Site Builder Report: Best Free & Paid Website Builder
Compact websites – that is the core competence of Squarespace. The homepage construction kit from the USA, which is also represented with a German offer, is primarily aimed at restaurants, photographers, musicians and those who are looking for the right service provider for a private homepage project. Squarespace places a lot of emphasis on the design. The templates are fresh and modern, which ensures a high recognition value. Easy customization is also possible, with optimization for smartphones and tablets.
However, Squarespace skimps on functionality. After two levels, the navigation, which can also be set up rather awkwardly, is the end. Setting up a multilingual website is also only possible in a roundabout way. In addition, there is no suitable market for external apps, which is why only Squarespace’s internal features are available. The user-friendliness also leaves a lot to be desired. Menus are very awkwardly structured at Squarespace. A certain training period is therefore urgently needed.
All in all, Squarespace remains a website construction kit with room for improvement, which knows how to inspire with its design and online store, but is more complicated than necessary. In addition, the monthly prices for running the website are quite high.
You can run a rudimentary online store with the business subscription starting at $17*, but Squarespace charges a transaction fee of three percent. Additional tools, Instagram integration and transaction-free payment via Paypal and Stripe are only available with the e-commerce package for $24 per month.
The designs are all responsive, you can add your own CSS, use some Typekit fonts, embed Google Maps, create newsletters with Mailchimp, create forms and more. You can also create a completely custom design and include your own code in the site header or footer. Custom redirects are possible as well as access via the developer platform using SFTP, Git integration, etc. Content is edited inline as with the other providers, the interface is very clean and tidy. The best possible SEO for the website is also important here.
This website builder “Made in Germany” (in Hamburg, to be exact) has been holding its own in the website builder industry since 2007. Initially, Jimdo established itself with its “classic” Jimdo Editor, an extremely popular website builder. For a while now, however, Jimdo has been putting all its efforts into its successor, or more precisely, into an intelligent construction kit that is internally called Dolphin. It’s supposed to make things even easier and faster. The specific promise: a website in just 3 minutes!
With the help of a question-and-answer quiz, the intelligent assistant generates an initial website design in no time at all. The editor automatically pulls the images for your website from social media accounts like Instagram and Facebook or from Google Maps, if you want it to. A homepage can hardly be built faster. A responsive version of the editor is usable on smartphones and tablets.
Basically, Jimdo’s new tool is more suitable for smaller websites and online stores due to limited possibilities and thus may not be equally suitable for all users.
What we like: The extremely easy handling, because a website “skeleton” is indeed created within a few minutes. The intelligent assistant automatically searches for the most appealing images from Google, Instagram and Co. – not bad! The designs look modern and are suitable for various mobile devices. Moreover, unlike many US providers, Jimdo has also adapted its product to the Dollarpäish market. This can be very helpful, as there are differences in privacy and taxes here, for example. This way, you don’t have to customize everything yourself.
What should be improved: More options, for example regarding the design of the website, would be desirable. In addition, there are only a few integrated features, for example, it is not possible to connect a blog or provide the site with password protection. Since there is no app market and no HTML code can be inserted, the customization options are severely limited. The online store is also expandable due to few functions. SEO setting options are only very slimmed down in the intelligent construction kit. Even though it is fair to say that the construction kit aims for extreme simplicity and the abstinence of various functions is probably explained by this – a few more functions like at Wix and Weebly would still be important.
Wix pursues a platform strategy like no other provider. Why is this such important information for us as users? Because with Wix we get a variety of web apps / widgets and can even book web designers through Wix to help us or create logos / CI or even do all the work.
Wix is a pure WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) website builder. This means that whatever you paste into the website editor will be displayed exactly as it will be published later. Wix is one of the most powerful website builders and has to manage the balancing act between the range of functions, the highest flexibility in the test environment and the simplest possible operation. Wix only manages this to a certain extent. Wix has done its homework: all tools for editing the website are well arranged and you can find the most important functions intuitively. The design of the editor is appealing and mature. The translations of the core functions into German are complete and of high quality. It gets more difficult as soon as you try to adapt a more elaborate design. Each element is completely free to position and does not interact with the surrounding ones. “Wix is very different from Jimdo or 1und1 in the operating concept.” This high level of customizability easily lets one’s design slip away and in the end one is left with a shambles. A subsequent change of the template / design is thus virtually impossible (Jimdo and 1und1 offer this, however)
Unlike the competition, the provider from Montabaur does not offer a free version for testing the functions. However, there is the possibility to test the offer via the 30-day money-back guarantee.Positively stands out especially that the website storage space is unlimited. The domain is included in all plans for the first year, after which $1.30 per month or $15.60 per year is charged. The option of restoring old storage levels was also convincing in the test. Customers can restore old content without any problems. The package also includes an e-mail address that matches the domain.
Special feature: With the new MyWebsite Now homepage construction kit added to the portfolio, IONOS offers a slimmed-down website editor that enables even beginners with no prior knowledge to get a basic website with the most important information online in a short time.
