Planning to explore the world of rapid website development? Website builder is the tool you need to get your next responsive website to life with drag and drop tools, and without the need to do any real coding. There are many website builders available out there in the wild and selecting one can be a daunting task.
There are paid as well as free website builders and both vary drastically in terms of features offered and targeted user base. Many of these tools like Wix, Weebly and Squarespace are great options in the paid category and can be easily used by anyone to create websites for individual businesses, organizations, e-Commerce online stores, blogs, resume websites, portfolio websites and for that matter website for anything and everything.
These website building platforms offer everything required to get your website online in a matter of few clicks. You can get domain name, hosting space, standard configurable templates, images, graphics, social media integration, Search engine optimization based site structure and suggestions, mobile readiness, one click publishing and professional support.
On the other end of the spectrum are free open source website builders like WordPress, Drupal and Joomla, that target users who know a little bit of development. Though tools like WordPress can not be classified into drag and drop website builders but these can still be used to create blogs and websites within matter of minutes.
Taking a bit more about WordPress, there are tons of ready to use themes and templates that makes WordPress one of the most used content management system out there in the wild. As of today, almost 60% of all the websites are built using WordPress alone.
Selection of the right and easy website builder software can greatly influence productivity, time to launch, and effectiveness of the website. Professional users invest time well in advance to identify and go for the website builder that best fits their requirements and skill set.
Which Website Builder Software Should You Go for?
This is the big question and the answer completely depends on what you need, like, and can afford. Most of the tools offer free trial versions, so, you must try a few on your own before closing down to the final one. Later in this article, we have covered various categories of web builder tools and the set of questions to help you down select the website maker that suits best to your requirements.
Non technical users generally look for online tools that empower them for creating, publishing, hosting and maintaining websites without the need to worry about graphics design, programming, SEO, hosting or security. Wix, Weebly and Squarespace are examples that offer intuitive and interactive interface, modern design and advanced set of features and are perfect fit for business users.
One example of advanced features that get you an instance website is ADI - Artificial Design Intelligence (offered by Wix). ADI learns about you or your business area and auto designs a website that looks unique, personal and fits perfectly to your business area, and of course, you can customize it further.
Another variation of such tools is represented by Webflow, this is the tool that gives more power in the hands of web designers, web designers can not only rapidly create websites using drag and drop tools but also edit the visuals, graphics and other design elements with photoshop like graphics editor.
There are also tools that target very specific niches, Shopify for example is an ECommerce website builder and can be used by business users for creating online shops within no time. BigCommerce is another popular platform for building eCommerce websites.
Strikingly is another easy website maker that focuses more on professional grade single page websites with little or no effort.
In this article, we will talk about the best website builder software that aid rapid website development, provide modern set of features and are popular among community of non technical users and web designers who build complex, modern, responsive, feature rich interactive websites and web apps.
WIX - Best Website Builder
Wix is the biggest player in the market of online website builders with over 90 million users across the globe. Wix was founded back in 2006 by Avishai Abrahami, Nadav Abrahami and Giora Kaplan as a basic website builder but got its real powers in 2012 when it became a pure play drag and drop HTML5 website builder. Users from all professions including photographers, musicians, students, small business owners, entrepreneurs and everyone are creating websites using Wix since a decade now, without any coding.
Wix is not just a Site builder, it is a complete cloud based platform to create, publish, host and maintain websites from anywhere you can get online. Apart from that, it offers tons of features to promote your business or website, collect and analyze website metrics and interact with the end users of your website.
Wix has thousands of starter and fully functional website templates available for free use. You can pick any template that relates to your website theme and start customizing using drag and drop tool set. Wix also offers features like image editor, free fonts, stock images, video backgrounds, stripes, menu options, Facebook apps, parallax 3D effect, social buttons, blog, ecommerce features for online store creation, option to create mobile friendly, touch applications and many more.
In the recent release, Wix has released a stunning feature called ADI - Artificial Design intelligence. This gives you a head start in launching your website by auto creating a unique website for you by gathering information about you and/or your business from various resources. Once the website is ready, it takes only a little to make it absolutely personalized.
Wix also hosts an online apps market where designers can create and sell their work, you can purchase designs from other sellers to complement your own website.
In short, over the period of time, Wix has come out as the most popular website builder and is our recommended platform for building websites. Wix also happens to be the best free website builder but with limited features in the free version.
Official website of Wix - Wix Website Builder.
WebFlow - Best Website Builder for Designers
Webflow is the creation of Vlad Magdalin, Sergie Magdalin and Bryant Chou and was first released in 2013 with support of Y-Combinator's startup accelerator program. It is cloud based software as a service platform for creating enterprise grade responsive websites with drag and drop tools.
