Website builders can be a good option for people who don’t have money to hire a web developer.
Using a website builder is also one of the fastest ways to set up your website.
Many platforms provide simple, drag and drop tools that make creating a website simple and straightforward.
However, not all website platforms are equal. Some are more reliable than others while some more flexible than others.
We, at websitesetup.org, decided to test the 10 most popular website building tools on the market in 2019.
But first, read this…
Website Builders vs. Hiring a Web Developer?
A good custom website could easily cost $2000 (on the low end). Making changes can still require a freelance designer and a webmaster to help you continually update your site (read: you need to spend additional $$$).
Yet, for only a few dollars per month, some of the website builders 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 a copy, upload images, or add new pages within seconds (all without calling for tech support).
Website Builders Are Best For:
Website builders are the perfect solution for individuals or small businesses with low budgets. Just to name few of them:
- small business owners
- wedding planners
- and so on…
Here’s What We Did To Uncover Website Builders:
Unlike many other blogs you might read on this same topic, we actually spent some time and money and signed up with each one – so you’ll be able to see the “test sites” we made.
Our goal is to provide a review, by actually going through each product in detail, to help you make the best decision.
Here’s the process we took:
1. We signed up with the top 10 website builders (we paid for them).
We searched on Google until we had a list of 10 most popular website builders on the market.
2. Setup a simple ‘5-minute’ test website.
After signing up with them, we decided to make a quick ‘5-minute’ website on our own domain name, like websitesetup-wix.com and websitesetup-yola.com, etc.
3. Monitored each site’s uptime and page load times (12+ months, ongoing).
Over a period of 12 months (still ongoing), we monitored our website uptime and page load times via Pingdom.com. Some of our sites had more than 24 hours of downtime…(!)
4. Uncovered the TRUE cost of each website builder.
Many of these website builder services 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 the pricing before you set up a website with them.
This last point is especially important because most website platforms 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.
Top 10 Website Builders in 2019
Full disclosure: We may earn a commission if you end up purchasing a website builder through the links in this review. This is how we keep websitesetup.org up and running and there are no extra costs to you at all. Regardless, we only recommend website builders that we’ve personally used and found reliable and simple.
|WEBSITE BUILDER||PLAN COST||LOAD TIME||UPTIME||USABILITY||OUR RATING|
|1. Wix.com||$11.00 – $35.00||581ms||99.98%||BEST||★★★★★|
|2. ConstantContact.com||$8.00 – $20.00||462ms||99.99%||GOOD||★★★★|
|3. SITE123||$10.80 – $28.80||659ms||99.97%||GOOD||★★★★|
|4. Jimdo.com||$9.00 – $39.00||917ms||99.84%||AVERAGE||★★★|
|5. Squarespace.com||$12.00 – $40.00||326ms||99.98%||AVERAGE||★★★|
|6. GoDaddy.com||$5.99 – $19.99||624ms||99.99%||AVERAGE||★★★|
|7. WordPress.com||$8.00 – $45.00||304ms||99.99%||AVERAGE||★★|
|8. Weebly.com||$12.00 – $38.00||882ms||99.97%||CONFUSING||★★|
|9. Webs.com||$12.99 – $22.99||942ms||99.83%||CONFUSING||★|
|10. Web.com||–||–||–||BAD BILLING||★|
*Limited introductory price
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. Wix.com – Easy to Use Website Builder for Small Business
CONS of Wix
- Each email account costs $6/mo (through Google G Suite).
- No live chat, but 24/7 phone support and via tickets.
PROS of Wix
- Most popular website builder on the market, and well-established, hosting more than 100 million users worldwide. There’s a reason so many people use it.
- Cheap option for eCommerce stores (plans starting $20/mo). This includes everything from simple products to even bookings and registration for events.
- Wix has one of the biggest libraries of site templates, boasting over 500 “designer-made” options. They are good for different industries/categories.
- Very simple and easy to use. The customization options are almost endless. And you can tweak your site in a matter of seconds with their easy to navigate drag and drop features.
- You can build just about any site imaginable with Wix software. These include typical eCommerce features that support multiple different payment methods, but it also includes a customizable music player, video uploads to the media gallery, events with invitations and bookings, even online ordering for restaurants.
- We submitted a support ticket with a few questions for their customer service department and received this thorough reply about 12 hours later. Pretty good overall.
- Our Wix test site has seen decent uptime over the last six months of 99.98% (and solid speed at ~581ms).
