Reading time: 14 minutes 21 seconds
Published: March 9 2023
An HTML website builder is software that uses this programming language but takes the burden of coding off the shoulders of a user. You can create websites without writing a single line of code with website builders.
Website builders are based on the WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) system. It means that in the editing process, what you can see on the screen is resembling the look of the final product - in this case, a website. You don't have to write endless lines of code, with no visualization of how the website is going to look. Inventing of website builders completely changed the way we think about web design and who can be in charge of creating websites.
Website design is no longer a task that must be handled by developers and programmers. With the rise of site builders, it can be done by designers and regular people who would like to take care of the online presence of their business. Web builders bring freedom to the users and make websites way more accessible. Anyone who needs one can have it, with no professional training.
The website builder market is full of different tools and choosing the right one can be a challenge. Considering that depending on your needs and level of skills, you can create a website by editing a template or by building it from scratch, different aspects will be crucial for you. However, 4 main pillars are important no matter all the other conditions. Let's go through all of them.
The main two things that influence the ease of use of a website builder are its interface and the learning curve. It means how quickly you will know what to do after entering the editor, and how intuitive and user-friendly the interface is. Even if you are a pro web designer, you don't want to be exhausted and frustrated while using the tool.
Some website builders were designed with the sole purpose of creating simple websites. Because they usually prioritize creating websites from templates, they will offer a rich collection of them. The UI will be straightforward and focused on stylizing features. The website creation process will more likely be like building it from particular elements as if they were blocks. Other website builders will be more advanced and will allow you to create something more complex.
No matter if you start building from scratch or edit a template, you will need to customize elements to your personal needs and taste. Customization means not only switching up the colors or images but also changing the placement of elements and the relations between them. If that's what you want to do and have the right skills, you can also add your own HTML code. However, it's not necessary to create a good-looking, professional website.
Thanks to responsive web design, your website is mobile-friendly. It means that it is displayed correctly no matter the device's screen size. Having a responsive website is a need. To put it into a numeric perspective:
86% of people worldwide own a smartphone
almost 60% of all Internet access is done through the phone
85% of adults think a business’s mobile website should be as good as or better than its desktop equivalent
94% of people judge websites on how responsive they are
72% of people want a mobile-friendly website
As you can see, users and your potential clients want a mobile-friendly website. You shouldn't ignore it and look for a website builder that will meet your expectations by offering the right solution.
In simple words, without SEO (search engine optimization) your website will be impossible to find. It determines how high on a browser's search result page your website will rank. Because not everybody is a marketing and SEO specialist, website builders introduce many features that take the burden off the user's shoulders.
Most website builders will offer some sort of SEO analyzer that will compare your site with competitors and pinpoint what's worth improving. Some SEO tools are powered by AI and suggest optimized body content for your page.
However, SEO is not only affected by the content that you will put on your website. All the technical stuff like page speed, security, domain name, and correct use of headers to name a few is also incredibly important for your website. Website-building companies should make sure that their services are constantly improved and allow their users to achieve the best results.
As I said before, there are many website builders on the market. Some of them are well-established and popular tools. But which one is the best?
I shortlisted the top 10 HTML website builders. Now I will briefly describe each of them and later compare them in terms of ease of use, customization options, responsive web design, and SEO optimization.
WebWave is a free drag and drop website builder. It was designed to resemble graphic design programs like Photoshop or Canva. Said resemblance can be seen in the workflow and user interface. Unlike other website builders, WebWave allows you to position elements anywhere on the canvas. It's a great solution for everybody who is creative and wants to create unique websites. Web and graphic designers, as well as agencies that would like to create websites for others, will find WebWave with its white-label features very useful.
Join over 514 000 WebWave users and create websites with a true drag and drop website builder.
Wix is the most popular website builder in the bunch. For many people, it's the synonym for what a website builder is. Wix seems to be a perfect solution for those who just want o to build a website as fast as possible. It's software for small business owners who would like to create a simple, yet visually appealing website. They have a huge template library where you can find the right model for each website type.
huge template library
extended marketing features
Squarespace is another huge market player that favors simplicity over complex designs. Similarly to Wix, Squarespace is a great tool for creating business websites, especially online stores. They offer a wide variety of templates, but you can't build your site from scratch. They think of websites as an addition to the marketing plan that you have for your business.
compelling template library
advanced marketing features
Webflow is one of the popular free website builders. It differs from its competitors because it's more complex and gives users the possibility to create a website with more advanced design features. It has an integration with Figma which helps to position it as a tool for professional web designers who have some experience in web development. Webflow designs are often enhanced by custom code and animations.
advanced design features
free and paid website templates
Webflow Universit - masterclasses in how to use the website builder
Zyro is another tool that prioritizes simplicity. It's not very complicated both in terms of the builder itself and the websites you can create. You can only start your creative process form creating a template. It's well-suited for small business owners who would like to present themselves online, but don't have massive design skills. Zyro also offers a wide variety of AI tools like Logo Maker or AI writer.
