Website builders use drag and dropLast update: 14 Dec, 2016.

To be honest, I had never used website builders before…

Having developed websites for a while, I’d rather dive straight into coding HTML, CSS and PHP; avoiding those drag and drop functions that website builders have.

I was pretty sceptical.

However, I was positively surprised by the ease-of-use and flexible customisation options that 1-2 website builders have.

Especially for the cost.Unfortunately, I also ended up trying website builders that were just outdated or used sketchy billing strategies (hint: #10).

Website builders vs. hiring a web developer?

A good custom website could easily cost $2000 (on the low end). Making changes or ongoing updates could still require a freelance designer or developer to help you continually update your site (additional $$$).

Yet for only a few dollars each month, some of these website builders below could give you almost everything you’d ever want at less than 1% of the cost.

Not to mention, you can easily login yourself and change copy, upload images, or add new pages within seconds (and without calling for tech support).

Website builders for Who?

Website builders are the perfect solution for individuals or small businesses with low budgets. Just to name few of them:

  • small business owners
  • writers
  • musicians
  • artists
  • photographers
  • wedding planners
  • and so on…

Here’s What I Did To Uncover Website Builders:

Website Builders testAs I stated before and unlike many other blogs you might read on the same topic, I really spent some money and signed up with them – so you know which ones are the best website builders.

My goal is to provide an unbiased review, by actually going through each product in detail, to help you make the best decision.

Here’s the process I took:

1. I signed up with the top 10 website builders (I paid for them).

Those that are recommended by the major ‘Review Websites’ like SiteBuilderReport.com, Reviews.com, PCMag.com and many others.

2. Setup a simple ‘5-minute’ test website.

After signing up with them, I decided to make a quick ‘5 minute’ website on my own domain name, like websitesetup-wix.com and websitesetup-yola.com etc..

3. Monitored each site’s uptime and page load times (6+ months, ongoing).

Over a period of 6 months (still ongoing) I monitored my websites uptime and page load times via PingDom.com tool. Some of my sites had more than 24 hours of downtime…(!)

4. Uncovered the TRUE cost of each website builder.

Many of these website builders trick you with their low introductory prices, like letting you set up a website for free. But once you want to launch it, you’ll need to pay. That’s why it’s VERY important to check pricing before you set up a website with them.

This last point is especially important because most website builders will claim to be ‘free’ even though you’re gonna be forced to take out that credit card at some point.

So before we dive into the detailed review of the top ten website builders, here are the gory pricing details.

Read why...

Best Website Builders 2017 (Review)

Keep in mind that the usability is the most important factor of a website builder. Second is uptime, third is speed and the least important factor (for me) is price.

 WEBSITE BUILDER PRICE SPEED UPTIME USABILITY RATING
 1. SiteBuilder $4.99/mo 510ms 99.96% BEST★★★★★
 2. Wix $9.25/mo 436ms 99.96% GOOD ★★★★
 3. SquareSpace $18.00/mo 546ms 99.91% GOOD ★★★★
 4. BoldGrid$4.19/mo 801ms 99.96% DIFFICULT ★★★
 5. Weebly.com $12.00/mo 316ms 99.90% AVERAGE ★★★
 6. Jimdo.com $7.95/mo 404ms 99.96% TOO LIMITED ★★
 7. Doodlekit.com$10.00/mo 439ms 99.90% OUTDATED ★
 8. Webs.com $12.99/mo 973ms 99.26% TERRIBLE ★
 9.Yola.com $8.33/mo 307ms 99.99% TERRIBLE ★
 10. Web.com – – – BAD BILLING ★

Without further ado, let’s dive into a detailed review of each website builder. Starting with the best, narrowing it down until we reach the ones to avoid.

#1. SITEBUILDER Review

(Easy to use, Professional & Reliable)

CONS of SiteBuilder.com:

#1. If you want an eCommerce store, you’ll need to choose the business account which starts at $17.95/month.

