Webnode – Modern Editor with Some Limitations
A short while ago Webnode completely revamped their editor, making it very modern. The themes they added are stylish and responsive. A pity you can’t choose a completely new theme after your initial choice. Working with Webnode is very intuitive and also here (surprise) you have the option of upgrading to a paid plan.
Webnode offers a low-cost variant at $3.95 per month (which they fittingly call Limited) essentially allowing you to use a domain name you already own and to contact their premium support. The small ad will stay with this option. Unfortunately, there is no ecommerce option in the free plan and also the blog is very basic.
The URL you will get for free: customname.webnode.com
What we liked: the non-intrusive ad of the free plan and their selection of stylish, responsive templates. There’s no page limit and SEO settings can be changed for all pages.
Where they should improve: adding/improving their features (blog, ecommerce). Also, storage isn’t very generous at only 100 MB in the free plan. Also, there is no app store for additional site features.
Free Trial: www.webnode.com
Wix – The International Heavyweight
The biggest of them all is Wix. They have more users than any other site builder and it’s easy to see why. It’s packed with unique features and great templates. According to our tests, it’s the best choice to create a paid site – but what about a free one? Does it fare just as well in this arena?
Well, it depends on what you are looking for. It’s great that they hardly have any restrictions on the free plan in terms of features and templates. On desktop computers, they place a pretty visible ad at the top of your website that is sticky (i.e. it will stay even when you start scrolling the page). Fortunately, on mobile phones, it far less visible and also not sticky. To use your own custom domain name, you’ll need the Combo plan at least, which is $14 per month.
The URL you will get for free: accountname.wix.com/customname
What we liked: their spectacular selection of themes and the flexibility of their editor. Also, they have an extensive app market and 500MB free webspace. No page limit. Full SEO customization. The Connect Domain plan offers a relatively cheap entry-level at $5 per month, which allows you to use your own domain name (ad-supported). Unfortunately, it’s not available in all geographies anymore.
Where they should improve: the Wix ad is very visible and should not be sticky. Also, the free URL is too long and not easy to remember, unfortunately.
Weebly – A Great Website Builder with One Downside
Weebly is one of the largest site creators out there and hits the top spots in our ranking table. But since we are mainly looking at the free plans here, we have to judge our contestant with slightly different criteria. The free plan is where Weebly doesn’t shine quite as bright, mainly due to the very visible ad in the website’s footer that even sports a mouseover effect.
In general though, it’s a very decent product, which offers great usability. There’s even an App Center with additional features. Paid plans start at $6 per month.
What we liked: their responsive themes and the app center with third-party add-ons. Also, there’s 500MB of free webspace. No limit on pages. SEO settings can be edited for all pages.
Where they should improve: the only downside is the very visible footer ad. Oh, and the cookie notice they show is just as annoying there is no way to switch it off (also it interferes with Google Analytics visitor tracking).
Ucraft – Connect Your Domain for Free
This is an interesting product as they are the only ones that allow you to connect an existing domain name for free! They even include SSL at no extra cost. Their cheapest paid plan is called Pro, starts at $10 per month and includes pro features such as multilingual sites.
Ucraft is a relatively advanced website builder, allowing you to fine-tune your styles such as fonts, colors, and spacings. Overall, we found it more complicated, though, than other free website builders as the editor isn’t quite as self-explanatory.
Let’s hope that this business model can work long-term. They are giving away quite a lot for free (which is great!) but it makes us wonder if this is sustainable.
What we liked: the ability to connect a proper domain name for free. Their templates look pretty modern and there is a decent selection available. Their support was helpful and the size of the advert on free websites is acceptable. SSL is included in free sites.
Where they should improve: you are limited to only the Basic Elements in the free plan. That excludes anything to do with articles, social media or ecommerce. The editor was sometimes a bit slow loading and felt a little buggy (but nothing too bad) and generally more complicated than other site builders.
Webstarts – Best Free Option
When it comes to Marketing, Webstarts is not exactly shy. With almost 4m users, they claim to be the #1 Rated Free Website Builder (without actually saying who rated them). To be fair, Webstarts’ free plan is a solid choice. It includes access to all the important features such as the blog, and you can even activate the online store.
The product feels similar to Wix – in that all the elements can be moved around quite freely. In the feature and template departments though, you’ll find a lot less variety. What we don’t really understand is that Webstarts doesn’t offer a mobile-optimized website view in their free plan. Neither will your website be SSL encrypted.
What we liked: Generous 1GB storage space, online store includes 10 products for free, SEO settings can be edited for all pages. The footer advertisement isn’t very intrusive and can be closed by your website’s visitors (it doesn’t disappear when scrolling though).
