Free website builders may have once seemed too good to be true, but we set out to demonstrate that this is not always the case.
A question we often get asked is just how do these free website builders make their money? Is there something sketchy going on? Luckily, it’s all super safe and above board. These website builders operate on what’s known as a ‘freemium’ business model, whereby the customers who want to pay for extra features effectively fund those who are happy with a limited plan – no strings attached.
That said, there are some elements that you should pay close attention to when deciding on which free website builder you choose.
To create this ranking of the best free website builders, we drew upon our extensive research and user testing for each website builder as a whole, and combined this with a specific focus on their free plans, paying close attention to whether or not the builder ticked these boxes:
Clear domain name
Free website builders won’t let you link up a custom domain name – but what does the auto-generated one look like? For example, a format like IM Creator’s (im-creator.com/free/yourname/yoursite) could make your site look quite unprofessional.
Low upgrade cost
Upgrading to a paid plan comes with clear benefits, so it’s good to know how much this would cost.
You don’t need us to tell you that a website plastered in ads won’t look as good as one without! Our screenshots should help you evaluate the ads of each website builder, and decide on the least intrusive option for you.
Free SSL certificate
Most website builders include a free SSL certificate as standard, but a couple don’t (we’ve flagged when this is the case). Without an SSL certificate, your website will display as ‘Not secure’ to visitors. You can buy an SSL certificate separately for around $10/year.
Most free website builders have a cap on the amount of content you can upload to your site. If you know you want to include lots of images or videos, be mindful of how quickly you’d hit this cap.
Easy to use
There’s no point in finding a website builder that ticks the boxes above, only to discover it’s clunky and frustrating to use. We’ve given an indication of how easy each website builder is to use, based on our research and user testing.
Ecommerce functionality (optional)
If you need to sell through your free website builder, this limits your options a little. Keep an eye out for website builders we’ve flagged as allowing you to sell on a free plan, like Weebly.
By going through the process of creating a free website with each builder for this article, we’ve been able to give a really accurate first-hand account of the process.