How to Choose Website Color Schemes

website color schemes color swatch example

Rules and examples for making an effective and eye-catching website design

 

Dale McManus

Co-Founder & Web Developer

Jan. 27, 2020

 

Hey, my name is Dale! My partner Alex and I have helped tens of thousands of people build beautiful websites around the world. In this fully-packed, step-by-step guide, you’ll learn How To Choose A Website Color Scheme and we’ll compare different sites and color schemes to inspire your search. Let’s dive in!

  • Level of Expertise:
    Beginner
  • Time To Complete:
    30 Minutes
  • What You Get:
    Working Knowledge

For the record: It’s super important for us to keep this site 100% free for you and 100% high quality. To help us do that, we’ve partnered with some of the products we recommend and earn a commission if you buy through our links. Read our full disclosure and partners list here.

There are a ton of ways you can make your pro site stand out online, but your website color scheme is one of the most important.

It’s one of the first things people notice – and when your visitors have an average attention span of (at most) 8.25, the color palette you use to shade all the buttons, text, and backgrounds of your site is super critical for getting people to stick around.

So how the heck do you go about choosing your website color scheme?

Well, it all starts with this here post…

website color schemes color swatch example

What is a color scheme?

First a quick definition from our friends at Wikipedia (well, we like them; they probably don’t know we exist tbh):

“In color theory, a color scheme is the choice of colors used in design for a range of media.”

In less formal, wiki-style terms: a color scheme (or color palette) is the set of colors you use on your site to create your own unique style and appeal to your visitors.

Types of color schemes

Technically, a color scheme could be any number of colors in any combination – just two shades of blue to every color of the rainbow (heart eyes emoji).

But because some colors look amazing together and others are very wtf, you’ll typically find a website’s color scheme follows one of a few “color harmony” rules.

Analogous

website color schemes analogous wheel

Analogous color schemes use colors that are next to each other on the color wheel (that thing we all learned about in 1st-grade art class – thanks Ms. Zelwiger, hope you finally found a husband!).

Because the colors are all pretty close to one another, websites with Analogous color schemes are versatile and comfortable – but you’ll want to make sure you have enough contrast between different website elements so that things don’t turn into a jumbled mess.

How do you do that?

Use one color as your primary, dominant color used for more important pieces of your site, another color as your main support, and the third, fourth, fifth colors just as accents on smaller pieces.

Monochromatic

website color schemes monochromatic wheel

If you’re active enough on Insta, or you’re really into grammar/Latin, you probably know that “monochrome” means “one color” – usually black and white.

BUT monochrome color schemes can technically be based on any one hue (red/blue/yellow/etc) in combination with 2 or more shades, tones, and tints.

On the plus side, websites that use a monochrome color palette have a simple feel and are hard to mess up by using clashing color combinations.

But using one color for your whole site can make it harder to evoke an emotional response in your visitors that gets and keeps them interested.

And you can have problems with elements like text, buttons, etc. blending together.

So you’ll have to be careful about your use of other website design elements like layout and typography to keep things interesting and understandable.

Triadic

website color schemes triadic wheel

Triadic website color schemes use 3 colors (which you grammar nerds will know because the Latin prefix “tri-” means “three”) that are evenly spaced around the color wheel.

This means your colors will have a good amount of contrast with each other, but not quite as much as a complementary color palette – so you can use these to make a website that pops but not too much.

Complementary

website color schemes complementary wheel

This is the one we all remember from grade school – complementary color schemes use colors that are opposite one another on the color wheel.

Using a complementary color palette on your website can make for a site that really stands out because of the color contrast, but you’ll want to be careful with how you use your colors.

If you go too crazy with them, your site can quickly become super stressful to look at (for example, don’t use green text on a red background; no one loves Christmas that much).

Compound

website color schemes compound wheel

Compound or “split-complementary” color schemes as some design geeks call them use two colors adjacent to your primary color’s complementary color.

It’s a solid choice for beginner web designers because you can get the same kind of visual contrast and interest, but there’s less tension between the colors so it’s harder to make a site that wigs visitors out.

Why are website color schemes important?

Whether you notice it as you’re scrolling through Insta, searching through Amazon, or endlessly clicking the next video in Youtube recommends, colors have a major impact on how we feel – on the web and in the real world.

Example: science has shown red and yellow increase heart rate.

So choosing the perfect color palette for your website color scheme is more than just an “I like blue” or “looks good enough for me” kinda thing.

But before we dive into how to choose the best color combination for your site, let’s look at a few reasons why all that work is important in the first place.

#1: Color helps boost brand recognition (and that’s important)

If you were to picture Starbucks, what do you see?

Those Trenta Triple Caramel Macchiato you “occasionally” drink too late at night might be it.

But it’s more likely you saw the iconic green circle with the fancy fish lady in it.

green color palette starbucks logo
Source: Pixabay

It’s hard to imagine Starbucks without seeing “Starbucks Green,” and that’s the point!

That color serves two purposes for the coffee giant:

  1. It’s a simple, distinctive color that helps them stand out from the crowd and helps you remember them
  2. The color itself is calming and associates them with health and wellness (even though we all know mainlining their coffee as we do is not doctor recommended).

Picking a website color palette is about more than just looking cool – it’s a key part of creating your brand and selling any products or services you’ll offer through your site.

According to research by online marketing master Neil Patel:

  • 85% of shoppers say color is a primary reason they buy products.
  • Color increases brand recognition by 80% (and people are more likely to trust and visit sites with brands they trust).
color palettes in marketing and branding infographic
Source: Neil Patel

And according to a study from Northumbria and Sheffield Universities (they’re in the old UK so they must be solid… always trust a British accent/research we always say!), website first impressions are 94% design-related.

And color is obviously a huge part of web design (which is why we’re talking about it!).

It’s 100% essential that your site makes a solid first impression with people, one that’s memorable enough that they return to your site whether you want to sell them something helpful or just share more interesting and valuable insights (kind of like we do here!).

That’s key reason numero uno it’s important to have a mind-blowingly awesome website color scheme.

#2: Color affects how people feel about your site

Research from the University of Winnipeg (that’s in Canada for those keeping track of our research world tour) found two important things related to website color schemes:

  1. People make their initial judgments of a website/business/product within the first 90 seconds of their first interaction.
  2. 62-90% of that initial judgment is based on color.

Which makes sense: color is one of the easiest pieces of information to “understand.”

Your brain can sense and evaluate things based on color almost instantly, while things like images, words, and ease of interaction take more time and clicking/scrolling around to process.

So how do you use color to your advantage to make people more likely to come back to your site again and again?

By leveraging the power of (echoey voice) “The Psychology of Color.”

What do colors mean?

That’s right kids, there’s a whole field of science dedicated to studying how colors affect our behavior.

Through loads of not-so-top-secret experiments and research, it’s been proven that colors do, in fact, make us feel things.

And when it comes to creating pro websites, that means you’d best pick a website color palette that makes them feel the kind of feels you want them to feel based on your site’s purpose.

But how in the holy heck do you do that?

Well, it starts with knowing what feelings each color makes feelers feel (we’ll stop after this, promise).

Here’s the low-down:

Black
example dark color palette black website
Source: Bornfight

To get it out of the way for those of you who remember 1st-grade art class: yes, black is a color; no, black is not a color.

For our purposes here, though, it’s lumped in the “color” section of the website design tools and that’s good enough for us.

Black is the strongest neutral color (which also includes gray, white, and brown) and represents power, sophistication, luxury, and formality.

Because it’s both neutral and powerful, the impression black can make varies a lot depending on how you use it on your site.

When used as more than just an accent or text color, it can lend a sense of elegance or edginess to your website design.

Depending on the other colors you combine it with, it can also give your site a conservative/traditional or unconventional/modern feeling, as well as senses of sophistication and mystery.

Gray
vintage color palette gray example website
Source: Frames

Gray is another neutral color, which gives sites that use gray a sense of seriousness, precision, control and lack of emotion…

Which can be a good thing on sites meant for technology, banking, legal services, etc.

Gray can also lend a sense of sophistication to your site when you substitute dark grays for places you would otherwise use black, or light grays in places you would have used white.

White
color themes white website example
Source: Miriam Peters

White is the color of purity, cleanliness, newness, and simplicity, which makes it great for healthcare, charity, and technology sites in particular.

Though obviously it’s kind of a default background color for a ton of other kinds of sites on the web because it works well with just about any other color(s).

Brown
types of color schemes for websites brown example
Source: Keepers of the River

Brown is obviously a natural color (dirt and trees and stones and such).

Because of that, it’s typically associated with dependability, earthiness, and reliability.

When used as a replacement for black, white, or gray in backgrounds, it brings a feeling of warmth and wholesomeness to your web designs.

Blue
blue color palette website example
Source: Plink

Blue is a super flexible color – how light or dark the blue you use can change its meaning a good bit.

Dark blues are considered strong and reliable, while light blues are calming and friendly, and really bright blues are refreshing and energizing.

Whatever shades of blue you use, it’s a color that’s great for backgrounds and accents, though it shouldn’t be used for text as it’s hard to read.

Green
green color palette website example
Source: Eslam said

Green can represent a lot of things: new beginnings, growth, wealth, stability, and nature.

In general, greens are calming like blues are but has a bit of the energy of yellow as well, and can help balance out your website designs.

The shade matters here too: Olive greens represent nature, while dark greens tend to represent wealth and bright greens are more energizing.

Yellow
bright color palette website example
Source: Spread Systems Inc.

Yellow is the color of sunshine and happiness and hope that the future is a bright one!

Bright yellows are particularly cheerful and good for sites aimed at kids (or parents).

Light yellows are a bit calmer than the brightest yellows, and dark/gold yellows create an antique, “old money” kind of look.

Be careful with this one though: bright yellows, in particular, can be anxiety-provoking and are exhausting to the eyes – so in general, they should only be used as an accent color.

Orange
modern color palette website example
Source: Emotive Feels

Oranges are typically associated with energy and creativity as well as fall/the changing seasons/movement in general.

They’re also associated with health because orange is a fruit and doctors like it when you eat fruit.

Orange is bright yet easy on the eyes and more subdued than red, which makes it fairly flexible in web designs.

You can use it as a primary color for backgrounds or as an accent that gets attention without feeling overpowering.

Red
red color palette website example
Source: MOHAB

Red is one of the most powerful colors, in part because it’s associated with war and violence as well as love and passion.

Those opposing associations create a lot of emotional tension (see “red can raise your heart rate” above).

Brighter reds give a website color scheme an energetic feeling, while darker ones feel more powerful and elegant.

#PowerfulColorRed can be pretty overwhelming if you use it too much, so in general, we’d recommend you only use it as an accent color when you’re starting out.

Purple
cool color palette purple website example
Source: Purple Bunny

Purple is associated with wealth and royalty because, fun fact/short history lesson, in times past purple dyes for clothes were hard to come by.

Thus, only wealthy, royal people could afford purple-colored stuff (and now it’s the color of a bunch of Pokemon and a Teletubby lol).

In modern times of purple abundance, purple is also associated with creativity and imagination, with darker purples taking on the old wealth/luxury meaning and lighter ones lending a soft, sometimes romantic touch.

How do people respond to color based on gender and age?

Beyond the emotional responses each color makes, color can also affect who finds your site attractive and who doesn’t along on gender and age lines.

Neil Patel also compiled a bunch of data on color preferences by gender and created a super handy color preferences by gender infographic.

Let’s take a look at the highlights:

Favorite and least favorite colors by gender
good color combinations gender preferences infographic
Source: Neil Patel

A couple of key takeaways from that:

  • Everyone loves blue, so if that color communicates the information/feelings your site’s aiming for, go wild. Green, red, and black.
  • Everyone hates orange and brown, which are also associated with being cheap, so use them more sparingly (in general; if you really love orange go for it; if you really love brown we suggest you rethink your life).
  • Women love purple, men not so much (it was 23% of women’s favorite color while no men said it was theirs).

And we can add some layers to that with another piece of that same infographic:

best color combinations gender preferences infographic
Source: Neil Patel

Which shows us:

  • Men are way cooler with neutral colors.
  • Men prefer darker shades while women prefer lighter tints.
  • Men prefer brighter colors while women prefer softer colors.

What about age?

Well we had to dig a bit further on this one, eventually finding that study done by Joe Hallock from back in 2003 (aka “the good old days” aka “the reason why the graphics look so old”).

Favorite and least favorite colors by age
good color schemes by age
Source: Joe Hallock
color scheme ideas least favorite color by age
Source: Joe Hallock

The takeaways:

  • Everybody still loves blue.
  • Everybody still hates orange and brown.
  • Purple seems to become more popular as people get older, while green becomes less.

#3: A good website color palette makes your site feel organized

Choosing the right colors for your website and using them in the right places can also help your website feel more organized (aka “these guys know what they’re doing” aka “this site is really easy to use/understand”).

This happens in two ways:

Establishing visual hierarchy

Visual hierarchy helps people figure out what’s most important, the first thing they should look at on your site.

This can be done in a few ways (99Designs has a great post covering these) and as we know smart cookies like you have guessed, color is one of them.

How does this work?

Well, it all comes back to the emotions and our good old eyeballs.

Bold, bright colors like reds, oranges, and yellows are easy for our eyes to see and that makes them great for things like buttons or sections that have particularly important information.

At the same time, grays, blacks, and colors like blue and purple are emotionally less charged and take our eyes/brains more time to process, so these colors are better for elements like the background that are meant to blend in more or make other elements pop.

Contrast between elements is also important thanks to the Isolation Effect, which is a design psychology principle that says the more an item stands out, the more likely it is to be noticed and remembered.

The use of the Isolation Effect has also been shown in a couple of color studies (this one from U of Berkley and this one from the Journal of Consumer Psychology) to actually be something people prefer in color schemes.

The takeaway: using a website color schemes that include a high-contrast, attention-grabbing color is great for both drawing attention to certain elements and creating a website design people love.

Creating a sense of coherence

A good website color scheme also creates order through coherence. 

For example, if you use fire engine red for your “contact us” button on one page, you should use that same color for all the “contact us” buttons on your site.

Or, if you use a blue grid background behind all of your H2 headers (like this post here!), you should use that same color background for all the H2 headers on your site.

A sense of order/coherence is also a factor of the color harmonies/types of color schemes we talked about above.

In this case, using any one of them to choose the set of colors you use in your palette (analogous, monochromatic, complementary, etc), instead of a random mess of colors you like will help your site subconsciously communicate “everything’s organized and tip-top around these parts.”

#4: Choosing a website color scheme makes designing easier

Last on this list but first in our hearts, this is!

Whether you’re building one website and evolving it over time, or you want to build a bunch of sites for yourself or other people (who pay you money!), the less time you spend on basic tasks, the better.

On the color front, you can save yourself a lot of “what color should I use here” time by establishing your website’s color scheme upfront, then applying it anywhere and everywhere you need to.

Especially if you make it into a fancy document like Mailchimp did:

mailchimp color schemes guide
Source: Mailchimp

Now, they’ve got a ton of colors in their palette because they have a super complex website/app.

For most of the sites you’ll create, though, we recommend you stick to just 3-5:

  • 1 primary color that’s used on the most important elements of your site.
  • 1-2 secondary/accent colors that use a little less space on your site and/or are only used on a few elements.
  • 1-2 background colors that make your primary and secondary colors really pop.

This way, you’ve only got a few options any time you’ve got to add a page or element to your site.

But how do you choose that top 3-5?

Glad you asked!

How to choose your website color scheme

website color schemes mock website

A good website color scheme is one that finds the perfect balance between two things:

  1. The brand/business’ values and purpose.
  2. What your visitors like and want.

Easy enough to say, how the heck is it done?

4. Easy. Steps.

1. Know your website’s purpose and audience

Knowing what color palette you should use for your website color scheme will in part come from your instincts and preferences.

But a “pro” website color scheme will start with what the website is all about and who it’s for.

Because that’s how you take the color psychology info we dropped on you above and use it to make the best decisions for your website design!

How do you figure out your site’s purpose?

We’ve got a good bit of info on that in our How to Design a Website guide.

Your goals here: 

  • Determine what industry your site falls into.
  • Determine the values or “personality” you want your site to communicate.

That first part should be relatively simple with a bit of thought:

  • Want to sell fitness courses? You’re in the health industry.
  • Want to offer the website design skills you’re learning here to clients who will pay? You’re in the marketing industry.
  • Want to share stories from your personal travel adventures? You’re in the travel industry.

Etc.

For the second part, let’s use some research to help you pick 1-2 “personalities” you’re aiming to communicate through your site.

Stanford psychology professor Jennifer Aaker’s our go-to for that.

She found that brand personalities fall into one of five core dimensions:

website color palettes brand personality study
Source: Pinterest

You can maybe mix 2-3 of these types of personality, but it’s best to choose just one to start.

Looking to sell watches on an ecommerce site? Go for “sophistication.”

Want to share tips on camping, hiking, hunting, etc? “Ruggedness” it is!

Maybe you’re sharing your knowledge of a hobby like playing guitar. “Sincerity” might be right for you (could be “EXCITEMENT” too).

The brand personality you go with then ties into the color psychology we discussed above: red could be a good primary color for excitement, black for sophistication, or 

How do you figure out your target audience?

Well, if you’re really diligent, you’ll want to do some market research!

A few good resources on that:

To not spend a ton of time learning how to do market research (and actually doing it), you can also just ask yourself a few questions to get started:

  • Are you trying to attract younger or older visitors?
  • Is your site mostly for men or women?
  • What products are services are you selling? Do those attract people who like certain colors or have certain values like sophistication or friendliness?

What colors typically work best for your industry?

A solid shortcut/starting place for choosing the colors in your website’s palette is to look at what other websites with similar goals (aka “in your industry”) usually use.

Because companies offering similar things to the website you’re building are trying to evoke the same kinds of emotions and associations you are, going with their flow is a good place to start.

Lots of visuals from some great research done by other folks here!

First up, an infographic from research done by Towergate Insurance on the most popular brand colors in each industry:

popular color palettes by industry
Source: Towergate Insurance

In their study, Towergate analyzed 520 logos in a bunch of industries to figure out which colors each industry favors.

Here we can see blue, red, and green are solid for just about any type of brand/company website.

Now, with industries like “Courier” and “Specialized Chemicals” on this list, you might not find the exact industry your website will be in.

BUT if you think about what those industries are trying to offer and who they’re trying to communicate with, you can probably figure out where there are overlaps with your goals and theirs.

To help you out, though, we’ve got another similar infographic from marketing software company Marketo:

color palette ideas infographic
Source: Marketo

Loads of good info in there so take some time to digest it!

Finally, here’s another helpful snippet from a Neil Patel infographic on how colors affect particular kinds of buyers:

best colors for website by type of consumer infographic
Source: Neil Patel

Now there aren’t many colors on that chart and we’re not saying you should use those exactly.

Instead, here’s what it tells us:

  • If you’re planning to sell relatively cheap, easy to say yes to products on your site, darker colors, reds, oranges, blues, and blacks are good choices.
  • If you’re looking to appeal to budget-conscious shoppers, blues and greens are good.
  • If you’re looking to get sales from “traditional” (aka “older”) people, lighter tints like pink and sky blue work well.

Now you’re probably wondering: “if I use the same colors as other companies/websites like mine, won’t it be impossible to stand out?”

Well, that’s where choosing particular colors (like seafoam green in the “green” family) and putting together a unique color palette comes in.

Which leads us nicely into…

2. Choose your primary/dominant color

The primary or dominant color in your website color palette is the anchor for your brand, evoking the main emotions and ideas that you want your website to communicate.

Think “red” and Coca-Cola, “green” and Starbucks, “yellow” and McDonald’s.

If you’ve already made a logo, the color that stands out the most is probably the primary color for your website – so this part’s done!

If you don’t already have a logo or don’t have a dominant color in mind, a good place to start is this handy quiz from Grasshopper, which will help you learn whether blue, red, orange, etc is the best part of the color spectrum for you to choose your primary color from.

If the color that bad boy spits out jives with your preferences and all the color psychology we shared above, awesome.

Look for that color using the two options we’ve got for you below.

If you don’t agree with the quiz results, then sorry we wasted your 2 minutes lol.

Option 1: Get some inspiration

The first method for finding the primary color in your website color palette is to spend some time looking at examples of sites and color schemes you like.

Just visit the sites below to find color scheme examples you like:

When you find a color you really love, you’ll just need to grab and save its hex code, which you can do using the ColorZilla Chrome extension/Firefox addon to snag it.

You’ll need that hex code to use in website builders or WordPress to color different elements.

Option 2: Use a photo

You can also use Adobe Color to extract colors from an image (which could be a photo of something in the real world, a graphic you found online, or a screenshot of a website you like).

Simply upload a photo to their tool under the “Extract from an image” tab, then you can choose different color palettes based on various moods using the left sidebar.

When you find the set you like best, click back over to the “Color Wheel” tab to copy one of the color codes to use as your primary color.

Or you could just use the complete set as your entire website color scheme!

How to use your primary color on your site

Once you’ve chosen your primary color, where the heck do you put it?

Definitely not all over your site; it’ll make your design overwhelming.

Generally, you’ll want to use your dominant color in the key places you want to draw attention to (like contact us buttons, key information, and your logo):

website color schemes primary color example annotated
Source: Our Wix Demo Site

3. Choose your secondary/accent colors

Once you’ve got your primary color picked, figuring out your website color scheme is a downhill trip.

The next step is to pick your secondary and/or accent colors, which we’ll base off the first.

As we mentioned above, some sites like MailChimp have a ton of colors in their website palette because they make a very complicated web app.

For the rest of us, one primary color plus 1-2 secondary colors is plenty.

How the heck do you figure those out?

By using the color theory harmony rules we mentioned above!

No need to whip out your own color wheel and protractor (to figure out the right angles), Adobe Color once again has our backs.

How to choose your secondary colors using Adobe Color

First, pop on over to their site using this link, then paste the hex code of your primary color in the first box.

By default, Adobe’s gonna show you other colors using the “analogous” harmony method.

For our website design purposes, though, we recommend you choose either Triad, Complementary, or Compound using the sidebar, as these will give you a set of colors that are the easiest to use on a website (aka “it’s harder to f*ck up your web design when you’re still a beginner”).

Note: when you pick a new color harmony rule, you’ll have to re-enter your primary color’s hex code.

As you’re looking at the various options, you can also play with the little circles on the wheel, dragging any of your colors in and out, side to side to change the hue and brightness/darkness.

You can do the same with the sliders under each color.

And you can click the color boxes to change which is your “base” aka “primary” color.

No worries about messing things up doing this: Adobe will make sure it still applies the color harmony to any changes you make, though it will change the primary color/hex code for the primary color.

If you like the new color, though, go with that instead of your original!

As you’re playing around, you’ll be given 4 potential secondary colors (in addition to your base/primary).

You can use all of them if you like, but if you’re going to stick to our “keep it simple with 1-2 accent colors” rule, you’ll want to do this: make sure your base color is in the far left box (you can drag it over there if it’s not), then use that, the middle/3rd color, and the last/5th color.

The 2nd and 4th colors are generally for more complicated designs.

With your secondary colors found, be sure to copy those hex codes to the same place you have your primary color for use on your website.

Speaking of which…

How to use your secondary color(s) on your site

You’ll want to use your secondary/accent colors to highlight less important information/elements like subheadings, active menu items, and content that’s only useful for some of your users.

Aka “things you want to stand out but not too much.”

Here’s how accent colors are used in our website color palette example:

website color schemes secondary color example annotated
Source: Our Wix Demo Site

4. Choose your background colors

Your background colors are going to fill in the spaces where you don’t want to use your primary/secondary colors, like text, the background of blog posts, etc.

Now, typically the safe bet is to just use black/white/gray for these, as they’ll help keep people focused on places you’ve used your other colors and won’t break the color harmony we worked so hard to get playing around with Adobe’s tool.

If you want to just use neutrals, head back to the Color tool, chose the “shades” color harmony, then type “FFFFFF” into the first box (which is the hex code for pure white).

You can then drag the very bottom slider under that box around to use a slightly gray version of white as your base or click one of the other colors to make it your base to play around until you get a “basically white,” “basically gray,” and “basically black” set of colors to use in your backgrounds.

Depending on your site’s purpose, though, you might want to get a bit fancier than that…

Ecommerce or content-heavy site? Stick with neutrals

Sites that sell a lot of products (aka Amazon) or are mostly about sharing information and ideas (aka blogs like this ‘un ‘ere) want to put as much focus on those products/words as possible.

So it’s best to use neutral color backgrounds so that these pop as much as possible.

best background color for website ecommerce example
Source: Carbon

Business-focused website? You could use shades of your primary color

Because color is an important part of branding (like we talked about above), if your website is primarily about sharing background info on a business or charity (while maybe sharing information about services clients can pay for), you can use shades of your primary color for backgrounds.

This will really help plant your brand color into your visitors’ minds to make it more recognizable/memorable.

Neutrals are always the safest, but if you want to have a more colorful set of background colors, use the “Shade” harmony in the Adobe Color tool, put your primary color in, and you’ll get a set of background colors you can use that should look good together.

Just be sure to use more subdued shades, nothing too bright or bold, as you’ll still want people to mostly focus on your content/sections where you use your primary and secondary colors.

good background colors business website example
Source: Critical Software

Going for super stylish? You can use some graphics/images too

If you’re building a site in the restaurant, fashion, beauty, or creative industries, using a lot of images or graphics in your backgrounds can create a super-premium, very stylish feel.

Just be sure of two things:

  1. That your text is still readable.
  2. That your design doesn’t feel like there’s too much to look at because of all the details in your backgrounds.

Part of that will come from choosing images/graphics that don’t have too many elements in them.

But you can also use the “Shades” harmony in Adobe color to find either neutral color shades or shades of your primary color to overlay on your images and make them more subdued (you can either add overlays to the images themselves in Photoshop or in your website builder/Wordpress).

website background colors image example
Source: Maman Corp

Website color scheme examples

When you’re starting out, it can be tough to come up with design ideas on your own.

Which is where a little inspiration from great designs comes in!

So to help you get started with a few ideas for your own website color scheme, here are a few great schemes and designs from around the web.

1. Fun and Playful

Flatiron Collective website color schemes examples
Source: Flatiron Collective

#b200f8
#ff4247
#ffdb6c
#00545a
#002835

Somewhere between a softer and brighter palette, Flatiron showcases a diverse color combination that creates a fun and playful vibe. The colors are featured in animations and used as font colors, in icons and graphics and other creative ways.