#2. It took 3 hours to activate my account on a weekend. Should be faster.

PROS of SiteBuilder.com:

#1. You get a FREE domain name and one email account

#2. There are 1,200 templates available to choose from. That’s A LOT – compared with others, especially with Jimdo that has only 17 templates/themes.

#3. SiteBuilder’s website builder was relatively easy and simple to use. It’s fairly intuitive, and the templates appear to be WAY more modern than previously reviewed options. You can simply click on a page element to bring up customization options.

#4. Advertised as $4.99/month, I paid exactly $59.88 for one year – making it one of the cheapest website builders on the market today.

#5. They have „Save History“ feature and ability to build a blog as well. Not many website builders have those features!

Do I recommend it? YES.

I really like their platform. Their website editor is intuitive. Very intuitive!  Template options were at an acceptable level (compared with many others), appearing modern while still easy to customize.

SiteBuilder is simple, too: You can drag and drop the elements anywhere on the site.

They’re reliable (good uptime and load time).

They’re cheap (less than $60/year).

Should you give it a go? Yes.

 

Go to www.SiteBuilder.com

Here’s my 5 minute test site. (best you can do in 5 minutes)

#2. WIX Review

(‘go-to’ website builder, easy to use)

Wix is the second best website builder

CONS of Wix Website Builder:

#1. An email account will cost you an extra $5 bucks EACH!

#2. If you want to create an online store, you’ll need to choose the more expensive package which is around ~$17.70.

PROS of Wix Website Builder:

#1. Wix has around 300 templates, perfect for small businesses and freelancers alike.

#2. The website builder is pretty simple and easy to use overall. It’s pretty flexible, meaning you can make a substantial amount of site customizations. It’s also highly visual, which means changes can be made by simply pointing-and-clicking on a site element (i.e. no sticky back-end options to mess with).

#3. Very user-friendly and easy to use.

#4. Signup and activation was instant!

#5. Cheapest ‘Ad-free’ package is $9.25/month, I paid exactly $132.20 (VAT included).

Wix plan

#6. Super reliable (with fast load times & only minor downtimes)

wix review and performance

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Wix is widely suggested as the ‘go-to’ website builder.

The template options and website builder were the best It was ONLY let down by the numerous annoying upsells and high email costs. For example, assuming I want 5 email accounts, I’d need to fork over $25 each month (and that’s just ridiculously high compared to other options).

Go to www.Wix.com

Here’s my 5 minute test site. (not too bad, huh?)

#3. SQUARESPACE Review

(Another ‘good’ website builder. Best for photographers.)

SquareSpace homepage

CONS of SquareSpace Website Builder:

#1. SquareSpace costs around $18.00/month for a fully loaded site (which is on the expensive end of these sites listed).

SquareSpace billing

#2. The SquareSpace themes are great to look at. And the website builder itself is actually pretty good. However, they can be a little difficult to edit for newbies so there’s a bit of a learning curve. They also require a lot of photography to look right, which is perfect for people with visual businesses (think bloggers, photographers, artists, restaurants, musicians, weddings, etc.) but not great for people lacking high-quality image assets.

#3. Each email account is $5/month (extra).

PROS of SquareSpace Website Builder:

#1. SquareSpace has a variety of 40 modern templates. These are probably the highest quality designs, with everyone being extremely contemporary and beautiful overall.

#2. Free domain name and privacy.

#3. You can create a blog, website or e-commerce site (with no limitations).

#4. Account signup and activation is instant. ‘Live by default’: https://support.squarespace.com/hc/en-us/articles/206536837-Is-my-site-live-

#5. Decent page loading times and uptime.

Do I recommend it? YES.

If your have tons of images that you’ll use on your website (hint: photographers).

SquareSpace looks looks great from the outside, but when compared with the rest of this list, can become very expensive.

Each of these templates require the help of a photographer or design touch in order to look the best too. It’s a GREAT option for a certain type of person or business case, such as photographers for example.

