Free Website Builders
Many website builders offer free plans, but only a handful of them are robust enough to give you the results you want. Of course, a free plan won't be fully featured, but if you're looking to create a simple site without many advanced features, you have several solid options.
Most free plans for website builders require you to use a subdomain in your website's URL: Instead of
https://mywebsite.com, you'd get
https://mywebsite.sitebuilder.com. These plans also often show ads on your page or have a "created by" or "powered by" link in the footer.
Best for an assisted site builder
Jimdo Dolphin uses intelligent decision-making technology to generate a site for you within minutes. As you get started, it asks for information about your business. It asks for the name of your business (which it then searches on Google and asks you to verify) and what type of business you run, and it asks you to connect your business's social media accounts. All of this information allows it to prepopulate business information, contact information, and potentially some copy and images on the page as well.
Once Jimdo Dolphin has done as much of the legwork as possible, you take the wheel. And it'll be an easy drive: Click into text boxes, images, and other content fields and replace Jimdo Dolphin's pre-filled content as you see fit.
So if you're looking for the quickest route to a functioning website, Jimdo Dolphin will get you there. You're putting your trust in a robot, but it's a pretty crafty robot—and you can always make tweaks if V1 isn't what you'd hoped for.
The free plan of Jimdo Dolphin is limited on bandwidth, storage, the number of pages allowed, and the use of custom domains or email. You can upgrade to one of their paid plans to unlock more features, but if you're looking to get a simple site up and running quickly, the free plan does the trick.
Jimdo Dolphin price: Free; paid plans start at $90/year.
Best for site-building extras like form builders
Most website builders offer themes, design aesthetics, and layouts that are consistent throughout your entire website. Site123 takes a different approach: It offers a series of different design choices and layout arrangements for each piece of your page. For example, if your site's overall vibe is clean and simple but you want a splash of flair to call out a specific feature, you can do that with no problem.
Of course, the abundance of choices could be overwhelming, but Site123 does a nice job simplifying by offering a default to work from. In the end, Site123 achieves that much-needed balance between doing the work for you and offering plenty of customization.
With many site builders, it's up to you to ensure that your chosen theme is mobile-friendly and generally responsive. With Site123, your site will adapt to various screen sizes by default.
The most standout feature of Site123 is the quality of its site-building extras. These features, like form builders and video embeds, are fairly common in site builders, but Site123 integrates these extra elements into the page layout process. With a simple click, you can add contact forms, videos, terms or privacy policies, a "cookies warning", or social media links. Instead of making you weigh the value of putting in effort to get those extras in there, Site123 makes it feel effortless.
The free plan for Site123 allows you unfettered access to the builder. The tradeoff? You can't use a custom domain and you'll have to leave Site123 branding on the page.
Site123 price: Free; paid plans start at $129.60/year.
Best for a balance of simplicity and customization
Weebly starts you out with a choice of several dozen themes, broken into categories—like Business and Portfolio—so you begin the process with a page that already resembles the finished look you're hoping for.
If you intend to integrate your site with a lot of outside services—like analytics tools, marketing services, advertisers, or other embedded content—the ability to trade out pieces of the prebuilt theme with your own scripts will be crucial. And with Weebly, it's a cinch.
Weebly, like many others in the free website builders category, includes its own branding on your website until you move to a paid plan. Upon upgrading, you'll also get a handful of other features, like use of custom domains, unlimited storage, and AdWords credits.
Weebly price: Free; paid plans start at $48/year.
Best for built-in membership features like bookings and reservations
Wix is full of contact and member management features. On the scheduling side, an integrated appointment booking system and calendar make it a top choice for individuals and small businesses who have a heavy load of appointments, such as stylists, auto shops, or restaurants. And for customer relationship management, Wix has a built-in CRM tool, which is fairly uncommon for a website builder.
The website builder that Wix offers is nothing to ignore, either. It's a classic visual builder, which displays a minified version of the website while you toggle through a variety of options such as theme, title, and images. Between the fully realized site builder and the extra features for member and contact management, Wix is lined up to be a real powerhouse for anyone who needs to book appointments or reservations or who spends time managing clients or vendors.
Wix offers a dizzying array of paid plan levels for users who outgrow the free version. Those features include increased bandwidth caps, storage caps, ad credits, removed Wix branding, custom domains, free domains, premium support levels, and more.
Wix price: Free; paid plans start at $60/year.
Premium Website Builders
If you're looking for more features—or simply want to add a custom domain or remove the site builder's branding—it's time to upgrade to a premium plan.
Best for simple ad revenue options
First, a quick distinction. There are two WordPress sites: wordpress.com and wordpress.org. With wordpress.org, you'll to download the WordPress package; pay for a separate hosting service, like GoDaddy or HostGator; and take care of patches and upgrades yourself (or pay more for managed hosting where they do it for you). WordPress.com, which we're suggesting here, is the cloud version, which includes domain hosting. The tradeoff is less flexibility and fewer available plugins and themes, but the convenience of cloud web building is worth it.
WordPress.com does offer a free plan, but you'll need a premium version to capitalize on its best feature: easy monetization of your site. There are a lot of options for monetizing a WordPress site, but here are the most common:
Advertising from WordAds, cloud WordPress's custom ad placement platform. Different ad sources, such as Google, AOL, Yahoo, and AdX, bid on ad placement on the platform, and your site gets revenue from ads that are seen or clicked by your users.
