This post originally appeared at How to Choose the Best Free Website Builder for Your Website via ShivarWeb
Thanks to free website builders, creating a webpage has become something that almost anyone can do. Because there are so many options out there when it comes to finding a website builder, though, it can be challenging to know which one is the best choice for your future website.
Because different websites need different things, there is no “one size” fits all for website builders. Different products offer various features, especially when working on their free plans. Since the free option of a service can have limitations, you want to make an informed decision before starting work on your site.
Summary – Best Free Website Builder Options
Based on my experience working with many website builders, there are a few that are a good fit for most people. They all have free plans available with a variety of limits.
Focused on other free options?
To help you learn how to choose the best free website builder, we’ve gathered together the factors you should consider when comparing your options.
With so many free website builders out there, it’s not so surprising that some are of better quality than others. No matter what you plan to do with your site, here are some things that you’ll want to look for in your options.
Some free website builders keep themselves operating through the income of paid membership users. However, a much more common approach is for them to place ads on free plan users’ sites.
That said, these advertisements come in many forms. Some are obtrusive and distract visitors from your content, while others are much more subtle. The less space a required ad takes up on your webpage, the better it will be for you.
The domain name is the part of the URL that indicates your website. Having a custom domain name makes it easier for potential visitors to navigate to your webpage—which is essential if you want to attract business and hits.
Many free website builders will give you a customizable section that is part of your larger domain name—take yoursite.wix.com, for example. This structure is most common and is simple enough that it won’t get in the way of visitors remembering your site.
On the flip side, some free website builders have complicated domain names that aren’t very user friendly. While rare, some products will allow you a wholly unique domain for free, though you will still need to pay to obtain your custom domain.
For some people, a free plan will be all they ever need. Much more likely, though, is that an upgrade will be necessary for the future. Though you may not be starting with a paid plan, it’s good to consider the cost of upgrading—and the features that are available for the price.
With this bit of groundwork, you can save yourself the hassle of moving your site to another builder if you don’t like the upgrade options.
Security (SSL Certificate)
Cybersecurity is essential, and an SSL certificate is a part of what keeps your website safe. Unfortunately, not all free website builders have this feature as a part of their free plan.
Without an SSL certificate, your website may be left open to attacks that can impact you and your visitors. While you don’t want to go without one generally, you should always have an SSL certificate if you plan to conduct ecommerce on your site.
Storage and Size
The amount of storage on your website will ultimately impact how large your site can be. In particular, sites that plan to host a lot of videos or photos will need high amounts of storage space.
You should also consider how many pages your site needs, as some free plans put limits on this capability. If you only need a one-page website (and there are some excellent options explicitly geared towards this out there), it won’t be an issue. If you want a large site with multiple pages, check these limitations before you commit.
Similarly, bandwidth refers to how much data your site can transmit over a given amount of time. In the context of a free website builder, you don’t want this number to be too low. If it is, it can potentially impact the amount of traffic that your site can handle, impacting your visitor’s experience.
Computers are not the only way that we access the internet anymore—a majority of activity comes from mobile phones, tablets, and other devices. For your webpage to operate well between these different devices, it will need to have a responsive design—and this capability shouldn’t be optional.
Confirm that your website builder of choice allows for the creation of a mobile responsive page before committing. If not, you’ll be better off with another product.
Ease of Use
Even if a free website builder has a lot of promising back end features, it’s still critical to pay attention to what it’s like to use.
The entire point of using one of these platforms is that you don’t have to build a website from scratch, so you want the process of creating your desired site to be simple.
Many free website builders will use a drag and drop approach, making it easy to put everything in its place—though some are more beginner-friendly than others.
If nothing else, one of the benefits of a free plan is that you don’t need to pay any money upfront, so you can try different options to see which one is the most intuitive for you to use.
When considering design aspects, you will want your website to have enough creative freedom to stand out online. One area to pay close attention to when looking at website builders is to see how many templates you have access to on the free plan.
Some will let you access the complete library, while others will only give you a partial selection. Also, check the available designs. An outdated looking template can reduce the traffic that comes to your site and stays there.