- Wix also offers long-term discounts. The longer you prepay, the more you win. We opted for the annual plan and got a free domain in the process, paying just $132.00 for both, whois privacy protection was extra though, but that’s common. You can also purchase two or even three years’ plans to save as much as $216.
Wix was one of the easiest site builders we have ever tested.
And yet, it’s simple to use, fast and reliable.
There are so many themes to choose from. They’re all well designed, too. The extra features that Wix sites include mean that you can basically use it for any purpose, from a simple blog to an advanced restaurant site or eCommerce store.
Plus, the budget-friendly pricing is perfect for even your personal or hobby site.
Wix is used by millions of small business owners on a daily basis. You can test them out for free…
2. Constant Contact – Easy to Use and Professional Website Builder
CONS of Constant Contact
- Emails cost extra at $6/monthly through Google’s GSuite. (You’ll notice that this is a pretty common tactic across most website builders on this list.)
- Phone support isn’t available on the free plan.
PROS of Constant Contact
- All Constant Contact plans are completely unlimited. There are no restrictions for bandwidth or maximum storage.
- Fully-functional online store in the free plan – not offered by any other website builder on this list.
- There A.I. powered website builder can sync with your Facebook page, and within minutes, it will automatically pull in photos, branding, and posts from your page to your website.
- Constant Contact website builder was relatively easy and simple to use. It’s fairly intuitive, and the templates are modern. You can simply click on a page element to bring up customization options.
- CTCT gives its users a free domain name for the first year without forcing any ads on your site under any plan, either.
- The dedicated customer support team is just a phone call away, with chat and email support 24/7. We tested Live Chat and answers came instantly. They were helpful throughout, answering our (many) questions in personal detail. They didn’t just link out to a bunch of support docs and force us to manually comb through, looking for a needle in a haystack. Very positive experience!
- If you purchase a 12 or 24-month plan, you’ll get a free domain for 1 year. For example, we paid only $192 for two full years. The $16 domain was free as well.
The Intelligent tool is unique. You can create nearly-complete, mobile responsive, beautiful and SEO optimized websites with very fast loading times. They look great on any device and takes a few minutes to complete!
You get a free domain name for the entire first year. And, the online store is included in the free plan. However certain key features are behind paywalls, but the e-commerce plan costs less than any other website builder on this list.
All of those reasons, plus near-flawless uptime, make building a website with Constant Contact an excellent choice.
The constant Contact website builder is very easy to use, professional and a reliable yet affordable website builder.
3. SITE123 – Best Website Builder for Very Small Websites
CONS of SITE123
- You need to upgrade your plan to get more custom email accounts. Not possible to buy them separately.
- Copy-past customer support answers. For example, we tried asking how many users they have, how many template options, etc. Yet, they wouldn’t be transparent and answer anything, instead of responding with, “In our webtool support department we do not have access to information concerning how many clients we have.” Seems more like they just didn’t feel like finding the answer for us. And when we asked a few other standard questions, they would just give us a link for the answer. Not very professional, but at least they have a 24/7 live support.
PROS of SITE123
- They include a free plan to test out their website building tool. It’s very limited, but you can get an idea of how SITE123 works.
- Cheapest e-commerce plan starts at $22.80 and is heavily supported with a huge, dedicated help section.
- From what we can tell (they wouldn’t confirm), there are at least a 250+ design templates to choose from. They’re both visually pleasing and fit many different industries. You can use their tools to reorder pages or posts in minutes by clicking and dragging in place:
- SITE123 is another website builder that delivers a strong uptime of 99.97%, which is slightly less than Constant Contact.
- Basic plan pricing is good if you only need a simple, content-driven site or blog. We only paid $129.60 for the year, which also included the domain name.
Overall, we would recommend it for relatively simple sites. There are a lot of design template choices, uptime and speed were strong, too. However, the customer support and the editor were a little lacking, though.
You can try using it for bigger, more complicated sites. But it also gets expensive really fast.
Therefore, it might be a good alternative vs. getting a custom site built out. Just be ready to spend a decent amount over the course of a year if that’s the route you’re going with.
4. Jimdo – Very Intuitive Builder, But Limited Templates (16 Only)
CONS of Jimdo
- Unlike GoDaddy Website builder (1,500 + themes), Jimdo comes with ONLY 16 themes.
