Constructing a website, whether it be a platform for showing off the business hours and information for your small shoe store, or a large online shop for selling items through the internet, is a much easier process than it used to be. Twenty years ago you had to reach out to a developer who would charge you thousands of dollars. The setup would take quite a while, and they would be making the site from scratch. That’s not the case anymore, because you can select from one of these top website builders on the market. Hundreds of solutions are available for you, but we have tested them all and have come up with the top five: WIX, Squarespace, WordPress, Shopify and Weebly.
The Shopify solution is a solid choice for those who want ecommerce tools, while the other ones are useful for more informational sites. Since telling you about five website builders still doesn’t completely narrow down the selection for you, we wanted to give you a complete comparison. Since all of the builders talked about in this article are pretty darn good, it’ll be up to you to figure out which features are most important to you. Are you more interested in paying a small monthly fee? Do you need a website builder that is perfect for beginner developers?
In case you’re in a hurry, here are some links to our top website builders for you to choose from:
All of those questions will be answered, so keep reading to learn about the top website builders on the market.
Which of These Top Website Builders is Most Popular?
Popularity is a subjective term, but we completed some research to give you an idea of how many people are using each website builder. Obviously you shouldn’t only make a decision based on what other people are doing, but it gives you a decent idea as to which of the platforms are really taking off in the public eye.
Since popularity in website builders can often correlate with value or feature set capabilities, it’s a good idea to understand which of these are standing out in the market right now.
With these graphs you’ll see the overall interest over time in the Google Trends search engine. All of the top five website builders we are talking about have upward trends, which is a good thing (considering they aren’t going out of style).
WordPress, is most searched by a long shot, and the majority of websites online are built on this platform. This doesn’t mean it’s easy to use, but the possibilities for expansion are endless, making it rather desirable. According to our research, WIX takes the number two spot, showing that their TV commercial campaigns are having a solid effect. Weebly is close behind WIX, and you’ll notice further down in this article that both of these platforms are strangely similar.
Squarespace and Shopify are the least popular, but that’s because Squarespace is a bit newer and Shopify focuses on the niche ecommerce market. Shopify is by far the most popular ecommerce system, while Squarespace is surging ahead as it makes a name with its stunning templates and easy tools.
Another way to analyze popularity, and how the market is shifting right now, is to see which customers are moving to and from certain website builders. So, if we take a look at WIX, we’ll notice that the system pretty much swaps customers with Weebly on a consistent basis.
WIX is losing many customers to Squarespace, but it’s still clear that people are potentially reverting back after trying Squarespace. Homestead is on a downward trend, and other places like Jimdo and Web.com are falling to the reign of WIX. If you’re interested in seeing more information on a particular website builder, we suggest looking at the Built With Technology Lookup tool. It evaluates the popularity and market share of each company, while bringing in various different metrics.
Ease of Use
WIX delivers a simple dashboard and a beautiful drag and drop builder. Basically, it’s the solution you need if you really don’t want to touch any code or hire anyone to complete the website for you. The dashboard provides links to the builder, along with some support items and SEO tools. All of it is labeled clearly, and you can change around your account details whenever you want.
The website builder is completely visual, and dragging elements is user friendly. The five buttons on the left hand side have functionality for things like adding a page, finding an add-on or uploading media. I would assume that the most commonly used button is the Add option, which has just about every website element consolidated under that. So, if you’d like to add a column or a header module, that’s all you have to click to find the list. Then, if you’d like to customize the design of one of those elements, simply click on one and use the designer to change around colors, sizes, fonts and more.
The Squarespace interface isn’t as friendly as WIX or Weebly, but most beginners should be just fine moving around in the backend. They keep improving features as the months pass, and all of the updates have been rather impressive. Right now, the dashboard details everything you can do with your website, and all of the functions are explained well.
The actual website builder is live and visual, but it’s not exactly your best drag and drop option. Clicking around and editing the text and buttons is just fine, and the left side toolbar has all the tabs you need, such as all of your navigational pages, a place to edit your ecommerce shop and an Events page. Adding a page is all done through that toolbar, and you get quite a few default page templates to choose from. As you can see the toolbar looks somewhat like a folder system, so it’s not the cleanest of navigational bars, but it does the trick.
Ease of use with WordPress all depends on how experienced you are with developing websites. A beginner can certainly learn about the entire system by looking at blogs and online forums, but there is definitely a learning curve. In fact, it’s going to be the hardest website builder to learn out of the five we’ve selected here.
If you’re not familiar with the WordPress setup, the general display is in the screenshot above. Every screen you see is going to have that left side toolbar, where you can create blog posts, pages, products and more. Implementing plugins is one of the most powerful parts of the interface, and they often minimize your time in the source code. However, many newbies are going to end up spending development money, even though the actual platform is open-source and free.
