Create a Website - Comparing 8 Site Builders
Still unsure if you or your business really needs a website? We're not going to mince any words: You do. For anyone who wants themselves or their business to be found, a net presence is absolutely essential, since this is where the majority of humanity spends their time these days. In the past, strong arguments could be made against creating a website: It was, variously, too expensive, too difficult, and required too much time to be done properly. With the advent of so-called website builders, none of these arguments hold any water as site creation has transitioned from a specialized craft requiring detailed knowledge of programming into a process that is accessible to nearly anyone capable of using a keyboard and mouse.
A website builder is a web-based program that allows users to create a website without any prior knowledge of programming or coding. Through a combination of ready-made templates and a straight-forward, visually-oriented interface (typically drag and drop) pretty much anyone can design a professional-looking site in a relatively short period of time. From simple blogs to extensive online shops, the sky is truly the limit.
Each website builder differs somewhat, however, a handful of features are common to all:
- Templates and Designs
Should you want to create a site using a website builder, you don't need to start from the ground up. Ready-made templates endow your site with a uniform appearance and allow you to focus all of your energy on filling your pages with unique content.
Site builders transform complex coding processes into visible output which can be modified through their editors. Most integrate the dragging and dropping of ready-made website elements.
- Blogging Features
Blogs are one of the most popular and successful types of websites. Any builder worth its salt should include specialized features that facilitate the creation of such sites.
Online shops can also be easily created using a website builder. The best site builders will offer inventory control, plenty of options for personalization, and the ability to configure a number of settings, including taxes, shipping costs, and payment. E-commerce capabilities are one key area in which website builders set themselves apart from one another.
- Image Galleries & Editing
Websites are the visible extensions of businesses and individuals. As a result, the inclusion of stock image galleries and intuitive image editing are important features to watch for.
- Analytics & Statistics
In order to understand how your website operates as well as what works (and what doesn't), a website builder should make certain analytical tools available (or at least, allow for the easy integration of external software that does this).
- App Market/Center
Whatever their promotional materials may claim, no website builder includes all features for all users. For that reason, many providers enable access to app markets, where additional extensions and third-party add-ons can be sought out and installed either for free or at cost.
- Mobile Apps
Many website builders provide mobile companion apps, allowing users to make adjustments or perform certain functions while on the go.
Even though all website builders basically follow the same goal and seek to provide their users with the features they desire, there are significant differences between them, which we'll highlight in the next section.
From the quality of the ready-made designs to the variety of features on offer: Each website builder is a little bit different, with some more welcoming to beginners than others. In order to make selecting the right site builder as easy as possible, we examined eight providers, evaluating them from head to toe, specifically in the areas of "Configuration and Usability", "Features", "Templates & Design", "Marketing, SEO, & E-Commerce", "Customer Support", and "Pricing". Below, we're going to introduce you to our favorites.
Wix unifies quality and quantity in an unrivaled website builder. The Israeli service is designed for both beginners, as well as those with some knowledge of site design or programming in mind, epitomized by its two editors that users can switch back and forth between at will. In the standard editor, you can build your site by dragging and dropping items, whereas, in the simplified ADI editor, you're limited to the modification of specific sections, which you can arrange as you wish.
Wix's standard editor offers a freer hand in designing than its ADI editor
Both editors contain ready-made blocks and elements, with which you can easily personalize your site. The service also stands out owing to its absolutely packed app market, where you can find pretty much any extension you might need.
During testing, Wix's ADI editor demonstrated some significant performance issues, and its blog features aren't nearly so developed as one would hope. Even taking these missteps into account, Wix still outperformed the other services we examined.
Numerous design templates
Highly convenient drag and drop interface
Loaded app market
Weebly impressed us thanks to its versatile e-commerce tools, such as the ability to create a catalog of products, and its high degree of user-friendliness, even among the already hospitable site builder market segment. Through its particularly intuitive drag and drop system, which allows users to freely move content blocks, the service is easy to get a hang of. We particularly enjoyed Weebly's mobile app, which provides you with a user-friendly browser editor on your smartphone, making it possible to tinker with your site while on the go. Weebly's app center is less remarkable than that of Wix, but it still includes a number of useful extensions.
Weebly's unlimited drag and drop feature provides users with considerable freedom in designing their sites
We were less thrilled with Weebly's selection of templates, which in comparison to those offered by other providers, is rather disappointing. Similarly to Wix, Weebly should also think about beefing up its support for blogs, since options like designating featured articles or setting different authors for posts are not included.
In sum, Weebly is well-designed for creating elaborate online shops, and thanks to its user-friendliness, highly accessible for any kind of user, particularly beginners.
Simple and intuitive drag and drop interface
Unbeatable mobile app for site building on the go
App center for third-party extensions
Offers a strong solution for building e-commerce sites
While the markings of a Squarespace site are unmistakable, the jury is still out as to whether these designs are minimalistic and elegant, or sterile and generic. One thing is certain though: Squarespace sites look professional. This is thanks in large part to the service's smart editor, which somewhat reduces the user's degree of control (at least in comparison to drag and drop editors) while significantly boosting the design harmony of any sites they create.
