Without a doubt, the transition to a digitalized consumer world, where people search for product information and then make purchases online, has accelerated exponentially over the last several years—particularly since the beginning of the pandemic.
A website that can be monetized is your gateway to this multi-trillion dollar world. It would be inconceivable to have a viable business today no matter how small without a website acting as its front door.
But what if you’re not technically inclined and you don’t have the funds to hire an IT expert to code your website? This is a problem that has a very elegant, practical and cost-effective solution: Website Builders.
Disclosure: Although I receive affiliate compensation for some of the links below at no additional cost to you that compensation in no way influences my recommendations, which are strictly informed by my years of digital marketing experience working with clients large and small. My aim is to always recommend tools that will offer you the best return on investment.
What’s a website builder? It's basically “the machine that builds the machine.”
In short, it’s a system that allows you to develop a website from scratch to launch without having to write a single line of code and without even having to be technically proficient.
Now, do website builders address the needs of every single website project you throw at them? No, in some cases, builders can be just too limiting and impractical.
But in many many cases, perhaps yours included, they're just the perfect solution to create a functional and attractive website that does everything you need at a reasonable cost—and most importantly, fast!
Perfect candidates for website builders:
- People who need to create professional looking online portfolios
- Artists (musicians, photographers, painters, sculptors, etc.)
- Self-employed service providers (editors, writers, proofreaders, consultants, etc.)
- Small retail stores (gift shops, specialty food stores, non-chain clothing stores, non-chain pet stores, etc.)
- Hospitality services (restaurants, bars, non-chain hotels, motels, inns, b&b's, etc.)
- Professional services (chiropractors, dentists, therapists, clinics, vets, etc.)
- Home/car service providers (plumbers, electricians, HVAC repair, painters, mechanics, body shops, etc.)
- Small food services (non-chain fast-food joints & pizza places, specialty food grocery stores, etc.)
- Small-scale services in general (accounting/bookkeeping, barbers, yoga and fitness studios, etc.)
Businesses that’ll likely find website builders limiting:
- Online business that are not localized (e.g. affiliate sites that deal with national or worldwide audiences and large amounts of traffic)
- Businesses with a complex service structure that require websites with multiple levels of menus and dozens or hundreds of pages
- eCommerce sites with a complex product mix that require a lot of advanced automation for products, taxes, shipping, etc.
- Complex multilingual websites
- Large blogs (100+ posts) with multiple categories and a large readership
Now, if you have a need that could be easily solved by a website builder, here are our recommendations, including your best option overall, your best budget option, the runner up and the system with the most generous free tier before you begin paying monthly fees.
What Are the Best Website Builders?
This is the most widely used website builder in the world, with over 180 million users in 190 countries.
With size come some benefits (e.g. lots of resources to constantly develop better and cooler features) and some limitations (e.g. lack of real-time support except for their most expensive package).
Wix offers the largest variety of website templates available out there, with over 800 designer-made templates supporting a multitude of industries and niches.
Another differentiating feature that's a direct consequence of Wix's size is the vast number of apps in their app store (250+). You’ll pretty much find an app for every possible need.
Example of popular apps are:
- Scheduling apps to book and manage appointments with clients online
- Commenting apps to add and manage a comment section on your pages and posts
- eCommerce stores to sell both physical and digital products
- Form builders to capture information from clients and prospects
- Chat apps so you can engage with your visitors one-on-one
Wix has a simple yet powerful graphical editor that allows you to customize templates by dragging and dropping visual elements, like text blocks and images, while showing you the final "look" of your website.
In short, you get to see what your visitors will see while you're designing your pages, without having to constantly switch back and forth between an edit view and a preview window, like many of the other website builders.
The Wix editor is also extremely flexible, allowing you to customize the precise shape and position of each element down to the pixel level giving you 100% control of the look and feel of your website.
Wix has a built-in backup system that allows you to recover any deleted versions of your pages at the push of a button, so no information is ever lost.
In summary, Wix offers a one-stop shop where you can build your website without having to type a single line of code, host your website in a secure environment and even obtain your own domain name, all for a very reasonable monthly fee.
Wix Features that Stand Out
- Largest variety of designer-made templates to choose from (800+ templates)
- Largest app store (250+ apps)
- Intuitive graphical editor to customize your template
- An eCommerce solution that's more than adequate for most small business applications
- A membership feature where you can have visitors login to access member-only pages (great to support paid subscriptions)
- Your site will be protected with a powerful firewall and other security features against hackers, spammers and other bad actors
Now the Cons...
- Your menus are limited to a single sub-level below the main level, which limits the number of pages you can have on your site
- Except for the most expensive package (VIP), support is limited to email (24-hour turnaround)
- Mobile pages tend to be slow to load, which is a problem for ranking high on search engines
- Although bandwidth is unlimited in the most popular packages (the more visitors to your website the higher the bandwidth you need), all plans have maximum file storage caps, which can become an issue if you’re hosting a lot of audio and video files
Find Out More About Wix Here.
