Michael Muchmore is PC Magazine's lead analyst for software and web applications. A native New Yorker, he has at various times headed up PC Magazine's coverage of Web development, enterprise software, and display technologies. Michael cowrote one of the first overviews of web services for a general audience. Before that he worked on PC Magazine's S... See Full Bio
I just wanted to thank you for your execellant review of the web builders. I am a professional Art Director who at my clients requests, needs to start building sites for them. I started a site for a film Director last year who wanted to feature his personal photography. So at the time, I used Square Space which seemed to be very versitle, however, I was never able to finish the site due to other job commitments. I have now been hired to design/build a site for a wonderful luthier. So I think I am going to go with WIX per your review. (Unless you think SP would be better.) please let me know and thanks again!!!!
If you're ready to get going, this guide will introduce you to the services and software that can get you started building your own website, even if you have no experience. Keep in mind, none of these tools will give you an idea for a winning website—that's on you. They also won't make you a web designer, a job that's distinct from building a site. Still, these services and software will ease some of the headaches that come from a lack of extensive expertise in CSS, FTP, HTML, and PHP.
"I just wanted to tell you how much I love your product — after coding sites since 1999 — I can have a world class landing page or simple site up in minutes. I’m having a freaking blast using this product of yours! :-) I am a perfect user for Mobirise Simple Website Builder, as I am that entrepreneur, the guy needing to frequently put up great web pages and small sites for new ideas, products, events, etc. in the course of running my busy business. Coding dumdums like me all over the world will flock to Mobirise Free Website Builder by the thousands and thousands for such a drag and drop platform for producing gorgeous, responsive, static sites with truly ZERO coding."

As far as actually doing the nuts and bolts building and design of your site, you also have plenty of options. You can hire someone to design and code a website, or you can try your own hand. You can use an online service to create web pages, or build it offline using a desktop software tool. Or, if you're a coding dynamo, use a plain text editor to create a site from scratch. How you mix and match these decisions depends on your skills, time, budget, and gumption.
Well, it depends on what you are looking for. It’s great that they hardly have any restrictions on the free plan in terms of features and templates. On desktop computers, they place a pretty visible ad at the top of your website that is sticky (i.e. it will stay even when you start scrolling the page). Fortunately, on mobile phones, it far less visible and also not sticky. To use your own custom domain name, you’ll need the Combo plan at least, which is $11 per month.
Well, it depends on what you are looking for. It’s great that they hardly have any restrictions on the free plan in terms of features and templates. On desktop computers, they place a pretty visible ad at the top of your website that is sticky (i.e. it will stay even when you start scrolling the page). Fortunately, on mobile phones, it far less visible and also not sticky. To use your own custom domain name, you’ll need the Combo plan at least, which is $11 per month.
For our WordPress sites, we pay $100 per hour to a capable developer to help us out from time to time (after building websites since 2010, we still need to pay a WordPress specialist $100 per hour for some tasks).  But it wasn’t until we were quite knowledgeable about WordPress did we have the capability to determine if a WordPress developer was good or not.
Hello. I’m very thankful to you for finding this information before pursuing getting my website started!! I know absolutely nothing, technical wise, so I need a builder that can assist me with just that. I want to have a site with: my Photography, my Poetry, Verses from the Word, & Encouraging words for the day. Simple, not complicated. Also to where people can interact with me as well if they choose to, & be Facebook accessible. I’m praying that you would be willing to guide me a little bit. I’m a TRUE amateur at this!! Wix.com is who I think I’m going to go through. Please, let me know what you think. I appreciate the information you shared, more than you know!! TY!!
While our competitors limit you to creating a boring static website, at WebStarts we give you the ability to build a website that includes rich, interactive features, we call them apps. Our integrated apps range from form builders, calendars, memberships, video hosting, music playlists, music stores, maps, SEO, and much more. These interactive apps are designed to help your website attract more visitors, capture more leads, and make your website more sticky.
When we started WebStarts we knew everyone was going to need a website, that means everyone. Knowing the wide range of uses for a website we decided to make the basic version of WebStarts free. That way everyone from the student to the biggest corporation can create a great looking website with our free website builder. We also know people are going to love using WebStarts so much they'll want to upgrade to a paid subscription to get even more advanced features for their business or organization. 