2. Strong and Sleek

Martell website color schemes examples
Source: Martell

#8a211b
#b3925f
#f0cd95
#001446
#eaeae2

Featuring a bold, darker tone throughout its site with a midnight blue background, Martell breaks away from the traditional, cookie-cutter designs you see so often on the market. Shades of gold and dark red accent colors provide a stunning contrast to the prominently dark color palette.

3. Corporate and Creative

NetNatio website color schemes examples
Source: NetNation

#e9467d
#113b77
#2565c7
#4bb3f0
#e9e9f3

NetNation introduces a corporate-style website design that uses multiple shades of blue, a color that emits trust and professionalism to its viewers. The magenta color you see used in icons adds a pop of playfulness to the very corporate design. 

And other graphical elements create a contrast that breaks up the mostly blue palette.

4. Natural and Enchanting 

New york times website color schemes examples
 Source: New York Times

#fdc3b7
#f3d982
#a7dac9
#5178b1
#e7f4fd

Pastel, earthy colors produce a playful, natural, and somewhat enchanting look that directly correlates with the company’s core mission. A featured landing page on the New York Times website, this company uses their brand colors in pretty creative ways throughout the page.

5. Vibrant and Energetic

open website color schemes examples
Source: Open

#eeeeee
#cc5245
#58a9a5
#f3d33b
#231f20

This co-working space and start-up incubator, located in Canada, uses lively colors that are intentionally vibrant and meant to evoke creativity and inspire the viewer. Overall, they do a great job using four or five distinct colors in different ways throughout their site.

6. Powerful and Poised

slack website color schemes examples
Source: Slack

#4A174B
#5BB77E
#56C6F0
#E1405A
#ECB230

Slack is a leading enterprise chat app used by millions of people. They’ve invested millions of dollars into perfecting their branding and it shows. 

Their bold-and-bright color palette uses dark plum as its base color, which draws the user in and exudes power and independence.

With energetic accent colors, Slack does a great job pulling in the viewer using color theory.

7. Bold and Happy

the happy hero website color schemes examples
Source: The Happy Hero

#FFFFFF
#000000
#E93F33
#FEE533
#4F5CD6

With a strong 1950’s comic book-style design, The Happy Hero chose bold colors for their website including sunflower yellow, fire engine red, and pacific blue. Their goal is to spread happiness and their design reflects this mission well.

8. Calming and Earthy

titya ravy website color schemes examples
Source: Titya Ravy

#BEBDAA
#F6EEE2
#D4D8CE
#B29578
#000000

Topes, browns, and soft green colors are featured in the design for Titya Ravy’s website. A fine jewelry maker, Titya chose a very non-traditional color palette to showcase her brand.

The earth tones she uses are reminiscent of the natural materials she uses in her jewelry designs.

9. Clean and Bubbly

UMAN website color schemes examples
Source: UMAN

#E94734
#334F6E
#FFFFFF
#F8F8F8
#F9DFDB

The UMAN website may seem to feature a less sophisticated color palette compared to other examples we’ve seen so far, but sometimes, simple is better. 

A professional services company offering retirement and life planning services, Uman’s clean and simple design uses a combination of mid-tone blues, salmon, and red to exude professionalism and urgency.

10. Bright and Playful

whoa mama website color schemes examples
Source: Whoa Mama

#7a00f8
#ff003e
#f39190
#f3e513
#00bfd2

Whoa, Mama is a suitable title for the color palette featured on this website. Bright and playful with tons of 90’s digital art infusions, Whoa Mama is a gleeful example of branding done right.

Purple, red, yellow, and teal are paired perfectly with each other and featured prominently throughout this epic design.

11. Inviting & Trusting

nu website color schemes examples
Source: NU

#56909a
#b3d2d7
#aeaf71
#717b44
#df8956

NU is a unique project with a unique goal and uses an equally unique color palette on its website. Many purpose-driven projects use a softer color palette to appear inviting and mission-oriented, and NU is no different.

This compound color palette consists of deep-sea blue, summer sky blue, olive green, soft green, and sunburnt orange.

12. Creative & Professional

raiseyourwebsite website color schemes examples
Source: #raiseyourwebsite

#455799
#5f7add
#af6ac6
#f09686
#f7be3e

Raise Your Website is an online website testing tool and its website features a creative color palette that uses a unique combination of two complementary blues, along with magenta, peachy orange, and sunset yellow.

This compound color palette brings out a creative yet professional aesthetic that can easily be replicated on your website.

13. Professional & Inviting

access is website color schemes examples
Source: Access IS

#155799
#1d76d1
#0f7ce0
#53c3f6
#e9f2fe

The Access IS site uses a range of blues in their web design color palette, creating an intentionally corporate feel to their site that is inviting and professional.

With tons of custom illustrations that feature the four-tone color palette, Access IS shows us that a monochromatic color palette is not only doable but can work out quite well in website design.

14. Energetic & Playful

spotify website color schemes examples
Source: Spotify

#e85db6
#ea5467
#f2af37
#cdf564
#6fd862

As a leader in the music streaming space, Spotify’s bold branding speaks loudly throughout its website design. Spotify has been known to push the boundaries of web design.

This landing page uses 1990’s inspired neon pink, orange, and green color tones splashed throughout its site to create an energetic yet playful color palette that inspires users to download their app.

15. Wise & Illuminating

the ronin society website color schemes examples
Source: The Ronin Society

#ead6b7
#cba978
#9ea3a9
#14222d
#e34234

As a financial advisory service, The Ronin Society stands out from other players in the industry with unique sepia-style web design concepts used to create a trusting, professional brand appearance.

Royal gold, navy blue, and fire engine red are used in perfect harmony on Ronin’s site and, together, add a feeling of illumination and wisdom.

16. Familiar & Futuristic

psych x86 website color schemes examples
Source: Psych X86

#050c3f
#6474b9
#4a2c96
#9b75c5
#70edf0

“Psych” is a digital solutions company, so their futuristic color palette is a good choice, with deep blues and purples featured throughout the site. A bright turquoise accent color breaks up the mostly dark color tones creating a futuristic vibe that’s somewhat familiar.

Purple was a popular web design color in the late 2010’s and will likely continue to be used in many site designs.

17. Earthy & Complementary

care website color schemes examples
Source: Care

#333333
#a5502f
#e36f30
#f2bf20
#4b7803

Care is on a mission to combat climate change and its branding and color palette is a perfect representation of their social impact.

With an intentionally earthy color palette filled with oranges, yellows, and complementary colors including mid-tone green and dark brown, this is a perfect example of a complementary color palette done right.

18. Calm & Collected

slumber website color schemes examples
Source: Slumber

#deba93
#081521
#001f33
#23628b
#53b5c1

This website is calm, cool, and collected. With a dark overtone using several dark blues against a mid-tone aqua color, Slumber’s website breaks from the standard “minimalist” design approach and uses warm illustrations to elevate its branding and showcase their inspiring, analogous color palette.

19. Edgy & Vintage

mountain man website color schemes examples
Source: Mountain Man

#e3d279
#9faf8b
#efb48d
#c96346
#414042

Indie pop group Mountain Man wastes no time showing the world exactly who they are.

With a naturally-edgy and vintage vibe, this music group’s website uses peachy pink lettering against a yellow-filtered background with other complementary colors such as sage green to create a stunning, dusty, earthy tone on its website.

20. Warm & Comforting

cowboy website color schemes examples
Source: Cowboy

#fffafd
#fcf3f7
#f8dbe3
#e94363
#131414

Cowboy is an e-commerce brand and its website design uses four different shades of pink. The monochromatic, all-pink color palette is a bold choice, but one that sells its products with confidence.

Pink is a warm and comforting color that can relay a feeling of hope and alleviates feelings of stress or anger — making it a great option for web design.

More website creation resources

And that, folks, is what we have for you today.

The full low down, the full monty, the whole shebang on website color schemes.

On a hot streak with learning about all this website design stuff?

We’ve got you fam!

Here are a few more super sweet posts we’ve created re:web design.

And we’ve got plenty more over on our Youtube Channel if you still want to get after it but are just about done with reading for the day.

We’ll see you over there kids!

How to Use WordPress
Tutorial [2020]

Your step by step guide to creating a WordPress site!

 

Dale McManus

Co-Founder & Web Developer

Jan. 9, 2020

 

Hey, my name is Dale! My partner Alex and I have helped tens of thousands of people build beautiful websites around the world. In this fully-packed, step-by-step guide, you’ll learn How To Use WordPress and how to create a website and publish your first post. Let’s dive in!

  • Level of Expertise:
    Beginner
  • Time To Complete:
    1 Hour
  • What You Get:
    A Functional Website

For the record: It’s super important for us to keep this site 100% free for you and 100% high quality. To help us do that, we’ve partnered with some of the products we recommend and earn a commission if you buy through our links. Read our full disclosure and partners list here.

What’s up y’all!

If you like the video and want more tutorials on creating a professional website you can also subscribe to our YouTube channel!

More the reading type?

Looking to start a website?

The post:

WordPress is definitely a solid choice for creating awesome, professional websites.

Now you’ve just got to figure out how to use WordPress…

Good news: as always, we’ve got your back fam!

Here we’ve got a complete walkthrough of one of the best tools for building a website best website builders around including what you need to know about the dashboard, how to add pages and posts, install themes, and a ton more.

And because we were once beginners ourselves, we’ve got it all nice and organized in an easy-to-follow, step-by-step fashion so you can tackle this beast of a project and learn WordPress a piece at a time (it’s not as hard as you think, we promise!).

Alright, let’s get after it!

how to use WordPress tutorial featured image

What is WordPress and how does it work?

Short answer: WordPres is free to use open source software called a “Content Management System” (CMS) that lets you build your website and share it with the world – without knowing how to code.

With the help and support of a huge community of web developers and designers from around the world, it’s one of the most popular website publishing platforms in the world (an estimated 30% of the Internet is powered by WordPress and that’s a damn impressive accomplishment in our book).

Long answer: Check out the video above and our complete written guide on the what is WordPress question!

Now onto today’s tutorial…

Step 1: How to get a domain name and web hosting

wordpress web-hosting-domain-name

So step number one in our WordPress tutorial is to get a domain name and web hosting.

Quick reminder/low down a domain name is the address people type in to get to your website (example: createaprowebsite.com) and web hosting is basically just a way to “rent” space on the internet so you can host all the images, text, videos, and code on your website.

More details aka the “high up” on what is a domain name and what is web hosting in our posts linked in this sentence for your convenience (oh how handy!).

Now, for this tutorial, we use HostGator to get both a domain name and hosting.

If you use this link you’ll be able to get a special discount we’ve worked out with them for both your domain name and hosting.

Note: we will make a bit of a commission if you buy through that link, but we used and loved HostGator for years before we started working with them so while we’ll earn a bit of cash as a thank you for recommending them (and you’ll get a discount), that’s not the only reason we recommend them.

In fact, we like a few different sites to buy domain names and get web hosting, so if you want to learn more about your options you can check out our Best Domain Registrars and Best Web Hosting Services guides.

For the rest of this section and for step 2, we’ll go through the process of buying a domain name, hosting, and installing WordPress using HostGator.

If you decide to get hosting/your domain name somewhere else the process will basically be the same.

But things will be exactly the same whether you work with our friends over at the big HG or not starting with step 3 (how to login to WordPress).

Alright, so with HostGator we recommend the Hatchling plan because it’s the cheapest and more than enough when you’re starting out with your first site.

With that, you’ll get one website/domain name, one-click WordPress install, unlimited bandwidth, and a free SSL certificate.

wordpress website hostgator hatchling plan

A proverbial “complete package.

So go ahead and smash that buy now button and you’ll land on a page where you can choose your domain name.

wordpress site hostgator domain name

Now if you’ve already grabbed your domain name just click the “I already own this domain” tab and enter it in, you’ll be able to connect your site to that domain name later.

If you’re still in the pre-domain days then those days are about to be over because you can buy one now.

Just type one into the search bar, in this example we’re going with “beginnerwptutorials.com.”

Hit enter and…

wordpress site tutorial domain name available

Boom, this one was available so we’re gonna buy it!

If your #1 domain name choice was taken (and, unfortunately, a lot of times they are), you’ll see a red warning and will have to try another domain name.

You’ll likely see some other variations of your chosen domain name like “[yourdomain].club” or “[yourdomain].site” but we highly recommend sticking with a “.com” or “.co” – those are the most professional for most sites (though there are cases where “.org” or “.io” are solid choices too).

Now with an available domain name chosen, scrolling down you’ll see some other recommended options but we can just ignore those for now (you only need one domain name for a website and we recommend you don’t start your website creation journey buying domain names that seem cool but you’ll probably never use #beentherelol).

“Add domain name privacy” should be automatically checked, make sure you leave it that way.

getting started with wordpress domain privacy

The reason being this keeps your contact information, which is needed to register your domain, from being posted publicly (which is the default; weird, yes, but people thought that was the right way to do it when the internet was being built).

That will lead to a flood of calls from people who will scrape the public listings and call you eight times a day saying they can build your website for you (another #beentherelol).

Scrolling down some more, you’ll see some plan options:

wordpress tutorial video choose hosting plan

Hatchling plan yes, 36-month billing cycle probably not.

You’ll get the best discount if you buy your domain name and hosting for 3 years, but that’s a long time, especially when you’re starting out.

We recommend going with a 12-month billing cycle as, no matter what, you’ve gotta get your domain name for 12 months so you might as well save a bit of money with your hosting as well (you can get hosting on a monthly cycle but that’s the most expensive option – even with our discount).

Next up, enter a username and security pin:

learning wordpress hosting username security pin

Then enter in your billing info just like you do for every other thing you buy online: 

wordpress basics hosting billing info

Heading down to the additional services, you’ll get a free SSL certificate which is great because it helps keep your site secure for visitors and is now essential if you want to rank in Google through SEO.

So go ahead and make sure that’s checked, but uncheck anything else they’re offering – a lot of stuff offered here like backing up and securing your site can be done for free in other ways (which we’ll get into below!).

wordpress for beginners hosting additional services

Continuing on, make sure the coupon code “createaprowebsite” has been applied so you can get our special discount.

wordpress tutorial hosting coupon code

Then you can just check the box to agree to the terms of service then click that checkout now button:

learn wordpress hosting checkout now

You’ll then be sent over to a thank you/“setting up your account” page (which will take just a couple of minutes to do).

wordpress tutorial for beginners setting up account

And now we’re ready for…

Step 2: How to install WordPress

Alright so after that few minutes you’ll be taken to a page that might have a “tell us about yourself” popup just go ahead and click out of that (you can answer it if you want to but it’s not gonna help you with installing WordPress lol).

Then go on over to the Marketplace tab.

how to install wordpress hostgator marketplace

From there, just scroll down until you see the big blue “one-click installs” button and… click that bad boy!

installing wordpress one click hostgator

Then just click on “WordPress,” conveniently, oh so conveniently located at the top of the page.

hostgator one click wordpress install

Then just select your domain and click that next button.

how to install wordpress select domain

This’ll take you to a little settings form, fill out all the details, check the box to agree to the terms of service, then it’s time to click the install button.

hostgator installing wordpress details

Once WordPress is finished installing, be sure to copy your installation information and save it somewhere safe because you’re going to need that info/ridiculous password to log into WordPress (and change that password to something much more reasonable).

how to install wordpress login details

Now, if you open up a new tab and go to your domain name you’ll see a page that looks something like this:

installing wordpress domain name propagating

Why? Well, because your domain name has to “propagate” – basically, HostGator has to tell the world about your new domain name so people all over the place (including you) can access it from the web.

HG will tell you the process could take up to 24 hours, which is technically the case…

But in our experience, it’s never taken more than 20-30 minutes so go ahead and grab yourself a break then come back in a bit to keep truckin through step 3.

Step 3: How to login to WordPress

So once you’re back after that 20-30 break (hope snack time was awesome) time to check on your site and find your WordPress dashboard login page.

To start just type in your domain name again/refresh the page (if you’ve been waiting on the edge of your seat #beentherelol) and you should see a page that looks like this:

wordpress tutorial for beginners after propagation

Which means propagation has finished!

We’re going to ignore that that WordPress “Admin Login” button here because once you publish your site this will go away.

Because you should know how to access WordPress your admin section/dashboard always and forever (or at least for the year you bought hosting for).

To do that, just add “/wp-admin” to the end of your URL.

WordPress dashboard login url

In the future, if you’re already logged in this will automatically take you right to your WordPress dashboard!

If you’re not logged in (like we are now, there’s a first time for everything), it’ll take you to the WordPress admin login page that looks like this:

WordPress dashboard login page

Copy/paste your username and password and you’ll get taken to your dashboard.

This’ll look a little crazy at first because of a ton of “your new, you must need to know this” popup boxes.

Let’s just go ahead and click the “x’s” on all of those, we’ve got you in this tutorial.

wordpress tutorial for beginners dashboard

Step 4: How to navigate the WordPress dashboard

Now that we’re in the dashboard, let’s explore!

First off, WordPress has a couple of main places where you’ll make changes to your site.

The first is this here dashboard, where you’ll find the majority of tools to make changes to your site.

It’s only available to you/people you make WordPress accounts for.

There are also some “customize” options when you’re viewing your main site (and logged in), we’ll cover those below.

First, let’s go over the most important parts of the WordPress dashboard.

Those needles in the proverbial haystack of buttons and pages and options WordPress just dumped on you.

First, you’ll find the name of your site in the top left corner – mouse over this and click “visit site” to go see what your website looks like at the moment (and every time you make updates and changes):

wordpress tutorial for beginners visit site

On the left is the main menu where you’ll find all the tools you’ll use when creating your WordPress website.

wordpress tutorial for beginners dashboard options

Any WordPress website will include the following tools:

  • Updates is where you’ll be able to find and install updates to the WordPress platform as well as any plugins and themes you’ve installed.
  • Posts is where you’ll create new blog posts or update existing ones – things like “Top 10 WordPress Secrets” or “How to Use WordPress Tutorial”. Here you can also view and create categories and tags to help organize your posts.
  • Media where you can add or update all of the pictures, images, or other files on your site.
  • Pages is where you can create or update pages that aren’t part of your blog like the all-important “About” and “Contact Us.”
  • Comments is where you can read, approve, delete or respond to all the comments people leave on your posts and pages.
  • Appearance has a ton of options underneath it, for our purposes the main thing you can do here is install themes. BUT you can also manage widgets, menus, edit your blog’s header, and a few other things depending on the theme you install.
  • Plugins is where you can install different pieces of code that add apps and functionality to your website.
  • Users is where you can create or update accounts for other people on your site, as well as change your WordPress profile (name, password, etc.)
  • Tools by default, here you’ll be able to import and export blog content; plugins can add other options here.
  • Settings has… settings for a whole bunch of things like your blog, the WordPress page/post editor, comments, media, and permalinks.

On top of all that, you’ll also find menu options for plugins you install.

Depending on the plugin’s functionality and how it’s coded, you might find it in the main left-hand menu, or as an option underneath any of the above main menu items.

For example, in our tutorial, HostGator automatically installed a few extra things:

  • WP Forms is actually from a plugin; if you install WordPress through HostGator, they’ll automatically add this plugin for you, if you went with another host that didn’t include it you can add that later – it basically makes it super simple to create contact forms for your site (check out that tutorial here).
  • Marketplace is also something installed by HostGator specifically, it’s a place to get premium themes. We use other sites so this usually gets ignored.

For those of you who really like to be in the know, we’re about to deep dive into all of this.

If you’re looking to just follow along in a quick tutorial fashion, you can go ahead and skip on over to step 5 – how to install WordPress themes.

The WordPress dashboard: A deeper dive

Updates

wordpress dashboard updates option

Like any popular software (content management system or otherwise), WordPress releases a lot of updates – some that make major changes like new features, some that make minor bug fixes and security patches.

These days, WordPress will automatically install minor updates on its own and prompt you to make major updates (because these can sometimes break plugins and themes and they’re smart enough not to do that to you for the sake of everyone’s stress levels).

You will have to update plugins and themes yourself though, which can be done on this page or on the plugins/themes pages.

Posts

wordpress basics post settings

The Posts menu lets you control the content you add to your blog, a few options here:

  • All Posts takes you to a page that lists all of the posts in your dashboard. From here, you can quickly edit one or more posts to change things like categories, tags, and author, or you can click on a particular post to view it or edit its content.
  • Add New will automatically fire up a page where you can create a new blog post.
  • Categories lets you view all the categories your posts are listed under, then edit those and add new ones.
  • Tags is just like Categories, only for tags options-wise. The basic idea here is that each post should only have one Category that groups it with other posts that are similar, while a post might have a lot of Tags based on topics or keywords mentioned in your post.

Media

wordpress dashboard media options

The Media menu item lets you upload videos, images, audio and other files to your site then manage them (change meta details, add them to posts, pages, sidebars, etc).

You’ll find a couple of options here:

  • Library lets you view and edit all of the media you’ve uploaded to your site.
  • Add New is just like it sounds… a quick way to upload new media to your site!

Pages

wordpress dashboard pages options

Unlike blog posts, which show up on a “blog” page that lists all your blog posts in reverse chronological order (aka the last one you post is at the top), Pages are places on your site that don’t change much; things like About, Contact, Our Services, etc.

The usual suspects as far as options:

  • All Pages is basically the pages version of the “All Posts” option above (you can quickly edit all your pages or deep dive into editing one).
  • Add New lets you create a new page. Whoda thunk it!

Comments

wordpress dashboard comments option

Comments lets you manage messages left on your site from other people – both on pages and blog posts.

Clicking on this option will let you read comments that have been left across your site, approve, disapprove or delete them (because spam happens), and leave responses as well.

Appearance

wordpress dashboard appearance options

This menu item is how to a lot of the options for changing the design of your site (though not all of them – see below!).

Lots of options here (these are what any WordPress site will have, if you install certain themes and plugins you’ll find more):

  • Themes is where you can search for and install new themes from the WordPress themes directory, or upload and install themes you’ve found somewhere else online.
  • Customize this one changes a lot depending on the theme you’ve chosen. The basic options are your site’s title and tagline, color, background image, and whether or not you have a static homepage (or one that shows your latest blog posts). Themes/plugins will add a ton of other options to this list.
  • Widgets are boxes of special code you can add to various places on your site, like your homepage, header/footer, or sidebar. What’s “special code” mean? Anything from calendars, social media links, and recent posts to videos, audio players, and contact forms.
  • Menus are lists of links to pages/posts on your site; any WordPress website will have a header and footer menu, certain themes will have more.
  • Header will provide options for customizing your header menu; those options depend on the theme you’ve installed but generally include changing the background color and uploading your logo.
  • Theme Editor is for advanced users as you’ve gotta know at least a bit about coding to use it. Basically, this gives you access to the backend code files that WordPress uses to generate your site so you can add CSS, HTML, JavaScript, and PHP to change the look and functionality of your site.

Plugins

wordpress dashbord plugins options

Plugins are pieces of easy to install code that change how your site looks, feels, and functions.

They can add entirely new features like contact forms that integrate with an email management software like Mailchimp, extend your theme’s capabilities with a drag and drop editor, or let you do backend things like manage page redirects.

Options here:

  • Installed Plugins is the plugin version of “All Pages/Posts” – lets you manage and update the plugins you’ve already installed.
  • Add New lets you find and install new plugins.
  • Plugin Editor is like the theme editor – only for advanced users, definitely requires coding skills.

Users

wordpress dashboard users options

This menu item lets you create new accounts for people on your site (for example, for someone to write blog posts for you or for a web developer to make changes), as well as edit existing users and your own user account preferences.

Options you’ll find:

  • All Users lets you manage all the user accounts on your site.
  • Add New …we’ll let you guess this one.
  • Your Profile is where you can update your user account preferences (email address, password, profile image, etc.)

And each new user you add can have the following roles:

  • Administrators can do anything on your blog from adding new pages/posts/users, to installing plugins and themes and editing everything.
  • Editors can access all posts, pages, comments, categories, and tags but can’t edit appearance, themes, plugins or add new users.
  • Authors can publish and edit posts as well as upload media.
  • Contributors can write and edit their own posts, but can’t publish them or edit other posts/pages.
  • Subscribers can comment on posts and pages (by default anyone can comment, but you can enable “only people who are logged in can comment” in the settings).

Tools

wordpress dashboard tools options

Tools is kind of a catchall bucket for backend functions.

Plugins will add to this list but by default you’ve got three options:

  • Available Tools takes you to a page with a list of tools from certain plugins.
  • Import lets you import data from other website platforms (either another CMS or a website builder) into WordPress.
  • Export Lets you export content so you can import it into another WordPress installation.
  • Site Health shows stats, tips, and info about your site so you can make sure it stays running optimally.
  • Export Personal Data lets you export any personal information about users with accounts on your site.
  • Erase Personal Data lets you erase any personal information about users with accounts on your site.

Settings

wordpress dashboard settings options

This menu holds most of the general settings options for your WordPress site.

Plugins will add more options, the defaults include:

  • General – which lets you configure basic options like timezone, date format, site name, URL, etc.
  • Writing – which lets you set default categories and post format.
  • Reading – which lets you set your homepage to either a static page or your latest blog post and the number of posts to show on your blog page.
  • Discussion – which has settings for controlling how comments work on your site.
  • Media – which lets you change the default sizes for images you upload.
  • Permalinks – which lets you customize the structure of URLs on your site.

Step 5: How to install WordPress themes

Now that we’ve got the basic lay of the WordPress dashboard land, let’s add a new theme.

A WordPress theme is basically just a template you can install with a couple of clicks to drastically change (aka improve) the look and style of your website.

With the right WordPress theme, you can quickly and easily make a website that drops jaws and waters mouths.

So from the main dashboard mouse over to “Appearance” and click on “Themes.”

wordpress tutorial for beginners themes

From here you’ll see that the active theme at the moment is the basic WordPress default “Twenty Nineteen,” and that there are a few other themes (past year’s defaults, when you add a new theme they’ll show up on this page as well).

wordpress tutorial for beginners active theme

But we can do so much better fam, so scroll down a smidge and click on the giant “Add New Theme” box.

wordpress tutorial for beginners add new theme

From here, you can use the little bar to search by featured, popular,  and latest themes to find the one that speaks deeply to your website-building soul.

wordpress tutorial theme filters

By far our favorite “WordPress for beginners” theme is Hestia, which you can find by just typing that into the theme search bar next to the options we mentioned above.

