Best Website Builders for Small Business Owners
Website builders’ low cost and shallow learning curve enable many small business owners to successfully design and launch a website.
Creating a website with a site builder will increase your business’s visibility, help you develop a brand identity, and enable a modest marketing budget punch above its weight.
Is a Website Builder Right For Your Business?
Website builders are a type of SaaS (Software as a Service) that allow you to build a website without coding, by selecting from a limited set of options.
A website builder is ideally suited to a fledgling business, but some exceptions exist.
Website builders are commercial software; their purpose is to make money. As a result, they are subject to the same market forces as your own business. To be profitable, a website builder needs to capture as much of the market as possible.
Different website builders adopt different tactics to increase their customer base. Some specialise in a niche, such as ecommerce or digital content, while others offer multi-site plans and features to maximise revenue from a single customer.
Most websites follow the same design patterns — or they should, at least — and offer comparable features to their users (a store will ship goods in exchange for payment, a restaurant will reserve a table a specific time, and so on). To capture market share, website builders focus on delivering those standard requirements.
If you need a website that differs from the norm in design or functionality, creating it yourself with a site builder won’t be easy.
However, if the website you want is similar to others you’ve seen, you can almost certainly create it with a good website builder.
The Best Website Builders in 2024
You can generally choose the best website builder for your project by carefully assessing your needs and comparing them to the list of each website builder’s features. The more typical your needs are, the more choices you will have.
The following three website builders are what we recommend for most small businesses. If none of them suit your purposes, scroll down for some alternatives that serve different niches.
The Best Site Builder for Ecommerce
Squarespace is the ideal website builder for many small businesses and certainly for ecommerce.
Thanks to the high quality of its templates, Squarespace is regularly cited as the most beautiful website builder. If you read around, you’ll see that Squarespace is typically only recommended for creative sites. However, thanks to the aesthetic-usability UX principle, we know that users tend to perceive a more beautiful website as more functional. As a result, Squarespace’s beautiful output delivers greater profitability.
For years now, Shopify has been regarded as the best ecommerce website builder, and it is exceptionally good at ecommerce; unfortunately it is lacking in all other areas. In our view, Squarespace has the edge because, in addition to compelling ecommerce features, it also does everything else well.
Squarespace includes excellent marketing tools, a very polished blogging app to help your SEO efforts, and integrated email campaigns to help you build brand loyalty.
- Award-winning templates
- World-class customer support
- Seamless app integrations
- Shallow learning curve
- Slower than average pages
- Fewer extensions than some rivals
Squarespace offers a 7-day trial on all of its plans.
There are currently four plans:
- Personal — $23 per month (£16/€22) or $192 annually (£144/€177)
- Business — $33 per month (£24/€30) or $276 annually (£204/€254)
- Commerce (Basic) — $36 per month (£28/€33) or $324 annually (£276/€298)
- Commerce (Advanced) — $65 per month (£43/€60) or $588 annually (£516/€541)
Squarespace’s marketing promotes its Business plan as the best value, however we recommend the Commerce (Basic) plan; for an extra $3/mo, you get 0% transaction fees and upselling tools.
Opt for the Personal plan if you’re not planning to sell products. The only benefit the Business plan includes for non-ecommerce sites is analytics, and an extra $10/mo is a lot to pay for analytics.
The Best Site Builder for Simple Sites
WordPress is one of the most successful apps of the internet era. It began as a blogging platform, morphed into a CMS (Content Management System), and then pivoted into a website builder.
It’s pointless telling you what percentage of the web WordPress powers because the number will have increased by the time I finish typing this sentence. Even considering the number of abandoned and discontinued sites that distort the figures, around half of the web runs on WordPress.
WordPress has two options: WordPress.org, which allows you to download the core files and self-host your website, and WordPress.com, which takes care of your hosting. We recommend WordPress.com (self-hosting WordPress requires excessive maintenance to offset security vulnerabilities).
WordPress gets plenty right, but the main draw is the vast WordPress ecosystem. There are thousands of themes and plugins for WordPress. Whatever feature you want to add to your site, you can almost certainly find a plugin for it — often, the amount of choice can be overwhelming.
