Many people mistakenly believe that the only method for getting a professional quality website is to hire a web developer. But, by selecting the right website builder, you can achieve similar results for a much lower cost. Additionally, you maintain full control over the look of your website as you don’t have to rely on paying your original developer or finding a new one, every time you want to make a change.

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


Many people have asked me about using a website builder such as Squarespace, Wix or Weebly. The problem is that these services come at a price – you’ll generally have to pay between $10 and $40 a month for a single site. You’ll also be limited to basic customization of the template designs they offer, which means that there’s a good chance your site will look just like everyone else’s site.
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.

Where they should improve: Some of their templates are modern and slick looking, but most of them look a bit aged. A big limitation of the free plan is that your website will go down, every day, for one hour; if you ask me, this is a no go. It has some of the basic features and add-ons, but there are key elements missing (e.g. a blog or on-site search). When you change to a new template, all the content you had will be lost.
A website builder might be the right choice for you or your business if you have limited coding knowledge or limited time. With a website builder, you don't need any special software or prior experience designing a website. It's the perfect solution for anyone looking to affordably and quickly get a website live and get new customers to your business.

If those template customizations don’t look like enough for you (though if you’re building your first website, they will be), you might want to think about building your website on an open source platform like WordPress.org. You will get more flexibility, but if you’re not a coder, learning WordPress takes a lot of time — especially compared to drag-and-drop builders.
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.

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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). 

GoCentral is a website product that lets you create a website that fits your personal or business needs, regardless of your skill set. You no longer have to choose between a website or an online store – now you can have both. Whether you want an online store, a pop-up site or a professional website to attract new customers, you get to choose how simple or dynamic you want your site to be. Just pick a design and go create your website with GoCentral.

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.

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Blogs are swell, but sometimes you need a simple place to park your persona on the internet for branding purposes. In this case, you can just get a nameplate site, or as we prefer to think of them, a personal webpage (rather than a multipage site). Instead of linking internally to your store or other pages of note as you would with a more traditional web page, a personal site usually has links that go elsewhere—to your social networks, wish lists, playlists, or whatever else is linkable.
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.
After you've built a site on Webflow, you will need to transfer it to a content management system. There are some features, like drag-and-drop widgets for adding social components, maps, and videos, that don't require coding knowledge. But if you want the full benefits of Webflow, you'll need to know HTML or CSS. There's a limited set of themes, a responsive interface, and your Webflow site can be customized for desktop, tablets, or smartphones.
Remove ads: As you know, on free plans your website builder will advertise on your site. Whether this is through a subtle banner or an annoying pop-up, this can ruin your professional image if you’re promoting your own brand or running a business. On paid plans, such as Wix’s Combo plan, these adverts are removed, leaving your website clear of any distractions. This is similar to using the free version of Spotify compared to having a Premium account – you can still listen to music on both, but on the free plan you’re interrupted with adverts!
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.

Site123 claims to be “by far” the easiest website builder, and while their tool is certainly not too difficult to use, we’d say that there are even more user-friendly ones. What’s great about their builder is that they have some pretty good looking themes that are all responsive. Paid plans start at $9.80 per month and include a basic ecommerce store as well as an email marketing tool. Be prepared to receive multiple daily emails after signing up. Free websites show a little banner stripe at the bottom of the page.

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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!

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What we like: their eye for design. One of the biggest advantages is that there are hundreds of well-designed templates that you can use for free. Adapting them to your needs is super easy. And then there is the huge range of features. Thanks to their App Market you can easily add new features to your website (ex. a newsletter subscription, an events calendar, a forum etc.).


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
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

Speaking of usability, website builders are also made to be extremely functional and usable by even novice users. An average website can be built in a matter of hours and changes can be made in minutes. Something that users often fail to keep in mind is that a website is never completed. It is always a work in progress that requires changes and edits and they give users the ability to make snap edits and changes.


