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The top tools for building a small business website

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You have plenty of choices for developing your small business website, and it’s important to use the right tool for the job. Using the best website builder (opens in new tab) means you’ll create the perfect online presence with minimal effort. In this guide, we’ll cover the most popular website frameworks like WordPress (opens in new tab), Squarespace (opens in new tab), Wix (opens in new tab), and Shopify (opens in new tab)—so you can make an informed choice.

When you’re deciding on one of the best small business website builders (opens in new tab), it’s important to think about your business goals and the foundations of creating a small business website (opens in new tab). This helps you focus on the features and functions of your website to: 

  • Meet customer and user needs
  • Optimize for organic search placement
  • Strengthen branding, awareness, and trust
  • Maximize revenue and profits

Whether you’re looking for the best ecommerce website builders (opens in new tab) with a view to creating an online store, sharing blogs and articles, beautiful designs, or deep customization, we’ve got you covered. 

 Wix—deep customization and powerful add-on tools 

Wix's homepage

(Image credit: Wix)

Wix (opens in new tab) is the website-building powerhouse behind over 100 million websites. Wix provides multiple ways to create and edit your website, with plenty of templates and designs. The breadth, depth, and complexity of Wix’s tools may be slightly overwhelming for some users, and their plans are among the more expensive options. 

Key features of Wix

  • Very powerful, pixel-perfect website editor
  • More than 500 templates available
  • Plenty of design customization options
  • Ecommerce and online selling available on some plans
  • Build a basic website quickly with Wix Artificial Design Intelligence
  • Lots of additional tools and third-party apps to understand and refine your online presence

Potential drawbacks of Wix

  • Limited storage capacity and functionality on free and basic paid plans
  • Depth of tools and customization can be overwhelming for creating a basic website
  • Third-party apps can be expensive
  • Difficult to switch between templates and designs

Wix pricing and plans 

When to choose Wix as your website builder 

Wix is a great choice if you’re building a website where you want complete control over the look, design, feel, and user experience. There is a learning curve, and it can be pricier than other options, but as we said in our Wix review (opens in new tab), its drag-and-drop editor is flexible and easy to use, making it simple to create a pro website without knowing a lick of code. The huge list of great templates seals the deal.

Shopify—advanced ecommerce builder for online selling 

Shopify's homepage

(Image credit: Shopify)

Shopify (opens in new tab) does one thing really, really well—ecommerce. If you’re running an online store, especially if you’re selling physical products, then Shopify is hard to beat. Shopify provides a wide range of ecommerce tools, from creating your online store and product descriptions through to selling over multiple channels and integrating with many merchant and payment apps. 

Key features of Shopify 

  • Laser-focused on ecommerce and online selling
  • Fast and easy to build a product catalog and list items for sale
  • Deep, integrated ecosystem of tools and third-party apps for online selling across multiple channels and platforms
  • Store management dashboard for an at-a-glance understanding of your performance
  • Highly functional, feature-rich mobile app for store management on-the-go

Potential drawbacks of Shopify 

  • Ecommerce plans can be expensive compared to some other options
  • Third-party payment apps can have expensive transaction processing fees
  • Ecommerce only, if you don’t need that, there are other, better builders

Shopify pricing and plans 

When to choose Shopify as your website builder 

Shopify is a great option if you’re a traditional retail business expanding into ecommerce, or you’re exclusively selling online. Its deep integrations let your customers buy, wherever they are. As we said in our Shopify review (opens in new tab), as the world’s most popular ecommerce platform, Shopify naturally offers a great selection of tools to help you create a powerful online store. 

Squarespace—beautiful design and superb mobile themes 

Squarespace's homepage

(Image credit: Squarespace)

Squarespace (opens in new tab) provides a perfect blend of beautiful design and website building simplicity. It features dozens of crisp, professional templates and has a very strong focus on mobile-first website browsing. Squarespace does have a learning curve, and lacks some of the features of more specialist website builders. 

