Website Builders: The Good, The Okay, and the In-Between

The world’s first websites came about in the early 1990s in the form of manually written HTML code. Over time, software was created to help design web pages. By 1998, Dreamweaver had been established as the industry leader. Thanks to the many advancements in technology and software development, we now have tools that allow people of any background to create their own websites. Those tools are called website builders.

What is a Website Builder?

A website builder is a platform or program that allows users to quickly and easily put together a website. These site builders help get a piece of internet real estate set up so users can establish their online presence, a unique web address outfitted with their brand, content, and offerings, tailored to their specific goals.

Pros and Cons

There are a vast number of website builders with varying functionalities and benefits available. We’ve found that some broad generalizations can help determine if a website builder, or a more complex system, like a CMS (content management system), would be a better fit for some businesses’ needs. 

PROS of Website BuildersCONS of Website Builders
They typically have lower upfront costsThey may have limited pages, functionality, or interfaces
They don’t require extensive coding or technical skillsThey can inhibit more experienced website developers
The user doesn’t need to have a design backgroundThe user doesn’t need to have a design background

Current Website Builders: Features and Faults  

Squarespace:

“Squarespace is the all-in-one solution for anyone looking to create a beautiful website. Domains, e-commerce, hosting, galleries, analytics, and 24/7 support are all included.

  • Squarespace comes with a secure and robust platform that allows users to focus on growing their business without worrying about hosting.
  • The Squarespace editor isn’t as intuitive as Wix and Weebly, requiring a little bit of a learning curve.
  • It has a fair amount of add-ons, website templates, and tools—plus, the universal style editor and strong photo editing are helpful, too.
  • The responsive website editor means that the site will always look good on a mobile device, but it won’t have the ability to make mobile-specific edits like Wix.
  • Squarespace has been found to have consistently high marks for helpful and responsive customer support, which should put business owners’ minds at ease.
  • Overall, Squarespace’s own website is a good analog for what users get with its products: clean, professional, and inviting design, but without the layers of design power or freedom provided by other builders.

Wix:

Users can “create a professional website with the Wix website builder.” To start, “users choose a customizable designer-made template and then add the features you need.

  • The Wix website creator is a fully hosted platform, so the user will not have to pay for hosting.
  • Users get access to hundreds of templates to choose from for their website’s design. Each template is fully editable with its intuitive drag-and-drop site builder.
  • Though, this editor’s freedom and range of options can be overwhelming for people who don’t have the time or inclination to make lots of little decisions.
  • Wix has also built an artificial design intelligence (Wix ADI) that can design a beautiful website.
  • This new feature from Wix uses AI technology that allows users to feed the technology some information about what they want their website to include and some personal design preferences.
  • Additionally, Wix recently introduced the Wix Accessibility Wizard, a new technology that helps users find and fix accessibility issues on their sites from within the editor.   
  • Wix also comes with dozens of free and paid apps that can be installed on a user’s website. These apps allow the ability to easily add new features and functionality to the website.
  • Wix is one of the few builders with data limitations for each of its plan tiers. So this means that if a user wants to upload endless photos and videos, or expects more than 5,000 visitors a month to the site, they may need to do some number crunching before choosing a plan. 

Weebly:

“Weebly’s free website builder makes it easy to create a website, blog, or online store. Find customizable templates, domains, and easy-to-use tools for any type of business website.

  • With Weebly, there is no need to install and manage any software. They take care of hosting the user’s website and managing all the software that runs in the backend.
  • The Weebly editor is one of the easiest website builder options to use and the low learning curve still nets great-looking sites.
  • While easy to use, this does mean that the editor is more limited in terms of add-ons and design flexibility, and it doesn’t have the range of options or mobile customization that a builder like Wix has.
  • Weebly’s prices are similar to competitors like Wix or Squarespace, but its free plan option is one of the most generous among free website builders.
  • In general, Weebly’s e-commerce options outshine competitors like Wix and Squarespace.
  • Weebly also offers the ability to download site files so users can move to another host (which is a rarity in the site builder landscape).

WordPress.com:

Users can “create a free website or build a blog with ease on WordPress.com.” There are “dozens of free, customizable, mobile-ready designs and themes,” along with “free hosting and support.

For clarity’s sake, we will be discussing just the WordPress.com option, not WordPress, the free, self-hosted, open-source software available through WordPress.org.

  • WordPress.com is a website hosting service built on top of the same WordPress CMS (Content Management System) as WordPress.org, but with a totally custom user experience. Users don’t have to worry about the software and backups as WordPress.com takes care of it.
  • The WordPress.com website builder is similar to the other builders listed above but is primarily geared toward bloggers and writers.
  • The WordPress.com website editor is relatively limited compared to other builders but is easy to set up and has everything a user needs for blogging. Though, it’s not an intuitive drag-and-drop website builder like Wix or Weebly.
  • All plans for WordPress.com allow users to choose from hundreds of free and paid WordPress themes. They can then use the built-in customizer to add a site title, use widgets, add navigation menus, and so on.
  • Premium and lower plans on WordPress.com do not have e-commerce features or third-party ad network support. With the business plan, users can integrate WooCommerce and third-party ad networks. 
  • Additionally, WordPress.com does not allow users to install custom plugins or themes unless they upgrade to WordPress’ Business plan.

