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Blog / We Do /  How to Build the Website on Your Own? Free Website Builders Research.

April 6, 2017 - Viktoria

How to Build the Website on Your Own? Free Website Builders Research.

Mobilunity team had been analyzing the need of website builders for users with a general knowledge of PC who want to learn more about web design and web development. In the majority of cases, they prefer to turn to the website builders, but still there are those who want their website to be unique, modern and of a high quality. The latter ones choose the best way to build a website and hire dedicated team of developers to have the company website development done professionally on the all-inclusive basis: project management, design, programming, testing and launching.

The aim of this research is to identify top players in the niche of Site Builders available on the market, identify their strong and weak sides, have insight on the features that they have and those they miss.

Besides that, we will be able to identify user demand exactly for custom eCommerce website development or a company website development and understand whether users tend to have at hand relatively simple system with a number of layouts that only need to be filled with content and allow simple customizations like fonts and color scheme change; or they would like more control over the website content like adding their custom code or changing page layout with a number of blocks provided by the system.

As a result we should have a clear understanding whether we should enter the market or current offering on the market covers most of the users’ needs and developing alternate solution is not worth it.

What Is the Best Way to Build a Website? Overview of Site Builders

Wix®

URL: www.wix.com

Subscription plans: Free – $4.5/mo – $24.5/mo with intermediate plans having benefits added as the price grows.

In many or most sources Wix® is considered the best solution to build your own site out there on the market. The system features enormous number of templates available to users in order to provide easier custom eCommerce website development: 500+.

In terms of the ease of use, Wix® is definitely one of the leaders on the market. Its main focus is in offering users the large library of layouts allowing high-level customizations like adding blocks, splitting it into columns, applying different color scheme to your future eCommerce store design and a company website development.

The site builder offers to build your own site if you are the most general user that is not proficient in web design and web development or coding, does not know much about hosting and simply wants to create rather standard nice looking site with a minimum efforts.
Build your own site with Wix

Screenshot of Wix® site builder

The number of templates offered by Wix® for each website kind is almost equal except for the Business kind – the number of templates here is twice as big as for any other kind of website. Let’s see figures in details:

Number of templates offered by Wix site builder for various types of businesses

Types and amount of templates offered by Wix®

The highest number of templates belongs to the following categories:

  • Business – 115

The lowest number of templates belongs to these categories:

  • Landing Pages – 26
  • Accommodation – 28

When you build your own site, the system pre-loads a set of templates, color schemes and offers to add apps related to the selected website kind.

To assist users with the initial setup, the system offers two ways to start:

  • with Wix® ADI
  • with Wix® Editor

The first approach asks user a couple of questions regarding their identity and their business and then searches the internet for more information using the details that a user provided. The information found and confirmed by a user will then be placed in a related blocks on a website saving user efforts on filling site content.

The clear benefit of this approach for non-experienced users is that the system does huge amount of work for a user. At the same time, besides the creating the nicely designed Home page, the system then guides user through a number of customization steps, allowing to take control over the customization or continuing to make changes for a user while a company website development.

Overview of the Wix website builder

Customization of different parts and blocks of a website on Wix®

Users observe system opening menus, choosing options, etc. which enables them use the system on their own further on if they want.

Steps that the system offers after creating the initial page include:

  • Previewing site
  • Reviewing entire website design
  • Changing website colors
  • Changing website fonts
  • Changing section layout
  • Editing section content
  • Adding new sections
  • Adding new pages

With this approach, even if a user is not proficient in designing websites or a company website development, but has some insights or ideas how to build the website, the system prepares a user to using the Editor for changes to his eCommerce store design.

With the Editor, the user is actually given full control of the actions he wants to perform either it is adding a page or a block or creating a website page by editing page layout or adding different content blocks to a page.

In general, customization capabilities offered by the system in the Editor mode include the following:

  • Changing page background (color/image/video) with a library of hi-res images provided for free as well as the ability to upload own images or buy from photo bank
  • Adding elements to a page
    • Text (in a pre-set styles)
    • Images (own uploaded, free Wix® images, free Wiz® clipart, Bigstock® images, images from a user social networks, Picasa®, Flickr®) offering to add related to this functionality apps
    • Image gallery
    • Slideshow
    • Button
    • Box
    • Strip
    • Shape
    • Video
    • Music
    • Social
    • Contact
    • Menu
    • List
    • Lightbox
    • Blog
    • Store
    • More
      • HTML & Flash
      • PayPal buttons
      • Anchors
      • Anchor menus
      • Document buttons
      • And provides the ability to add related apps to the site

No evident way of applying own custom layout through writing custom code was found. It looks like Wix® is not aimed at the most flexible capabilities of customization. Thanks to a rich library of professionally looking customizable layouts, useful apps in the App Market (more than 200 apps at the moment) and targeting at less experienced users, Wix® provides everything needed for a non-pro user to build a free website that is looking like created by a pro.

Web design and web development are great, no doubts, but Wix® offers mobile optimization for the created websites as well to ensure they look as good on mobile devices as they do in a full size web browser. Also, Wix® mobile app is available on Google Play and iTunes Connect to update your site right from the app.