- Support for the cheapest plan can take 1-2 business days and they don’t have a phone to call (in case you need urgent help)
- Our website performance isn’t good as others – 49 outages in the last 6-months and speed of 917ms. Nothing too good…
PROS of Jimdo
- Pricing was advertised as $9.00/month and the actual total was exactly $108 for one year. No hidden fees and fairly low cost.
- We managed to get our test site up and running within less than 20 minutes.
- Extra email accounts are very cheap (compared to other website builder software), costing only $1/mo a piece.
- Similarly to others, they offer their users a free domain for 1 year (renews at $20/year afterward) and their cheapest online store plan is affordable, too – $19/mo.
Yes and no…
The initial design is very clean and neat. It’s more contemporary than some of the ones we’ve already reviewed here.
They offer cheap email accounts and unlimited products on their e-commerce plans. Their website builder is simple and straightforward.
However, the biggest issue is with their speed and uptime – it’s slightly unreliable. And the fact that they only have 16 templates and your customization options are limited to only relatively basic changes.
Great for a one-page-website. Need something bigger? You’d be better off with Wix.
5. Squarespace – Best Website Builder for Photographers
CONS of Squarespace
- High cost. A standard website starts between $12-18/month, with online stores increasing to $26-40/month. And these include the discount for paying annually. Not only are they more expensive on average, but the high-end eCommerce price is the most expensive, too – $40/mo. Luckily, we paid as much as stated on their website and not a penny more:
- Unfortunately, these high prices don’t include email accounts. Those will still set you back an extra $5/month for each.
- Our Squarespace support experience was not great. There are tons of resources available, but that’s also kinda the problem. There’s too much stuff and it’s not easy to find your way. We went looking for the live chat option, and unfortunately, that wasn’t much better. In order to reach the live chat, we had to fill out three drop-down boxes regarding our issue. Then, it still tries to send you over to an article or email. This repeated multiple times while we were waiting in the queue. They kept trying to send “how-to” articles, instead. Finally, we got on with an agent. But even that was slow. The entire process took around twenty minutes to get a simple answer to our question. And then, how did the support rep help? By sending us another link to a how-to article.
- Email accounts cost $6/mo extra through Google Suite.
PROS of Squarespace
- Despite the high price, Squarespace is probably the best pick for individuals who need image-based websites. Think of photographers and wedding planners.
- Squarespace’s 200+ design templates that look good. Really good. They might be the most ‘professional’ looking options out there.
- Squarespace sites almost look and feel custom. But they still have the same intuitive editor that allows you to customize things in seconds.
- All of their plans have no storage or bandwidth restrictions.
- Squarespace’s performance is good. The 99.98% uptime over the past six months is as good and reassuring. Speed is one of the fastest, too – averaging 326ms.
Yes and no. If you’re starting a site in a design-centric niche (think: fashion), it might be worth springing a few extra bucks for Squarespace.
Otherwise, for the vast majority of other people, it’s probably not worth the high price tag when you can get similar features for significantly less.
6. GoDaddy – Flexible, But Little Confusing Website Builder
CONS of GoDaddy Website Builder
- Emails can get pretty expensive – $9.99/mo for each. And they don’t integrate with Google but with Microsoft Office – not the best option for beginners.
- We tried to quickly get some questions answered on their live chat. We logged on, and the estimated wait time was 35 minutes! Really? For “live” chat? By this point in time, we had already been able to research everything on their site to be able to answer our questions. But we didn’t want to give up just yet. When a rep finally connected, they immediately said, “To access your account we will need your 4 digit support PIN. Please provide your PIN with this secure form I am sending you.” But… what if you didn’t have an account? What if you were just looking to buy and had a few simple questions?
- GoDaddy has multiple upsells making navigating very difficult. They offer a 1-year free domain name, but this renews at $17.99/mo.
PROS of GoDaddy Website Builder
- GoDaddy offers 1500+ design and template options, all broken down into categories based on the site you want to create and if you don’t like it you can just switch to another one.
- All of the templates feature the same drag-and-drop interface that most website builders now offer. GoDaddy’s isn’t quite as intuitive as Wix, but it’s still decent.
- E-commerce is fully supported, as is a handy scheduling feature. This might be perfect for coaches who want to bill for their time and help clients schedule themselves into their calendar.
- GoDaddy might be one of the only site builders that offers a free month trial. That’s a good deal that allows you to test things out and refund before getting locked into a much bigger annual commitment.