Great article, comments and discussion thread...thanks to everyone. My question is which of the site builders would be best for constructing a service business (versus selling and shipping a product) where different service event activity dates/times must be scheduled, payments processed and confirmations and follow-up details sent after purchase? Appreciate your insight. Thx!
WebStarts is everything you need to create and maintain your very own website. Traditionally websites are written in HTML code, that code is stored on a server, and a domain is pointed to it. The process of setting up a traditional website is tedious, technical, and expensive. If you don't know how to code you might hire a web developer. Next, you need to purchase server space. Finally, you need to register a domain. It's a hassle to manage three different bills and three different companies. The whole process is so confusing it leaves a lot of people wondering how to make a website at all.
"You have a great basic product formula that appeals to entrepreneurs wanting to build their own web sites without any coding. If you continue to refine this basic concept — no code at all — the Mobirise website builder software will gain more and more users - do-it-yourself entrepreneurs - independent, freelance, contract, solo and other non-traditional workers.. If you add more prebuilt blocks to drag and drop into the web pages, that will help growth."

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Ionos features a massive amount of industry-specific templates for all kinds of niches. They are one of the few website builder companies that don’t make you pay extra for a domain name and email address. But what makes them a true favorite in our ranking is the smart system to create a multilingual website, which is included in the Business plan ($10 per month).

Most website viewers visit via a mobile device, just as you may be reading these very words from the tiny shiny screen of your smartphone. This is why it’s so important that the user experience of your site—especially for the mobile visitors—is absolutely top notch. It should at least be as good as the regular website itself. We examined technology used in themes and the functionality of the mobile editor, as well as loading speed on mobile devices.


Although Yola has more than 270 themes for their customers to choose from, nearly all of these themes are outdated to the point of incompetence. Yola would have been a fantastic site builder if you were building a website back in 2008. However, in the modern world of web design with responsive themes, video backgrounds, and exceptionally complex interfaces, Yola simply cannot compete with any of the major site builders out there.
“I’ve had a couple sites with Weebly (2 free sites and one pro site) almost since Weebly’s beginning. I won’t change because the support is top of the line when I can’t figure things out, but I have to say for a technologically challenged person like me the whole thing is exceedingly easy to figure out and to use. There are very simple tutorials for whatever is not obvious and simple tutorials that explain the updates. Thanks Weebly for these years of ease of website building.” ―Yonge Charlotte
Hello Robert, thank you for the comprehensive review. I would really appreciate your recommendation for my specific case (I have studied your review carefully and still I’m not sure). I am an artist and want to build a website showcasing my paintings (photographed high resolution), and an online store selling paintings. It is essential that I can add items to the store on weekly basis. It is also essential the site loads quickly to get high google ranking. Cost is an issue, and I don’t mind a learning curve. I want a clear and clean website, no confusion / getting lost elements. Would you recommend Bold Grid?

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I had a website with domain and hosting at godaddy. My site was deleted completely by godaddy due to a problem in payment processing of my hosting fees. I do have a backup of that website on my desktop. My domain is still registered with godaddy. My question is: I want to revise my site on my desktop before uploading to any hosting provider. I want to make it a responsive design and mobile friendly site. How can I do the revision of my old site on my desktop so that I can finally upload it to my hosting provider?
If you prefer a more traditional URL, you'll need to purchase one from the likes of GoDaddy or Namecheap. Domain name pricing can range from extremely cheap to extremely expensive, depending on whether or not domain squatters are looking to flip a valuable piece of online real estate. You'll want to get something short but evocative and catchy, and depending on what you do, you may find that many of your first choices are taken by either other legit domains, or by squatters who've scooped up the names as an investment. For more, please read How to Register a Domain Name.

Hello Robert, thank you for the comprehensive review. I would really appreciate your recommendation for my specific case (I have studied your review carefully and still I’m not sure). I am an artist and want to build a website showcasing my paintings (photographed high resolution), and an online store selling paintings. It is essential that I can add items to the store on weekly basis. It is also essential the site loads quickly to get high google ranking. Cost is an issue, and I don’t mind a learning curve. I want a clear and clean website, no confusion / getting lost elements. Would you recommend Bold Grid?

