Website-building technology has come a long way in the past 10 years. In the past, if you needed a website built for your business, you'd have to hire an experienced coder to build an effective, functional, and attractive site. Today, however, there are several online platforms that will take care of most of the work for you. This allows you to build and control your own website, even if you don't have any coding experience.
Websites use CSS and HTML for their structure, content, and design. HTML creates the content of the webpage, including headers, paragraphs, bullet points, and images. CSS describes how these images will appear on the screen. Without changing the CSS code, everything on the webpage will look the same. Website templates use HTML and CSS to create unique, distinct websites.
Four of the most popular template websites are WordPress, Weebly, Wix, and Squarespace. All of these website builders have different advantages and disadvantages. They also each offer different packages for varying costs, and the type of package will determine some of the features and the ease of use. Some site builders have different limitations than others.
If you need to build a website, consider the different advantages and limitations of each site builder. Also, think about what your brand needs, what your goals for your business are, and what you hope to accomplish with your website. One template may be perfect for one business, and another might be a better fit for someone else. There isn't one “perfect” site builder for everyone, so you'll have to choose the best option based on your needs and goals.
WordPress is the most well-known website builder, but it began as a blogging platform in 2003. Today, it's one of the most flexible site builders, and web designers and developers have created many tools that can help you use the platform.
WordPress.com is a free blogging site, and WordPress.org offers a free download of WordPress so you can build a website on your own site hosting service. Most business owners use WordPress.org to create a WordPress site.
WordPress allows you to custom-build your site, so it gives you full access to everything. You also own your website and all your content when you use WordPress. However, this means that you have many choices to make as you build your site, and the options can be overwhelming.
WordPress isn't a drag-and-drop platform, but it does offer basic themes and plugins to simplify the website-building experience. If you want to use a drag-and-drop website builder, you can download a plugin, such as Aqua Page Builder or Thrive Themes, to turn WordPress into a drag-and-drop platform.
Some of the best WordPress features include:
Many web designers have created WordPress themes, some of which you can purchase and some of which you can use for free. You can choose an effective theme depending on your brand and industry, but some of the most popular paid themes include:
Most paid themes cost between $30 and $60 to use. However, there are also many excellent free themes.
Plugins are like apps that you can add to your website. They add extra features to make your website easier to use for yourself and for your site visitors. Like themes, you can find free and paid plugins to benefit any type of website for businesses in all industries. Some of the best plugins are:
- WPForms, which allows your site visitors to easily contact you
- MonsterInsights, a Google Analytics plugin
- Sucuri, a security plugin that protects you from malware and other threats
- Yoast SEO, which optimizes your website for search engines
As more and more people use their phones for Internet browsing instead of their computers, mobile-friendly design becomes increasingly important. Almost all WordPress themes are mobile-ready, but you should always verify that your website has responsive design. Before you choose a theme, check out the mobile version to make sure it's easy to use and has the same features as the desktop site.
WordPress has a media library that lets you organize your content, edit your images, and add SEO data to the images.
Some plugins allow you to add self-hosted videos to your site. Other plugins help you add third-party videos from YouTube, Vimeo, and other video-hosting websites. Most of these plugins will make the videos responsive on mobile devices, too.
You can download some popular eCommerce platforms, like MarketPress and WooCommerce, as plugins. These are usually free, but you can purchase add-ons to make the platforms more specialized to your website.
Email marketing is helpful for most businesses, and some of the most popular email marketing platforms offer free WordPress plugins to connect your WordPress site with your email marketing. Some of the most popular email marketing plugins include:
- SumoMe List Builder
- MailPoet Newsletters
Because WordPress started as a blogging site, its blogging platform is built into your site and is ready to use.
The WordPress marketplace has hundreds of different slideshow plugins that you can download for free. You can create any type of slideshow imaginable with these plugins.
There are many plugins that add different forms to your website, including contact forms and payment forms. Some of these plugins are drag-and-drop, which allows you to easily build forms with just the information you need.
You can edit any part of your WordPress theme or plugins to further customize your site. If you use a child theme, you can make changes to the theme while still being able to update or upgrade the original theme.
WordPress.org is completely free to use. However, you will have to pay for and set up your own hosting. The cost of hosting will vary depending on the host company. Some WordPress hosting companies include:
- WordPress VIP
You also have the option to hire a web developer who can customize your theme or design an original theme. This isn't necessary, but it can be a good way to create a unique site at a relatively low cost.