An impression left by brief using the system:

  1. The system has lots of templates that are looking nice and suit every taste while company website development.
  2. The system is powerful in its editing capabilities (including design and layout editing) though all of them are provided in the WYSIWYG mode without access to the code.
  3. The system’s weak place is inability to replace template for the already created page.
  4. The system clearly stands out with its ADI feature as an alternative to the Editor.
  5. The system was designed for the most of us, non-pro users who seek where and how to build the website, so that it would be an easy-to-use friendly platform allowing to build a free website that would look as if it was created by professionals and allow to resolve every issue that a website creator may have from choosing the design and layout and to hosting your website.

Squarespace®

Website: www.squarespace.com

Subscription plans: 14-day free trial, $12-$18/mo (website plans) and $26-$40/mo (commerce plans).

Squarespace® appears to be on the same level on the site builder market as Wix®. This platform allows to build your own site with minimum effort applied. It still will be nice-looking even if you are non-professional user. More proficient users can do some customizations though.

If compared to Wix®, the editor does not allow the same level of flexibility in drag-and-drop as Wix where you may drop a block literally in any part of the page. When doing the same kind of operations in Squarespace®, you clearly feel there is an invisible grid behind which is composed of blocks where you may drop your content. The feeling that you drop your block in any part of the page is not about this platform.

Build a free website with SquareSpace

Screenshot of Squarespace® site builder

In Squarespace®, same as in Wix®, a user starts creating his site with choosing the template. There are 58 templates to choose from to build your own site. Contrary to Wix®, Squarespace® allows loading multiple templates for your site that a user may use for different pages.
Let’s see the distribution of templates between the different categories of websites that Squarespace® offers.

Number of templates offered by SquareSpace site builder for various types of businesses

Template categories offered by Squarespace®

As we can see from the table above, the following categories have the highest number of templates:

  • Art and Design – 16
  • Community and Non-Profit – 14
  • Photography – 10
  • Professional Services – 15
  • Travel and Lifestyle – 14

The lowest number of templates are in the following categories:

  • Media and Entertainment – 4
  • Music – 4
  • Wedding – 6

The system also inquires basic information about a user and a future site, but beside the site content this will not be used as in Wix®. The platform however uses kind of site to suggest specific layouts and pages for user site based on the selections he makes.

Squarespace allows more customization using the following features:

  • Full code control
  • JSON access
  • Automatic Script Combo-ing
  • Git built-in
  • JSON-Template
  • Custom code
  • SFTP access
  • LESS.css
  • Native development tools
  • Query tags

Squarespace® provides integration with G Suite for emails. The platform allows purchasing own domains without leaving the system as well as connect third-party managed domains. In terms of building eCommerce marketplaces or stores, the platform provides numerous commerce capabilities. All sites created using Squarespace® are mobile ready.

For the convenience of use, Squarespace® has mobile app for Android and iOS, allowing to update your site when not at the desktop computer.

An impression left by brief using the system:

  1. The system leaves a good impression of a powerful system with nice looking templates.
  2. The system lists a big number of capabilities and features available to its users.
  3. It turns out that by brief using the system I was not able to see most of those capabilities, which is the clear evidence that the system is not as easy to use as should be (or as Wix®, for example, usability of the system is not high as claimed by many reviews).
  4. I have not seen how to use developer benefits widely mentioned in the features list.

Weebly®

Website: www.weebly.com

Subscription plans: Free (limited functionality, not all functions available), Starter ($8/mo), Pro ($18/mo), Business ($35/mo), Performance ($59/mo),

As stated in different site builder comparison sources, Weebly® is literally the best in terms of easiness to use site builder.

Weebly offers a number of attractive themes, which are split by categories as in Wix® and Squarespace®. Let’s see the breakdown of themes between categories and identify the richest and the poorest on themes categories.

Number of templates offered by Weebly site builder for various types of businesses

Themes categories of Weebly®

Thus, the highest number of themes are available in the following categories:

  • Online Store – 13
  • Business – 14

The lowest number of themes are in these categories:

  • Event – 6
  • Personal – 7

Also, Weebly® provides additional virtual category – Featured. This category collects different themes from other categories for promotion purposes.

Create great eCommerce store design with Weebly

Screenshot of site builder Weebly®

Based on personal experience of brief using the platform, I would doubt in this and put Weebly® on the same level as Squarespace® or even one level below. Some of the functionality like adding products (commerce) are not available in free version. The ability to drag object onto a page is working the same way as in Squarespace® – contrary to Wix® there is no ability to drag an object literally to any place on a page – locations are bound to some kind of a grid.

Weebly allows hosting your site on a subdomain of Weebly®, third-party domain or register a new domain right from the platform.

The platform provides comparatively easy way of adding content to the page – there is a side menu showing available elements that users may drag to a page. Some of the elements are marked as paid, some are not, but still the system may not allow placing them as these belong to the paid plans (Commerce Categories are free, products are paid).

Similar to Wix® and Squarespace®, Weebly® has App Center providing different apps (both paid and free) that can be added to your site. However, it was a bit confusing that some basic elements vertical divider (providing the ability to split page into columns) and popup are available as apps and not as basic page elements that you may add while creating content for your site.

