A website builder is an online platform that allows you to build websites without the need to write or edit code. Working with a website builder is relatively easy, as they offer a what-you-see-is-what-you-get editing interface, meaning what you see while you edit your site is what you will actually see if your website was live and viewed in a browser. The best website builders are rich in features including professionally-designed website templates, easy to work with drag-and-drop editors and ‘on-board’ hosting services.
Site builders – such as Wix and Squarespace – are ideal for small business owners and entrepreneurs seeking a cost-effective solution to managing and marketing their business’s online presence. Website builders don’t just make it easy to build a site, they also include hosting and domain name setup, SEO settings and marketing tools such as social media integrations and web design in Kansas City form builders. Some site builders also offer a CRM and email marketing solution that integrates with your website. Wix, for example, does this with it’s Wix ShoutOuts email marketing platform and Wix Ascend business tools bundle.
With the need for coding experience absent, building a website with a website builder platform is a realistic option for anyone. It’s a step-by-step process, in which you:
Choose a pre-designed template
Add widgets and elements to customize and enhance the functionality of your site (such as a blog, social media buttons, photo galleries, shopping cart)
Publish your website
You can either publish your site on a free plan (which includes a generic ‘builder-branded’ domain and website builder ads on your site) or upgrade to a premium plan (which is ad-free and includes a unique domain and additional features), starting from approximately $8-12 a month – depending on the plan and the website builder.
Common Website Builder Features
The following are standard website builder features offered by most platforms. The amount or level of flexibility of each feature will depend on the website builder and plan you select:
Most web builders offer hundreds of unique, professionally designed templates, categorized per business type. Once selected, the template forms the basis of your website’s design, but can be customized according to your needs. Some site builders also offer blank canvas templates.
Top website builders enable you to customize your template, add or remove elements, change colors and fonts, add pages, integrate apps and widgets and more. If you do have web development knowledge, some site builders also allow you to edit your site’s code.
Drag & drop editor
The drag & drop editor is what makes website builders so user-friendly, enabling you to drag elements from an ‘element library’ (usually a sidebar) and drop them exactly where you want to place them on the page.
Most web builders take care of basic SEO settings, such as title tags and meta descriptions, based on some basic input from you. The more advanced platforms will offer additional SEO capabilities such as redirect management, sitemap generation and indexing settings.
In most cases, you’ll find that the available templates are responsive and therefore adjust the display for different screen sizes and devices. The best website builders also enable you to edit the mobile display of your site independently from the desktop version.
Most site builders offer an in-depth knowledge base, video tutorials and guides to assist their users. Once you have opened an account, you can usually contact the platform’s customer support center via email, chat and/or phone.
Website Builders vs eCommerce Platforms: What’s the Difference?
Website builders offer the ideal platform to build a brochure-style, informational website. Such a website usually contains a homepage, additional pages with textual and visual content about your business, products or services and a contact page. Additional elements that you may wish to include on such a website include a blog, lead/contact form, map, social media links and more.
Today, top website builders such as Wix and Squarespace, also enable you to add online store functionality to your website, or to build a purely transactional website from scratch. Such website builders offer additional templates and plans for web stores that include product and checkout pages, invoicing capabilities and basic payment gateway integrations such as PayPal along with their standard features.
eCommerce platforms on the other hand, are designed more for store owners with a large inventory who want to shift from a purely brick and mortar business, to an online one. Here, the products are the focus, and the platform offers advanced automation and integrations specifically for inventory, order, shipping and marketing management.
If you plan to sell a manageable number of products online and still want to focus on the content of your website, a website builder is the perfect solution. If you plan to sell a relatively large number of products and want to focus purely on expanding your online store, you may wish to compare the best eCommerce platforms to find the right platform for your store.
How Much Does a Website Builder Cost
Paid for via a monthly account fee, website builders are generally a more cost-effective solution for creating your new website, compared to custom sites built on WordPress and other CMS platforms, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars in development fees from the get-go.
All site builders offer several plans, usually ranging between $5 – $25 per month. Plans that allow online store functionality cost up to $40 a month. A standard business plan with most website builders will cost approximately $12 a month – that’s $144 a year. Keep in mind that this also includes web hosting and domain name registration for the first year.
Half of the top 10 website builders listed above offer a free account option, which enables you to test out the platform for as long as you need before upgrading to publish your site. Some web builders, such as web.com and 1&1 Ionos, offer a discounted first month or first year before starting to charge the full subscription fee. Other builders, such as Wix, offer a money-back guarantee.
How to Compare & Choose the Best Website Builder for You
To decide on which website builder is right for you, we recommend researching the top website builders, check our comparison above and read in-depth reviews such as our Wix review or Squarespace review. We also suggest opening a free account or free trial with your preferred website builder to test the platform before selecting the best plan for you. When performing your research and testing the website builder, make sure to consider these main factors: