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Published Apr 5, 2022 2:00 PM

You don’t have to be a coding wizard to create a dynamic online presence for yourself or your business. In fact, you don’t need to know any code at all. The best website builders will guide you through the process of creating a site and optimizing it for whatever goal you may have.

Building your own website gives you a way to own your online identity and, for many, it’s a way to present a portfolio to potential clients or employers or to even start your own business. And long gone are the days when creating a website required technical know-how or design skills. There are a variety of services that allow you to choose from a library of professionally designed templates so that you don’t need to spend time agonizing over design choices or technical questions, with robust options to add every function you might need on your website.

But they all have different customization options, specializations, and limitations, and choosing the website builder that is best for you is an important first step in creating your online presence. Here are the best website builders in 2022.

How we chose the best website builders 

To find the best website builders, we focused on services that are accessible to beginners and that don’t require any coding or design skills. We started by reading reviews of website builders to see what the most popular services were and then tried using them ourselves. We built test websites using 11 different services to get a sense of how they all worked and how easy they were to use for both beginners and for more experienced designers who want control over individual elements of the sites. Based on that experience, in addition to the anecdotal data from reviews, we choose the best website builder in each category.

Things to consider before choosing a website builder

Choose a focus

The most important decision when considering which website builder to use is to decide on the purpose of your site. Are you trying to raise awareness about yourself and your work? Do you just want a place to experiment with blogging? Or are you trying to create an online store for a business? Deciding on your focus will help you choose which website builder is right for you. Most services offer a bit of everything in terms of functionality, but some have more specialized focuses. If you want to write online, you’d want to use a blogging platform like WordPress. If you want to create an online store, you might use Shopify or Square Online. It really depends on what you want your site to do. Wix’s main strength is that it can serve pretty much any purpose.

Don’t fret the details just yet

You might think it’s important to compare how much storage or bandwidth each service offers, but those limitations probably aren’t going to matter when you’re just getting started. Most sites that rely on text and images have minimal storage needs. And the prices of introductory plans for most services are all in the same ballpark ($10 to $20 per month), so cost isn’t even a huge differentiator between website builders. Time will probably end up being your biggest investment, and you can certainly choose to use something pre-made that requires little work or you can dive in and craft your site exactly as you want it.

Try them for yourself

And if you’re really not sure which website builder is right for you, there’s no better way to learn than to simply try them for yourself. Most services offer at least a free trial to get started. It doesn’t matter if you’re a seasoned website builder exploring your options or if you’re a newcomer, the most illuminating thing you can do is to get some hands-on experience with each service.

The best website builders: Reviews & Recommendations

Best website builder overall: Wix

Why it made the cut: Wix makes it easy and intuitive to create a dynamic website in a wide range of styles, and is powerful enough both for experts and beginners.

Specs: 

  • Offers a diverse variety of website templates
  • 2 GB of storage in base plan, or 500MB for free
  • Starting at $14/month, with a free option available

Pros:

  • Hundreds of well-designed templates to start
  • The Wix Editor has an intuitive drag-and-drop interface with powerful options to add more functionality
  • Wix ADI (artificial design intelligence) can automate the majority of the work
  • Competitively priced with a free option

Cons:

  • Free plan has an intrusive banner ad at the top of the page
  • Plethora of design choices may overwhelm beginners

Wix makes it very easy for anyone to create a website while also giving more experienced users the options and controls to make something more complex. It’s simple and intuitive and, like most site builders, you don’t have to know how to code.

You start by choosing from their huge library of templates, many designed with layouts optimized for whatever the purpose of your new site may be. There are templates for blogs, online stores, portfolios, and more, and others that offer an appealing aesthetic without any specific function in mind. Choosing from the hundreds of templates can itself be a little daunting, but you can preview each one before making your selection and it’s always easy to undo your work or just start over with a new site if you change your mind. And once you choose a design, Wix offers more granular control compared to other website builders so that you can tweak your site to suit your needs exactly.

If you don’t want to spend too much time on the design of your site, Wix has a service called ADI, or artificial design intelligence, that creates an entire site based on a few questions about your wants and needs. For example, if you tell it that you’re a photographer and want to make an online portfolio, ADI will generate a site that includes things like a gallery and a contact page. It doesn’t always perfectly guess what you want though, and there might already be a template available using the traditional editor that’s better tailored for your area of interest.

After you settle on the design of your site Wix offers all sorts of ways to add functionality through an “app market,” which offers plugins and services like an online store, connections to other e-commerce platforms,  or more thorough traffic analytics. Some of these add-ons require their own subscriptions though.

All things considered, Wix offers an intuitive way to build a professional-looking website for novices and experts alike.