Squarespace designs have become iconic
The end-products are sleek pages that are optimized for all devices, which look just a little bit too similar for our tastes. Another cost of this harmony is third-party software, since Squarespace doesn't have an app center or market. Similarly, in terms of price, the New York-based service is slightly more expensive than the group average.
For anyone who likes Squarespace's 'look', there's good news, namely, that you won't have to work hard to impart it to your site. This guarantee of elegance (or being one of the herd - take your pick) is what makes the service one of the most popular on the market today.
Visually-appealing, high-quality templates
Easy to use
Good customer support
Offers a variety of mobile apps
Webflow is the first website builder we examined that doesn't cater specifically to beginners. Even though programming knowledge isn't explicitly required, the service relies heavily on coding logic, which is visualized in a user-friendly manner. Put plainly: You'll need to understand (or be willing to learn) how website elements are structured in programming to harness the full potential of Webflow.
Webflow's builder is based on the "box model", which should be familiar to any programmer. For those that aren't, every element is placed within a box, and in Webflow, these boxes can be dragged and dropped within a Photoshop-esque user interface. Beginners will need to first come to terms with this manner of doing things before they can make full use of the service, something that Webflow's counterparts don't require, but the results are, arguably, worth it.
Webflow has a much steeper learning, however, this can yield significant benefits
Webflow operates similarly to other website builders but might overwhelm users lacking any background knowledge in programming or just starting out with site building. The service is an excellent tool for its target group, thanks to its intuitive visualization of website creation, which doubles as a high-quality content management system (CMS). Similarly, those who want to dive into programming can also make their first forays into this with Webflow, since it makes a great tool for visually learning HTML and CSS.
However, if you're a beginner without coding skills and looking for a simple website builder, Webflow is probably not the right service for you.
CMS/Website builder hybrid
Offers nearly endless design possibilities
Excellent "Webflow University" learning platform
Easy e-commerce integration
1&1 IONOS MyWebsite
Similarly to Webflow, we wouldn't recommend MyWebsite from 1&1 IONOS to beginners. When opening its high-powered editor, you'll likely be overwhelmed with settings and pop-up notifications. In addition, the service also has a far steeper learning curve than Wix, Squarespace, and the others, however, this does pay dividends, as MyWebsite rewards you with a free hand in terms of design, as well as lots of content and element options.
1&1 IONOS offers more than 400 sleek and elegant templates, however, most of these can't really compete with those of other providers. Nevertheless, the service does provide so many possibilities for personalization, that your ability to create unique and striking websites is limited only by your imagination.
Lots of features
Powerful editor with a variety of options for customization
Personalized guidelines for client-specific marketing
Large variety of templates to choose from
With Jimdo we return to the beginner-friendly website builders. The Hamburg-based service comes quite near to achieving a perfect balance between simplicity and versatility. Images and other elements can be freely arranged in the editor, with changes to your website made in real-time. The service's Dolphin editor, which is supported by AI, makes creating a website even easier. Although your design options are greatly limited when making use of it, Dolphin actually creates an entire website for you based on answers to just a few questions. Once complete, you can make small adjustments to the site that it has created for you, and of course, add your content.
Jimdo doesn't provide as many design templates as we hoped for, and its support kept us waiting for a long time, however, in sum, the service is a good choice for anyone looking for a simple way to create professional-looking sites.
Easy to use
Versatile editor based around the "what you see is what you get" (WYSIWYG) principle
Secure thanks to SSL encryption across all pages
Third-party apps can be integrated
Determining which website builder is the best for you depends on a number of factors. If you're looking for a beginner-friendly program, we recommend Wix, Weebly, Squarespace, or Jimdo. In terms of price, there are differences between each provider and their subscription options, however, Wix and Weebly offer the lowest rates for those starting out. 1&1 IONOS provides more design freedom than Squarespace, whereby the latter has a definite advantage in terms of templates.
In sum, each website builder has advantages and disadvantages, offering various design elements and appealing to different types of users. We've made finding the right service for you based on your needs easy thanks to our comprehensive reviews of eight website builders, including detailed descriptions of their editors.
Create a Website: Website Builders vs. Other Methods
Should you want to create a website, site builders offer only one of several methods for doing so. The popularity of this approach is relatively easy to explain.
Example of the editor's interface in a website builder (Wix)
The greatest advantage enjoyed by intuitive website builders is definitely their simplicity and convenience. However, even though site builders are mostly designed for beginners, don't let that fool you: many experienced designers also prefer to use these services since they offer all-in-one packages which include designing, hosting, and even domains. Most website builders also allow those with enough programming know-how to work directly with the site's source code, enabling them to enjoy the best of both worlds.