Hestia’s great because it’s super clean, easy to use, and fairly customizable.

If that’s not quite your jam, check out our Top 5 Best Free WordPress Themes for Beginners and Top 10 Best and Responsive WordPress Themes [2019] posts!

Once you’ve picked out a theme (for our WordPress tutorial for beginners, we’re using Hestia), just click on the “Install” button then click that same button again once it becomes  “Activate.”

install theme wordpress tutorial for beginners

You’ll then get taken back to the Themes page, there’ll be a congratulations message at the top, and you’ll see Hestia in your themes list.

Boom, done, got it, nice job, theme installed!

Step 6: How to add plugins to WordPress

Once you’ve got a super sweet theme installed, plugins are the next major thing you’re going to want to look into/install.

Plugins allow you to expand the functionality website.

For instance, if you want to make an online store, you’re going to need product pages, a shopping cart, payment processing, etc.

A lot of work to set up on your own, done for you in like 4 seconds when you install the WooCommerce plugin.

To install plugins, go over to the “Plugins” tab in the main menu, then click “Add New”.

add new plugins wordpress tutorial for beginners

From here you’ll see all the featured plugins and have sorting options just like with themes.

wordpress tutorial plugin page

Click on any of these and you’ll get a popup to learn more about what each does.

wordpress tutorial plugin details

For demonstration purposes here we’re going to install a WordPress plugin called Orbit Fox which adds a bunch of awesome customization options to whatever theme you installed.

So we’ll just search that in the plugin search bar:

search plugins wordpress tutorial for beginners

Click on “Install Now”:

orbit fox wordpress tutorial for beginners

Then once again, Activate once the install button changes over:

install plugins wordpress tutorial for beginners

You’ll then be able to find it in the list of installed plugins, also under the “Plugin” menu in your WordPress dashboard.

If you go there now, you’ll see there are a bunch of default plugins installed and as a WordPress beginner, you don’t really need any of these.

So to get rid of them, just click the checkboxes next to each one you want to deactivate:

bulk select plugins wordpress tutorial for beginners

Go up to the “Bulk Options” dropdown then click “Deactivate”:

deactivate plugins wordpress tutorial for beginners

Then smash that apply button.

Then to delete them, just follow the same checkbox process, just click “Delete” in the dropdown instead of “Deactivate.”

Ahh, feels so much cleaner now!

WordPress plugins: A few of the best

For the sake of keeping our WordPress tutorial quick, we just installed a few plugins and for the sake of time, those are a good place to start.

There are 100,000+ plugins out there so don’t go trying to find and explore them all. Please. For all our sakes.

But if you want to take a slightly longer route working your way through all this “how to use WordPress” stuff there are a few more plugins you’ll want to check out.

Features Plugins

Website Optimization Plugins

  • Yoast SEO – the go-to search engine optimization plugin for WordPress.
  • WP Rocket – helps speed up your website’s load times (good for both SEO and your visitors).
  • Autoptimize – makes your site faster by optimizing CSS, JavaScript, images, fonts and more.

Security Plugins

Step 7: How to customize your WordPress theme

Alright, for the next step in our WordPress tutorial, let’s customize the look and feel of your site using your new theme.

We choose Hestia and Orbit Fox for this tutorial because they give you a lot of options and is easy to customize.

If you chose a different theme, you’ll have a lot of similar options but some might be different/missing.

So, to start customizing your theme, head back over to your actual WordPress site by clicking your website name and the “Visit Site” link at the top of the dashboard.

Once you’re there, start customizing by clicking the “Customize” button at the top of the page.

customize wordpress tutorial for beginners

Bam, the website changes to show all the cool stuff Hestia includes by default.

customize homepage wordpress tutorial for beginners

This is exactly how our site is gonna look, minus all the stock images and text and the little pencil buttons.

And we’re gonna make all of it even more awesome!

All the items in the left-hand menu are the controls you can use to change your theme, every WordPress theme will have these (though different themes will give you some different options here).

customization settings wordpress tutorial for beginners

But with Hestia, if you want to change anything on your page, all you have to do is click one of the little pencil icons next to it – not something every theme has, definitely very “WordPress for beginners” friendly and that’s why we love it.

So if we want to change the title or header image, all you have to do is click that little blue icon:

customize element wordpress tutorial for beginners

That’ll open up the options on the left side to make those changes.

new homepage title wordpress tutorial for beginners

So if we change our title here to “Beginner WordPress Tutorials,” it’ll instantly be updated on the page!

new homepage title wordpress tutorial for beginners

Once you’ve made a few changes you’ll want to save your work, just like we used to do for those grade school English papers (this is very arguably more important than lol).

The “Publish” button at the top of the left sidebar will save your page changes and make them live on the internet, go for that if you want.

But, if you’re not quite ready to show your work to the world, click that little gear icon next to the Publish button.

page publishing settings wordpress tutorial for beginners

Click “Save Draft”

save draft homepage wordpress tutorial for beginners

Then that Publish button will now save a draft – your changes will be safe but they won’t be visible on your actual site when you click this.

So now that we’re safe and secure from the “internet is down” demons, let’s swap out the image in our header (that’s the section behind the page title we changed earlier).

Find that image in the sidebar.

update header image wordpress tutorial for beginners

Click “Remove” then “Select Image” when it appears once the image is removed.

homepage select image wordpress tutorial for beginners

From here, you can upload your own images by dragging/dropping them or clicking the button to search the files on your computer.

upload image wordpress tutorial for beginners

Upload an image, click on the “Choose Image” once it’s been uploaded, and boom

choose image wordpress tutorial for beginners

Now let’s say we don’t want the words of our title right in the middle, just click on the “Extra” tab in the sidebar.

customization back button wordpress tutorial for beginners

And you’ll get some layout options to move this over to the left, right, or middle.

font alignment wordpress tutorial for beginners

If you want to change the color of the button underneath our website title, click the back arrow twice to get out of the customization settings for this section:

extra customization options wordpress tutorial for beginners

Then go down to “Appearance Settings,” then “Colors.”

appearance settings wordpress tutorial for beginners

And you can change that pink accent color to whatever you want. We do love blue!

change button color wordpress tutorial for beginners

Now let’s change our fonts and font sizes, click that same back button again to get out of the Color settings and go to “Typography.”

typography settings wordpress tutorial for beginners

Here you’ll get options to change the “font family” for your headings and body text (that’s the text that’s not super big in the titles).

font settings wordpress tutorial for beginners

As well as your font sizes when you click on the, you guessed it, “Font Size” tab.

font size wordpress tutorial for beginners

Step 8: How to add pages in WordPress

Awesome, now that we know how to make our site look super spiffy, time to add some pages like “About” or “Contact” – things aren’t your homepage (always included) or blog posts (we’ll add those next).

Back in the trusty ol’ WordPress dashboard, go down to Pages and then Add New.

add new page wordpress tutorial for beginners

That’ll open up a new page to edit/create.

blank new page wordpress tutorial for beginners

The background around the “Add Title” is pink because that’s what Hestia comes with by default, change that by finding “Featured Images in the right-hand sidebar and add any image you want just like we did when customizing above.

set featured image wordpress tutorial for beginners

Now you can change the title text by clicking on it and typing in something new.

change page title wordpress tutorial for beginners

Then, we can start adding other text to our page by clicking the “Add Block” plus icon in the top right corner.

add block wordpress tutorial for beginners

We’re going to start by selecting a heading from the list here.

add heading wordpress tutorial for beginners

Then type in a heading, hit enter, and you can start typing in body text for your page.

add body text wordpress tutorial for beginners

When you’re at a good stopping point with your page content, hit “Save Draft” at the top of the page to save your work.

save page draft wordpress tutorial for beginners

Then the “Preview” button to see how your page will look when published.

preview page wordpress tutorial for beginners

Do that by clicking the “Publish” button next to the preview button, twice (WP wants you to be extra sure, thanks for having our backs WordPress!).

Now if you want to add this page to your header menu, go back to your main site using the “Visit Site” button at the top, then click “Customize” again, then on the right you’ll see the little blue pencil icon next to “Home” and “Blog” at the top of the page.

Guess what we’re gonna do?

Yep. Click that bad boy.

add menu option wordpress tutorial for beginners

On the left sidebar, the menu options will pop up.

This is our “Primary Menu” so we’re going to click the “Edit Menu” link underneath that.

edit menu wordpress tutorial for beginners

Then “Add Items.”

add page to menu wordpress tutorial for beginners

Then, in the case of this WordPress for beginners tutorial, click the “Our Mission” under “Pages” to add it.

add mission page to menu wordpress tutorial for beginners

Donzo.

mission page added to menu wordpress tutorial for beginners

Some key pages you’ll probably want to have

We just whipped up one page for our WordPress tutorial to show you what’s up on that front.

You’ll probably want a few pages for your site though (unless it’s a one-page design which is a thing these days).

Which pages you’ll want exactly depends on what your site is for, but we’ve got a list of the essentials in our How to Design a Website post here.

Step 9: How to create a blog post in WordPress

Blog posts. They’re what WordPress was built for. 

The how-to guides.

The top 10 tips.

We’ll show you how to add them to your site below.

First, a brief explanation of…

WordPress blog posts vs. pages

wordpress posts vs pages graphic

Well, both posts and pages will:

Posts, pages, what’s the big deal/difference?!

  • Have a title/headline (like “How to Use WordPress Tutorial” or “5-Day Free eCourse”)
  • Have body content (like all the words and images in this post)
  • Have meta info (author, publishing date, etc
  • Can be added, edited, and deleted.
  • Can be seen by anyone or password-protected so only certain people can see them.
  • Can contain text, video, auto, links, and images.
  • Can be spruced up visually and functionally with plugins and themes.

The difference is this:

Pages are less fluid, you tend to have a limited number of them that doesn’t change much over time, and they cover general info about your site, your services, products, etc. 

You might have an about page, contact page, and home page, and that’s it (in addition to your blog posts). 

Posts are displayed on a special “blog” page (like our Written Guides page) and you’ll continually create a lot of these. 

If you’re helping people out with a tutorial (like this ‘un ‘ere), sharing a travel story, recipe or your thoughts on proper deadlift form, that’s probably going to be a post.

Now back to the tutorial stuff…

Back in the dash, Posts -> Add New.

add new blog post wordpress tutorial for beginners

And you’ll have something that looks a lot like the page we made earlier.

That’s because they’re basically the same as far as creating them is concerned, a couple of differences with blog posts.

When it comes to creating your blog posts, the biggest difference is that posts can have “Categories” – groups of posts that all relate to a certain topic.

To add a category to a post, just find that option in the right-hand sidebar.

add new category wordpress tutorial for beginners

Then you can either click the checkbox on a category you’ve already created, or create a new category by typing one into the “New Category Name” box that pops up.

You might also use some different types of blocks like images, galleries, lists, quotes, etc. (You can add these to pages, too!).

Find all the different things you can add to your post in that “Add Block” plus icon at the top left of the page.

types of blocks wordpress tutorial for beginners

One other thing you might do a bit differently with your posts is have multiple heading sizes so that you can have sections of your page (like “Step 8: How to Create a WordPress Blog Post”) as well as sections within sections (eg we could have a “How to Change Your Heading Sizes” subsection inside of this section).

Heading sizes are labeled H2 through H4 in WordPress (H1 is reserved for the page/post title), just click on a heading block and click one of those labels to change that heading’s size.

change header size wordpress tutorial for beginners

When you’re done creating your posts, just hit that Publish button on the top right and you’re set!

Step 10: How to publish your WordPress site

So we’ve definitely smashed that publish button a few times to save our work, but for a new WordPress site, your work won’t be live on the internet for the world to see until we publish… the website.

On the WordPress dashboard, you’re gonna see a little notification at the top that says “Your site is currently displaying a ‘Coming Soon’ page.”

Once you’re locked, loaded, ready to explode it (there’s a reason we’re not pro rappers)…

Crush that “click here” link and let the sparks fly!

publish website wordpress tutorial for beginners

Step 11: How to speed up WordPress

Ahh but we’re not done there yall!

Well, you could be for now – the above steps are all the basics to go from zero to “grandma can visit my website via the internet tubes.”’

BUT. WE’RE. NOT. GOING. TO. LEAVE. YOU. HANGIN’. THERE. FAM.

Because, in addition to creating your actual pages and blog posts and fully customizing your site to your heart’s content, there are a few other things you’ll want to do (on an ongoing sort of basis) to keep your WordPress site running in tip-top shape.

Starting with site speed.

This one’s important for 2 reasons:

  1. If you want free traffic from Google, they’ll want your site to be fast.
  2. If you want people to like using your site instead of leaving out of frustration, you’ll want your site to be fast.

As your website grows, so will the amount of text, images, code, etc.

The more you have, the longer it will take to load, in general.

BUT there are ways you can optimize your WordPress website to keep your pages loading faster than an Olympic 100 meter sprinter (much faster, if your site takes 9.58 seconds to load like our boy Usain took to run no one will visit you).

AND thanks to plugins and the bit of knowledge we’re about to drop, you can keep your site blazing fast and optimized without knowing how to code.

Here are your basic WordPress speed optimization tools and techniques.

WordPress caching plugins

wordpress caching plugins graphic

Step one in the optimization game is Caching using a plugin.

Without getting too technical, a “cache” is a temporary storage of data so it can be loaded faster, in the case of WordPress this include caching on your web hosting server and in the browsers of people that visit your site.

WordPress caching plugins work by creating static versions of your websites so they can be delivered to your visitor’s computers and loaded by their browsers a lot faster than if your web server had to send all the PHP and other code for their browser to compute first.

Some of the most popular WordPress caching plugins include:

WordPress image optimizer plugins

wordpress image optimizer graphic

On the whole, images are probably going to be the largest kind of file on your site.

And large files mean slow loading times.

But we’ve gotta have them in the highly visual world we live in, so what do you do to keep your site as fast as possible while having tons of super sweet images for people to drool over?

Well, there are two main reasons images might slow your loading times down:

  1. Your images are too large

For example, if you upload an image that’s 1080×1080 pixels but your site resizes that down to a 500×500 space when loaded, you’re losing speed for two reasons – you’ve gotta send that larger file over the internet, then your visitor’s browser has to scale down that image before it can be properly displayed.

  1. Your images aren’t fully compressed

Let’s say you’ve done the above work and have that same 500×500 scaled-down image. At full resolution, uncompressed it might be a 3MB file. You can then compress that image – maybe losing a bit of quality that no one will notice, maybe while maintaining full quality – and get that file size down to 2MB. Smaller file = faster loading speed.

Now, you can manually scale and compress your images before you upload them to your site.

But that takes a lot of time when you’re creating a lot of content!

That’s where a WordPress image optimizer plugins come in, including:

Enable gzip compression for WordPress

wordpress gzip compression graphic

Enabling gzip compression increases your WordPress site speed by manipulating the code and text to make it smaller.

It does this by finding similar pieces of text in files and replacing them (temporarily, when your page is loaded everything will show up just as you wrote it lol) which, because HTML and CSS files have so many repetitive pieces of text, can reduce the size of a WordPress page by 50-75%.

There is a technical way to enable gzip compression via your sites .htaccess file that’s less likely to break something… IF you know what you’re doing.

So in the meantime, let’s use plugins like:

Yep, the caching plugins we recommend above all have gzip compression built-in!

Defer parsing of JavaScript in WordPress

wordpress defer javascript parsing graphic

Most of the themes and plugins you’ll use in WordPress use a lot of JavaScript code to make fancy things like sliders and smooth scrolling happen.

By default, browsers will load that JS code first, which makes HTML and images only show up afterward, which makes the site feel slow.

The hack for this: make visual elements load first so people who visit your site see something, then load the JavaScript after so your page’s full functionality is up and running.

Plugins that’ll do that for ya:

Use a WordPress CDN

wordpress cdn servers in the sky graphic

A Content Delivery Network (aka “CDN” because that’s a mouthful), speeds up your WordPress site by caching (saving copies of your site’s files) in multiple data centers around the world.

Example: let’s say your website host has your site on a server in Los Angeles, and someone tries to access your site from London (UK).

It’s going to take time for your website’s files to get sent from LA across the pond to jolly old England (we’re talking milliseconds but it makes a difference).

Would be much faster if those files were already on a server in London; with a CDN, they could be.

To get these speedy speed improvements, you’ll need both a plugin to enable the CDN for your site, and an actual CDN service to distribute and host those files.

Plugins:

WordPress CDNs:

WordPress lazy loading plugins

wordpress lazy loading man snoozing

Normally, when someone visits a page on your site, all the content is loaded at once.

That’s called “eager loading.”

But some content, like images way down at the bottom of your page, doesn’t need to be loaded when someone first gets to the top of your page.

Instead, they could be loaded when, say, a visitor gets 75% of the way down your page, which means the top of the page will load faster.

Another WordPress speed hack!

Plugins that’ll let you lazy load images:

Step 12: How to secure your WordPress site

how to secure wordpress site laptop lock shield

Definitely don’t want your shiny new site to get hacked!

And since WordPress powers around 30% of the internet, there are plenty of hackers (tens of thousands? millions?) trying to break into WordPress sites 24/7.

So you’ve gotta make sure you keep your seals tight and your WordPress site secure.

That means a few things:

Use unique usernames and passwords

“Admin” is the username set by default for the first user created in all WordPress installs.

Definitely want to change that by creating a new Administrator account with a unique name and password.

Because there are a variety of ways a hacker can get or guess your password but not your username.

If that’s the case and you’re still using the “admin” username, well that part of the login equation is done for them.

If your WordPress username is something unreal like “donthackmebro69” well, that’ll be harder for them to get at.

Unless you use that same username on other sites (though you probably shouldn’t use it at all lol).

“Unique password” means all the things it usually does: include numbers, capital letters, and symbols; longer is better.

We recommend using a password manager like LastPass to manage your online/website making passwords – keeps them all in one easy to find place and lets you use unique ones for all your accounts without forgetting them.

Restrict access to your WordPress admin area

This one’s a bit more advanced but a good idea once you get comfortable with making changes to website files on your web host’s server.

As we showed above, you can access your WordPress dashboard – which lets you change pretty much anything on your site – by going to “[yourdomain].com/wp-admin”.

It’s actually possible to restrict access to that page on your site to only people from certain computers!

To do this you’ll need to first find your home IP address by visiting whatsmyip.com.

Then, you can go edit your .htaccess file in your WordPress folder and add the following code, replacing “xx.xxx.xxx.xxx” with your IP address.

<Files wp-login.php>

order deny,allow

Deny from all

Allow from xx.xxx.xxx.xxx

</Files>

If you need access from multiple computers (either for yourself or for people you work with), you can simply add the “Allow from xx.xxx.xxx.xxx” line with other IP addresses again.

All that might be a bit convenient and technical, though.

So as an alternative, you can limit the number of login attempts using:

WordPress security plugins

There are a lot of security plugins that have different functionality, but in general, these are going to offer a few things: 

  • Active security monitoring (to check for hacks in real-time)
  • Notifications for when a security threat is detected (so you can secure your site fast)
  • Malware scanning (to check for malicious code)
  • File scanning (to make sure nothing gets infected)
  • Blacklist monitoring (to protect your site from visits by people at IP addresses known to be used for hacking)
  • Post-hack help (to recover your site if it gets hacked)
  • Firewalls (to limit access to your website’s files)
  • Brute force attack protection (aka “limiting login attempts”)

A few of the top security plugins:

Keep your site up to date and backed up

Which we’re covering… now!

Step 13: How to update your WordPress site

On top of adding cool new features and stomping out annoying bugs, updates also patch up security holes.

With WordPress, you’ll have three things to keep updated:

  1. WordPress itself
  2. Your themes
  3. Your plugins

WordPress will automatically make small updates on its own, bigger ones will wait for your approval (because they might break your plugins/themes).

You’ll also have to do theme and plugin updates yourself.

For any of that, the easiest thing to do is go to your updates tab.

There you’ll be able to update all your plugins, themes, and WordPress itself at once.

Here’s what it’ll look like when everything’s up to date (know it’s not the most helpful screenshot we’ve taken, for security reasons we’re not gonna show you what plugins we use/what needs updating on the sites we care about lol):

how to update wordpress site updated example

Step 14: How to backup your WordPress site

Setting up WordPress backups is super easy but a key part of your security game.

No matter how much you lock your sh*t down using the above recommendations/plugins, accidents and hacks happen.

When they do, you’ll want to be able to get back up and running fast.

That’s what backups are for.

If you want a bit more on how to do this than we cover in the video above, check out our How to Backup a WordPress Site for Free post!

WordPress website tips, tricks

wordpress website tips and tricks rabbit magic hat

Alright, rounding out our WordPress tutorial we’re going to drop a few hot tips to help you get started.

Let’s dive in.

  1. Definitely be sure to customize your homepage and spend a bit more time here than you might on other pages. It’s likely going to be the most visited page on your site, so you want to make sure you have all the important info on what your site is about and that it looks super slick to make a solid first impression.
  2. WordPress has some great online support in the form of documentation and forums you can lean on when you get stuck. We also recommend Stack Overflow for technical questions (with WordPress, hosting, really anything web development related).
  3. In the “Reading” settings under “Settings” be sure to set “For each article in a feed, show” to “Summary” so people don’t have to scroll through each entire post when they get to your blog page. Instead, they’ll just get the first few sentences and can then click “read more” to get the full diggity.
  4. Use images and videos to help break up the text on your pages and posts! (This post is a decent example of that though we could probably stand to include even more visuals lol).
  5. Your “About Us” page is likely to be one of the most visited on your site, so be sure to tell your website’s story and mission in a compelling way here.
  6. We highly recommend using the “Post name” permalink setting (on the Permalink page under “Settings”) – it’s cleaner and better for SEO than including publishing dates in your post URLs.
  7. Make sure your WordPress website looks good on mobile; it’s almost guaranteed that most of your visitors will be reaching your site from their phones.
  8. Include your most important pages (and maybe posts) in your header menu.
  9. Disable comments on pages like “About Us” and “Contact” since you don’t need them there; that can be done by editing the page, you’ll find the option to enable/disable comments under “Discussion” in the right sidebar of the editor.
  10. If you use a sidebar on your site, keep the widgets there organized and at a minimum. You want people focusing on your page’s/post’s main content without getting distracted.

Other WordPress tutorials

Alright y’all, that’s it for today’s tutorial but we’ve got so much more for you.

First, here are a few more WordPress tutorial written guides:

And there are a ton more how-to and tutorial videos on WordPress and anything else website creation related on our YouTube channel!

How to Design a Website
The Definitive Guide [2020]

How To Design A Website Featured Image

Solid web design is a critical part of creating awesome websites. Here are the basics.

 

Dale McManus

Co-Founder & Web Developer

Nov. 8, 2019

 

Hey, my name is Dale! My partner Alex and I have helped tens of thousands of people build beautiful websites around the world. In this fully-packed, step-by-step guide, you’ll learn all the basics about How To Design A Website. Let’s dive in!

  • Level of Expertise:
    Beginner
  • Time To Complete:
    1 Hour
  • What You Get:
    A Functional Website

For the record: It’s super important for us to keep this site 100% free for you and 100% high quality. To help us do that, we’ve partnered with some of the products we recommend and earn a commission if you buy through our links. Read our full disclosure and partners list here.

Lies: you’ve got to be some sort of artistic genius or coding wizard with high tech tools to design a website that looks and feels mindblowing.

Facts: With tools like website builders, themes/templates, a basic understanding of website design principles and a bit of practice, it’s pretty darn easy for just about anyone (you included) to design a website that drops jaws.

Especially when you’re armed with a super detailed (yet easy to scan and understand) guide like this one.

Today we’re going over the basics of how to design a website starting… now!

how to design a website

What is web design?

what is web design example site design

Before we dive knee-deep into the process, let’s start with the basics: web design is the process of creating the visual look and feel of a website.

Mostly.

These days “design” also incorporates the idea of “user experience” – which is a whole subject in and of itself, but for our purposes today it means web design isn’t just about how good your website looks, but how easy it is to do things like find information, important links and buttons, etc.

Hence “look” (what people see on your site) and “feel” (how easy it is to use your site).

Websites are built using the coding languages HTML and CSS, which tell a web browser how to arrange all the text on the site, what colors to make things, where to put images, etc.

In the old days, web designers had to hand-code websites from scratch – literally writing every line of HTML and CSS code for each website they made.

These days, you can be a designer without knowing any of that stuff thanks to “What You See is What You Get” website builders and Content Management Systems like WordPress.

These website creation tools do the hard work of creating code for you, so you can use your basic computer skills (dragging things around with your mouse, clicking buttons, copy/paste) to make websites. Fast and easy.

What “look” means

There are a few web design elements that determine how good (or bad) your website looks.

Colors

web design colors

What color is your text? How about the background behind that text? Your header menu? Buttons?

Color is a huge part of making a sweet looking site and a strong part of whether your site looks like it’s supposed to sell expensive watches to business executives or is just a place for your brother to share photos of your nephew’s birthday party.

Fonts

web design fonts

Fonts determine how the text on your site looks. The same words can feel super primo (like the always classy Helvetica) or casual and friendly (#comic sans) based only on the font!

Graphics/Images/Videos

web design cat illustration

These are things like photos, videos, icons, illustrations (where the whole “image” is drawn in a program like Adobe Illustrator – the cute kitty above being an example!), or composite images (like the “how to design a website” image at the top of this post).

The photos would be taken by a photographer, obviously.

The videos would be made by a videographer if they’re videos of the real world, or an animator if they’re made from other images/illustrations.

And it’s technically a “graphic designer” who would create icons, illustrations, and composite images

But, because there’s so much overlap, many web designers have graphic design/photography/videography skills because there’s so much overlap.

Once you have those photos/graphics/images/videos, the “web designer” is the one who adds them to the site in a way that looks fantastic.

Written Content

web design written content

Creating content/written text isn’t the web designer’s job but just like with graphic design, some web designers have content creation skills.

On the web design front, “content” is about arranging the words on the website so that they’re easy to read and attract people’s attention when they should (for instance, we wanted you to see the “Written Content” above before reading these last couple of sentences, so we made it higher on the page AND bigger so it’d catch your eye and let you know what this part of the post was about).

