Update 11/1/17: This piece was well overdue for an update, as it was published back in 2015. It’s a testament to these website builders that they are all still in business and still top options. Still, we went through to double check all the information, add review links, and update pricing where necessary.
If you’re a small business looking for a free website builder, you have a lot of options to choose from. Like, a lot.
To help you out, I came up with this short list of free (and some open source) website builders that are easy to use, reliable (they’ve been around longer than a few months), and actually free.
And I made websites with many of them, which allowed me to indulge my rather odd sense of humor. Enjoy my screenshots and maybe don’t ever look up deadparrots.yolasite.com.
Free website builders
How can these solutions be free? Basically, these companies offer upgrades or charge you for support in order to make money.
For all of them, you will have to pay to get a customized domain name—the free version only comes with a customized subdomain name (e.g., “wordpress.yourname.com”).
With all that said, you really can build an entire website for free with these tools, and if you want to upgrade to a customized domain name, you can do it very cheaply. Here are seven free website builders, listed in alphabetical order.
1. IM Creator
This solution aims at simplicity, a goal they certainly achieve. Their WYSIWYG editor is bare bones, but makes it extremely easy to create a site for even the least technically savvy. If all those letters look like keyboard mashing: What You See Is What You Get editing means that the page that you’re editing in will look just like the page that will be published to the internet. IM Creator also has many chic templates, though some of their stock photos’ NSFW-level is questionable.
IM Creator’s WSIWYG editor
IM Creator also has an HTML editor. However, the editor lacks a central structure, making it hard to build a complex website using it.
IM Creator’s HTML editor—it starts off as a blank page
In summary, IM Creator is good for those who aren’t particularly savvy at design, but want to create a website that makes them look savvy.
If you want to upgrade: Paid plans start at $8/month. That gets you a domain name, unlimited hosting, access to all themes, and no ads. As a bonus, students, artists, and non-profits get all that for free.
Creating a Taylor Swift fan page in Jimdo
Jimdo is the perfect solution for someone who has no design skills whatsoever. It’s an incredibly simple solution–even more so than IM Creator. The templates are not highly customizable, but for someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing, that’s perfect. You simply pick how you want your website to be laid out, then drop in your text and images and you’re good to go.
Despite this simplicity in the WYSIWYG editor, Jimdo allows designers access to both an HTML and CSS editor, giving stronger designers more flexibility.
If you want to upgrade: Jimdo paid plans start at $7.50/month, and that gets you a custom domain name, a business email account, 5 GB of storage and 10 GB of bandwidth, and technical support.
A basic website in WebsiteBuilder.Com
WebsiteBuilder’s editor is easy to use because there are a limited number of tools on the sidebar to look through. They have hundreds of templates to pick from. Because of this, WebsiteBuilder is a great option, if not very unique. WebsiteBuilder does not have access to Google Analytics, though it does provide its own reporting tool.
This solution is good for users who may get overwhelmed by design tools.
If you want to upgrade: Paid plans start at $7.95/month and get you a domain name, mobile responsiveness, professional search engine optimization (SEO), and marketing help.
Weebly is an easy-to-use option that offers both simplicity and flexibility. Weebly has a fair amount of tools, but they are easily accessible and usable in a side bar instead of being hidden in a menu. Weebly also has a wide selection of clean, modern templates, and, excitingly, a library filled with stock photos that are actually quite good.
Creating a basic website in Weebly
What sets Weebly apart, however, is the clear understanding that its creators have of the importance of site conversions. Of all the solutions I looked at, Weebly is the only one explicitly dedicated to helping its customers make sites that convert visitors into buyers, readers, or whatever it is you want your visitors to do.
In particular, the template designers have created clean, strong landing pages for their templates. So Weebly is especially good for those who have a clear purpose in mind for their site visitors.
If you want to upgrade: Weebly paid plans start at $8/month when paid annually, which allows you to connect a custom domain name, expand their reporting, get unlimited storage, and a $100 credit on Google Ads.
Have you used Weebly? Leave a review!
Wix is a strong option for people who know what they want out of their site. It has almost 500 modern templates for you to start with. Once you pick your template, it’s time to get going with their drag-and-drop editor.
Creating a website about stylish men in Wix
Of all the drag-and-drop editors I worked with, Wix’s is by far the most complex. It’s certainly not the drag-and-drop editor that I would recommend to someone with no design skills. There’s a lot going on and it can be confusing if you have no idea what you’re doing. On the other hand, as always with website design, the complexity makes Wix by far the most versatile hosted solution on this list. Additionally, if you are skilled at design, this WYSIWYG editor is a breeze to use. Everything is intuitively located and easy to manipulate.
Overall, Wix is a fantastic option for someone looking to jump out of the gate with a beautiful design. All Wix sites are mobile responsive, SEO-optimized, and come with Google Analytics.
If you want to upgrade: Paid plans start at $5/month, which allows you to connect a domain name and get 500 MB of storage.
Have you used Wix? Leave a review!
WordPress is the only open source option I’ve included, which makes it very different from the other six solutions. It’s included because it is the most popular website builder in the world. If you like the idea of an open source, self-hosted option, but you don’t like WordPress, check out this list of WordPress alternatives for more options in that vein.
First and foremost, because WordPress is open source, you will have access to the code, making WordPress the most customizable website builder on this list. If you’re a creative designer who knows their way around a computer, there is very little you won’t be able to do with WordPress. In addition, WordPress has two ways of hosting. WordPress.org is the self-hosted version—meaning you’re on your own for hosting—while WordPress.com hosts your site for you with up to 3 GB of storage space for free.
It is important to note that WordPress has an HTML editor, but it does not have a WYSIWYG editor built in. However, there are lots of WYSIWYG plugins available. The closest native tool they have to the WYSIWYG is a visual editor that gives you a general idea of what the HTML looks like. You’ll still have to preview the page to see what it will actually look like. The visual editor is easy enough to use so that if all the code is already properly in place, someone with very low tech skills can maintain the page.
We use WP for our Capterra blog and this is a screenshot of the dashboard. We’ve highly modified our dashboard—because it’s open source, you could potentially design your dashboard totally differently.
Overall, WordPress is a phenomenal option for medium to highly skilled website designers.
If you want to upgrade: WordPress.com paid plans start at $48/year, which adds a custom domain name, email and live chat support, 6 GB of storage, and no ads.
Have you used WordPress? Leave a review!
Yola’s page editor
Many of the free website builders available today have very outdated, clunky UIs with very outdated, clunky templates. Yola is right on the cusp of joining that category. Yola’s templates are not nearly stylish enough to compete for big website ventures the way Wix and Weebly can, yet they are not so outdated looking that I wouldn’t recommend them to small sites. The templates are quite clean, if not chic, so they at least look fairly modern.
In fact, I think that Yola can make a very nice small or personal website for someone who knows nothing about design. The templates are very strict, so you’re unable to accidentally put images and texts in places you don’t want them and potentially mess up the whole page. You can easily drag and drop things such as YouTube videos and Google Maps into your pages as well.
Yola’s free plan gives you three free pages.
If you want to upgrade: Paid plans start at $6.95/month, which gets you unlimited pages and bandwith, 2 GB of storage, premium support, and a custom domain name.
Have you used Yola? Leave a review!
How did you build your website?
What other free website builders would you recommend? Share them in the comments! Also, if you want to learn more about content management systems, and how they can help your business, check out this research: