A well-designed website is the digital business card that will make you money online. When it comes to website building, having a user-friendly experience both on a desktop computer and a phone can make or break your online efforts.
“As web designers, we want to make what’s most beautiful, which is usually the desktop version [of a website], and then kind of pare it down for the mobile version,” says Krystle Rowry, a web designer and brand strategist for entrepreneurs. “But it needs to be mobile first for most people. A lot of people are mostly on mobile.”
There are more do-it-yourself (DIY) website builder options than ever before (and even more website builder reviews) to help you get your online dreams off the ground, and you don’t need to hire a web developer to set up a website that makes an awesome first impression. The best website builder for small business owners, however, ultimately depends on what you want your online store or website to accomplish – and your overall goals.
We asked four experts to weigh in on what they think is the best website builder platform. Here is what they had to say.
First, a Decision: Should You Use WordPress or Not?
In figuring out the best website builder for your circumstances, you’ll first want to decide whether or not you want to build your website on WordPress or on a more drag and drop interface. WordPress.org is a free hub for building your own website in any way you want; 43% of all websites on the internet are powered by WordPress, according to realtime reporting from W3Techs, a data collection company. WordPress is beloved for both its search engine optimization potential and its functionality as a content management system. After signing up for WordPress, you would then choose a website builder software and install it within your account.
In the 2000s, the WordPress learning curve was considerable. As a result, many new website builders began to emerge that required no coding knowledge and had far simpler interfaces; some of the most popular ones include Squarespace, Wix, and Weebly.
“For these drag-and-drop providers, some settings are kind of locked in because they don’t want you to change things around too much,” says David Yarde, a brand architect and software engineer with over 17 years of experience. “But you can be up and running within an hour or two if you already have your domain name.” A custom domain, web hosting, and certain ecommerce features are also factors to consider when choosing the best website builder for your professional website.
WordPress responded to its market competitors by adding its own drag and drop functionality. Now, “you can actually get started on WordPress with a shorter learning curve,” says Wendy Coop, a certified financial education instructor (CFEI) and owner of Creative Consulting LLC, a company that teaches individuals and organizations financial literacy.
The key factor to consider is your how your website fits into your overall business plan. A drag-and-drop website builder will help you get started quickly, but you may end up having to migrate your site down the road, says Jasmine Powers, founder of Jasmine Powers Multimedia, a creative agency that offers brand strategy, digital production, and systems management.
“Your website may need to be able to manage things like e-commerce or a community,” she notes. “Your site may need to be able to manage multimedia, marketing or SEO tools, or other aspects of the business.” If you anticipate wanting to add lots of bells and whistles to your website down the line, it might be better to choose WordPress over other website builders from day one.
Best Website Builder for WordPress: Elementor
Most of our experts who’ve built websites for both themselves and others on WordPress named Elementor as their preferred website builder. With mobile optimization being so important for small businesses these days – 54.4% of all web traffic occurs on a phone, according to research from Statista, a data reporting company – it’s important to know how website edits will look on every device before pushing any updates through, says Rowry.
“It’s difficult to get exactly what you want for tablet and mobile outside of something like Elementor, where you’re actually going and looking at the design for every device size,” she says. “That’s why I go with Elementor. I love it.”
Coop agrees. “Elementor has a page builder that’s very simple to use,” she says.
Alternative: Divi by Elegant Themes
Another popular website builder option for those using WordPress is Divi, which is owned by Elegant Themes, a web solutions company (not to be confused with a cryptocurrency also called Divi). The template library is huge, and there’s an option to purchase a lifetime license.
“I go with Divi or Elementor for my WordPress websites” says Powers. In addition to impressive features, there’s also a vibrant online community and excellent education resources on their various social media platforms.
Best Website Builder for Non-WordPress Users: Squarespace
If you don’t want to go anywhere near WordPress, a drag-and-drop website builder like Squarespace might be a better fit. Squarespace has been around for nearly 20 years and was the top website builder recommendation from several of our experts if you’re looking for a solution outside of WordPress that has maximum ease of use.