Where they should improve: The backend could use a revamp, it’s starting to show its age a bit. It’s not great at all that they prevent the mobile-optimized view on mobile devices on the free plan. SSL encryption seems to be included in free plans but will be charged for in paid plans (at an outrageously expensive $8 per month!).
Jimdo – Website Editing Powered by AI
The good thing about Jimdo is that it won’t cost you an arm and a leg even if you decide to go premium one day. Their cheapest Jimdo Dolphin plan at $9 per month and will allow you to use a proper domain. But even if you have no intention of ever upgrading your Jimdo website you’ll enjoy their very smooth website setup experience.
Not only is Jimdo the fastest loading website builder we found, but their designs are also mobile responsive and look generally pretty good. Jimdo is pretty limited when it comes to features: there is no blog, no app store, or any fancy tools like that. But if you are a beginner and just want to get that website live on the web, you’ll appreciate the simplicity that Jimdo provides.
What we liked: the free plan shows only a small ad. They give you 500MB webspace, which should be more than enough for most sites. And of course, their centerpiece, the intelligent setup assistant.
Where they should improve: With the free plan you are limited to 5 pages only. Also, there is no app market, blog, or password protection.
Site123 – Easy as 1-2-3?
Site123 claims to be “by far” the easiest website builder, and while their tool is certainly not too difficult to use, we’d say that there are even more user-friendly ones. What’s great about their builder is that they have some pretty good looking themes that are all responsive. Paid plans start at $9.80 per month and include a basic ecommerce store as well as an email marketing tool. Be prepared to receive multiple daily emails after signing up. Free websites show a little banner stripe at the bottom of the page.
What we liked: It lets you create a one-page or multi-page website. There is a good choice of plugins and we found it easy enough to work with Site123. Their templates are responsive and the site includes SSL. Oh, and you have full access to the SEO settings!
Where they should improve: we aren’t big fans of the editor. You change the content in a separate window, which is not really state of the art. To achieve even basic things you always need a lot of clicks. Also, the templates are pretty restrictive with what you can add.
GoDaddy – The Easy All-Rounder
GoDaddy is a giant in the domain name and web hosting business, so it’s no surprise that they’d offer their very own website builder, too. It’s called GoDaddy Websites + Marketing, and while it’s seen a few revamps over the past few years, this latest version now comes with some handy new features – and a free plan, too.
As a beginner-friendly website builder, GoDaddy focuses on making things easy – from its simple-to-edit selection of mobile-friendly templates, to useful add-ons such as an email marketing tool, blog, appointment scheduler and member pages. All of these are free to add to your site.
What’s not free is the ability to use your own domain name, or to start selling products through an online store. A GoDaddy banner will also display at the top of all your pages. While this is all pretty standard for a free plan, one thing that’s a little surprising is that your SEO options are severely limited. You’d need to upgrade to one of the higher-level paid plans to be able to edit elements such as image alt tags and keywords.
What we liked: It’s dead simple to use, and its in-built features, such as its blog and email marketing tool, work pretty well, too. It’s perfect for anyone who is a beginner, has relatively simple requirements, and who would like to be able to manage their entire online presence in the one place
Where they should improve: The SEO options are too basic, even on the higher paid plans. A wider range of app integrations would be useful, too. We also hope that they make it easier to migrate websites to any future iterations of the website builder, as they don’t provide a lot of support for previous versions.
Webflow – An Editor That Feels like a Cockpit
Take a heap of functions, add a pinch of visual design and garnish your creation with a nice CMS topping – tadaaa! Your Webflow site builder is ready.
Webflow is a system that falls a bit out of line with all the other regular website builders. This one specifically targets designers, developers and advanced users who want to create a website, but require more design freedom than traditional site builders like Squarespace or Weebly can offer. Although it’s a complex tool with loads of customization options, Webflow still attempts to make it as easy as possible for their users – coding isn’t necessarily required, you get to see your designs immediately thanks to their visual editor, and they offer tons of help material.
What we liked: You can easily sign-up (via Google or email address) and don’t need a credit card. The amount of features is massive and you have manifold customization options – for better or worse. You get a lot of support (videos, articles, forum). Plus, the advert on free sites is barely noticeable. In fact, you can publish two website projects with the free plan. Nice one!
Where they should improve: Although you have a lot of options with Webflow, it would be nice if there were more built-in features. There are a bunch of free design templates available, but for most of them, you have to pay. Prices range between $19 and $79 (one-off). The editor can be quite overwhelming at first.
Mozello – Free Multilingual Websites
This Latvian company is one of the smaller players worldwide. What strikes us about Mozello is that they allow you to create a multilingual website for free – something you won’t get anywhere else. The range of features includes a blog, an online store and decent SEO options. Fortunately, the advertisement is just a link in the footer that most of your visitors won’t even notice. 500MB of free storage is included and should be enough for most of us.