But again, because there’s a lot of overlap – and especially if you’re creating your own websites – the person who creates the website design might also write some or all of the content.

What “feel” means

Besides the stuff above, those visual elements that come together with a bit of web design magic to make a site look spectacular, there are a few elements that make a website “feel” easy and dare we say fun to use.

Layout

sketches of website layouts

Layout is the way graphics, text, and buttons are arranged on your page. 

Layout not only makes your site look good, but a solid layout also makes it easy to use because information is displayed in a way that makes sense, buttons are in places that people expect them to be, images are placed so that they help people understand what you’re trying to communicate without making text hard to read, etc.

Navigation

how to design a website navigation

This is how people get from one page to the next, and for your more complicated pages, how they get around the page.

Using this very site and page as an example (you’re here, why not), this includes things like

  • The header menu (that part with Home, YouTube Tutorials, Written Guides, etc at the top of the page on desktop, or the three stacked lines on mobile).
  • The floating table of contents on the top left (if you’re on desktop; if you’re on your phone like most people these days you saw it towards the top of this page, that part smartly called “Table of Contents”).
  • The “jump to top” button (the white arrow on the blue circle background at the bottom right of the page).
  • The “recently written articles” section at the bottom of the page.

The goal with navigation elements like these is to make it super simple for people to find the pages and information they want, when they want it.

Compatibility

website designs compatibility devices

Compatibility is how well your site/pages load and look on different browsers, operating systems, and devices.

Your site will have to look and function a bit differently for a 6” phone screen where people have to tap things with their fingers than it does on a 15” laptop screen where people use their mouse/trackpad (pro tip: if you’re gonna get into the website building game, get yourself a mouse; even Apple’s trackpads are just so much harder to use).

Web design vs. web development

web design vs web development comparison

As you’re getting familiar with the world of website creation, you’ll see “web design” and “web development” get thrown around pretty much interchangeably.

At the beginner level, they basically are – both are all about creating websites.

But we’re here to help you slingshot from beginner to expert at SpaceX rocket speed, so we’ll break them down for you a bit more.

Web design, as we got into a bit above, is about what people see and how they interact with your websites – the buttons, colors, fonts, images, page layouts, etc.

Web development is about actually getting into the code, writing the HTML, CSS, Javascript, PHP, etc that form a functional website.

If you’re building websites yourself using website builders or CMSs like WordPress, you’re basically both in a sense (even if you don’t write a lick of code).

As you get more advanced, you might want to build some samurai level skills in web design or web development.

Or you might want to hire someone to help you with certain parts of your website creation process.

So here’s a bit more in-depth into the differences between a web designer and a web developer.

What is a web designer?

web designer guy making graphics

Again, simply put, these are the folks that make websites look good and feel easy to use.

But in the world of big-shot websites like Amazon and Google, and maybe your sites one day, there are actually a couple of different types of “web designer.”

User Interface (UI) Designer

At the top levels of the website building game, UI designers are dedicated to just the visuals – the colors used, the fonts used, what images are used and where, the size and location of text, etc.

Just the visual “look,” the aesthetics, not any of the “feel” stuff.

So when a lot of people say “web designer” this is usually what they’re talking about…

User Experience (UX) Designer

But there’s another end of things in the web design world – the “feel” of your website.

When you’re getting started, and to be honest for a long time and a lot of sites after that, you can just stick to pre-built templates and some standard design forms to determine how things work on your site, where buttons go, where to use navigation menus and elements, etc.

For example, your site should have a header menu for your main pages (contact page, about page, home, blog, etc). Any website theme or template will have these, and just from using the internet you know header menus are a thing your site needs to have at the top of the page.

But deeper into the game, you start to ask questions like “what pages should actually be in that header menu?” “Should I have a button for my contact page in the header menu?” “Should the menu stay at the top of the screen and disappear when I scroll down or stay floating above the content?”

UX designers ask these questions, then do user research and testing to figure out the best way to layout your pages, which exact elements to include in order to get the most people to find your site fun, engaging, and maybe even a little bit addictive.

What is a web developer?

web developer guy with headphones

Again, these are the folks that make the actual code that runs turns a web design (“here’s what text goes where, with what font, in what size; here’s where the buttons go and they should be this color” etc.) into an actual website.

And, again, when you’re getting started out, you’ll use tools like website builders and WordPress to handle this end of things for you – so you’ll be doing the “web development” as you’re doing the “web design.”

When you get more advanced, though, sometimes you’ll want things to look a certain way that you can’t find in a template or can’t make happen with a web builder’s toolkit or WordPress plugin.

When that’s the case, you’ll need someone who understands code to make it happen – or become one yourself.

At that point, you’re definitely winning.

And at that point, you’ll need the help of one of three kinds of web developer.

Backend developer

Backend developers are the guys and gals that work on the core structure of a website.

They use languages like Java, SQL, and C++ to get certain information from databases, load a page when a button is clicked, send a new entry from one of your contact forms to a program like MailChimp so you can do some email marketing.

Basically, if it has to do with something that makes your website work but isn’t directly tied to what your visitors see, it’s a backend developer’s job.

Frontend developer

Frontend developers make the HTML, CSS, and Javascript that makes things visitors to your site see.

You need a button here? A frontend developer will add that to the code.

Need this contact form to have name, email, and message fields? A frontend developer will make those fields appear on your page and able to accept text from someone (but it’s the backend developer that makes sure that data is received properly on the server, and sent over to Mailchimp).

Full-stack developer

Now that we know about frontend/backend developers this one’s easy: a full-stack developer is just someone who can help with both ends of the “web development stack.”

Do you need to hire a web designer or web developer to help you create websites?

Short and long answer: nope!

Especially when you’re getting started, tools like the best website builders and CMSs like WordPress make it easy for anyone to create websites without having to spend a ton of time and years building experience in the finer points of web design or learning how to code.

When you get to a certain point, you might need a designer or developer to help out with some more advanced things you want to do (for example, we have one on our team who created some things like the jump to top button on this page – thanks Dan!).

But you can absolutely build some amazing looking sites without the help of these experts.

And, thanks to resources like this here blog post and our Youtube channel, you can learn to do a lot of web design and development things yourself!

Which leads us nicely into our step-by-step guide on how to design a website…

Step 1: Define your site’s purpose

website purpose compass hand

Yep, the first step in designing a website is a bit of a philosophical one: what are your reasons for creating the site at all?

Do you want to create a blog that gets millions of fans and readers?

Have an awesome online business idea to get some sweet sweet time and financial freedom that you just can’t have with a day job?

Are you learning to build sites so you can make money as a website creator for other people?

Whatever your reason for wanting to learn how to design a website, each website you create has to start with a purpose, a “raison d’être” as the french or people trying to be way too fancy would put it (#guiltyascharged).

Why you ask?

Well, if you’re new to website building, it’s super easy to overthink it; there are hundreds of blog posts on how to build a website, how to start a blog, how to make money online, etc. etc.

All sorts of ideas on what you should do to create an online business, what features you should have on your site, what tools you should use to make one.

Knowing why you’re building a website and what it should do can help you make decisions about what the design you create needs to have – and what’s #extra.

Plus, if you’re not clear on what the website should do/be from the start, you can end up with a “frankensite” that’s some sort of grotesque and confusing patchwork of 100 ideas you’ve had over 100 weeks of website building.

So to help you get clear and off on the right foot with your website design, we have three things for you: 

  • A list of general questions to answer about the website you’re designing
  • Some insights into the 3 basic objectives a website can have
  • Some examples of the types of site you might be looking to build

First, those general, get your Buddhist monk/Einstein on questions:

  • Why do you want a website?
  • What does a “successful” website look like to you?
  • Who do you think your audience/visitors are?
  • What do they gain by coming to your site?
  • What do you want them to do once they get to your site?
  • How does your website idea compare with others?
  • Are you aiming to make money from your site?

That last one leads us nicely into:

The 3 main website objectives

At a high level, a website can basically do three things for you:

  1. Establish your authority
  2. Generate leads
  3. Sell products

The first one is probably the simplest – a few relatively basic pages and a blog is all you’ll really need; you can get more fancy from there but those are the essentials to let people know what you’re about and connect with them enough that they’ll want to hear more from you.

The second, from a technical standpoint, is a bit more complicated but not by too much.

Without going into a whole business lecture, basically by “generating leads” we mean one of two things:

  1. You’re selling a particular service (like graphic design or web design for example), and you want people to be able to come to your site, decide they want to work with you, then have a way to get started.
  2. You’re building an affiliate website, where you want to attract people who will read your content, then click on links to products that they’ll then buy and you’ll get paid a commission from.

For these sites, you’ll need to think a bit more about what kind of people you want and need to attract (which is largely a marketing question but will affect your design as well), and what you’ll need to show and tell them so that they’ll want to click your affiliate links or fill out a form to work with you.

The third is the most complicated – in addition to some basic pages describing what your site/business is about, a blog, and some thought about who you need to come to your site and what you’ll want them to see when they get there, you’ll have to create ecommerce pages and functionality so they can buy products from you.

6 types of websites

Those three basic objectives can translate into a few different kinds of sites, each of which will affect the functionality and aesthetics you’ll need to consider when designing a website.

Here are a few examples, for your consideration (insert broad, sweeping gesture here):

Blog

how to design a website blog example

The heart and soul of a blogging website (like this one) is the almighty blog post (like this one!).

They’re generally informative and hopefully entertaining, there tend to be a lot of them, and more will be added faster than you’d add a new page to another kind of site.

You might have a blogging site that just shares your personal thoughts and adventures like fifty coffees.

You might have a blog that teaches people some skill you have (like this one!).

You might have a blog that makes money, or maybe it’s just for your own personal satisfaction (and that of at least a few visitors).

Other kinds of sites might have a blog, but your site’s whole reason and purpose might be the blog itself too.

Portfolio

how to design a portfolio website example

A portfolio site is primarily meant to describe the work you do and showcase some examples and case studies of that work.

A few awesome examples of this:

Most of the time these are for people with creative skills, though they could be a sort of online resume for someone in just about any industry.

A lot of times, they’ll have at least a contact form that could be for lead generation, but unlike a business site built specifically generate leads (that would have things like “downloadable guides” and pop-ups asking to “sign up for the email list”, that might be it on the LG front.

And sometimes these sites have blogs, other times they’re just relatively static pages that get updated every once in a while.

Brochure

how to design a website brochure example

Brochure websites are similar to Portfolios in that they’re largely informational but might have some lead generation features and/or a blog.

The difference is that Portfolios are sites for individuals, while Brochures are for businesses, groups, and nonprofit organizations.

Which means they’ll have a slightly different set of core pages; where a Portfolio site would have examples of work you’ve done, a brochure website would have a menu or upcoming events page; where you might just have a simple contact form on a Portfolio site, a brochure site might have locations and business hours as well (maybe no contact form either – no one needs to email that hot new gastropub asking about their daily specials).

Examples of solid brochure sites include:

The lack of need for real lead generation considerations is what separates Brochure sites from business from our next category; restaurants don’t really need lead generation, nor do some nonprofits.

On the other hand…

Professional Services

how to design a professional services website example

Professional services sites might include law firms, web design agencies, hotels, real estate agencies, etc.

Basically, if a site needs to tell a business’ story and provide information that persuades people to want to work with that company, it’s what we’d call a “professional services” company.

They’re not necessarily selling products through an ecommerce store, though there might be some level of ecommerce functionality.

The “customers” these sites are trying to get will need to talk to a real person at some point, schedule an appointment, maybe book online.

These sites aren’t “ecommerce,” though, because visitors either won’t be paying through some sort of “buy now” function or if they do, what they’re paying for isn’t simply a product that gets shipped or emailed to them.

Examples:

Ecommerce

how to design an ecommerce website example

This one’s easy because you definitely know this kind of site – Amazon.

But, Amazon’s not the only name in the ecommerce game, there are a ton of (much) smaller businesses that have websites to sell their products directly, without the help of third-party websites like Amazon.

The point of these: get traffic, make sales.

Some examples:

Step 2: Choose your website platform

Wix Versus WordPress website design platform

Alright, once you’ve got a basic concept of the purpose and type of website you’re building, it’s time to choose your “website platform.”

What the heck does that mean?

Well, you’ve got to get this website built (hopefully without having to know too much about coding), connected to a domain name, and hosted on a server so people from all over the world can get to it.

Technically, there are a lot of ways to do this.

Realistically, there are two main ways:

Website Builders

Website builders are tools that let you go from 0 to website super fast.

They take care of the domain and hosting parts for you, then offer a drag and drop interface to let you build your site page by page, button by button – without having to code or mess with the technical parts of building a site and making it available on the internet.

If you want the simplest website building process possible and don’t mind paying a few extra bucks over option 2, this is the way to go.

We’ve got a whole definitive guide to the best website builders for you right mere, in case you don’t want to all the way in atm a few of our favorites:

Wix

Best All Around

Wix
Wix
star ratings graphic
4.5/5
  • checkmark Features: 4/5
  • checkmark Speed/Uptime: 4.5/5
  • checkmark Support: 5/5
  • checkmark Price: 5/5

Pros

  • Tons of beautiful templates to choose from to get a solid start
  • The most powerful design and customization features around
  • Quick and easy answers found in their thorough knowledge base

Cons

  • No live chat (but you can call)
  • The editor is a bit harder to use than some – but not by much
  • Not the cheapest

Wix is what we’d like to call “the website builder’s builder” – it really sets the standard for everyone else. 

It’s not the cheapest and because it’s so customizable there’s a bit more of a learning curve. 

But if you’re going to fully dive into the world of website creation, you won’t go wrong here. 

Check out our full Wix review here.

Gator Website Builder

The cheapest… and that’s not a bad thing!

HostGator Logo

Gator Website Builder

star ratings graphic
4.5/5
  • checkmark Features: 4/5
  • checkmark Speed/Uptime: 5/5
  • checkmark Support: 4/5
  • checkmark Price: 4/5

Pros

  • By far the least expensive builder…
  • But that doesn’t mean their editor sucks – just the opposite, it’s powerful and easy to use!
  • Lot’s of extra features like built-in analytics and advanced elements that are missing or cost more in other builders

Cons

  • Templates could use some work – they look fine but aren’t amazing out of the box
  • The knowledge base needs more useful articles and a less buggy search function
  • Website speed could be faster

Bottom Line

We fully believe a good website maker is worth paying for… especially when it’s less than $4 a month! 

Gator is certainly the choice for the price-conscious website building beginner, but it’s also powerful and easy to use so you won’t be disappointed as you become a website creation wizard looking for a website creator you can grow with. 

Check out our full Gator Website Builder review here.

Constant Contact Website Builder

The best website builder for small business

Constant Contact Logo

Constant Contact

star ratings graphic
4/5
  • checkmark Features: 4/5
  • checkmark Speed/Uptime: 4.5/5
  • checkmark Support: 3.5/5
  • checkmark Price: 4/5

Pros

  • Their editor is the perfect combination of easy to use yet customizable for those who want an amazing website without spending a ton of time to learn how to build them.
  • Price, speed, and support are all top-notch
  • They’ve got some super sweet extra features like a built-in logo maker. Freaking A!

Cons

  • Can’t fully customize your site, great for people who just want a quick site but you’ll want more if you really want to dive into the website building game.
  • Knowledge base is good but needs more articles and better search
  • Their blogging tools could use some work

Constant Contact makes it super easy to make a professional website that looks great, with just enough customization to make your site unique without extra features that take time to learn.

Combine that with one of the best email marketing platforms around and a $10/month price tag and you’ve got a website creator perfect for a small business owner who wants a solid website without having to spend a lot of time or hard-earned cash! 

Check out our Constant Contact website builder review here.

WordPress

wordpress logo hand

The other main platform for designing, building, and launching websites is WordPress.

It’s a “Content Management System” (CMS) that makes it easy to create and customize sites without knowing how to code.

There are, technically, other CMSs besides the good ole WP, but WordPress is by far the most used and for good reason – it’s just a hands-down, no jokes, solid product.

WordPress itself is 100% free to use, which is pretty awesome.

You will have to pay for hosting and a domain name, though, but the total will be cheaper than using a website builder.

The tradeoff: there’s more work to be done.

You have to set up your domain name and hosting, which builders take care of for you.

And, while WordPress is way more customizable and flexible than website builders, that comes at the cost of a bit of a higher learning curve.

Check out the full lowdown on “what is WordPress” here!

Step 3: Choose your template or theme

web page design wix templates

Alright, now that you’ve got some clarity on the purpose of the site your building and the platform you’re gonna roll with, it’s time to choose your template or theme.

The two terms are basically interchangeable, it mostly depends on the platform you’re using.

Some nuanced differences aside, a theme or template basically covers a lot of the groundwork on in the looks department for your site by giving you an initial layout and set of colors to work with.

It’s like the structure of the house that is your website – the basic walls, rooms, colors are there, you’ve just got to fill it in with furniture, repaint a couple of walls, maybe swap out the toilet or add some recessed lighting in the kitchen.

Whichever platform you use, you’ll find a range of templates/themes – organized by the type of site, certain features, particular industries –  that you can preview to find the best starting point for your site.

A couple of notes before we get into some tips on choosing the best template or theme for your site:

  • Some themes/templates come with a set of pre-built pages, so things like your homepage, about page, and contact page are already started; others will just give you a few standard colors/fonts and types of page layouts, then you’ll have to create the pages you need from that starting point – these are a bit more work, but you still get a head start over the people doing it all from scratch.
  • Themes and templates for the best website platforms are all customizable, so you can make your site look exactly the way you want to, but it can be helpful to find one that’s got 70-80% of what you want already built out – saves you some time adding/rearranging things later.

Tips for choosing a website theme or template

Keep it simple

This is where it’s really important to know the purpose of your site.

Some themes come with a lot of flashy animations, complex layouts, and tons of built-in features that can all seem really impressive when you first see them.

But these things can distract visitors.

They can make it more complicated to customize your site.

And they can slow down your site.

So start with the basic features and functions you’ll need to fulfill your website’s purpose.

You can get double backflip fireworks grand finale fancy later.

Check out the competition

Especially with your first few sites, this is a hugely helpful place to start.

Because until you’ve got a few sites under your belt, you’ll probably have a tough time brainstorming ideas for what you want in your website designs, and you might just have zero idea why you should choose one template over another.

So, start with what’s already working for people making similar moves, check out your competitor’s sites, make some notes about what you like and don’t like, then use that to find that badass template you’re searching for.

Be careful not to feel like you have to do everything your competitors are – they could be working with much bigger budgets and they’ve been working on their site for longer than you have.

Just look for some basic good/bad pieces and keep moving!

Pay attention to fonts and colors

We’ll get a bit more into fonts and colors in step 4 below, but this is a big part of choosing a template.

Again, customization is always possible; if you find a theme that’s got the perfect layout but the button colors are terrible, go with it and change those later.

But that can take some work, depending on the website platform and particular template.

So look for something that uses a set of fonts you can at least live with if you don’t absolutely love them.

And pick one whose overall color scheme is close, if not spot-on; if you’re building a super fun and bright kids clothing store, don’t choose a template that’s mostly black, white and grey.

Likewise, if you’re building a site for a law firm, probably best to leave the pastels and comic sans behind.

Keep mobile in mind

You’re probably reading this post on your phone.

How in the world would we know that?

Because most internet traffic these days is from mobile devices.

And we’ve got Google Analytics data that says most of our visitors fit that bill.

In your web design journey, you’ll come across other posts that remind you to “make sure your site is mobile responsive.”

“Mobile responsive” meaning your site shows up one way that looks fantastic on desktops, and automatically shows up a different way (that also looks fantastic) on mobile devices.

We agree, your template should be mobile responsive.

Where we disagree is in “making sure your template is mobile responsive.”

Everyone’s known that’s important for years; any template or theme you choose will be responsive.

So “keeping mobile in mind” isn’t so much about checking to see if the theme you love is mobile responsive at all, it’s about checking that out before you choose.

Some platforms will have a “mobile view” in their demo so you can see what the template looks like on smaller screens.

A hack if that’s not available: just resize your browser window to the smallest width you can.

Just because everyone else mentions “SEO”

Again, like “mobile responsiveness” this isn’t a thing to worry about too much.

SEO (“search engine optimization”) has been important for a while, so any website platform, theme, or template you choose will have SEO in mind.

There are some particular things you’ll want to look for but that’s for another post and a later stage in your website building journey.

So for now, just know you don’t really have to worry about this; whatever theme you choose, you’ll be fine.

Step 4: Choose your initial branding

website design branding

It’s just about time to start getting your hands dirty with some in the weeds page building and website designing, just one more “let’s think about this first” step – choosing your initial branding.

Branding is a big topic, but from a beginner’s standpoint, this basically means the colors and fonts you’ll want to use on your site.

“But wait, shouldn’t I figure out the fonts and colors before I choose a template? Won’t that change what template I choose?”

A smart question to ask. And no, you shouldn’t.

Well, you can but you don’t need to.

Why?

Because when you’re getting started, figuring out what the branding should be is pretty hard; there’s a lot of experience and practice that goes into really understanding the best colors, fonts, and overall style a website should have, why Helvetica would be better than Times New Roman, why burnt orange is a better brand fit than fire engine red.

That’s where taking a look at what the competition is doing is helpful; if they all use a lot of dark backgrounds and sans serif fonts, you probably should too.

Likewise, if you really like the look of a particular theme, it’s going to include certain fonts and colors anyway.

Maybe you should change those, but you might not have to.

So by choosing a theme first, you can provide a bit of structure to your “what’s the brand” decision making, instead of a world of options (which can be confusing and time-consuming to navigate), you’ll just have a few good options that are perfectly great starting points.

That being said, color and fonts are important parts of designing a website.

So let’s go over a few basics about each.

Website Color Schemes

website branding color palate screens

Color is a huge part of defining your website design and overall brand.

There’s a ton of psychology behind what colors mean and which colors are best for your website and the business it’s representing.

There are whole books and websites covering the topic of “color theory,” but we’re here to save you the hours it’d take to read those.

Here are the basics of what colors mean in relation to branding and websites:

  • Black represents luxury, power, elegance, and sophistication. 
  • Gray represents simplicity, neutrality, logic, and “the future.”
  • Red represents urgency, excitement, danger, and passion.
  • Pink represents sweetness, femininity, innocence, and romance.
  • Yellow represents optimism, cheerfulness, and youth.
  • Orange represents creativity, friendliness, and enthusiasm.
  • Purple represents success, wisdom, wealth, and royalty.
  • Green represents health, wealth, peacefulness and nature.
  • Blue represents security, stability, trust, and calmness.

Cool, but how do you choose the colors for your site?

Well, most brands have one dominant color, then two or three secondary colors and a background color.

You’ll want to think about your audience, too – don’t just choose your favorite colors, choose ones that will communicate well with the people who will visit your site.

Building a site for a classy (aka expensive) restaurant? Black, red, and purple are good starting points.

Building a site to sell baby clothes? Blue, pink, or yellow could be the move.

Maybe it’s a portfolio site for your website creation services. Gray, blue, and orange are solid there.

Once you have a general idea of what dominant color is best for your target audience, it’s time to give Adobe’s Color wheel a spin.

It’s a 100% free tool that will let you pick your dominant color, then it’ll automatically suggest secondary colors for you.

And it’ll give you the hex codes (like “#231885”) which are what you’ll use to tell your website builder/WordPress exactly what color to use in certain places (rather than relying on your eyes to try to match – that’s just not the pro move lol).

Once you’ve figured out your color scheme, how do you use it on your site?

The dominant color should be used in most important parts of your site like:

  • Your logo
  • Menu tabs
  • Call to action buttons
  • Backgrounds for important information
  • Headlines

Your secondary colors should be used as accents in places like:

  • Subheadlines
  • Backgrounds for information that’s important, but not the most important
  • Hover effects

And your background colors, which might be white, gray, black, or one of the secondary colors you got from our friends at Adobe, should be used in… the background.

Duh. More specifically/helpfully:

  • Use lighter color backgrounds when you want the words and images of a section of your page to stand out.
  • Use darker colors/your secondary colors to help create some distinction between sections of your page; use these a lot/instead of light or white backgrounds if you really want to push your branding on your website.

Website fonts

website fonts laid out on printing press

After color, fonts are the other big way your initial branding will apply to your web design.

Is your website going to cover serious business? Then classic, classy fonts like Baskerville and Arial are the move.

Looking to do something more fun and lighthearted? Copse or Museo are a good place to start.

One important thing to keep in mind when choosing a font for your website design: make sure they’re readable.

There are some super classy script fonts that are nice for wedding invitations but are just terrible for websites (we’re looking at you Buttermilk; because we can’t tell what you’re saying and we don’t know why that’s your name).

Also, you’ll want 2, maybe 3 fonts for your site max: a primary font (for headlines) and one or two secondary fonts (for your subheadlines and body text).

Cool story, we know, but how exactly do you choose the right fonts for your site?

Well, like we mentioned above, this is where choosing a template first is helpful; you’re probably good to go with the fonts they included by default.

If you want to choose new ones, that’s gonna take some time and exploration.

But to help you get started, here are a couple of handy infographics from our friends over at DesignMantic:

designmantic font moods infographic
Source
designmantic typography commandments infographic
Source

Step 5: Create your website layouts and initial pages

website layout and sitemap graphic

Awesome, now we’re getting into the dirty dirty, hands-on stuff – it’s time to get your initial website pages created.

First up, you’ll want to start simply with a few key pages any website will have.

From there, depending on your site’s purpose and the particular business you’re building it for, you’ll need more.

BUT any site you’re going to make will have the following:

Home page

web design example homepage

For the record though we’re 99.9874% sure you already know this: the homepage is the main page of a site, the one you land on when you go to “thewebsite.com”

Every site has one, and it’s almost always the first thing most visitors see.

A few tips on designing homepages:

  • Be sure to use lots of attention-grabbing visuals.
  • If this is a lead generation or ecommerce website, be sure to include at least one “call to action” or CTA – either something like “contact us for a quote” or “shop now.”
  • If the business has some sort of testimonials or trust badges (like “BBB accredited”) stick those bad boys on there.
  • Make sure there are easy to scan and read sections that communicate what the business/organization/person does and why visitors should care.
  • Include contact information or an email list sign up form if those are part of the website’s purpose.

