9 Top Website Builders in 2021: Affordable and Free Website Builders Reviewed and Ranked

As the internet has grown, so have the options for building a website. No longer do you have to be a developer to build an amazing website. Still, knowing where to find the best website builders on the market is no easy task. There’s no “one-size-fits-all” solution when it comes to creating, designing, and publishing a website. 

Luckily, we’ve done all the hard work for you and researched the top website makers available. If you want to build your own website but aren’t sure which option is right for you, our top picks are a great place to start. 

Best Website Creators: First Look

  1. Best 100% free website builder – Weebly
  2. Best website builder overall – Wix
  3. Best website builder for artists – Squarespace
  4. Best website creator for professional websites – Duda
  5. Best free website builder and hosting site – GoDaddy
  6. Best open source drag and drop website builder – WordPress
  7. Best ecommerce site builder – Shopify
  8. Best website builder for designers – Webflow
  9. Best simple website builder – Carrd

1. Weebly – Best Free Website Builder for Beginners

Pros

  • Simple, powerful drag and drop tool
  • Custom fonts
  • Advanced page animation effects
  • Video backgrounds
  • Image editor

Cons

  • Customer service is unresponsive

Weebly’s claim to fame is their advanced feature set that allows you to incorporate responsive animation effects on your site with their standard builder. They also offer powerful tools to make your site really pop and stand out from the competition.

Like most of the entries in this list, Weebly allows for custom HTML, CSS, and Javascript to be embedded into your pages.

Weebly’s negative reviews are almost unanimous about how unresponsive customer support can be. Positive experiences are mostly centered around how easy the builder is to use and how beautiful the multimedia effects are.

2. Wix – Best Website Builder Overall

Pros

  • Over 500 designer-made templates
  • Drag-and-drop editor
  • Mobile friendly
  • Great pricing

Cons

  • Lacks some high-end design features
  • No phone support

Wix strikes a strong balance between letting you get up and running quickly while also providing options for advanced users. Wix is at its most powerful when you go through them to get your domain and hosting as well. In fact, when you pay for a premium plan, they include a free domain and web hosting along with it.

Wix is compatible with a number of hosting providers for those who already have a preferred host. If you’re hosting your website locally, you should check out our review of the Best Antivirus Software.

While Wix’s reviews on Trustpilot are not great, this is actually true of most sites, even ones that have great reputations and are generally well-regarded. 

Negative reviews are mostly about difficulties canceling and other administrative issues with customer support. While positive reviews say that the software works great, and many mention that they use Wix for multiple sites.

3. Squarespace – Best Website Builder for Artists

Pros

  • Award-winning web designs
  • Set of templates for portfolios
  • Built-in blogging tools
  • Built-in SEO tools and analytics

Cons

  • Lacks advanced functionality
  • Confusing cancellation policies

Squarespace is well-known in the industry for its beautifully designed templates. The design of their builder and business model is perfect for artists or anyone looking to create a website for an online portfolio. Squarespace can be adapted for other uses, but most users start and stick with Squarespace because of the design strengths.

Reviews for Squarespace are in a similar range to Wix and for similar reasons. Support is only available by chat and email, and there are a number of features missing for users who want to build a more robust site on the platform. Positive reviews are more about how good the sites look and how easy it was to get them there.

4. Duda – Best Website Creator for Professional Websites

Pros

  • Fast and frequent updates
  • Included marketing materials
  • Included strategy guides
  • Ideal for agencies and resellers
  • Duda University web design course

Cons

  • Steeper learning curve
  • Not aimed at single websites

Duda is making a name for itself as the go-to platform for digital marketing agencies looking to add website building to their services. Duda focuses on building flashy websites quickly and efficiently to maximize profits for agencies who are selling via the Duda platform.

Duda offers a number of resources that agencies and resellers might want, and it’s a fantastic option for anyone looking to build a web design agency.

Duda doesn’t have nearly as many reviews online as most of the other services, which largely has to do with their business model, but negative reviews point out that they wanted better technical support. Positive reviews come from advanced users who are looking to get things done quickly and easily.