One major downside of using WordPress is that it’s notoriously attractive to hackers. Because so many sites share the same vulnerabilities, it’s financially worthwhile for criminals to exploit holes in WordPress templates and plugins. Choosing WordPress.com over self-hosting mitigates much of this risk.
WordPress doesn’t have the sophistication of a fully rounded CMS like Craft, Drupal, or Joomla, so while you can theoretically use WordPress to build complex sites, you’ll be going against the grain. You’ll undoubtedly need to hire a developer, and once you take that leap, it makes sense to start looking at a more scaleable solution. However, for modest-sized small business sites, WordPress is hard to beat.
- Vast ecosystem of plugins and themes from which to choose
- Mature platform
- Relatively easy to use point-and-click site builder
- Large pool of developers keeps development prices low
- High-dependency on plugins
- Slow to introduce new features
The core version of WordPress is free to download, but you must arrange paid hosting. We recommend using WordPress.com, which, for a modest fee, takes care of hosting, security, and upgrades for you.
There are currently five plans available:
- Free — $0 per month (£0/€0)
- Starter — $9 per month (£8/€9) or $48 annually (£36/€48)
- Explorer — $18 per month (£17/€18) or $96 annually (£84/€96)
- Creator — $40 per month (£32/€40) or $300 annually (£240/€300)
- Entrepreneur — $70 per month (£55/€70) or $540 annually (£432/€540)
Note that in addition to those prices, WordPress.com charges a very high commission fee on payments: 10% on the free plan, 8% on Starter, 4% on Explorer, 2% on Creator, and only coming down to 0% on Entrepreneur.
We recommend starting with the Free plan, which is one of the most generous trials available for any site builder. Then, skip Starter and go straight to Explorer, giving you access to premium themes and custom styles. As you scale, you may need to upgrade to Creator.
The Best Site Builder for Teams
Duda produces exceptionally fast sites for a site builder. That means a more enjoyable experience for your customers and a much higher position on search engines for you.
Duda was conceived as a white-label site builder, enabling design agencies to build sites for their clients on the platform. That meant thousands of knowledgeable, demanding professionals examining its output — the fact that Duda is still a popular choice with professional web designers speaks volumes about the quality of the sites it creates.
Unsurprisingly, considering its starting point, Duda offers a great deal of team-related features. There’s a straightforward editor that offers reduced design features so you can create predesigned elements and allow less technical team members to use them in a simplified interface. Team libraries also allow you to maintain a collection of reusable design elements. Duda will also allow you to sell products on the web and across social media.
Although many of Duda’s features are aimed at design agencies, they can also benefit small businesses that want to enable more of their in-house team to take on website roles.
- Breakneck page speed
- Well-designed and well-coded templates
- Prompt and helpful technical support
- Limited plugin store
- Superfluous features for individuals and small startups
Duda offers four different pricing plans. There is a 14-day free trial, but it’s attached to the top-tier White Label plan, so be aware that at the end of your trial, some of the features you try may not be available on your new plan.
- Basic — $25 per month (~£20/€23*) or $228 annually (~£179/€210*)
- Team — $39 per month (~£31/€36*) or $348 annually (~£273/€320*)
- Agency — $69 per month (~£54/€64*) or $624 annually (~£490/€574*)
- White Label — $199 per month (~£156/€193*) or $1788 annually (~£1404/€1644*)
*Duda only charges in USD; GBP and EUR prices are estimates based on the exchange rate at the time of writing.
Duda’s higher-tier pricing plans are aimed at design studios, with team support on the Team plan and full white labelling on the White Label plan. We appreciate the transparency in that naming; however, most small businesses will be more than happy with the Basic plan.
Alternative Website Builders
If our top three choices don’t appeal, perhaps because you need a specific feature, then alternatives are available.
Webflow is an excellent website builder that only just missed out on our top three thanks to the sheer speed of Duda and the ecosystem WordPress.
Pitched squarely at freelancers and design agencies, if you have a passing understanding of the basics of code — or you’re willing to learn — then Webflow is a package that’s very hard to beat. Even without coding, we found the ratio of flexibility to simplicity among the best on the market.