Some themes and plugins also charge a fee for downloading, but you can choose to stick to free themes and plugins to save money.
The biggest disadvantage to using WordPress is the overwhelming number of choices and options as you build your site. The platform has many great advantages, though, including:
Although you don't own the platform, you will have a license for every theme and plugin you buy. Also, if you want to leave the WordPress platform, you may be able to save and move your customized theme to a new platform.
Unfortunately, websites sometimes crash. Although it's unlikely, you should always expect that your website will crash at some point. The Backup to Dropbox plugin automatically saves your database, and you can choose how often it will save. This can help you easily re-upload all of your data in the event of a crash.
It may take you some time to become familiar with WordPress and fully set up your website. There's a lot of information to learn, but once you familiarize yourself with the platform, it's mostly easy to use. It also gives you access to every element of your website so you can customize it. Because WordPress is so popular, there are plenty of helpful online resources that will teach you how to use the platform.
Website security is a big concern, but WordPress has many helpful security plugins that will prevent attacks. For example, the iThemes Security Plugin blocks a user's IP address after they make too many attempts to log in with an incorrect username or password.
SEO is essential for a business website, and you can utilize many SEO plugins to improve your site's online visibility.
Weebly was founded in 2006 by Penn State students, and today, it hosts websites, blogs, and eCommerce stores for businesses in all industries.
Weebly is a drag and drop platform, so you simply drag the feature or content you wish to add into the website builder and place it where you want it to appear. This is simpler than building a site with WordPress, but there aren't quite as many options for customization.
With Weebly, you don't own the design or code for your website. You only own your content, like your text and images.
Drag and Drop
The drag and drop feature allows anyone to easily build a website, even if they have no technical knowledge or experience. You don't need to know anything about HTML or CSS to build a website with Weebly.
To add text, photos, videos, maps, or other elements to your website, all you have to do is select your content from the menu and drag it to the webpage. Weebly also has a built-in text editor, which is similar to other types of word processing software and allows you to format text without HTML.
Weebly offers more than a hundred professionally-designed templates, so any business owner can find a suitable theme. You can choose a free theme or a premium theme. Every theme also has multiple color schemes. Some of Weebly's most popular themes include:
All of Weebly's themes are mobile-friendly. Weebly also offers a mobile website editor, which lets you change how your website will look and function on mobile devices. The mobile editor also uses a drag and drop interface for ease of use.
Images are very helpful for getting visitors interested in your website. Weebly offers many royalty-free images that you can find through their searchable database. You can use free or paid photos. If you have your own photos you want to include on your site, you can add those as well.
Weebly has a video-embedding tool that allows you to add videos from YouTube, Vimeo, and other video-hosting sites to your own website. You can also upload and host your own videos on your Weebly website.
If you have an eCommerce website, Weebly allows you to sell services, physical items, and digital items. They offer many helpful eCommerce features, including a shopping cart, secure checkout, and inventory tracking.
Visitors can look through your inventory and sort by color, size, or other features. It's also very easy for shoppers to purchase items through the mobile website.
Weebly has a blog module that lets you add a blog to your site. You can control the categories, tags, and sidebar for your blog. The module also includes comment controls, social media tools, and an RSS feed.
Weebly's slideshow maker offers six different slideshow templates. With these templates, you can drag photos from your computer to the slideshow. You can also create captions for each image and control the types of transitions and transition speed.
You can use Weebly's drag and drop form creator to build any type of form you need, including a contact form, payment form, or questionnaire. Your form can include checkboxes, text boxes, and drop-down menus. If a visitors fills out the form, you can either receive the information through your email or through your website dashboard.
The cost of your Weebly site varies depending on the type of package you select. The four packages Weebly offers are:
All of these plans have a drag and drop builder, free hosting, and chat and email support. However, the more advanced plans offer fewer limitations at a higher cost.
As the name suggests, the free package is completely free. It has a storage limit of 500MB, and it doesn't provide a custom website address, unlike the other plans. Free websites also include visible Weebly branding. The free package can be ideal for some basic websites, but most business owners choose a paid plan for the extra features.
Starter package websites have no storage limits and do not display the Weebly branding. Your site can have unlimited pages, and Weebly offers a $100 Google ads credit. With the starter plan, you can also customize your website address, edit your website's footer, and access more detailed analytics about your site. If you run an online store through Weebly, the starter plan allows you to list 10 products or services in your store.
If you purchase two years of the starter package, it costs $5 per month, or $120 for two years. If you purchase a six-month plan, it costs $9 per month.
