You want a website, but you’re not a coder, an engineer, or a designer. Maybe you’re not even super technically proficient. You just want a website. You want it to look good and work well and not take forever to build. Luckily these days, a website builder or a template can get you a professional-looking website in minutes. Literally minutes.
There was a time when you could really tell the difference between the site a web designer would build and one a novice could create. But these days, the playing field is leveled. I’ve built lots of websites, and most of them I didn’t use a designer for — I used a template or a website builder. (And, yes, I still made money off of those sites.)
To find the best, I reviewed 31 website builders, testing them on their ease of use, the professionalism and quality of the final product, customer support, and pricing. I have 4 favorites I recommend.
I narrowed down 31 website builders to my 4 top picks:
- WordPress — No subscription fees
- Wix — Automates the tough choices
- Squarespace — Beautiful, modern templates
- Ucraft — Free one-page sites
If you’re looking for the easiest way to create a site, a website builder like Wix or Squarespace will certainly get you there. These are subscription services with drag-and-drop interfaces and we’ll explain the pros and cons of each of them in detail.
But you should also consider building your own website with WordPress. There’s no subscription fee and your site will be basically limitless. It’s not an all-in-one service, but it isn’t hard to sign up for the other pieces you’ll need (a domain name, hosting, and a theme). In this guide, I’ll walk you through this method too.
Methodology and criteria for my website builder reviews
Ease of use. There should be no technical proficiency required and no need for a designer or other outside help. We asked ourselves, How easy it is to get started? And, how long does it take to build a nice looking site?
A professional high-quality final product. A professional, well-designed website that reflects your business. We asked, What do the templates look like? How customizable are those templates? Can I add an ecommerce option to sell things on my site? Can I add a menu? A form? A map? Reservations?
Customer support. We wanted to know that it’d be there if you needed it, but we also expect everything to be intuitive enough that you don’t feel like you can’t go it alone.
Pricing. Pretty simple, but we didn’t just ask how much does it cost? We also asked, Which tier should a person start on and when will they need to upgrade? If it’s free, what’s the trade-off? Does it come with a free domain? Does it come with email addresses? Any other extras to be on the lookout for?
The 31 top website builders compared
- Best for content management
- Free open-source software forever
- You’ll need to buy a domain name (~$10 per year) and web hosting (~$8 per month)
I love WordPress. (We run Quick Sprout on WordPress.) And I’d recommend anyone starting a website really consider starting it with WordPress, especially if you’re running a content site. Why’s that?
WordPress runs a third of the internet and it has the best content management system — all available for free. Some huge names you’ll recognize run their sites on WordPress.
If you run WordPress you’ll be in fine company, including Vogue, Lucky Peach, and Beyonce’s own website.
Because WordPress is so popular there’s a huge community of developers and designers creating themes and plugins for you to use.
Unlike other website builders, WordPress isn’t a one-stop shop. You’ll also need:
- A domain name – This is your website’s address. Ours is QuickSprout.com — you’ll need to buy yours. We recommend going to Namecheap. Domains are typically around $10–15 and Namecheap includes the only add-on you need for free: privacy protection.
- Hosting – This is where your website’s files will be stored, which allows a user to access your site. I recommend starting with a shared plan (the lowest tier) with either SiteGround, of if you don’t mind paying a premium, to go with WP Engine, which is optimized for WordPress. You can read more in our review of the Best Web Hosting Service. This will cost you about $8 a month, but there’s usually promotional pricing for half-off the first contract.
- A theme – A WordPress theme controls the look of your website and how all of the information in it works, so a theme is one part design and one part feature set. Every WordPress site comes with a basic theme, and there are thousands of free and paid themes you can select from in the WordPress themes directory. I like to use the $30 themes at Themeforest. If you go with WP Engine, your plan includes 35 or more themes already, which does a bit to defray the steeper price point.
Once you’ve gotten your domain name and your web host, you’ll be able to install WordPress within a few clicks and get your login credentials. They don’t call it WordPress.org’s “famous 5-minute installation” for nothing.
Log in and you’ll see that your site is pre-loaded with a starter theme. Using as different one? Simply install it. From here, you’re set to adjust your site’s settings, menus, and page structure, and start writing blog posts. WordPress is hands down the winner when it comes to running a content-driven site.
If you need help at any point, there are tons (literally tons) of guides on the internet. I recommend starting with WordPress’s support page, which will answer questions like Where to start, Writing posts, and Using themes.
