4 of the best online website builders reviewed

5 min read
Emma Fletcher

UPDATE: This online website builders post was originally published on 12 February 2019 and updated on 21 August 2020.

As a small business owner, having an online home where customers can easily find you is essential. But chances are, you’re so busy running your own business that just thinking about building a website is overwhelming. Thanks to online website builders, however, the whole web design landscape has changed. Dramatically.

You can now get a website up in a matter of hours.

But where do you start? How do you know what kind of website you need? And what is an online website builder anyway? Let’s take it from the top.

Related: Building a website – the total A to Z guide of website design

These tools make DIY a breeze

Not long ago, designing and building a website required a lot of technical know-how. You needed to know how to write code yourself or find someone who could.

Online website builders do the heavy lifting for you.

They’re ideal for first-time site owners who don’t have tech skills or time to learn them. And they’re often packaged with other services, from web hosting to beautiful, pre-built templates and custom domains. Think of them as one-stop shops for websites.

All of these site builders offer free templates that are responsive, meaning your website will look and work great no matter what device it’s viewed on. (Weebly offers both free and paid templates.)

1. GoDaddy Website Builder

GoDaddy Website Builder template for personal site
GoDaddy provides website pre-built templates for every industry that you can customise.

From the largest domain name registrar in the world comes one of the fastest ways to build a website.

Get a great-looking (and free!) website with Website Builder.

This easy builder comes with:

  • SSL encryption to keep you on Google’s good side.
  • GoDaddy InSight, a smart learning system that serves up a list of next steps for your business.
  • Always-on web hosting plus email marketing, social integration and more.
  • A search engine optimisation (SEO) wizard.

If your goal is to sell products and services via your website, the Online Store plan allows you to sell up to 5,000 products, manage orders and inventory, and quickly set up payment and shipping methods. Online Store integrates seamlessly with various shopping channels (Amazon, eBay, Etsy, WalMart, etc).

Service providers will like the appointment calendar that allows clients to book online 24/7 at their convenience. You can also link your website to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn and YouTube.

2. Squarespace

Online Website Builders Squarespace Template
Squarespace also offers pre-built templates to make getting started easy.

Known for designer templates and a clever and intuitive interface, Squarespace is a visual website builder popular with those in creative industries.

There is more of a learning curve here, but you might find the quality of the designs are worth the extra effort.

Like other website builders, Squarespace comes with eCommerce capabilities (Business plan), though features can differ from one template to the next.

  • Free domain name with any annual plan.
  • SSL encryption.
  • Web hosting, SEO tools, blog.
  • 24/7 help.
  • 14-day free trial; no billing information required.

All Squarespace templates are designed to showcase images, so it helps to have high-quality photos, especially of your products or services. These will help you make a good first impression with your customers.

3. Shopify

Shopify is designed purely for selling online. So if you don’t plan to sell from your website, you probably don't need to pay this much for a builder.

Easy to use and simple to set up, Shopify has an extensive range of features:

  • Free domain name with any annual plan.
  • SSL encryption and website analytics.
  • Web hosting, email marketing and blog.
  • Point of sale (POS) app and hardware for accepting payments on-site.
  • 24/7 help.
  • 14-day free trial; no billing information required.Online Website Builders Shopify Template

Purchase your own domain through GoDaddy, or use a basic domain for Shopify Stores.

There are transaction fees on every purchase unless you choose Shopify Payments.

Shopify also integrates seamlessly with social media, shopping channels and accounting software.

4. Weebly

Online Website Builders Weebly Template
Weebly offers more than 100 templates, some free others for a fee.

Another popular website builder,
Weebly is well-known for being beginner-friendly. There is a free plan (although your website will display Weebly ads and branding) as well a range of premium plans with full eCommerce options.

  • Free domain for the first year (Pro and Business plans).
  • SSL encryption and site statistics.
  • Video backgrounds.
  • Site search (Business plan).

Weebly’s App Centre offers a good selection of apps to extend the functionality of your site. You can bring your own domain from another provider.

The big thing about Weebly is its accessibility and simple interface.

There is minimal learning curve with this website builder, so if you’re just starting out on your online journey, Weebly could be an ideal option.

Online website builders recap

Getting your first website up and running doesn’t need to be complicated. Online website builders are a great, low-cost option for creating a good-looking, professional website.

Don’t be distracted by all the bells and whistles either. Unless you plan to sell online, you might only need the bare minimum to get started. Remember, you can always start small and grow from there.

Use the free trials to test the waters — what have you got to lose?

It all comes down to the features you want and your level of skill. Regardless, any of these options can get you online fast. Happy building!