The pro package offers the same features as the start package plus phone support, password protection on some pages, in-website search features for your visitors, and HD audio and video hosting. If you run an eCommerce site, you can list 25 products or services. You can also create a membership that can include up to 100 members.
The two-year plan for the pro package costs $9 per month, or $216 for two years. The six-month plan costs $14 per month, or $84 for six months.
The business package is Weebly's most expensive package, but it also offers the most features. With the business plan, you get the same features as the pro and starter packages with added SSL security, a registration button, and unlimited memberships. If you run an eCommerce site, you can also create coupon codes, track your inventory, and add a shipping cost calculator to your site. The business plan allows you to list an unlimited number of services or products.
The two-year business plan costs $21 per month, or $504 for two years. The six-month plan costs $34 per month, or $204 for six months.
You can create your website in less than 30 minutes if you're in a hurry. It's very easy to learn how to use Weebly, and the drag and drop builder includes tips that will help you understand the process.
All you have to do to create a website with Weebly is register for an account and state the purpose of your website. Then, you choose a theme, color scheme, and web address. After this, you can use the drag and drop builder to create the site. Your website will also be very easy to edit after the initial creation.
Every Weebly account offers website hosting and the drag and drop builder. All of the paid accounts offer unlimited pages and storage space.
With cloud-based hosting, multiple computers will all work together to ensure that your website resources work. This guarantees that your website will perform as effectively as possible for all visitors.
All Weebly users can see their site statistics, including:
- Website views
- Page views
- Search terms
- Reasons the viewers were referred to your site
This information is valuable for attracting visitors and making improvements to your site.
All Weebly websites are designed for SEO. Sites have HTML-friendly coding, meta descriptions, and a sitemap, which are all important elements for SEO. Search engines now also consider speed and mobile responsiveness in their rankings, and all Weebly sites are fast and mobile-friendly.
Custom Web Address
You can use your own domain or web address to your Weebly website. This way, if someone searches for your web address, they will be directed to your Weebly site. You can also use a subdomain, such as example123.weebly.com.
Cloud-based hosting helps improve the speed of Weebly sites, and all of the themes are designed for quick loading times.
All hosting plans offer protection from hackers and spam. The business plan also offers SSL security, which creates an encrypted connection between the host and visitor.
Wix was established in 2006 as an Adobe Flash site builder. As smartphones became more and more popular, they moved away from Flash so their sites would be compatible with mobile devices. In 2012, they introduced an HTML5 platform and ended the use of Flash on their websites.
Like Weebly, Wix is a drag and drop website builder. However, the platform only builds one-page websites. If you need a larger site or more options for your business, you may need to move your website to another platform or start from scratch with a different site builder.
As you begin building your Wix site, it will ask you what type of website you plan on building. You can choose a template for a restaurant, hotel, designer, retail business, or other industry. All of their websites offer a variety of features, including:
Drag and Drop
The drag and drop builder allows you to customize your website without needing any technical knowledge. You can simply select the elements you want on your website and drag them to the correct location on the page. This makes the site building process very quick and easy.
However, it's very helpful to have a sense of design when building the site. Even with the drag and drop platform, it's possible to build a poorly-designed webpage. If you don't have much knowledge or experience with design, it could be helpful to consult a designer as you build your site.
There are more than 500 templates available for all types of businesses. With Wix, you can create practically any website you need.
Wix moved to HTML5 in 2012, so all of their sites are now mobile-friendly. Because most people use their mobile devices more than computers today, this is an essential feature for all websites.
Wix offers more than 250 apps that you can use to customize your website. Some apps are free, but others offer premium versions. The most popular apps include:
- Comments form
- Wix stores
- Form builder
- Social media stream
- Wix bookings
Pin to Screen
With the pin to screen feature, you can lock one of your site's elements to a specific location on the page. If the visitors scrolls through the page or resize the screen, the element will always remain visible.
Wix has millions of royalty-free stock photos that you can add to your site.
If you want to include a photo gallery on your webpage, you can choose between 40 different gallery templates. You can also edit or retouch all of your photos before displaying them on your site.
You can add videos to your webpage or play a video as your site's background. When done correctly, this makes your site very unique and can create a powerful user experience.
Parallex 3D effects allows the different layers of your site to move at different speeds, which creates a 3D effect.
Wix allows you to add a blog to your site, which is helpful for SEO purposes and for providing your site users with more information.
