best website builders

Best Website Builder: 5 Quality Options Compared (Hands-on Look)

Last Updated: Categories Posted in: WordPress Tools 0 Comments

Looking for the best website builder to create a website for your small business, eCommerce store, or other project?

Website builders make it easy for anyone to create a site using pre-made templates and simple drag-and-drop editing. But not all website builders are made equal, and there are some important differences when it comes to functionality, ease of use, and price.

To help you find the best website builder for your specific needs, we went hands-on with five popular tools. Now, we’ll share the most relevant information with you to help you make your decision.
Best website builders compared
Tool Editor Rating Blog? eCommerce? Templates Free Plan? Monthly Starting Price
Squarespace 5/5  ✔  ✔ 65+ $12
Wix 4/5  ✔  ✔ 500+  ✔ $8.50
Strikingly 3/5  ✔  ✔ 27+  ✔ $8
Weebly 4/5  ✔  ✔  ✔  ✔ $8
Shopify 4/5  ✔  ✔  ✔ thousands $29

1. Squarespace: The best website builder for creatives (and others)

By the numbers, Squarespace is the most popular website builder, as well as the most popular hosted content management system. It powers 2.4% of all websites on the Internet according to W3Techs.

Squarespace includes great-looking templates for a variety of niches, as well as an easy onboarding process that makes it easy to build a website even if you have no technical skills.

Drag-and-drop Editor Rating Blogging Tool? eCommerce Functionality? Templates Free Plan? Starting Price
5/5  ✔  ✔ 65+ $12

How it works

To get started, Squarespace has you pick a base template from the 65+ available templates. The templates are divided by category and, as a general rule, have great modern, minimalist looks:

squarespace might be the best website builder for you

Once you choose your base template, you’ll need to create a Squarespace account (it’s free to start – so you can test things out with no credit card required).

And as soon as you create your account, Squarespace launches you into the editor so that you can customize your site.

Ease of use and time investment

Because Squarespace has you start from one of the pre-made templates, you don’t need to worry about building your website’s design from scratch.

Instead, you’ll basically just use Squarespace’s drag-and-drop editor to:

  • Edit the existing template data
  • If desired, add new content, like more text, images, a newsletter form, etc.

Editing content is as simple as typing on the page:

squarespace editor

And you can add new content by inserting new “blocks”:

squarespace blocks

All in all, you get a good deal of control without a huge time investment.

Pricing

Squarespace starts at $12 per month, billed annually. A small business will likely want the $18 per month plan, though.

Related reading: Are WordPress Theme Builders A Good Squarespace Alternative?

2. Wix: A good all-around builder with affordable prices

Wix is a popular drag-and-drop website builder that lets you create a Wix-branded site for free, or your own branded site for a price. After Squarespace, it’s the second-most popular all-purpose website builder, powering 1.6% of all websites.

Drag-and-drop Editor Rating Blogging Tool? eCommerce Functionality? Templates Free Plan? Unbranded Starting Price
4/5  ✔  ✔ 500+  ✔ $8.50

How it works

To launch your Wix site, you first need to sign up for a free account. Then, Wix will ask you a few questions to simplify the website creation process. This is great because it means you get an experience that’s tailored specifically to you:

wix onboarding

Then, you can:

  • Let the WIX AI create a website for you (an especially unique feature). Basically, you’ll answer more questions, and then the AI will actually pick a template for you based on your answers.
  • Choose a template from the 500+ templates available, if you’d rather pick the template yourself.

wix templates

Ease of use and time investment

No matter whether you choose the WIX AI or your own template, you’ll eventually land in the Wix editor to finish out customizing your site.

The Wix editor gives you a great deal of control over your site, but it also feels significantly more overwhelming than Squarespace’s editor because it presents so many options at once.

If you’ve built a few websites before, you might like all those options. But if this is your first time using a website builder, you might struggle with the learning curve:

wix editor

If you want more functionality, you can add in 250+ apps from the Wix App Market.

Pricing

Wix offers a limited free plan with Wix ads and a Wix subdomain. Paid plans with your own branding and no Wix ads start at $8.50 per month. But serious businesses should spring for the $12.50 per month plan, at a minimum.

3. Strikingly: A good basic option for simple websites

Founded in 2013, Strikingly is much younger than the other website builders on this list. It’s probably not a great option if you’ve already built a few websites and like to tinker. But if you just want a tool to build a basic website, its simple editor keeps things uncomplicated.