In contrast to other methods, when using a website builder, you're only ever a few steps away from launching a finished website:
Select a type of website
Generally speaking, when creating a website, you should start by determining what kind of website you want to make (i.e. a blog, an online shop, a portfolio, a business page, etc.).
Choose and personalize a design
Using ready-made designs, you can browse through the templates available for your site. Once you've selected a template, you can customize it in the editor, adding text and media, as well as toggling various settings.
Manual or automatic
As an alternative, most providers offer users the choice between standard and simplified editors. For example, if you're using Wix, you can toggle between its standard and ADI editors, the latter of which creates a site for you after answering just a few multiple-choice questions.
Choose your site's address
Once you've finished designing your site and filling it with content, all that's left to do is select a web address. From then on, your site will be online.
Website builders are definitely the easiest way to create a site, however, like everything in life, they have both advantages and disadvantages.
Advantages of Website Builders
Very easy to use
Created with beginners lacking any knowledge of programming or design in mind (mostly)
Offer a good selection of ready-made designs
Have low maintenance requirements
Provide technical support for problems or issues
Disadvantages of Website Builders
Depending on the service, may have limited functionality
Often inadequate for complex projects
Somewhat more expensive than self-hosting
What are the alternatives? Should you not want to put the creation of your site in the hands of someone else (which can be rather expensive) there are only two real alternatives to website builders: Either you opt for a more complex CMS or program the website on your own.
Alternative: Create a Website Using WordPress
A CMS like WordPress serves as a compromise between site builders and self-programming. In actuality, site builders are nothing more than highly-simplified CMSs. Shifts have occurred in the opposite direction too, with WordPress launching its own hosting service, subscriptions to which include access to its CMS as well as hosting, domains, and sometimes maintenance and support. In this manner, creating pages using WordPress has become easier and easier.
Here, we've used WordPress as a proxy for all CMSs, but we should also mention a few of these, like Joomla, TYPO3, or Kirby, each of which is a solid alternative. However, as the market leader, WordPress is undoubtedly the most-used system, with an estimated 30% of all websites in existence being based on it. The reason for this is simple: Through WordPress, a variety of projects can be realized, ranging from simple blogs (for which WordPress was originally conceptualized) to full online shops, to complex web applications that offer a range of features.
Depending on your level of dedication and the plugins you select, can be very inexpensive
Allow for complex projects to be realized
Far more complicated than site builders
Some background knowledge of programming and design is required
High maintenance and security vulnerabilities
Alternative: Self-Program a Website
If you want to self-program your website, you won't only need detailed knowledge of HTML, CSS, and other programming languages, but also have to see to everything else that website builders provide in their service packages, from designing a logo and background to organizing site hosting. To program a complex website yourself, you'll need several years of programming experience, as well as some skill, talent, and a large amount of patience.
Alternatively, you could let professionals handle this. However, good programmers, designers, and agencies don't come cheap, with even relatively simple projects quickly costing thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars.
At the same time, should a website be built from the ground up, the only limitations to design, structure, or functionality are those of the programmer's imagination.
Maximum flexibility and individuality
No limits to project complexity
Knowledge of programming is necessary
If using an external agency or developer - extremely expensive
Difficult to gauge the amount of effort needed at the outset
Taking the alternatives into consideration, website builders provide the easiest means to create a website both for regular users, as well as those who like to keep things as simple and convenient as possible. These services don't require prior knowledge or experience in programming, typically include everything that a website needs to remain viable (hosting, domain, email, etc.), allow users to create a variety of different kinds of sites, and enable a high degree of personalization. In addition, they aren't strictly designed for beginners, but also make it easier for those with coding experience to visualize their work and designs.
However, not all site builders are created equal, and some providers offer services better-suited for certain projects than others. Our comprehensive review series will help you decide which of these services best meets your requirements.
EXPERTE.com wishes you happy building!
How can I create a website?
Generally speaking, there are four ways to create a website: You can program it yourself, pay professionals to program it for you, use a CMS like WordPress, or (most easily) utilize a website builder. Particularly for beginners, we recommend using the last method, since site builders allow you to create professional websites without any prior knowledge of coding or programming. As an additional benefit, they provide everything needed to get your site up and running, including hosting and a domain.
What is a website builder?
A website builder is an online tool that those lacking in programming knowledge can use to create a website. These function by visualizing complex coding processes in an intuitive user interface. Ready-made templates can be modified to meet individual needs, and content can be arranged by dragging and dropping it.
How much does a website cost?
If you create a website with a website builder, you'll pay a monthly subscription fee (sometimes, this is calculated annually, usually for a lower price). Depending on the provider, subscription, and additional features, this can range from $5 to $30 per month. Importantly, commercial sites, or those which have online shops, are usually twice, or even several times more expensive to host than non-commercial sites.
How can I create a free website?
Website builders also offer free, ad-financed packages that include subdomains. While useful when starting out, these appear less professional owing to their URL addresses or banner ads, both of which distract attention away from your content or product. Acquiring unique domains always comes at an extra cost.