- We’ve been pleasantly blown away by how solid the performance for each site builder has been. GoDaddy offers another 99.99% uptime, only going down once for two minutes.
- GoDaddy is slightly more expensive than the other alternatives we’ve seen so far. We paid $143.86 for the year. The domain costs another $14.60. including tax.
Yes and no.
GoDaddy’s website builder isn’t terrible. But it’s not great, either.
We found others on this list, like Wix, and Constant Contact, to be much stronger overall.
In addition, the eCommerce plans were expensive and we can’t overlook the half-hour “live” chat session, either.
7. WordPress – Best Builder for Bloggers and Blogs
CONS of WordPress.com
- WordPress is not the best option for complete beginners as it requires more work and some technical skills.
- A free domain is not included in many plans. Buying a domain name through WordPress.com will cost you $22/year (not the cheapest)
- Many cheaper plans are very limited. For example, not all templates are included in all plans and you aren’t allowed to add PayPal buttons.
- WordPress has 200+ themes to choose from, but not all of them can be used to drag and drop.
PROS of WordPress.com
- WordPress is the most popular software to create a website. Many popular websites run on WordPress engine.
- As long as you’re OK with learning WordPress, it can be an excellent eCommerce option. Adding an online store to your site will cost you extra on pretty much all site builders. However, it’s free on WordPress with WooCommerce.
- We managed to create a pretty good test site – see it yourself.
- WordPress had a chat-with-us form (for paid users). And a rep connected within three minutes. The rep was more than helpful, ready to help fix our problem (as opposed to just sending us a how-to link).
- If you don’t want to set up your own hosting account, you can pay for it through WordPress directly. The Personal plan for most sites is pretty affordable at only $60/year. When we signed up the Personal plan cost $4.00 a month, and that’s exactly what we were billed:
- And the last bit of good news is that WordPress obviously knows how to host a site, delivering an untouchable >99.99% uptime and ~300ms load time. Not bad.
Not for beginners.
WordPress is perfect for advanced users who want more control, and are willing to handle the workload.
It’s a good ‘next step’ beyond a typical website builder. But it requires a lot more maintenance and has a bigger learning curve.
Beginners, or even people who just don’t want to have to do all the upkeep on a WordPress site, should probably stick to a more traditional website builder.
8. Weebly – Too Average for Serious Use
CONS of Weebly
- Weebly has only 60 themes to choose from. And many of them haven’t been updated for a while…
- Each email costs $5 a pop.
- Weebly’s cheapest plans are very limited, forcing you to upgrade later.
- Weebly, over the last six months, saw an uptime of 99.97% – a bit short of the 99.99% and even 100% from what others on this list provide.
PROS of Weebly
- Weebly offers a limited free plan. You can try it out on a small scale before paying.
- They also offer a 15-day free trial.
- Weebly includes hundreds of great templates organized by type, including drag-and-drop options for eCommerce, too.
- Our favorite Weebly feature was the intuitive editor. It was very easy to customize site options and build a website.
- Unlimited bandwidth and storage at a rather cheap cost:
- The support agent was quick and helped provide answers to all of our questions… without sending an article link. Very efficient.
Weebly isn’t bad by any stretch. In fact, we really like a few features (like that editor). They even offer a free plan and free trial, so you can still test them out.
However, the high eCommerce cost and spotty site performance, there are just much better options on this list.
9. Webs – Performance and Slow Speed Issues
CONS of Webs
- Similarly to the SITE123 website builder, you need to upgrade to get access to more email accounts. Not good for users.
- Compared to others on this list, Webs design templates did seem a touch outdated. It also wasn’t as easy to edit.
- Different site builder, same story. Cheapest – $5.99/mo plan is very limited. E-commerce plans are more expensive, starting at $22.99/month paid annually.
- Higher renewal rates. This is a perfect example of what happens when discounts expire. We’ve had this test site for a few years now. And you’ll see in the image above that years two and three were more expensive. The new customer discount expired. Hence, if you see a website builder offering two or 3-year terms, you’re better off paying for it to save as much as possible with the new customer pricing.
- Webs performance let us down a little. The uptime was only 99.83% over the past few months, meaning our site has spent a full day completely down. No website, no customers!
PROS of Webs
- Webs.com hosts over 55 million sites. Mostly through web hosting.
- They provide a lot of themes and templates to choose from, over 400.
