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The Best Website Builders and Design Services of 2020

By Skye Schooley,
business.com writer
| Updated
Feb 24, 2020
Image Credit: demaerre / Getty Images
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Every company can benefit from an intuitive business website, but how that website is created may vary. Business owners can choose between website design software (website builders) and website design services. Website design software is a self-service website builder tool available in free and paid versions. It is ideal for businesses that want full autonomy over building their websites or have very low design budgets. Web design services are full-service companies that will develop, build and maintain your website for you. These are often more expensive than website builders and frequently offer more than just website design (web design and development, marketing, SEO, branding, etc.). 

As a small business owner, how do you know which website builder or service is the best one for your company? To help you, we spent dozens of hours researching and evaluating nearly 50 companies to determine the website builders and design services we think are best for small businesses and professionals.

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Reviews

Check out all of our web design software reviews here.

Benefits of Website Design Software vs. Website Design Services

It can be tough to know whether you should use a self-service website builder or a full-service website design agency to build your business website. There are a few major differences between the two that can help you narrow down the choices. 

Website Builder (Design Software)

  • What is it? Website design software is a self-service web builder platform. It is often quick to download, and it lets you create, edit and monitor your website all on your own. The best software includes features like user-friendly templates, domain names, e-commerce website capabilities, analytics, responsive web design and mobile applications.

  • What are the benefits? A major benefit is price, as it is typically free or cheap to use. Most builders offer the option of a free plan or free trial, which is helpful for those who want to try out the software before subscribing to a paid plan. It's quick to activate, so you can start building your website almost immediately.

  • Who is it for? Web builders are very popular among individual professionals and small businesses. Since website builders come in affordable plans, this is typically the best (or only) option for those working with a tight website budget. The majority of the software is easy to use, featuring premade templates and drag-and-drop capabilities. Even business owners with no web design experience can create their website after watching just a few online tutorials. A website builder is also ideal for those who have web design experience, as they can customize their website exactly how they want it. If you want complete autonomy over how your website will look, this is the best option.   

Website Design Services

  • What is it? Website design services are companies that create, build and maintain your website for you. In addition to the website development features of web builders, web design services typically offer many other services. For example, they can create content, strategize your SEO and assist with branding efforts.

  • What are the benefits? This full-service option takes all the guesswork out of the equation. With experienced web designers and developers creating and maintaining your site, you have a better chance of ranking and performing well. Since these companies also offer several other business services, this can be a convenient way to fulfill a variety of needs (web design, development, branding, marketing, SEO, etc.) with one company.

  • Who is it for? Although website design services are typically utilized by midsize or large businesses, they are great for any business with the right budget. It is more expensive to use a website design service than a website builder, but having professionals creating and building your website gives you a better chance of a good online presence. It also gives you more time to run your business instead of building and maintaining a website. Since many website design services offer additional services like branding and marketing, businesses that need a plethora of services can benefit from partnering with an all-in-one design service.

What Is the Average Cost for Website Design?

When considering the cost of web design, you should separate website builder solutions from professional services that create custom sites for specific clients. As you might expect, the former is significantly less expensive, and the latter varies by design specs and client needs. 

Website Builder Pricing

If you are working with a small budget for website design, website building software is likely your best option. Most no-code web design platforms offer free personal plans, free trials, and tiered subscriptions that increase in price and functionality with each level. Subscriptions are charged in monthly rates and often discounted if you pay annually. 

Most entry-level subscriptions cost around $10 per month for each website, while intermediate subscriptions tend to be in the $15-$20 monthly range. Higher-end drag-and-drop design packages, which often include more customization options and better analytics, usually cost around $25 to $40 a month and can increase into the hundreds for specialty platforms geared toward large enterprises. Keep in mind that a plan with e-commerce capabilities typically costs more than one without. 

Although web design software is intuitive and user-friendly, it is helpful to have coding experience if you want to make unique modifications. When you sign up for this software, there isn't much room for negotiation, since it has preset plans. However, you can always request a free demo before making a commitment. 

Website Design Services Pricing

Pricing for a website design service is more difficult to determine, since the scope of work depends completely on each business's website goals. Although the price varies, even a basic website will cost you at least a couple thousand dollars, and that price will climb with each feature or design element you add. 

If your business is moving out of the SMB space and into the enterprise realm, or if the specifics of your website design are essential to your daily business, it will be money well spent. Just make sure to request price quotes from a few different website design services before you make a final decision.  

