In a growing market, the best website builders allow virtually anyone, regardless of experience, to create their own website. You can do it in just a few hours, and popular paid options from builders like Wix and Weebly often come with free plans, with great features and tools. There are also the best free blogging sites, created just for this purpose.
With so many website builders available, some free options are attractive and functional, while others aren’t even worth considering. However, with limitations and restrictions on a range of website factors, how do free website builders stack up against the premium competition? This is the question we want to answer.
We take a look at features, support, ease of use, and more, with live examples from some of our favorite free and paid website builders.
Free vs. Paid Website Builders: Features
As you might expect, subscription-based premium website builders usually come with much more advanced features than the free ones. Free plans usually come with a lot of limitations, including the size of your site, the storage and bandwidth you have access to, and the use of advanced tools to build a website.
In most cases, you won’t be able to connect a custom domain name if you’re using a free website builder. For example, Wix’s free builder limits you to a wixsite.com subdomain, which might seem a bit unprofessional for a business site. On the other hand, upgrading to a paid plan will allow you to connect a custom domain. And some premium website builders, like HostGator Website Builder, even add a free domain with every new subscription.
Most free website builders also offer some sort of advertising for the platform you’re using. For example, Weebly’s free plan and its cheapest premium plan come with ads from Square, its e-commerce partner. You will need to upgrade to the second most expensive premium plan, which costs $12 per monthto remove these ads.
Again, we see underperforming free website builders here, most with very limited storage and bandwidth. For example, Site123’s free plan only includes 250MB of storage and 250MB of bandwidth. Its premium plans are also a bit limited, but still much more generous.
In many cases, you’ll find that free website builders simply don’t offer the tools needed to sell items or services through your new business website. A small percentage offer very limited online store features, but you’ll usually need to upgrade to a premium paid plan for all eCommerce features.
Free vs Paid Website Builders: Performance
To compare the performance of free website builders and paid services, we took a close look at the editing interface and ease of use of three of our favorite options.
For one, Wix offers a selection of free and paid plans. And unlike many of its competitors, there are no limitations on who has access to which website building features. Premium users can upgrade their SEO and marketing packages, but free users get access to all other design and editing tools.
On the other hand, Site123’s free website builder is very limited compared to paid alternatives. Many advanced editing tools are only available for premium users, which can be quite frustrating when trying to create an attractive professional site.
For example, you won’t be able to add custom plugins or snippets to integrate tools like Google Analytics, which many would say are essential for a successful website.
Another popular free website builder, Strikingly, is even more limited. While its premium plans are designed for those who want to create a simple yet attractive website, its free plan is disappointing to say the least. With it, you’ll be limited to a single-page site with very basic eCommerce tools, and you won’t be able to add custom snippets or even a site search bar.
Ultimately, most free website builders come with pretty limited editing interfaces. There are a few exceptions, such as Wix, but it’s essential to make sure you do a decent amount of research before selecting a platform.
Free vs. Paid Website Builders: Support
Ultimately, the support services you have access to will largely depend on the website builder you use. However, we can safely say that free builders (and paid platforms’ free plans) generally have much poorer customer service than paid alternatives.
Usually, free users will have access to a comprehensive knowledge base, community forums where they exist, and in some cases email or phone support. However, live support tends to be for paying customers only, which can make it difficult to get help if you’re using a free option.
Free vs. Paid Website Builders: Pricing and Plans
Free website builders are usually 100% free, forever, while the price of a paid subscription can range from a few dollars per year to tens or even hundreds per month. However, free website builders usually come with a lot of limitations, and a premium option will likely be the best choice for your business.
As far as paid website builders go, builder HostGator offers some of the best value-for-money plans we’ve seen. For only $3.84 per monthyou’ll get access to just about every feature required to create a fully functional site, and you’ll even get a free domain name and the ability to set up a small e-commerce store.
Meanwhile, Wix paid plans range from $14 to $49 per monthand the cost of Weebly between $6 and $26 per month. As you can see, it is possible to save a lot of money if you decide to use a free website builder. But again, it’s not always worth it.
Free vs Paid Website Builders: Verdict
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Comparing popular free website builders with paid builders tells an interesting story. Sure, most free builders are less powerful than their premium alternatives, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t useful.
Unfortunately, we simply cannot recommend using a free website builder to create a business site. Typically, they come with more limited features than paid builders, little to no e-commerce support, only basic customer support, and bandwidth and storage constraints.
Sure, you’ll save a few dollars a month if you use a free builder, but in the end, it’s really not worth it.
Further Reading on Website Builders
Be sure to read our guide to the best cheap website builders to save you money if you’re on a budget. You can also opt for WordPress through the best website builders for WordPress, the best web hosting services and the best WordPress hosting offered through the former.