A website isn’t just a way to showcase your business, highlight your work, or write about your interests. It can be the biggest part of your online identity—a way to tell your story and establish a brand (and perhaps make some money). After researching 21 of the top website-building services, building 20 websites with 10 of the most promising ones, and changing hundreds of little things on each page, we think Wix is the best way to create a professional-looking website. Wix offers more templates than any other online site builder we tested and has the most powerful setup wizard, which makes it dead simple for just about anyone to create a site and tweak it to their liking. For those who have design experience or want fine design control over every element on a web page, Wix’s editor provides that, as well as an abundance of plugins to help you enhance and grow your website.
Wix is the most versatile tool for creating a website. With its two design modes, it can auto-build a site customized to your needs or give you full, pixel-level control. It’s both easy to use and full of features.
Wix is simple enough that just about anyone can use it to create a website in minutes, but it’s also flexible and powerful enough for you to fine-tune every aspect of each page if you want to. If you’re new to web design or don’t want to spend a lot of time designing a website, Wix’s auto-site builder (called ADI, for artificial design intelligence) can do the job for you. Just answer a few questions about your style preferences and the kind of site you want, and you’ll quickly have a web page to start from. But Wix is also one of the most powerful, feature-heavy site builders we tested: When you want to take the reins from the AI, Wix’s main editor is packed with controls that can tweak every aspect of your site. Beyond the basics of site editing, Wix offers plugins for all sorts of uses, from online stores to restaurant sites to blogs to appointment-booking sites. And its SEO (search engine optimization), social media, and email marketing tools can help owners grow an online presence. A free, ad-driven version is available, but most people will want to upgrade to a paid plan to have a more professional-looking custom domain name and to remove the banner ad at the top of each page.
- Ad-supported version: free
- Starting monthly price (lowest plan): $19
- Starting monthly e-commerce price: $30
Square Online is the best choice if you want to create an online store or restaurant website, because that’s its entire purpose. It provides free hosting and is easier to use than the alternatives, but its design options are very limited.
Square Online doesn’t offer as many design customization options as Wix or our other website builder picks, but this service offers the easiest way to build an online store or a restaurant website because it takes just a few clicks to add a featured-items section, a menu, a contact form, customer testimonials, an events calendar, and other crucial business-oriented features. If you use Square’s POS (point of sale) hardware to collect payments in person, using Square Online for a new site may be a no-brainer since doing so ensures that all your payment and inventory information stays in one place. It’s also free, with a discreet “powered by Square” footer—but upgrading to a paid plan allows you to use your own domain name and access site-traffic reports. Square Online doesn’t offer as many design customization options as the other website builders we tested, but its simplicity is a feature in itself.
- Ad-supported version: free
- Starting monthly price (lowest plan): $16
- Starting monthly e-commerce price: $16
No other site builder we tested offers as many controls or as much flexibility for blogging as WordPress.com. You can also create other kinds of websites with it, though it’s tougher to customize than Wix if you don’t have coding experience.
WordPress.com is the easiest way to get started publishing content online because it was originally designed for bloggers and other content creators who want to easily post new information for their readers. These days, it’s also a powerful platform for creating just about any kind of website, though the process is less automated and the templates are less slick than what you get from Wix. The free plan provides all the basics required to manage a website, but you need to upgrade to a paid plan to remove the WordPress.com ads, use your own domain name, and install plugins to enhance your site for marketing, social media, e-commerce, or other purposes.
- Ad-supported version: free
- Starting monthly price (lowest plan): $7
- Starting monthly e-commerce price: $33 to $59
If you just want to build a simple website and don’t care about in-depth design customization, Google Sites is exceptionally easy to use and totally free. It’s ad-free, too.
Google Sites comes free with every Google account, and it’s as easy to use as Google Slides, which makes it ideal if you just want to get a basic site up quickly and aren’t too fussed about the way it looks. As you might expect, Google Sites has built-in integration with all things Google: Maps, YouTube, Docs, Calendar, and more. It provides only 13 basic templates and a handful of preset site color and font themes, but you can still create a modern-looking website with it. The templates come with prebuilt modules and pages that are appropriate for the site type you select, including a menu for a restaurant site, for example, or a gallery for a photography portfolio. We think it’s best for setting up a simple informational website, such as a portfolio page or a site for a club or other group.