- Webs also provided good customer service experience. Live chat only takes a few seconds to get started, and the agent was very helpful.
Webs builder is fine. But way behind most of the other options on this list.
The templates are a little outdated. The performance hasn’t been very good. And the pricing seems kinda high based on what we’ve seen.
10. Web – Bad Billing Practices, Difficult Refund Process
We wanted to review Web.com. We see them, everywhere online, so they must be doing a ton of promotion. But we didn’t actually sign up and pay for them.
- ❌ First and foremost, the entire billing process seemed shady. We couldn’t believe how many upsells there were. And the only way to cancel your plan — in 2018 going on 2019 — is to CALL them. Crazy, right?
- ❌ The other problem we ran into was that they don’t actually tell you what you’re getting. The ‘Do It Yourself plan, for example, is incredibly vague.
- ❌ Even though they have a big selection of themes, almost all of them look bad. Not only does the design leave a lot to be desired, but the actual format and layouts are outdated, too.
- ❌ There doesn’t seem to be any drag-and-drop editor. Instead, all you can do is change basic things without actually customizing the site.
- ❌ Their other reviews online from other customers are worrying. Check out this one:
- “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!”
- ❌ We’ve saved the best part for last. Web.com starts at $22.00/month! That makes a ‘basic’ site with them more expensive than Wix, Constant Contact, and even Squarespace. So we couldn’t bring ourselves to sign up and pay them money for the headache.
Why MOST ‘Free’ Website Builders Aren’t Free
Most of these platforms reviewed claim to have some ‘free’ option.
Sounds perfect, right?!
That’s what we thought too, initially. However, it’s also a little too good to be true.
Here are three problems we ran into:
Problem #1 – No Domain Name
You’ve spent minutes (or hours) putting your brand new ‘free’ website together and you’re almost ready to hit the Publish button to make it live to the world.
The only problem is, you still need a domain name.
The ‘free’ option that most website builders provide you with are amateurish looking web addresses like:
Think people will take you seriously? Nope.
Assuming this website is for some commercial or professional reason (i.e. you want to make money from it), credibility is the key. Instead, you’ll want something that looks like YourBusiness.com or YourSite.com.
Some of these website builders below do provide some ‘free domain name’ offer. But there are restrictions which we’ll explore soon.
Problem #2 – Plan Limitations
‘Free’ versions sound great. Until you read the fine print.
Basically, you’re going to be forced to pony up some cash for basically any type of extra or upgrade. For example:
- Want to choose more than 10 themes/layouts? You need to pay.
- Want to have a personal email account like [email protected]? You need to pay for that.
- Want certain features like contact form, search box or videos? You need to pay.
- Want to add a small eCommerce shop? You need to pay.
- Get stuck or need help from their support? Pay.
- Want to add more than X number of images or see your site statistics? Pay.
Unfortunately, the list goes on and on and on.
Website Builders commonly claim they’re free, only to then up-sell and cross-sell you to death until eventually, you’re paying more than their cheapest plan in the first place.
Don’t worry – you’re not alone! We learned all this stuff first-hand.
At first, we didn’t plan on spending a single penny in order to write this review. But we quickly found out that it was going to be an expensive review when all is said and done.
Problem #3 – No Control Over Your Site
This last problem is also the worst.
Let’s say you spend endless nights adding content, writing new blog posts or adding products to your eCommerce shop.
Everything’s finally starting to fall into place and look perfect.
Until one day, you go to check in on your site and it’s gone.
Not just ‘down.’ But gone, gone.
Panicking, you quickly reach out to customer support (after waiting on hold for an hour), and get a ‘canned response’ like the following:
“We’re very sorry, but your site violated our terms and TOS for free accounts, thus we had to disable it. If you want to get it live, you’ll need to pay for it.”
A good website builder might set you back anywhere between $5 to $20 a month. However, there are a few other considerations to make besides just pricing when choosing the next home for your new website. Let’s take a look at how they all compare, which ones you should choose, and which ones you should avoid like the plague. [/wpex]
So Which Website Builder Is Your Best Bet?
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).
- Best all-around option? Go with Wix or Constant Contact and you won’t be disappointed (or overpay).
- The best option for beginners or those needing eCommerce? Wix is probably your best bet.
- Best for photographers, designers, or other visual businesses? Chances are you’ll love Constant Contact’s beautiful templates.
Have you used any of the website building tools above? Leave a comment and share your experience. Thanks.