PageSpeed Performance

In a completely unscientific study, we reviewed five websites from each platform using Google Pagespeed Insights. While we didn’t find a significant difference between most of the builders, a few things stood out.

  • Weebly overall scored on average higher than the other platforms in both Mobile and Desktop Score. It’s unclear whether this is related to the platform itself or the types of websites for which it is being used.
  • WordPress.com has the broadest range on Desktop, which may indicate that the platform has fewer restrictions on what users can do with the platform. This allows users to do things that may not be recommended from an optimization standpoint.
  • Both Weebly had an equal range, though higher average score, to WordPress.com; this may indicate that their mobile code is more dependent on the actual construction of the website than other platforms.

If you would like to have us do a deeper dive on this let us know in the comments.

Who uses these platforms currently?


According to W3Techs, each of these platforms represent a small percentage, less than 5 percent of the Web.

PlatformUsage
Wix1.9%
Squarespace1.8%
WordPress.com0.6%
Weebly0.4%
Source: W3Techs

It should be noted that the WordPress CMS represents approximately 43 percent of all websites, so less than 1 percent are hosted with WordPress.com.

We performed further research looking at the Top 30 Public and Top 150 Private Companies in the St. Louis Area, according to the St. Louis Business Journal

  • None of the Top Public Companies used Web Builders to host their websites.
  • Only 4.7 percent of the Top Private Companies used Web Builders (2.7 percent Squarespace and 2 percent Wix).
  • While 52.7 percent of Top Private and 23.3 percent of Top Public companies used the WordPress CMS, none were found to use the WordPress.com platform.

Who These Are For:

  • Overall, Weebly is a good option for those who may be more limited in terms of their time investment.
  • Overall, WordPress.com caters to bloggers who don’t want or need to spend a lot of time on website design, but it can feel pretty limiting for most other use cases.
  • Squarespace would probably work best for small to medium-size businesses that want a nicely designed page and room for e-commerce growth with lower transaction fees.
  • Wix’s web design flexibility means it’s best for users who want to be hands-on with the format and layout instead of being stuck with more structured or limited editors where you can’t draw too far outside the lines.

The Final Word

Ultimately, finding the best website builder depends on the particular needs of each website project — the process can be overwhelming, from free options for a simple website to e-commerce platforms for a more complex business website.

But before comparing all of the top website builders, we recommend writing down what the website needs to do for the business. What are the features the website should have so it can accomplish its main purpose? For example, write down things like: have a blog section, photo gallery, online store (e-commerce), reservation system, contact form, SEO features, social media features, etc.

Additionally, we recommend looking into the features listed below to prevent headaches down the road:

CompanyWhy We Picked ItTop Features
Squarespace
Best for small to medium-size businesses that want a nicely designed page and room for e-commerce growthHigh aesthetic value, extensive template library, unlimited bandwidth and storage 
Wix
Best for users who want a decent amount of customization with a fairly intuitive drag-and-drop site builder Hundreds of free templates, versatile uses, more easily understandable interface
Weebly
Best for those who may be more limited in terms of their time investmentHas an easy learning curve, generous free plan, good e-commerce setup
WordPress
Best for bloggers who don’t want or need to spend a lot of time on website designHighly customizable and scalable, fast and easy setup for blogging, automatic backups

Free Trial: Make sure to try the site builder for free. Most providers offer free plans (with some limitations) or at least a money-back guarantee policy. While not very common in the industry, avoid site builders that require credit card details for a trial.

Support: Check which kind of support the website builder offers (e.g., phone, chat, forums, etc.). It’s worth testing the support before committing to a paid plan.

Price: This can be tricky to navigate as offers are sometimes confusing. However, in the matrix below, we’ve included the pricing plans for all the website builders we’ve talked about so far.

CompanyFree Trial?Starting Price
Squarespace14 days$12/month
Wix“Unlimited” with ads$13/month
Weebly“Unlimited” with ads$12/month
WordPress“Unlimited” with ads$5/month

Standard Website Functions: Each project will have different needs. But there are some common things someone may be looking for: a decent blogging system, customizable SEO options, mobile-friendly designs, a shopping cart (if required), decent image galleries, and password-protect pages or registered users.

Domain name: One should be able to connect domain names purchased elsewhere, even if there’s the option to register a new domain with the web builder directly.

Email accounts: If one plans to use the website for business, it’s best to have an email address with the domain name instead of mybusiness@gmail.com.

Something to Chew On

With all this information in mind, we hope selecting a website builder becomes less of a headache and more of an exciting step in building a business. 

If a custom website seems like a better solution, we would be happy to chat about building a custom site for you! To reach out, send us an email at: hi@tenacity.io

Already have a website? Feel free to let us know in the comments what you use, one you have used in the past, or feel like we should include in this article.  

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