Website Builder Review
Why Use a Website Builder?
The top performers in our review are Weebly, the Gold Award winner; Homestead, the Silver Award winner; and Squarespace, the Bronze Award winner. Here's more on choosing a service to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of the 10 best website builders.
Everyone seems to have a website or blog these days. The reason for that is that the site creation process has become simplified to the point that anyone with the basic knowledge of dragging a tool and dropping it onto a page can make a professional and modern looking site.
For this comparison, we focus on the basic approach to site builders. The services we ranked have pricing plans that are tailor-made for those who don't know HTML from RSS. Because these programs are so easy to use, there is no need to ever worry about coding in order to make a site run well. Fortunately, for the novice site designers who want every tool at their disposal, our top ranked services give you a veritable feature playground that allows your site to be completely customized.
Similar Services to Site Builders
Many business owners do not have the time to upkeep their websites but want the best possible representations of their companies to appear online. If this sounds like your situation, there are professional web design companies that manage everything regarding site creation, advertising and maintenance.
Many of these website building tools come with hosting. The benefit of purchasing a site building tool before you sign with a host is that you get the building software you want. Weebly may be available under a number of hosts, but the app is not available for every service. When you purchase a monthly web host, you have access to several site designers, but they usually focus on a proprietary builder or WordPress.
With the right plan, each of the services on our lineup provide responsive importing, allowing you to create a mobile site as you edit a desktop site. However, if you already own an established desktop site that doesn't convert to mobile, take a look at our comparison on mobile website builders. For more information about finding the right site creation application for you, check out our articles on website builders.
Website Builders: How We Tested, What We Found
Every one of these services strive to be accessible for new users. We took the services to task, as we purchased the middle plan for each one. These packages provided similar feature sets with a specific audience in mind, and they are also advertised as the most popular options. We took into account the price of purchase and compared that against the available features in order to find the value to the end user.
Throughout testing, we established a score to rank the tools that made each program easy for beginners. We made this score a priority, as no one wants to use website builder software that happens to have every tool imaginable but is difficult to use.
We rated our experience with each builder by examining its initial capabilities. WYSIWYG editors are essential for any novice. We also graded the site creation process based on the startup walkthrough. Sites that provided us with two options, either starting from scratch or using an existing theme, earned their places with a higher ease of use score. Eight out of the 10 services provided RSS feeds that were easy to set.
In terms of marketing usability, we evaluated how intuitive the meta tools were. Whether we created a business landing page or added an associating blog, we rated how easy it was to add meta keywords, tags and titles. We found the top seven to have meta tools that automatically showed up in search engine listings.
Finding the Best Builder for Your Website
In our comparisons, we divided the features and tools into four categories: design and multimedia, marketing features, hosting, and help and support. This allowed us to prioritize which features became important to us as we created sites as novices.
Template & Image Options
Only half of the top 10 products come with the option of a free image gallery. These stock images are available with a monthly subscription and are made to reflect your industry and brand. We found images related to retail stores, restaurants and auto shops, among countless others.
While you may only ever use one template during the entire existence of your site, it's important to have as many templates available as possible. No service had less than 100 templates, but a handful of these applications provided over that standard amount. Homestead, for example, provides a growing list that now exceeds 2,000.
Themes are essential at the beginning of site creation, but you should have the ability to change the look of your site as your brand changes. Site redesigns are not uncommon, but with many of these products, you cannot change your site’s appearance without erasing content. Jimdo is a great example of a site builder that allows you to change the look and feel of your site without affecting any of the images or text.
Hosting Your Site
Building a site may be the first thing you do, but all that hard work doesn’t mean a thing unless you give it online space. That reason is specifically why each of these services provides hosting as part of the monthly bundle. The hosting features range throughout the products. For example, seven of the 10 products only allow you to work on one site per account. Yola is the standout product in this case, allowing you to create and manage 25 sites under a single account. Also important are the number of pages you can make for your website, the number of associated email addresses, the inclusion of analytics tools and whether a domain name is included in the purchase price.
Hidden Additional Marketing Costs
Every service promises you the ability to market your site and distribute it through social networks and search engines. We looked past that promise to find out what is included in the monthly cost and what is only available if you pay an extra reoccurring cost. The eCommerce website builder tools are not always a given. Our top six products all boast about providing a proprietary shopping cart, yet only Weebly, Squarespace and Jimdo provide one for no additional cost.
Our Verdict and Recommendations on the Best Website Builders
Just because everyone seems to have a site doesn't mean there isn't room for yours. Picking the right service initially cuts the frustration of exporting to a better service later. For that reason, we recommend Weebly because it is so accessible. Our second place, Homestead, gives you an elaborate editor and a great image gallery to spend time in. In third place is Squarespace, and it can help you in the long run with its fantastic reporting structure. Each of these services provides a builder that can increase your brand awareness, gain new readership and increase monetization.