Strikingly website builder represents the uncomplicated approach to web design. The process of making your website is very simple and limited to adding premade thematic sections like e-commerce, blog, media, etc. They offer a Strikingly Reseller Program that is dedicated to web design agencies that are looking for white-label functionalities.
white label features
Vev wants to meet the expectations of those who would like to create more complex websites. The interface gives you more creative freedom and control over the design. You get to choose from a rather advanced set of features. They introduce three levels of website edition - design, code, and content, making it easier for your team to work together on one project with every member having their field of expertise.
advanced design features
content management system and teamwork functionalities
Editor X is a more professional sibling of Wix. It's a website builder made for advanced creators who want to work in a team on not only functional but also visually compelling and unique websites. Of course, you are not forced to start your project from a blank canvas, you can simply use a template. EditorX comes from the same household as Wix, which dominates the market, and they take full advantage of that using well-established and tested solutions.
advanced design features
many courses, tutorials, and webinars
Framer is a relatively new website builder software on the market. They are positioning themselves as a more design-focused tool. The interface and app workflow in general reminds me of the one you can know from Figma. Framer tries to give you more creative freedom in the process of making your site. However, it's still more like building it from pieces of content than actually creating it.
various animation options
template library with both free and paid options
Site123's goal is to make website building as simple as possible. As you might expect from the app's name, it only takes 3 steps to have a functioning website. You pick what type of website you want to have, write your name and then you get to personalize the website that the website creator made for you. The whole process is very quick. What's the price for that? Your website is not very unique.
the very simple web-building process
uncomplicated pricing plans
The 10 website builders that I picked for my comparison represent the whole spectrum of web design tools available on the market right now. From very simple software that is perfect for someone with no experience in creating websites through very advanced tools that can be easily used by professionals.
To make it easier to understand what are the options, I've decided to create a graph of all the software. I categorized it depending on how many technical skills you need to create a website and how unique and personalized it can be. I believe that these two characteristics are the most important in the process of choosing the right tool since they manage to capture the diversity of potential users, their needs, expectations, and capabilities.
Now that we have this all sorted out, let's get into the details.
The simpler the tool, the more uncomplicated the UI. Wix, Squarespace, Zyro, Strikingly, and Site123 all have very similar UI. On the right side of the canvas, you have a panel where you manage all the settings. You add new elements from them, stylize them and usually also set up your website. It's very simple and easy to navigate. These website builders guide you through the process of building your site and make sure that you won't get lost.
On the other hand, tools like Webflow, Framer, Vev, and WebWave represent a different approach. They offer more features and that's why they decided to split the settings into two sections. On the right, you usually have the general one about the website and its publications, and on the right, you stylize and manage the elements and website content.
The way you interact with those website builders is very distinctive to this type of software. The more advanced website builders have a certain feel to their interface and workflow. It's assumed that the user has to learn how to use this new type of software, just like they learn how to use, for example, movie editing programs.
WebWave slightly differs from the rest of the bunch, because offers an interface that is familiar to the one that you might know from graphic design programs like Photoshop. You add elements (on the left), stylize them (settings panel) and control the relations between them (layers panel). If you have some experience with graphic design, you will know what to do soon after entering the editor. If you use Webflow or Vev, you accept the learning curve.
You might already remember from the graph, which website builder offers the most advanced customization options. It's often linear with the level of how much technical knowledge you need to use it properly. Simple tools like Wix or Site123 give you fewer opportunities when WebWave or Webflow open new horizons. But what does it mean? What can you expect from those labels of low and high customization? Let's find out.
A website editor with a lower customization level usually lets you create a website from a template or start from scratch but eventually fill the blank canvas with premade elements, and blocks or components. Because these tools are usually picked by people who don't have experience in web design, there is not much space for creative freedom. Website builders like Wix guide you through the process of creating a website and by limiting your customization options, make sure that your website will be functional and user-friendly.
You get to change the colors, images, and fonts. You can add your content, of course. But you can't do much with the layout or decide how the elements are going to interact with each other. But you have it guaranteed that your website will be at least decent in terms of look and won't be a UX nightmare.
Website builders that leave you the most space for personalization, like Webflow or Editor X, usually let you achieve that through code changes.
Some might argue that it's contradictory to the premise of creating websites without any coding
The undeniable truth is that knowledge of HTML and CSS is beneficial in recreating the vision that you have in your head. And some effects like specific animations can be only done by embedding custom code.
WebWave again differs from its competitors and it's continuously the result of the inspiration taken from the graphic design approach. Thanks to its drag-and-drop interface, you have the freedom to place elements anywhere on the canvas, hence creating whatever layouts you want, and overlapping elements. WebWave's method is focused on designing, not developing. You can add your code, but it's not necessary to have a website that will be different and good-looking.
