By Kevin Purdy
This post was done in partnership with Wirecutter. When readers choose to buy Wirecutter’s independently chosen editorial picks, Wirecutter and Engadget may earn affiliate commission. Read the full website builder guide here.
After researching 17 of the top website-building services and hosts, building 20 websites with seven of the most promising ones, and changing hundreds of little things on each page, we believe Wix is the best way for a small business to put up a professional-looking website. Its templates, setup interview, and editing tools create modern, clean-looking sites that you can easily customize, and adding crucial tools like contact forms or restaurant menus is easier than with other website-building tools. Wix’s customer support is reliable, its free trial is generous, and its pricing is clear and fair for small businesses.
Beyond the basics of site editing, Wix offers a wealth of plug-ins for adding Google Maps, OpenTable, appointment booking, and other tools to your website. Its search engine optimization tools are easy to understand and use, and thanks to Wix’s size and scale, your site should remain reliable and available even under heavy traffic.
Weebly lacks the variety of templates that Wix provides, and it can’t automatically build you a site by asking you about your business. But Weebly’s editing interface is simpler and provides less room for error with its drag-and-drop boxes. Weebly also (paradoxically) offers deeper access to the code behind your site, but has fewer useful plug-ins and forms from the start. You should try Weebly if you can’t find a template or generated site you like on Wix, if you want to make some specific changes to your site using code (or a code-savvy helper), or if price is the most important factor for you, as the Starter package for Weebly costs one-third less than Wix’s comparable Combo package.
Every designer we spoke with specifically recommended Shopify for any business that’s looking to sell goods online. Although our top picks have built-in ecommerce tools, it makes more sense for most businesses to use Shopify, or at least its Lite version, and embed Shopify’s tools into their websites—Shopify works with both of our top picks, and you won’t be locked in if you decide to change your site later.
Why you should trust us
I’ve written a number of Wirecutter guides to software, including tax software, budget apps, and picks in our home-office guide. Before joining Wirecutter, I wrote about the Web and apps for years, both as an editor at the productivity and software site Lifehacker and as a freelancer for publications including Fast Company, Fortune, and ITworld. I have some experience building websites, with very basic tools (Notepad and HTML), ridiculously convoluted tools (Jekyll, which powers my personal site), and some of the modern building tools reviewed here, including WordPress and Squarespace.
In addition to using my own experience, I enlisted the help of a dozen Wirecutter writers and editors