The best website builders for 2019

Building a website has come a long way since the neon-text-on-black-background days of MySpace and Angelfire. Now you can easily and professionally present your business or services without knowing HTML or looking like a middle schooler's online manifesto.

The website builder industry has grown a lot over the last 10 years and can be overwhelming for first-timers.  But that growth and complexity also means that consumers have more choices than ever and can find a builder tailored to their needs.  It's true that a few clear favorites have emerged -- and those sites are usually a good place to start -- but even the frontrunners aren't ideally suited for every scenario.  To make it easy for you, we've compiled all the information you need to make a good decision and get to the fun part of designing your site.

*Starting price doesn't include cheaper plans if they are ad-supported.

To compile the list below, we researched the prices, plans and features of over 12 different website builders and scoured reviews from almost 10 review sites, including PCMag, Wirecutter, WebsiteToolTester, SiteBuilderReport, WPBeginner and more, to see where there might be any consensus. We also surveyed the CNET staff, and ultimately spent time building some test sites using the tools below (if we weren't already users). We paid particular attention to the categories that not only differentiate one site from another, but that actually matter to business owners, artists, and creators.

If, by the end of the list, you're still not sure which direction to go, we've included a guide at the bottom, including key questions you should be asking yourself as you start your online venture.  Finally, if you already have a website and just need a host or you're interested in building a WordPress site, check out our list of Best Web Hosting Services.

Jump to: How to choose a website builder

How to choose a website builder

Given the wealth of options and the fact that many website builders don't allow you to pick up and move later on, it's important to enter the fray with a clear idea of what you need.  By first establishing your priorities and direction, it will be easier to find a match and avoid buyers' remorse down the road.

In terms of pricing, most builders offer two to four different price tiers, each with a different set of features.  This can make comparing services difficult, since they don't easy to line up apples-to-apples, but that's a big reason why we've created this handy guide!

Generally speaking, you can get a good individual website built for around $8 to $10 a month with an annual subscription.  Most e-commerce plans range between $20 to $25 per month, and if you need an enterprise-style plan with multiple editors and VIP-level support, prices can go up to $300 per month.

Storage and bandwidth are usually unlimited, but there are exceptions like Wix, which scales its storage capacity according to the plan tier.  And even its lowest tier plan has a decent amount (3GB of storage and enough bandwidth to support up to around 5,000 visitors per month).

After the big questions like price and storage, it all comes down to what you're looking for.  Below are some guiding questions to help ensure you're ready to shop like an expert.

What is the purpose of your site?

Your first step should be to determine the primary goal of your web presence. Do you want to sell a product?  Attract potential customers for your services? Build a portfolio page?

By first establishing your raison d'etre, you'll be able to prioritize the tools and capabilities you want in your builder and not get pulled off track by a fancy add-on that isn't actually helping you achieve your goal.  If you're primarily interested in racking up sales, start by looking at the e-commerce specialists, like Shopify and BigCommerce. If you're a photographer or designer who wants a beautiful portfolio site, Wix and Squarespace are good places to start.  Wix might edge Squarespace if you want more control over the design, while Squarespace might be better if you just want a stylish frame for your work.

If you just want something easy to use, Weebly and GoDaddy both offer intuitive builders, with Weebly offering more features and design finesse, while GoDaddy is much simpler and more limited.  If you're setting up a site or store and you want to present a customized experience to users or you have something specific in mind for the mobile version of your site, Duda offers the most customization capabilities.  And if you're a wordsmith who can't be bothered by design decisions and fancy editors, WordPress can help you get your blog up and offers good ways to reach your readers.

How much time do you want to invest in building your website?

This obviously will vary depending on a number of factors, not the least of which is how clear of a design vision you have and whether you have experience building a website.  That being said, each editor has a different level of usability or ease-of-use based on the features, flexibility and intuitive design of the editing interface. On one end of the spectrum you have a builder like Wix, which is very easy to use but also comprehensive -- the sheer number of options and tools makes it hard to whip up a site quickly.  On the other end, you have a builder like WordPress or GoDaddy, each of which doesn't provide you with a ton of options when building your pages.

Most people will want to devote enough time to their site that it serves its purpose of representing you online in a good light, so we generally recommend you take the time to learn your editor and take advantage of the many options available.

How much design control do you want?

This goes hand-in-hand with time investment, since the more control you have, the more choices you have to make.  There are builders like Squarespace that have a fairly rigid design structure, but still let you customize fonts, colors and content, and on the other end of the spectrum you have a site like Wix, that lets you place objects anywhere on your site (at your own risk!), or Duda, which allows you to customize the mobile experience or create custom user experiences based on browsing history.

How big is your site?

Certain editors are more geared toward large site structures (40-plus pages) than others, so it's important to know whether you will have a ton of pages and sections, or whether it's more in the realm of a glamorized digital business card or fancy work portfolio.

The number of navigation levels, for example (which you can think of like file folders (or Inception): a page within a directory within another directory would represent three levels of navigation), can be an important consideration.  Most pages probably use two levels -- sections and the pages within each section, but online stores and other types of sites might need more. Weebly and BigCommerce are probably the best examples of builders that support large site structures, while Squarespace and Wix limit you to two levels of navigation.

How important is e-commerce?

Every builder we researched has an e-commerce option available, but that doesn't mean that they're all up to the task.  A site like WordPress isn't really what you want if your plan is to sell products online, while a site like Shopify or BigCommerce is expressly focused on online sales.  If you really just want to have a clean and easy-to-use online storefront, one of the dedicated e-commerce builders makes the most sense, but if it's more of an ancillary service or simply nice to have, you can go with the builder that feels the best and sign up for its e-commerce option.  There are even builders like Duda, which allow you to sell up to 10 products for free using another plan.

How big is your sales operation?

Transaction fees.  While we're not small business owners, we do like math, and this variable struck us as particularly important.  If you sell $10,000 of products in a month with a 3% vendor processing fee, you're spending an extra $300 every month.  If you're paying your website host an extra 1% to 3%, that's another $100 to $300. Those numbers greatly eclipse the monthly rate you're paying, and add up even more if you're selling significantly more.  So before you choose a builder, make sure you read the fine print about transaction fees.

Many builders don't charge on top of the Square or Paypal rate (usually 3%), but some do.  Shopify charges extra if you don't use Shopify Payments, but if you do use its services, you can get a rate below 3%.  Then there are sites like BigCommerce that doesn't charge extra and even has a PayPal discount, but has sales limits for each plan.

We know you're a smart and savvy business owner who pays close attention to the books, but we thought it would still help to remind you: do the math before signing up.

How flexible do you want to be with the host?

As we mentioned at the top, many builders lock you into their service, but not all.  If you're afraid of commitment or think you might want to switch as your business or services evolve, go with a service like Weebly or Duda that allows you to download your website files for easy use on another host.

The other big factor here is the free trial period.  The industry standard is around 14 days, but some go up to a month, and others don't have a trial period but will give you your money back within 30 days if you're not happy.