Best Budget Option: Weebly
While it doesn’t have the number of templates available from Wix, it does have great perks, like unlimited bandwidth and file storage for all plans.
- Testimonial sliders
- Digital download functionality
- Live chat to engage one-on-one with your visitors
- Basic multi-language feature (i.e. for simple informational websites)
- Ability to manage comments
- Social sharing buttons
- Countdown shopping carts
- Appointment booking feature
Weebly is also membership friendly, allowing you to offer paid subscribers with access to exclusive pages protected by a login screen.
Finally, Weebly has a key advantage over most website builders: it doesn’t impose limits on the number of levels and sub-levels of navigation you can have, which is great for websites that host a large number of pages or that have complex tree structures.
Weebly Features that Stand Out for Online Earners
- Super user-friendly and intuitive template editor
- Unlimited bandwidth and storage on all plans
- Unlimited navigation levels and sub-levels
- Membership-friendly with login-protected exclusive pages for paid subscribers
- Strong team management functionality, allowing you to assign more restricted roles to certain users (e.g. editors, contributors, etc.) without forcing you to give erveryone full admin access
- More advanced eCommerce features than other competitors (e.g. automated tax and shipping calculator, inventory management, etc.)
Now the Cons...
- Not as many templates as Wix
- Not as many apps in the app store as Wix
- Much more limited than Wix when it comes to moving design elements around in the visual editor (e.g. you won’t be able to create “pixel-perfect” designs)
- Has some SEO limitations (e.g. Weebly adds strings to the URLs of certain pages, which could hurt your search rankings)
Find Out More About Weebly Here.
Best Runner-Up: Squarespace
This website builder is renowned for having the most stunningly beautiful templates out there.
If you want your website to visually impress (say you're a photographer or a visual artist) you can’t go wrong with Squarespace. This builder also comes with a decent eCommerce engine that works quite well for most simple applications.
Squarespace also has built a reputation for being the ideal website builder for bloggers. It boasts the most complete set of blogging features and tools outside WordPress.org (a self-hosted, more technically demanding solution).
Another great advantage with Squarespace is that it can host your podcasts locally so you don’t have to pay for a separate platform—this is a great bonus feature that its main competitors are lacking.
Now some downsides. Like Wix, it only offers a single menu sub-level, so if you have a large website with dozens of pages you’ll be severely limited here.
Finally, Squarespace doesn’t have an app store per se, but it does offer a limited number of extensions that you can use to add functionality to your website.
Let’s now look at its pros and cons:
Squarespace Features that Stand Out
- Gorgeous templates, great for visual artists and online portfolios
- Excellent blogging tool with multi-author functionality (for contrast, Weebly only allows a single author per post)
- Live support via chat for all paid package levels (in comparison, Wix only offers email support with a 24-hour turnaround except for its most expensive VIP package)
- Ability to host a podcast
- No bandwidth or storage limits
- Great marketing features, including built-in email-campaigns
Now the Cons...
- The editor requires some getting used to
- Only offers a flat menu structure with a single sub-level
- Poor paid membership functionality (only passwords available with no username field, which is kind of useless)
- More limited add-ons than competition (no formal app store)
- No backup functionality to recover deleted pages in real time
- No multilingual website functionality
Find Out More About Squarespace Here.
Best Free or Freemium: Webnode
If you’re bootstrapping and want to get started with a fremium approach, Webnode is the website builder for you. While it's not as feature rich as the above three, it’s perfectly good for most simple applications.
Once you cut your teeth with Webnode, you can always move up to a more developed builder.
While it doesn’t offer advanced eCommerce functionality, it does have the ability to create a simple online store. The blogging feature is basic but does the job.
The main downside is that it doesn’t currently have any social media integrations, so visitors won't be able to easily share your posts.
A big plus with Webnode is that it offers the best multilingual website functionality out there supporting 20 languages (a lot more than most of its competitors).
It also supports paid memberships with member-only access to exclusive username and password protected areas of your website.
Finally, it has an excellent backup and restore feature (although its use is restricted for free and lower-priced plans).
Webnode Features that Stand Out (Free Tier)
- Free plan gives you access to all the same templates available to paid plans (this is unusual)
- Multilingual website functionality supporting 20 languages (best in class)
- Paid plans are some of the lowest in the industry
- Strong backup and restore functionality (with some usage restrictions for the free plan)
- Simple but effective eCommerce features
- Supports memberships with paid access to exclusive pages
Now the Cons...
- No social media integrations
- No live support (email only)
- No app store
- Bandwidth limits on most plans
- Storage limits on all plans
- Only two menu sub-levels, limiting the number of pages on your website
Find Out More About Webnode Here.