IONOS scores not least with its 24-hour customer service, which is unmatched by the competition. Even in the middle of the night, the German-speaking telephone hotline helps with technical problems. This is an invaluable advantage if the website is to go online fully functional quickly.
Another positive aspect was that customers receive some helpful tips regarding the design concept before the initial creation. This ensures that the site always looks perfect even on mobile devices with a lower display resolution. In addition, a function is integrated that allows users to preview the page first before saving it.
A very good all-rounder, both for large and small projects, is Webnode. It is very easy to use, the designs are well designed and have just been updated. Over 100 new designs that automatically adapt to any screen. The SEO functionalities, after all a very important criterion today, are extensive, and what we found particularly good was that Webnode is clear and straight to the point in every area.
Everything is clear and concise, and you can work with it very quickly. On top of that, the price-performance ratio is very fair: between $3.00 and $17.90 per month seems fair considering the huge scope of services.
Our price-performance winner Weebly also relies on a user-friendly editor that makes website creation tangible even for beginners. While other building kits sometimes use the words “drag and drop” a bit lightly, Weebly is fully committed to the principle: In the intuitive editor, you literally drag blocks of content from the menu bar onto your website, and slide them there to exactly the position where you’d like them to be.
Weebly also cuts a good figure as a sales platform and convinces with a variety of marketing and sales tools, which are, however, only available in the paid version.
Webador convinces above all with its low price, which is not even 20 dollars even in the largest tariff, web hosting and permanently free domain included. Here, especially private website owners can make a bargain, although Webador is also well suited for online stores and corporate websites.
Webador’s website editor also basically cuts a good figure and shines with ease of use and a pretty modern interface that makes designing a pleasure. As is so often the case, however, the devil is in the details, and this is exactly where the Webador construction kit still has its problems. The editor is rather rigid, offers only a manageable selection of widgets and allows only a few detail adjustments. You can’t let off steam creatively here; instead, the entire process is trimmed to run quickly and smoothly. At least Webador manages that well. Responsively designed templates (which could be more numerous, though), uncomplicated customization of the web and mobile website views, and its own stock photo library ensure that editing your website only takes a few hours in the worst case. What comes out is not a completely customized homepage, but a functional and appealing one.
So if you can do without some special features like industry widgets or comprehensive SEO options, Webador is a suitable (and cheap) alternative to the top dogs in the comparison. And if you want to convince yourself of the possibilities of the construction kit first, you have the opportunity to take a critical look at it first in the free version.
In addition to the free content management system, the provider offers with WordPress.com a paid homepage construction kit, in which the CMS is already integrated.
If you have no problem with advertising of WordPress, you can also opt for the completely free version. If you want to create a professional website, you can opt for a plan starting at four dollars per month, which includes domain and hosting.
There is no phone support, but the support by mail or live chat, which is even available in German, helps with problems.
The simplest to use, but unfortunately also the least flexible is the homepage construction kit from Godaddy*. Starting at $4.99, you can create an SSL-secured website with a basically user-friendly editor that also works well on mobile devices. A domain is not included – you have to bring it yourself, but you can get it for .de from Godaddy itself, for example, from $0.99 per year.
Additional features like more social media connections, more email marketing options and SEO are only available in the more expensive models. A Paypal button is already included in the cheapest subscription, but you can only set up and run an online store in the most expensive subscription for $19.99 per month – which is cheaper with some competitors. All models can be tested free of charge for one month.
However, your pages will not be particularly individual with the editor, as the designs can only be changed to a limited extent. After all, there are several thousand of them. In addition, there is no store for widgets – if you want to add extras such as tables or social media buttons, this can only be done by entering HTML code, which requires appropriate knowledge. Godaddy is therefore primarily suitable for beginners who have no special wishes in terms of design.
Who should use a site builder?
Building block systems are interesting for all those who only have a small budget for their Internet presence, have little previous knowledge in the IT field and are looking for an efficient solution – be it a private person, a self-employed person, a small or medium-sized company or an association.
Private users can share their hobbies or upcoming events with a homepage. With a homepage builder, it is possible to create a hobby page to meet like-minded people, or publish information about special events such as a wedding.
Small businesses, startups, and companies with limited budgets benefit from a professional web presence to showcase their products and offer searchers a way to contact them. As e-commerce businesses, they can create an online store. On company websites in the catering or entertainment industry, interested parties can also find the relevant contact options for reservations or making appointments.
Associations always stay in touch with their members thanks to their own website. Before they make long phone calls, they create an online calendar on their homepage that keeps all members up to date at all times.
For inexperienced users, homepage construction kits offer many tutorials and sample pages as well as numerous tips and tricks. Thus, everyone is able to make changes quickly and easily without having to pay a programmer. Since the templates are usually customizable to a certain degree, the systems are even worthwhile for larger companies. Business owners also get their money’s worth: Namely, online stores can be integrated into most homepages. This allows them to try out the system at low cost before switching to more sophisticated e-commerce software.