Go to www.SquareSpace.com

Check out my 5 minute test site. (To be honest, I kinda like it.)

#4. BOLDGRID Review

(cheap & very flexible, but too steep learning curve)

BoldGrid website builder

CONS of BoldGrid Website Builder:

#1. Signup and activation took 2 hours for them to activate my account, which was a bit slow.

#2. Biggest learning curve you’ll probably have. Takes a bit time to fully master it (but worth it).

PROS of BoldGrid Website Builder:

#1. BoldGrid boasts the largest template database in this review, with around 3000 quality themes to pick from (WordPress themes that are HIGHLY customizable).

BoldGrid payment

#2. BoldGrid technically runs on-top-of WordPress. So while most of the other options we’ve reviewed so far are limited, the sky’s the limit with BoldGrid. There is a bit of a learning curve for beginners, but the upside is that you get almost unlimited customizations too.

#3. Pricing was as advertised as $4.17/month (CHEAPEST!), I paid exactly $57.53 for one year.

#4. You can create almost anything, including a standard website, blog, or e-commerce shop.

#5. You also get a free domain, unlimited email accounts and the ability to set up an eCommerce store. All the necessary stuff!

Do I recommend it? Yes..

BoldGrid is probably the cheapest and most straightforward website builder. It also boasts features that most other options we reviewed simply can’t compete.

The only thing that worries me is the learning curve that some beginners might have to deal with. I was also glad that additional domain or emails didn’t come at an added cost too.

Overall, I’m pretty positive and hopeful as it’s super-cheap and highly customizable.

Go to www.BoldGrid.com

Check out my 5 minute test site. (Looks OK..)

#5. WEEBLY Review

Just an average website builder

Weebly website builder

CONS of Weebly Website Builder:

#1. There are around 80 themes to browse, which are simply OK-looking (but nothing special).

#2. If you want an eCommerce store with over 25 products, you’ll need to pay $24/month which is pretty steep.

#3. While Weebly performance was on the good side (only 10 minutes of downtime). For some reason, Weebly reported fake (or error-prone) site statistics:

Weebly stats are wrong

PROS of Weebly Website Builder:

#1. $12.00/month, I paid $144.00 (12 months upfront). It’s pretty cheap.Weebly Pricing

#2. Free email.

#3. Instant account signup and activation. Hooray!

#4. Weebly features drag-and-drop customization options from pre-built features (like one for adding an image + text, slideshows, and more). Changing these elements is pretty easy, but also fairly basic and limited. You can add images or text in a few seconds (really simple).

Do I recommend it? Nope.

Weebly is one of the most popular website builders, and the intuitiveness is a huge positive. However, theme or template options are merely so-so.

While they also charge extra for email accounts (each one will set you back $3.75/month) which can quickly add up. And after you signup, you’ll be constantly bombarded with up-sells that quickly become annoying.

Go to www.Weebly.com

Check out my 5 minute test site. (not too bad, huh?)

#6. JIMDO Review

(Too limited, only 17 themes)

Jimdo website builder

CONS of Jimdo Website Builder:

#1. Jimdo comes complete with ONLY 17 themes. Yup, you need to pay $90/year to get access to ONLY 17 themes.

#2. You can easily change colour and add text or images. However, anything more sophisticated than that is difficult. Otherwise, the templates themselves are fairly rigid, making it difficult to make large-scale changes.

#3. If you’d like unlimited eCommerce product options, be prepared to pay $20/month (or $240/year).

PROS of Jimdo Website Builder:

#1. Pricing was advertised as $7.50/month and I paid exactly $90 for one year.Jimdo pricing

#2. Up-and-running in 30 minutes. Not bad!

#3. Best performance

Just take a look at the graph below (fast & stable loading times with over 99.96% uptime)

Jimdo performance review

Do I recommend it? Unfortunately, no.

The initial design is very clean and neat, making it appear more contemporary than some of the ones we’ve already reviewed here.