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Weebly has some great things going for it in terms of price – its intuitive design, and high value per dollar offers. Sadly, when it comes time to actually build a website, Weebly falls awfully short compared to its competition. Their drag and drop website builder is really limited in its utility and forces you to adhere to pre-formatted templates strictly.

SITE123 free website builder is designed to suit anyone. You don’t need to have any design skills or purchase any design software whatsoever. Our web builder provides a range of ready-made styles and layouts that allow you to set up a totally professional website in mere minutes. What you need to do is upload your contents and pick the appropriate mockup for each tool from the offered variety. All styles and layouts are easily replaceable at any given moment.


Even if your site’s primary purpose is not to function as a blog, you may find yourself requiring one at some point (Be sure to read the how to start a blog guide for a complete overview), either to keep your visitors updated or to use as a marketing tool. SEO, for example, is something that requires the creation of content to get your website noticed by search engines. Most website builders have built-in content management systems that allow you to write and edit blog posts in your browser. These systems make it easy to create rich content on the fly.

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I had been with a builder/host who’s focus migrated from yoga studios (closest match I could find at the time) to chiropractors, eye doctors & vets. I changed to a new builder/host that supposedly fully integrated all the aspects of my business mgt. software; only to discover after going live that things like BUY NOW links didn’t work & the ability to embed code provided by the business mgt. software really doesn’t exist.

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A domain name is the bit of the URL (the long address in your browser’s search bar) that identifies a web page — in this case your website. You can register them separately at sites like GoDaddy and Namecheap, but website builders offer to do it for you when you sign up with them. Most provide it for free (at least initially), while a handful charge a few extra bucks.


WordPress.com is built for blogging, and it shows. Extensive blogging features are automatically built-in such as analytics, a search feature, comments, display categories, archiving, and more. Combine this with intuitive design, such as being able to choose your settings for feature images and which blog posts should appear on your home page, and it’s clear why WordPress.com is so successful.

With no page limit and 500 MB of space, you'll likely have more than enough space to build your site, and it even provides HTTPS/SSL encryption, meaning your visitor's information will be kept safe. Plus, you're able to integrate your site seamlessly with social media accounts. If you do decide to use Jimdo, beware of one thing: the builder prevents free websites from being indexed by search engines.

If you are putting all that thought, time, effort, and sometimes even money into your brand-new website, you probably aren’t looking to just enjoy it yourself. You want the whole world to know about it! SEO helps you get there! That’s why the SEO (search engine optimization) options of a website builder come in handy for you. We determined how many feature a particular website builder has and evaluated them one by one.

While the the best of them offer surprising amounts of flexibility, they also impose stringent enough restrictions to page design that you shouldn't be able to create a really bad looking site using one of these services. Typically you can get a Mysite.servicename.com style-url with no commerce abilities for free from one of these services; you have to pay extra for a better URL and the ability to sell. One issue to consider is that if you eventually outgrow one of these services, it can be hard to export your site to a full scale advanced web hosting like Dreamhost or Hostgator. If you know that's where you are eventually going, it may be better to skip the sitebuilder step.

It’s important not to be blinded by the word “free.” If you can afford it, stay away from free plans for your business site, even if it’s a small business. Of course, if the alternative is no website, then a free one is still better than nothing. But free plans come with certain restrictions that can give your business website an unprofessional look, such as strange domain names and an obtrusive advert.
WordPress is not an all-in-one package. It’s a Content Management System (CMS). A CMS allows you to create and organize digital content. Other elements like hosting and domain registration are best done separately. It’s up to you to bring these together in service of a WordPress site. This isn’t nearly as complicated as you might think, but it’s not the easiest way to make a website. We wouldn’t recommend it to people uncomfortable with technology.
WordPress is a big name when it comes to creating websites. But you should know that WordPress.com, which is linked to in the table above, is not what most people are talking about when they mention WordPress. What most internet-savvy people mean by the term WordPress is the free, open-source blogging platform that comes from WordPress.org. Using this requires you to find your own website hosting service. The WordPress.org software is such a popular site-building platform that many web hosting services even offer managed WordPress hosting plans. WordPress.com, on the other hand, is a service that deploys and hosts that software for you, so you don't have to go out and find your own hosting service.
You can make a website for free, but there are catches. Free accounts on website builders hold a lot of important features back. You can’t use custom domains, and your free site will have ads for that website builder. If you’re looking to learn more about website building then the free options are worth a look. However, if you want a professional, feature-rich website you’re going to have to pay at least a few dollars a month.