While you can customize a lot with website builders, there are some restrictions. Some platforms will allow you to have higher levels of customization, though you’ll need some coding knowledge to pull it off. Consider what skills you’re willing to learn before you make your final selection.
Some free website builders are flexible, while other brands have specialized in providing for a specific audience. If you’re planning to set up a blog, for example, you want to ensure that the website builder you choose can set up a blog.
Ecommerce functionality will allow you to accept payments through your site and to set up an online store.
In comparison to a paid plan, though, ecommerce features will generally be on the limited side with a free option. That doesn’t mean you can’t find some good options out there, just that they’re hard to come by.
If you don’t plan to build an ecommerce-capable website, you don’t need to worry about these features.
However, if this is your focus, starting out searching for worthwhile free ecommerce plans will save you a lot of hassle and significantly narrow down your options.
In case you run into a technical issue, you’ll want to have support to help. Some website builders will have libraries of videos and articles on how to work the platform, while others will provide live support.
Note that if a website builder is popular, you may be able to find help from the community as well.
While we’ve covered the basics of what to look for in free website builders, you’ll also want to make specific decisions depending on the type of site you plan to use. It’s always best to understand what tools and features you’ll need, then narrow your search down to the website builders that offer those features on their free plans.
For Photographers & Artists
If you plan to use your site to promote your photography or art, you’ll need a lot of media space available. While lower quality images take up less space, they’re not the best decision for promoting yourself.
To ensure you can keep a high-quality archive, your website builder should have a high data limit. While rare, some free plans will allow for unlimited storage space.
When setting up a nonprofit organization website, you’ll need a website that can accept donations directly or direct visitors to the appropriate donation links.
Even if they don’t have a built-in donation function, see if you can embed codes on the site (like a PayPal button).
For Classrooms & Teachers
Building educational websites can require some specific features, but you can get a lot of use from free website builders.
Factor in features like templates, site designs, forums, and log-in features for students in your search. Privacy functionality is also essential for protecting the information of any students
For Small Businesses
Some small business sites will focus on promoting their services, but you can also set up a website to sell products. For those who wish to do so, having ecommerce functionality is going to be an essential feature.
Free ecommerce features tend to have strict limits on how many products you can sell at a time, while other free plans may not include any ecommerce functionality. Know that, in time, you will likely need to upgrade to a paid plan to take full advantage of ecommerce tools for your business.
Want some extra tips? Consider these before you start your free website builder hunt:
- Plan your site before you search. If you know what you want your website to be like, you can make a more informed decision when comparing options.
- Consider if you need third-party extensions. If you want to connect content from YouTube onto your site, can the builder handle it?
- Think forward. A successful website will eventually grow. If you foresee yourself ultimately growing out of the free plan, do you like the options that the paid plan offers?
- Make sure there’s a free plan and not just a free trial. Some popular website builders, like Squarespace, only have a free trial in place, and you’ll have to pay to maintain service. If keeping things free is your goal, then confirm the service plans before you commit.
Now that you know how to choose the best free website builder to meet your needs, you may be wondering what comes next. Naturally, you’ll need to compare free website builders and pick the one that meets your needs. After that, follow these steps to get your website off the ground!
- Sign up – Go to your builder of choice’s website and follow the steps to sign up. You’ll need to provide an email and a password. The platform may also ask you to create a username.
- Begin the design process – What this looks like can vary between website builders. Some will have you fill in a design quiz to make a starting point for you, while others will drop you straight into selecting a template.
- Add your content – After you have a base to work with, you can begin updating any placeholder content (such as text or photos) to your site’s information. As you go, you can tweak elements of the already existing design, such as colors, layouts, and more, depending on what’s available.
- Go live! – After you’ve completed all the design work, you can press “Publish” and let your site out into the world for people to visit. Note that some website builders won’t allow you to update your site after it’s gone live, so be careful once you’ve chosen to do so.
Since different websites have different needs, there’s no “one size fits all” solution available. Here’s a summary of the best options that I’ve found for most readers.
Focused on other free options?
With the variety of options out there, there’s a free website builder that’s perfect for your needs. All you need to do is use the factors and tips we’ve provided to find which one is best for you!