About page

website design example about us page

We’re also pretty sure you know this page too.

It’s where you tell the story about the business/organization/person who’s website people are reading.

Definitely include images of the people behind the site/business.

And be sure this page answers the following questions:

  • How did the business/organization get started?
  • Who is the site for?
  • What makes this site/business different?

Contact page

web design example contact us page

For lead gen sites, this is definitely one of the most important pages, though pretty much every website should have one of these as well.

Make it easy for potential customers or visitors you might want to connect with to reach out with at least a contact form.

Bonus points for including links to social media accounts, phone numbers, and physical addresses.

But only include these if they make sense (if this is a portfolio site, please don’t put your home address out there for anyone in the world to find – you will get more spam mail and maybe a visit from an overly enthusiastic fan).

Product/Services/Portfolio page(s)

website design example product page

The last of your core pages is really a type of page because it depends on the goal of your site/kind of business or organization it is.

These are portfolio pages that show examples of work, product pages where people can buy things, or services pages where people can learn more about what the business whose site your building does and can contact someone to learn more/get the service.

You’ll definitely want to include lots of relevant information about the product/service/work example, along with some super slick imagery that helps visually communicate the what, why, and how.

And if we’re talking about a product or service page, pricing info is important (though many services pages don’t have this because the cost can vary depending on the project), as is checkout functionality for product pages.

Web page layout best practices

website layouts examples

When it comes to the actual layout of your particular pages, your theme or template will help define a lot of this for you – it’ll put the headlines, images, body text, forms, buttons, etc in certain places out of the box.

But maybe you don’t quite like some of those choices.

Or your the type who just really likes to tweak things so they’re more “yours.”

Well, we like that kind of creative spark.

Just don’t screw up your site for the sake of changing things around.

A good website and web page layout keeps people on your site because it makes important information and features easy to find.

Bad layouts are frustrating and make people jump away from your site faster than your alcoholic uncle consumes a 12 pack of Bud Light (no disrespect uncle Jimmy but damn dude, chill).

Some general elements of a good layout:

  • It’s intuitive – visitors shouldn’t have to think hard to figure out what they should look at/do.
  • It’s streamlined – no fluff or clutter, just the minimum amount of text and imagery needed to get your point across.
  • It’s goal-oriented – want people to click a buy button? Make it bright and well separated from other parts of the page; want people to look at a particular image? Make it big and right smack dab in the middle of the page.
  • It’s designed for skimmers – most people just don’t want to take the time to read every word on a page (if you’ve read every word of this post so far you’re an everyday hero for sure), so use plenty of bullet points and headlines to make it easy for people to see/read the most important information fast.

Website layouts that work

There are a ton of design principles to learn if you want to master the whole “how to design a website” topic.

But to get started, you can definitely get a solid website built by just going with what already works for thousands of other sites.

There are a few standard layouts that pretty much always work, so if you apply these to your pages you’re just about guaranteed to be good to go.

The F

web page layout example f

This is the most fundamental website layout around as it’s how people have been reading books (in English at least) for centuries – start at the top left of the text, read to the right, jump back to the left of the second line of text, move to the right.

Aptly named as this makes people’s eyes look at a page in the shape of an, you guessed it, “F.”

This one won’t fail you though because it’s so standard, it’s not very exciting.

Use it as a default layout to lean on but mix up your pages with sections that use other layouts too.

The zig-zag

web page layout example zig zag

This is the old left text, right image -> right text, left image -> left text, right image trick you’ve seen on hundreds of sites.

“Zig-Zag” because your eye “zigs” then “zags” across the page in the shape of a Z.

People are so used to looking at web pages like this, it’s a real winner for creating a layout that’s a bit more interesting than the tried and true F layout but easy to understand.

The featured image

web page layout example featured image

The featured image is another web design standard – it puts an image, big and bold, towards the top of a page to really hit home on what that page is about in a super visual way, usually balanced out with some text, as opposed to…

The full-screen photo

web page layout example full screen photo

Just like it sounds, whether at the top or some section below that, this is a part of the page that lets an image take a leading role in communicating some key idea you want to get across about your site or the people it’s for.

The full-screen photo is a cool way to make a background more interesting than just using a color (be sure your text is still readable though).

Or you can put the words on hold for a bit and just let people take in the full glory of a photo that’s, simply put, freaking awesome.

Grid

web page layout example grid

Whether images, text, or both, grids are a good way to let people easily browse a lot of information in a short amount of time.

By equally distributing content, they let visitors to your site choose what they want to look at first, second, third, or not at all.

Step 6: Create, find, and add in your content

web design content tools

Alright, you’ve got your initial pages built and laid out, time to add in the content – the words, images, and maybe videos that will make this website masterpiece complete.

Some more technicalities because we like them and they’re useful for you to know:

Finding images/graphics to include on a website is a thing most “web designers” would do; actually taking photos or creating graphics is technically the job of a photographer or graphic designer, but in the website creation world a lot of web designers might do those things too (because they’re such an integral part of building a website.

Likewise, creating the words for a website is technically the job of a “copywriter” (it’s an old advertising term, where the words of an ad are called “copy” instead of just “words” because that’s not very catchy).

But, again, a lot of web designers write copy (“website words”) too.

We definitely don’t have the space to do complete guides on copywriting or graphic design or photography here.

But, for the sake of helping you get to a finished website, here are some tips on writing words for websites and finding images/graphics to include.

Writing copy for websites

web design copy advertisemnt bilboards

Know your target audience

Just as your brand colors and fonts should match who you’re trying to speak to through your site, so too should the copy.

Having an idea of who your ideal visitor, the “target audience” for your website is important for understanding what copy you should write, what words you should use, what information you need to have.

For example, we know a lot of the people who come to our site are towards the beginning of their website creation journey.

So we use the words “getting started” and “as a beginner” a good bit.

And we also aim to filter through the details and deep levels of technicality involved in completely understanding how to build and launch websites to give you information that’s going to actually help you get started.

You probably don’t know what an htaccess file is. You don’t need to when you’re getting started, so we don’t mention them when talking about hosting.

Understanding your target audience, the people who are going to read and take action on your site goes beyond demographics like age, gender, location, etc.

You want to know what problems keep them up at night, the kinds of words they use, what they dream of achieving.

This all will help you figure out what your site needs to say and when it needs to say it.

Know the features, benefits, and objections

This one’s for lead generation or ecommerce sites in particular.

You know what products or services you’re selling – you should write about those obviously?

Not quite.

The cold hard truth is that most of the people who come to the site you’re building aren’t your mom; they don’t really care about you, your company, your products and services.

They’re interested in themselves.

Their problems. Their needs. Their dreams.

The stuff you’re selling is just a means of solving those problems, meeting those needs, and achieving those dreams.

So you have to talk about the benefits – what people get out of buying your stuff or getting your services.

And you have to address the objections they’ll have about whether or not you can deliver those benefits.

The high level of figuring this out:

  1. Make a list of features of the products/services being sold through the website
  2. Translate each feature into a benefit your target audience wants
  3. Write down objections people will have about buying those products/services

Then make sure you talk about those benefits and address those objections in the copy, particularly on your home page and product/services pages.

Put the important stuff at the top

Writing website copy is kind of like fishing – you want to put the juicy bait you’re using right where you need to hook ‘em.

In the case of your website’s pages, that’s right at the top.

If you don’t get your visitor’s attention and interest in the first couple of seconds that they’re on your site/page, right at the top, they’ll leave and find one of a million other things to do on the internet (cat videos and Instagram are probably at the top of that list).

So when you’re creating copy for your web designs, be sure to put the juiciest details and benefits as close to the top (if not at the actual top) as you can.

Don’t try to sound smart or use jargon

When a prestigious, highly intellectual publication like Harvard Business Review suggests we should stop trying to sound smart, well we here at CaPW take note.

Their reasoning: instead of impressing readers, you alienate them; they feel like you’re trying to put yourself above them.

And on top of that, big words and phrases like “these pros are sophisticated and eloquent” just take more time for people to process and understand.

They can be confusing, and in the super distracting online world, people have more fun things to do than being confused reading your website.

So keep your words simple and clear.

And try to avoid using insider terms/jargon that your readers might not understand, or explain what those words mean if you have to use them.

Eg we wanted to make sure you knew WordPress was a CMS further up this post – but explained that meant “Content Management System” and those are basically a way to make websites without having to write code.

We like to use tools like Grammarly and Hemmingway app to figure out if our writing is too complicated – and you should too!

Keep it friendly

This one’s a riff on the last tip.

In a lot of cases, it’s best to write like you would speak – using “you,” contractions (words like “can’t” instead of “cannot” for those of you who don’t remember English class – we feel you), and the occasional slang.

For some business websites, this kind of language isn’t entirely appropriate (most law firm websites shouldn’t include any “sup y’alls”), but in a lot of cases it’s best to just talk to your readers like people instead of some stuffy, stick up his butt accountant for a fortune 500 firm (apologies to the corporate accountants out there that know how to get down).

Finding images and graphics for your website

Website images are powerful stuff.

Simply swapping out an image can have a huge effect on changing the look and feel of your site, and that can be done in a few seconds for little to no money, no super-advanced coding or design skills necessary.

But how do you find and choose some sweet images for your site without spending a ton on professional photography or custom graphic design?

Some tips and a list:

Tip 1: Go high quality

high quality image example mountains

This is hopefully obvious but just to be “clear” (get it, because we’re talking about images… this is why we’re not professional comedians): don’t use fuzzy or pixelated images on your site.

Image resolution is a balancing act on websites because super high res images will slow your page loading down.

But you want to make sure you use images that are at least as wide/tall as the space you’re trying to fill on your site (eg, if you created a page that has a 1020 x 870 pixel spot for an image, don’t try to stretch a 750×420 image to fit).

You can also use images that are bigger than you need, but be sure to use a tool like Optimizilla to compress your images to the smallest possible size without losing quality.

Tip 2: Go unique

When you’re starting out, stock photos are going to be your go-to because custom photography (good custom photography at least) is expensive.

But you definitely want to look for something better than the classic “man in front of a laptop, wearing a button-up shirt, looking at the camera holding a cup of coffee” photos that are the stuff of terrible websites from the ‘90s and memes.

hide the pain harold free stock image

We feel your pain, Harold, for so many reasons.

There are definitely interesting stock photos to be had out there that might not be 100% unique to your site but at least won’t leave people feeling like your mom made your website 10 years ago.

See our list below for places to find these!

Tip 3: Images should have meaning

web design image meaning example puppy in cup

There are enough people in the stock photography trenches that there are loads of well-composed, high-resolution images to be found out there.

But you shouldn’t just slap a photo on your site because it looks good. Your images should help communicate the message you’re trying to share on your page.

If you’re looking for an image for a legal services page, you could find an image of people in suits shaking hands, suggesting “we’ll help you get your legal troubles solved.”

Or for a thought-provoking blog, you could use a shot of a mountain or a sunset over a field of wheat.

Okay, those ideas are borderline cheesy, but the point is you want your images to evoke feelings and help tell the story you’re sharing on your website either directly or in an abstract way.

Random puppy photos are cute but not right for most sites.

Tip 4: Faces are good

web design image face example

People are a special thing. #deepthoughts

r/iamverysmart jokes aside, there’s a lot of psychology behind the power of eye contact and faces in marketing/web design.

People are naturally drawn to faces on a deeply animal level, so be sure to leverage that to keep people engaged with your web designs by having at least one or two friendly faces somewhere on your site.

Where to find images for your site

There are boatloads of places to get super sweet imagery for your web designs, some are free and some are paid.

Do you have to pay to get solid photos?

Not at all. The images in this post are mostly free (we made some ourselves and pay people for their help with that).

Paying for stock photos these days isn’t so much about getting quality images.

But if you pay for an image, it’ll be a bit more unique because most people stick with free thanks to all the free stock photo sites out there.

And you might find images that are better for certain business contexts, as a lot of the good free stock photos out there are either high concept/artsy/inspirational; if someone knows their taking a stock photo that’ll be great for business, they know that business can afford to pay so they’re more likely to post it on a paid service.

But you can find some businessy stock photos for free.

Where??

Awesome places to find free stock photos

Solid places to find paid stock photos

Sweet places to get custom graphics (for not too much)

The best way to learn more about how to design a website

Alright y’all, it’s been a journey but we’ve made it to the end…

For now!

We’ve got plenty of other helpful web design-related written guides here on our site.

And we’re constantly publishing a stream of super helpful Youtube videos too!

So if you’ve got more questions, if you’re hungry for more answers, we’ve got you fam.

Best Domain Registrars
The Definitive Guide [2020]

best domain registrars

Ready to get your website’s domain name? Here are the best registrars to buy from!

 

Dale McManus

Co-Founder & Web Developer

Nov. 8, 2019

 

Hey, my name is Dale! My partner Alex and I have helped tens of thousands of people build beautiful websites around the world. In this action-packed, step-by-step guide, you’ll learn about the Best Domain Registrars. Let’s dive in!

  • Level of Expertise:
    Beginner
  • Time To Complete:
    30 Minutes
  • What You Get:
    Working Knowledge

For the record: It’s super important for us to keep this site 100% free for you and 100% high quality. To help us do that, we’ve partnered with some of the products we recommend and earn a commission if you buy through our links. Read our full disclosure and partners list here.

Every badass website needs an equally badass domain name.

Coming up with that can be quite the challenge, but once you’ve figured out what your website/business will be called, it’s time to register that bad boy.

Over the course of our collective website building experience here at Create a Pro Website, we’ve bought hundreds of domain names; to us, the process is as easy as reordering protein powder on Amazon.

If you’re new to the game, though, we know it’s not quite so easy (yet!).

There are literally thousands of domain name registrars (the companies you “register” your domain name with) and from the outside, most look pretty much the same.

But, like each and every one of us, it’s what’s on the inside that counts (twinkly eyes).

And on the inside, there are some big differences worth knowing about.

Never. Fear. As. Usual. Fam.

We’ve got your back with here with our list of reviews of the best domain registrars.

Let’s get jumpin.

best domain registrars
Namecheap
Namecheap

4.5 out of 5

  • checkmark Price: 5/5
  • checkmark Ease of Use: 4/5
  • checkmark Support: 4.5/5
Google Domains Logo

Google Domains

4.5 out of 5

  • checkmark Price: 5/5
  • checkmark Ease of Use: 5/5
  • checkmark Support: 4.5/5
BlueHost Logo

BlueHost

4 out of 5

  • checkmark Price: 3/5
  • checkmark Ease of Use: 4.5/5
  • checkmark Support: 4.5/5
1and1 IONOS Hosting Logo

1&1 IONOS

4 out of 5

  • checkmark Price: 4/5
  • checkmark Ease of Use: 4/5
  • checkmark Support: 4/5
HostGator Logo

HostGator

3.5 out of 5

  • checkmark Price: 3/5
  • checkmark Ease of Use: 3.5/5
  • checkmark Support: 5/5
Domain.com Logo

Domain.com

3.5 out of 5

  • checkmark Price: 3/5
  • checkmark Ease of Use: 4/5
  • checkmark Support: 4.5/5
Register.com Logo

Register.com

3.5 out of 5

  • checkmark Price: 2/5
  • checkmark Ease of Use: 3/5
  • checkmark Support: 2.5/5

What is a domain name?

Guessing you know the low down here but just as a quick refresher because we know URLs, websites, hosting, domain names – it can all get a bit confusing.

Domain names are (ideally) easy to remember words or phrases ending in things like .com, .net, .org, .co, etc. that make it easy for people to find and go to websites.

If you think of the internet as a series of streets that go around the world, your website is your house, your domain name is the address that people use to Google maps it over to you to join the party.

If you want to know more/get a bigger refresher, we’ve got a big ol’ guide covering the “what is a domain name” question here.

What is a domain name registrar?

what is a registrar old school book registry

It’s pretty simple really, at least at a high level (which is all you really need to know).

A domain name registrar is a company that lets you purchase and register domain names.

All domain name records are stored in a centralized database called a registry, which is managed by the non-profit Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

For a domain name to be recognized and usable, it needs to be added to this database which is way too much work for people like us to do.

Plus ICANN doesn’t want the hassle of doing all that work to register domain names themselves.

So they authorize domain name registrars to register domain names and make changes to the registry for us.

These companies then provide tools to make registering and making changes easy, and compete with each other to win our business (which means better service and better prices for us!).

How to buy a domain name (what to look for)

best domain registrars what to look for

So how the heck do you know what to look for when you’re ready to buy a domain name from a registrar?

Well, starting with this guide was definitely the right step 1 for 2 reasons:

  1. We’ve narrowed down the list to some of the best and most popular domain name registrars
  2. We’re about to tell you a few things you should have in mind when you’re making your choice.

Because there’s so much competition in the domain registration space, you’ll come across all sorts of different offers and features.

Price is definitely a factor…

But there’s more to life (and domain name registration) than money friends!

(Steps down from soapbox).

Some of this info can be a bit hard to track down…

Luckily we did the dirty work for you in our reviews, but just for your edification:

Does the registrar have the Top-level domain you’re looking for?

Without going all the way into the deep dive, the top-level domain is the part that comes after the “.” at the end of your domain name.

Some of the most popular TLDs include:

  1. .com
  2. .net
  3. .org
  4. .info
  5. .co
  6. .io
  7. .me
  8. .us
  9. .xyz
  10. .biz
  11. .tv
  12. .club

You basically always want the .com if you can get it.

But everyone knows that so a lot of people have snapped up a lot of .com domains, either because they think they’ll use it someday or they think you’ll pay them a lot of money (like hundreds or thousands of dollars) to buy it off of them.

Probably don’t do that.

In most cases, we’d recommend nabbing the .co if the .com is taken, or the .net, maybe the .biz or .me.

In these cases, pretty much all of the best domain registrars will let you buy/register them, so you’re probably fine here.

But if you want one of the super fancy new TLDs like .xyz or .club, you’ll need to do a quick search to see if the domain registrar you’re looking to use can register it for you.

How much is this domain name going to cost you?

Once you know a domain registrar has you on the TLD front, it’s time to see how many $$ it’s gonna cost you to nab.

First, it’s important to note: registrars are middlemen between you and the ICANN domain registry that holds the information about your domain (that you own it, a few other things).

The people who maintain the registry set a certain price for that service, and every registrar pays them and charges you extra on top.

But it’s all the same product – as long as the registrar itself is reputable (isn’t a fly by night money grab that will shutdown as soon as you blink), they’re all offering the same basic thing in registration.

There are a few differences in the service (which we’ll talk about more below), but one registration isn’t “better” than the next.

So when you’re looking at prices, if one domain name registrar charges more but doesn’t offer an easier user experience or better support, all you’re doing working with them is spending more money.

Now when it comes to price, most domain registrars will offer a lower price for the first year of your registration than following years.

You’ll be able to register your domain name for a minimum of a year, some registrars will let you register for up to 10 years.

When you’re buying a new domain, we recommend registering it for just the one year.

In most cases we’ve seen, you don’t get a discount for registering multiple years in advance, and if you really get into the website game you’re definitely going to buy a lot of domains that you won’t actually need a year or two later (learntomakegrandmasweaters.com seemed like such a great idea once upon a time).

In general, domain names are pretty cheap when it comes to stuff you’ll spend money on to build your website.

Sometimes you’ll find .com domains for as little as $1-2 a year, sometimes they’re free when you buy hosting as well.

Usually you’ll spend somewhere between $10-15 for a .com, other niche TLDs like .co or .biz can cost more.

Sometimes you’ll see domain names for hundreds or thousands of dollars.

What’s happened here is someone else thought a body like you might want to have that domain name someday, so they bought it in advance thinking they’d sell it to you for a proverbial mint.

Don’t buy these. Just come up with another name, for real, unless your at least 98.67% sure you’ve found the perfect business opportunity that absolutely needs that $10,000 domain to succeed.

Final note: because of the way the registration process works, you won’t be able to get a refund for your domain name purchase.

BUT you can transfer from one registrar to another (more on that below).

Watch out for hidden fees and price jumps

A lot of domain registrars do business like cable companies – you get a nice juicy discount when you sign up, then after that you “renew” at the “regular” price.

It’s not always the case, but fairly common so put it in the “sort of sketchy but not really” category.

The key thing is that you know about the price jumps and what they are before you sign up to avoid a very unpleasant surprise.

We looked into this for you in our reviews below (spoiler: one of the domain registrars that made our “best” list because of its popularity had a jaw dropping price jump).

On top of the after-the-initial-discount price jump, it’s important to watch out for hidden or additional.

The most common additional fee we saw was for WHOIS privacy protection (more on that below).

Other than that, most registrars we reviewed didn’t charge anything more than the price they listed on their main search page.

BUT a lot of them offered add-on services we didn’t need; none of the ones that made our best list tried to automatically sign us up for these additional costs, but some less honest domain registrars might.

Figuring out the renewal cost is a bit trickier (we checked for you in our reviews below, after we bought domain names from each registrar; you might be able to ask customer support about this before you buy for other registrars).

But getting the scoop on additional fees is relatively easy.

For most registrars, you’ll search for your domain name, add it to your cart, then go through the checkout process like anything else you buy online.

At some point during this, they’ll have to show you the full and final price – just make sure that lines up with what you were expecting before smashing that “purchase” button.

Remember to turn on automatic renewal

Re: register your domain for one year at a time, every registrar will have an auto-renewal setting that will automatically… renew… your domain name when it expires.

Most will automatically turn this on, we’ve found one or two that didn’t, so just double check once you buy your domain to make sure you don’t accidentally lose it.

But also double check the renewal cost (re: price jumps) to make sure you want to stick with that registrar; if not you’ll want to transfer your domain to another registrar before it expires.

Whether you turn auto-renewal on or off, every registrar will send you reminder emails and confirmations as the date of your domain’s expiration approaches (they’re required to do this by ICANN).

And if you forget to both turn on auto-renew and miss those emails, some registrars have “grace periods” where you can get your domain back for the cost of renewal plus a fee.

We looked into these for our domain name registrar reviews and…

Just turn on auto-renew. It gets way too complicated (and expensive) if you don’t.

From purchasing to managing, the process should be easy

The best domain registrars get the easier they make your life, the more likely you’ll register your domain through them (and keep it there).

Some registrars don’t quite get this.

Compared to something like hosting, there won’t be too many things you’ll need to do to manage your domain name once everything’s setup.

But to set it up, and sometimes when you’re making changes to your site, you’ll need to do things like update nameservers (where internet servers/web browsers look to find the IP address your domain name is associated with), change DNS records, and you might want to transfer your domain name at some point.

All of this should be easy to do through your registrar’s domain hosting portal.

This stuff isn’t really possible to figure out until you’ve purchased a domain name from a registrar…

But we’ve got your back for the domain registrars we reviewed for our best of list!

On top of that, when you’re buying your domain name, well that process should be easy and beginner friendly too.

Every registrar will have a domain name search tool – that should be easy and helpful for finding related names in case your first idea was taken.

And their checkout process should be easy too, without a lot of hassle trying to dig through upsells.

Customer Support should be solid

We’ve pretty much never had to contact our domain registrar’s support in our collective experience here at Create a Pro Website.

Maybe once or twice when we had to contact them to do a transfer.

But, also, we’ve been doing this a while and figured a lot of it out through reading posts like this.

Maybe you don’t want to spend hours digging through the interwebs trying to figure out what every DNS record means though.

And sometimes in the website world, you actually can’t find the answers to your problems on the internet (shocking, we know, we’re trying to combat that here).

Whether you just want a fast answer from someone who knows what they’re talking about and can look at your specific account or problem, or you’re facing some spectacularly unique can’t find the answer on Google challenge, you’ll want solid support.

First step is their knowledge base – it should be easy to search through and offer helpful answers.

Beyond that, most of the best domain registrars will at least offer live chat 24/7.

Phone support is nice to have too, in case it’s pretty complicated to explain what you need via text.

And a lot of times the support folks can do things for you, so you’ll want them to be tech savvy so they can both understand/figure out your problem but also fix it without breaking things further.

For some domain registrars, you might be able to test out their tech support ahead of time by asking a few questions you have, some you might not

We talked to support for our reviews to give you our impression of those that made our list.

Add-on Services

While you might only need a domain name, many of the best domain name registrars offer other products/services as well.

These might include:

  • Domain privacy (this one basically always)
  • Web hosting (a lot do, not always)
  • Professional Email (a lot do, not always)
  • SSL Certificates
  • Website builders
  • Ecommerce tools
  • SEO services
  • Email marketing

TBH besides web hosting and email, we don’t usually care about these things and you probably shouldn’t either – often times there are better options from companies that are dedicated to making awesome products/services in those categories and the ones your domain registrar offers aren’t that useful.

Whether you decide to get any addons or not, be sure to make sure none of those addons are automatically added to your cart “for you” during checkout.

Except for domain privacy/WHOIS protection (more on that below).

Also on hosting…

You might want to keep your domain name and hosting separate

Basically every web hosting service (including the ones on our list of best web hosting providers) will let you buy a domain name from them.

Some of the domain registrars on our list below are actually mostly known for their hosting!

For sure, it’s easier to get your domain setup with your web hosting if you get them at the same time from the same company.

A few will also offer free domains for a year when you buy hosting and we do love a deal that’s “free.”

However:

  1. A lot of times if it’s free the first year, the host is going to charge you a lot more to renew your registration after that (more than free obviously, but also more than other domain registrars will charge you to renew).
  2. If the domain isn’t free for the first year, you might be able to get it cheaper from another registrar than the company you’re getting hosting from.
  3. It’s a bit more secure: if one account gets hacked, all of your website building eggs aren’t in one basket.
  4. Though it’s a bit more technically complicated to set up hosting and a domain that are each with separate companies, it’s not that hard and you’ll probably only have to do it once.

Ultimately, though, it’s up to you. If you want to take the easier route here, we don’t blame you.

And if you do decide to get that free domain name (because we probably would want it too), you can always transfer your domain name out of your hosting account later.

Which leads us nicely into…

Domain Transfers

Domains can actually be transferred between registrars!

A couple of things to note here.

Firstly, you won’t be able to do that during the first 60 days after a new registration, after that, transfer as much as you want.

Most registrars won’t charge you to transfer your domain out to another registrar, pretty much all of them will charge you a fee to transfer a domain in (usually the cost of one year of registration though they vary – see our domain registrar reviews below for info on their transfer fees).