Ever since its release, Webflow has grown to become the big daddy of sitebuilder software tools and provides features to create multi platform and multi browser compatible responsive websites with ease. Webflow generates W3C compliant HTML5 and CSS3 and provides a very clean markup, based on Bootstrap from Twitter developers.
Responsiveness is at the core of Webflow and designers do not have to bother about media queries or breakpoints, those are auto managed by Webflow code generator engine.
While working in Webflow, Web designers across locations can collaborate and work on the projects in tandem without worrying about repository management or version control.
The size and growing power of Webflow can be gauged from the fact that big corporate houses like Box, IBM, HP, Intuit, Hitachi and MTV too are using this tool for one or the other web design tasks.
You can signup on Webflow site for free and try your hands on, there are many free website templates available to get you started within no time. However, for building professional grade websites and utilize all features that Webflow offers, you will need to join a paid subscription plan.
Official website of Webflow - Webflow Sitebilder.
Weebly - Easy Website Builder
Weebly is a complete product suite for creation and management of websites. It was founded by David Rusenko, Chris Fanini, and Dan Veltri back in 2006 when the idea of responsive websites was not even in the imagination.
Even though Weebly is more than a decade old, It has incorporated new features like drag and drop tools, inbuilt image editor etc. and has completely adapted to the web design needs of modern times.
Powerful hosting, ready to use video & audio players, best in class customer support, blogs integration, inbuilt CMS, intuitive form builder, traffic stats, you name a feature required for your website and Weebly has it.
With the latest upgrades in weebly platform, it now offers some of the best in class ecommerce as well as marketing tools including email marketing, social media integration and marketing as well as search engine optimization.
Key features of Weebly include -
Website Setup - Drag and Drop website editor, guided setup instruction, multiple layout options, professional emails and domain names, video backgrounds, website analytics, and blog integration.
E-commerce - One page checkout optimized for ease, tax calculations, shipping rates, cart recovery, gift cards and coupons and listing of unlimited products.
Marketing - Branded newsletters and billing emails, SEO readiness and score card, marketing automation and reporting.
The new age tools like webflow, Webydo, Macaw and Froont are paused to give a tough competition to Weebly and eat up part of its huge market share. Weebly can be an option as free website builder but with limited bandwidth and few features.
Official Weebly Website - Weebly - Easy Website Builder.
Shopify - Best Ecommerce Website Builder
Shopify is an eCommerce platform that empowers you to build online stores to sell products and services. You can start your online storefront within minutes by choosing from 100’s of mobile friendly, beautiful and professional looking themes.
Shopify is a complete drag and drop website builder software that takes care of marketing, payments, secure checkouts and shipping sparing you to focus on your products. As of writing this article, there are more than 300,000 active stores built with Shopify with an aggregate sales of over $20 billion.
Shopify is the largest website builder in ecommerce space and is based out of Ottawa, Canada. It was founded back in 2006 by Tobias Lütke, Daniel Weinand, and Scott Lake and grew rapidly in popularity and use.
Key features of Shopify include -
- Storefront that can be branded as per your requirements, customized by editing HTMl & CSS, built in mobile commerce shopping cart, custom domain name, blogging engine and online website editor.
- Shopping car that is SSL secure, integrates with all major payment gateways including paypal, iDEAL and bitcoin, abandoned checkout recovery, multilingual support, shipping rates setup etc. and many more.
- Store management side includes customer groups, profiles, refunds management, email templates and fulfillment centres etc.
- On the marketing side, it includes Facebook selling options, gift cards, social media integration, coupons and discounts, Search engine optimization and email marketing etc.
Other features include hosting, 24X7 support, mobile apps and website analytics. You can join Shopify for 14 days free trial without entering credit card details.
Is Shopify entitled to rank among the best website builders for making ecommerce websites? Per our analysis, It is #1 in this area.
Official website of Shopify - Shopify Ecommerce Site Builder
SquareSpace - Modern Website Maker
Squarespace is one of the oldest website creator around and is well maintained to keep up to the growing needs of the modern web design. When it comes to building modern looking responsive websites with drag and drop options, Squarespace stands tall and competes with the new age tools like Webflow and Macaw.
Squarespace was created back in 2004 by Anthony Casalena, and as of today, it is available on the cloud as software as a service platform. It has grown gradually in width & breadth and offers blogging platform, hosting services and website creation tools.
Squarespace ecosystem is huge and it comes packed with tons of website templates, logo builder, tools to create iOS and Android apps and tons of other developer resources.
You can get started with Squarespace with its free to use 14 days trial and utilize tons of free to use elegant and beautiful website templates. You can upgrade the free plan by paying monthly licensing fee.