The downside is that the editor, albeit easy to use, is really limited compared to its competitors’. Certain elements like a gallery can only be added to a specific gallery page-type, for example. This makes Mozello rather inflexible.
The URL you will get for free: customname.mozello.com
What we liked: the almost unnoticeable ad and the possibility to create a free multilingual website.
Where they should improve: the editor needs to become much more flexible and feature-rich. There is no easy way to add SSL encryption. In our test, not even the Mozello editor was using a secure connection, which is a bit worrying!
Free Trial: www.mozello.com
Strikingly – Free One-Page Layouts
“Don’t lose your visitors under the weight of a heavy, confusing website” says Strikingly, a website builder from California. That’s probably why they want you to put all your content on a single-page. If you’d like to create multiple pages, you’ll have to upgrade to a paid plan. To be fair, they have some pretty decent templates to choose from and the website editor is easy to understand, even for beginners. If you ever leave the free plan, you’ll be charged at least $16 per month.
The URL you will get for free: accountname.strikingly.com
What we liked: great themes that have clear call to actions. There is a mobile iOS and Android app for mobile website editing. And what’s fantastic is that you can access their live chat support – even in the free plan!
Where they should improve: Reducing everything to one page only can be quite limiting and is not the best approach in terms of SEO. And even though the templates look really good, there could be a bit more choice. SSL encryption should also be possible for free sites.
Free Trial: www.strikingly.com
One.com – Not Free, but a Cheap Website Builder
One.com doesn’t have a freemium plan like its competitors. They charge you from the beginning but the costs are very reasonable. Of course, your website will be ad-free. Optionally, you can add a proper domain name directly. There’s only one snag: you are limited to 5 pages, otherwise it’s getting rather expensive.
If all you need is a small, ad-free website with its own proper domain name, One.com could be a great fit. Oh, and if you’d rather use WordPress instead of their own site builder you can do that too. Best of all, there won’t be any page limit!
What we liked: the fact that you are quite flexible: either use One.com’s own site builder or WordPress. It’s a great option to get started professionally for very little money. All templates are responsive and look modern.
Where they should improve: the limit to 5 pages isn’t great. Their own website editor certainly isn’t the best in the market but it gets the job done. It’s also pretty complicated to activate the SSL encryption.
Sign up (15 days money-back guarantee): www.one.com
Bookmark – Websites created by AI?
The latest fashion in website building are intelligent assistants. Bookmark, Wix ADI and, to a lesser extent, Jimdo Dolphin, all promise to use some kind of magic formula to get your website right with the first draft. Using Bookmark’s AiDA assistant we were left wondering where the intelligent assistant should get the information of what to put on your website. All you enter is your business name and the industry. The outcome was not terrible but it’s also not better than a website created without an assistant.
What we liked: Bookmark has quite a lot of features and modules that you can add to your website. All the websites are responsive and the editor makes a lot of sense. An advantage is that AiDA teaches you how to modify design elements in a couple of steps. They also offer integrated email accounts for $2 per month.
What they should improve: The website we got didn’t look particularly attractive. It was very stock-image heavy. With this whole AI-branding, they raise very high expectations which, from our point of view, they can’t really meet.
The cheapest ad-free paid plan starts at $11.99, which seems quite high compared to more established platforms like Wix or Weebly.
The URL you will get for free: https://yourname.bookmark.com
Free plan: www.bookmark.com
Tip: Save 15% on your first purchase with Bookmark using this exclusive voucher code websitetooltester15.
000webhost – Your Website, 23 Hours a Day
000Webhost belongs to the same holding that owns Hostinger, a relatively well-known hosting company. They use 000webhost to offer free hosting services. Those are limited to 1 GB of space, 10 GB of bandwidth and a maximum of 2 websites. But if you don’t really want to use WordPress, they have a website builder with a free plan.
If you ever decide to go premium to remove limitations from the free plan, you’ll be looking to pay about $9 a month. Being completely honest, there are much better tools (like Wix or Weebly) that offer similar deals.
The URL you will get for free: customname.000webhostapp.com
What we liked: It’s cool that both their website builder and WordPress are supported for website creation. You can actually connect a domain name you purchased elsewhere with the free version. They have almost 200 templates to choose from and they are categorized by industry. Although their templates aren’t responsive, you can create dedicated versions of your site that will adapt to desktops, tablets and mobiles. Interestingly, they offer a way to easily create multilingual sites. And if you are a backup paranoid, be at rest: you’ll be able to download backups and even restore them.