Most of the best registrars also make it easy to transfer your domain out should you choose to leave them in the proverbial dust – there’s just a couple of steps that you can do through their domain hosting portal to get it all done.

Always opt into domain privacy

ICANN requires some sort of contact information to be connected with your domain name as part of the registration process.

By default, this information is yours and it’s publically available using a “WHOIS Lookup” tool (Google “whois lookup [insert your favorite website here]” to see what we mean).

That information includes:

  • Your name
  • Your address
  • Your phone number
  • Your email address

The problem: while most people don’t care enough to do this for your site or any site, spammers do.

And we’ve gotten the emails and phone calls to prove it.

That’s where Domain Privacy/Whois Privacy comes in.

With this, your domain registrar will include their contact details instead of yours.

They eat the spam, so you don’t have to.

Definitely get this. It’s the one “addon” that’s always worth it.

Some of the best domain registrars will include this for free, the rest will typically charge about $12/year for it.

Our domain name registrar review process

domain registrar reviews process

On the face of it, most domain registration companies are pretty similar.

But we go beyond the face, we take our scalpels to the face and dig into the meaty goodness beneath (yum).

Cannibalism jokes aside, we covered the general things for you to be aware of when buying a domain name above, which we looked at as well.

But, for the sake of transparency and to give you a bit of further insight into what you’ll want to look at and how we got to our ratings, here are the categories we used to rate each registar and what we looked at for each.

Pricing

Like we mentioned multiple times now (including with a juicy, gory analogy), domain registrars are all pretty similar.

So while in the grand scheme of things you won’t be spending a ton on domain registration and for the most part the prices aren’t too different, this is still a key decision factor for choosing the best domain name registrar for you.

But we didn’t just look at the publically available pricing tables on each registrar’s website. You can do that on your own because you’re a smart cookie.

We dug deeper, so you don’t have to.

To rate each registrar based on price we looked at not only the first year price but the first year price INCLUDING domain privacy.

Because you really need that.

And we also bought domains with each registrar and looked at the renewal price for both the domain and privacy, because those do change and that’s not something you can easily find out before you buy.

We then gave each domain registrar a 1-5 rating based on both the initial price + privacy and the renewal price + privacy.

Ease of Use

You can start to get a sense of ease of use just by looking at a domain name registrar’s website and their domain name search and checkout process.

BUT WE DIG DEEPER FRIENDS.

We bought a domain name with each registrar so we could take a look at the backend too, then we gave them each an “ease of use” rating based on:

  • How easy/useful their domain name search is (is it fast, do they give you a lot of good options if your first choice is taken?)
  • How easy their checkout process is (not a ton of steps/form fields)
  • How many upsells they throw into their checkout process (because we don’t want those)
  • How their domain hosting/management portal looks (because looking good = feeling good)
  • How easy it was to change settings you might need like DNS records, nameservers, and making transfers (you might only need to do this once, but it shouldn’t take you 5 years to figure out how to do it; that’s longer than your domain name’s registered for!)

Support

Finally, we rated each domain registrar based on how solid their support is.

You probably won’t need it, but if you do you’ll want it to be fast and tasty (“helpful” for the non-cannibals out there; okay this joke is definitely played out).

Three things we looked for:

  • Knowledge base quality (is it easy to find answers to questions, are the help articles actually helpful)
  • Support channels available (phone, email, live chat; are they open 24/7 for those 1am website building sessions)
  • Support helpfulness (we asked a couple of questions via live chat to see how fast/friendly/smart their tech support people are)

Allright, prep stuff’s out of the way.

Let’s get to the meat of this matter (last one, pinky promise).

The 7 best domain registrars

Namecheap

Namecheap
Namecheap

4.5 out of 5

  • checkmark Price: 5/5
  • checkmark Ease of Use: 4/5
  • checkmark Support: 4.5/5

Pricing Details

Initial price for a .com + privacy: $9.06 | Renewal price for a .com + privacy: $13.16

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • One of the cheapest in the industry
  • Domain privacy included!
  • Fully loaded domain management portal

Cons

  • Upsells, that’s really most of what brought them down
  • No phone support; chat is top notch so not a huge deal but we like to see it

Pricing: 5/5

namecheap domain pricing

Namecheap gets a full 5/5 on price because it’s one of the cheapest around!

The only domain registrar that offers a cheaper first-year price is 1and1 with their basically unbeatable $1 offer.

BUT 1and1 jumps to $15 after that, which is fine but higher than Namecheap’s $13 and some change.

Domain privacy is always free which we love because that’s a gotta have.

One of the weird things we saw was that Namecheap adds an “ICANN fee,” which we assume other registrars just include in their price since Namecheap was the only one to explicitly charge for this.

But, it’s only $0.18 cents so not a big deal there, they’re still uber cheap.

Unlike a lot of the other registrars we found, which typically only offer a discount on your first year of registration whether you sign up for multiple years or not, Namecheap seems to offer discounts for getting multiple years at once.

If you register your domain for multiple years on your first checkout, you don’t get the lowest $8.88 price for all the years you sign up for, but it looks like you do get a lower discount than if you renew after your initial purchase.

When you renew, it’s $13.16 for one year, but you’ll get a discount if you renew for more years, as low as $12.76 with a 5-year renewal.

Finally, transferring your domain to another registrar is free (as was the case with every registrar we reviewed).

Transferring a domain from another registrar to Namecheap will cost you one year’s registration, but that will extend your current registration (so if you have 3 months left when you transfer into Namecheap, you’ll be good to go for 15 months after you pay the transfer fee/get your domain moved over).

Ease of Use: 4/5

namecheap domain hosting portal

Let’s look at Namecheap’s ease of use from a few angles:

Domain Search

Searching for domains is fast and easy, and they’ll offer a plethora of different TLDs for your domain in case the .com is taken.

They also offer a “Beast Mode” that lets you bulk enter up to 5,000 domain ideas or keywords (if you’re really getting after it lol), check multiple TLDs, and get variations on your initial domain ideas (eg if you search for “mywebsite.com” they’ll suggest “try-mywebsite.com”).

Purchase Process

There were upsells on both the initial search page (when you add a domain to your cart), and on the first page of the checkout process.

That, combined with the 5-steps needed to complete your checkout (which is more than average), cost Namecheap some points here.

Look and Feel

The main Namecheap site looks great, when you get inside the domain hosting portal it looks good enough but there were a few rough edges (blurry graphics, 2008 style buttons).

They also stick to their upselling guns, with tabs for managing your products (hey, you should buy more than just your domains here), and upgrades like “Premium DNS” (probably not worth it for most of us).

Other than that, you’ve got all the domain management controls you’d want, plus a few extras like:

  • You can add years to your registration ahead of time.
  • You can easily setup email forwarding and domain redirects (instead of having to update DNS records yourself, though you can do that with Namecheap too).
  • You can add “domain managers” which is handy if you want to have other people like virtual assistants manage this stuff for you in the future
  • You can get a transfer code online, no need to call in support if you want to move your domain
  • You can enable DNSSEC (adds some extra protection to your domain)
  • You can also sell your domain through Namecheap too, might not be something you’ll do but nice to have, we didn’t see that feature with any other registrar.
  • And they have DNS templates for Shopify, Weebly, and Wix – so all the DNS records you need to change to get your domain working with those website builders is done automatically for you!

Finally, definitely make sure Autorenew is turned on – they didn’t automatically do that for us which is nice from a “not trying to automatically keep charging you” perspective but you won’t want your domain to expire.

Expiration Policy

If you do let your domain expire accidentally (because you’ve just got solid procrastination skills), they “may offer” a grace period of up to 42 days, but if you renew during that they’ll charge you an extra $88.88 on top of the usual renewal fee.

Support: 4.5/5

namecheap domain hosting portal

On the support front, Namecheap’s knowledge base is easy to navigate and looks great, with an extensive list of articles that are as thorough as they need to be.

We’ve seen some knowledge bases that have videos too which is nice but not needed (Namecheap doesn’t have them).

But they also have nice touches like article ratings (so you can let them know if they need to up their game), stats like number of views (so you don’t feel so dumb for not knowing the answer lol), as well as when the article was last updated (so you know it’s fresh).

AND they have comments on each article, so you can ask clarifying questions and get help from other Namecheap users.

If you’ve got a problem that needs some human help, you’ve got 24/7 live chat and tickets available.

When we chatted with their support we were connected to someone super fast, they responded with knowledgeable answers fast (top notch in our book).

Nice little notes were the ping noise when there was a response (because we like to do other website work instead of staring at chat boxes while we’re getting after it), and you can print or email a transcript of your chat incase you get into a sticky situation (“that’s not what Robert said at 3:45 pm on Friday, October 13th).

Google Domains

Google Domains Logo

Google Domains

4.5 out of 5

  • checkmark Price: 5/5
  • checkmark Ease of Use: 5/5
  • checkmark Support: 4.5/5

Pricing Details

Initial price for a .com + privacy: $12.00 | Renewal price for a .com + privacy: $12.00

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Consistent pricing: always $12, free domain privacy
  • From checkout to managing domains – the whole process is easy and looks fantastic
  • Zero upsells!

Cons

  • Google will know that much more about you; not good for the privacy conscious website creator
  • Chat support wasn’t 100, but we’d feel confident working with them to solve pretty much any problem

Pricing: 5/5

google domains pricing

Google’s not the cheapest domain registrar for the first year…

But they are the cheapest to renew with, and their pricing is simple and straightforward: $12 a year, every year, domain privacy included.

No fees to transfer your domain out to another registrar, the same $12 one year registration fee to transfer in and that gets added on to any time you have left on your current registration.

Bottom line: 5/5.

Ease of Use: 5/5

google domains hosting portal

Look, it’s Google, so we figured Google Domains would look amazing and be easy to use.

And we were right!

Domain Search

Fast and clean, Google’s domain search offers related suggestions (variations on your initial domain name idea), as well as a ton of TLD extensions.

And you can filter that list by relevance, name A-Z, price, only see options for certain TLDs, only see available names, and set price limits.

Oh and you can favorite domains for later.

Solid.

Purchase Process

Zero upsells, just two pages: enter your details, confirm your order.

Easy.

Look and Feel

It’s GOOGLE, of course it looks awesome.

And their domain hosting portal is easy to navigate and understand, with all the features you’ll need like changing DNS records, nameservers, etc.

You can also share your domain so others can help you manage it, add additional years to your registration if you want, enable DNSSEC, get a transfer code online, and there’s easy email and domain forwarding.

Expiration Policy

IF you happen to ignore our constant advice to turn on auto-renew, Google’s got a straightforward expiration policy:

  • 30 day grace period: you can renew at no additional cost.
  • From 30-60 days, you might be able to renew but it’ll cost you extra.
  • After day 61, your domain will be deleted and anyone can buy it.

Support: 4.5/5

google domains support

knowledge base… it’s f-ing Google (translation: it’s top notch best in the biz you will find answers to just about anything).

If you’ve gotta get some other humans in on the problem-solving action, you’ve got 24/7 chat, call, and email.

One nice note on the calls: to talk on the phone, you just request a call back (they’ll let you know the estimated wait time) – no waiting on hold!

When we talked to their support, we got the answers we were looking for but there was a bit of confusion.

We asked about the fee for transferring a domain out of Google, our support gal said there was one, but it turns out that she meant there was a fee for transferring in.

Understandable so not many points off, but other support folks got our meaning the first time.

Bluehost

BlueHost Logo

BlueHost

4 out of 5

  • checkmark Price: 3/5
  • checkmark Ease of Use: 4.5/5
  • checkmark Support: 4.5/5

Pricing Details

Initial price for a .com + privacy: $23.87 | Renewal price for a .com + privacy: $32.87

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Super clean and easy to understand interface
  • Free domain for a year when you get hosting through them

Cons

  • Privacy is extra
  • Renewal costs are a bit high
  • Support could be a bit friendlier

Pricing: 3/5

bluehost domain pricing

Bluehost is in on the higher end of pricing, but not in the realm of outrageous.

They don’t advertise that the first year of both your domain registration and domain privacy is discounted, which is nice from a “not pushing too hard” standpoint.

Registration itself isn’t too bad at $11.99, but privacy isn’t free – you’ll have to drop an extra $11.88 for that.

After that, you’ll pay $17.99 for renewal and $14.88 for privacy, which starts to get towards the high end of costs and there’s no option to register for multiple years the first time to get a discount for longer.

Also worth noting, if you get your hosting from Bluehost, you’ll get your first year for free!

Transfers out are free as usual, and you’ll pay the renewal cost to transfer your domain into Bluehost.

On that last part, Bluehost support told us that transferring in resets your registration date, meaning if you have 3 months left on your registration, you’ll lose that when you transfer in (so you’ll have 12 months left after transferring instead of 15).

Based on how the other hosts handle that (the registration fee you pay to transfer a domain in extends your registration by a year), we’re not sure that’s true, but that’s what we were told…

Ease of Use: 4.5/5 

bluehost domain hosting portal

Bluehost as a company operates at a pretty high level, let’s see how that translates to buying and managing domain names with them:

Domain Search

Searching for domain names with Bluehost is fast, though it could look a little better.

And they do offer some other TLDs and domain name ideas, but the amount is more limited than with other registrars.

Purchase Process

Once you’ve found your domain, it’s automatically added to your cart (along with domain name privacy) and there’s a big obvious “buy now” button to get the checkout train rolling.

That button takes you to the one upsell page (offering Microsoft Office email), then it’s just one more page to enter your info and your set.

Easy!

Look and Feel

Once you’re inside, Bluehost’s domain hosting portal is super clean and fresh.

You could even say it’s “so fresh and so clean” if you want to reminisce the mid-2000s, though you’ll have to do that from your own memories because Bluehost looks very late-2010s (it’s for the best).

Transfers and managing your renewal settings are both easy to find, understand, and adjust, as are managing redirects, parked domains (ones you don’t have tied to a website), and adding subdomains.

We did have to dig a bit to find the pages where you can update your nameservers and DNS records, not super smooth but they were findable.

Expiration Policy

Digging through Bluehost’s domain name registration terms of service, here’s what we found:

  • They might get rid of your domain name anytime after it expires.
  • At 31 days, it’ll be available to be purchased buy someone else
  • At 44 days, it’ll enter a 30-day redemption grace period – if it wasn’t already bought by someone else, you can re-register but you’ll likely be charged a $70 fee on top of regular renewal costs.

Support: 4.5/5

bluehost cheap domain names support

Bluehost has been at the top of the hosting game for a while, so as expected their knowledge base is extensive, easy to search, and has tons of helpful articles – some of which include videos!! [heart eyes]

24/7 call, chat, and ticket to get a human. Solid.

When we reached out to chat support, they joined fast and checked to verify our ownership of the account (a nice extra bit of security not all domain registrars had).

When getting into the chat, though, we wanted more.

Responses started to feel like they were coming slower – there wasn’t a terribly long wait, but we felt it.

The conversation started off friendly enough but took a bit of a turn; there wasn’t a point where they felt out and out rude and we so appreciate that being a customer support person can mean some tough days, but we like to feel like we’re not a bother to help out even if we’re asking tougher questions.

HostGator

HostGator Logo

HostGator

3.5 out of 5

  • checkmark Price: 3/5
  • checkmark Ease of Use: 3.5/5
  • checkmark Support: 5/5

Pricing Details

Initial price for a .com + privacy: $27.90 | Renewal price for a .com + privacy: $32.94

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Support was super helpful
  • Free domain name when you sign up for hosting

Cons

  • Have to use Cpanel to manage more advanced things like DNS records
  • Prices are reasonable but on the high end

Pricing: 3/5

hostgator domain pricing

HostGator’s domain pricing is toward the higher end like Bluehost, but not at insane levels.

You’ll get your first year for $12.95 plus $14.95 for domain privacy.

After that, privacy renews at the same cost but domain registration jumps a bit to $17.99 per year.

You can register for multiple years at checkout, but you’ll only get the discount for the first year.

And like a lot of domain registrars that also offer hosting, you’ll get a year’s registration free when you sign up for hosting.

Transfer fees were interesting compared to the other domain name registrars.

There’s no fee to transfer out as always, to transfer in you’ll pay $7.95.

That’s a lower cost to transfer than other registrars that charge the cost of registration renewal which is a plus, but that doesn’t cover any registration renewal – if your domain expires in 11 months, it’ll still expire in 11 months; if it expires in 3, it’ll still expire in 3.

Ease of Use: 3.5/5

hostgator domain hosting portal

Let’s dig into HostGator’s ease of use:

Domain Search

Searching for a domain name was pretty fast and the page where you start looks pretty slick. The page where it takes you, though… 

Kind of 2007.

On top of not looking the greatest, which is forgivable, it wasn’t that easy to use too.

It offered TLDs besides the “.com” we searched for, but they were in a slider at the top of the page and that wasn’t easy to scan through.

The “Other ideas” only showed variations on the domain name, but all .com (eg “superhostgatortesting.com” in a search for “hostgator-testing.com”).

Useable for sure but some points off here.

Purchase Process

Simple three step process with no upsells is a plus, but we had to create an account before checking out (whereas other registrars handle that after the checkout process to keep things super easy).

Look and Feel

Their domain management platform looks super slick and it’s easy to use.

Here you’ll be able to update your contact info, domain name privacy, and manage your auto-renew settings.

BUT in order to do more advanced things like make changes to your DNS records (which you’d need to do in order to use things like CDNs, setup a professional email address through Gmail using your domain with your domain name, forward your domain name or email, etc. 

Cpanel’s a bit more complex to use for beginners…

And you won’t get access to it if you don’t have hosting with them, meaning you’ll have to contact support to get them to update your DNS records if you just get a domain name through them. Extra hassle for sure.

Also, you have to contact them for a transfer code if you want to move your domain to another registrar which isn’t ideal.

Expiration Policy

We dug through their terms of service to find some mention of this and didn’t find anything clear, only that you might get charged an extra fee to renew after expiration.

Not the most confidence inspiring, sure, but you should have auto-renew turned on anyway!

Support: 5/5

hostgator domain support

HostGator’s knowledge base is extensive and super helpful – including video explanations (which we know yall love).

24/7 phone and live chat, good to go on the “talk to a human” front.

When we reached out via chat, the support guy offered a couple of knowledge base articles related to our question before we got into it which was nice; sometimes people don’t search the knowledge base first (which we may or may not be guilty of sometimes).

We didn’t get connected right away and when we did the responses felt a bit slow.

BUT our man was very helpful and friendly, he even added extra info for context around how domain transfers work on top of answering the question directly – which is super valuable if you’re trying to learn everything you can about the pro website making game!

1&1 IONOS

1and1 IONOS Hosting Logo

1&1 IONOS

4 out of 5

  • checkmark Price: 4/5
  • checkmark Ease of Use: 4/5
  • checkmark Support: 4/5

Pricing Details

Initial price for a .com + privacy: $1.00 | Renewal price for a .com + privacy: $15.00

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • The cheapest domain name registration (for the first year, not too bad after that)
  • Free domain privacy
  • One of the easiest to use

Cons

  • More upselling than most of the other best domain registrars
  • Knowledge base could be easier to search, chat support wasn’t the smoothest

Pricing: 4/5

1and1 ionos domain pricing

When it comes to the first year cost, 1&1 cannot be beat: it’s free if you also get hosting, even if you don’t, you’re only out a buck.

And that includes free domain name privacy!

After that, it’ll be $15 a year, privacy is still free, which is not as cheap as a couple of other registrars but still pretty cheap.

Transfers-wise, it’s another case of free to transfer out and just pay the cost of renewal to transfer in (and extend your existing registration).

Ease of Use: 4/5 

1and1 ionos domain hosting portal

On the ease of use front:

Domain Search

Simple enough to describe: fast, clean, solid amount of domain name suggestions.

Purchase Process

Here’s where the points were lost in this category – 1 and 1 takes the “upsell king” crown.

The checkout process was 5 steps because they had not one page dedicated to upsells, plus more/different upsells when confirming your cart.

Then you have to create an account before you can register.

Not so hot.

Look and Feel

Their website and domain hosting portal are all clean; they don’t feel quite as fresh as Bluehost or Google but they’re close enough that we’ll call them good to go there.

Once you’re inside the domain management portal, though, it’s pretty smooth sailing – all the registration info, DNS record changes, and email forwarding features you’ll want are included and easy to get to.

Expiration Policy

If you let one go only to realize you love her, here’s what to expect (we’re talking about domain names just to be clear):

  • For the first 30 days, you can renew at the normal price.
  • On day 31, they can sell your domain or cancel it.
  • On day 45, you can get your domain back for an additional fee if it’s not be sold to someone else.

Support: 4/5

1and1 ionos cheap domains support

1&1’s knowledge base is extensive and the articles are helpful, though some were a bit hard to find.

If you want a human you’ve got one with 24/7 chat and phone support.

Nice bonuses – you can schedule a call if you don’t want to wait on hold, and you can get a “personal consultant” (which we haven’t tried but seems like a dedicated support person so you’ve got one guy/gal to go to when you need help).

For our test chat, we were connected right away which is nice.

And the support person offered to start the transfer process (we were asking about how transferes worked), which is nice to know is an option if you don’t want to do something like that yourself.

But it felt like we had to wait a bit for responses and that our support person had some trouble understanding the questions we asked; it got figured out so not terrible but could have been smoother.

Register.com

Register.com Logo

Register.com

2.5 out of 5

  • checkmark Price: 2/5
  • checkmark Ease of Use: 3/5
  • checkmark Support: 2.5/5

Pricing Details

Initial price for a .com + privacy: $16.00 | Renewal price for a .com + privacy: $52.00

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • You can buy a domain name from them

Cons

  • Insane renewal cost ($52/year including privacy)
  • Support is lackluster
  • Domain management portal isn’t easy to use. And there are ads.

Pricing: 2/5

register.com domains pricing

Ooof. Pricing was not so fun with Register.com.

It started when looking at the domain search results page, where you usually see how much you’ll pay to register your domain name.

Nothing, just add to cart buttons.

A bit weird, but then you get into the checkout process and see it’s just $5 to register your domain.

Oh, awesome!

But domain privacy is an extra $11.

Oh, okay, still not too bad, that’s on the cheaper end.

Where you’d run into trouble, if we didn’t have your backs, if we didn’t get our hands dirty digging into the details of the best, most popular domain registrars around, is renewal.

Domain privacy, add an extra $3 to renew ($14 total).

Not great, okay.

But to renew your domain…

$38

Holy sh*t!

That’s more than any other registrar around; to renew your domain and privacy with register.com you’ll get set back $52 a year.

That’s… That’s just not okay.

As far as transfers go, we couldn’t find a cost.

Normally we’d ask support…

See below for more on that.

Ease of Use: 3/5 

register.com domain hosting portal

Is there any hope for Register.com on the ease of use front?

Domain Search

When you search for your initial domain idea, sometimes it’s taken.

Which is why all domain registrars offer a few other options; maybe one of them is better anyway.

Register.com does this, but there weren’t many alternatives suggested.

They do have a bulk tool where you can enter up to 50 domain names into, so if you come up with a bunch of domain name ideas off the top of your head you can check them all at once.

Purchase Process

It’s just a 3 step process to sign up…

Plus 4 upsell pages.

7 pages to register. Not good.

Look and Feel

The checkout pages and domain hosting portal look 2008 (insert Black Eyed Peas joke here).

It took us a couple of clicks to find the page where we can manage our domain settings, but they were on point with making it super easy to renew for $52 freaking dollars with a big button right on the homepage.

And there are ads in the dashboard. Come on y’all.

You can change nameservers and get a transfer code online (because you’ll want to transfer your domain out pretty fast) – relatively easy.

It’s technically possible to change your DNS records but figuring out how to do that was more confusing than other domain registrars.

Icing on this not so tasty cake: you have to email them to disable auto-renew.

Sigh.

Expiration Policy

Nothing clear from reading their TOS.

They do offer “Domain Expiration Protection” for $9.96.

This doesn’t renew your domain automatically but “secures” it for a year if it expires.

So it seems like you won’t be able to use a domain that is protected but expires on a live website, but at under $10 it won’t go to someone else for a lower cost than just renewing at another registrar.

Probably not worth the hassle to save a couple of bucks though (and risk getting charged $52 by Register.com).

Support: 2.5/5

register.com domain support

On the knowledge base front, there are tours and tutorials.

Those might be helpful but they require flash to play and, like most people, we don’t have flash anymore because this isn’t 2009 (what up OG Youtube!).

And their knowledge base is on Web.com – they’re owned by the same company, but that’s weird/confusing.

And when we were looking for domain help there were references to “network solutions” – another company owned by the parent company that owns Regiser.com and Web.com.

Definitely weird/confusing.

If you want human help, you can email them whenever.

But you can only call 9 am – 12 am Monday through Friday, 9 am – 10 pm Saturday and Sunday.

That’s most of the hours in 24/7, sure.

But no live chat, which is kind of a deal breaker.

You might miss that if you’re just glancing through the site, though, because there is a “chat” button.

But it just lets you search through the knowledge base.

It’s not a way to talk to a person.

It’s not even a bot.

No.

Domain.com

Domain.com Logo

Domain.com

3.5 out of 5

  • checkmark Price: 3/5
  • checkmark Ease of Use: 4/5
  • checkmark Support: 4.5/5

Pricing Details

Initial price for a .com + privacy: $18.98 | Renewal price for a .com + privacy: $22.98

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Solid knowledge base articles
  • Domain hosting portal is pretty easy to use

Cons

  • Domain Privacy isn’t free

Pricing: 3/5

domain.com domains pricing

Pricing’s pretty find and straightforward with Domain.com, not the most expensive, not the cheapest domain registration.

$9.99 for your first year, $13.99 after that, privacy is extra at a stead $8.99/year.

There’s no fee to transfer from Domain.com to another registrar, it’s $13.99 (the registration renewal fee) to transfer in.

Interestingly, there’s also no fee when you transfer to one of their “sister companies” (as the support guy called them) – meaning those companies won’t charge you to transfer to them from Domain.com

That list includes Dotster.com, Ipage.com, Ipower.com, Netfirms.com and more.

Ease of Use: 4/5 

domain.com domain hosting portal

Domain.com is easy enough to use!

Domain Search

Search is fast and easy and provides a good few extra options if choice numero uno isn’t available.

Purchase Process

Just 2 steps, which includes one upsell page.