Best website builder for small businesses: Square Online

Square Online

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Why it made the cut: Square Online makes creating an online store for your business very fast and easy, as long as you don’t need your website to serve other purposes.

Specs:

  • Free to use, with professional plans starting at $12/month if billed annually
  • Fast way to make an online store
  • Very simple site designs with limited customization

Pros:

  • Efficient and straightforward online stores
  • Free to use, aside from Square’s transaction fees when you make a sale
  • Site design tied directly to the backend inventory management

Cons:

  • Simplistic designs with limited customization
  • Single-purpose website might leave you wanting more functionality

Square Online is a fast and simple way for a small business to make an online store, whether or not you also have a retail location. It’s very easy to create a storefront with all of the necessary payment logistics built in to deal with almost all types of goods and services. That’s because Square Online comes from Square, the payment system that you might see being used at local stores and cafes.

It’s exclusively focused on creating online storefronts, so don’t expect the visual flourishes or additional functionality that you can get from other website builders. That being said, the simplicity of Square Online is its strength. It does one thing and does it well. Unlike other website builders, Square provides only one aesthetic. You can adjust the fonts, colors, and images on a Square Online website, but you can’t make any huge changes to the visual look of the site. You can only rearrange the layout and add modular sections that a small business might need, like events and customer testimonials.

But the sole purpose of Square Online is to have an online storefront with all of the backend functionality that you need. You can offer different types of items like prepared foods, physical goods, services, memberships, and a few others, and you can also utilize Square’s appointment booking service if your goal is to manage appointments and reservations at a physical location.

Perhaps most importantly, it’s almost free. There’s just a small banner at the bottom of each Square Online site that reads “Powered by Square.” You only need to upgrade to a premium plan ($12/month is billed annually, or $16 month-to-month) for additional features like a custom domain name. Otherwise, you only pay Square’s usual processing fees (2.9% + 30¢ per transaction) when you make a sale.

If you want more control over the design of your site, you’re probably better off sticking with Wix, which has its own e-commerce functionality, but otherwise Square Online is a simple and fast way to create a website for a small business.

Best website builder for e-commerce: Shopify

Shopify

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Why it made the cut: Shopify makes it easy to create an e-commerce store from scratch, even if you’ve never started a business.

Specs:

  • Unlimited products in your online store
  • Easy to connect with other services
  • $29/month for a basic plan

Pros:

  • Works at both small and large scales
  • Large app library makes it easy to add more features to your store
  • Abandoned cart recovery to retain customers

Cons:

  • Not the cheapest ecommerce option
  • Limited website designs
  • No free option, aside from a 14-day trial

Shopify is the most widely used e-commerce platform and provides the foundation to run every part of an online store. What sets it apart is how easy it is to get started even if you’ve never created any sort of business before.

When you first create a website on Shopify, you can choose from among four free themes to decide the look and feel of your store. They’re simple, but visually clean and suited for the purpose. It’s easy to then change all the images, fonts, and colors to whatever you see fit. You can also buy more looks in their theme store. But the front-facing website itself isn’t really the emphasis of Shopify, it’s just a means to an end. The focus is the store infrastructure behind the scenes.

Regardless of what you want to sell, it’s easy and efficient to manage your inventory and sort items by type, tags, and into collections. Shopify also helps you keep track of your customers, your finances, and provides an analytics dashboard to give you a bird’s-eye view of your store’s activity. It also features abandoned cart recovery on all plans, which often costs extra on other platforms. Abandoned cart recovery lets you send messages to people who started shopping on your site but never finished the transaction.

But one of the most interesting parts of Shopify is its app library that lets you connect with external services. There is a wide variety of apps that deal with everything from marketing and customer service to shipping and even to sourcing products. For example, I connected with a service that prints merchandise and was able to add custom t-shirts to my Shopify store in a matter of minutes. You can also utilize a dropshipping service, which is a way to sell items without paying for inventory upfront.

A lot of the features are the same as other e-commerce options like Square Online, but Shopify is focused more specifically on creating a complete online store from the ground up.

Best free website builder: WordPress

WordPress

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Why it made the cut: WordPress makes it easy to create a free site focused on blogging or writing.

Specs:

  • The most widely used website platform
  • More flexible and customizable for advanced users
  • 3 GB of storage for free

Pros: 

  • Robust content management system for blogging
  • Thousands of plugins and themes available (at a price)
  • Ability to directly modify code

Cons:

  • A significant number of ads in the free service
  • Free plans don’t have access to more advanced customization options

WordPress is one of the best ways to create a site if you plan on writing regularly. A huge number of sites on the internet are powered by the open-source software behind WordPress, but we’re specifically discussing the platform available at WordPress.com.

