5 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.

Our research

When reviewing website builders, our expert team of writers and independent researchers focuses in on the most important factors for small business owners. We look at the range of templates and designs available to choose from; how easy it is to get started building your site and customising it; the help and support options available; the range of available plugins, apps and extensions; the ability to customise a mobile design, and above all, the value for money – including any hidden pricing, ongoing fees, and initial setup costs.
Written and reviewed by:
Henry Williams headshot
Robyn Summers-Emler Grow Online Editor

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If you’re looking to create a business website, cost is going to be one of your key concerns. Paying a developer can run into the thousands, but, thanks to website builders, you can make a professional-looking website for very little – or even, completely free.

Out of the five best free website builders for small businesses on our shortlist, our top choice is Wix because it offers the most features to its non-paying users out of any web builder.

Earning an overall test score of 4.8 out of 5 in our own product trials, Wix made it to the top of our list as the best website builder for small UK businesses. The fact it offers a free plan that gives you access to an abundance of great features, market-leading design functionality, and excellent customer support also makes it our number one choice for those businesses wanting to create a website and keen to use a free website builder to do so.

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Wix

Squarespace

GoDaddy

Weebly

Jimdo

BEST FOR

Best all-round website builder for small businesses

BEST FOR

Design flexibility & businesses looking to scale

BEST FOR

Ease of use and simplicity

BEST FOR

Value for money

BEST FOR

Creating a website in under an hour (thanks to its ADI platform)

Free plan
Free plan
Free plan
Free plan
Free plan
Free trial
Free trial
Free trial
Free trial
Free trial
Cheapest paid plan

Light – £7.50 per month

Cheapest paid plan

Personal – £12 per month

10% off with code SU10

Cheapest paid plan

Basic – £6.99 per month

Cheapest paid plan

Connect – £4 per month

Cheapest paid plan

Start – £9 per month

Visit
Try Wix
Visit
Try Squarespace
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Try GoDaddy
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Try Weebly
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Try Jimdo

Squarespace isn’t far behind in second place, offering an array of relevant features for those with small site offerings, earning an overall score of 4.6 out of 5.

Each website builder has been subjected to our 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).

So, 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.

What is a free website builder?

A website builder allows you to create a website without coding. Free website builders let you do this without any payment. While a free website builder can create a professional-looking website for you, there will be certain limitations. your site may have a URL that includes the website builder’s brand name, for instance, or the mount of traffic it can handle could be capped.

Nonetheless, free website builders are a great solution for small businesses who want to get their site live without having to invest a lot of money or time. Website builders are an intuitive solution to putting together a site through its drag-and-drop interfaces, flexibility, and wealth of features.

You can either use an online or offline website builder. An offline website builder is a software you download to create the site on your personal computer. The more popular option, however, is an online website builder. With this approach, you create and edit your website directly over the internet, with everything safely stored in the cloud.

1. Wix

wix ad website example

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 scoring a solid 4.8/5, 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. Squarespace on the other hand limits visitors to your site by keeping it private, forcing your hand to upgrade to a paid plan so you can outreach to customers and begin growing your audience online.

Most of Wix’s over 800 templates are available with the free version, as well as a range of essential tools and services that include blog creation and online booking functionality.

Pros:
  • Majority of its 800-plus templates are available to use
  • Blog post functionality is available on the free plan
  • Can add an online booking feature so customers can easily arrange appointments online
Cons:
  • 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?

Wix has a range of pricing plans for those looking to upgrade:

  • Wix Light plan – £7.50 per month
  • Wix Core plan  – £14 per month
  • Wix Business plan – £20 per month
  • Wix Business Elite plan – £119 per month
  • Wix Enterprise plan – Bespoke quote

As you can see, you won’t have to spend much in order to upgrade from the limitations of a free Wix plan. See our full Wix pricing guide to understand what each tier offers.

2. Squarespace

Squarespace homepage

Unlike Wix and the other providers included in this list, the only free option offered by Squarespace is a 14-day free trial.

However, you can save 10% off Squarespace when users enter the code SU10 when purchasing a plan.

With the 14-day free trial, 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, so no wonder it scored a very impressive 4.6 out of 5 star rating.

Its free trial does leave a lot to be desired, however; the fact your customers cannot access the site while you’re on the free trial (unless you share them a password link) is in stark contrast to Wix’s free plan website visibility.

Squarespace free trial pros and cons

Pros:
  • Access to Squarespace's free 'getting started' webinar - where you'll be shown the basics of setting up a site
  • Access to nearly every premium feature - including announcement block and promotional pop ups
  • Can test out integrations with other products like Mailchimp for email communication and newsletters
Cons:
  • Our user testing has revealed that it isn't the easiest platform to use, and its editing tools can be challenging
  • Your site is private during your trial, but you can allow certain visitors by adding a password
  • Can't use ecommerce features and can't sell online

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

When you’re done with the Squarespace trial, there are several pricing plans to pick between:

  • Personal: £12 a month – not recommended for business sites
  • Business: £17 a month – includes ecommerce functionality with 3% transaction fees
  • Commerce Basic: £23 a month – ecommerce functionality with 0% transaction fees
  • Commerce Advanced: £35 a month – advanced functionality for online selling and shipping with 0% transaction fees

3. GoDaddy

There are plenty of reasons why GoDaddy is our third favourite web builder, but its array of small business-centric features and user-friendly design make it the ideal choice for those startups and micro businesses requiring small site offerings.