Look and Feel

The site looks just a bit dated but overall pretty solid.

Edit DNS Records/Nameservers, renew, transfers (done online), add subdomains – all the usual stuff is there and easy to get to in their domain hosting portal.

Worth noting there’s no email forwarding option (some of the best registrars have it, others don’t) but you can do that with DNS records.

They do offer easy domain redirects including stealth redirects which is nice.

What that means is this: say you have “domain1.com” and you want to redirect anyone who visits that domain to “domain2.com”

With a stealth redirect, anyone who goes to “domain1.com” will still see that in their browser’s address bar, even though they’re technically on “domain2.com.”

This is a fancy feature you probably don’t need but cool to have it.

Expiration Policy

No extra grace periods or anything – if you let your domain expire, she’s out in the wild.

Support: 4.5/5

domain.com support

Domain.com’s knowledge base is solid – looks good, well organized, easy to search, and their articles have helpful images in addition to their detailed explanations.

Phone and live chat 24/7 – good to go there.

In looking at the live chat, they offer some “what are you looking for” options before connecting you with a support hombre.

Sometimes that’s helpful for getting the right support person but none of the options felt right for our questions about transfer fees so we just guessed.

When we were getting connected, the chat window said it’d be a 5-minute wait to connect.

Nice that there was some expectation setting there, also nice that it didn’t take anywhere near that long (we were chatting in less than a minute).

The support guy we got connected with seemed knowledgeable on the details, but had some trouble understanding our questions; kind of understandable because we were talking about transfers in, transfers out, transfers to their “sister companies,” – we can see how it’d get a bit confusing but other registrars figured it out easily enough.

Best Web Hosting Services
The Definitive Guide [2020]

Best Web Hosting Services of 2019 Featured Image
 

Dale McManus

Co-Founder & Web Developer

Nov. 8, 2019

 

Hey, my name is Dale! My partner Alex and I have helped tens of thousands of people build beautiful websites around the world. In this fully-packed, step-by-step guide, you’ll learn what the Best Website Builders are. Let’s dive in!

  • Level of Expertise:
    Beginner
  • Time To Complete:
    45 Minutes
  • What You Get:
    Working Knowledge

For the record: It’s super important for us to keep this site 100% free for you and 100% high quality. To help us do that, we’ve partnered with some of the products we recommend and earn a commission if you buy through our links. Read our full disclosure and partners list here.

If your gonna have a pro website, your gonna need pro hosting. Here’s how to find the best.

Looking for the best web hosting services to get your pro website game on?

We’ve got your back fam!

In this here monster post, we cover everything you need to know about the what, why, and how of web hosting so you can pick the best one for you – without spending a million hours sorting through feature lists and taking advantage of moneyback guarantees to try a bunch out.

We’ve got a lot of ground to cover so let’s jump in, starting a list of our favorite web hosting providers.

best web hosting services

The best website hosting services and companies

Bluehost
Bluehost

4.5 out of 5

  • checkmark Features: 4/5
  • checkmark Speed/Uptime: 4.5/5
  • checkmark Support: 5/5
  • checkmark Price: 5/5
Hostgator Logo

Hostgator

4.5 out of 5

  • checkmark Features: 4/5
  • checkmark Speed/Uptime: 5/5
  • checkmark Support: 4/5
  • checkmark Price: 4/5
Hostwinds

Hostwinds

4 out of 5

  • checkmark Features: 4/5
  • checkmark Speed/Uptime: 4.5/5
  • checkmark Support: 3.5/5
  • checkmark Price: 4/5
1&1 IONOS Logo

1&1 Ionos

4 out of 5

  • checkmark Features: 3.5/5
  • checkmark Speed/Uptime: 3.5/5
  • checkmark Support: 4/5
  • checkmark Price: 5/5
InMotion Hosting Logo

InMotion

4 out of 5

  • checkmark Features: 3/5
  • checkmark Speed/Uptime: 5/5
  • checkmark Support: 4.5/5
  • checkmark Price: 4/5
SiteGround Hosting Logo

Siteground

3.5 out of 5

  • checkmark Features: 4/5
  • checkmark Speed/Uptime: 3.5/5
  • checkmark Support: 4/5
  • checkmark Price: 3/5

What is web hosting?

We’ve already got a pretty badass post covering answering this question in-depth (which you can check out here).

But for the sake of convenience, here’s a video, followed by a quick rundown:



Web hosting services make your website’s code and content available on the internet – so you don’t have to mess with any of the technical details of running servers, making sure you’ve got a solid, fast connection to the web at all times, etc.

The analogy we like to use is this:

If your website is your house, your domain name is your address and web hosting is the land your house is built on.

Hosting companies will usually let you buy a domain name through them to make that part easy.

Unlike website builders, though, you’ll have to handle setting up your website yourself (not too difficult when you use a content management system like WordPress).

In exchange for some of the extra support website builders provide, you’ll ultimately pay less for web hosting than you will for a builder, and you have much more complete control over your site’s design and functionality.

Do you need web hosting?

If you’re not using a website builder, the answer is yes.

Unless you want to host your site on a server you set up and manage yourself.

That’s physically possible, but for 99% of us, it’s just not practical.

You’ve got to be super tech-savvy to do it and even then you probably won’t do it as well as a web hosting company that has hundreds or thousands of people making that magic happen for a living.

Plus, web hosting can be pretty darn cheap (like a few bucks a month) depending on the type of hosting you use.

How to choose the best hosting service for you

choose best hosting service kid candy

Alright, now that we’re up to speed on the basics of hosting, let’s jump into how you can choose the best web hosting service for you!

First up…

Which type of web hosting should you get

We hinted at this in our “types of web hosting” section above, but to make it super clear, when you’re starting out there are really only two options you should focus on:

  1. Shared hosting
  2. WordPress hosting

Why?

Well for a few reasons:

  • Cloud hosting is basically shared hosting and you won’t really notice the differences until you get a serious amount of traffic to your seriously large site (which will take some time, might as well keep it simple and save some cash in the meantime).
  • VPS and Dedicated hosting are a lot more work and only for really large or complicated sites that you probably won’t be building; even as your site scales a shared or dedicated WordPress hosting plan will likely be all that you need.
  • As a rule of thumb, shared hosting is fine if not fantastic for sites that get less than 50,000 visitors a month.
  • In the hosting world, upgrading your hosting or migrating to a different type is totally doable (more on that below)

So how do you decide between WordPress and shared hosting?

This really comes down to two things:

  1. How much do you want to spend?
  2. How tech-savvy are you?

To the first point, WordPress hosting is more expensive.

We’re not talking a lot more – think $10-20 a month instead of $5-10 – but it’s enough that it’s worth considering when you’re just getting started, there are a million other things you can put that extra cash toward to build your site and business.

Which brings us to the second point.

WordPress hosting is optimized for sites built on WordPress, so there are potentially some speed and stability improvements to be had there, but that’s really going to depend on the host and the plan you get.

The more important difference when you’re getting started is how confident you are in your tech skills/how much time you’re willing to spend figuring it out and fixing some small stuff yourself.

If you build a website on WordPress – whether it’s shared hosting or WordPress hosting – a lot of the hard work is done for you; there’s no code to write or server configuration to do to get setup.

But, things break and sometimes that’ll mean you’ll have to know a bit more about how things like MySQL databases, LAMP stacks, and DNS settings work, or get help from someone who does.

With WordPress hosting, you’re a bit less likely to have challenges like that because the web hosting provider is working harder in the background to prevent them from happening.

And if you do face those kinds of problems, their tech support will have trained WordPress experts to help you out.

Not something you’re guaranteed with shared hosting (though, because WordPress is so popular, some web hosting services will have support staff that knows this stuff).

Bottom line:

  1. If you want to get cheap web hosting and are okay with learning a bit more about the technical side of things, go Shared.
  2. If you’re okay with spending a bit more to have fewer problems, go WordPress (and check out our rundown of the best WordPress hosting sites).

Should I use free web hosting?

Hey, no shame in admitting we all like free.

Which is why it’s no surprise that free web hosting services are super popular.

If you’re going to build a pro-level website, this ain’t it chief.

While the “freemium” model works for a lot of things like phone apps or software services, pretty much every free hosting service is just too limited to really be worth it – especially when shared plans are so cheap.

If you’re looking to save money on your website building endeavors, you’ve already started by looking for hosting as opposed to website builders (which have their advantages but almost always cost more than hosting + always free WordPress).

Beyond that, you can stick to free plugins and themes for your WordPress site so really all you’re spending on is hosting and a domain name (which can be as little as $75 a year if you make the right moves).

Some other things to keep in mind

We look at a few specific things when considering hosts and in reviewing them for this big ol’ post – we’ll get to those below.

First, a couple of other things you’ll want to know about when you’re searching for a web hosting service.

Storage/Bandwidth

One of the technical parts of hosting that might actually matter to you is storage and bandwidth.

Storage is how much data for your website you’re allowed to have under your plan – which basically translates to how many pages and photos you can have on your site.

Bandwidth is how much data you’re allowed to transfer – which basically translates into how many people can come to your site.

Even with the cheapest web hosting plans, a lot of times you’ll get unlimited amounts of each.

Sometimes companies will say it’s unlimited but have specific terms of service that place some limits if you want to do crazy double backflip things with your site (we looked into that to get you the skinny in our reviews below).

But for those that don’t offer unlimited, here’s a bit of perspective to give you a sense of what you’ll need.

At the time of publishing, this very site, with all our fancy graphics and custom code and images and thousands of visitors, uses the following:

  • Storage: 431.11 MB
  • Bandwidth: 3.17 GB

We also asked our friends over at Create and Go (which is a much older and bigger site) what they use:

  • Storage: 1.5 GB
  • Bandwidth: 184.84 GB

What does that mean?

Unless you’re going all out with tons of pictures and videos, any plan that has storage limits of 10 GB or more will be fine.

Bandwidth-wise if you’ve got at least 50GB you’re the proverbial good to go!

The price will jump after the promo period

Across the board, 99.9% of the time, web hosting companies will offer lower prices when you first sign up than they’ll normally charge you once you renew.

It’s not particularly shady, it’s a tried and true way for companies to get new customers.

We just want to make sure you’ve got the full facts because that’s how we do.

How long does that promo period last?

Well, usually it’s for your first purchase, and you can usually buy hosting for anywhere from one month to 3 years.

Sometimes companies will also offer their best rates when you buy 3 years at a time – know that when you see one price on the “pricing” page and another in your checkout cart.

We usually recommend starting with one year because:

  1. That’s how long you’ll have to buy a domain name for anyway.
  2. That’ll give you a solid discount without locking you in for a crazy long amount of time

Starting small is fine

  • It’s relatively easy to upgrade your hosting package to suit your needs

Other posts you’ve probably found in your “best web hosting services” search probably explain all the types of hosting and then say “well, if you want to build a big site get VPS…”

No no no friends. It’s not that complicated.

Start small, learn what works, what you like and need to build awesome websites, then scale your hosting as your sites get bigger and you can actually take advantage of the higher rates.

Shared or WordPress hosting are more than enough for starting out.

“Oh, but you see, I’m going to build this big giant awesome site, gather a whole team that does all this custom coding work, publish tons of video, get hundreds of thousands of visitors a month – this shared stuff just won’t do!” you say?

Hey, we’re for it, yes, get after it.

BUT you’re not there yet. No need to go through the headaches of figuring out the more complicated hosting wizardry now, no need to shell out the extra cash.

Particularly because upgrading or changing your hosting is pretty easy.

If you decide to stick with your current host and keep a shared or WordPress plan for a while, you can just upgrade your plan to a higher tier one and instantly get more speed, storage, bandwidth, etc.

If you do want to switch over to another type of hosting or another hosting provider, you’ve got two things to help:

  1. That provider will offer migration services to handle moving everything over for you, they might even be free.
  2. If you’re using WordPress (which you should), there’s a really awesome plugin called All-in-One WP Migration that literally makes migrating a WordPress site take a couple of clicks; just install the plugin on your old site, install WordPress on your new hosting with the plugin, click download on your old site, click restore on your new site. Done!

So start with the smallest plan you can get by with (usually the cheapest, maybe the second cheapest if you need more than one site or a bit more storage), and upgrade from there.

Have you considered page builders?

We’re betting you have if you’ve gotten to this point in your web building journey, but just in case they’re worth mentioning.

With web hosting you have to manage the setup of your site and sometimes do some ongoing maintenance to get WordPress installed and running smoothly (there are other options but please, for all our sakes, just use WordPress).

Also, WordPress takes a bit of learning (or knowing about the right plugins) in order to make an awesome website.

It’s a bit more work, but still pretty easy and definitely cheaper.

But if you’re willing to pay a bit more to not have to mess with as much technical stuff and have an easy to use drag and drop web creation experience, builders are worth considering.

Check out our list of best website builders to learn more about those!

Some specifics

General things to know/look for out of the way, the 4 main things you’ll want to consider when choosing the best website hosting service for you are:

  1. Speed/Uptime
  2. Support
  3. Features
  4. Price

It just so happens, that’s what we looked at for our web hosting reviews!

Let’s take a look at how we did that so you can get a sense of what you’re looking for/how to choose which you want to use.

Our website hosting review process

best web hosting services review process notes

Here’s the basic process we use to test web hosts for our reviews:

  1. We sign up for the cheapest web hosting plan because they’re all fine for getting started.
  2. Then we set up a basic WordPress site on each, test how fast it loads with a tool, and set it up to monitor uptime.
  3. We then send a few not-so-common questions to their support team to see how fast they respond and how helpful they are.
  4. Finally, we look for extra features, check for any hidden costs or tricky terms of service, then compile all that data into a rating in each of our 4 categories as well as an overall score.

When you’re looking for web hosting, you can go ahead and start with our reviews as far as speed/uptime, features, support and price goes.

If you’re still not sure, check out some of the extra features each offers for yourself.

All of the hosts on our list have moneyback guarantees so if you’re torn from there go ahead and sign up for 1-3 accounts, get WordPress installed, try out their support and you should have your winner (cancel and get your money back from the other hosts)!

Here’s what we look for (and what you should, too) in each of our main evaluation categories.

Speed/Uptime

Beyond simply having a space for your website on the internet, the real key things you need from a host are:

  1. For your site to load quickly so people don’t click away out of frustration (aka speed)
  2. For your site to load at all so people can actually see what you’ve got going on (aka uptime)

When you’re getting started, “fast enough” is fine, and fast enough means (according to Google) under 3 seconds.

As you grow, your search engine rankings and beating the competition means you’ll want to go for blazing fast, as fast as possible, Superman around the world a million times a minute fast.

To start, under 3 is good.

To test speed we just loaded a simple WordPress site (meaning we literally just installed WordPress) and tested it with Pingdom.

Which means none of the sites in our test come anywhere close to 3 seconds – there’s just not that much work the hosts’ web servers have to do to make the site load.

But this did give us a general sense of how each host does speed wise – the fastest host in our test will likely be the fastest for the actual sites you build.

Like speed, when you’re getting started pretty much any host will be fine uptime-wise – even the worst hosts are up 90% of the time, most are 98%+.

While that’s mostly fine, though, you want your site to be accessible 24/7/365.

Stuff happens, it will go down, but the less often that happens the better.

We also measured uptime using Pingdom to compare them, though to get a good read on this takes at least a year of monitoring (we didn’t want to wait that long to get this post out to you, so we just watched each for a few days as a starting point).

So we also took a look at each host’s uptime guarantee to see how you’ll be compensated if there is any downtime.

Important to note on those guarantees though – they don’t necessarily mean your site will absolutely, positively be online for that percentage of time.

There’s a lot of fine print about what does or doesn’t count (often hosts won’t consider uptime stats you report to them), and “guarantee” just means you get a discount on your bill when they fail to meet their guarantee.

Support

Beyond having a site that loads fast – or loads at all – support is really the #2 most important thing to consider when choosing a web host.

In the website building world, a million things can go wrong any minute.

Most minutes none of them do.

Some minutes, one or two of them do.

Sometimes those one or two mean your site’s real broken.

When that happens, you’ll want some expert help to get things back up and running asap.

As you learn more about building websites and doing the web hosting dance, you’ll learn how to fix a lot of things on your own.

But there will be times when a problem is beyond your knowledge or beyond your control (because the web hosting company doesn’t give you access to the thing that needs to be fixed).

For those times when you do need to call in some good old fashioned support, you’ll want them to respond quickly, courteously, and knowledgeably.

For our web hosting reviews, we took a look at each company’s knowledge base to see how much you could figure out through a quick search and read of a help article.

We also reached out to support with a few technical questions, aiming to go beyond the basics to get a sense of how tech-savvy they are and how quickly they’ll be able to respond when you need them.

Features

Once the essentials are covered with speed/uptime and support, we also take a look at the extra features, the nice to haves that make some hosts just a bit more awesome.

You’ll often get more of these when you buy higher-tier plans, for our web hosting reviews we mostly looked at what you get with the cheapest plan with some consideration of what extras you can get if you do pay more (either with a higher plan or as add ons).

Some of what we looked for here:

  • How many domains/sites you can have and if they include a free domain name
  • How many email accounts you can have
  • How much bandwidth/storage you get (and if there are any sneaky terms of service around them)
  • If website backups are included
  • If SSL (aka “https”) is included
  • How long their moneyback guarantee is
  • If they offer any extra security features beyond the basics
  • If they offer CDN/caching (makes your site load faster around the world)
  • Freebies like Google Adwords credits

We also took a look at each hosts “hosting management interface” – the portal through which you manage the different features and functions of your hosting.

Since you’ll be spending some time here setting things up and fixing things, the easier (and more fun) it is to use, the better.

Price

Most web hosting plans, especially when looking at the entry-level/cheapest ones, are pretty similarly priced – so we wouldn’t necessarily choose a host just based on price.

But, it’s definitely a factor, so we took a and gave each host a rating based on:

  • The cost of their cheapest plan for one year of service (we don’t recommend you get hosting for 3 years when starting out so we don’t count those prices even if there’s a better discount)
  • How much the cost increases after the discount period is over
  • Whether you have to pay extra for important things like backups, SSL, or domain name privacy (which keeps your contact info hidden so you don’t get bombarded by sales calls from companies that scrape WHOIS info).

The 6 best web hosting sites and companies

Bluehost

Best All-Around for Beginners

Bluehost

Bluehost

4.5 out of 5

  • checkmark Features: 4/5
  • checkmark Speed/Uptime: 4.5/5
  • checkmark Support: 5/5
  • checkmark Price: 5/5

Checklist Items

Domains: 6 (1 free) | Number of Sites: 1 | Email Accounts: 0 | Bandwidth: Unlimited | Storage: 50 GB | SSL: Free | Money-Back Guarantee: 30 Days | WordPress: One-Click Install and Hosting | Price for Cheapest Plan (One Year): $5.95/month

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Speed and uptime are solid
  • Both knowledge base and chat support rock
  • Best hosting management interface in the game

Cons

  • An uptime guarantee would be nice
  • No email included

Bottom Line

Solid speed, solid support, solid hosting management interface. The only reasons not to use Bluehost are if you want to have email included in your plan or you’re looking for the cheapest web hosting possible.

Speed/Uptime: 4.5/5

bluehost hosting speed uptime

With the second-fastest speed (663 ms) and 100% uptime in our early testing, Bluehost is looking pretty solid on this front.

A couple things to note, though:

  1. They have no Uptime guarantee. This isn’t great but we wouldn’t give them a red flag for it because most guarantees are either hard to get credit from and/or the amount of account credit you’ll get because a web hosting provider failed to meet their guaranteed isn’t very much (like cents back, maybe a dollar or two per occurrence).
  2. They specifically mention that, while bandwidth is unlimited, if you use an excessive amount they’ll give you a 48-hour notice to reduce your usage. Almost certainly not going to be an issue for you if you’re not using your hosting to store/share files (which you’re not allowed to do anyway) or something sketchy (find another host for your black market quilt trading site lol).

Support: 5/5

bluehost hosting support

As we were expecting (Bluehost has been at the top of the game for a while), their knowledge base is extensive, easy to search, and a lot of articles have helpful videos (yall know we love that)!

24/7 call and chat access to support people of course, when we reached out to see how they do our gal was super helpful – we asked how to update our WordPress database and she not only told us what to do, but offered to do it for us!

Features: 4/5

bluehost hosting management interface

Bluehost’s hosting management interface is definitely the slickest and most beginner-friendly in the game.

But it doesn’t compromise on functionality – everything you’ll want/need to do from DNS changes to database management can be done through it.

Biggest disappointment here was that email is not included.

You can buy Office 365 or G Suite email accounts, but we’d rather not pay for this service that’s pretty standard for hosting providers.

Extra features they offer:

  • Free
    • $100 Google/Microsoft Adwords credits
    • Resource protection – automatically isolates sites hogging resources on your shared server to save yours from slowing down
  • Paid
    • Sitelock Security ($1.99/month) extra protection monitoring, and fixing malware
    • Codeguard Daily Backups ($2.99/month)
    • SEO tools ($1.99/month)
    • Domain Privacy ($11.88/year)
    • G Suite ($6/month per email)
    • Office 365 ($4.99/month per email)
    • Blue Sky WordPress support ($29/month) – their experts provide fixes and guidance for building, probably better to get WordPress hosting and have access to people like this included.
    • Lots of additional extras in their marketplace

Price: 4/5

bluehost hosting pricing

While you’ll only get Bluehost’s best price of $3.95 when you sign up for 3 years, they’re right in the middle of the pack at $5.95 for your first year and the cost doesn’t get ridiculous after that.

  • Best Discount: $3.95, 36 months
  • One Year Discount: $5.95
  • Every Year After That: $7.99

HostGator

Fastest Web Hosting

Hostgator

Hostgator

4.5 out of 5

  • checkmark Features: 4/5
  • checkmark Speed/Uptime: 5/5
  • checkmark Support: 4.5/5
  • checkmark Price: 4/5

Checklist Items

Domains: 1 (free) | Number of Sites: 1 | Email Accounts: Unlimited | Bandwidth: Unlimited | Storage: Unlimited | SSL: Free | Money-Back Guarantee: 45 Days | WordPress: One-Click Install and Hosting | Price for Cheapest Plan (One Year): $5.95/month

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Fastest hosting we’ve tested
  • Unlimited storage, bandwidth, email accounts
  • Solid support and better than average money-back guarantee

Cons

  • Hosting management interface isn’t the most beginner-friendly

Bottom Line

If you want the fastest web hosting around without sacrificing uptime and reliability, HostGator’s got you. If you need the cheapest hosting or the most beginner-friendly experience, there are a couple of better options but we’d use HostGator any and every day (which we do!).

Speed & Uptime: 5/5

hostgator hosting speed uptime

Fastest speed we tested (403 ms), 100% uptime with a 99.9% guarantee, no hidden bandwidth restrictions.

HostGator for the win!

Support: 4.5/5

hostgator hosting support

24/7 phone, live chat, email – yep.

The knowledgebase is extensive and super helpful (including video explanations) – check.

Support is fast, technically savvy, and pretty helpful – affirmative.

The first answer we got from them when asking our WordPress database question was a bit sideways – ya girl mentioned “temporary URLs” which is part of what we’d need to do what we were asking but not a direct answer.

But, we got the impression that we’d get it sorted out if we kept asking questions, we just ended the chat because we knew what to do and her answer was on the right track.

Just a smidge of a point off for that bit of confusion.

Features: 4/5

hostgator hosting management interface

HostGator’s hosting management interface is sleek and modern, but simpler than other hosts.

Which means you’ll have to use cPanel to get more advanced things done. That’s fine, cPanel is an industry-standard, but other hosts have it all integrated which we’d prefer if we were beginners.

Other features worth noting:

  • Free
    • Site transfers
    • $100 Add credit
    • Weekly backups (only 20GB though)
    • Constant Contact Integration
    • Weebly and Gator Builder Integration
  • Paid
    • Sitelock monitoring ($1.67/month)
    • G Suite ($6/month per email)
    • Codeguard daily backups ($2/month)
    • SEO tools ($2.95/month)
    • Domain name privacy ($15/year)

Price: 4/5

hostgator hosting pricing

If we just looked at the pricing page, HostGator’s definitely the cheapest web hosting provider…

But we go deeper than that for you friends, because you shouldn’t have to get hosting for 3 years when you don’t know if you’ll want to stick with the first host you choose!

Initial one-year cost is in the middle with Bluehost, after that, you’ll pay a dollar more per month with HostGator.

  • Best Discount: $2.75, 36 months
  • One Year Discount: $5.95
  • Every Year After That: $8.95

SiteGround

Us: Want features? SiteGround: Yes

Siteground Logo

Siteground

3.5 out of 5

  • checkmark Features: 4/5
  • checkmark Speed/Uptime: 4/5
  • checkmark Support: 3.5/5
  • checkmark Price: 3/5

Checklist Items

Domains: Unlimited (0 free) | Number of Sites: 1 | Email Accounts: Unlimited | Bandwidth: Unlimited | Storage: 10 GB | SSL: Free | Money-Back Guarantee: 30 Days | WordPress: One-Click Install and Hosting | Price for Cheapest Plan (One Year): $3.95/month

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Most powerful yet easy to use hosting management interface
  • Awesome tutorials on how to use their services, do hosting stuff
  • Loads of free extras

Cons

  • Storage is low – probably fine but we like more breathing room
  • After the initial discount, they’re the most expensive hosting
  • Support helped but we want more

Bottom Line

SiteGround feels really premium – from the feel and functionality of their interface, to their loaded with extras plans, to their price. That last point, combined with support that’s not so impressive and good but not great speeds (at least without any extra technical work) leave us feeling like they’re a good option if you’re a more skilled website maker who can take full advantage of all they have to offer.

Speed & Uptime: 4/5

siteground hosting speed uptime

Speed’s solid but not the fastest (873 ms), uptime we solid but not the best (99.97%) – overall, good.

Nothing funky hidden in the TOS bandwidth-wise, you get “unlimited” as promised.

Uptime guarantee is 99.9% (at least at this point, looks like they owe us some credit!), with one of the better compensation plans:

  • If your uptime is 99.9% – 99.00%, you’ll get one month of free hosting.
  • For every 1% below 99.00, you’ll get another free month.

Since those months cost $11.95 (undiscounted), that’s actually meaningful money and we appreciate it.