Although the homepage construction kit systems were originally intended for private websites, they now come with enough tools to also create a professional business website and online stores. Since the end result hardly differs from specially developed pages, many companies prefer to take care of the creation of their web presence themselves instead of hiring expensive agencies for this purpose. For many users in both the professional and private spheres, their own homepage is a useful addition to their existing profile in social networks and thus serves as a business card, so to speak.
All in all, site builders are suitable for classic websites for the presentation of company information, products and services with the aim of customer acquisition. On the other hand, anyone planning a larger web presence with an individual layout and requiring special functionalities for this purpose would not be well advised to use a modular system due to the lack of flexibility in the design. However, users would always have the option of switching to an agency or a content management system.
However, very few of the offerings are a full-fledged substitute for professional business hosting with a content management system. While they offer the possibility to easily publish content on the web and present themselves with a good design, there are sometimes bottlenecks in the implementation of certain functions due to the lack of suitable plugins. While content management systems shine by the fact that a plugin exists for almost all areas of application, the providers of homepage construction kits often limit themselves to the most important tools. However, what is possible in any case besides the creation of a good homepage is search engine optimization. Thereby the own internet offer can be placed well in the net. Likewise, most providers also offer the possibility to realize an own online store via the construction kit and to create an own blog. With knowledge of HTML and CSS, you can also flexibly implement your own design ideas – however, it is essential to compare the different homepage construction kits and test them for the required requirements.
Here we have summarized all the advantages and disadvantages of a web hosting with a homepage construction kit for you:
Advantages of a homepage construction kit:
Ease of use
It is easy to set up the site, no programming skills are required.
The costs for the construction kit are included in the price for the web hosting, so there are no additional costs for the creation of the homepage.
Support from the provider
If you have any questions about setting up the homepage, the provider will help you.
Important security updates and software updates are carried out by the provider.
Everything from one source
Web hosting, homepage construction kit, domains and support, for the customer there is one contact person for everything.
Depending on the product, the homepage can be designed with additional features.
Disadvantages of a homepage construction kit:
Depends on the provider
All data is with one company, moving the website to another provider is not possible.
Flexibility and individual design
Due to the selection of templates, individual creativity in the design of the homepage is limited.
Since no code like PHP or Java can be integrated into the homepage, special functions are not available.
Search engine optimization
Limited optimization possibilities compared to self-made websites.
Large and complicated web presences cannot be implemented.
A homepage construction kit is a highly simplified form of a content management system (CMS). The former presents the technical individual modules in a graphical interface that is much easier to use for beginners. A content management system, on the other hand, is the top of the line: with the right expertise, it can be used to implement virtually anything, although it may take some time to learn how to use all the subtleties of the possibilities. A CMS is therefore a software that allows to create, edit and organize content on websites together with several users.
Differences to homepage construction kits
A big difference: users can individualize appearance, menu structure and page hierarchy without restrictions in comparison to construction kit users. Freedom and unrestricted creativity are enormous advantages of content management systems.
Compared to a homepage construction kit, a content management system usually has to be installed on an operating system that matches the program. (In some cases the knowledge of a programming language is necessary to use such a system). This is on the one hand time-consuming and on the other hand maintenance-intensive, since users must independently worry about program updates and their correct installation. In the case of construction kits, this is done automatically on the provider side. In addition, with this variant, users have to take care of various factors such as the hoster, the web space, a compatible database and the templates themselves.
However, this method also offers advantages: a complete relocation of the homepage to another provider is usually possible. If homepage construction kit users are not given this option due to the impracticable porting of the templates, users of content management software simply transfer the administrator interface, usually referred to as the “backend”, and the design elements completely when moving to a new provider. Therefore, even with the new hosting provider, they have full access to all homepage functions as usual. In addition, they make expert settings here such as “caching” for faster loading times. This is usually not possible with construction kits either.
Another way: the Internet agency
Users who do not trust themselves to create a homepage using either a content management system or a homepage construction kit, or who have very specific requirements for a professional homepage, can commission a web designer to create it. This variant is logically connected with the least work for the homepage owner, but also with the largest financial expenditure. In a gradation, this is the most elaborate solution, although the easiest for the user, as he/she completely outsources the creation.
All variants have two points in common: In the frontend display, i.e. the part of the website visible to visitors, it is not possible to tell which variant the user is using. It also has no influence on Google searches if search engine optimization measures are carried out professionally.
Characteristics of a homepage construction kit (Jimdo, Weebly, Wix)
No installation, platform-independent operation via a browser
Simple graphical user interface
Simple operation through WYSIWYG editor and drag-and-drop functions
Moving the homepage to another hosting provider usually not possible
Technologies like caching not easily usable
Users receive an all-in-one package depending on the provider and the selected tariff
New functions and security updates are automatically added by the provider.