Drag-and-drop Editor Rating Blogging Tool? eCommerce Functionality? Templates Free Plan? Starting Price
3/5  ✔  ✔ 27+  ✔ $8

How it works

To get started, you sign up for a free Strikingly account. Then, it drops you into an interface where you choose from the ~27+ available templates:

strikingly templates

Ease of use and time investment

Once you select your template, Strikingly dumps you straight into the editor. The editor is a lot simpler then Wix. And while, to be honest, it does look a little dated, it’s actually pretty intuitive for most of the things a small business needs.

One especially handy feature is built-in spots that suggest adding a specific element. For example, on the template I chose, it suggested adding a button to the hero section:

strikingly editor

Strikingly’s editor definitely sacrifices some flexibility for ease of use. But if you don’t have a ton of experience and just want to build a great-looking small business site, that may well be enough for you.

Pricing

Strikingly has a free plan if you’re ok with using a Strikingly subdomain. After that, paid plans start at $8 per month.

4. Weebly: A solid option for all types of sites

Recently acquired by Square for $365 million in April 2018, Weebly is a long-standing website builder that helps you create both standard websites and eCommerce stores (the eCommerce aspect will likely become more prominent with Square’s involvement).

Weebly currently powers 0.7% of all the websites on the Internet.

Drag-and-drop Editor Rating Blogging Tool? eCommerce Functionality? Templates Free Plan? Starting Price
4/5  ✔  ✔  ✔  ✔ $8

How it works

Like the others, you get started with Weebly by signing up for a free account.

From there, you can choose from a variety of themes (the exact number depends on what type of site you’re buildinge.g. a store vs a business site):

weebly themes

Ease of use and time investment

Once you select your website theme, Weebly will launch you into the editor. If you want to edit existing content, you can just click on the live preview. And if you want to add new content, you just drag it over from the options on the left:

weebly editor

Again, Weebly’s editor doesn’t go quite as deep as Wix. But it does a good job of keeping things simple while still giving you enough control to customize your site.

And if you need additional functionality, you can connect to the Weebly app store.

Pricing

Weebly has a branded free plan. After that, paid plans start at $8 per month.

5. Shopify: The best website builder for eCommerce stores

Shopify is a bit of a twist because it’s focused exclusively focused on eCommerce, rather than helping you create a multipurpose site. By the numbers, Shopify powers 2.3% of all websites on the Internet, which puts it right behind Squarespace in terms of popularity. It’s also the second most popular way to build an eCommerce store, behind WooCommerce.

Basically, it’s not the best website builder overall, but it’s probably your best option if you’re serious about creating an eCommerce store.

Drag-and-drop Editor Rating Blogging Tool? eCommerce Functionality? Templates Free Plan? Starting Price
4/5  ✔  ✔  ✔ thousands $29

How it works

Shopify operates on similar principles to the other website builders, but with a slightly different process.

Once you sign up for a free Shopify account, you’ll need to provide a little bit of information. From there, it will drop you into the Shopify dashboard:

shopify dashboard

This is where you’ll:

Ease of use and time investment

Because Shopify is focused on eCommerce, it’s going to take you a bit more time to set up your store than a regular website builder.

In addition to the information above, you’ll also need to set up payment gateways, configure tax rates, and perform other housekeeping actions.

Shopify tries to make things as easy as possible, though. For example, the Theme Customizer/editor makes it easy to tweak your store. And even though it’s focused on eCommerce, you can still add other functionality, like a blog.

The only downside, though, is that there’s no “inline editing”. That means, unlike all the other website builders, you can’t just click on text to edit it:

Shopify editor

Pricing

Shopify’s plans start at $29 per month.

Nothing doing? WordPress might still be the best website builder for you

Couldn’t find the best website builder for you in the list above? You can always stick with the tried-and-true WordPress approach (c’mon, we’re a WordPress blog – you didn’t think we’d go the whole post without one mention of WordPress, right?).

WordPress is the most popular way to build a website in existence, powering over 30% of all the websites on the Internet.

There are some good reasons for that, too…

When you build your website with self-hosted WordPress, you have 100% control over your website, which is something that even the best website builder can’t match. It’s also easy to customize because you have:

  • A huge library of WordPress plugins to add new functionality. There are over 50,000 free plugins alone.
  • Tens of thousands of WordPress themes, which dwarfs any of the template lists you’ll find at a website builder.

Now, if you just want a super simple site, you might not actually need all that functionality. But if you want an easy-to-use platform that gives you the flexibility to do anything you want, none of these tools can beat WordPress.

If you’re interested in learning more about using WordPress to build your site, here are some resources to get you started:

Have any other questions about picking the best website builder for your business? Leave a comment and we’ll try to help out!
Colin Newcomer is a freelance writer for hire with a background in SEO and affiliate marketing. He helps clients grow their web visibility by writing primarily about digital marketing, WordPress, and B2B topics. You can find him at www.cnewcomer.com