Website Creation Software Review
Why Website Creation Software?
The top performers in our review are Weebly, the Gold Award winner; Wix, the Silver Award winner; and Squarespace, the Bronze Award winner. Here's more on choosing a service to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of the 10 best website creators.
In the past, when you wanted to build a website, you had to find someone who knew HTML coding. Now, there is no excuse to not create a site. Dozens of companies have stepped up their services and rolled out easy web creators targeted to novices.
Web creation software has gone away from the standalone offline programs. It now is an ongoing service that provides hosting and constant support as part of site ownership.
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.
Which Website Builder Is Best? What We Tested, What We Found
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.
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.
What to Look for in the Best Website Creation Software
When choosing website creation software, look for programs that are intuitive to use and offer a wide range of features, including graphics, image-editing tools, webpage templates, scripting support and helpful documentation. We found that the most intuitive programs featured setup wizards that automatically appear on startup, drag-and-drop capabilities as well as the ability to completely customize a template to appear under your company’s brand and name.
Below are some other features you'll want to consider as well:
Good website building software provides you with a library of professional-quality templates that make creating webpages easy. Today's websites need to be visually appealing, so your program should come with a large, built-in library of images, including clip art, animated GIFs, buttons and other images.
Good software includes built-in tools you can use to manipulate (resize, crop, compress) images and preview samples of images at various resolutions. This feature will pay off when you need to reduce the image quality so your webpages load more quickly for visitors.
Marketing Your Professional Website
Creating a website is only the first step. Once your site is complete, you need to get it in front of the right online audience. Each website creator should have the means to share your site with your customers through organic and paid means. The easiest ways to gain instant promotion are through the use of metatags, advertising credits and social media integration.
When you first launch a site, you need to employ several SEO tools in order for search engines to pick up your site and make it available to users. The first step is submitting your website to popular search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing. Most of the software programs we reviewed require you to submit your website manually; however, they either offer a way to do so directly from the dashboard or provide step-by-step instructions.
After your website is approved, you can create metatags to improve your SEO. Other tools integrate your website with social media outlets to project it across several mediums. Some of the services we reviewed also offer advertising credits you can use to further promote your website on search engines. However, we found that these promotional credits change on a regular basis.
Hosting Your New Site
Hosting gives your site a home. The URL will never be seen if the program doesn't actually go online. You should find an application with great hosting features, like a large number of pages, email addresses and storage. Even these storage plans come in tiers, but you can often find the right web creation service that incorporates every feature into one manageable cost.
Due to its technical nature, website creation software calls for particularly good help and support. Your software should offer a comprehensive user guide and help system. You'll also need tutorials to learn how to create a website; good software products offer website-building tutorials on their websites or directly in the software. Lastly, the manufacturer should offer a customer service email address or telephone number in case you need help on specific topics.
How to Make a Website for Free
While our review of website creation software focuses on paid versions, there are countless free website builders available. In fact, many of the companies on our lineup offer a free version of their software that presents a more restricted feature set. For example, Weebly, Wix, Jimdo, Strikingly and Yola all offer a version of their web builder for free.
One of the most popular and versatile web builders available is WordPress. While we did not include it on our lineup, WordPress integrates with every web builder we reviewed. This open-source software is easy to use and highly versatile. With countless contributors always modifying and making fixes, WordPress offers cutting-edge technology while maintaining usability. It also offers a familiar interface since so many website builders use it.
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.
Our Verdict & Recommendations
The main reason to seek out a site builder over a standard online hosting service first is that you will be making a website and you want a specific builder. WordPress is available for every service, but it isn't for everyone. Each of these builders is designed to be the easiest format – drag and drop – and is accessible to any users, regardless of experience.
Weebly excels due to its effortless editing on both desktop and mobile sites. The software offers some of the best tools in the industry while maintaining an easy-to-use interface. Additionally, this website builder offers analytical tools of its own and partners with Google so you can fully evaluate your site visitors and optimize your webpages. Weebly's Pro plan also offers the best web-hosting package of all the services we reviewed.
Both Wix and Squarespace serve as strong competitors, trailing shortly behind Weebly, our Gold Award winner. Squarespace is one of the best-known names in the professional website industry thanks in large part to its sleek interface. This website builder not only offers an uncluttered interface, but its modern design is reflected on the control panel and in many of the templates. Both of these site builders offer modest learning curves, top-of-the-line design tools and bring you closer to getting your brand online.