It certainly offers the quickest and most efficient website building experience, and its free plan comes with 100s of modern, professional templates and built-in tools for SEO*, social media and email marketing to help your business grow at zero cost to your business.

This is unlike Jimdo’s free plan offering, which offers little marketing functionality and zero SEO guidance, leaving you struggling to grow your online presence before you’ve even upgraded to a paid plan.

Similar to Wix, with GoDaddy you’ll be subject to a branded domain until you begin paying for its service. You also won’t be able to open an online store or use any ecommerce functions on the free plan.

GoDaddy free plan pros and cons

Pros:
  • Free professional images available for you to use to spruce up your site
  • Access to 100's of modern templates to help you create a slick website
  • Built-in tools for SEO, social media and email marketing to help your business grow and prepare you for opening an online store
Cons:
  • You won't be able to use a custom domain until you upgrade to a paid plan
  • Marketing tools are very limited, and you'll need to upgrade to access the better options
  • Can't open an online store on the free plan

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

GoDaddy has a good selection of pricing plans from which to choose:

  • One month on the GoDaddy Basic plan costs £7.99 per month (annual rate is £4.99 per month).
  • One month on the GoDaddy Standard plan costs £11.99 per month (annual rate is £7.99 per month).
  • One month on the GoDaddy Premium plan costs £16.99 per month (annual rate is £11.99 per month).
  • One month on the GoDaddy Ecommerce plan costs £19.99 per month (annual rate is £13.99 per month).
Want to know how to set up your own business website?

Visit our dedicated guide to find out how to create a business website here.

4. Weebly

weebly mobile

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, and in light of our recent research Weebly scored a solid overall 3.7 out of 5 score rating, with our user testers appreciating the web builders website features and value for money.

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. This will help you improve your website’s search rankings and compete with other brands – all at no cost to you.

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 its ecommerce functions.

Weebly free plan pros and cons

Pros:
  • Free expert starter guides and planning tools to help you get started
  • Search engine optimisation (SEO) features to help your site and your brand get noticed and appear on search engines
  • Lead capture and contact forms are available with Weebly's free plan - so you can't start building a customer base before building an online store with a paid plan
Cons:
  • No ecommerce functionality on the free plan - so you won't be able to set up an online store
  • Domain cannot be custom - must have Weebly branding

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

Here’s the run down on Weebly’s pricing plans, each based upon an annual payment setup:

  • Personal: £5 a month
  • Professional: £9 a month
  • Performance: £19 a month

5. Jimdo Dolphin

Jimdo Dolphin is a great option for small business owners that want to get their website up and running quickly and with little fuss. However, its lacklustre features and below-par help and support for its customers have kept its scoring low, achieving only 3.3 out of 5 stars in our most recent round of research.

Its ADI functionality means it will ask you a series of questions to figure out the type of website you want before you select some simple options (such as colour palettes). From this it will create your website for you, saving you tons of time and effort dealing with complex designs and editing processes before you can even get going.

The ADI functionality is available on the free plan, which is great for those businesses who want a simple, basic website that does the job. This automation, unfortunately, makes Jimdo’s website builder capabilities limited compared to its competitors, especially when it comes to customisation and feature offerings that you get with the likes of Wix.

The free plan also comes with a dedicated mobile editor view to help optimise your site for mobile formatting. But it lacks the all-important free plan features that other competitors provide, such as Weebly’s lead capture and contact forms – limiting its users to how much they can do on Jimdo’s free plan.

Jimdo Dolphin free plan pros and cons

Pros:
  • ADI functionality makes it easy to start your website in just minutes by answering a few simple questions
  • Dedicated mobile editor viewpoint so you can optimise your site and make it ideal for mobile viewing
Cons:
  • Social marketing and SEO aren't available on the free plan
  • Visitors to your website will be subject to Jimdo ads
  • You'll need to upgrade to have access to a custom domain

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

Jimdo Dolphin has a selection of payment plans to consider when upgrading from the free taster tier:

  • Start: £9 a month
  • Grow: £15 a month
  • Grow & Legal: £20 a month
  • Unlimited: £39 a month

How does a free website builder work?

Free or paid, website builders are usually very intuitive and easy to use. You start out by choosing a template. Next, you star dragging-and-dropping elements into your editor to build your website piece by piece. You can add headings, texts, images, videos, sub-pages, and an inventory of products if you’re an ecommerce website. What you see is exactly how your website will appear when it goes live.