- Automates the tough choices
- Paid plans start at $11 per month billed annually
- Free trial period: 14 days
It’s easy to choose Wix as one of the best website builders. It truly takes on the name. Wix’s artificial intelligence asks you a few questions and literally builds your website before your eyes — unique color palette, features, and design all in one. It’s one of the best tools I’ve seen to get a site that matches your vision, even if you don’t know yet how you’d articulate that vision. Honestly, building a site with Wix’s AI felt a little like getting my mind read.
Wix has been at the forefront of this revolution, and is looking to closely combine AI and website building.
Wix does have a free tier, but I don’t recommend it. It has some of the most in-your-face “this was not paid for” company branding I’ve seen — an instant trust breaker. Wix free sites also have one of the most cumbersome domain structures: yourusername.wix.com/sitename so we’d be QuickSproutEditorial.wix.com/QuickSprout. Connecting your actual domain also allows you to attach a Google Analytics profile and add email accounts if you’d like ($5 per account per month, or about half that with an annual plan). Unfortunately, none of this pricing is very upfront. Wix wants you to connect your domain before you see the email pricing, for example. I found answers to pricing questions in the support center, not the user flow.
To start creating a Wix website, just click create site. You’ll be asked a question: What kind of website do you want to create? From there, the AI will help you build your website. (You can opt-out and go it alone at this point, too, but we appreciated the AI’s help.)
One of the first screens you’ll see when you build a website with Wix.
When I tested Wix, I loved how easy it was to find a template that matched our vision. The AI stayed with me as I edited the page. A little pink square in the bottom that looked like a chat pop-up helped me pick the next thing to edit and showed me how to do it.
The Wix AI matched my new site to my business’ existing online presence, used my logo to create a color palette for my site, which it pulled right from Instagram, and gave me a template pre-populated with that logo and our street address. Connecting images from existing social media accounts made it easy to pull in all the assets we already owned.
I was using a local yoga studio as an example and the site looked really close to the site the yoga studio actually has. It’s kind of a fun thing to try — pick a business you already know and see how close Wix’s AI comes to replicating it. What’s even juicier, is I bet they paid a web designer a bit of coin for their design, and I did mine for free with an AI assistant.
>As AI progresses, it will be harder and harder to know which site was built via AI and which was built via a designer. You can think of it like passing a “design turing test”, i.e. in the future humans will not be able to differential between the two. Then, it’ll have to get innovative. Instead of mimicking what it is learning from what’s created, it will get better and more experimental. It’s easy to see how soon most websites that are created use AI in some way.
—Wix VP & GM of Consumer Experience Nitzan Achsaf told TechRadar
There’s a lot of variety between the Wix themes, and the personality of each theme matches its name well. The Business Advisor had a spot-on graphic of an analytics dashboard, while Astrologer features an astral hero image.
Some of Wix’s business-centric themes.
Editing your desktop site with Wix does require some patience. To change the text on a text box, you’ll need to hover precisely in the right spot. I did some deep breathing and was able to find enough inner zen to make all the changes I wanted. The mobile editor has the serene helpful feel I wish the rest of the editor maintained. It’s super easy to click through the options for how your menu, quick actions, and scroll options work on your mobile page. What you change in the mobile editor doesn’t affect anything that happens on the desktop.
Wix’s editor requires patience — and some clicking around.
I prefer the easier-to-use mobile editor.
Take note: all of Wix’s plans are automatically set to auto-renew. Sticker shock is real, especially if you signed up with an introductory promo pricing (at the time of publish, premium plans were a full 50% off, for example). There are many frustrated customers on TrustPilot who’re unhappy with this. It is possible to turn off your auto-renew, but you’ll need to do it more than 14 days before your plan’s anniversary — and if you do it during your 14-day free trial, your trial will be cancelled immediately.
As for which paid plan to pick, you have 7 options: 4 “regular” and 3 “ecommerce.” The difference really boils down to whether you’ll be accepting payments on your site or not. If you’re not sure about how much bandwidth you need, you can always start with a smaller subscription: if you go over the limit, you’ll get a notice from Wix (with no penalty) and can use that as your signal to upgrade.
- Stellar templates
- Plans start at $12 per month billed annually ($16 month to month)
- Free trial period: 14 days (plus a 7-day extension)
“Build something beautiful” is right. There’s no doubt that Squarespace wins the design and beauty contest here. The user interface has a bit of a learning curve and there’s not much of a Squarespace community to help you out, but the page you’ll end up publishing will be phenomenally good-looking.
