Whether you’re a small business owner, artist, photographer, writer or consultant, there’s a website builder out there for you.
The days of needing a professional coder to create a website for yourself or your business are long gone. Now, all you need is a website builder and some free time. There are a number of website builders that can help you create your own professional and user-friendly website. Services like Squarespace, Wix and Weebly can assist you in quickly and easily creating your own sleek, polished site that can help you take your business to the next level. You don’t have to stick to basics, since some website builders come with more advanced functions like email marketing or e-commerce capabilities. These are especially important features if you’re trying to grow a following or monetize your site.
Choosing the best website builder depends on your specific needs. There are many options, so it can be a lot of work to comb through all the free providers for a simple website and all of the e-commerce website builders if you want a more sophisticated business website. The complexity and growth of the website building industry means you have more choices than ever before and you can easily find the best website builder tailored to your wants and needs.
It’s true that a few favorites have emerged — and those are usually a good place to start — but even the front-runners aren’t ideally suited for every scenario. To make it simple for you, we’ve laid out all the information you need to make a good decision on the best website builder so that you can get to the fun part of designing your own professional website for yourself or your small business. Some factors we considered were whether the builder offers a solid customization option, e-commerce tools, marketing tools and an SEO tool. We also looked at the quality of the company’s customer support and e-commerce functionality.
Best website builders compared
|Free trial?||Starting price*|
|Best overall website builder (and best for free)||Wix||“unlimited” w/ ads||$16 a month|
|Best prepackaged design||Squarespace||14 days||$14 a month|
|Easiest to use||Weebly||“unlimited” w/ ads||$6 a month|
|Most customizable||Duda||30 days||$14 a month|
|Best no-frills option||GoDaddy||30 days||$12 a month|
|Best for writers and bloggers||WordPress||“unlimited” w/ ads||$15 a month|
|Best for basic e-commerce||Shopify||14 days||$29 a month|
|Best for bigger stores||BigCommerce||15 days||$30 a month|
*Starting price doesn’t include cheaper plans if they are ad-supported. Some vendors offer free domain hosting for the first year on some plans as well.
To compile this list, we researched the plans, prices and features of over 12 different website builders and scoured reviews from several sites (including PCMag, Wirecutter, SiteBuilderReport, WebsiteToolTester, WPBeginner and more) to see where there might be any consensus. We also surveyed the CNET staff and ultimately spent time building some test sites using the tools below (if we weren’t already members). We paid particular attention to the categories that not only differentiate one site from another, but that actually matter to business owners, artists and creators such as SEO features, creative cloud, mobile-friendly website builders, available plugins, live chat options, e-commerce feature, pricing plan and customer support.
If, by the end of the list, you’re still not sure which direction to go with your web builder, we’ve included a guide at the bottom, including key questions you should be asking yourself as you start your online venture. Finally, if you already have a basic website and just need a host or you’re interested in building a self-hosted WordPress site, check out our list of best web hosting services and our list of the best WordPress hosting services.
Wix is the clear front-runner in the race for website builder dominance. It’s the biggest player with over 110 million websites built. This popular website builder also boasts the greatest quantity of tools, capabilities, and freedom.
Like many competitors in this space, Wix offers a basic free website builder plan that lets website owners create a free website starter site with ads. If you like what you see with the free website builder, you can spend up for a premium, ad-free site. Pricing falls within industry standards with a $16-per-month “Combo” plan that covers most needs for a personal website. If you need an e-commerce website builder for your store, Wix offers a $59-per-month “Business VIP” e-commerce website plan for your online store. Those prices do not include a domain, so you’ll need to account for that separately. And if you’re interested in stats and analytics, you’ll either need to get a Google Analytics paid plan or another third-party tool, as Wix doesn’t have its own.
Despite being the clear favorite among most reviewers, Wix does have a few drawbacks. Wix was one of the few builders that has data limitations for each of its plan tiers, so if you want to upload endless photos and videos, or expect more than 5,000 visitors a month to your site, make sure you do the math before choosing a plan.
Also, the editor’s freedom and range of options can be overwhelming for folks who don’t have the time or inclination to make lots of little decisions and the web design flexibility means you’ll need to be more hands-on with the format and layout, as opposed to more structured or limited editors where you can’t draw too far outside the lines.
Squarespace strikes us as being the cool kid in high school — flashy and hip on the surface but lacking substance underneath. We found it to be in between Wix and Weebly in terms of ease of use, though it did get consistently positive marks from reviewers for the quality of the design options. Where we think it really might shine is for small- to medium-size businesses who want a nicely designed page and room for e-commerce growth with lower transaction fees.