I’m even OK with one email account and 15 eCommerce product limitation in the short-term. But it worries me that they only have 17 templates and your customization options are limited to only relatively basic changes.

Not recommended, unless you want to create a one-page-website.

Go to www.Jimdo.com

Check out my 5 minute test site.

#7. DOODLEKIT Review

(Very outdated experience)

Doodlekit website builder

CONS of Doodlekit Website Builder:

#1. Doodlekit comes with around 170 themes, but again most of them are old and outdated.

#2. I’ll be honest: it’s hard to find ANYTHING positive with this builder. The templates are horrible. Editing them is horrible. I couldn’t create a simple work gallery or portfolio. Pretty much the only thing I could do was add a few pictures (and even that was complicated as hell).

#3. If you want to build an eCommerce shop, you’ll need to pay $24.99/month (which is on the more expensive end).

#4. My account was activated instantly, but domain verification (which is free) took 48 hours. That’s slooooooow.

PROS of DoodleKit Website Builder:

#1. It comes with a domain name and unlimited email accounts (nice perk!).doodlekit pricing

#2. Pricing was as advertised at $10.00/month, I paid exactly $120.

Do I recommend it? No.

Using Doodlekit seems like I flew back in time (and not in a good, Marty McFly kinda way). Their design is outdated and I highly doubt you can create anything meaningful out of it.

Everything is extremely dated, which doesn’t make sense when there are MUCH better options available for just a few more dollars. However, for the sake of this review I paid for 1 full year upfront, so I’ll keep my test site up.

Again, not worth your time/money. But if you really want to dig, use their free trial to test the waters.

Go to www.DoodleKit.com

Check out my 5 minute test site. (How does it feel to be back to 90s?)

#8. WEBS Review

(Slow and unreliable)
Website Builder: Webs.com

CONS of Webs Website Builder:

#1. Webs has 500 themes, but most (again!) look old and outdated.

#2. The drag-and-drop menu makes things very easy to edit. However, the templates themselves are extremely outdated. Changes almost resemble word processor style editing, with clip art and poor stock photography options. They have some extra widgets and other elements available, but most have an amateurish look or feel.

#3. eCommerce stores are limited to 25 products. If you want no limitations, you’ll need to pick their more expensive package which is $22.99/mo – pretty expensive in my opinion.

#4. Took 4 hours to activate my site. Kinda on the slow side.

#5. The average load time came in at 1128ms (around twice the average!), with 26 minutes of downtime alone in June! Also, every site tweak/change takes 5+ seconds to load.

Webs.com performance review
More than 24 hours of downtime during last 6 months…

Pros of Webs Website Builder:

#1. Webs throws in a free domain name and three email accounts.

#2. Pricing isn’t too bad at $12.99/month. I paid $119.80 for 1 year (10% off the monthly price).

Webs.com billing

Do I recommend it? No.

The annual discount was a nice surprise. However, their admin panel is VERY slow, with each action taking 5+ seconds to load. The outdated design, limited customizations, and SLOW page loading times were also problematic. You’re better off looking somewhere else.

Go to www.Webs.com

Check out my 5 minute test site. (Again, pretty awful…)

#9. YOLA Review

(Outdated and very weak…)

Website Builder: Yola

CONS of Yola Website Builder:

#1. While Yola has about 215 templates, most of them look old and outdated. Like really old – 2006 stuff.

#2. The design template options look very similar to Web.com (not in a good way). Customizations are also very limited. For example, I wanted to remove the website menu while building out the site, but it wouldn’t let me delete this option. Instead, I had to to start all over again with a different template..

#3. If you want to build an e-commerce shop, you’ll need to pay $10/month additionally (so it would be approximately $200/year). That’s a lot of money..

#4. If you want email accounts, you’ll need to pay $9.96/year for EACH email account. Sneaky marketing tactic that many website builder companies use.
yola price

PROS of Yola Website Builder:

#1. Advertised as $8.33/month and I paid exactly $99.95. On the cheaper side.

#2. Signup and site activation was instant. Always a good sign to start with!