Squarespace offers best in class customer support, which makes it a go to option for big corporates like Target, Wired, HBO and Cisco, to name a few.
Read more about Squarespace here at - Squarespace.
Wordpress - Open Source Website Builder
WordPress is a different animal altogether and is best fit for those who have a little bit of development knowledge or at least tech oriented mindset. The usage of WordPress is so widespread that it is hard to leave it from this list of top free website builders.
WordPress is the most used free website builder out there in the wild, and as of writing this article, almost 60% of all the websites in the world are made with WordPress. Impressive, huh!
WordPress is open source and free to use content management system out there in the wild and for that reason you may not get professional support as compared to commercial tools like Wix, Weebly, Shopify or BigCommerce etc.
WordPress being open source has a huge community and community contributed website templates that can installed on click of a button, you get templates for almost every type of website that you can imaging ranging from a simple blog to fully functional enterprise software web application.
There is also a huge marketplace for professional looking WordPress templates and plugins, you can purchase a reasonably good template for as low as $40.
Another twist in the tale is site builder like Boldgrid built on top of WordPress which make WordPress even more attractive and suitable for non-technical folks.
Boldgrid is one such platform that offers drag and drop toolset to build responsive websites and web apps on top of WordPress. This approach gives you best of both the worlds, you get a solid content management system under the hood as well as a DIY website builder to get things done fast. You end up getting an open source drag and drop website builder for free.
Read more about WordPress here at - Wordpress Website Builder Open Source
Strikingly - Drag and Drop Website Builder Software for One Page Websites
Want to build a single page website? Strikingly is the tool for you, a very simplistic and intuitive interface to create fantastic and engaging single page websites.
Strikingly lets you make mobile optimized websites keeping in mind simplicity, accessibility and clarity. You make sites that are clear and simple and you get simple to use admin tools to edit and build your website.
Strikingly is not in the market to compete with the likes of Wix, Squarespace , Webflow or Weebly, but it comes with all features required to setup a fully functional blog, portfolio, business website or store to sell products online.
Checkout official website of Strikingly - Strikingly Website Maker.
Websitebuilder.com - Easy Web Site Builder
Make it simple is the philosophy of Websitebuilder.com, this platform offers features to let you create any website in just three steps. Choose a website template from the available repository of more than 10000 website templates, do customization as required and publish the website with click of a button.
Publishing with one click means, you publish on the hosting services provided by the sitebuilder. The overall cost for all the services from Websitebuilder.com is pretty low in comparison to its competitors.
The promoters of Websitebuilder.com started back in 2015 with four different web builder platforms that includes sitebuilder.com, sitelio.com. Sitey.com and webstebuilder.com. All these four platforms are same and offer same tools to build websites and webapps, it is all about floating multiple options in front of the users in this very competitive and saturated market and getting a bit of pie from each of these.
Websitebuilder.com offers reasonably good set of features that includes free domain names, business emails, SEO tools, one click hosting and publishing of the website, testing tools, Image and graphics libraries, ready to use social integration tools, ecommerce ready to setup online store, responsive and mobile ready layouts and many more.
Check out official website - Websitebuilder.com
BigCommerce - Website Builder For ECommerce
Bigcommerce is another online Site Builder that let you create intuitive, beautiful ecommerce website in a matter of minutes. Like Shopify, BigCommerce also provides 100’s of pre built mobile ready themes. BigCommerce also has a network of designers and developers that help create or modify a theme that best fits your brand and is truly unique the way you want.
Some of the key features of bigcommerce sitebuilder that keep keep it ahead of the competition include -
- Secure hosting with 99.99% uptime commitment
- Ready to use themes as well as option to create and customize themes
- Integration with leading payment solutions including Square, Braintree, Paypal, Stripe, First data, Cybersource and many more
- SEO tools as well as integration with Google shopping, pricegrabber, nextag and many more.
- Conversion optimization with advanced CRO tools that target reduced friction, boost checkouts and bring back shoppers.
Checkout official website of BigCommerce here at - BigCommerce Ecommerce Platform.
Webs.com - Old But Good Site Builder
Webs.com is the oldest web builder tool covered in this article and was founded back in 2001 by two brothers named Haroon and Zeki Mokhtarzada.
Webs.com is one of those platforms that continuously kept on upgrading with new features and tools to stay in competition with the modern web site builders like Webflow, Weebly and Wix.
Like other best website builders, webs.com also let you build modern looking, responsive, search engine optimized, mobile friendly and socially connected websites with intuitive drag and drop tools.
Read more about Webs.com here at - Webs.com Site Builder.
Now that we have looked at the top 10 website builders in the market, let us look at further details to help you select a website builder.