As we’ve talked about above, Shopify is only for if you’d like to make an online shop. The backend is the friendliest we’ve seen in this market, since you get a solid set of steps for getting the most basic elements of the shop all configured. For example, the website builder walks you through adding products, importing products, customizing the look of the site and setting up your domain.
It actually looks somewhat like WordPress, but you’ll not need to touch any source code or hire a developer. Tabs on the side are there for handling customers, products, discounts, orders and more. Lots of features are built into the platform, but what makes Shopify even easier is the huge app store. So, if you find a feature that isn’t already included with Shopify, you can find one of the many third party plugins that integrate with the website builder. Making a product and configuring your design is easy. It’s not a complete drag and drop interface, but you get a visual composer and a live showing of what your customers are seeing on the frontend.
Weebly is fairly similar to WIX, and the themes combine well with the drag and drop builder. Editing any item only requires you to click on the elements, and you can manage anything from pages to settings from the top navigational menu. Website elements and apps are shown on the left hand side. So if you’d like to insert something like a slideshow, map or gallery, it’s all there for you to select.
Feel free to embed your own code. This makes it nicer for more advanced developers, but it’s not going to give you even close to the flexibility that WordPress has. Overall, the website elements aren’t as good as WIX or Squarespace, and the drag and drop editor is more finicky than other options we have seen.
Pricing is often the most important part of someone’s choice when it comes to looking at website builders. That’s just fine, and pricing is certainly something you should look at. However, our top five options are all pretty affordable, so I wouldn’t go too crazy trying to minimize your expenses by a few dollars per month. After all, if you’re planning on making a legitimate business, you’re better off paying for features that will actually help you improve your company.
Although some of these website builders provide more pricing plans than three, we think it’s a little easier to compare the five by putting the most similar plans next to each other.
Let’s start with the cheapest plans in this batch. Weebly is by far the best if you’re looking for the cheapest. It’s a solid free plan, but you still have to deal with strange things like Weebly branding and no custom domain. That’s not terrible if you’re a hobbyist, or just getting started with your company website, but it’s not what you’re going to want for a legitimate company website. WIX is pretty cheap, but once again you’ll find ads and limited capabilities.
WordPress is free all the way across the board, but you’ll have to pay for items like hosting, themes and domain names. Therefore, a simple website should cost around $50 for a theme, $4 per month for hosting and $10 per year for a domain. That’s super cheap, but the hosting will eventually increase as more traffic comes your way. You may also end up spending money on development costs and premium plugins.
The middle plans are more akin to what you’ll need for a regular business site. All of them are free of ads and website builder branding. You can connect your own domains and gain access to more premium features. WordPress is a great value for a mid-sized site (with hosting and domain costs included,) while WIX and Weebly remain similar in the mid-range pricing. Squarespace is a little more expensive, but this plan has some great tools for all businesses, and the themes are wonderful.
The most expensive plans remain somewhat even for Weebly and WIX, however WIX seems to be the best value. Squarespace really shoots up, but this pricing is because you get full ecommerce functionality. Once again, WordPress pricing remains the same, unless you decide to spend more money on development and plugins.
As a final note, the Shopify plans are always going to be a bit more expensive than the others. They are still really affordable for the features you get, but the pricing is a little higher because you receive all the ecommerce functionality you need. If you’re trying to create an online shop, Shopify is by far the best recommendation we can make. Pricing shouldn’t factor into your decision. Besides, they have a cheaper $9 plan if you’re really pressed for cash.
Above you can see a little taste of the WIX templates. The cool part about these designs is they work pretty flawlessly with the drag and drop editor. That said, you get to choose from hundreds of options, and they are all nicely organized into categories like business, online store, events and landing pages.
The default theme packages you receive have modern layouts, and the company does a good job of retiring themes that are no longer acceptable to be used online anymore. For example, you’re not going to find any themes that aren’t mobile responsive. Some of them have interesting effects, such as parallax features, while most provide simple elements like social media icons, stock photos, portfolios and contact forms.
Above you’ll see the Shopify themes. Hundreds of these are available, and around 20 of them are offered for free. The paid ones can cost you around $100, but that’s still a good deal, considering you can find a template that fits your online shop perfectly. The categories are laid out nicely, and compared to other ecommerce builders you can’t find anything more modern. The designs are responsive, and they typically present your online store on the homepage. Once again, if you’re only interested in building an informational site, Shopify is not for you.
On the other hand we have WordPress, Squarespace and Weebly. The Weebly templates are the simplest of the bunch. That doesn’t mean they look the greatest though. We actually think they seem a little rudimentary, which is not exactly what we’re going for when trying to scale up a business. The WordPress themes are sometimes terrible and sometimes amazing. Most of the good ones will cost you around $50, but it’s going to take some time to find the right one and install it on your website. After all, WordPress is opensource, so you’ll need to buy from a third party source.