Do I recommend it? No.

To be honest, I don’t like the Yola design templates and the website builder isn’t adequate.

I also found the excessive up-sells and ‘extra add-ons’ frustrating. While I initially was looking for an all inclusive package, I soon realized after signing up that there was no way around paying for extras, such as email accounts and the e-commerce feature.

Go to www.Yola.com

Check out my 5 minute test site. (nothing to be proud of)

#10. WEB Review

(Bad billing practices, difficult to cancel)

Website Builder - web.com

Web.com was added to this list largely because of its wide promotion online.

However, it’s the only service I did NOT personally sign up for. Here’s why.

Reason #1. They have sketchy billing practices. The plan details are crystal clear (see #2 below), there were tons of upsells, and the only way to eventually cancel your plan is to CALL them (yes, this is still 2016).

Reason #2. There are NO plan details. The ‘Do It Yourself‘ option doesn’t tell you exactly what you’re signing up for, which is worrying considering how difficult it might be to back out of this decision in the future.

Reason #3. Despite having almost 2,500 website templates to choose from, virtually all of them look extremely dated (borderline Geocities for you Web 1.0 peeps).

Reason #4. Their website builder used to adjust or tweak each template looks very rigid and fairly primitive (think MSpaint-level customizations).

Reason #5. Finding these issues got me a little worried. So I decided to check around to read reviews from a few real customers to see if I was just being paranoid.

I wasn’t. Here’s one that accurately summed up my worst nightmare:

How do I get any Senior Executive at web.com to figure out what is going on with my website? It has been down for more than 2 weeks. 31 trouble tickets. Simple domain name changes and now no website, and apparently no archive, cache, or even record that I have been a customer since 2001!

Reason #6. At $22.00/month, Web.com is ALSO one of the most expensive website builder options available.

Conclusion: I decided not to test them.

 

Website Builders Conclusion

Phew. Made it to the end!

Time for a quick recap.

Overall, website builders are great for beginners or small businesses looking to get a professional (and affordable) option off the ground in a matter of days (instead of the weeks or months it would take for a custom site).

While there are a ton of good (SiteBuilder.com & Wix.com), reputable options out there to choose from, there are also a ton of terrible ones too.

I put this review together to provide an unbiased look at what your best options are. I signed up for each of the most popular ones, paying for annual accounts in most cases while setting up a test site to try out the service and monitor it’s performance over the course of a few months.

So which website builder is your best bet? 

Best all around option? Go with SiteBuilder if you don’t want to be disappointed and over pay.

Best option for Beginners or those needing eCommerce? Wix is your best bet.

Best for photographers, designers, or other visual businesses? Chances are you’ll love SquareSpace’s beautiful templates.

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26 comments

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  1. Thanks for the review – this really helps. I’m currently in a situation where there’s so many different website builders out there, yet which one is the best – hard to tell.

    After reading your review, I think I’ll go with Wix, but might try Boldgrid as well.

    Anyways, huge thanks for putting this together.

  2. This is a very useful read Robert, thank you for the exhaustive post!

    Have you tried XPRS? How about SwiftySite, a plugin to build WordPress sites?

    Also, do these sites fare well in Google speed testing tools?

    • Hey Victor,

      I haven’t tried those as BoldGrid is slightly more user-frienldy for the end user.
      About Google Speed Testing Tool – sure, it’s worth to check them. Might make a small addition to the post, but I’ll surely keep them all online (test sites).

  3. Thanks for a great review! My only “con” would be that you didn’t included customer service. But I understand the work it would have involved. I LOVE WIX. I have been with them since they started. But their customer service stinks. I don’t like having to search through a database of questions other users have submitted to find an answer to my problem. They make it hard to find a phone number. Otherwise, besides a few technical beefs I have, it is a great option.

    • Hi Rob,

      I haven’t heard about PageCloud before – thanks for letting me know. I might review them in near future. Thanks.