Custom eCommerce website development with Weebly

App Store of Weebly®

Weebly® provides mobile apps to manage your site content for both Android and iOS, so if there is a need to make some edits on the go, it will not make a problem for you.

An impression left by brief using the system to build a free website:

  1. The system is clearly one of the leaders in sitebuilders.
  2. Though not the best in class, the system provides rather rich editing capabilities in terms of web design and layout changes.
  3. The system provides full control over HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, which makes it a possible choice for those who can code themselves or outsource website creation to a developer.
  4. Similar to other leading platforms, all layouts are responsive, which is rather useful for a large group of users used to viewing the web on their mobile devices.
  5. Mobile app for a platform available for both Android and iOS is clearly an advantage, a must for such platform providing capability to edit site content on the go.

WordPress®

Website: www.wordpress.com

Subscription plans: Free, Personal ($2.99/mo), Premium ($8.25/mo), Business (24.92/mo)

According to Google trends, WordPress® is the most searched term in site builders. It is evidently the most popular site builder (WordPress® claims 27% of the Internet sites are powered by WordPress®). However, WordPress® is sadly known for its poor reputation because of low security and poor performance when you use WordPress membership plugin or any other ones, which required extensive developers involvement.

WordPress web design and web development as an optimal solution

WordPress® themes for building the website

About 45 free themes and about 41 premium themes are available from WordPress® as stated on their website for those considering WordPress® and potential site builder. From the first glance all themes are nice looking and it looks like almost everyone will have a chance to find a theme that he will like. However, design customizations provided in the two lower plans will not allow much changes even for non-pro users.

For those willing to use WordPress® for their website creation, the first stage is about choosing what you want to create. Based on the images on the screenshot below, depending on the purpose, different site layouts are offered.

Find out how to build the website with WordPress

Examples of site layouts in WordPress®

When considering where and how to build the website, WordPress® still can be reviewed as one of possible solutions, because it allows theme change in the process of site creation – the feature that is a great advantage and may be considered by potential users (not available unfortunately in Wix®).

Let’s find out brief statistics about WordPress® themes breakdown between the website categories.

Number of free and paid themes offered by WordPress for various types of businesses

Breakdown of free and paid WordPress® themes

As we see, categories with the least FREE themes are:

  • Music – 4
  • Wedding – 5
  • Portfolio – 11
  • Travel – 11

In PAID themes, the least themes are in the following categories:

  • Wedding – 14

The most FREE themes are in the following categories:

  • Blog – 131
  • Minimal – 88

The most PAID themes belong to the following categories:

  • Blog – 163
  • Minimal – 134

In addition, wordpress.com provides two virtual categories:

  • Staff Picks
  • Trending

Both these categories include different themes from other categories and represent those themes that were picked by the wordpress.com staff and those that are currently in trend.

Filtering capabilities are rich here allowing to look for a theme in specific color, layouts features and price.

Outsource website creation to Mobilunity and we will create a ready solution

Customization of a website in WordPress®

In terms of ease of use in site construction and management, WordPress® is definitely not the best choice. Claimed to be the easiest to use solution to build your own site, when logged in to the WordPress® admin panel, the system looks like well organized, but not visual enough. In particular, the section related to pages creation is not convenient.

Hire dedicated teams of developers for WordPress website creation

Screenshot of WordPress® site builder

This may be an indication that the system is designed for profound users who are used to working with the code, but this is what definitely will confuse and not meet the expectations of the average non-pro users, who are not experienced in web design and web development. Thus, they will definitely need hire dedicated team of developers or a developer to assist with building a website or consult on the best way to build a website.

Another indication that this platform is not targeted at not experienced with the code and CSS users is that when you create a page, which is easy, you cannot figure out how it will look like without leaving for Preview. I in particular did not see the ability to add some blocks to a page or split it into columns. However, the WYSIWYG editor provides the ability to switch to HTML view and code my page, which I don’t want to.

Designed as the blog platform, WordPress® now offers capabilities to build a free website. Even more – due to the free WordPress plugins and WooCommerce® in particular, you may now implement custom eCommerce website development using WordPress®.

Site created on WordPress® is mobile optimized, at the same time WordPress® offers mobile and desktop apps to update your site anywhere, even on the go. Mobile apps are available for Android and iOS.

Overall impression left by brief using the system:

  1. The platform reviewed (wordpress.com) is not the same as well known wordpress.org. The first one is online platform for people who think that the best way to build a website is to make it rather simple, maybe host it under the WordPress domain and that’s it.
  2. Along with WYSIWYG, the platform allows full control over the code, making it flexible to use by a non-pro users and developers (custom fonts, CSS and other customizations are available in Premium and Business subscription plans only).
  3. Another level of flexibility is the ability to change theme in the process of working with site.
  4. The platform is limited in capabilities compared to wordpress.org – the number of available themes is significantly lower here, there are less ready layouts for homepage, eCommerce capabilities are not supported.
  5. Even with WYSIWYG, creating site pages is not very user friendly as in other top site builders.
  6. Overall popularity mainly refers to wordpress.org with rich capabilities, numerous plugins and themes, but designed to be handled by users who are pro in web design and web development.

Duda®

Website: www.dudamobile.com

Subscription plans: There are three levels of subscriptions available at Duda®.