Squarespace’s templates are all modern and beautiful.
Building a website with Squarespace can feel a little like building IKEA furniture: in the showroom it’s all so beautiful and simple, but somehow it feels a little more complicated to put together than promised. It can be hard to understand where exactly you are in the Squarespace editor. I kept getting notifications that I was editing demo content, or that I’d see the social logos once we connected our social media, or that we could unlock this or that feature with a paid subscription, but Squarespace didn’t go the extra step to make it easy to make that required move. It was a lot of fumbling through a beautiful interface, not exactly sure what changes were real, or where to head next. I also had some issues saving changes — an error message popped up and we had to move on, without our changes.
Editing a site in Squarespace has a bit of a learning curve.
Unlike IKEA, Squarespace is pricier than other website builders. That being said, I love the way sites built with Squarespace look, and think it’s one of the simplest ways to create a beautiful, contemporary site.
- Free one-page sites
- Paid plans start at $10 per month billed annually
- Free trial period: 14 days
If you need something super simple, you may be happy with the free Landing Page option from Ucraft: you can create a single, mobile-ready page and connect your domain for free. The free version doesn’t get rid of the Ucraft branding but it’s minimal and not invasive. The template has all the features I’ve identified in my anatomy of a high-converting landing page.
You can drop the branding and sell up to 50 products by upgrading to a $10 per month Pro Website plan, and sell up to 1,000 products on the $21 per month Pro Website plan. (Ucraft recently dropped its $6 per month Basic plan, and lowered the price of the Pro Website Plan from $14 to $10 per month.) If you have more items to sell, upgrade again, but note that once you upgrade, you can’t drop back down to a less expensive plan.
Ucraft’s themes are elegant and streamlined. It’s one-page free sites are designed to be a long scroll with anchored sections.
Build a Ucraft site using drag-and-drop blocks and elements.
- No longer in service
- Last updated March 2018
As of March 2018, Adobe has stopped releasing updates to its website builder software, Adobe Muse, acknowledging that simpler site builders like Wix and Squarespace have taken over: “For simpler websites, we’ve seen the emergence of Do-It-Yourself (DIY) website creators that use customizable templates to quickly create responsive websites that can be easily modified by the designer or a client.” — End of service for Adobe Muse
- Honorable mention
- Great for artist portfolios
Cargo Collective has amazing templates and designs perfect for artists and art galleries, but definitely not for everyone. If you’re after templates designed for displaying images and image galleries, definitely take a look.
- Super fast set-up
- Very limited customization
True to its slogan, Cindr is very fast to use: add in new “blocs” and move them, but want to do much customization (say, if your team doesn’t have exactly 2, 3, 4 or 6 people on it…) and you’ll quickly get frustrated. I certainly was.
- Web design reseller
- Dealbreaker issues on homepage
There were too many deal-breaker annoyances on the Duda homepage — broken links, unclear organization, scroll bars on pages that don’t scroll, and typos — for me to recommend building your site with them. And it’s just as well, as Duda’s primary focus is on white-labeling and reselling web designs, not on creating and building your own site.
- Frustrating customer service
- Only 8 templates
I’ve never loved the customer support from GoDaddy and GoCentral is no exception. There are only 8 templates, and you can only make extremely limited font and color changes on them. No moving or resizing. The GoDaddy forums are full of frustration and confusion. Case in point: GoDaddy updated live templates so their headers no longer looked the same. Support recommended changing themes if you didn’t like the new header. What a nightmare.
- Dated templates
- Not recommended
The Homestead website itself looks like its from a different era. And the 27 featured templates from its collection of hundreds! have that same late-90s look.
- Glitchy editor
- AI assistant prepolates site from social
I really like using an AI questionnaire to launch a new website, and I adore the ease of pre-populating the images from our Google Places, Facebook, and Instagram feeds. But, the Jimdo editor is glitchy (images would appear as blank boxes, then reappear) and the design customizations were super limited. (Is it impossible to have a full width image header without a color filter? Seems so.) Wix makes all the same promises, and delivers.