Key features of Squarespace 

  • Standout templates that are among the best of all website builders
  • Responsive designs that look great on tablets and smartphones
  • A range of built-in tools for marketing, communications, and ecommerce
  • Powerful blogging features and tools
  • Highly rated, 24x7 customer service
  • Relatively inexpensive compared to other website builders

Potential drawbacks of Squarespace 

  • There is a learning curve for using Squarespace and its editor
  • The Squarespace editor does have some limitations on placing elements
  • Squarespace isn’t as powerful as competitors if you have very specific needs like ecommerce, membership sites, or similar

Squarespace pricing and plans 

When to choose Squarespace as your website builder 

Squarespace is one of the best website builders if you want a simple but beautiful business website without all the bells and whistles. It’s ideal for businesses providing information to customers through blogs and static pages, especially if many of their customers are browsing on mobile devices. 

As we said in our Squarespace review (opens in new tab), Squarespace is a great website builder for those uninterested in website coding. It takes some practice to get used to the editing flow, but once you do, a gorgeous website is easy to make. 

WordPress hosted and self-hosted—powerful content management and a vast ecosystem of tools  

WordPress's homepage

(Image credit: WordPress)

WordPress (opens in new tab) is the most popular website content management system in the world, and with good reason. It’s extremely configurable, with a vast range of themes, tools, and third-party plugins that make a WordPress website able to do almost anything. But, all of that customization comes with an overhead, often requiring extra effort to get the most out of WordPress. 

WordPress hosted and self-hosted options 

If you want to build your website using WordPress, you have a couple of options: 

The WordPress hosted version is faster, simpler, and easier to set up, and there’s less to do behind the scenes. This option is typically more expensive than the self-hosted version, and the basic levels of the hosted plan do not allow access to WordPress plugins.

The WordPress self-hosted version means you’ll only pay a monthly or yearly hosting fee, and the WordPress installation itself is effectively free. Self-hosting does put more responsibility on you to ensure that everything works together, that your plugins are compatible, and that you administer your website properly.

Key features of WordPress 

  • Extremely deep configuration options
  • The widest range of themes, plugins, tools, and integrations of any website builder
  • WordPress websites can be customized for almost any purpose
  • Very cheap plans if you use a self-hosted WordPress option

Potential drawbacks of WordPress 

  • The WordPress hosted option only allows access to plugins and integrations—arguably the best feature of WordPress—on its more expensive pricing options
  • WordPress self-hosted options require overhead to set up and maintain your WordPress installation correctly
  • WordPress has a steep and demanding learning curve if you want to make full use of the platform

WordPress pricing and plans 

When to choose WordPress as your website builder

If you want deep customization, there’s an extremely good chance that WordPress can do it, and do it well. The issue is that configurability comes at a price—paying for a more expensive WordPress hosted plan, or spending lots of time, or paying for expert support with a self-hosted plan. 

As we said in our WordPress review (opens in new tab) for the WordPress hosted plan option, is a decent choice for small websites, but its limited design flexibility and high prices are major concerns.

We hope you’ve found this breakdown of the most popular website builders useful. Now, you can make an informed decision about the best website tools and frameworks to create a beautiful and powerful small business website.

Further reading on website builders

Read our step-by-step guides walking you through how to make a website with Wix (opens in new tab); how to build a website with Shopify (opens in new tab); how to make a website with Squarespace (opens in new tab); and how to make a website with WordPress (opens in new tab).

We also compared the four builders mentioned here with a range of competitors, including: Wix vs Shopify (opens in new tab)Wix vs Squarespace (opens in new tab)GoDaddy vs Wix (opens in new tab)Shopify vs BigCommerce (opens in new tab); Wix vs Squarespace vs Weebly (opens in new tab); WordPress vs Wix vs Squarespace (opens in new tab); Squarespace vs Shopify (opens in new tab); and Shopify vs WooCommerce (opens in new tab).

Paul is a professional writer who creates extensively researched, expert, in-depth guides across business, finance, and technology. He loves the challenge of taking complex subjects and breaking them down so they are easy to understand. He can quote 'The Princess Bride' in its entirety and believes the secret to good writing is Earl Grey tea.