Hopefully, I made it clear to you, that mobile responsiveness is an absolute necessity nowadays. Each website builder allows you to adjust your website to mobile devices, but in a different way. It's once again connected with how much skills, web design experience, and knowledge you need to use certain software.
Basic website builders like Wix, Squarespace, Zyro, and Strikingly only allow you to adjust your website to two viewports - desktop and mobile. Uncomplicated Stie123 decided to add one more option - a tablet view. They cover the most popular devices that people use to browse the internet. Thanks to the limited options, responsive design becomes easier and almost fully automated. With those tools, you just have to specify some details and you're good to go.
More advanced tools, usually offer 4 viewports (desktop, tablet, and both horizontal and vertical mobile). This is a solution picked by WebWave and Webflow. Vev also offers 4 viewports, but instead of a horizontal mobile view, they opted for a large desktop. They also let you create a custom view. Framer and EditorX also give you the option to create a custom viewport, but at the same time, they offer only 3 preestablished viewports - desktop, tablet, and mobile.
When you build your website with these tools, you will spend more time adjusting your website to different devices. Not everything will be automated, but that's the price you pay for having more creative freedom.
As you can see, every website builder listed here is somehow suited for responsive web design. Your website will be functional if you create only a desktop and mobile version but will look more professional if you add other ones.
Another aspect that needs to be discussed is SEO and what each website builder can offer in this department.
Every website builder that I've tested offers a free SSL certificate, creates sitemaps for your website, and declares to have a clean semantic code.
You might have already noticed that depending on the advanced level of a website design tool, it will show a different approach to the set of features. It's no different when it comes to SEO. Simple tools do most of the work for you. Wix will automatically create meta titles and descriptions for you. Zyro uses AI to write SEO-optimized content for you. Tools like Webflow or WebWave will create a space for you where you can take care of that stuff by yourself.
WebWave also offers an SEO analyzer tool that checks if the content on your website is optimized in terms of your aimed keyword. The SEO analyzer not only calculates your score but also shows you the list of crucial SEO features that guides you through the process of optimizing your website. Squarespace proposes a similar solution under their SEO checklist that helps you make sure that you didn't skip anything important as alternative descriptions for images or the appearance of a keyword in the URL.
Each website builder lets you create a website for free, but to publish it under your domain, you get to pay. So now, let's compare the pricing of each website builder.
Zyro has the most uncomplicated pricing scheme, with only two premium plans available. On the other hand, Vev requires you to pay for your Account Plan of choice and an additional $5 / month for a Project Plan.
Wix, EditorX, and Webflow all have separate selections of plans for websites and e-commerce. The rest of the website builders - WebWave, Squarespace, Strikingly, Site123, and Framer - offer three to four Premium Plans. Fun fact, when you go to Site123's website, you will only find information about one premium plan. However, when you try to upgrade your website from the dashboard, you will see three more options. Not disclosing all their premium plans on their "Pricing" page is definitely a choice.
Because of the variety of offered plans, I decided to pick one from each website builder (the one that is marked as the most popular or the one that seems to have the best value for money) and compare them. I am not looking at e-commerce plans or agency accounts. I want to find the best plan to bring your website to life.
The prices are for yearly billing and do not include tax. I also decided not to include discounts some website builders offer for a limited time and your first website. So if you comply with the conditions, you might buy some plans for a lower price.
Here's the summary of the 2023 premium plans of web building tools.
Not every website builder offers a free domain, but you can connect a custom domain with your website no matter which tool you pick. Every software, except Vev, is also a free web host. As you can see, there's quite a range when it comes to the number of web pages that your website can have, as well as bandwidth and file storage space. Every premium plan includes a free SSL certificate, blogging, a custom code option, and some form of support.
Now it's time to answer the most important question - what is the best website builder?
The most honest option is "It depends". It depends on what type of website you want to build and for what, what your skills are, how tech-savvy you are, and how much time you want to spend creating your website. Every website builder has its strengths and weaknesses. The truth is, sometimes, what some consider a tool's advantage, for others can be a disadvantage.
I rated all of the options in the most important categories.
If you are a freelance web designer, go for Webwave. If you are looking for a solution for a digital agency, then Webflow is the best. If want to create a simple site for your business, pick Zyro, but if your focus is on e-commerce, consider Squarespace.
This overview, hopefully, answered some of your questions, but I encourage you to create a free website with at least a couple of website builders before you get stuck with one so that you make sure that you made the best choice.
Join over 514 000 WebWave users and create websites with a true drag and drop website builder.
WebWave drag and drop website builder lets you create unique websites. You can build your website from scratch by starting with a blank page, or choose various website templates from our free collection and modify them according to your needs. With WebWave website builder, you have a complete website design and hosting system at your fingertips.
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