Selecting the Right Drag and Drop Website builder
Many of the top website builders offer “all” features required to build any kind of website, but it can become overwhelming and difficult to use such tools for simple site creation. For that reason, selecting the right category is very important, one needs to list down the requirements of the projects at hand before evaluating the site builders..
The first level of categorization is about final use of the website, whether it is going to be a large scale business website, website for small businesses, ecommerce storefront, a personal blog, photography website, personal portfolio showcase, for real estate website, website for hotels, blog, for nonprofits and so on., and of course you might be planning to create multiple websites falling into multiple of the above categories.
After the first level of categorization, you can easily narrow down to 4-5 web site builders to choose from. For example, if you are planning to build an ecommerce storefront then the decision gets down to Shopify, bigCommerce, Wix and Wordpress. Wordpress can also be taken off if you do not want to get into a lot of configurations and setup etc., even though it is a free website builder.
Let us look at some of the critical questions to consider before finalizing the website builder, all the questions are not applicable to all kinds of websites but will surely give you a perspective to brainstorm your long term requirements -
- Do you plan to hire a designer or developer to maintain the website in the long run?
- Do you have graphics available or you want ready to use graphics and images?
- What is your budget for one time website creation and month on month maintenance?
- Are you ok doing lot of configuration, user management and general administrative tasks?
- Do you need a ready to use Android and iOS app for your website or business in general?
- What about hosting, do you want to pay hosting bills separately?
- Do you already have a domain or you are looking for one stop shop for everything?
- Do you plan to run a blog, Q&A or Forum on your website?
Why Use Paid or Free Website Builders?
I have spoken to many creative designers and developers and many of them do not like the idea of using a DIY website builder since website builders restrict their creativity and do not result in an absolute unique website . They also feel that adding latest and modern set of features to their websites is dependent on when the website builders start offering those.
There are many more points that critics have to say against the use of website builders but most of the points are either partly true or are true for some very specific needs of a specific project. The website builders that we are talking about in this article offer enough flexibility and customization opportunities and options to use latest tools and technologies, as required.
In my opinion 90% of the website building needs are easily met using out of the box tools and for rest one can always follow the path of customization.
Features of Website Builders
Let us also look basic features as well as some the most advanced features offered by top platforms used for building websites, this list can be used as easy reference for sitebuilder reviews -
Customizable templates - Most of these tools offer thousands of ready to use templates that can be used as is. These templates range from one page websites, business websites, hotel websites, portfolios, photography, start up website templates, personal blog and everything else you can think of. The key here is to evaluate the extent of customization and configuration that can be done on the basic templates to ensure that you need up making a unique website. You should ideally be able to change the fonts, graphics, background, menu styles, layouts etc. just by the use of drag and drop and without getting into code etc. Wix, Squarespace, Weebly, webs.com etc. are lead the pack in this area.
Is Website Builder SEO Friendly - Your website is of no use if it can not be discovered by end users and this is why we need to build SEO friendly website. Building websites that rank well in search engines need good care and this is where top website builders shine.
Good website maker enforce SEO guidelines, like proper URL structure, meta tags, Site maps, image alt attributes, keywords density etc. and much more. Using SEO tools, you get reports around SEO compliance of your website and how well it can rank for keywords that relate to your area of business.
Social Media Integration - Social media presence has become larger than life and ensures that your website reaches the audience it deserves. Best website builders offer social media integration come packed with configurable widgets for follow or like as well as sharing buttons. You can also include twitter feeds on your website with ease. Reporting around how many shares and follows you are getting on a daily/weekly basis is another key features to consider.
Other key features include -
- One click publishing and hosting
- Marketing automation
- Integration with payment gateways
- Drag and drop layout editor
- Inbuilt image and video editor
- Professional 24X7 support
- Website usage statistics and analytics
- Website uptime monitoring and commitment
- Ready to use fonts and graphics libraries
- Blogs and forums availability
- Email marketing support
Apart from the website builders discussed in this article, we reviewed many others tools that were close competitors and include names like Froont, Duda One, Yola, Jimdo and uCoz Kit.
We also reviewed other open source drag and drop website builder software like Drupal and Joomla but those are not the easiest one for business users and are meant more for developers.
Conclusion - Best Website Builders
Phenomenon of speed website building accompanied by hosting services offered by the website building platform itself is not very old but has grown at a very fast pace in the last couple of years. Do-it-yourself drag and drop toolset based website builders have become the default choice for creating feature rich, interactive, responsive and modern looking websites and web apps.
Though different website creation tools offer different tools and feature but all these platforms attempt to solve one common underlying problem, which is rapid development of responsive and modern looking websites without coding.
The web design tools mentioned in this article are among the top tools in the market as of today and we really hope that one of these fits in your requirements.
Let us know your experience with website building and the software of your choice via comments.