Sponsored content and affiliate linking are allowed on cloud WordPress as well—athough they take more effort on your part than WordAds. This means other people can pay you to feature their product or service on your site (sponsored content), and you can link to products or services on other sites and earn a commission if someone makes a purchase (affiliate linking).
You can add PayPal buttons to your site to accept payments or donations via the "Simple Payments" system—just add the button right from the page builder.
Paid plans also give you access to a seemingly infinite number of themes and customization features—almost to the point of decision fatigue. But the potential for monetization in itself is a reason to choose WordPress.com.
WordPress.com price: Paid plans that allow you to monetize start at $96/year.
Best for its streamlined process to create an appealing site
You may have heard about Squarespace from its advertisements on your favorite podcast or YouTube channel—and it's a rising star in the website builder space.
Squarespace's focus is on streamlining the website creation process. As you click through their setup process, you make choices and have customization options, but unlike with a builder like WordPress.com, there's no sense of decision fatigue. Once you pick a theme, the editor is simple and polished: You click into a block (e.g., a text box), get a few options (in the case of text, a small bar of font styling choices), make your changes, and you're done. It doesn't have the expansive set of options that many other services have, but you won't have to navigate through various menus to get your finished product.
Squarespace offers two options: one for traditional sites and one for online stores. We're recommending Squarespace for traditional sites, but jump to our Shopify review to read about our recommendation for an online store.
Squarespace price: From $144/year for traditional sites; from $312/year for online stores.
Best for SEO and promotion readiness tools
The initial uKit setup wizard is a little clunky, but once you get into the editor, it's full of all of the standard blocks and options; and if you spring for the eCommerce plan, you'll get access to shopping cart and checkout tools. uKit also has a unique preview feature—what they call an "Adaptive Site View," which lets you easily click to preview the site on mobile or tablet.
But what makes uKit stand out is a tool that analyzes your site for "promotion readiness." Once you've created your pages in the site builder, the readiness tool analyzes your site and tells you if you're missing anything important for search engine optimization (SEO)—things like relevant text and images, page descriptions, and contact details. Google visibility can make or break your business, and uKit makes sure you optimize before going live.
uKit price: From $42/year.
Best for eCommerce
Shopify is laser-focused on building eCommerce websites: sites that sell a product or a service online. These kinds of online stores require more specific features than a traditional website: things like user accounts, shopping carts, inventory systems, and payment processing—to name a few.
The Shopify site builder doesn't have a drag-and-drop interface, but it does offer a visual representation of your site as you modify the content in each of your theme's blocks using the sidebar. All the basics are there, but what sets it apart are its eCommerce-specific features.
Shopify has various tools to ensure that your customers have a seamless experience on your site and that your store runs smoothly. For example, there's an abandoned cart recovery service, which saves shopping carts for customers who leave the site with items in their cart before checking out. That way, when a user returns to your site, their cart is exactly as they left it. Shopify also offers fraud analysis services, which help you catch fraudulent orders as they happen, or soon afterwards, mitigating the hassle and frustration of dealing with chargebacks and refunds—or worse.
While many of the site builders on this list have eCommerce features, Shopify is tailor made for this purpose. We experienced some signup and setup issues in other eCommerce solutions, but Shopify allowed us to get our site up and running with minimal time investment and offered all the bells and whistles required from an eCommerce site builder.
Looking for more eCommerce website building options? Take a look at our top 20 choices.
Shopify price: From $348/year.
WordPress Add-on Website Builders
Because WordPress powers almost a third of all websites, we've included a final section to highlight what we found to be the best WordPress add-on site builders. While WordPress can function as a site builder in its own right, you can layer other site builders on top of it, offering a more visual site building experience—something that WordPress itself is lacking.
Best for a visual site builder
BoldGrid is a visual site builder, which—like Wix and Shopify—allows you to see the pages of your site as it would appear to a visitor, then click into any section and edit it. The difference, of course, is that BoldGrid allows you to build and edit this way with an existing WordPress site. Essentially, it capitalizes on the content management system (CMS) part of WordPress, helping you build the site where that content lives.
BoldGrid also includes a suite of plugins within the site builder to assist with things like contact forms and eCommerce features, as well as features like offering SEO recommendations and the creation of staging or testing versions of your site. These options take WordPress to another level and make up for many of the areas in which it's lacking on its own.
BoldGrid price: $60/year; allows the use of BoldGrid for any number of WordPress sites.
Best for a modular site builder
Divi is a WordPress plugin that can be used as a site builder alongside your existing WordPress theme. But it also comes as an all-inclusive theme (with the page builder included), which makes it easier to use Divi to customize your site.
The site builder part of Divi started as a modular page builder with a grid system—and that's still its most standout feature. Instead of feeling like you're in a word processor or a page of code like you would in WordPress, you'll have much more control of the structure with Divi. It's up to you to create sections, add rows and columns, and create your own layout. Once the structure is in place, you can add your text, sliders, forms, images, videos, and so on.
Like BoldGrid, Divi also includes a visual builder, but its roots as a modular site builder are what make it stand out from the site building crowd.
Divi price: $89/year or $249/forever (for unlimited WordPress sites).
In the end, the decision of which website builder to use will depend on a whole slew of factors. Do you need a fully featured builder? Do you want a custom domain? Is time your most precious resource, or do you value customization? Are you looking for a quick marketing website, or are you launching an online store?
All of these questions—and many more—will help you narrow down your choices. And if you have the time, we suggest getting yourself a free trial of a your top choices and diving right in. That's the best way to know if a website builder will work for you.
Title image by Freepik