  • Responsive web: Free, Business+ ($14.25/mo annual), and Business + eCommerce ($22.5/mo annual)
  • Mobile-only websites: Free and Premium ($7.20/mo annual)
  • Reseller: DudaPro ($249/yr)

Duda® site builder is mentioned in the list of the most highly rated platforms. And at the first glance it looks as being properly categorized here.

Duda provides great web design and web development solutions

Duda® site builder templates

Similar to most of the popular site builders, on the very first step the system asks for the template that you like and allows to filter shown templates by site kind and even to choose color that will apply the color filter and remove those templates that do not match your preferences.

There is a categorization of available templates and here is how templates are distributed between categories:

Number of templates offered by Duda site builder for various types of businesses

Template categories of Duda®

As we can see, the least templates belong to the following categories:

  • Blank – 6
  • Restaurant – 7
  • Blog – 7
  • Portfolio – 8

The most themes are in the following categories:

  • Business – 45

The template that you select already has a set of pages with the content inserted, so you will need to customize it before launching it as website. Editing is done in the design view mode with the ability to open a page that you create in the Preview mode to see how it would be shown to your website visitors in a browser.

It feels that most likely Duda® does not have as much powerful controls as WordPress® (through plugins) or other site builders, but in terms of ease of use Duda® wins in comparison with WordPress®, but loses to Wix®, Weebly® and Squarespace®.

Duda® allows low level pages editing including custom HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, which would be interesting for those wishing more flexibility in terms of page customization.

In terms of integrations, Duda® offers its users the following integrations:

  • Locu
  • Facebook
  • Yelp
  • OpenTable
  • Google Maps
  • Google AdSense
  • PayPal
  • YouTube
  • Twitter
  • RSS Feeds
  • WordPress
  • SinglePlatform

Overall impression after brief using the system:

  1. One of the good, but not enough platforms to build a free website.
  2. Templates are looking nice, but their number does not impress.
  3. Editing capabilities possible either through direct code access or in WYSIWYG.
  4. Have not found any plugins/extensions, which is definitely a minus.
  5. Overall, the system is one of a kind, but I personally would not look at because of its poor capabilities.

Shopify®

Website: www.shopify.com

Subscription plans: free trial, Basic Shopify ($29/mo +$49 for retail package), Shopify ($79/mo + $49 for retail package), Advanced Shopify ($299/mo +$49 for retail package), Shopify Plus (no details shared; enterprise-grade solutions for high-volume merchants and large businesses), Shopify Lite ($9/mo; sell on Facebook, chat with customers on Messenger, add products to any website or blog).

Compared to all previously listed site builders, Shopify® is an eCommerce platform, which means that it was originally built for eCommerce and as every eCommerce platform, provides some CMS capabilities to its users to make their stores look attractive to customers.

Themes in Shopify® are organized according to the products categories. There are paid and free themes for your future eCommerce store design. Let’s see which categories are themes rich and which are themes poor.

Number of free and paid themes offered by Shopify for various types of businesses

Breakdown of free and paid themes and categories in Shopify®

Thus, the least FREE themes belong to the following categories:

  • Food and Drink – 0
  • Home and Garden – 0
  • Furniture – 0

The least PAID themes are in the following categories:

  • Furniture – 4
  • Toys and Games – 4
  • Other – 5
  • Health and Beauty – 6

The most FREE themes are available in these categories:

  • Clothing and Fashion – 4

The most PAID themes belong to these categories:

  • Clothing and Fashion – 31
  • Jewelry and Fashion – 16

In terms of eCommerce store design customization, Shopify® does not make it hard to find this section of the site administration. There are two options available – browsing free themes and visiting theme store. 9 free themes are available for selection.

Within the selected theme, available features are listed as well as available styles.

Build your own site with Shopify and get responsive mobile version as well

Example of Shopify® themes

As seen from the screenshot, themes are optimized for viewing on mobile devices. After installing a theme, you may publish it online or apply design customizations. In particular, the following customizations are available:

  • Colors
  • Typography
  • Social media
  • Favicon
  • Checkout

Besides the basic customizations where you may add some blocks and customize their content, Shopify® provides the capabilities to add templates, layouts, sections, snippets, assets, configs, locales and do customizations right in the code.

Shopify provides custom eCommerce website development

Example of code customization in Shopify®

Web design and web development is quite easy with Shopify®. To assist developers, Shopify® stores versions of the files that you create and you may always switch to older versions. Also, variable reference is available for convenience of use. Shopify® uses Liquid, the eCommerce template language, which is written inline with theme’s HTML and allows displaying site content according to your vision.

Custom eCommerce website development is quite desirable by users, because as long as trends in design are changing constantly, there will be need to adapt the website to the latest updates in terms of appearance. Considering the customization capabilities in Shopify®, basic customizations are provided on a high level allowing an average user to get some unique look of their store, but to get the truly different site, you will need to either dig into the code or involve developers into this work.

Shopify® has the App Store offering numerous apps for its users. Since Shopify® is a  platform for custom eCommerce website development, apps in the store are targeted at improving merchants’ sales capabilities.

