Before we go further, let’s get to the whole ‘all you need to make a website is a basic text editor and a browser thing out of the way before we start:
Yes, it’s true, you can make a fully functional, good-looking website with NotePad or TextEdit, but you also need a significant level of knowledge and skill. And even the best coder will take longer without some tools. So, we agree that’s not a very helpful answer and continue to see what you want.
If you can stretch your budget at all, even a very small amount will greatly increase your range of options. It’s worth noting that some website platforms have free trials that don’t have free versions, for example, Shopify and Squarespace. These may be worth investigating before committing to a final decision.
But if your budget is a maximum of $0.00then there are still some options available.
What to consider before choosing a Free Website Builder
There are some critical decisions to make before you start looking at web builder tools. To choose the right tool for the job, you need to be clear about what that job really is.
Intended Purpose of Websites – First of all, what is your website for? Are you creating a personal blog, showcasing a portfolio, or perhaps setting up an e-commerce site? Different website builders cater to specific needs. Specify the main purpose of your website, and this will be your first step in narrowing down your options.
Essential Features – Next, decide what functionality you need. Maybe you need a contact form, or maybe a gallery slide is essential. Different website builders offer different features in their free plans. Match your list to the tool’s capabilities. Remember, it’s not just about what you need now but also about the features you might need in the near future.
Custom Level – How much control do you want over the design? If you have a specific design in mind, you’ll want a builder that offers a high level of customization. Some tools provide drag-and-drop flexibility, while others rely on default templates. Decide how custom or templated you want your design to be.
Advertisements and Branding —Free plans often come with ads. Some website builders may place a small banner on your site, while others may have more prominent advertising. Also, free versions do not allow custom domain names, so for URL It will look something like “your .buildername.com website.” Decide what you are comfortable with, especially in terms of professionalism and aesthetics.
Domains and Hosting –Building the site is only part of the puzzle; you must also publish it. That means it needs hosting and a domain. One of the first things many businesses do is find a suitable domain, so you may already have one. Maybe you also have hosting, and you want to make a new version of your site because you don’t like whatever free option your host offers.
The tools we’ll look at are all-in-one platforms, but there are some free self-hosting options.
Added –If you’re looking at an all-in-one platform, you should think about what else you might want from them. You may want a mailing list, more than just an email address, THIS tools, or other integrated marketing tools, for example.
Level of Effort –No one wants to make life more complicated than it has to be, but you should think about the required skill level that you are comfortable with. Are you happy with simple drag and drop, or do you want the option to get your hands dirty with API? (No judgment here.)
Long Term Goals –Think ahead. Will you eventually want to upgrade? Maybe you’re planning to grow your blog into a digital magazine or expand your online store. Make sure the platform you choose will be able to scale according to your wishes. Moving later can be a chore, or even impossible, without a full rebuild, so planning for growth now can save you potential problems down the road.
That’s the introductions out of the way, so let’s now look at what’s on offer…
11 The best of free website builders, 2023
It’s very flexible but also easy to use, whether you’re a complete beginner or an experienced designer. There are tons of resources, including customizable templates to suit different niches and plenty of how-to articles.
On the downside, with the free plan, you don’t get a custom domain, Wix ads appear on every page, online payments aren’t included, Google Analytics isn’t included, and you’re limited to a maximum of 500mb bandwidth (which is less than you think).
WordPress .com is a great platform for building a website, with many themes and plugins to customize. Its social sharing tools offer greater reach, and the large WordPress community provides extensive support.
However, it may take time to master, and the free plan comes with ads and restrictions. Also, it doesn’t offer the same level of control as WordPress.org. However, it is a great platform to create a first website.
Weebly is a simple and powerful website builder with e-commerce capabilities and automatic mobile optimization. The Weebly App Center offers tools to improve site functionality, and has functionality THIS foundation in place.
However, customization options are restrictive, and e-commerce tools are not as comprehensive as specialized platforms. Weebly is a solid choice for small businesses and personal sites.
Webflow offers the benefits of coding without the need for coding. Visually manipulate the design of your site with full control and distinctive designs. However, it is suitable for those with a basic understanding of web design principles.
Additionally, Webflow’s more advanced features come at a cost. On the free plan, you don’t get a custom domain. Each page has Webflow badges, you have a limited number of static pages, and no THIS tools.
Jimdo is a user-friendly platform with an intuitive interface. It optimizes sites for mobile devices and offers basic THIS tools. However, customization options and e-commerce tools are limited, and ads are displayed on your site. You will need to upgrade if you want to use a custom domain.
Webnode is a great choice for building websites quickly and easily. It’s over 40 million registered users, the ability to create multilingual sites with ease, and offers integrated THIS responsive tools and designs.
However, e-commerce support is fairly basic, templates are not customizable, and other customization options are limited. In addition, the free version has ads and does not allow custom domains.
HubSpot’s website builder offers an all-in-one approach to website design and marketing. It counts CRM, email marketing, and analytics in the free tier. The drag-and-drop editor and responsive design create a seamless experience for visitors on every screen, plus SSL security.
However, the free version has limited HubSpot branding and customization options. Paid plans offer more advanced features but can be expensive.
If you’re looking for an easy-to-use website builder that emphasizes attractive one-page designs, Strikingly could be the perfect choice for you. With built-in analytics, 24⁄7 support, and social media integration, it’s a great choice for anyone looking to build a website without a steep learning curve.
However, the free tier comes with Strikingly branding, limits you to one page, and only allows you to list one product on your online store. Additionally, while Strikingly offers a variety of templates, customization options are somewhat limited compared to more advanced platforms.
Location123 is an easy-to-use website builder with multilingual and basic capabilities THIS tools. It offers a library of icons and fonts to personalize your site.
However, the free plan includes Site123 branding, e-commerce features are limited, templates can be restrictive, and storage / bandwidth caps may limit high traffic or media content. And, you guessed it: no custom domains.
GoDaddy’s free plan is user-friendly for beginners, with integrated features such as contact forms, THIS tools, and email marketing. Templates are mobile responsive, but customization options are limited. Ad placement and lack of a custom domain may detract from a professional appearance.
The rigidity of the templates may feel restrictive to some designers looking for more creative freedom, and those who are limited THIS customization is a bit disappointing.
Ucraft’s free plan offers sleek templates, an easy-to-use, and basic drag-and-drop builder THIS aspects.
However, the branding watermark, page limits, and e-commerce restrictions may be a challenge for some users.
Remember, while free website builders are a great starting point, they come with trade-offs. None of the website platforms we looked at allow you to have your own custom domain on a free plan. If your site is a business, you might want to think hard about whether or not you’re willing to accept it.
That said, these free versions are a great way to test out a platform and see if it’s right for you.
Louise is a staff writer for WebdesignerDepot. She lives in Colorado, is a mom of two dogs, and when she’s not writing she likes to hike and volunteer.