- No templates
- Amateur-looking results
I really wanted to love this Moonfruit. It’s clean, it’s modern, it’s easy to flip into mobile view as you edit, it has a helpful dashboard that lets you know how much of your 500 free MB storage you’ve used. And maybe it’s worth considering. But I found that the template-free starting point left me floundering, not empowered. A lot of haphazard clicking resulted in a website that looked more amateur than any other I’d built.
- Very basic templates
- Prioritizes published over perfect
- Surprise favorite
I am so surprised to admit I like Onepager. The templates look dated and the product tour video hasn’t been updated in six years. Not a great sign of life… but Onepager is so dead simple and easy to set up that we were able to publish a workable website for a local pizza shop in minutes. Sure, every webpage builder claims you can get started that fast, but with so many options, templates, and features, I’ve found that I’m distracted and deep in the weeds of perfecting my site, not publishing it. That wasn’t the case with Onepager. For a small business that just wants to stake out its territory online — as opposed to, say, build an online empire — I think Onepager fits the bill.
- Not recommended
- Empty marketing promises
I was intrigued by the marketing lingo Simvoly opens with: funnels, analytics, A/B testing. Oh my! But, this platform shows lots of sloppiness that keeps it out of any competition for the best: typos in the animations on the Simvoly homepage are just the beginning. The builder doesn’t have an undo/redo function, or any way to save a draft page without publishing it. Simvoly knows the right buzzwords but doesn’t back it up with its product.
- Limited customizations
- AI builder asks only one question
I wanted to like the AI assistance for building my theme, but didn’t. I answered one question about our site (I’m a DJ, or a Diner) and got sent to a pre-built page to customize. There’s no sense of adding your own personal style or browsing through templates to pick the site structure you’d like. Want to change templates? You’ll need to go back and answer that one question differently. To get a design I liked, I had to cheat the quiz. That’s the opposite of AI.
- No free trial period
- Cost doubles after promo pricing
You have to sign up with SiteBuilder before you can even browse the templates. That’s a dealbreaker for me, but they also have no free plan and once the promotional pricing wears off, your cost will double.
- Not much to love here
- Overcharges for free PayPal plugin
SiteZulu has only 31 themes, the mobile version of our test site was buggy, and its ecommerce “upgrade” is the PayPal embed button that you can get for free. No thank you.
- Overly expensive
- Subsidiary of Subsplash
SnapPages is one of the most expensive website builders on the market. For the price, it doesn’t offer anything you can’t get elsewhere. Recently acquired by Subsplash, we expect SnapPages to focus on selling its services as part of the Subsplash service packages aimed at churches and nonprofits.
- A one-page website builder
- Not as good as Ucraft
Strikingly is a Y-Combinator-backed one-page web builder — and like most one-pagers it shouldn’t be compared to a full-fledged website builder like Wix, Weebly, or Squarespace. It’s in the simplicity of getting something launched where single-page builders work best. Strikingly just isn’t as good as Ucraft, which lets you connect your own domain for free and has a more beautiful and user-friendly interface, or Onepager, which is so dead simple you can literally publish a complete (albeit super simple) site in minutes.
- Requires sign up to view templates
- Very limited editing freedom
uCoz has a clean and modern interface, that is intuitive and easy to use (though noticeably slow to load). I didn’t love that I needed to sign up for uCoz uKit to see the templates, that most of the templates are very similar, and you’re extremely limited in editing the templates. Once you’re in a template you can’t change things like text styling and can only choose from one of three colors. This keeps you from making bad design choices, but also makes picking a template a much more important choice.
- Skip it
- Not WYSIWYG
Virb, the MySpace competitor that pivoted to become a website builder in 2010 has just one $10 plan. Yes it’s simple, but there’s no way to preview the editing tool, and honestly we couldn’t even figure out how to sign up. I clicked log in (but was told I didn’t already have an account…). Let me know if you can figure it out. By watching the Virb tutorial videos on its Vimeo account, which were uploaded six years ago, I got a sense that the tool hasn’t been updated recently, and here’s the deal breaker of deal breakers: it’s not WYSIWYG. To add social buttons, you’ll need to go to a menu, click add widget, and who knows where they’ll show up on the page. We live in a world with the ease of drag-and-drop editors and I personally can’t go back.
- Limited website design options
- Specializes in business card printing
Vistaprint does offer some limited templates you can build yourself under its “Digital Marketing” offerings, but it’s still a business-card first business. In fact, one of the major selling points it offers is just that: your website can match your business card.