“For ease of use, you may want to go with something like Squarespace,” says Rowry. “But even with Squarespace, you’ll have to learn how to use the platform.” Squarespace doesn’t have the most robust template library, but the drag-and-drop elements work nicely in almost every template, making it a great option if you feel clueless on design but still want a polished website.
Wix is another popular drag-and-drop website builder that boasts over 500 pre-made templates. The template library is more extensive than Squarespace, but you might need to pay an additional fee for certain premium features or other marketing add-ons that other providers will already have built-in.
If design is your top priority, Wix will give you the complete control you need to make things look sharp. The website builder would be a great fit for creators and artisans who need to show off a visual portfolio. You can also start on Wix’s free tier and upgrade at a later date after you’ve determined you like the interface.
Acquired by payments technology company Square in 2018, Weebly is another drag and drop interface website builder that focuses more on ecommerce entrepreneurs. In addition to the website builder software, there’s also a mobile app that you can use to check inventory in your online stores or even make website edits while you’re on the go.
“Squarespace, Wix, and Weebly, all of these [drag-and-drop builders] offer different pluses and minuses,” says Yarde. “But if you know what you want to accomplish with that platform, and if you anticipate that a lot of people visiting your website on a mobile device, you’ll want to make sure that the themes and design elements translate to mobile.”
What Should You Consider When Choosing a Website Builder?
In addition to the features mentioned above, here are some other elements to take into consideration when choosing the best website builder for your needs.
Your Level of Web Experience
Top website builders said being comfortable with the platform you’re on will get you further than picking the “best” software and having no idea how to use it.
“You want to look for [a website builder] you can easily maintain until you can pay someone to do the maintenance in the building for you,” says Coop. “So if that means starting on Wix for most people, that would be fine. But you can also start on WordPress, and build up to it. As your site gets more and more robust, Wix is likely not going to be able to handle what you need. So you’re going to eventually be moving over to WordPress.”
A WordPress website can give you incredible creative power, but if you’re so intimidated by your WordPress site that you never want to log in, consider a simpler web builder with a drag and drop editor instead.
Your Hosting Platform
You could have the greatest website in the world, but if you haven’t set up web hosting services, your site won’t actually be live on the internet. Our experts recommended getting web hosting from a provider that is separate from your website builder; this will make migrating your site down the road way easier if you choose to do so.
Web hosting and website builder software packages often come with a free domain, but our experts advised against this. If you decide you want to migrate your site at a later date, it can be a pain to migrate over your free domain as well.
Site Speed and Performance
53% of mobile users will abandon a website that takes more than three seconds to load, according to internal data recorded and published by Google. When building your website, aim for a user interface that is quick, light, and easy to navigate with just a few clicks. For many website builders, this might mean saving versions of images that are lower in file size while still maintaining the same visual quality, for example.
Check your web hosting and search engine optimization (SEO) settings so that search engines can find and index your site quickly; this makes your website more user-friendly and appealing. If you’re not sure how your website is performing, check your analytics tools within your website builder, and also be sure to set up Google Analytics if you haven’t already done so in order to see how many users are visiting your own website.
Everyone loves professional-looking websites, but as a small business owner you need your professional website to load quickly and efficiently.
Over half of all web traffic happens on mobile devices. Confirm that your web pages can be navigated on a phone just as easily as they are from a desktop computer.
Level of Site Customization
When it comes to picking the best website builder, think about the amount of content you’ll need on your site to reach your overall goals. Powers advises prioritizing three pages when building a website: a home page, a services page, and a contact page. She also recommends including sections that tell visitors about you and capture users who want to sign up for your email list.
“You need to have a home page that details one to three calls to action that you want a visitor to take,” she says. “You need a contact page. And then you need a services page – it can be for products or services – where [visitors] can actually buy whatever you have that is available for purchase.” Powers adds that about pages and opt-in pages are optional, but that you would want that functionality somewhere on your website; these sections could live on existing pages or be part of your home page.
Your website is your online business card; it’s the corner of the internet where people can go to learn more about who you are and what you do. Familiarize yourself with the best website builder for your situation so you can spend less time tied up with tech snags and more time pursuing your online financial goals.