Webflow comes with some of the most comprehensive documentation we’ve seen. The guidance on SEO is particularly constructive. Recently, Webflow has simplified its pricing, improving transparency and making it one of the best solutions for building a small business website on a tight budget.
For years, Shopify has set the standard for ecommerce. Its highly optimised checkout process is widely recognised and trusted, leading to fewer incidents of checkout abandonment and higher sales.
Shopify is not without its faults, however. Firstly, Shopify imposes a 100 variant limit on products, which many sites reach surprisingly quickly — for example, if you were selling a T-shirt, sizes XS, S, M, L, XL, and XXL would be six variants; if you then added white, grey, and black colors you’d have used 18 variants (XS white is one variant, S white is a second variant, and so forth). If you’re selling products with multiple options, you’ll probably find yourself splitting them into multiple products to stay under the variant cap.
Secondly, despite being a site builder, Shopify uses editable templates instead of the usual drag-and-drop approach for anything but the most basic customisation. This means you have much greater control over your site, but the learning curve is very steep — you’ll either need to learn HTML and CSS, or hire a web developer.
Shopify does what it does very well, but it’s inflexible and often introduces unexpected development costs.
Square is a multi-channel sales platform. Its main selling point is that it offers real-world PoS (Point of Sale) hardware. If you have a physical location that you sell from and want to sell online as well, then you can kill two birds with one stone and simplify your stock management and accounting.
Square’s website builder is Square Online. It’s entirely devoted to ecommerce, so if you’re not selling products, look elsewhere.
Square Online includes some beautiful templates. Nothing ground-breaking, but for ecommerce, you want to lean into established design patterns because they’ll increase sales.
One of our favourite features is the in-store collection option. In-store collection is popular with local customers who want the convenience of online shopping and the speed of collection. It’s perfect for products that need to be prepared in advance but have a limited shelf-life — if you’re running a bakery, this is the option for you.
Wix has a very effective marketing approach and, as a result, is frequently cited as one of the best website builders on the market. But that’s not a fair assessment, in our opinion.
Wix has numerous features — if it’s possible for a site builder to perform a function, Wix can probably do it. A vast number of templates are also available for Wix, coupled with a drag-and-drop style editor that allows you to create most designs in code. Additionally, there’s a dedicated app store to expand the functionality of your site.
However, Wix’s version of the drag-and-drop editor is less intuitive than other site builders. We’ve occasionally found that Wix’s templates are buggy on some devices, and once you’ve selected a template, it can be tricky to change. Regular Wix users often report that SEO is lacking.
Wix’s main strength is its hundreds of templates and apps, but if that appeals to you, choose WordPress, which has thousands more.
Once you fight your way past the techno-garble that passes for Uniform’s marketing copy, you’ll discover an intriguing proposition.
Uniform is designed for enterprise-level companies that have in-house marketing departments. Uniform allows you to create a brand approach to all digital channels, from your website to social media, and then unleash your marketing team.
The idea is to allow your team to concentrate on their core tasks; developers should not have to put their work on a back-burner to assist marketers, and marketers shouldn’t need a developer’s full-time attention just to craft a campaign.
So why didn’t it make our top three? Well, it’s for enterprises; it offers limited benefits to teams of less than a dozen people and none whatsoever for one-person startups. Additionally, you currently have to contact Uniform for pricing, and when you do, you’re offered a trial, not a clear answer — we value transparency.
Often, all you need is a business card-style website that creates a digital presence without the need for a time-consuming project. Carrd offers the ultimate simplicity of a high-performance one-page website that looks beautiful.
If all you need is a basic presence, it makes no sense to have extraneous functionality, let alone pay for it. Carrd charges annually what most site builders charge per month: just $19 per year (~£15/€17).
Carrd isn’t scaleable. Sooner or later, you will have to migrate to a more comprehensive service, but if you’re at the very start of your journey and haven’t established a project roadmap yet, Carrd is a great way of getting online fast while you get your ducks in a row.
If you’re looking for a website builder with next to no learning curve, gets you online fast, and offers plenty of baseline features, Strikingly is worth a look.