Build your own site with Shopify and you will be provided with a wide range of plugins for marketing

App Store of Shopify®

Themes store has numerous themes to choose from. Search and filtering capabilities are there to make it easy for you to find a proper eCommerce store design theme to match your tastes.

Choose custom eCommerce store design from wide range of available templates

Themes Store of Shopify®

Even if you found an eCommerce store design that you like, but it is a paid theme and you are not sure about buying it, Shopify® allows you to install a preview of this theme and see it applied to your store. It even allows to do customizations to a theme preview. After the testing is conducted you may buy a theme and get full access to this eCommerce store design.

Shopify® has mobile app to manage your store on the go. The app is available for both Android and iOS.

To summarize, Shopify® has slightly above basic eCommerce store design capabilities compared to other site builders, but let’s not forget this is not what it was created for. However, taking into account that most eCommerce stores are created and services by technical specialists, the platform has benefits providing the ability to add and create content in the code, which however requires to hire dedicated team of developers who are skilled specialists knowing Liquid.

Overall impression of the platform after brief using:

  1. First of all, the platform was initially designed for a specific purpose – as custom eCommerce website development platform, thus expectations from it were not high.
  2. Compared to Duda®, certainly wins as offers numerous apps from own App Store, which extends its functionality and is good.
  3. Customization capabilities are flexible as the platform provides access to the code. However, Shopify® uses its own language Liquid, thus there is a possibility that not all developers will be able to start customizing the code immediately without having to learn Liquid.
  4. In terms of eCommerce store design customizations, capabilities are not so rich as in Wix®, Weebly® and Squarespace®.
  5. For layout customizations, the system allows adding templates, layouts, sections, snippets, assets, configs and locales, which is pretty good and does provide flexibility, though a non-pro user will most likely have difficulties with this.

Club Website®

Website: www.clubwebsite.co.uk

Subscription plans: N/A

Club Website® appears to be a platform designed for specific needs, so it cannot be compared to other site builders. It has its specific niche, thus offers its users a set of functionality that is highly requested by them: creating and maintaining teams and leagues, providing timetables for games and statistics for games results.

As additional bonuses, the system offers built-in email and sms platform, fundraising and eCommerce capabilities.

However, in terms of web design and web development customization, the system capabilities are rather poor.

Club Website offers to build a free website for a specific business niche

Screenshot of Club Website® color patterns

Site owner may only change design of some basic elements. In terms of customizing page layout, site owner may only change the position of blocks on the page, add blocks or remove them.

However, this platform not only allows to build a free website, but also has such an advantage: since it was created to serve specific needs, it has dynamic blocks that are intended to display specific information from the database, which changes with the time. Each block is considered an add-on in the system and can be configured and added to a page if you like.

Though the system features drag and drop capabilities, you are bound to block sizes, which cannot be changed and thus the site always looks very basic regardless of information displayed and design you applied.

Outsource website creation to Mobilunity if Club Website solution is not enough for you

Screenshot of Club Website® site builder and its features

Overall impression after reviewing the system:

  1. In terms of web design and web development the system appears rather weak and dull.
  2. Once in the design mode, all you can do is add/remove blocks and drag and drop them over the page composed of the same blocks.
  3. Nevertheless you may build a free website with the help of this service, there are no themes that you may apply, but only change some colors, which is an extremely limited design customization capability.
  4. The system nevertheless has its own niche and no other platform that has been reviewed can beat it there – it has backend with the functionality allowing to put information about teams and leagues on the frontend in certain blocks.
  5. Taking into account poor customization capabilities, you cannot clearly say numerous themes and layouts are needed here or people using this platform to build a free website do not want nice design and are fully satisfied with what the platform provides.

Company website development is a professional solution for any type of business

Summary

General

This research was intended to create an overall picture of platforms available on the market, identify what kind of system is the most demanded by the audience, which exact functionality/features are there in the most popular systems, which we consider necessary there and what the average user needs from those systems to build a free website.

As a result, this research should provide us insight on whether there is a niche not covered by such systems and whether it is worth to enter this market and if yes, we should know what the solution we should create to gain success.

Platforms Reviewed

For this research we concentrated on a couple of platforms which allow you to build your own site and are considered market leading players based on different reviews and Google Trends. These are:

  • Wix®
  • Squarespace®
  • Weebly®
  • WordPress®
  • Duda®
  • Shopify®

The first three platforms are the absolute leaders in the area according to the number of sites created, overall popularity, Google Trends information and numerous site builders reviews available in the Internet.

The Duda® mobile solution was taken for comparison purposes, as it could not be considered one of the leaders, but still is one of the solutions people choose to build a free website.

WordPress® was also chosen for comparison purposes as it is considered one of the most popular and widely used site builder. We wanted to know more and find out whether it is true and why it is so popular.

The Club Website® was also reviewed as the representative of site builders for specific purposes (in this case site builder for sports clubs).

Shopify was taken as a representative of the platforms that were initially designed for custom eCommerce website development, but as each store uses all possibilities to attract and retain customers, CMS is one of the tools used to make stores unique and attractive for customers.

