Your website matters. It’s a reflection of you, whether you’re an individual, business, or brand. So if you’re looking to use a website builder to create yours, there’s no point choosing one on a whim.
That’s where we – the experts – come in!
Our primary aim is to help you get set up online and grow your business, and finding the right website builder for your needs is just one step in the wider process. You might’ve read one of our reviews or guides, but how did we decide which website builders to highlight? Let’s take a look at how we conduct our website builder research.
You can rest assured that we have never sold rankings or positions, and any money we do make on our pages is solely through referral commissions and affiliate links. To put it simply, we get paid if a reader joins a builder or platform using one of our links, which means we only get paid if our readers are happy – and quite often, we can offer you an exclusive deal at the same time!
Since the birth of Website Builder Expert in 2012, we’ve accumulated years of experience testing and researching website builders, so it’s no surprise that our research process is a well-oiled machine at this point.
Unlike many of our competitors, we conduct real-life research and evaluate the needs of our readers. We ask what you want to know, and then put these website builders through their paces to reveal fair, accurate, and reliable ratings. This means we can make the best recommendations.
We’ve tested over 50 of the top website builders on the market, and have since been able to narrow it down to our recommended few.
Here’s a quick overview of our research process:
We mention areas of investigation, but what do we test specifically? We focus on six main categories:
- Ease of use
- Website features
- Value for money
- Design functionalities
- Help and support
- Customer score
These areas are then broken down further into sub-categories where additional tests are run. When the scores from these sub-cats are added together, this gives us a total score for that overall area. And, once all six areas of investigation have been examined, these individual scores combine to give us an overall score (out of five) for each website builder.
Our 2023 analysis has identified a shift in price points across every website builder, with major builders like Wix, Squarespace, and GoDaddy increasing their prices by an average of 30%, or more! So we’ve tweaked how we look at value for money going forward – we now focus more heavily on “feature vs price” rather than just the average pricing plan.
This is so we can avoid promoting simply the cheapest plan, and instead highlight what builders offer the best value.
Another noticeable change in this year’s research is our focus on the following criteria:
- Marketing – Prioritizing features that support your online growth
- Ecommerce – Because 80% of our readers told us they want to sell online
- Design – The look and user experience of your website is more important than ever due to increasing competition
We also made sure to get everyday users to test the builders for us – after all, we use and look at the builders every day so it wouldn’t be fair if we only took internal feedback!
Still with us? Great! Below, we’ll explain exactly what we looked at in each area and how our research process comes together:
Everyone is different. What’s easy for us might not be easy for you, and vice versa. It’s in the name – we’re website builder experts – so it’s important we gather feedback from regular website builder users too.
To calculate our latest ease of use scores, we assembled a group of everyday people with varying tech skills and asked them to create their own website using an assigned website builder. Each person created the same website by working off a task sheet that we designed. They were asked to score how easy – or hard – they found each task, and from there we were able to calculate an “ease of use” score for each builder.
A feature can be described as anything a website builder is capable of doing. For example, if you can set up an online store as part of your website, that platform has ecommerce features.
Alongside testing what each website builder offered, we also assess the quality of its features. We do this by seeing precisely what options are available – if we take social media as an example, we’d investigate if you can link your social accounts to your website, how many social media platforms are supported, if you can embed live feeds to your pages, and more.
We also establish what features are available internally and what features are available through third-party platforms via an app market. If a feature is only available as an app, this would lower the builder’s feature score, since it means it’s not readily accessible to use.
Other examples of features we test include:
- Blogging: Does the builder support a blogging function? If so, we look to see if this includes the ability to archive, segment categories, and add comments. Whether the builder supports a search bar, RSS feed, social bookmarking, and blog-specific analytics, is also taken into account.
- SEO: How good is each platform at helping you rank highly on search engines like Google? Can you edit meta titles/descriptions, customize URLs, get keyword support, access SEO-specific apps, and so on?
- Internationalization: How many languages are supported? Does the website builder offer translation tools?
- Marketing: Are there built-in email marketing tools? Does the builder integrate with social media platforms? Can you share content between your website and social feeds? Are third-party marketing apps available?
- Domains & emails: Is a free domain offered with your website builder plan? If not, how much does it cost and can you buy one directly from the builder? Does your plan come with professional email accounts?
As we’ve mentioned already, extra weight was given to marketing and ecommerce scores to better represent the needs of our readers in 2023, since online growth and selling online are key for them.
As of 2023, pricing has increased across the website builder market, with top builders, such as Wix, Squarespace, GoDaddy, and Weebly bumping up their prices by an average of 30%, or more!
As a result, we’ve tweaked our “value for money” algorithm. Finding the right balance between cost and quality is important, but given the price hikes, we’ve focused more heavily on the quality of a website builder’s features vs the price, rather than just the average cost of premium plans.
This means we can accurately judge which plans are the most cost-effective and share the builders that offer the best value for money.
When assessing value, we also look into whether each platform offers a free plan (and what that contains), and if not, if there’s a free trial – and how long it lasts.
To the naked eye, web design is a lot like art – one person’s genius is another person’s garbage. In order to gain a comprehensive insight into web design and what truly matters, we spoke to leading experts in the field.
They helped us understand what constitutes good design, and what helps users engage with a website effectively. From this, we drew up a list of criteria which each website builder’s templates were then judged:
- Do the templates accommodate a wide range of popular industries?
- Can you easily switch templates once your website is live?
- Is the template aesthetically pleasing?
- Are the templates optimized for mobiles, tablets, and desktops?
- Can you design your website using ADI?
As you’ve probably guessed from the title of this investigation area, we chose to break it down into the help you receive and the support provided.
For help, we look at the services on offer. Can you get help via email, phone, live chat, social media, forums, or all of the above? Is help available at any time of the day or week? We’ve also tested each platform’s help center by inputting common queries and judging the quality of responses.
For support, we focus mainly on security – restore options and autosave capabilities are all investigated.
Finally, we also make sure to assess the level of help and support provided for the price paid. In some cases, VIP support is available after upgrading to a higher plan, or limited support is offered on the cheapest plan.
The final area is what you, our readers, care most about. Having a real connection with our audience means we know what categories are important to you.
We know that value for money is key for many website builder users, so we added that into the mix, and we also interviewed users who tested the builders directly. As part of the interview, one question we asked was how likely they’d be to recommend the builder to a friend. A lot goes into formulating an overall customer score, and other examples of sub-categories include:
- Brand recognition
- Market analysis
Natasha Willett – As Website Builder Expert’s Lead Researcher, Natasha has clocked over 9,600 hours of product research and testing to bring you fair recommendations based on data. But don’t just take our word for it! Natasha has expert credentials in research and is fully qualified with a BSc, Ma, and MMRS. She’s worked as a mixed method researcher for the last nine years (with five years at Website Builder Expert), and she’s a member of the Market Research Society.
Please note the insight contained within this article is for general information purposes only. We’re glad to answer any questions you may have about this article and its supporting research. For further information, please contact Website Builder Expert directly via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.