I want to create a website that promotes a drugless, non-surgical service for patients in pain and weekend warriors. I want my site to have video testimonials, information about services, inquiries for consultations and possibly the ability to schedule appointment for service. Essentially we need a web presence for this service that drives traffic to us, demands them to take action to increase sales (who doesn’t, right?) Recommendations? Thanks.
I am planning to create my own contest. This is an online based singing competition based on the popular Eurovision Song Contest. A summary of the contest is this: Fans of the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) would apply for a spot, they would each represent a country of their choice in Europe, and would choose a contestant from that country that would represent them with a song. I want this contest to be based on all platforms. (Social Media, YouTube, and it’s own website). I am planning a lot of graphics to be added that I will need to create, and there will be polls, and videos from YouTube attached to this page. I want there to be multiple sections of the website, and for it to be accessible both on computer and on mobile. I also want to create a voting section of the website, where fans that aren’t in the contest would be able to vote in the contest as well. I am a beginner to all of this website and graphics stuff, so my intentions may seem very ambitious, but I need a website that could eventually hold all of these things. What would you recommend? I am also on somewhat of a limited budget, so I would like to keep costs as low as I can, but still create a sleek and quality website. Could you please help and give me some input?
I personally don’t think site builders will ever replace web designers/developers completely. Most site builders are targeted at small businesses and could never meet the demands required for larger businesses with all their complex requirements. I think Shopify plus is the only product trying to take on the larger CMS platforms right now (e.g. Magenta, Demandware) in the eCommerce space
"We needed a simple web site creation tool. We needed to quickly and easily get an attractive web site. We needed to do all of this without having to work through a “developer.” And, since 1995, I and millions of others have been living in frustration, because that tool has never, ever existed. Never. This tool is the holy grail, a flying unicorn… the loch ness monster… rare and amazing, and something nobody has ever actually seen."
I am currently looking at setting up a blog for the area I specialise in. I am aware of wordpress.org but have been a bit daunted by the number of webhosts out there offering this and that. One particular issue is that I use macs and I was wondering whether bluehost is compatible with the mac, and whether there are any other extra steps I have to take when using a mac over windows. Would it be as simple as registering with a webhost then clicking one-step installation on a mac?

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Several of the services included here offer free options, too. If you choose that path, however, your site will include branding from the provider, which necessarily makes your site less impressive to savvy surfers—and shoppers. Free offerings vary greatly in the amount of storage and bandwidth they allow, so read the small print to find out how much you get with each provider. Weebly, Wix, and WordPress.com are among the most generous with their free offerings, if that's the way you want to go.

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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.
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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So very thankful to find this article!! I have been using Blogger for two weeks and am finding it so plain and am ready to upgrade to a real site. It is possible to move an existing Blogger site to WordPress? I also already have a domain purchased from Google, would I need to purchase a new one when I sign up for a hosting site? I’m so ready to go with a more professional looking blog that doesn’t show up as a blogspot URL. Thank you again….
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.

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The strict responsive approach of Simvoly, uKit, and Weeby means you get no control over the mobile-only view. Gator and Wix, by contrast, offers a mobile-site preview and lets you make customizations that only apply to mobile viewing. For example, you may want a splash page to welcome mobile viewers, or you may want to leave out an element that doesn't work well on the smaller screens.
I am completely a novice or rather a complete novice (actually a hopeless novice) and I thought I had built a reasonable website on sitebuilder until I saw someone elses website and thought I would edit mine. The result is that I have eliminated the contact page and the buttons and I don’t know how to fix any of it. Maybe I will give up as I have a really bad headache from thinking about it. What about Godaddy? How is that one?
Mobile friendly and responsive design means that you don’t need to know how to code — this could even be your first time working with a domain — and setting up your new site requires only a few steps. GoCentral Website Builder is designed to generate style choices that you can quickly review and chose without diving into your site’s settings. This will give your visitor an enjoyable experience that feels natural from either a desktop or mobile device.
Get unlimited/increased storage and bandwidth: It is common for your storage and bandwidth to be capped on free plans. The amount you get often increases as you work up through price tiers, which allows you to scale and grow your website at your own pace. A lot of website builders like Wix will give you unlimited bandwidth and up to unlimited storage too!

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!!
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