The best website builders are a perfect balance of power and ease of use. They can help anyone create a polished and professional site in a very short time, regardless of your experience or technical knowledge.
There’s a lot of competition out there, and perhaps unsurprisingly, every website builder claims to be the best. Separating the winners from the also-rans can be a challenge, but our in-depth reviews use a host of tests, checks, and analyses to clearly identify the best website builder for you.
In this guide, we walk you through how our experts test every website builder that we review on TechRadar.
Our testing process: Overview
Each time we review a website builder we undertake a thorough research and testing process. This is done with the audience in mind. For example, when creating a guide to the best website builders for agencies, we would focus and test different aspects than if we were creating a guide to the best website builders for small businesses.
Here is a quick overview of what we do:
We take an in-depth look at the provider’s website, support pages, and small print to understand what it claims to offer and how the service works.
Next, we get hands-on with the website builder and use the service to build sample sites of various types, assessing how they perform on various metrics and in various areas such as speed, SEO, ease of use, and more.
We look at how a website builder matches up to the competition, whether it’s very strong in one area or missing some crucial feature in another.
We take account of customer sentiment and ratings on top review sites, social media, and, where we can, the website builder’s own forum or site.
We convert the data we’ve gathered into ratings for every aspect of the service, then we combine these into a single overall score which best represents the quality of that website builder.
Write the review
Finally, we write up the results of our tests into a full review. We give you both an overall score of the website builder and detailed insight into which areas it performs well/poorly in. Our aim is to make it quick and easy for you to decide whether that website builder is the right one for you.
Website builders: What we assess
Ease of use
A website builder can have the lengthiest list of the most incredible features in the web design world, but that won’t help anyone if they’re difficult to understand, use, or even find. That’s why evaluating ease of use is one of our most important review tasks.
This all starts from the very first login. A good website builder clearly explains what you need to do first, and ideally helps you do it, leaving you confident and ready to start building right away.
The editor is all about balance. It’s great to have lots of features, but you mustn’t be overwhelmed by the clutter, or be left struggling to find what you need. Ideally, we’re looking for all the most common site-building features to be accessible with just a click or two, while the advanced features are tucked out of the way (though still quickly available when you need them.)
Even the smallest detail can make a huge difference. Does a toolbar use icons you can actually recognise for key features, for instance? If you look at a menu, do the various options clearly and accurately describe what they’re doing? Usability depends on many different factors, and we check them all.
For our final verdict, we also take into account the target audience for a website builder. What’s easy to use for a first-time user building a small personal site, might be very different to what you need if you’re an old hand building an international web store. We take the time to evaluate ease of use for different audiences, and highlight which users the website builder serves best, and where it needs more work.
We check every website builder to make sure it has the core features to present all types of content: maps, slideshows, image galleries, video players, social media feeds, and more.
We evaluate more advanced features based on a number of factors. If a website builder says it supports ecommerce, for instance, we’ll check whether there’s a limit on the number of items you can sell, if it supports digital and physical products, what payment, tax, and shipping support you get, transaction fees, and much more.
If a website builder can be extended with third-party apps, we look closely to see what’s available. We rank builders based on the number of apps on offer, the range of tasks they cover, the price, and how they’re rated by other users.
Website support and management features are important, too. We give extra points to website builders which offer analytics to help understand your audience, marketing tools to build traffic, backup and restore options, and security tools to detect, and remove malware.
Pricing and value for money
Website builders vary hugely in their prices, but we consider multiple factors to help you identify the best possible deals.
We consider free plans, trial periods and money-back guarantees. These offer an intelligent way to overcome any uncertainty about picking the right website builder for your needs.
We also consider subscription lengths and associated discounts.
But it isn’t just about low prices. We also look at the features available in each plan to ensure it offers all the core essentials, and find out whether you’re getting any valuable extras.
Our ultimate goal is to help you understand how much value you are getting for what you spend. If the price is higher than average, what do you get beyond the norm? If it's unbelievably low, what might you be sacrificing?
We also pay particular attention to hidden costs. Does a provider offer a ‘free domain’, but then charge you $25 extra a year for renewals, say? Maybe the plan looks cheap, but essential features, like backups, cost extra? We factor in these unexpected charges to make sure our recommended providers offer genuine value for money.
No matter how experienced you are, everyone needs help sometimes, and we test every website builder’s support system to find out just how helpful it really is.
How can you get in touch with a provider, for instance? We like to see ticket support, as if you have a long-term issue, the agent can see your history without you having to explain it again. But it’s also good to have live chat and phone support available when you’ve a quick one-off question.
We test these support methods to see just how each service performs. Does phone support force you through a lengthy menu system before you can talk to anyone? How long does it take to get a response on live chat? Are the agents able to handle complex problems and questions, or does it feel like they’re reading a script?
The best support isn’t just about solving one-off problems. We also explore every website builder’s web tutorials and knowledgebase, to make sure that you’ve the help you need to walk you through more complex tasks and get the very most out of the service.
Templates are pre-built designs which you can use as a starting point for your own website. They can be one of the most important factors in your choice of website builder, especially if you’re a web design beginner, or just want to produce a simple site as quickly and easily as possible.
When evaluating website builders, we look at the number of templates available, the range of industries they cover (how many templates are there for hotels, restaurants, photography sites?), their design and visual appeal, and whether they look just as good on both mobile and desktop displays.
But it’s not just about the visuals. We also build default sites with multiple templates and look at how they work. Do templates use lots of scripts, slowing them down? Are they properly optimized for SEO out of the box? Your website must look stylish and professional, but we want to be sure that it performs well, too.
Despite the name, website builders aren’t just about creating a site. Most also come with web hosting, and we take a close look at what’s on offer to make sure it suits your needs.
A site should have plenty of storage available, for instance, especially if you plan to host large image galleries, lots of downloads, or other space-hungry content.
We consider any bandwidth allowance, or the data your site is able to use each month. If your site has a lot of visitors, then it’s likely you’ll need a plan with more bandwidth.
How we decide a final score
Data collected, tests completed, and reports written up, we assess each provider on the metrics we’ve discussed above, and convert the results into a score out of five which is included at the top of our reviews.
But that’s not the end of the story. Website builders are constantly enhancing their existing features and adding new tools, so we regularly update our reviews, analyse any changes and additions, and, if appropriate, update the scores.
While the full review score is important for our overall rankings and best website builder guides, it may not tell the full picture. It’s possible for a website builder to rate 5 for ecommerce, say, but 3 for value. The final score points you in the right direction, but we recommend you read the full review to see if a website builder is right for you.
How we review website builders: Summary
We understand that our testing process is central to offering high quality, actionable advice. After all, if we don’t take the time to properly test each website builder, we can’t offer honest advice on which we believe are the best.
Our ultimate goal is to offer you everything you need to make an informed decision on the best website builder for your individual circumstances and needs.
The process we have outlined above is applied to each website builder we review. In turn, this extensive testing and research helps inform our buying guides where we list the best website builders based on specific criteria and needs.
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Mike is a lead security reviewer at Future, where he stress-tests VPNs, antivirus and more to find out which services are sure to keep you safe, and which are best avoided. Mike began his career as a lead software developer in the engineering world, where his creations were used by big-name companies from Rolls Royce to British Nuclear Fuels and British Aerospace. The early PC viruses caught Mike's attention, and he developed an interest in analyzing malware, and learning the low-level technical details of how Windows and network security work under the hood.
- Owain WilliamsB2B Editor, Website Builders