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WordPress.com is built for blogging, and it shows. Extensive blogging features are automatically built-in such as analytics, a search feature, comments, display categories, archiving, and more. Combine this with intuitive design, such as being able to choose your settings for feature images and which blog posts should appear on your home page, and it’s clear why WordPress.com is so successful.


If you’re trying to build a large ecommerce store, here’s how to setup WooCommerce and WordPress (one of the most popular ways to add products to your store). Less tech-savvy beginners may prefer using a simplistic website builder. The most common choice is to build an online store with Shopify. Although website costs can vary, but consider reading up on the top questions to ask when hiring a website designer.

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A domain name is the bit of the URL (the long address in your browser’s search bar) that identifies a web page — in this case your website. You can register them separately at sites like GoDaddy and Namecheap, but website builders offer to do it for you when you sign up with them. Most provide it for free (at least initially), while a handful charge a few extra bucks.

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They are also currently running a massive 50% discount. So if you purchase a 12 or 24-month plan, you’ll not only get a free domain for 1 year, but a lot of savings, too. For example, we paid $143.76 for two full years. The $16 domain was free as well. Just keep in mind that renewal prices will adjust back to the normal rate. That means you’ll often lose the initial discount. You’ll notice below that pretty much all website builders do this. Therefore, try to lock in a longer term if possible to save the most.


What they should improve: Their blogging system is missing some key features like tags or a native commenting system. If you are looking to create an online store, look elsewhere – their solution is pretty basic. Unlike Wix or Weebly they don’t have an app store; these can be really convenient as they let you install extensions that enhance your site’s capabilities.
Even if you don't sign up for those web hosts, you should look for services that offer similar features. You'll want a WYSIWYG editor that lets you adjust every page and add images, video, and social links. Plunking down a few extra bucks typically nets you robust ecommerce and search engine optimization (SEO) packages for improved Bing, Google, and Yahoo placement. Most advanced web hosting services include at least one domain name, free of charge, when you sign up.
Ionos features a massive amount of industry-specific templates for all kinds of niches. They are one of the few website builder companies that don’t make you pay extra for a domain name and email address. But what makes them a true favorite in our ranking is the smart system to create a multilingual website, which is included in the Business plan ($10 per month).
I have no experience with blogs other than what I read online. I would appreciate your help regarding a “shared” blog. A friend and I are considering contributing posts to the same blog. Is it allowed? …to “own” a blog together? If so, how would we do it; should we both follow the steps installing WordPress etc. and then one of us create it and the other just logs in with the username and password?
I hear your pain. I know creating a website can be daunting, especially to someone who has never ventured into the online world, but let me assure you that it is really quite simple. If you don’t want to head down the road of building your own self hosted WordPress site, then I would suggest signing up to WordPress.com. This is the free version of WordPress where you can get your site up and running in no time and with no costs whatsoever. Sounds like you just need a no frills, no bells, no whistles type of website. If that’s the case then WordPress.com could be the option for you.
Hey thank you so much for this article! It was really helpful. I do have a question regarding what platform I should use for my business venture though. I currently have a premium plan with Wix that I use to promote myself as an artist/ performer. I have loved working with Wix, but I am starting a marketing business online and want something that allows me to build websites for other businesses quickly, and be able to do a broad range of things since I would be building for other people I would need that flexibility. Also does Wix or WordPress offer any sort of click funnel? Thank you and look forward to hearing from you soon.
The best place to find themes is through WordPress’s own Theme Directory. Search for the types of themes you’d be interested in. If you’re setting up a newspaper search ‘newspaper’, if you need a site for your café search ‘cafe’. There’ll be dozens, if not hundreds, of contenders. Clicking on a theme takes you to its own page where you can see user reviews and preview the theme in action.
More-advanced options found in some builders let you process credit card payments and add your own cart and checkout pages. The more-powerful site builders include product promotions, email marketing, and inventory and shipping tools. Some let you sell digital downloads, while others don't; see the table above to find out which do. Only a couple of these builders let you put ads on your site, though most of them allow some degree of custom HTML code insertion.

