A website builder is an online service that will make the process of creating your website easy and straightforward. Anyone can use a website builder, from a business large or small to an individual blogger or first-timer.
Traditionally, building a website required a knowledge of coding systems, registering domains and even server maintenance. Or, you had to pay through the nose for an expert to do these things for you. That’s not the case anymore.
Website builders remove all of the aggro associated with web development. Instead, they give you easy website templates that can be edited and customized to your liking.
In this guide, we’ll explain how website builders work, how much they cost, whether you need to know anything at all about websites to use one and which website builders are going to be the best for you.
Website builders give you the basic building blocks to begin constructing a website. Typically, you pick a template design for your website, to which you then add your own text and images to create a uniquely designed site for your blog, online store or business site. With most website builders you’ll be able to:
Choose from a range of templates, which will help you build the website you want
Edit the style and design language of these templates to match your business’ branding (or simply look great)
Add tools and apps which will augment the usefulness of your website – these might be contact forms, appointment or reservation booking systems, or analytics software
Which are the Best Website Builders?
While they often have similar features on paper, not all website builders are as effortless to use, or produce great end results. These are our favourite website builders that we’d happily recommend:
Wix is our favourite website builder. It’s incredibly simple to use, but still produces stunning website designs. It has a great selection of apps, a brilliant ecommerce system which undercuts its competition, and a class leading ADI system which makes creating your site a breeze.
Weebly offers great templates, which are incredibly flexible and responsive to the design choices you make. You’ll have access to over 300 apps which can all be integrated into your website in as little as a few clicks.
If design really matters to you – you’ll want a Squarespace website. Its range of templates are all beautiful to look and mobile optimised, so your site will look great no matter which device users view it on. It also has great ecommerce and blogging systems, so it should be good for nearly all types of website.
To work out the best website builders to recommend, we do extensive independent testing. As well as assessing the features, templates and ease of use, we take value-for-money into account, plus the help and support on offer.
We also do user testing, with a panel of users of mixed expertise trying out the website builders and feeding back. That way, we can give real-world recommendations to help you decide. For our full test results, see the table below:
Scroll horizontally on mobile devices to see the full table
Comfortably the best website builder we’ve tested, and brilliantly simple, even for beginners
Another great website builder that’s also very approachable for first-timers
Stands out with its attractive templates, though not quite as well-rated as Wix
A great system for producing an e-commerce website
Perfect for blogs, but can be fiddly for other types of site
Some big improvements to templates in the past year, but a little light on features
Can help you build a website, but the options are more limited compared to rival website tools
Do You Need to be an Expert to Use a Website Builder?
In short, no. You don’t need to be an expert to use any of the website builders we’ve reviewed. They all have quick start guides and simple-to-follow templates, making them welcoming to first-timers.
However, some website builders, such as Squarespace or Site123, would be particularly well suited to those who are brand new to website building. These services keep everything nice and simple, with straightforward page editors and in-depth, jargon-free support pages.
Others, while still workable by beginners, have features that more experienced users will appreciate. Wix, for example, has an in-depth SEO assistant and a brilliant selection of apps and plugins.
You don’t need to be an expert to use a website builder – you can still create a functioning website which will meet your needs. However, if you’re a dab hand with web development, you might find some more basic website builders a bit restrictive.
How Much Do Website Builders Cost?
The answer to this can vary completely depending on what you need. One of the great things about website builders is the flexibility and adaptability of their pricing plans. Some, such as Wix and Weebly offer completely free packages – helpful if you’re just starting out. Squarespace and GoDaddy, on the other hand, offer free trials lasting between two weeks and a month.
Wix’s pricing plans (not including the free version)
Most website builders will also offer between three and six paid-for plans to choose from. These will offer a different range of features according to the price. They typically start at less than $10 per month.
If you’re planning to use your website as an online store, you’ll likely have to pay between $15-20 per month to access features such shopping carts, increased order limits and international payments.
Even the priciest website builders rarely have packages that cost over $40 per month. These are designed for the most serious of online businesses. Some website builders will throw in little goodies with their more expensive packages – Squarespace will give you $100 Google AdWords credit with its $18 per month Business plan.
Many website builders – Squarespace and Wix in particular – offer discount codes that can be applied when you sign up for a paid-for package. It’s well worth scouring the internet to try and find one.
We have trusted, independent reviews of the biggest and best website builders out there. We go into more depth for the pricing options for each website builder in each review, so be sure to check them out.
As your Dad likes to say, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch”. And, while there are free website builders – you’ll likely be reaching for a mid-afternoon snack if you opt for their ‘free lunch’ options.
To be clear, there are website builders that you can use, indefinitely, for free. Wix, Weebly and Site123 will all let you create, edit and publish a website at no cost to yourself.
However, these tend to limit the features you have access to, and they’ll often be plastered with each company’s branding and display adverts – not a great user experience.
If you’re just starting out, and looking to dip your toe into the world of website builders for your business, blog or hobby, then one of these sites might be a great place to start. But, if we’re honest, they’re not really viable options in the long term.
We all know what a good website looks like, right? We use them near enough every day – coming across a restaurant site that doesn’t let you see the menu or enquire about reservations online is a bit boring, as is an online shop that doesn’t let you sort the products you’re looking at.
Features are important and these are the sort of ones you’ll find on most website builders:
Some of Squarespace’s template designs
Think of these like the floor plans you have for your home, but for your website. They tell you where the walls are and whereabouts the doors open. Or, in the website world, where your header is, or where you can put images on your “About” page.
But, in the same way it won’t be your house until you’ve filled it with great stuff, a website template won’t be your website until you’ve filled it with great content.
Artificial Design Intelligence
Artificial Design Intelligence (ADI) is the fancy name for one part of the setup process where a website builder will ask you some questions about the type of site you want to create, and will then build a better, more focused template for the type of website you want to build.
This can make it loads quicker and much easier to build a website.
The editor is where you’ll make all the changes to your website to make it your own. Most sites either a use sidebar-based system, with menus and sub-menus taking you to each element, or they opt for the more common drag-and-drop editor, with these you’ll pick up elements from a list and drop them where you want them to go on your website.
A good editor will make creating your website fast, easy and satisfying. That’s important, too – you’ll be much more likely to give up on your site if it’s a pain trying to change even simple things.
People access the internet on mobile devices more than they do on desktop or laptop computers. So, regardless of what type of website you’re building, you’ll need it to work on mobile phones and tablets.
Most website builders offer mobile responsive templates, but not all have dedicated mobile editors. Look out for these, particularly if you’re running a business.
Start Building a Website In Moments With Wix, Our Top-Rated Website Builder
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Tom Fogden is a writer for Tech.co with a range of experience in the world of tech publishing. Tom covers everything from cybersecurity, to social media and website builders when he's not reviewing the latest phones, gadgets, or occasionally even technology books.