Website Builders are companies that allow users to register a domain, create your website, host and manage the website – all in one place.
Advantages of modern website builders
Different from the traditional hosting services, a hosting company that brand itself as “ Website Builder” offer a number of benefits that are quite useful for a beginner.
Among them are:
- Easy to create and manage – Website builder offers the ability to create and main a website without any coding experience. Users can build their website with drag-and-drop web editor and setup a blogging / podcasting platform at ease.
- Beautiful website themes and designs – Website builder usually come with hundreds of free, professional designed, website templates and themes. See some of the best free eCommerce website templates here.
- 100% web base – Users have the ability to work on your website from anywhere with an Internet connection.
- One stop solution – Everything – from domain registration to hosting and development are done (and billed) in one place.
- Comprehensive business support – Payment gateway support, inventory management software, shipping and tax cost calculator are (usually) covered in store builders or eCommerce plans.
What are your choices?
Wix and Weebly are probably two big names that you've heard of. They've been the best site builders for first-timers or busy businesses since they provide a one-stop-solution for creating a website and are easy-to-use.
For eCommerce, then Shopify and BigCommerce are the two recommended options. These two, often also known as online store builders, provide key features that are useful for an online store; including the ability to create a store without coding, inventory management, multiple payment gateway and so much more.
Best Site Builders for Small Business & Beginners
Initially founded in 2002 by college buddies David, Dan and Chris, Weebly began its journey as a site builder officially in 2007. The company has since powered more than 40 million sites around the world and is currently headquartered in San Francisco with offices at New York, Scottsdale, and Toronto.
With a combined annual traffic of more than 325 million unique visitors, the company is now backed by funding from major players such as Sequoia Capital and Tencent Holdings (April 2014).
Weebly has an easy-to-use user interface. It is ideal for users who are interested in building a simple online store or sites that deal with static information and products.
Weebly Plans & Pricing
Weebly offers free accounts that are capable of handling basic sites easily. That scales up in varying degrees offering extra features such as video backgrounds and user registrations. At the top end of the scale with full bells and whistles, Weebly can cost up to $25 per month.
- Free plan available
- Extremely user-friendly
- Low-level online stores get charged extra per transaction
Wix is by far one of the site builders that has seen a meteoric rise in uptake over a relatively short period.
Created by Avishai Abrahami, Nadav Abrahami and Giora Kaplan in 2016, by 2017 the company laid bold claim to a stunning 100 million users. Over that short timeframe it has introduced multiple upgrades from a HTML5 editor to their drag and drop 2015 version.
Wix Plans & Pricing
In line with the number of users on its site, Wix has a wide spread of what it calls ‘premium Accounts’ available that range in price from $4.50 per month all the way to $24.50 per month. (To see these numbers in context – read our study on website cost.) What it doesn’t advertise widely is that you can still use the drag and drop editor for free.
- Good range of pricing options
- Extensive option drag-and-drop user interface
- Does not allow exports of data (You’re stuck with Wix)
Shopify is a leading name in the online shop builder community and that makes it naturally double up as a site builder. The company has over 800,000 active Shopify stores and has made over $100 billion worth of sales at time of writing.
Shopify Plans & Pricing
For its range of services Shopify is around standard in pricing. There are three tiers which ring in at $29, $79 and $299 – each which also has added transaction fees per sale. The price differences mainly reflect additional marketing options such as gift certificates, extra shipping rates and more shopping cart options.
- Plenty of add-on tools available
- Simple and powerful integrated payments
- Cost is a little prohibitive unless you’re a dedicated e-Tailer
BigCommerce was founded back in 2009 and is currently headed by CEO Brent Bellm. Since its inception, the company has grown with over 500+ employees, serving over 120+ countries, and have established offices in Sydney, Australia, San Francisco, California, and in Austin, Texas.
BigCommerece is slightly off the usual profile of the standard website builder in the sense that it serves a very specific purpose. The site is designed to help build eCommerce stores and has eventually morphed into a complete all-rounder in terms of virtual commerce, right down to offering product retail packaging!
BigCommerce Plans & Pricing
Given that BigCommerce is all about helping people sell things, it’s not unusual that the pricing structure is pretty far above the standard site builder. It starts at $29.95 and scales up all the way to $249.95 following the volume of your sales transactions. However, on top of that there is also a per-transaction charge and possible another fee you may have to pay if you choose a premium template.