Niches Occupied by Reviewed Site Builders

Most of the reviewed platforms belong to the same niche – CMS/Site Builders. These are:

  • Wix®
  • Squarespace®
  • Weebly®
  • Duda®
  • WordPress®
  • Club Website®

However, WordPress® being a site builder platform was considered a blogging platform till certain time. Now, providing large amount of focus to blogging capabilities, WordPress® is also providing capabilities in custom eCommerce website development, site building for other types of businesses, therefore not just blogging.

Shopify®, as already mentioned, is primarily an eCommerce platform, thus CMS capabilities are secondary in this platform. It may be put to the Shopping Cart category.

Finally, Club Website® is also a CMS, but rather specific one. We put it to the list of CMS/Site builder platforms, but Club Website® is clearly not solely one of them. None of the other CMS solutions listed there can compete with Club Website® due to its unique capabilities that none of other platforms provide.

All of the reviewed solutions for web design and web development are hosted, which means  everything is done online and hosted on the site builders’ servers either under their domains or custom domains purchased by site owners. WordPress® however, has an option of creating website on your computer and then arranging hosting for it, but according to this research, this is not what most of users, who are non-pro, demand.

Sitebuilders Features

Here we will list the features available in each reviewed site builder to have an insight on the capabilities offered by each platform.

Wix®

  • Multiple subscription plans providing extended set of features in advanced plans
  • Huge number of categorized templates at your disposal
  • Create site in the Editor or with ADI
  • Mobile app for Android and iOS available
  • All themes are mobile-ready which eases up web design and web development as a whole
  • Numerous apps from own App Market extending the functionality of website
  • The site is built in WYSIWYG only; no access to the code
  • Extremely flexible drag-and-drop
  • Intuitive and user friendly interface
  • Rich design and layout customizations
  • Blogging and eCommerce capabilities available
  • Integration with Facebook, Google, Instagram, Stripe, YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook Live Messenger, and Dropbox is available
  • Flexible hosting options: host on Wix®, connect your own domain or buy it without leaving Wix®
  • Does not provide hybrid app creation for your developed website

Squarespace®

  • Multiple subscription plans providing extended set of features in advanced plans
  • Nice looking templates, though not too many of them available
  • All templates are mobile-ready
  • User friendly interface that is easy to use
  • Possible to switch templates for already created pages
  • Creating site is possible in WYSIWYG mode
  • Direct access to the code (including JSON, custom code, LESS.css) is provided
  • Integration with G Suite, Dropbox, Google Analytics, DIsqus, Facebook, Google Docs, MailChimp is available
  • Layout editing capabilities include adding different kinds of blocks, though inserting them is not very flexible
  • Numerous design customization options available based on different page elements
  • Flexible hosting options: host on Squarespace®, connect own domain or get one directly in Squarespace®
  • Blogging and eCommerce capabilities available
  • Mobile app available for both Android and iOS
  • Does not provide hybrid app creation for your developed website

Weebly®

  • Multiple subscription plans providing extended set of features in advanced plans and explaining how to build the website 
  • All themes are responsive, thus are adapted to mobile devices
  • The number of available themes is way insufficient – only 18 available
  • Mobile app available for both Android and iOS
  • Provides blogging and eCommerce capabilities
  • User friendly interface with a good structured menu
  • Provides apps for use on the site from the own App Center
  • Very intuitive way of adding apps to the site pages
  • Preview on multiple emulated devices available
  • SEO tools available
  • Pages creation is possible in WYSIWYG mode
  • Direct access to the code provided
  • SSL certificates provided
  • DDoS mitigation provided
  • Blogging and eCommerce capabilities provided
  • Possible to change theme for already created pages
  • Full control over HTML and CSS
  • Flexible hosting options: on a Weebly® subdomain, connect your own domain or register a new one directly in Weebly®
  • Layout customizations with dragging and dropping elements
  • For the chosen theme, few customization options are available – changing fonts for different page areas is allowed only
  • Does not provide hybrid app creation for your developed website

Duda®

  • Multiple subscription plans providing extended set of features in advanced plans
  • Does not provide mobile apps to manage site content on the go
  • Provides numerous nice looking templates
  • Site creating in the WYSIWYG editor
  • No extensions/plugins available
  • All themes are responsive
  • Provides blogging and eCommerce capabilities
  • Provides integration with Locu, Facebook, Yelp, OpenTable, Google Maps, Google AdSense, PayPal, YouTube, Twitter RSS Feeds, WordPress, and SinglePlatform
  • Provides full code customization capabilities including HTML, CSS, and JavaScript
  • Provides a choice of creating a responsive site or mobile-only site
  • Preview site on different emulated devices available
  • Provides numerous widgets for site content and layout customization
  • Provides website personalization capability through creating rules (for returning visitors, special promotions, nearby visitors, popups, etc.)
  • Very simple store available in the free plan (up to 10 products)
  • Provides SSL certificate for a site
  • SEO capabilities
  • Google Analytics enabled
  • URL redirects
  • Site backup
  • Hosted on Amazon Cloud
  • Does not provide hybrid app creation for your developed website