  4. Hi Robert,

    I’m currently searching for a website builder to help me make a site for my husband’s small business (plumber) and am very glad I found your article.

    I’ve run into Wix before but have been put off by many people claiming that it’s hard to get a Wix site listed high on Google as Google doesn’t like the technology it used.

    I really like Wix mainly because of the ready to go templates, but it seems a little pointless using Wix if potential customers can’t find the site in search engine.

    I do understand that all websites need “optimizing” and I’ve purchased a course to help me achieve this.

    I would love to hear your thoughts on this given your experience.

    Thank you in advance.

  5. This is a great review post on website builders. I have tried some of them myself but most of them were hard on the budget and too clunky for me to actually use. Weebly and Squarespace did have what I was looking for but decided to abandon them for lack of time. The customer service on most of these is pretty bad (except the top3). I was actually going to do a review on most of these website builders myself but you’ve done a good job here.

  6. I rarely comment on these sorts of reviews, but after reading your clearly unbiased and in depth review I felt it necessary to thank you. I already have a boldgrid website and domain and wanted to understand more about the limitations of that vs it’s competitors, a LOT of other articles on the subjects are clearly shills for one of the companies, it’s refreshing to see such an honest and thorough review, thanks again!

  7. Thanks, Robert. I guess it is what you get used to. I went to Weebly several years ago from both Yola and Wix. At the time they were the only one that could easily do drop down menus which was important to me. Also have found them very innovative and have rarely suffered any downtime. Their tech support is excellent. While their selection of templates may be limited, they work closely with another company, Baamboo Studios who produce impressive templates for their users.

    Have just started to use their e-commerce features and agree they are awesome. By comparison I have just built an e-commerce site using BigCommerce and it has been a chore using their site builder. Also have a Shopify site on standby, but I think Weebly will end up being my site of choice, mainly because the guys listen and make every effort to accommodate the users.

    While I can’t argue with your 4th placing I was surprised.

    Great article.

  8. Hey Robert,

    Thanks for your work here, it has really helped me in deciding which site builder to use. (I like how you write too, keeps the reader interested).
    keep up the good work!

    • Hello Robert. Thanks for the write up – you exfoliated the competition out there. Yet I am poor at developing and building sites.
      Do you ave your own design studio? If you do and if you do not cost an arm and a leg I would love to work with you. Is it possible that you could send me your price chart for site from one-page crowdfunding type site up to e-commerce?
      I am a writer with many project I could have up on the page but held up by my inability to be comfortable with mastering web building. Having a reliable specialist like you or associates that work for you, who is agile with affordable prices will give me a good, long collaboration.

  9. Thank you so much – your evaluations will save my artist group members so much time and frustration. Wix and Weebly were my short list too. I recommended Weebly to them last year, as most members are not tech-literate and Weebly seemed the least frustrating for a first timer. Also, fewer and simpler templates were a plus in this case, rather than a problem. I will have another look at Wix now to see if the issues I had in my test site have been fixed. I agree with your comment on the Weebly statistics (e.g. it counted my edit tweeks as hits) and the constant upsell ads. As noted here by others, Weebly’s support by phone or online chat are excellent. I will have another look at Wix now and see if that might work better for us now that more members have some online experience. Thank you again for your excellent and well-written research.

  10. Robert,

    I just wanted to thank you for your reviews. As a new business owner, I was looking at serval of these sites and I will take your advise. Thank you again for saving me from making a poor, uneducated decision.

  11. Thanks for this thorough investigation. We’ve added a link to this article on our writers’ resource site, WinningWriters.com, under Business & Technical Resources. One of our subscribers recommended the article to us.

  12. Thanks so much for this review. Really helpful and very detailed. A lot of work for free. I was just curious about Shopify As I was about to sign up with them until I read your reviews. If you have any insight into those folks would be greatful. At this point however I’m leaning towards Wix. Thanks!

  13. Thanks so much for this information… am a visual artist but do not know how to code so I was looking at site builder options. This was very helpful.

    Thanks!