The Squarespace editor isn’t as intuitive as Wix and Weebly, requiring a little bit of work until you get the hang of it. It has a fair amount of add-ons, website templates and tools, and the universal style editor and strong photo editing are helpful. The responsive website editor means that your site will always look good on a mobile device, but you won’t be able to make mobile-specific edits like with Wix or Duda. We also found consistent high marks for helpful and responsive customer support, which should put business owners’ minds at ease.
Squarespace starts off with a $16-a-month Personal plan, which includes unlimited storage, bandwidth and a domain, and offers an $23 Business website plan that includes unlimited contributors, a Gmail pro account, and e-commerce store builder capabilities. If you go for an “Online Store” plan, you can choose between $27 and $49 a month, the latter of which includes a few final touches like abandoned shopping cart recovery and gift cards. It’s important to note that the $27 online store plan, while maybe slightly above the market rate for an e-commerce site, comes with no transaction fees. So depending on your sales volume on a given month, those savings for our online store could really add up.
Overall, Squarespace’s website is a good analog for what you get with its products: clean, professional and inviting design, but without the layers of design power or freedom you get from other builders.
Weebly flies under the radar relative to Wix with 50 million websites created, but offers some excellent options depending on your needs. If you want a simple and easy-to-use do-it-yourself website editor, a large site (more than 25 to 30 pages), unlimited storage, site portability and affordable yet powerful online store capabilities, Weebly plays a good David to Wix’s Goliath.
The editor is one of the easiest website builder options to use and the low learning curve still nets great-looking sites. That ease of use means the editor is more limited in terms of add-ons and design flexibility and it doesn’t have the range of options or mobile customization that a builder like Wix has. Still, in our testing, we never came to a point where we found those constraints to be limiting. For a high-octane web designer, though, it could come up.
Weebly’s prices are similar to competitors like Wix or Squarespace, but its free plan option is one of the most generous among free website builders and for just $6 a month you can get up and running with your own domain name (albeit with Weebly ads). Its $12-per-month plan will give you an ad-free site with analytics and commerce capabilities, while the $26 plan gets you more store tools, like tax and shipping calculators, inventory management and discounts.
Weebly is a good option for those who may be more limited in terms of their time investment and its commerce options outshine competitors like Wix and Squarespace. For those who are wary of committing to a website builder knowing that you won’t be able to pick up and leave later on, Weebly also offers the ability to download site files so you can move to another host, a rarity in the site builder landscape.
Duda is a smaller player compared to the other builders above with around 15 million websites built and it focuses on a specific market segment: designers and design agencies. It caters to individuals and groups that make a lot of sites, but with a powerful and easy-to-use builder and a number of differentiated offerings, it’s emerged as a good option for anyone looking to develop an online presence.
Duda’s builder boasts a number of features that set it apart, including mobile site customization, detailed data analytics (e.g. advanced metrics like form submissions, time on page and bounce rate) and user personalization so you can easily display specific messages or offers to users based on the time of day, their location or their browsing history. It’s also known for its multilanguage support and a free e-commerce add-on that allows you to sell up to 10 products.
Duda’s pricing is fairly close to its main competitors, Wix and Weebly, starting at $14 per month for the Basic plan. At $22, you can add up to four editors for your site (instead of only one with Basic), access advanced analytics and begin using Duda as a white-label/custom-branded builder, another one of Duda’s selling points. Its “Agency” plan at $44 per month is geared toward web designers who are building pages for multiple clients and includes four websites and the ability to download site files for portability.
Duda is a little expensive, but it fills some of the voids that the main players have like analytics, multilingual capabilities, better personalization and mobile customization.
When most people talk about WordPress, they’re usually referring to the free open-source software available through WordPress.org. That’s very powerful, but it takes some time to learn and still requires that you find a website host and domain name. If you’re interested in going the advanced route of WordPress.org, we recommend you check out a tutorial or guide such as those you can find on WPBeginner or WebsiteToolTester to learn how it works.
The WordPress.com website builder is something else. It’s similar to the other builders listed above and is primarily geared toward bloggers and writers. The WordPress website editor is fairly limited compared to other services, but is easy to set up and has everything you need for blogging. We should also note that it’s not an intuitive drag-and-drop website builder like Wix or Weebly.
While there is a free option, it’s a pretty bare bones package offering only 0.5GB of storage and capping monthly visits at 10,000. For $14-per-month, the Pro plan bumps that up to 50GB of storage and 100,000 monthly visits. It also gives you access to a slew of helpful features including over 50,000 plug-ins like forms and calendars, premium themes, expert support and the ability to sell products with WooCommerce.
Overall, WordPress caters to bloggers who don’t want or need to spend a lot of time on website design, but it feels very limited for most other use cases. That said, anyone who’s looking for more robust off-the-shelf CMS (content management systems) options should consider Joomla and Drupal. Both are arguably less user-friendly than WordPress, but offer more customization options. At least one CNET editor also felt that Drupal and Joomla also offered faster page loading speeds.