There’s very little flexibility in design, and the feature set is limited. However, that can sometimes be a good thing; you don’t want to be overwhelmed by too many options — customisable CSS isn’t helpful if you can’t write code, and complete design freedom isn’t freeing if you need guidance.
Strikingly also offers ecommerce via PayPal and Stripe, but if you’re at the point of selling online there are better options further up this list.
What we like about Strikingly is that the team behind it is working to improve the features on offer at a sustainable pace. If you aren’t tech-savvy and want a website builder that just works, take a look at Strikingly.
How to Choose a Website Builder for Your Business
Quality website builders offer the same basic features: ease of use, managed hosting, mobile-friendly pages, production-quality code, social media integration, reliable security, and analytics.
The best site builders go above and beyond this, but remember that features — no matter how well-implemented — are only valuable to you if they serve the needs of your business now or in the near future.
The Right Feature Profile
It goes without saying that a site builder needs to offer all of the features you need. Additionally, it should provide as few features as possible that you don’t need.
One of the most significant flaws in any website builder (or template-based CMS) approach is that superfluous features add unnecessary code, slowing down your site, complicating the build, and diverting the website builder’s development team away from the features that matter to you.
Plenty of site builders market themselves as complete design freedom. The issue is that too many options confuse the matter. You don’t want to be limited, but some guardrails help ensure you don’t wheel off into the bizarre.
Consider your level of experience. When I build sites with a website builder, I’m more than happy to dig into the source code. Can you do that? Or is it safer for your site builder to be a set of point-and-click options? Most good site builders offer extensive documentation, but do you have time to watch 15 hours of free training videos?
There’s no right or wrong answer to these questions, but as well as being suitable for your business, the right site builder needs to be a good fit for you, too.
Comprehensive (and Comprehensible) Documentation
Most site builders claim to be capable of building a stunning website with zero design or coding input from you. Unfortunately, that’s their marketing teams over-promising.
To use a website builder effectively, you’ll need some sense of design and some understanding of technology. The good news is, if you dressed yourself this morning, you already have both of those things.
A great website builder will guide you in translating your existing understanding of design and functionality into knowledge about the website builder’s features and processes. Simple documentation, video tutorials, and responsive technical support are all must-haves.
Today, your focus is on building a website and getting your business online. But what about a year from now? What about five years?
Websites are often likened to a garden: They need to be tended regularly, and they develop over time. When you plant a tree, you always leave enough room, not for the sapling, but for the mature tree it will eventually become. If you’re bumping into the limitations of a website builder, it probably can’t help your business grow.
In addition to scaling, a site builder should allow you to export your data efficiently so that if you need to move on to a more robust platform, you don’t need to start from scratch.
Finally, remember that things change fast in the tech industry — acquisitions, rival technology, and even old-fashioned fraud happen regularly. Look for an established site builder with the resources to ride out any temporary storms.
Which Website Builder Subscription to Choose
All site builders work on a subscription basis. In fact, almost everything on the web works on a subscription basis.
There is a principle in sales known as price anchoring. Price anchoring creates a sense of value by showing you two prices, one high and one lower. The higher price is designed to make the lower price appear more reasonable. It’s the reason that your local car lot has a $150,000 Porsche in the window — they’re not expecting to sell the Porsche, but the price tag makes the $30,000 Toyota appear to be great value. Similarly, website builders have enterprise plans and high-priced tiers to make their main plan appear like a bargain.
As well as price anchoring, website builders typically label one of their plans “Most Popular.” Ask yourself, popular with whom?
All good site builders offer a free trial — usually lasting up to14 days. This is your opportunity to decide if the product lives up to its marketing. Don’t start your trial until you have a few days free to try out the product.
Most site builders offer a discount of around 20% if you pay annually. If you can afford it, pay annually, if for no other reason than it simplifies your taxes.
As an additional incentive, a site builder may offer you something like a free domain name for the first year — nothing is ever free; they recoup the cost with second-year renewal fees. This is by no means the cheapest way of registering a domain name, but it does simplify the process of pointing the domain at your site, and you really won’t save more than the price of a takeaway coffee doing it yourself.
Finally, remember: there isn’t a business on earth that isn’t happy for you to upgrade your plan and pay them more if the need arises; very few will let you downgrade before the end of your contract.