The biggest mistake SMBs make when they go for custom creation is heading into the process without a clear goal or plan, and then getting talked into unnecessary extra features, resulting in higher maintenance costs going forward. For this reason, the aim of your website should be clearly defined and meticulously detailed long before you approach a web design service. Issues like security needs, ongoing maintenance, SEO, integration with other products or systems, and must-have features should all be covered in your plan. This level of planning will not only help you get what you want, it will also help the designers. 

A responsive website created by an individual web designer that only lists basic company information is, of course, much less expensive than an agency-built site that has a custom chatbot, integration with multiple systems, embedded videos and different login permission levels. One thing you can do to keep your costs low is to only include the features you need in your build and ask early on about the maintenance or support plan costs you will incur going forward.

What to Look for in Web Design Programs

When looking for a website design program, you first need to determine whether you want to use a self-service software or a full-service design agency. Consider what basic functions you need your software or service to perform, in addition to which features you may need as your business website grows. 

Usability

One of the most important elements of a website design service or software is its usability. Web design services can professionally assist you in creating a website that suits all of your business's needs, and most of them do this by assigning a dedicated account manager to each client. If they turn over the website monitoring to you, they should ensure that you effectively understand how to use the software and content management system (CMS). 

Web design software should be easy to use, whether you want to update your current website or build a new website from scratch. The best website builders have demos and setup wizards that show you how to make a website quickly and effectively. Most of the web builders we analyzed have a variety of website templates and design tools. Web templates should be highly customizable and responsive to desktop, tablet and mobile devices. Drag-and-drop capabilities make it easy to shift elements such as images or widgets. HTML or CSS editors are also helpful inclusions, because this means the software serves experienced web designers as well as novices. 

Hosting Besides offering web design solutions, the best website builders also host your site. Most programs offer free custom domain hosting for at least the first year of your subscription. While this feature is touted as free, you typically have to pay for setup fees or to register your domain privately. Each website creation application comes with a basic hosting plan that is essential to giving your site a professional domain. However, if unlimited storage and subdomains is your priority, take a look at our web hosting comparison. These hosts have a few more options of builders, with an emphasis on WordPress. 

Storage Storage is an important feature to consider, especially if you have video- or image-heavy webpages. The services we evaluated each include a fairly large number of webpages, but if you have a large e-commerce store, consider plans that allow for a higher number of products or pages. If you intend to create more than one site, be sure to find a website solution that allows this. Finally, a custom domain and the ability to add several custom email addresses is important for branding and presenting a professional image. 

Marketing and Analytics An awesome website won't raise awareness of your organization or boost your sales if no one knows about it. Every website design service or software should give you the ability to enhance your website's SEO and view its performance metrics. 

Many website design services offer digital marketing and SEO as part of their core operations. Most web builders allow you to include marketing features like metatags, but businesses that need comprehensive marketing efforts will benefit the most from full-service website design companies.   

Whether you partner with a design service or use DIY software, your website builder should give you access to website analytics. These analytics show you how your website is performing and where you can improve. 

When we evaluated each application's analytical tools, we noticed that all of the software employed Google Analytics, but many programs offer proprietary analytic tools that track different data points. The best web design software not only tracks industry-standard data points, like the number of visitors and page views, but also provides data like bounce rates, referring pages, behavior and mobile data points. 

Responsive Web Design and Mobile Optimization

Since roughly half of website traffic comes from mobile devices, it is important for your business website to accommodate those users. Many search engine algorithms even penalize websites that are not responsive to mobile devices. The best professional website creators offer responsive web designs that automatically modify your website to adapt to the device type it is being viewed on (desktop, tablet or smartphone). 

If you currently manage a desktop-only site, we recommend you take advantage of a mobile website builder to convert your site to mobile, or at least create a mobile version of your site that can reach a wider online audience. Improving your web design to fit the current demand can result in higher conversion rates.  

E-commerce Capabilities and Additional Services

Online shopping is on the rise, making e-commerce design a valuable feature to look for in a website builder. Even if you do not currently want to sell any products online, it is important to find a service that can scale with your business (in case you want to sell online in the future, for example). Some platforms limit the number of items you can sell, so if this is a core element of your business, it's an important feature to analyze. 

Many website design agencies provide additional services like content creation, branding and website monitoring. If these are services you want to take advantage of, be sure to find an agency that can accommodate you.