WordPress®

  • Multiple subscription plans providing extended set of features in advanced plans
  • WordPress.com is different from what most of users think – wordpress.org
  • WordPress.com (the one being reviewed) is a hosting solution like other site builders in this research
  • Functionally, this site builder is more limited in capabilities that what wordpress.org allows
  • The number of themes available is significantly less than wordpress.org offers – 356 free and 734 paid themes, but still the total number of templates exceeds 1k
  • Offers nice looking themes that are responsive
  • Plugins: offers only Jetpack feature set
  • Some of the features in the Jetpack are available in premium subscription plans only (SEO tools, Google Analytics, Custom Design, and Video Uploads)
  • Supports user roles: Administrator, Editor, Author, Contributor, Follower
  • Allows building multiple structured menus based on the pages available on site
  • Allows replacing the currently selected theme
  • Customizations available in free subscription plans: change color scheme, set font for headings and base font, set header image, and add widgets from the limited list of available ones
  • Blogging enabled
  • Provides mobile app for both Android and iOS
  • Hosting options include hosting on wordpress subdomain and the ability to connect your own domain
  • Does not provide hybrid app creation for your developed website

Shopify®

  • Multiple subscription plans available differing by eCommerce capabilities
  • Initially designed as eCommerce platform, CMS are not the main feature here
  • Blogging and eCommerce enabled
  • Provides mobile app for Android and iOS
  • The number of templated eCommerce store designs offered exceeds 100, which is not bad for eCommerce platform
  • Themes are responsive
  • Provides the ability to edit website in WYSIWYG editor
  • Provides direct access to the code allowing flexible customization
  • Code customization should be done in Shopify® internal language Liquid
  • Provides different apps for site content through own App Store
  • Provides social media integration, integration with seventy payment gateways and shipping carriers
  • Allows adding templates, layouts, sections, snippets, assets, configs and locales
  • Provides version control to roll back to a specific saved version
  • PCI compliant
  • Extremely high (99,99%) uptime
  • Provides SSL certificates
  • Allows flexible hosting – either on shopify subdomain, by connecting your own domain or buying one without leaving Shopify®
  • Allows changing theme for already created site
  • In terms of customizations allows changing fonts and colors
  • Allows editing layouts through adding/removing blocks and changing their position on page
  • Does not provide hybrid app creation for your developed website

Club Website®

  • Optimized for viewing on mobile devices
  • Only one template available
  • eCommerce enabled
  • Design customization limited to choosing page header and adjusting background and color scheme
  • Layout customizations limited to adding/removing blocks from pages and moving them using drag-and-drop
  • Multimedia features allow to add media gallery
  • Provides fundraising capabilities
  • Integrated sms and email platform
  • The main benefit of this platform is that due to it being dedicated solely for sports clubs, it allows displaying specific information acquired from backend in the dedicated blocks
  • Does not provide hybrid app creation for your developed website

Conclusion

The market of site builders is definitely not lacking solutions if you’d like to build your own website. Solutions available on the market are very different in their approach to site design from very simple to advanced.

Most of the site builders are present in the niche of site builders for personal sites and blogs. Some are basically eCommerce platforms providing CMS capabilities, the others are site builders created for specific purposes, like Club Website®.

The ideal system will be intuitive and easy to use system capable of creating a site that looks professional, allows flexible customization and providing hosting capabilities, that is doing everything in complex without forcing users to learn how to change the code, manage hosting, etc.

In terms of customizations, the ideal system would provide numerous themes allowing maximum customizations plus changing layouts through dragging and dropping them in WYSIWYG mode. The ability to edit HTML, CSS and JavaScript would be a plus for more advanced users or those who still would like to outsource website creation to a more experienced user or developer.

The most comprehensive platform would allow something like Artificial Design Intelligence (ADI) of Wix® that would go through the steps of website creation doing all the necessary steps, being triggered by a user and teaching him how to do everything himself for future experience.

In terms of integrations, depending on the need, the platform should definitely provide integrations with social networks, payment gateways, shipping carriers, SEO tools, analytics tools, ad managers etc.

The system should provide users with the ability to add blog to their website and most likely some basic store capabilities. Enhanced store functionality is not needed as for professional stores there are plenty of custom eCommerce website development platforms.

There is no need in a hybrid app created specifically for website, but there should be mobile app for Android and iOS definitely.

The platform should provide flexible subscription plans that vary in functionality the platform provides, but some basic and most common functionality should be available in free plan.

The ideal system would have the app store providing users with a sufficient number of widgets and blocks allowing to easily customize website layout and content.

Hire our team of dedicatd developers to build your own site

Taking into account all information found during the research, getting on the market of common CMS/site builders for blogs and websites is too risky as the developed platform should be almost ideal to beat competitors. Besides, taking into account support efforts and hosting options, such platform could become profitable only with certain amount of clients, which is not so easy to achieve.

Looking at the market of specific platforms like Club Website®, it seems like the possibilities are bigger here, but a more detailed research will be needed to identify features that mandatorily should be there and which are demanded by clients and users, but not yet available in existing systems. However, we need to take into account that the market niche here is much narrower and it will be also not so easy to gain profit with such platform.

The main competitive advantage here would be providing enhanced design customizations, but not yet known whether current users of such systems consider very limited design customization capabilities a significant drawback of the systems they currently use.

Here is the comparative table of all reviewed site builders providing some basic information about each platform.