With a free website builder, you can publish the site live, even without paying. But, it’s unlikely to be perfect – you may have to put up with having the builder’s branding in your URL, or displayed as advertising banners across your site. To get rid of these elements, you’ll need to upgrade to a paid plan.

More advanced website builders will let you code bits of your website if you’d like. You can also get your hands on ecommerce website builders which work very similarly to standard website builders, except they have a whole series of ecommerce specific.

What types of businesses are free website builders suitable for?

Website builders are perfect for businesses with little or no technical experience. You can easily design and change your website design without having to resort to an expert.

However, free website builders are arguably a bad choice for most businesses, because of the limitations on the free tiers. These can include:

  • the website builder name being part of your URL
  • branding or banner adverts for the website builder appearing on your site
  • a cap on the number of site visitors or amount of data you can store, including images and videos

Understandably, for businesses wanting to give a professional impression to their customers, these drawbacks may be a no-go. The good news is the paid-for website builder plans are great value, and they can immediately do away with the above issues.

Paid plans start with very small fees – typically under £10 per month. This makes them great for small businesses because they’re so affordable and easy to use.

How we test website builders for small businesses

We tested 10 website builders to evaluate them in terms of functionality, usability, accuracy, and aesthetics so we can make the most useful recommendations to small UK-based businesses.

Our rigorous testing process means these products have been scored and rated in six main categories of investigation and 33 subcategories – in fact, we covered 251 areas of investigation in total. We then gave each category score a ‘relevance weighting' to ensure the product's final score perfectly reflects the needs of our Startups.co.uk readers.

Our main testing categories for website builders are:

Website Features: the capabilities and functionalities offered by a website builder, e.g. blog functionality, SEO capability, and marketing capacity.

Design: the aesthetic appeal and visual layout of a website created using a website builder. It encompasses aspects such as page templates and customisable themes.

Customer Score: external customer opinion; the feedback and ratings given by customers who have used a particular website builder – the market position and reputation a website builder holds.

Ease of Use: how user-friendly and intuitive a website builder is for people with varying levels of technical expertise.

Value for Money: the balance between the cost of a website builder and the benefits it provides. It considers factors such as pricing plans, subscription models, and available features.

Help and Support: the assistance and resources available to users when they encounter issues or need guidance while using a website builder.

The Startups product testing process

The Startups product testing process diagram

Final thoughts: the best free website builders

From our review of each free website builder, it is clear to see why Wix is the best free web-building option.

You get to enjoy the vast majority of excellent features that make Wix the best website builder for small businesses without upgrading to a paid plan.

You also get the option of a free trial once you do make the decision to upgrade; Wix is the only provider on our list to do this.

Squarespace, although a brilliant website builder when it comes to aesthetics and design functionality, doesn’t offer a free plan, let alone one with such excellent features. However, it does offer a free trial, plus you can use the code SU10 to save 10% off any Squarespace premium plan.

As you’ve seen, whichever option you choose, you’re going to be limited in some way if you opt for a free web builder plan. 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 access to all the tools and features you need to scale the online side of your business, then it’s worth upgrading to a paid plan sooner rather than later.

This is especially important if you need an online store; you can’t sell your products and services online until you upgrade to a premium, paid plan with any of the builders on this list.

Whether you think a free or premium plan is the way to go for your visit, the next step is to visit Wix or the best-sounding web builder from this page (just click their links) to find out more and choose a plan that suits you.

FAQs
  • Is Wix actually free?
    Wix is indeed free if you choose the free plan. However we don't recommend this as an option for businesses, as you can't sell online and your site will be littered with Wix ads. You'll also have no custom domain - which doesn't exactly scream professionalism. We would however suggest you use a Wix free plan to test out the features and have a play around - although you can also do this using a Wix free trial option.
  • Can I make a completely free website?
    Yes, indeed you can. But there are limitations to what you can do with any website that you create using a free plan that you must be aware of. For every website builder, including Wix, you aren't able to sell online until you purchase a paid/premium plan. However you can still create a website and begin building your audience base and attracting customers to your website, as well as taking bookings and capturing leads (for platforms like Wix and Weebly).
  • How do I build my website for free?
    To build a website for free, simply select the free plan option on the website builders pricing or plan page. Be sure to select the free plan option instead of the free trial option for some providers, as there is typically a limit on how long you can use a free trial website for (14 days in most cases) before you will have to upgrade to a premium plan or lose access to your website.
  • Is WordPress better than Wix?
    For most small business owners, WordPress is not better than Wix. The only time WordPress may out perform Wix is when you have a solid level of coding experience, and can build using an open source platform (which is how WordPress operates). If you have no coding experience however, Wix is the outright winner every time as it is much easier to use.

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Written by:
Henry Williams headshot
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 acted as project lead on many of our industry-renowned annual indexes, including Startups 100 and Business Ideas, and created a number of the site’s popular how to guides.
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