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Check out our review of the 5 best free website builders for help choosing the best one for your business.

Here’s a guide to the best eCommerce website builders. 

What is a website builder?

Website builders are a low-cost service that help you create a website.

They typically focus on being easy to use and handling the technical details that go into getting a website online.

If your business needs a website, or you are looking to start a new online blog or shop, you’ll need a website builder. 

A website builder is a tool to help you build your own website, without needing to know how to code or hire a website developer.  

For existing websites, using a website builder is a great way to improve your website design

Most website builders are easy to use, even for complete beginners, and typically provide templates and features that look great and work well.

Larger businesses that need a website with complex functionality or higher search engine performance may be better-off hiring a web developer, but those who require a functional business website, blog or online shop will get everything they need from a website builder.

 

website builders


Can you make websites by yourself?

It’s possible to build a website by yourself, ‘from scratch’.

However, it’s a complicated process, and it requires you to be very familiar with coding and technology.

Just to give you an example, here are some of the things you need to understand to build your own website:

  • Basic markup, such as HTML and CSS
  • A scripting language, like Javascript or PHP
  • How to register a domain name
  • How to host a site on a server
  • The basics of computer networking, including security
  • Web design principles, like what fonts and colours are ‘safe’ to use
  • What features are and aren’t supported by different browsers

…and the list goes on.

Twenty years ago, it was easy to put up a website by yourself in the space of a few hours.

But nowadays, websites have to do a lot more. We expect them to be able to remember our preferences, to have sleek animations and glossy images as well as being secure on all devices. 

It’s for these reasons that more and more businesses are turning to website builders.

Why use website builders?

While they’re not right for every business all of the time, website builders have several undeniable advantages over hiring someone to hand-code your site.

As you’ll see from this website builder comparison, they offer a number of features which help you quickly get a website set-up when starting a business

For those businesses that already have a website that’s in need of updating, these website builders offer an opportunity for you to improve your website design

eCommerce business owners will be able to increase online sales using the built-in design features that help to improve your conversion rates. 

Simplicity

This is really the name of the game.

These tools make their money off of being easy to use and making it so that you don’t have to worry about the underlying technical details of how websites work.

Their basic promise is that you can create a functional website that’s pleasant to look at without ever writing a line of computer code, and they stick to it.

Speed

Following on from the idea of simplicity, website builders mean you can get something up and running in much less time than it would take to do the same thing manually.

This has the obvious benefit of being more efficient, especially if you’re a start-up, but there’s a hidden extra bonus.

Getting something working quickly means it’s easier for you to try out different designs, colours and themes, meaning you can find the perfect visual identity for your site with much less hassle and wasted time.

Templates

You can put almost anything you can imagine on a website.

In practice, though, most sites fall into a few general categories.

Rather than making you reinvent the wheel every time you want to create a blog, every website builder comes with pre-made templates that you can pick and choose from.

This lets you instantly set up the basic skeleton of your site and even customise its theme to match your brand’s identity.

You can, of course, edit and tweak these templates to your heart’s desire, so you’re never limited by what the website builder thinks is best.

website builder templates


What types of website are they good for?

Let’s consider some different kinds of website and how easy they are to implement with a builder.


Static websites / informational pages

The word ‘static’ is often used in computing to mean something that doesn’t change, or isn’t interactive.

A static webpage, then, is the simplest kind of page you can get.

It’s nothing more than a collection of images, text and other media that doesn’t respond to user input.

Static websites might seem pretty basic, but they’re great for displaying information, like a company’s homepage.

All you really need in terms of interactivity are links to different parts of the site – ‘about us’, ‘FAQs’, ‘contact details’, etc.

These sites are amongst the easiest to create with all website builders.

With their prebuilt themes, you can often get one up and running in under half an hour.


Blogs

Blog websites are incredibly popular and there are a variety of different blogging platforms you can use to start a blog.

A blog typically features written content, videos, photos and links to social media accounts. 

Most website builders enable you to create a blog using all of these features.

Blogs are one of the oldest ways in which businesses have used the web to sell themselves.

The steady stream of content they provide is a great way to keep customers in the loop about what’s going on, or give them a look behind the curtain.

Blogs are somewhat harder to implement by yourself, which is why many website builders are specifically geared towards making them simple.

The most famous of these is, undoubtedly, WordPress.

It’s estimated that around thirty percent of all websites online are built with WordPress, with that figure being much higher when you only count blogs.

WordPress’ popularity comes from its power and flexibility, but these things can also make it intimidating for newcomers.

To that end, other platforms like Squarespace have stepped in to provide a more ready-made approach to blogs.

 

blog templates


eCommerce

eCommerce is big business, easily producing billions of dollars profit worldwide each year.

A massive amount of companies now do the majority of their trading online, taking advantage of its convenience and global accessibility to boost their margins.

This is despite eCommerce being of the harder styles of website to implement by yourself.

You have to deal with bank authorisations, credit card validation, encrypted traffic and much more.

Thankfully, there are numerous platforms out there that abstract away these details and make starting a shop as easy as any other website.

Shopify, Squarespace and WordPress all offer tools for making eCommerce trivial to implement. 

You can receive payment via PayPal, Stripe or other payment processors, and receive fund into your business bank account

Most eCommerce builders are scalable, which are perfect for growing your business online. 

ecommerce website builders


Portfolio Websites

Portfolio websites are perfect fot photographers, artists, freelancers, videographers or writers to showcase their work to potential clients.

A portfolio website can display your visual work, provide contact information and display pricing. In a similar way to a blog website, a portfolio website showcases your work online.