Name Wix® Squarespace® Weebly® WordPress® Duda® Shopify® Club Website®
Market Niche Site Builder/CMS Site Builder/CMS Site Builder/CMS Blogging platform/CMS Site Builder/CMS Ecommerce platform Site Builder for sports clubs
Features Drag and drop, rich media gallery, Editing pages with Artificial Design Intelligence (ADI) or the Editor, flexible page layout customization Switching templates for an already created page, Design customizations, page layout customizations, commerce customizations, analytics User friendly and easy to use, nice templates, app store to apply additional functionality, possible to register own domain in the system, use own domain or host on Weebly®. Free and paid themes, the most popular site builder on the market, preset layout options for a site, theme change is possible, flexible capabilities for developers, mobile optimized sites Nice templates, rates in the list of 10 most popular site builders, user friendly editing in the Design mode, templates filtered by site kind All advantages of the online store, direct access to the code, version control, nice looking templates, numerous themes available with the ability to filter and search for a theme, PCI compliant, 99,99% uptime, SSL certificates Very narrow niche site builder offering limited capabilities that may not be positioned as advantage of this system in comparison to other site builders, very easy to build, mobile access, eCommerce, fundraising, integrated email and sms platform
Level of Customization WYSIWYG only; change page layout and design Full code control, JSON access, Custom code, LESS.css, Native development tools, Custom WYSIWYG editor WYSIWYG, page layout customization, theme, possible to change theme or fonts within a selected theme, Full HTML/CSS control Full control over the code1 along with WYSIWYG editor WYSIWYG plus full customizing the code (HTML, CSS, JavaScript) Add templates, layouts, sections, snippets, assets, configs, locales, direct access to the code (HTML and CSS) Very low, drag and drop blocks in WYSIWYG, remove blocks from a page
Third-party Integrations Facebook, Google, Instagram, Stripe, YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook Live Messenger, Dropbox G Suite, Dropbox, Google Analytics, Disqus, Facebook, Google Docs, MailChimp Through the apps Jetpack essential features included with every plan, no ability to install other plugins. Google AdWords and CEO tools available in Business subscription plan only. Locu, Facebook, Yelp, OpenTable, Google Maps, Google AdSense, PayPal, YouTube, Twitter, RSS Feeds, WordPress, SinglePlatform Social media integration, integration with 70 payment gateways and shipping carriers to get shipping rates Integration with maps
Plugins/Extensions Yes, own App Market. Apps suggested based on the blocks that you add. N/A2 Yes, App Center Yes, numerous plugins available, built-in social sharing N/A2 Yes, App Store N/A2
Advantages Very flexible drag and drop, ADI, huge amount of templates, rich page layout editing capabilities, possible to purchase domain from Wix®, extremely easy to use, maximum user friendliness Template switching, Custom CSS, Free TypeKit fonts, Free Google fonts, CDN, Squarespace® Analytics, user friendly and easy to use for a non-professional Nice templates, good structured menu, evident way of adding apps to your site pages, preview on different devices available in the emulation mode, SEO tools, custom code, SSL certificates and DDoS Mitigation Rich capabilities for developers to customize the code, most popular platform on the market, big number of developer available at client disposal, statistics, SEO optimized, the biggest community of online publishers, mobile friendly, numerous themes available, possible to set custom domain for your website One of the most popular site builders with the ability to build site using WYSIWYG editor, nice looking themes available, well structured menu for customization Numerous nice looking themes, different level of design customizations including direct access to the code, version control to rollback the changes, mobile app to manage site changes on the go, built originally as eCommerce platform Designed for specific websites, offers capabilities of sending information to database and displaying it in the dedicated blocks
Disadvantages No access to the page source code3, not possible to switch templates once you created a page Drag and drop is not very flexible, number of templates is not very high to choose from Some of the elements are paid, but not marked so, which is confusing, not so intuitive as Wix, drag and drop is not flexible to full extent Not intuitive enough to easily handle, known for being insecure, adding plugins slows down the site, introduces plugin conflicts, developer involvement is almost 100% required, some themes and plugins are low quality Not flexible enough in WYSIWYG capabilities, no evident extensions/plugins In terms of site customizations slightly weaker than other site builders. Code customizations are done in Liquid, the specific language used by Shopify® only. Very poor design and customization capabilities
Mobile app4 Android and iOS Android and iOS Android and iOS Android and iOS No Android and iOS No
Number of Templates 500+ 58 18 10905 80 100+ N/A
Responsive Themes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Blogging System Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes N/A
eCommerce Enabled Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes

In Premium and Business subscription plans only.
Have not found evident place for apps, assumable no apps or plugins are available.
With Wix this can hardly be considered a disadvantage.
By mobile app we mean that there is a mobile app available for site builder that you may use for managing your created site after signing in to your account. No platform offers to create a mobile app specifically for your site.
The actual number of themes is lower since some themes are present in multiple categories.

This research will definitely help users with general knowledge of PC to pick the right variant of site constructor and build a free website on their own. In case the end product or offered number of designs is not enough and not what you’ve expected from the builder, you can outsource website creation to IT company or hire dedicated team of developers for this project as it is the best way to build a website. You can also check out our portfolio to make sure, that we offer solutions of the highest quality.

If you are wondering where to order custom eCommerce website development or hire dedicated team of developers – Mobilunity is the answer.

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