It was designed for blogging and it’s especially useful if that’s the primary purpose of your website. Most website builders offer some sort of blog function, but the core competency of WordPress is its blog-focused content management system. You can easily write and schedule posts, categorize and tag them, manage contributors and comments, and more.

That isn’t to say that WordPress sites are only for blogging. There are thousands of plugins available for WordPress to add the same functionality that you can get from more multipurpose website builders like Wix, albeit you’ll have to pay for a Business plan ($25/month if billed annually) to utilize plugins. If you only need a site to publish text and media without too many bells and whistles, you can stick to the free plan. Moreover, you can easily use WordPress to build a simple, static site, if you just want to showcase your portfolio or other work and don’t need a blog.

Another distinction to WordPress is that if you do choose to pay for a premium plan, you can fully customize the CSS code (cascading style sheets) that create the look of your website. This advanced option is in contrast to most website builders, which keep the code hidden away. You can also directly edit the HTML code of individual elements on your site, even in the free version.

WordPress is a strong option to create a free website if you don’t mind advertisements and you can remove the ads and gain access to more advanced features for a reasonable subscription price.

Easiest to use website builder: Strikingly

Strikingly

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Why it made the cut: Strikingly is one of the easiest and fastest ways to build a simple website with a modern look.

Specs:

  • One of the fastest ways to get a site online
  • Free to use for a simple page with an ad
  • $8/month for 2 limited sites with 1 GB of storage each

Pros:

  • Templates are sleek and contemporary
  • Site editor is simple and efficient
  • One of the fastest website builders from start to finish

Cons:

  • Limited number of templates
  • Free sites limited to one page
  • Striking advertisements at the bottom of free sites

Strikingly makes creating a website even faster than other services by limiting the amount of choices you have to make. To start off, you choose from a library of several dozen templates, and then you immediately have a website. All you have to do is add your own information.

The selection of templates isn’t huge, but they’re all sleek, modern, and effective for their purpose. If you don’t want to spend too much time thinking about the design of your site, it’s incredibly easy just to pick one and go with it.

The free version only allows for single-page sites, though. You can add different sections to the site, but they each live within a module on a single home page unless you upgrade. That’s enough if you just want to create a quick resume or portfolio for yourself, but you’d probably want to upgrade to a premium plan if you were creating a site for a business. You can even add a blog or a simple online store.

As easy as it is to get started on Strikingly, it’s still worth considering a more powerful service like Wix, which would only take marginally more time to set up. SITE123 is another service that’s similar to Strikingly and worth a look if you want to put in the minimal effort. Another easy option is Google Sites, which lacks some of the visual flair of other services, but is as simple as creating a Google document.

FAQs

Q: Which website builder is most popular?

The most popular website builder is WordPress. It is by far the most widely used website software, with its content management system being used by a whopping 43.3% of all websites according to W3Techs. That does not mean all of those sites were made on WordPress.com though; they’re using the same underlying software on other hosting providers. That’s a bit more complicated than simply using one of the website builders being discussed here. By comparison, 4.5% of all websites use Shopify, and 1.9% use Wix, again according to W3Techs. Following WordPress, those are the second and third most widely used content management systems, respectively.

Q: How much does a website cost per month?

The cost of a website per month typically ranges from $10 to $20 dollars depending on the provider and the level of plan you choose. If you’re just getting started building your first website, you can probably stick to the cheaper plans with fewer features, and then upgrade as you discover that you need additional services. A premium plan on WordPress.com is $8 per month if billed annually (or $14 if paid monthly). Wix plans start at $14 per month. The cheapest plans typically enable some fairly important features, like custom domain names and the removal of any advertisements. If you’re just making a personal website, you probably don’t need to worry about paying for more comprehensive plans. You may need to upgrade if you want to build a fully functioning e-commerce store, though.

Q: What is the easiest website builder?

The easiest website builder is Wix ADI. It can create an entire website after asking just a few questions about what you want. But it’s really up to you how much effort you want to put into building your website. So many website builders provide nearly-complete templates that you can use out of the box so that if you want, all you really have to do is put your name on it.  If you want something even faster and more streamlined than Wix, you can try Strikingly or SITE123, which make it even easier by offering only a limited number of templates. If you want to get even more basic, you can try Google Sites, which creates websites that feel more akin to a presentation slide or document. Google Sites may be a good option for school projects.

Some final thoughts on the best website builders

Wix’s website builder is a versatile solution that balances powerful customization options with ease of use. It lets you customize almost every aspect of your site while allowing beginners to use out-of-the-box templates if you’d prefer to remain more hands-off. It’s also reasonably priced and free to use if you don’t mind ads. Other services offer more specialized features, but for building general-purpose websites, Wix stands out as the best.