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WordPress is not an all-in-one package. It’s a Content Management System (CMS). A CMS allows you to create and organize digital content. Other elements like hosting and domain registration are best done separately. It’s up to you to bring these together in service of a WordPress site. This isn’t nearly as complicated as you might think, but it’s not the easiest way to make a website. We wouldn’t recommend it to people uncomfortable with technology.
But they seriously fall short with their support. We have had so many awful experiences with them. If you’re really really lucky you can connect to their live support under 5 minutes and talk with a good and helpful support representative. Unfortunately, in most cases, you’re going to be on the waiting list for 30+ minutes and get a copy-paste unuseful answers and even upsells to fix your problems.
Even if you don't sign up for those web hosts, you should look for services that offer similar features. You'll want a WYSIWYG editor that lets you adjust every page and add images, video, and social links. Plunking down a few extra bucks typically nets you robust ecommerce and search engine optimization (SEO) packages for improved Bing, Google, and Yahoo placement. Most advanced web hosting services include at least one domain name, free of charge, when you sign up.
I’m using wix right now for my own personal blog. I know I don’t have my own domain name and the wix add is always on my website, however, the page can still be easily reached and I will be able to add basic content like article entries and videos. Products or merchandise and affiliate links could still also be used without having to pay a premium for a registered domain and hosting service. Pay feature may possibly be enabled as well, depending on how you set it up, so that no percentage would be deducted from sales through the site or from a sales widget.
Mobirise Website Builder offers 50+ themes and 150+ demo pages that include sliders, galleries with lightbox, articles, counters, countdowns, full-screen intros, images & videos, features, data tables & pricing tables, progress bar & cycles, timelines, tabs & accordions, call-to-action, forms, Google maps, social blocks, testimonials, footers, and more. Blocks are designed considering the latest web design trends, and they are flexible and full of customizing options.
Hi Ben, Thanks so much for the great feedback, so glad you enjoyed reading the article! Please do share it on if you think your friends will find it useful too. It's true Wix isn't for everybody, but it did do extremely well in our research (which is why it's our best all-round website builder)! WordPress is another great option and I'm glad you're happy with them - Bluehost is certainly a great choice of provider for your WordPress site! If you were looking at changing or setting up another site why not check out our comparison chart or our article on the best Wix alternatives? I've included the links in case you find them interesting. Thanks for reading, Lucy
Hello. Just wondering why you didn’t include Shopify. It was recommended to me. But I haven’t tried it yet. I have tried WIX.COM and it was ok until I lost everything in my website and I could not get it back anymore. I am a novice in this field so it was really hard for me to lose everything. It seems like tech support is not very good either since it is hard to contact them.
I’m pretty new to the whole web development/design aspect of things. I’ve tinkered before with free things but more specifically with forum design. I’m very interested in building a website but aside from having a main traditional website feel I’m looking to incorporate a forum to it. Would it be possible to do this with this WordPress/BlueHost tutorial here? Or would there be something you recommend for that sort of thing?
Although people tend to find your site through a branded search in Google, it’s still important to make your domain easy to spell/type out. If it requires a lot of effort to type correctly, due to trying to spell it, the length or the use of un-memorable words or sounds, you’ve probably kissed goodbye to a good portion of your branding and marketing value.

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I had been with a builder/host who’s focus migrated from yoga studios (closest match I could find at the time) to chiropractors, eye doctors & vets. I changed to a new builder/host that supposedly fully integrated all the aspects of my business mgt. software; only to discover after going live that things like BUY NOW links didn’t work & the ability to embed code provided by the business mgt. software really doesn’t exist.

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