- Big localization claims
- But the Voog website is slow and doesn’t recognize user geography
Voog advertises that it’s the simplest multi-lingual site builder, that is you can build your site in one language and then add all of the copy in up to 10 other languages. Your user will choose the appropriate language with the little flag logo in the corner (you can also pre-select language based on user location). But, this is a feature Wix, Squarespace, and others also offer. I think it’s better to go with one of those bigger names for a few reasons: Voog’s site itself loads very slowly with noticeable lag on pages with more than one image, and its own pricing page doesn’t automatically notice the country you’re in. When your big claim is matching content to the user country, this is a big miss.
- Steer clear
- Unfavorable billing practices
Before you even get to browse the templates on Web.com, you’re signing up for introductory pricing that’s $1.95 for the first four weeks, then bumps up to the “current rate” which is $22.95 a month right now, with no promise that it won’t be more later. And the fine print asserts there are 4 weeks in a month, so there are 13 “monthly” billing cycles in a year. It’s a hard no from me.
- Extremely simply
- Surprisingly high price point
Webnode is a simple (almost too simple) designer with a super high price point. For no ads, you’ll pay $11.95 a month on the required annual plan. At that price, you can do far better.
- Acquired by VistaPrint in 2011
- Not updated recently
Built by three brothers and then acquired by VistaPrint in 2011 for $117.5M in cash and stock, Webs looks like it hasn’t been touched since. The editor is slow, and the templates are dated — the default “line” has the scrollwork of a fancy wrought-iron fence, for example — and the templates, which are arranged in an awkward horizontal scroll, don’t respond to the system’s filter so premium and free templates are intermingled. Can’t recommend.
- A strong no
- Chat support doesn’t function, among other issues
The list of issues with Websitebuilder.com is long: uninspiring templates, buggy interface, a support chat portal that doesn’t work (and actually suggests unplugging your router to solve the problem), and terrible customer reviews that call out inaccurate billing and incorrect charges. I don’t doubt it: the terms of service say in order to unsubscribe from auto-renewals, you’ll need to turn to phone or chat, not simply update your account settings.
- Lots of freedom
- To make really bad design choices
There’s so much freedom with Webstarts: you can literally move anything you want anywhere on the page. The problem with this is that it’s easy to move something on the desktop editor in such a way that it won’t show up on mobile. For a website builder, it’s freedom to a fault. I like to see software stop me from making bad decisions I don’t even know I’m making, without any fuss. Mobile-optimization doesn’t click in until the Pro Plus level, which is $14.32 a month, billed annually (~$172).
- No undo feature
- Owned by Square
In Q2 2018, Weebly was acquired by Square and has been increasingly geared towards entrepreneurs and online store owners (really gunning for online shops like Shopify). At least in its marketing, that is. When I checked out the one-star reviews on TrustPilot, I knew I couldn’t recommend Weebly. Another dealbreaker? There’s no undo button. Once you exit a module in the editor all of the changes you made are permanent. Delete a module, and want to undo it? Sorry, you’re simply out of luck.
- Fully hosted WordPress
- I recommend using WordPress.org
I love WordPress and run this site on WordPress.org. If you’re up to using WordPress, I recommend using the .org version. You won’t pay the monthly subscription you’d pay with WordPress.com and you get all the same features — you’ll just need to do the hands-on work. Read more about the difference between self-hosted WordPress.org and fully hosted WordPress.com on the WordPress.com blog.
- Not worth the price
- Extra charges for things most builders offer for free
Yola is expensive and wants to upsell left and right. You’ll need Silver ($119 annually or $14.99 monthly) to ditch the Yola branding, and they’d like you to get Mobile Plus (an extra charge to make your business phone number and address show up on the bottom of mobile pages — this is free with Wix) and the $10/month ecommerce upgrade is simply a free Ecwid plugin Yola would love to charge for. The editor is a bit buggy, you can’t add a blog (Yola suggests embedding a Tumblr page…) and I don’t think the high price point and upselling are worth it for the mediocre product.
Recap: The best website builders in 2019
I like WordPress for its ability to run just about any site you can think up. It’s also the best content platform out there. If you have a content site, I recommend building it with WordPress — with a template, it’s not drag-and-drop but it’s already pre-built.
Need a little less? I was surprised by one-page standouts Ucraft and, even though it’s not in my top pick top picks, I really loved how fast I could publish a “good enough” site with Onepager. Of the 31 website builder services I reviewed, I like these the best.