Website builders such as Squarespace or Weebly can display your work in a stunning way, helping your brand to look professional, engaging and sophisticated.

One of things you’ll want to check when choosing a portfolio website builder is how easy it is to upload and edit content. 

Most website builders offer a free trial so you can familiarise yourself with how it works before you commit yourself.

How much does it cost to build a website?

There is no fixed price for making a website.

You can spend as little or as much as you want on one, from a few pounds to hundreds of thousands.

Some services, such as Weebly, even let you create one for free.

Of course, that free plan is missing several features that you would expect on most websites.

For example, it contains ads for Weebly that you can’t remove without upgrading to one of their paid tiers.

It’s still a good deal, but might not be right for a professional business site.

When it comes to paid website builders, the most common form of payment is a subscription model.

This means that instead of one lump sum, you pay a small fee for every month to keep your website online.

These prices are usually in the range of ten to fifty pounds a month – Squarespace’s most expensive plan, for example, is only $30/month.

The different plans or tiers that website builders offer let you make a tradeoff between price and functionality: if you’re on a budget and know you won’t need the more advanced features, it’s best to choose a lower tier.

On the more expensive side of the spectrum, you can pay someone to build a website for you.

There are hundreds, if not thousands of freelance website designers out there, and their expertise means you’ll get exactly the kind of site you want – no compromises.

The downside, of course, is that they can charge anywhere up to $75 an hour, which is often outside the budget of small businesses or startups.

That said, it can still be worth keeping freelancers in mind if you’re not satisfied with your website builder and want someone with technical knowledge to tweak it for you.

How to compare website builders

Choosing a website builder is a big decision.

Once you’ve put a website online and people start visiting it, you are – to some degree – locked in.

It takes a lot of time and effort to revamp a site from scratch once it’s up and running.

As such, here are some things to keep in mind when comparing website builders.

 

What’s your budget?

Think long term. If you’re planning on scaling your website and adding extra features in future like an online store, then starting with a free website may not be the best idea.

Instead, choose a website builder that enables you to scale the website without incurring the extra expense of redesigning the site.

Make sure you account for domain registration and hosting costs – which are included with some website builders.

If your budget is limited, you can save money by looking for plans that bundle together all the services you may need. Such as Squarespace or Weebly.

 

What kind of website are you building?

As explained earlier, some builders are specialised for different kinds of sites.

If you want to start a blog, then WordPress should be high up on your list.

But if all you’re after is a basic eCommerce store, look to something like Squarespace instead.

 

Data ownership/portability

This is something that often catches out newcomers to the web.

When you use website builders, their terms and conditions might say that they technically own all the content you create with them.

If you want to give yourself the most future flexibility possible, look for a site that advertises portability.

This means you’ll be able to transfer the content of your site to another hosting service at a later time, if you decide to do so.

Always read the small print!

 

Ease of use

Website builders live and die on how easy they are to use.

Almost all of them work with visual design tools that follow the WYSIWYG principle – ‘what you see is what you get’.

This makes building a visually-impressive website as easy as figuring out the design you want. You know that whatever you build is exactly what the end user will see.

Not all builders are made equal, though, and some might offer more options or customisation choices.

There’s always a balance between power and usability when it comes to something as complex as making a website, so assess beforehand how comfortable you are with the technical details.

It’ll make it easier to decide whether you want to go with one of the completely curated website builders or something more hands-on – WordPress springs to mind.

 

Support

This is customer service on-hand should anything go wrong with your website once it’s live.

When you build a website with a service like Squarespace or Shopify, it becomes their responsibility to make sure the site doesn’t crash or go offline.

If it does, you need to be able to contact them to get it fixed – preferably at any time of day.

Enhanced support options might only be available at more expensive tiers, also, so make sure you find out exactly what you’re entitled to.

 

Extra features

Websites are a little like cars, in that even once you have them up and running, there’s an endless amount of extra bells and whistles you can add to improve performance.

If you’re interested in analytics and want to see how well your site is doing, for example, try to find a builder that offers integration with Google Analytics or other third-party marketing software.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which website builder is best?

The best website builder for your business depends on what type of website you want to build.

  • Best website builder for new ecommerce stores: Shopify
  • Best website builder for those with experience: WordPress
  • Best website builder for portfolios: Squarespace
  • Best free website builder: Weebly
  • Best website builder for blogs: WordPress

 

Whats the best website builder 2021? Overall the best website builder 2021 is WordPress. However it may not be suitable for novices.

What is the easiest site to build a website? Weebly or Shopify are the easiest websites to start off with as they’re both incredibly simple to use, with drag and drop builders. 

We recommend WordPress if you have experience of designing websites, or have a budget to use for a web developer.

How much do website builders cost?

You can build a small basic website for free with Weebly. Or if you need to add more advanced features to your site, you can buy monthly packages starting from just £3.

If you need professional help from a website developer, a small business website may cost anywhere from £1,000 upwards.

Custom websites with advanced functionality built by developers can cost thousands.

Website builders – such as the ones featured on this page – offer you an affordable way to start a professional looking website that does exactly what you need it to do.

What are the best free website builders?

The best free website builder is Weebly. This is because it offers a free plan designed to help you get a small business website live.

You can start a free trial with Wix, Squarespace, Shopify and WordPress to see how you find the platform, prior to signing up for one of their paid plans.

Check out this review of Wix vs Squarespace

What is the cheapest website builder?

Weebly is the cheapest website builder with it’s free plan. 

Followed by Wix and WordPress with low cost plans starting from £3 per month.

Need help choosing between website builders? 

Click here to read our review of the 5 best free website builders, or use the website builder comparison tool on this page.

 

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