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The best free website builders for small businesses

The best things in life aren’t free – but you can still set up a pretty decent website using the free plans or trial versions offered by these five platforms

First things first: the website builders we’re recommending here – including Wix, Squarespace, Weebly – aren’t completely free. To be more precise, they are popular, trusted platforms that offer free versions or free trials.

These free versions/trials usually limit the number of features you can access, or force you to host intrusive banner ads on your website pages. Some will also still charge you for a custom domain.

However, you can rest assured that we’ve really put these platforms through their paces to compile this list of the best free website builders.

Each website builder has been subjected to rigorous user testing, and then ranked on the six key factors that our small business audience told us matter most: ease of use, features, value for money, design flexibility, help and support, and customer score (i.e. how likely a user would be to recommend the product to a friend).

Whether you’re looking for a low-cost way to get your business online or a free version of a website builder to test your options before committing, this guide will tell you everything you need to know about choosing the best free website builder for your business.


Try the 5 best free website builders

Our best all-round website builder is also feature-rich and easy to use
Best for growing businesses, and those that want some design flexibility
Considering the quality of its service, this platform is great value for money
Plenty of support and minimal design options make this a great option for those that want to get up and running quickly
A free builder that allows you to make a great one-page website

Wix

Feature-rich, easy to use, offering heaps of support, and with universal approval from its own customers, Wix is our highest ranked website builder overall, and the platform we think offers the most for non-paying users.

You can get your Wix website up and running without spending a penny, and you’ll never be obliged to upgrade to a paid plan.

Most of its 500 templates are available with the free version, as well as a range of essential tools and services.

So, what’s the downside?

  • Visitors to your website will be constantly exposed to Wix banner ads, which follow you as you scroll down the page
  • You’ll also be forced to use a branded domain, e.g. www.startups.wixsite.co.uk, instead of www.startups.co.uk
  • You won’t be able to set up an online shop


How much does it cost to upgrade to a paid plan?


VIP

For everything and more

£16/month

Try now

ecommerce

Best for small businesses

£11/month

Try now

Unlimited

Best for freelancers /entrepreneurs

£8.50/month

Try Now

Combo

Best for personal use

£6/month

Try now

Read our full Wix review here


Squarespace

Squarespace homepage

Unlike Wix, the only free option offered by Squarespace is a 14-day trial.

However, you’ll be able to access a wide range of features, templates, and tools during that trial period, and Squarespace won’t take your credit card details until you decide that it’s the right platform for you.

Squarespace came second in our ranking of the best website builders, scoring highest for design flexibility, as well as second highest for help and support and value for money. It offers a great range of slick and stylish templates, as well as advanced ecommerce functionality.

The only real downsides of Squarespace are:

  • It’s a little pricier than other platforms (though you’re paying for a quality product)
  • It’s harder to use than rival platforms – the initial steps are easy enough, but the editing platform can be challenging

How much does it cost to upgrade to a paid plan?


Personal 

£10/month

Try now

Business

£15/month

Try now

Commerce basic

£20/month

Try now

Commerce+

£30/month

Try now

Read our full Squarespace review here


Weebly

If you’re looking for an intuitive design process, a decent range of features, and great value for money, Weebly is the website builder for you. But don’t just take our word for it: 90% of its customers say they would recommend it to a friend.

With the free version, you get to choose from a selection of quality templates – all of which are mobile responsive. You can also access an easy to use dashboard of tools, including SEO optimisation.

Like Wix, you’ll have to use an assigned URL with the free plan, but the on-page ads are far more subtle. The more advanced features offered by Weebly are only available with paid plans, and you won’t be able to use the ecommerce functions.


How much does it cost to upgrade to a paid plan?


Free

Basic use

£0

Try now

Connect

Connect a domain

£4/month

Try now

Pro

Organisations

£9/month

Try now

Business

Businesses/stores

£18/month

Try now


SITE123

SITE123 is a great no-frills option if design isn’t your primary concern.

Unlike other website builders, this simplistic but effective platform doesn’t offer you a choice of templates. Instead, you choose a category, and it provides you with a default design that can be tweaked with some basic editing tools.

While this means you don’t get a great deal of creative freedom, it removes the agony of choice, and allows you to get your website live with minimal hassle. SITE123 also offers excellent 24/7 support via live chat.

On the downside, the designs on offer look old-fashioned compared to other website builders, and the free domain name ends with the less well-recognised .me instead of .com.


How much does it cost to upgrade to a paid plan?

Premium

$12.80/month (£10.24)

Try now


Strikingly

Strikingly templates

We’ve highlighted the “simplicity” of some of the other website builders above, but Strikingly takes simplicity to a new level: you’re limited to a one-page website.

However, the templates on offer will ensure that your sole website page looks just as stylish as those offered by its more expensive rivals. Better still, you can change the template as many times as you like – you can also create as many websites as you like.

With the free plan, you get 5GB monthly bandwidth and 24/7 customer support. You’re also allowed to sell one product per site, giving you the chance to try out Strikingly’s ecommerce capabilities before committing to a paid plan.

The advertising you’re forced to host on your site is probably the most subtle of all the builders we’ve reviewed, and the only concession to Strikingly you need to make in your domain is the brand name before the .com, e.g. www.yourwebsite.strikingly.com

However, unlike all the other builders listed, Strikingly’s free plan doesn’t include an SSL certificate, meaning anybody visiting your site will be warned that it’s not secure.


How much does it cost to upgrade to a paid plan?


Limited

$8/month (£6.42)

Try now

Pro

$16/month (£12.83)

Try now

VIP

$49/month (£39.30)

Try now


Next steps

So, there you have it. The five tried and tested website builders above offer you the most effective way to get a website up and running for free.

However, as you’ve seen, whichever option you choose, you’re going to be limited in some way.

Depending on your ambitions for your online presence, this may or may not matter. But if you want to build a professional looking website, and to have access to all the tools and features you need to make your online presence a success, then it’s worth upgrading to a paid plan sooner rather than later.

Check out our ranking of the best website builders for small business here. Alternatively, find out more about how to create a business website here.


Henry Williams
Henry Williams

Henry has been writing for Startups.co.uk since 2015, covering everything from business finance and web builders to tax and red tape. He’s also contributed to many of our industry-renowned annual indexes, including Startups 100 and Young Guns, and created a number of the site’s popular how to guides. Before joining the team, he reviewed films for a culture website, and still harbours ambitions of being a screenwriter.