- A complete online sales tool
- No transaction fees for all 40+ payment gateways
Targeting itself against CMS behemoth WordPress, SiteJet nevertheless has its unique skew – web designers, freelancers and service providers. Starts at $11/mo, the site builder is easy to use and comes with a ton of features.
SiteJet Plans & Pricing
Like web hosts which increase the number of sites you can host based on your plan, Sitejet also offers a tiered publishing system. A single user site will set you back $5 a month – and remember, this is only for published sites.
You can have many projects in the works on that account. If you’re a web designer and end up publishing a few more websites, then you pay more. Consider it the cost of doing business and that you only pay more if you’re earning more from more clients.
Unfortunately, most of the collaborative features I shared about earlier are only available under the Team Plan, which costs $19 per month. This may not seem link much, but to a starving young web designer can seem like a lot at times.
- Simple yet powerful drag-and-drop interface
- Great features for website designers
- No free plan available
- Lack of marketing tools
6. Gator Website Builder
Hopping into the website building scene this time is HostGator with its new Gator Website Builder. This new tool isn’t being offered as part of its standard hosting packages though and is available as an individual product – pay for the builder and you get free hosting.
Looking at it as a stand-alone thing, it seems to hit all the right check boxes for rapid site development. You can start of with one of their many templates (which look decent) and work your way forward from there. Customizations are easy since the entire thing is drag and drop.
If your requirements aren’t all that complex and you just need a pretty website fast – this is a perfect tool for you. Slapping together a site and customizing it can take you less than 30 minutes. Likely less if you’re already familiar with how website builders work.
The bigger difficulty is moving forward form there since there seem to be very limited options to take your site to the next level. For example, ecommerce isn’t possible unless you pay for an upgrade to your plan. There is also nothing you can do in terms of SEO management, not even set your basic site meta.
There is an app market available (like what all major website builders have) but right now there are a grand total of four apps in the store – all of which are labelled ‘premium’. Initial impressions are that this site builder needs to go a little further before asking for more from its potential users.
Gator Website Builder Plans & Pricing
Gator Website Builder's entry plan starts at $3.84/mo and goes all the way up to $9.22/mo.
- Very easy to use
- Free templates available
- Very basic features
- Ecommerce functions requires an upgrade
Firedrop.ai is one of the more unique website building tools that we’ve encountered so far. It’s one of the newer site builders out there and to find out more, Lori interviewed founder and CEO Marc Crouch just a few days earlier.
The Firedrop.ai concept developed in 2015 and as far as I know, is the first website builder to incorporate artificial intelligence (AI) elements in its build.
Firedrop Plans & Pricing
Firedrop prices itself from free to £15 per month with the free account able to support a single web page that comes with Firedrop branding.
For paid accounts, there are two options and both allow your own brand to dominate. The Plus account allows you to create multiple web pages.
- Free plan available
- Unique design experience thanks to Sacha the AI bot
- Limited building components available
Avoid Paying for SiteBuilder.com, WebsiteBuilder.com, Sitey, and Sitelio
Having just completed our review of SiteBuilder.com we noticed that we had the same initial problem with WebSiteBuilder, Sitelio, and Sitey – the About page was missing. Curious enough at this discrepancy, I did some digging and discovered that they all are owned by Endurance International Group (EIG).
EIG only acquires and runs technology (here’s a list of hosting companies owned by EIG) and does not actually create anything of its own.
WebSiteBuilder, Sitelio, Sitey, and SiteBuilder Plans & Pricing
In terms of what features are available, SiteBuilder (and other clones) offers what I consider should be the standard of website builders. It includes drag and drop elements, editable sections in templates, eCommerce support and much more. All of that is backed by a template resource pool that numbers in what the site claims is ‘thousands’ – I lost count after 50.
All four website builders have five distinct plans for subscribers that range from free to $11.99 a year. Free plans are functional, but their paid plans all come packaged with a free domain name. For a mere $4.99 a month onwards, you also get free email accounts, priority support and create an online store. I would say that the pricing tiers are reasonable and match real needs.
Why exactly they have chosen to market through so many channels under separate identities is beyond me, but even the pricing structures are almost identical. Of note though are the multiple billing complaints against the site, which does not bode well, given how fractured the business seems to be.
It's okay to try out the free plan offered by these brands but it's another thing when you are building your business on the premium plans.
We do not recommend using any of these four site builders to serious webmasters and business owners.