Wix users can create an eCommerce store and list products or services on their site. Wix also provides a management tool that allows you to track orders, payments, and shipping. The Wix Touch feature lets you create an app for your store.
Wix offers a free plan and four premium plans:
- Connect Domain
Each paid plan lets users connect their own domain names to their Wix site, and all users receive premium support. All of Wix's plans are annual.
The connect domain plan costs $4.08 per month. Users receive 1 GB of bandwidth and 500MB of storage. However, websites with this plan will display Wix ads. Connect domain users also cannot use a favicon, an icon that appears next to the site address and identifies your brand.
The combo plan costs $8.25 per month. With this plan, you can register for a web domain for one year. You also receive 2 GB of bandwidth and 3 GB of storage. Sites with the combo plan don't display Wix ads, and users can choose a customized favicon.
The unlimited plan is the most popular plan, and it costs $12.42 per month. With the unlimited plan, you receive unlimited bandwidth and 10 GB of storage. You also can register a website domain for one year and select a customized favicon. This plan gives users access to the form builder premium app and the site booster premium app.
The eCommerce plan costs $16.17 per month. It offers most of the same benefits as the unlimited plan, but it adds the online store feature and increases the storage availability to 20 GB. However, the bandwidth limit for the eCommerce plan is 10 GB.
The drag and drop builder is very simple and easy to use. After you enter your email and password, you will receive a pre-selected template based on your business type. You can choose a subcategory to create a more customized template, and you can replace the template's temporary content with content of your own.
Wix provides a video tutorial to teach you how to use the platform. After you sign up, Wix will also send you training emails with tips for building your website. If you need more clarification, there are plenty of other online resources with Wix tutorials.
Every Wix account includes the most important features, including:
- Drag and drop builder
- Website hosting
- Online storage space
There are more than 250 paid and free apps that you can include on your website to improve user experience and make your site more effective. Many Wix users use third party apps like Google Maps, PayPal, Soundcloud, and Constant Contact.
Wix offers a site booster app, which helps search engines find your site.
You can add the visitor analytics app to your site, which gives you valuable information about your site visitors.
Custom Web Address
After you register, Wix will give you a subdomain. Your subdomain will be the same as your email address. All paid plans allow you to add your own domain name or web address. If you already have a web address for your business, you can attach it to your Wix site so your customers can easily find you.
Squarespace specializes in creating websites for local businesses and artists. They are known for their reliable support, which is an important quality for all platforms and should be a priority for business owners. Squarespace also hosts all of their sites, which helps them provide their users with support when needed.
Squarespace is a drag and drop site builder. It's similar to Weebly and Wix, but unlike the other site builders, you own some of your code when you use Squarespace. After your contract ends, you can take some of your code to convert to another platform. Not all of the code will be convertible, but you can use some of the files to start building a site on a different platform.
Most of Squarespace's users are eCommerce business owners, small businesses, designers, and artists. Many of the platform's features benefit these types of sites. Squarespace has a very easy-to-use interface, and you can easily create your website in under an hour if you're in a rush. Their features include:
Drag and Drop
You don't need any knowledge of HTML or CSS to use Squarespace. The drag and drop builder is simple and easy to use.
All of Squarespace's packages include hosting and the option to use your own custom domain name. Squarespace has an in-house team that designs and runs the hosting platform, which is very helpful if your site crashes or if another error occurs. It's easy to receive help with an issue when your entire website is supported by just one company. Squarespace's support team handles security and web backups, and they can access your code to find the cause of a problem.
Squarespace offers 40 different templates, most of which use a minimalist style. The themes are modern and simple, but you'll find enough variation that you can choose the right theme for your website. Although Squarespace doesn't have as many themes as other site builders, you can use multiple themes for different pages within your site. You can also adjust the color scheme and fonts.
All themes are mobile-ready. You can't design a mobile site separately with Squarespace, but all pages use responsive blocks that are optimized for mobile viewing.
Customer service and support should be one of your top priorities when choosing a site builder. Squarespace offers 24/7 help over chat or email. Because they both build and host your site, it's easy for them to offer support and fix any problems.
Squarespace is popular with artists and designers, so many of their themes lend themselves to image-heavy sites. They offer an in-platform image editor so you can make adjustments to your photos within the site builder.
You can easily add a blog to your website with Squarespace. There are many third-party apps that allow you to upload blogs to your site, including:
- Google Drive
- Google Calendar
Squarespace also has a Note App to help you organize notes or ideas. You can publish notes from the Note App to your website's blog.
