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The Best Website Builder and Design Software of 2019

By
Mona Bushnell
,
business.com writer
| Updated
Nov 15, 2018
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Website Builder and Design Software Comparisons

Some web design tools and services are intended for personal use and lack the built-in functionality that serious business users need. To identify the best and brightest, our team reviewed some of the biggest names in the web design software and services business, taking careful note of usability, flexibility, integration, customer service and other factors that are important to entrepreneurs.

In our evaluation of web design software, we named Weebly Pro the best overall. Its no-code, drag-and-drop approach to building sites is easy enough for anyone to master, and the templates are well designed and suitable for a variety of business types. However, we didn't want to identify just one standout product. As excellent as Weebly Pro is, we recognized Wix as the best for template design and variety (it has over 500 templates). We also named Duda as the best software for mobile-specific web design. While most good web design programs offer responsive design these days, some industries may want to build websites specifically for mobile use, and Duda makes the building and previewing process easy even if you're on a phone or tablet.

Our final best pick isn't website design software but rather a custom website creation service from Blue Fountain Media. For some SMBs, the investment in a hand-designed, fully original website that does not use templates is worthwhile, and we were impressed with Blue Fountain Media's past design projects, customer service, approach to strategy, and options for integration and growth.

Best Picks

Reviews

Check out all of our web design software reviews here.

Pricing

When you consider pricing for web design, you should separate DIY software 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 more based on design specs and client needs. Most no-code web design platforms offer free trial versions as well as tiered subscriptions that increase in price and functionality at each level. Most entry-level subscriptions cost $5 to $10 per month, per website, while intermediate subscriptions tend to be in the $10-$20 monthly range. Higher-end drag-and-drop design packages, which often include more customization options and better analytics, usually start around $25 a month and can increase into the hundreds for specialty platforms geared toward larger businesses. Pricing for a website design service is more difficult to flesh out, since the variation is so vast, but 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 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 you request price quotes from a few different website design services before you make a final decision.  

Negotiation

If you opt for website design software, there's no need to negotiate for a lower price; our top pick overall costs just $12 a month. However, if you go the full customization route and work with a team of web designers, you should have a plan in place.

The biggest obstacle SMBs face when they go for custom creation is heading into the process without a clear goal or plan, and then getting talked into dozens of extra features that aren't necessary, which will inevitably result 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. This level of planning will not only help you get what you want, it will also help the designers you're working with.

It is nearly impossible to provide a range of prices for services like custom web design because the scope is so broad. 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 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.

Which Website Builder Is Best?

For the past 12 years, we've monitored the industry and evaluated website building software. In addition to evaluating the various design tools, marketing features and hosting options each application promotes, we focused specifically on the usability of each web builder.

Every application is intended to be user friendly, as claimed by the applications' developers. We put these claims of usability to the test. We purchased plans for each of the applications on our lineup, created a hosting account, along with a landing page, and tested each interface. For comparison, we used the most popular package, typically the pro plan for each application. In doing so, we had access to far more features than the basic, starter package but, like any efficient small business owner would do when they create a website, we were focused on keeping costs down.

Usability

There are dozens of web creation applications to choose from, and you'll invariably find that the interface and design of one application appeals more strongly to you than others. For our evaluation of this category, we evaluated applications strictly on whether they provided the capabilities needed to quickly create a website with as few hurdles as possible, especially for someone with little to no coding experience.

The industry has changed to the point where WYSIWYG editors are common. Every one of the applications on our list utilizes a drag-and-drop format. The best website builders have a walk-through that shows you how to make a website quickly and effectively. Surprisingly, though, not every program on our list has a setup wizard. Jimdo lacked any kind of setup wizard.

In addition, we valued those website creators that gave us full rein to customize our site. A small sample of proprietary themes and templates is nice, but we took note of the services that allowed us to import our own theme and edit the HTML for more in-depth customization. We awarded additional points to software that allowed us to edit or create custom HTML and CSS code as well as the programs that allowed us to import our own templates or gave us complete creative control over existing templates.

Building a site is going to take a lot of time (as it did for us), but once it's created, it's time to publish it. As part of our evaluation, we graded each of these services based on how easy it is to get your site established on the major search engines. As we created both blogs and business landing pages, we scored the level of search engine optimization (SEO) tools each service provided. We evaluated how easy it was to add metatags, keywords and titles for each article and page and whether the web builder company submitted your site to search engines or if you had to submit it yourself.

Design & Multimedia: How Easy Was It to Create a Site?

Setup Wizards
We looked for a variety of features and tools that improve the user experience when creating a website. We awarded software that offers setup wizards or visible guidelines high scores based on the quality of the wizard, as these features significantly streamline the setup process and teach you how to use the design tools effectively.

Templates
After initial setup, we looked for programs that offer a large selection of website templates or the option to import them. Templates should be highly customizable and responsive to the devices they are being viewed from.

Drag-and-drop capability makes it easy to shift elements, such as images or widgets. Applications with HTML or CSS editors are very helpful, because the software works for both novices and experienced web designers alike.

Industry-Standard Features
In addition to design tools, look for industry-standard features that improve usability, ranging from integrated blogging systems to responsive themes that transfer to mobile devices.

The ability to edit your website on a mobile device is a plus, since it lets you work on your website wherever you are. Some software, like Aabaco, does not have responsive themes; instead, third-party companies optimize your website for mobile devices.