Where they should improve: Some of their templates are modern and slick looking, but most of them look a bit aged. A big limitation of the free plan is that your website will go down, every day, for one hour; if you ask me, this is a no go. It has some of the basic features and add-ons, but there are key elements missing (e.g. a blog or on-site search). When you change to a new template, all the content you had will be lost.
Free plan: 000webhost.com
New Google Sites – (Very) Basic Website Creation
Google recently revamped their website builder Google Sites. Now it’s a cleaner, more modern looking affair. After playing around with it for a few minutes, you will notice two things: 1) that it’s super easy to use; 2) that there are hardly any features: you can choose from six templates that all look pretty bare when you start building as there is no sample content at all. It seems to be possible to connect a domain name via Google MyBusiness, but then you have to be a business with a physical address.
The URL you will get for free: sites.google.com/view/yoursitename
What we liked: unsurprisingly, really good integration with other Google products (Maps, Calendar, Docs, Slides, etc.).
Where they should improve: there should be more themes and design elements. There is no access to the SEO settings of the website such as page title and meta description (!!!). Their knowledge base is as basic as the website builder, so it can be quite frustrating searching for answers (especially when all you find are forum posts like this one).
Free Plan: sites.google.com
IM Creator has many modern-looking templates grouped by categories, which makes it easy to find one that fits your needs. Their designs are mobile responsive, and with their phone and tablet editor you can customize how they look on different devices.
Their approach to site design is somehow different. Instead of having a set of elements (e.g. headline, text, images, icons, etc.) that you combine into a design, they have prebuilt sections that you can customize. This makes it less flexible, but you are less likely to mess your design up – a good approach for beginners without much time to experiment with design and layouts.
Free plan: www.imcreator.com
Zoho Sites – Feature-rich
There are plenty of template designs in Zoho’s website creator. The downside is that only a small fraction of them are responsive. Also, they probably looked excellent five years ago but now have a bit of a dated feel. The editor itself is super easy to use and covers all basic features you can imagine. Using Zoho Creator you can even add dynamic content blocks to your site. Also, you have full access to the HTML and CSS of your website. All in all, a very decent product, especially if you work with other Zoho products.
Free plan: www.zoho.com/sites
WordPress.com – The Blogging Platform
WordPress.com is not to be confused with its bigger brother WordPress.org (read our beginners’ guide). The latter is fantastic if you are not scared of diving into technical terrain, but surprisingly, the .com version is not that much easier to use and has a lot of restrictions. Having said that, if all you want is just to create a blog, WordPress.com could be a great solution for you. For a website, though, we find there are better solutions. Paid plans start at $5 per month.
Free plan: www.wordpress.com
19. Mobirise – Installable Website Building Software
Usually, we’re big advocates of hosted site builders that run in your web browser. But we do of course acknowledge that some of you are more comfortable with an installable Windows or Mac website software. Mobirise is such a program: you install it on your computer and within minutes you’ll be able to start dragging and dropping a free website together – even when you’re offline.
Their templates look quite fresh and offer lots of functionality. The choice is limited to a handful of designs. Also, most of them are paid ones that will set you back $19-$39 (as a one-time payment). It’s also a pity we couldn’t find any blogging functionalities. Once you are happy with your result, you need to publish the site to your own web space. Of course, that’s a lot more complicated than with a hosted website builder as it requires you to set up a FTP connection and upload it to your own web space.
Free Download: www.mobirise.com
Adobe Spark – from the makers of Photoshop
You’ve certainly heard of Photoshop. Maybe you’ve even heard of Adobe Dreamweaver, which was one of the first big WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editors. While it’s powerful, it’s everything else but free (or easy to use). Probably for that reason, Adobe created a free solution called Spark.
Spark is pretty much the anti-Dreamweaver in that it’s as easy as it gets. But that has mainly to do with their limited feature set. Rather than building websites, it allows you to create a single web page. There’s no blog, store or any other business features. It does offer nice design possibilities and lets you create really nice galleries. But be aware – Adobe puts its brand top and bottom. To get rid of their ads you’ll have to pay around $10 monthly. Frankly, for this kind of money you are much better off with site builders like Wix or Ucraft.
Free plan: spark.adobe.com
Sitey, WebsiteBuilder.com, Sitebuilder.com – Triple Déjà Vu?
This is a bit of an odd company: they use three different brands that sell exactly the same site creator. And we couldn’t find any company details as there is no ‘about’ page on either of the three websites (even their own domain names seem to be registered privately). At first glance Sitey & Co. looks pretty sweet: they offer a vast number of flawless templates. Once you get to the editor you’ll start to notice some similarities to another well-known player: Wix. Everything is really similar (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing). However, we see little reason not to opt for the original. The free plan is limited to 5 pages only and their paid plans are all more expensive than Wix’s.