Some Squarespace packages charge transaction fees for eCommerce, and others include eCommerce as part of their plan. You can choose a shop template when building your site, which lets you list products, and you can offer discount codes to your shoppers. Shoppers can use the Image Zoom feature to see details about each product. You can also sell digital products and email your customers a download link.
Squrespace's marketing features are basic, but they can be effective for your business. Sites are optimized for SEO and include social media share buttons. Squarespace websites are also integrated with MailChimp, an email marketing service. For other marketing needs, though, you'll have to use off-site marketing.
You can customize your theme with the advanced theme editor. However, this requires knowledge of CSS. Squarespace also gives users the option to upload their own themes, but it's much easier to use one of the themes offered.
Your monthly cost depends on which plan you choose. Squarespace offers four packages: Personal, Business, Basic eCommerce, and Advanced eCommerce. All plans provide a mobile-optimized website, unlimited bandwidth and storage, analytics, SSL security, 24/7 customer support, and the ability to sell unlimited products.
The personal plan costs $12 per month if you sign up for a year-long plan and $16 per month if you pay month-to-month. This plan provides 20 pages, galleries, or blogs on your site. If you want to sell items, Squarespace will charge a 3 percent transaction fee on all sales.
The business plan is $18 per month if you pay annually or $26 per month for a month-to-month plan. In addition to the features offered in the personal plan, the business plan provides a professional email from Google and a $100 Google AdWords credit. The sales transaction fee is also lowered from 3 percent to 2 percent for the business plan.
If you need an eCommerce site, you should select either the basic eCommerce or advanced eCommerce plan. The basic plan costs $26 per month when paying annually or $30 per month when paying month-to-month. There are no transaction fees, and you can easily include inventory, orders, tax charges, and discounts to your site. Squarespace also provides label printing via Shipstation and integrated accounting with Xero.
The advanced eCommerce plan costs $40 per month if you pay annually or $46 per month if you pay month-to-month. It offers the same features as the basic plan with added automatic discounts, real time carrier shipping, and abandoned checkout auto-recovery.
Like the other drag and drop site builders, Squarespace is very easy to use if you don't have technical web design knowledge. This is a huge advantage if you're creating a website without a designer. You can have your website up and running in an hour, and their support team can assist you with any difficulties you may encounter during the process.
Squarespace's 24/7 customer support is also a great advantage. If your website crashes or encounters a big problem during non-business hours, you'll still be able to reach Squarespace customer support for assistance.
All of the platform's themes are mobile-friendly. Because the pages are built in blocks, it's easy to see how your website will look when viewing it on mobile. You won't have to build a separate mobile site for your business.
All the Squarespace templates have a clean and modern design, which gives you the opportunity to add plenty of images, text, or other original content. This type of design is especially desirable for artist portfolios.
You can upgrade your plan whenever you want and still keep the site you've already built. If you're on a tight budget now, you can try out the personal plan when you register with Squarespace and upgrade to the business plan or to an eCommerce plan later. This way, you can try out the platform without paying for an expensive plan.
Which website builder is best?
WordPress, Weebly, Wix, and Squarespace all have different advantages and disadvantages. Before you decide between them, think about what your website needs. Is it more important for your site to have eCommerce capabilities or strong SEO? Do you want or need to make changes to the CSS or HTML?
Whether or not you have a web designer or developer will probably make a difference in which platform you choose. Drag and drop platforms are easier for the layperson to use, but developers can find them frustrating because they tend to limit the changes you can make to the HTML and CSS.
The biggest advantage of WordPress is its customizability, but its biggest disadvantage is its steep learning curve if you don't have much design experience. The biggest advantages of Weebly are its ease of use and its low cost, but its biggest disadvantage is that you won't own the code or design for your website. The biggest advantages of Wix are the ease of use and the wide availability of different themes and apps, but it may not be the most effective platform if you want a larger site. The biggest advantages of Squarespace are the clean design and the helpful support team, but there isn't much opportunity for SEO or marketing on a Squarespace website.
Even after you choose a site builder, you'll have to consider your budget and your specific needs when choosing a package. However, there are only a few differences between different plans, so it shouldn't be too difficult for you to decide whether your site needs the extra perks of a more advanced plan.
If you do choose a site builder and decide it's not for you, you can just switch to another platform when your plan expires. One of the other site builders will probably be a better fit.
However, you can try to avoid choosing the wrong platform by weighing the pros and cons of all of these four site builders before creating your website.