How to Make a Website

The best web creation software should be easy for new users but also have a substantial selection of tools to cater to those with coding experience. Typically, the individuals using these programs are looking to establish their brand online, whether it's to gain visitors on a popular blog or to have an online storefront for a small or medium business. 

As you search for the best paid professional website creators, it's important to find the one that caters to your interests and business goals specifically. Wix, for example, allows you to select an industry type as you choose the theme of your site. From there, you still have control over the elements that go on the page, but it provides an industry-specific background and a host of images that correspond to the type of service you've chosen. The templates range from a restaurant to a community page or an art portfolio, among several others. Most of the services on our lineup limit the number of sites you can create; however, Weebly, Duda and SpaceCraft all offer an unlimited number of both websites and webpages.

Most of the services on our list allow you to build unlimited pages. Strikingly provides the lowest allotment, limiting you to 20 pages per site. However, that still allows plenty of space for a blog. After you create your website, the web design console provides a preview of a determined page. This page can serve as your home page, direct online storefront or whatever you decide to make it. Typically, the web design software has predetermined pages already built into the template to speed the design process. These include contact pages, home pages, about us and maps of your business's location.

The best web creators come packaged with 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 continually is updated rather than landing pages that remain largely static.

Marketing Features of the Best Website Design Software Applications

SEO
Having an awesome website won't raise awareness of your organization or boost sales if no one knows about it. Although search engines favor content over SEO tricks, it's still important to have the ability to submit your website to search engines and enable metatags.

We evaluated each application's SEO tools, including the different ways each application has you input metatags, and whether the program automatically submits your site to search engines or if you have to do it manually.

Those programs that automate SEO practices and offer quick ways of inputting metatags received a higher score than those that lack these features and put the onus on you to submit your site to search engines.

Analytics
Analytics help you see how your website is performing and how and where you can improve. We evaluated the different analytical tools each application comes with. All of the software on our list employs Google Analytics, but many programs offer their own analytic tools that track different data points.

Weebly, Squarespace, Yola, Jimdo, Strikingly and Aabaco all have proprietary analytics that they track, giving you a more thorough analysis of who your audience is and what they are looking for.

We examined the metrics provided by each application on our list. We awarded the highest scores to the programs that not only track industry-standard data points, like the number of visitors and page views, but provide additional data, such as bounce rates, referring pages, behavior, and mobile data points.

Weebly offers some of the most helpful data points that help you pinpoint the areas of your site that are bringing in the most audience and what parts of your site need adjusting according to audience behavior.

Hosting
Besides offering web design solutions, the best website design software also hosts 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. If you do not, viewers have access to your private information.

Storage
Finally, storage is important, especially if you have video or image-heavy webpages. The hosting services we evaluated all include a huge number of webpages, but if you have a large store, consider plans that allow for a higher number of pages.

If you intend to create more than one site, be sure to find a web design software solution that allows for this. Finally, having a custom domain and the ability to add several custom email addresses is important for branding and presenting a professional image.

Similar Services to Site Creators

Each service on our list puts the control of designing and launching a website into your hands. However, if you have a significant budget to make a great-looking, professional online persona, it might be worth checking out web design companies. These services take the work out of your hands. They run site creation and maintenance. Also, they devote a lot of the funds you pay for the service to marketing your site.

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.

The best professional website creators come packaged with a mobile builder that creates a mobile version of your pre-existing website automatically. With many search engines penalizing websites that are not responsive to mobile devices or that lack a mobile equivalent, mobile web builders have never been more important. 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 creating a mobile version of your site, to reach a wider online audience.

While this will require you to maintain two separate sites, the benefits of a mobile website will greatly increase your SEO. If you need more information about creating desktop sites, mobile sites or apps, check out our articles on website builders and other software you can use to kick-start your web presence.

State of the 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 do it yourself or hire a professional to do it for you. Gradually, programs popped up with limited templates that allowed basic website creation, but they were limited and typically built without mobile viewing in mind. As mobile connectivity has grown, the demand for responsive design has exploded, and today most website design software automatically scales to any screen. Programs today also allow users to do things like embed media and integrate with outside apps like Google Maps and PayPal.

While enterprise-level clients still consistently choose dedicated web design teams to create corporate websites, SMBs are happily helping themselves to DIY services that allow for quick creation with minimal tech skills. The proliferation of inexpensive web design tools that have 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.

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
17
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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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What do you mean by "fluid and professional"? Are you saying the purpose of the site is to impress people with how fluid and professional it is? So it loads into a browser or on mobile smoothly and quickly? Those "qualities" should be a given for any business-oriented site. You need a site design with content and functionality that is going to achieve your business goals. Also, whatever you come up will be imperfect out of the gate. It's impossible to have a perfect website, ever, but...

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Hi Michel, Yes, website design matters, but it's not all that matters. Your website design is your first impression to someone new to your business. We are visual beings, and it is good practice to leverage on that. But of course, website design is just one of the numerous things you should consider. I visited your site and I have a suggestion, what if you add a screenshot for each template category? Like a portfolio type of layout. Your home page is mostly text, and your layout makes...

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Tom, it's an interesting question. 1) I would start by first checking your Google Analytics. See what your bounce rate is. It will tell you a lot. If the bounce rate is high, you are losing traffic and whatever is left after that may be less for conversion. 2) Check if you have ant PAINKILLERS on your most important pages. Painkillers are call-to-actions consisting in your content that solves problems. 3) Add reviews. 4) Risk reversal. You need to make your offer pages magnetic to...

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List of the The Best Website Builder and Design Software of 2019