What Should You Consider Before Choosing a Web Design Program?

The web design process is often an ongoing task, so if you are searching for the best professional website creator, it's important to find one that caters to your interests and business goals specifically. The best web builders are easy for tech novices to learn, but they also have advanced tools to cater to those with coding experience. They should allow you to select industry-specific themes for your site. 

With industry-specific themes, you should have access to backgrounds and images that correspond to the type of service you've chosen, while still having control over the design elements that go on each page. Most of the companies we reviewed limit the number of sites you can create, with only a select few offering an unlimited number of both websites and webpages. 

After you create a website, the web design console should provide a preview of a determined page. This can be your homepage, direct online storefront or whatever you decide to make it. Web builders typically have predetermined pages built into the template – like contact pages, homepages, "about us" pages and business location maps – to speed up the design process. 

The best web design software includes a blog manager. Many new site creators are looking to give their blogs some credibility by adding professional design and the .com that comes with any paid host. Blogging pages are intended for dynamic content that is continually updated rather than landing pages that remain largely static.

State of the Web Design Industry

The demand for easy, no-code website-building options from individuals and SMBs alike has rocked the state of the website design industry and irrevocably changed the landscape. Years ago, the only way to build a website was to manually do it yourself or hire a professional to do it for you. Gradually, WYSIWYG editor design programs popped up with limited templates that allowed basic website creation, but they were restrictive and typically built without mobile viewing in mind. As mobile connectivity has grown, the demand for responsive design has exploded, and most website design software today automatically scales to any screen. Programs today also allow users to embed media and integrate with outside apps like Google Maps and PayPal. 

While enterprise-level clients still frequently choose dedicated web design teams to create their corporate websites, small businesses are happily helping themselves to DIY builders that allow for quick creation with minimal tech skills. The proliferation of inexpensive web design tools with hosting built into the subscription has changed not only how SMBs build websites but how the public views SMBs without websites. Websites are now considered mandatory in many SMB industries, and website design tools make the process of creating and maintaining a site painless.

Methodology

To identify the best website builder software and services for small businesses, we started with our current list of website design vendors. We added to that list with research through other reputable online sources, such as business websites and reviews, and by conducting standard industry research. We examined nearly 50 website design software and services in total.  

We narrowed our list based on different use cases and the criteria listed below. We reviewed each company's website and software, taking careful note of usability, flexibility, integration, customer service and other factors that are important to entrepreneurs. We posed as entrepreneurs and contacted support representatives to assess the quality of service they offer small business owners.  

We eventually cut our list down to these top website builders: Blue Fountain Media, Duda, GoDaddy Business, Hibu, Squarespace, Strikingly, WebiMax, Weebly and Wix. 

We based our final decisions on these factors: 

  • Rates and contracts 
  • Industries served 
  • Web hosting and storage
  • Marketing and analytics
  • Usability and templates
  • Responsive and mobile-friendly designs
  • Customer service 
  • Better Business Bureau ratings and accreditations 
  • Customer reviews and complaints

Common Website Builder and Design Software Questions & Answers

Have a website builder or design software question of your own?
Ask an Expert

Which website platform is more user-friendly, WordPress or SquareSpace?

17 responses
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Hi Christina, From my point of view there are excellent aspects to both options you are looking at. If you are looking to provide online courses that you are selling. I think you will find that Wordpress has more plugins available and is a little easier to use than squarespace. For an online prescence and e-commerce solution style of website, squarespace would be my recommendation. I find it easier to use but thats just me. A lot of the more static sites that I build are in Adobe Muse and...

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Is it possible? of course! Is it a good idea to penny-pinch when talking about creating the digital face of your company that will be seen day and night by your target market? Probably not. No, I am not saying you have to spend $10,000 or anything close to that, but $1000 is, in most instances, not going to get you a professional website, regardless of what someone is telling you. Sure, for a freelancer with no overhead, $1000 is a nice payday for a quick and simple website, but that is...

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Others here have stated this, but I'll add some further insights from what I've learned over the past decade or so of learning to build websites on my own: Website Builders like Weebly, Wix, SquareSpace, etc are the easiest for newbies to build something relatively basic without any real web skills needed. The downside is that you don't really own your website, and must pay the monthly fees charged by these platform providers to keep your site up. Also, particularly with Wix, the SEO...

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