The Squarespace templates are by far the best of the bunch. The company has actually built its whole business around the beauty of its templates. So, should you go with them? Well, since it’s a young company you don’t have many choices. But I would recommend looking at the theme library. If something fits for your brand, it would be a good idea.
Apps and Add-ons
Generally, if a website builder provides an app store it will be pretty solid. The WIX store below is filled with options for expanding your own website. Choose from categories like social, forms, online store and marketing tools. It only takes a moment to install an app, and many of them are completely free.
The Weebly app store is pretty similar, so it’s hard to choose between WIX and Weebly based on the app stores. Once again. Weebly apps are simple to install, and you get all the mainstream apps you would expect.
WordPress is your best option if you were to actually make a website builder decision based on apps. These are called plugins in the WordPress world, and they are fairly easy to install from the WordPress dashboard. Thousands of third party developers make these plugins, and popularity of WordPress is often attributed to these little add-ons. What’s cool is that the ratings and reviews system allows you to make the right decisions.
The Shopify app store presents more ecommerce related apps, along with general options for things like social media and marketing. If you’re going for an online store, this is the app shop you want to scale up:
For Squarespace, no app store is offered. That’s somewhat part of the company’s business plan, considering they want to give you all the features you need in the backend, without making it too complex. However, this may limit your ability to expand, and can be somewhat frustrating knowing that so many other platforms have the flexibility of an app store.
The Squarespace customer support is pretty solid, but the live chat support is limited to the weekdays. Besides that, you can contact them through email at anytime through the week or year. As with most of the website builders on this list, Squarespace has a solid knowledge base, and they try to put you through a set of questions before you actually contact them. No phone support is offered, but it’s nice knowing that the team is rather knowledgeable, and you won’t be talking to someone who is reading off a script.
WIX has the top customer support in terms of their online documentation, but it’s tough to vouch for their personalized support. Basically, you get tons of documents, forums and blog posts, making it incredibly easy to solve your own problems. Email support is offered, but they do everything in their power to prevent you from emailing and calling in. In fact, you can’t even call the support team. You must setup a time for them to call you.
Weebly support is pretty great, considering you can call in at anytime, and submitting a request only takes minute. The knowledge base is packed with articles and questions for you to scroll through, so you shouldn’t have any problems getting in touch with the team or completing your own research.
If you’re running an online shop, the Shopify support team is top notch, with 24/7 support, live chat, email and phone support for most plans. They have a solid blog and a program called Ecommerce University, which offers tons of videos, tutorials, articles and more to learn about ecommerce in general.
As for WordPress, it’s opensource, so no personal support is given. More experienced developers typically don’t have a problem with this because the online WordPress community is huge. You can go on hundreds of blogs, forums and social media groups to find help about your site. That said, if you’re more comfortable contacting a dedicated support team, this is not the website builder for you.
Regardless of the comparisons you read all over the internet, the only person that can make the decision is you. Therefore, we encourage you to think about the settings and features that are most important to you. Are you looking for a cheap website? Is a beautiful theme the most essential to your company? Are you trying to make an online store?
We recommend that you test all five of the website builders, considering you can run a free trial for all of them. WordPress.org is not exactly a free trial, but they do offer a watered down version of the platform called WordPress.com. Anyways, check our final statements below.
WIX is ideal for beginner and intermediate designers. The templates look sleek, and you can choose from lots of those templates and apps. Support is mainly focused online, but it comes in handy. The drag and drop builder is the best in the business.
Squarespace (full review here)
If you like amazing templates and can find one that works for your brand in the Squarespace library, this might just be the best choice for you. Support is great, and the backend isn’t that hard to understand. The templates truly are the outlying feature here, so check them out.
WordPress.org (full review here)
WordPress.org is for intermediate users who are interested in scaling up with lots of customization. Beginners can pick it up, but you’ll have to read through some documentation. WordPress can be an affordable solution, but hosting, domain names and themes are always going to cost you something. The true benefit of WordPress.org is the plugin library.
Shopify comes into play if you want to make an incredible online shop. The pricing is reasonable, and they have plans for scaling up. Templates look wonderful, and the backend is one of the easiest you’ll see. It’s not a website builder for a general informational site, but ecommerce stores will perform well.
Weebly (full review here)
If you’d like flexibility with your pricing, and a simple way for beginners to get a website up and running in a short time, Weebly offers a nice website builder. The support, apps and page editors are rather powerful. I would say that it’s the closest thing you can find to WIX in the top 5 website builder list.
header image courtesy of Derric Wise