5. GoDaddy – Best Free Website Builder and Hosting Site

Pros

  • Offers free website to start with
  • Custom email address @yourdomain
  • Robust and advanced hosting options
  • Do-it-for-you service for when you get overwhelmed

Cons

  • Included tools are clunky
  • Domain broker service is flawed

GoDaddy started out as a domain registrar and hosting provider and moved into the website building space as other services started to pop up and make it necessary. As you might expect, your hosting options are the most robust on this list, and the core tools all do what they’re supposed to do.

That said, its website building software is primitive by comparison, and many of the tools (like the webmail interface) look like they were designed in the ‘90s. GoDaddy expects that most customers will port their webmail to a service like Microsoft Outlook and use it there.

Reviews on Trustpilot are the highest in the list and indicate that most of the time, it “just works.” A lot of the negative reviews are specifically about their domain broker service.

6. WordPress – Best Open Source Drag and Drop Website Builder

Pros

  • Compatible with almost every hosting provider
  • Offers a limited free plan
  • Open-source
  • Countless plugins

Cons

  • Needs to be updated almost daily
  • New ‘block’ editor removes functionality

WordPress’s strengths and weaknesses are two sides of the same coin. On the one hand, being open source means there’s a huge amount of plugins that can add whatever functionality you want for your site. But on the other hand, being open source means that it has to be constantly patched to fix security flaws.

Recently WordPress made a massive update to their page builder to base everything around “blocks.” This change made it easier to get started but harder to customize meticulously.

Reviews for WordPress generally reflect that most users like the service, and, to no one’s surprise, many of the negative reviews are about the new block system.

7. Shopify – Best Ecommerce Site Builder

Pros

  • Responsive and customizable
  • Competitive pricing for e-commerce
  • Free 14-day trial
  • Complete suite of tools

Cons

  • Not designed for anything but e-commerce
  • Can block websites with no explanation

Shopify is to e-commerce what Duda is to agencies. It’s a one-trick pony that performs very well. Shopify’s tools are not only easy to use but comprehensive enough to cover everything from abandoned carts to inventory to calculating shipping and more. You can truly run your entire business on Shopify if all your sales are online.

Despite this, Shopify has gotten flack for being politically-driven in shutting down business websites without warning and without the ability to appeal.

Their Trustpilot score is quite low, but many of the negative reviews are actually about individual stores that just happen to use Shopify, so their real score may be up to a full point higher.

8. Webflow – Best Website Builder for Designers

Pros

  • “Visual Canvas” builder
  • Built-in database creation
  • Immersive interactions and animations
  • Hosts on Amazon Web Services
  • 99.9% uptime

Cons

  • Builder is complex and difficult to learn
  • SEO is not as strong as with other builders

Webflow has built an unparalleled design program for websites that will be quick to pick-up for those experienced with other professional design tools. That said, it can be frustrating and difficult to learn for the average person. Once you learn the interface, though, you can get incredible results.

Hosting is outsourced to Amazon Web Services, and while the pages are beautiful, they aren’t as optimized for search engines as some of the other options on this list.

Webflow has a mix of positive and negative reviews on Trustpilot. Negative reviews complain about lacking customer support. Positive reviews focus on how powerful the design tools are (once you learn them).

9. Carrd – Best Simple Website Builder

Pros

  • Simple and easy to get started
  • Perfect for one-page sites
  • Responsive websites that work on all devices
  • Free accounts can build three sites
  • Incredibly affordable to upgrade

Cons

  • Limited to single-page design
  • Not very much customization

Carrd is another “one-trick pony.” Carrd’s real strength is in its simplicity. One-page websites are getting more popular for people who only need a place to provide basic information along with their contact information, and Carrd is the prime choice here.

Carrd really stays in their lane, so to speak. They don’t offer support for custom fonts or any other customizations that experienced designers may be used to.

Carrd does not have a profile on Trustpilot, and reviews for their service are actually difficult to find, but ProductHunt has a number of reviews for them. With a whopping 4.6 rating on ProductHunt, Carrd seems to be doing well.

How to Choose a Website Creator: Tips and Advice

What Is Your Site For?

If you’re building ecommerce websites, you need ecommerce functionality and an online store. Building a blog is different from building a business website. Consider what you’re creating a website for and what you want to be able to achieve using a website maker tool.

Storage and Bandwidth

Some sites offer more or less storage per site, and some charge per month if you want more for your website. If you’re a beginner building a simple site on a free trial or plan, you won’t have as much storage space and bandwidth as a web developer paying a premium for the best overall website builder.

Ease of Use

Free website builders can be easy to use but lack functionality. The quality of the website building software can determine which platform is the right fit. Builders that offer a domain name, ecommerce features, free SSL, and hosting can also make your life easier.

Design Control

Which is more important to you – ease of use or advanced features? The right site builder for you will strike the right balance. Many offer an intuitive drag and drop interface which makes things easier for those new to website design but still have all the control that a web designer would be used to.

Plugins and Tools

If you start using a website maker and then discover that it lacks some features (like ecommerce functionality), you may be able to find plugins to get what you need. 

WordPress has a store similar to the app store where you can get plugins for social media, features for small businesses, or generate a mobile site from your existing site.

Check Transaction Fees

Transaction fees can stack, so if you’re using an ecommerce website builder, make plans to check what the fees are and add them up with the payment processor you’re using. A free website builder might charge excessive transaction fees on your website.

Future Plans

You may want to migrate your site in the future to a different website builder. If you think this could be you, then look past the free plan or free trial, and check out verified customer reviews to see if it’s easy to move over.

Using a Website Builder: Pros and Cons

Pros

No expertise needed: Most website builders will have a drag and drop editor, so no design or coding experience is required.

Easy to set up: The best website builders will come with a custom domain name, social media integration, and a content management system all in one.

Affordable: Many site builders offer a free domain name with their service. Others offer a free trial or even a free plan with their site builder. 

Lots of options: You can pay per month or per year. If you don’t want to pay at all, there are free website builders available. If you need an online store, you can get one.

Cons

Less professional-looking: If you create a website using Weebly, google sites, or another drag and drop builder, it probably won’t have the same look as a professional with full design freedom.

Features can be limited: The more you want out of your website, the more restrictive you’ll find using a website builder. 

Might hurt your SEO score: If the plans you can afford don’t come with a free SSL certificate, conversion rate optimization, or other SEO tools, it may be harder to rank your site.

Top Website Builders: Frequently Asked Questions

Is Wix Really the Best Overall Site Builder?

Wix is our pick for the #1 overall. With a 14-day money-back guarantee and an e-commerce website builder, it works for small businesses and offers website plans at different price ranges.

What Is the Easiest Free Website Builder?

If you’re looking for free, we would recommend starting with WordPress. Their free plan has the most features with no charge per month for your website.

What Is the Most Cost-Effective Website Builder?

That really depends on your needs. Often the builders that have the most ease of use are also the ones that charge the most per month. It all comes down to your priorities.

What Is the Best Website Builder for Retail and Other Online Stores?

If you’re building an online store, our pick would be Shopify. If you don’t want to use Shopify, you can also look at BigCommerce or at third-party plugins for WordPress.

Which Is the Best Website Builder for Small Businesses?

This is a great question. Small businesses aren’t all created equal; some want to keep the per month of their website down, while others are interested in more robust plans or even affiliate commissions.

What Do Professional Website Builders Use?

A lot of professionals use WordPress, but you’ll find design agencies that can work with most of the website builders on this list, with the exception of GoDaddy. Agencies often charge a fee per month to maintain the website.

Can I Switch My Website Builder Later?

Yes! Migration can be tricky, so as you compare plans, you’ll want to find out how much they charge for migration and how complicated it will be.

Do I Need a Custom Domain Name?

Most plans will come with one, but if you’re going to use the website for anything beyond a casual blog, then you’ll definitely want your own domain name.

Best Website Builders: The Takeaway

There’s a lot to consider when choosing the perfect site to help build your website. At least now you’ve got a head start and have a good idea of where to look.  

Our #1 pick might be Wix.com, but different builders cater to different markets. And if you’re looking to design and build a specific type of website, you might find that one of our other top picks suits your needs better.

It’s wise to look through the variety of options above and consider all the features and tools you need to find the right site that has everything you want.

 

The reviews and statements published here are those of the sponsor and do not necessarily reflect the official policy, position or views of Observer.

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