Support: 3.5/5

siteground hosting support 1
siteground hosting support 2

Knowledgebase is well organized (one of the easiest to find answers in) and thorough, but their articles could be a bit more detailed and helpful.

That being said, they have some bomb ass dank ass tutorials (we’d know).

Naturally, 24/7 phone, chat, ticket support, though we were underwhelmed by our girl Diana, maybe it was just a stressful day.

We got connected with her fast but she was slow to respond and didn’t answer our question about WordPress databases directly at first.

Eventually, though, we got the right answer so we’d say good enough; maybe the way we asked our question was confusing.

Features: 4/5

siteground hosting management interface

That hosting management interface though…

Sleek, sexy, loaded with features, if we were a web app we’d put a ring on it.

Only thing keeping our pals SiteGround from a 5/5 here is the storage limit (one of the lowest we found), you can only have one site with their cheapest hosting plan, and a domain name isn’t included for free.

The long list of extras:

  • Free
    • Drag & Drop Builder
    • 4 Data centers, USA, Europe, Asia Pacific – loads faster, more reliable
    • CDN & Caching
    • $60 credit to https://codeable.io/, expert WordPress development
    • 20% off Elementor plugin – WordPress drag/drop page builder
    • 30% off WP forms – fancy
    • 15% off WeWork coworking space
    • Referral program to get free hosting when friends sign up
    • Daily backups (hell yeah!)
  • Paid
    • Site scanning ($19.80/year)
    • Domain name privacy ($12/year to start, $24 on renewal – way too expensive)
    • Domain name: $15.95 – expensive

Price: 3/5

siteground hosting pricing

The extra features are great but you’ll pay for them. We appreciate that they offer their lowest price even when you sign up for just one year.

But, with the non-discounted cost, we’d probably want to get it for the full 3 years we could – once we were damn sure SiteGround was the host for us.

  • Best Discount: $3.95, 12-36 months
  • One Year Discount: $3.95
  • Every Year After That: $11.95

1&1 IONOS

Cheapest Web Hosting

1&1 One Logo

1&1 Ionos

4 out of 5

  • checkmark Features: 4/5
  • checkmark Speed/Uptime: 3.5/5
  • checkmark Support: 3.5/5
  • checkmark Price: 5/5

Checklist Items

Domains: Unlimited (1 free) | Number of Sites: Unlimited | Email Accounts: 10 | Bandwidth: 6GB | Storage: 10 GB | SSL: Free | Money-Back Guarantee: 30 Days | WordPress: One-Click Install and Hosting | Price for Cheapest Plan (One Year): $4/month

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Cheapest web hosting (when you don’t count the discounts that you only get when you pay for 3-year plans at other hosts)
  • Free domain and domain name privacy!

Cons

  • Support wasn’t the best, was a hassle to get to the right person (though he was helpful af)
  • Bandwidth limit includes email and backend downloads/uploads (eg adding images to your site)

Bottom Line

The cheapest web hosting is what you’ll find with 1&1 IONOS and if that’s what you’re after, they’re your boys (and girls). In our (admittedly limited) testing, uptime and speed could be better but were okay, and at least in our case getting support was… an adventure. But once you figure out how to get to the right support person, they’re great, so don’t let that keep you from choosing this hosting provider!

Speed & Uptime: 3.5/5

1&1 IONOS hosting speed uptime

Third fastest speed (754 ms) is great, uptime was the lowest in our admittedly short testing period (99.81%), which cost them some points.

They also lost with us when it comes to bandwidth: they say “unlimited traffic” – meaning they won’t keep visitors from coming to your site if you get more than x amount/month.

Good, but no web host does that (because counting visitors is complicated plus that’d just be slimy).

Look through the fine print, though, and you’ll find that their general terms limit your bandwidth to 6GB a month.

Which would be fine for 99% of websites…

But it also includes your email accounts and any uploading/downloading of files to your website on your end (have a lot of photos on your site? You could eat that up).

We have to imagine that for their higher-tier plans that say they’re good for up to 50 sites wouldn’t have this limit.

Then again, their general TOS talks about fees for additional bandwidth, so maybe not.

The uptime guarantee is a solid figure, though, 99.99%.

You can submit your own proof of downtime (other hosts will only accept their own stats), though it’s naturally “at their discretion” so YMMV on this.

If they do admit to excess downtime, you get account credit for the amount of downtime below their guarantee, which is reasonable.

But for $4/month, if you have, say, an hour of downtime, you’ll be owed half a cent.

So basically, you’re getting cheap hosting, the uptime you get is the uptime you get.

Support: 3.5/5

1&1 IONOS hosting support 1
1&1 IONOS hosting support 2

The knowledgebase at 1&1 is extensive and articles are helpful enough, though it wasn’t easy to search through.

They do have community guides and forums which is a huge plus because sometimes it’s more helpful to talk to other people using the hosting service to get the best answers (they just know your pain that much more intimately).

1&1 also offers a “personal consultant” – one person to talk to for your support needs and for “personalized advice” which might be helpful, but we’d bet that means “advice on how to spend more money with us.”

24/7 live chat and phone for sure – also included scheduling a call back so you don’t have to wait if you want to talk on the phone because nobody got time for that.

For our testing, though, we’re just tryinta slide into those online chat DMs…

Worst experience we had though.

First, getting to a chat took a lot of clicks and they try to funnel you to a support person with the right skills/knowledge (for account stuff, security, WordPress, their different products, etc).

Which we get from a business standpoint, but other hosts do this without making us work as hard.

When we first got to a chat where we thought we’d be talking to the right person, it took a while to get a response – and there wasn’t any indication of how long we’d have to wait (other hosts show that).

After that wait, though, no joy.

Turns out, we’d clicked the wrong option and the support person we got didn’t know how to help and couldn’t connect us to someone who would (they told us to call or they could submit an email ticket – we appreciate the problem solving but weren’t trying to wait for emails or talk on the phone).

So back to the “which kind of person do you need” selection, took another guess, this one was right.

We got connected fast and the response was the most thorough we got to our WordPress database question – not only did they tell us what needed to be changed, but how to make that change.

So when you get the right person, support is awesome.

It might be a bit of an adventure to get to that point, though.

Features: 4/5

1&1 hosting management interface

1&1’s hosting manager is likable – not as slick as Bluehost’s, not as powerful as SiteGround’s, but very useable and better for beginners than cPanel.

Extras:

  • Free
    • Domain name privacy (every other host makes you pay, this is very much appreciated)
    • Website Checker (some suggestions for how to make your site more polished and SEO basics, kind of a way to get you to buy more services but a bit helpful).
    • Favicon Generator
    • Logo creator
    • Bing Ad Credit $100
    • DDoS protection
    • Multiple data centers
    • Daily backups of just your website files – sometimes this helps, with WordPress, you’ll need your database backed up too so limited use and you’ll have to manually restore files.
  • Paid
    • 100gb Cloud Storage ($1/month – cheaper than Dropbox/Google)
    • Sitelock security ($5/month)
    • Local Listing Tool ($10/month for the first year, $20 after that – automatically lists your local business in 25 directories, manage info in one place)
    • Managed WordPress ($3/month, 30-day free trial – Automatic updates and access to some premium themes and plugins)
    • rankingCoach SEO tools ($10/month, 30-day free trial –  step by step guides on how to improve your rankings)
    • CDN ($5/month, 30-day trial)
    • Codeguard daily backups ($2/month)

Price: 5/5

1&1 IONOS hosting pricing

Hey, it’s $4 per month all day, every day. Cheapest around if you don’t buy into the rock-bottom-but-you’ll-have-to-pay-for-3-years-to-get-it prices a couple other hosts offer.

  • Best Discount: $4
  • One Year Discount: $4
  • Every Year After That: $4

Inmotion Hosting

Solid Hosting + Great Support

InMotion Hosting Logo

InMotion Hosting

4 out of 5

  • checkmark Features: 4.5/5
  • checkmark Speed/Uptime: 3/5
  • checkmark Support: 5/5
  • checkmark Price: 4/5

Checklist Items

Domains: 8 (1 free) | Number of Sites: 2 | Email Accounts: Unlimited | Bandwidth: Unlimited | Storage: Unlimited | SSL: Free | Money-Back Guarantee: 90 Days | WordPress: One-Click Install and Hosting | Price for Cheapest Plan (One Year): $7.46/month

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • The most tech-savvy support we found
  • Very thorough knowledge base and helpful tutorials
  • The best money-back guarantee

Cons

  • Speed and uptime were not so great in our testing (we need to do more)
  • The interface looks old, isn’t the easiest to navigate

Bottom Line

If you can get past the outdated interface, Inmotion is a solid host. Speed/uptime wasn’t great in our test but we need to give that more time (our fault). Our hero David W. was eyepopingly good on the support front which goes a long way when it comes to hosts. If you want to go beyond “just having hosting” and learn how to fully use everything a good host has to offer to make awesome websites, we’d go with Inmotion.

Speed & Uptime: 3/5

inmotion hosting speed uptime

Inmotion was the slowest in our speed tests at 1,787 ms. In their defense, we need to run this for longer – they might have just had a bad couple of days.

And they’re still very much under the 3 second limit (re: people will leave before getting to your site if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load).

Which also applies to their 99.90% uptime (second-lowest, needs more testing).

TOS particulars, they don’t offer any uptime guarantees unless you get a pro plan or higher (so, just not with their cheapest plan).

And bandwidth is unlimited, though they’ll meter you or charge you extra if you use a lot more than normal (which you almost certainly won’t).

Support: 5/5

inmotion hosting support 1
inmotion hosting support 2

Support is definitely top-notch with Inmotion – you’re not going to have a problem you can’t solve with their help!

The knowledge base looks outdated (like most of their site) and could be easier to find answers in, but their guides are super thorough and each article has a comments section – so you can ask specific questions and get specific answers which we like.

Support is 24/7 phone, live chat, email… yes of course but also US-based which makes the conversation just a bit more fluid.

When we reached out we got a lightning speed response and their support guy was the most tech-savvy one we encountered with any web hosting company.

He actually taught us about a WordPress command line tool that makes updating the database fast/easy/thorough.

Shoutout to our boy David W.!

Features: 4.5/5

inmotion hosting management interface

The hosting management interface is fine, has everything you need.

But it’s outdated looking and not set up to make things easy for beginners.

But with unlimited storage, bandwidth, emails, multiple sites and domain names, combined with the best money-back guarantee, we let it slide.

Extras you’ll find:

  • Free
    • Malware scanning, patching, and guaranteeing
    • Multiple Datacenters
    • $150 ad credit to Yahoo and bing
    • Free Yellow pages listing
    • Free Boldgrid website builder (proprietary but built on WordPress)
    • DDoS Protection
    • WordPress Install as you checkout – saves some time trying to figure that out afterward
  • Paid
    • Domain name privacy ($13/year)
    • Backups ($2/month for first 10gb, $1 for each additional 10GB)
    • Dedicated IP ($4/month) Some security benefit, not needed for most
    • Managed hosting (starts at $40/month) – expert help making some serious technical changes/upgrades – could be helpful for making your site faster/more secure
    • Professional Website Design ($99 for their QuickStart, depends on what you want after that) – if you have the cash might be worth the quick start, their designs didn’t impress us though so probably not worth it for a more expensive package

Price: 4/5

inmotion hosting pricing

They’re not the cheapest, they’re not the most expensive, the price is right.

And we appreciate that the price doesn’t jump a ton after the initial discount.

  • Best Discount: $6.39, 24 months
  • One Year Discount: $7.46
  • Every Year After That: $7.99

Hostwinds

An up and comer we’d use

Hostwinds Logo

Hostwinds

4 out of 5

  • checkmark Features: 3.5/5
  • checkmark Speed/Uptime: 4/5
  • checkmark Support: 4.5/5
  • checkmark Price: 4/5

Checklist Items

Domains: 1 (free) | Number of Sites: 1 | Email Accounts: Unlimited | Bandwidth: Unlimited | Storage: Unlimited | SSL: Free | Money-Back Guarantee: 30 Days (prorated) | WordPress: One-Click Install and Hosting | Price for Cheapest Plan (One Year): $3.29/month

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Chat support was awesome – lightning-fast and immediately helpful
  • If you only consider the initial discount for a one year plan, they’re the cheapest
  • Best uptime guarantee in the industry

Cons

  • Hosting management interface not easy to use as others
  • Knowledgebase needs more articles
  • No 100% money-back guarantee

Bottom Line

Hostwinds is one of the newest web hosting companies to the game and we for sure appreciate that they’re looking to find their edge in providing a better customer experience than the big boys. Their fundamentals are solid, though the knowledge base needs more content, their hosting interface could be easier to use, and they don’t offer a full refund guarantee. That being said, if you want to support the little guy, Hostwinds is a team that won’t let you down.

Speed & Uptime: 4/5

hostwinds hosting speed uptime

Speed was the second slowest at 1,272 ms, though uptime was a perfect 100%.

Which we’d expect since they have the best uptime guarantee in the industry – 99.999%.

Meaning they’re promising your site won’t be down for more than 25 seconds per month.

Damn.

Plus, they put their money where their mouth is – if you can prove to them your site was down beyond their guarantee, they’ll give you credit for the entire day that downtime occurred (not just the time your site was down).

Bandwidth-wise, nothing sneaky in their TOS.

They do say if you use a higher than normal amount (which, again, you probably won’t), they’ll ask you to upgrade and if you don’t they’ll suspend you.

But they made it clear they wouldn’t ever terminate your account for using too much bandwidth.

Which seems fair/right, we wonder if other hosts would terminate you.

We didn’t find any that said as much in their Terms, but if some do, that’s no bueno fo sho.

Support: 4.5/5

hostwinds support

Hostwinds’ knowledge base could be easier to search through and feels like it needs more guides and articles, but the ones they have are detailed and helpful.

That being said, their support was super easy to access (there’s a live chat tab on every page of their site) and blazing fast to both respond and provide a solution – they literally answered our question in the first response (others asked 1-2 follow up questions or we had to clarify something with them).

And yes, that chat, along with phone and ticket support is 24/7.

Features: 3.5/5

hostwinds hosting management interface

Their hosting interface looked good and was relatively easy to use, though we had a harder time finding the WordPress one click install than with other hosts.

And you have to use cPanel to do most of your hosting management work – fine, but not the best for beginners.

One of the biggest areas they lost points here was their moneyback guarantee.

It’s not all your money back, it’s prorated – you get the cost of your plan minus however many days you used it.

So basically it’s a paid trial.

At just 3.95/month for your first year, it’ll only cost you a coffee if you try them for a month then cancel; still, we’d like it all back please.

Hostwinds also doesn’t have many included extras or paid extras for that matter.

That being said, we feel like a lot of the paid extras most hosts offer are kind of useless, so we don’t so much mind that, but we know you might want easier access to some of those things (we can set up things like caching and CDN without our host’s help, but it’s easier if you have it).

Their extras:

  • Free
    • Website Transfers
    • Weebly Website Builder
    • 3 data centers (two US, one Europe)
  • Paid
    • Domain name privacy ($5/year – the cheapest of any host except 1&1)
    • Website monitoring ($24/year)
    • Daily Cloud Backups ($36/year)

Price: 4/5

hostwinds hosting pricing

Hostwinds has the cheapest one year plan price at just $3.29/month – which scores big points with us.

Especially since that’s the price they advertise on their site (see the screencap above)…

Because it’s actually even cheaper when you get a 3-year plan.

We love that they’re not trying to rope you in!

We don’t give them the “cheapest web hosting” honor, though, because the price goes up to a more normal rate after that discount (while 1&1 just holds steady at only 4 bucks).

  • Best Discount: $2.35, 36 months
  • One Year Discount: $3.29
  • Every Year After That: $8.99

Types of website hosting – explained!

types of web hosting servers

When it comes to choosing the right hosting plan for you, there are a ton of features and options that’ll get thrown at you.

No worries – we’ll cover what’s important as far as all of that goes below.

The first step to figuring out what moves you should make in the hosting game though is to understand the main types of hosting options.

These are:

  • Shared Hosting
  • Cloud Hosting
  • Virtual Private Server Hosting (VPS)
  • WordPress Hosting

All of these will act as a main hub for your website – storing all your website code and data and making it accessible to the world via the internets – each offers different levels of storage capacity, speed, control, and reliability.

Let’s jam on the what and why of each for a minute.

Shared Hosting

With shared web hosting, your site will be stored and accessed from a web server alongside a bunch of other sites that all share the server’s storage, CPU, and RAM resources.

In our housing analogy, this is like renting in an apartment complex – your website gets a room with a bunch of other people who all share hallways, power, water, etc.

This is by far the most popular setup (and the one we recommend for pro website beginners like you) because it’s absolutely the cheapest hosting you’ll find and it’s super easy to use.

Plans start around $5-10 a month, there’s almost no technical knowledge required to set up a site, and no maintenance (at least that you’ll have to do).

Though there are limitations on speed and storage capacity, for almost any site you’re looking to build this won’t be a problem when you’re getting started.

And if and when it does become a headache, you’ve got options – either upgrade your shared plan or migrate to another option.

Cloud Hosting

For what we’re talking about here, cloud hosting is basically a catchy marketing term.

There is a level of website game where IT guys at big companies make some super complex setups using things like Hadoop and Amazon Web Services…

But for our website game – making awesome, pro websites for ourselves and other companies that look awesome and help sell products and services – we’re not messing with that.

In that world, “cloud hosting” means the web hosting service we use (HostGator, Bluehost, etc) does that fancy work for us – then what we get basically looks and functions just like shared hosting.

There are some potential speed, performance, and security benefits to hosting that uses a cloud setup vs. some of the older ways of setting up shared hosting servers.

Not enough to worry about, though; if you find cloud hosting that’s basically as cheap as shared hosting and you really want to go for it, by all means.

Don’t spend hours trying to figure out if it’s that much better though.

Virtual Private Server Hosting (VPS)

If shared hosting is like living in an apartment complex, VPS hosting is like living in a duplex – your website will still share some resources with other people’s sites, but there’s a bit more separation.

It’s solid separation, too, as in you won’t be kept up by your neighbor Jerry blasting headbanging death metal at 2am.

Technically, this means your website is still on a server that’s shared by other sites, but it’s inside its own “virtual server” where you get a specific, dedicated amount of the server’s resources, almost completely isolated from everyone else.

This means there’s more backend customization you can do to manage how your site uses server resources, so you can have more complex code and handle higher traffic.

But it costs more (we’re talking $20-60 a month) and we guarantee that you’ll never need this if you’re building WordPress sites. It’s really for super custom sites for bigger companies that have complex web applications.

Dedicated Server Hosting

This kind of hosting lets you have your own server, no sharing involved; basically you’re buying a piece of land in the countryside.

A couple flavors exist.

Managed means you get a super savvy tech support team to do the extra setup and maintenance required, unmanaged means you’ve got to do this yourself or hire someone on your end. Someone’s got to water the garden, fix the broken pipes, and dig out that hole for the giant pool with a waterfall feature.

Long and short: it’s expensive as hell ($100+ a month) and is only necessary for the largest of the large websites (we’re talking online casino and Fortune 500 types).

WordPress Hosting

As the name might suggest, this is hosting specifically setup for WordPress websites.

Depending on the host, they might have you in a shared, VPS, or cloud setup on the backend.

What makes this different from those is WordPress hosting has servers optimized for WordPress specifically, they’ll likely include some specific plugins and maybe some premium themes, you’ll get tech support for WordPress (vs. general support that just helps with the hosting side in other plans), and they might manage keeping your plugins and such up to date for you.

Sounds great, right?

It is, but…

Shared hosting is fine, it’s what most WordPress site creators use.

And WordPress hosting will cost you more (Typically $10-20 a month) and they are probably restrictions on the plugins you can use (the hosts want to make sure they stay blazing fast).

Bottom line: start with shared unless you know for a fact you’re WordPress site is going to get a ton of traffic and you don’t want to mess with updates and fixing things that break; even then, you’ll be able to migrate your WordPress site to a WordPress hosting plan when you get to that point!

Best website hosting FAQ

Can I trust your reviews are honest?

Glad you asked!

We’ve worked hard to make our reviews as legit and honest as possible.

We’ve worked hard to make our reviews as legit and honest as possible.

As possible? So you did slant things!?

Nope, not as much as we can help.

The reality is we have a lot of experience with website hosting in making a ton of sites over the years.

So, like any human being, we have our opinions and preferences based on that experience.

But we knew going into this thing we needed to try to combat that as much as possible so we could deliver you the real, the helpful, the most objective info possible for you to make the best decision.

That’s why we worked in some objective measurements like speed tests using a trustworthy 3rd party tool (Pingdom).

For our Support rating, there was some instinct involved, but we asked the same questions of each host and included how fast they respond as part of our rating to try to ensure that was unbiased.

For features, we mostly used a checklist of things like Free SSL, Unlimited bandwidth/storage, etc – they got points for having those or not.

And for pricing we used some fancy spreadsheet work to rate them based on how much their plans cost before and after the initial discount, as well as any additional costs for essential things like domain names and domain name privacy.

In short: we worked hard to make our ratings as objective as possible.

Now if you’re a bit more savvy about how the online business game works (or just read our disclosure above), you’ll know we included affiliate links for most of the hosts – so if you purchase a plan through our link, we’ll get a bit of a commission.

This doesn’t cost you anything (in some cases, you’ll even get an extra discount for using our link).

And we did not change our ratings to make the hosts that pay more rank better.

We have our preferences in which hosts we like to use, some hosts pay us more, but we put that aside to make sure this definitive guide was the most helpful it could be for our most important customer: you, the reader.

If you have any questions about our website hosting reviews and process, feel free to contact us and we’ll happily share more details!

How much does web hosting cost?

For the shared plans we recommend, anywhere from $5-10 a month for shared, or $10-20 for WordPress.

After the initial discounts, you’re looking at about the same.

What is the difference between shared, cloud, VPS, dedicated, and WordPress hosting and which do I need?

Basically:

  • Shared: cheapest, lowest performance but still enough for most sites
  • Cloud: basically just shared, maybe a bit more performance
  • VPS: better performance than shared but costs more and requires more technical setup; not needed for most sites
  • Dedicated: the best performance, the most expensive and complicated setup; not needed for almost any site
  • WordPress hosting: optimized for WordPress sites, in general better performance, stability, and support but costs a bit more than shared

To start:

  • Go with WordPress hosting if you want the least amount of problems and are okay with paying a bit more
  • Go with shared if you want the cheapest website hosting and are okay with needing to put a bit more time into fixing the occasional technical issue.

What is the cheapest web hosting?

1&1 IONOS offers the cheap web hosting when you buy a package for a year – just $4 a month for their cheapest , forever (no pesky increases after the initial discount!

If you really want to go after it with up to a 36-month plan (which we don’t recommend in case you change your mind after you learn more about the hosting game, Hostwinds offers the absolute cheapest web hosting at the lowest price at just $2.35 a month.

How often do you have to pay for web hosting?

Web hosting can be purchased for as little as one month up to 36 months (that’s 3 years) at a time.

Paying for more will get you discounts (both when you first sign up and when you renew), though obviously you get more locked into using a particular host.

We recommend paying for a year upfront to get the best balance of discount and flexibility.

And you can always take advantage of a web hosting company’s money-back guarantee if you decide you don’t want to stick with them.

Should I get Windows or Linux hosting?

Don’t worry about this. The hosting provider will choose it for you for the plans we recommend and it only matters for really big, complicated websites and businesses.

Will my new host help me to transfer my data?

Pretty much any host will help you do this, some hosts do this for free.

If you’ve built your site on WordPress, though, you don’t even need them.

Just use the All-in-One WP Migration.

With that, all you have to do is install WordPress on your new host then the plugin will transfer everything over in just a few clicks!

What is cPanel?

cPanel is a “web hosting control panel” that most hosts use to let you manage the technical side of your website hosting.

For context:

  • Your host will probably offer some sort of account management portal, where you can buy domain names, change your contact info, update your hosting plan and billing info, etc.
  • cPanel is where you’ll be able to do things like add email accounts, connect domains to your websites, change files on your web server, etc.
  • WordPress’ Dashboard is where you’ll spend most of your time – that’s where all the changes and updates to your WordPress website happen.

Will hosting come with email?

Yep, pretty much every web hosting company includes email as part of your account, some might only let you have a limited number of accounts.

They’ll also likely offer you third party email services like Google G Suite or Microsoft Outlook.

BUT before you buy that, if you want to use your website’s domain to send and receive email in Gmail, we show you how to do that for free in our free professional email address post.

Is data center location important?

Yes and no.

Data centers are where web hosts set up the servers that hold your website and everyone else’s, usually if they have more than one they’ll have some overlap in case one data center goes down because of a serious power outage, hurricane, etc.

So there’s an uptime factor to that.

Also, the closer your website is to the person trying to get to it, the faster your site will load (in general), because the data being transferred doesn’t have to go as far.

However, CDNs (content distribution networks) are built to make that happen anyway – they load your website on servers around the world so your site loads faster… around the world.

It takes a bit of extra setup work, but you can get a CDN for your site for free through Cloudflare.

What is an uptime guarantee?

Uptime guarantees are promises hosting companies make to you about how much of the time your website will be live and accessible on the internet.

For example, if a web host has a 99% uptime guarantee, they’ll credit your account if they’re not up for that percentage of time in a given period.

But, these can be a bit tricky.

A 99% guarantee allows for over 7 hours of downtime a month, which can be a lot if you’re website’s hoppin with traffic.

And it’s up to your host to monitor and credit you honestly – they won’t accept reports you get from third-party tools as proof of downtime.

All that being said, we wouldn’t worry about this too much when getting started.

But if you really want to consider it, look at the terms of service to see how the host measures downtime (by month or by year) and how they’ll compensate you.

What is hosting bandwidth and storage?

Storage is how much data in the form of code, text, videos, and images you can have with your account, and bandwidth is how much data can be transferred between the server that holds your site and visitors to your page.

Some web hosting companies will put caps on these for their lower-level plans, but most are still more than enough to get started.

For context, at the time of publishing, this very site, with all our fancy graphics and custom code and images and thousands of visitors, uses the following:

  • Storage: 431.11 MB
  • Bandwidth: 3.17 GB

We also asked our friends over at Create and Go (which is a much older and bigger site) what they use:

  • Storage: 1.5 GB
  • Bandwidth: 184.84 GB

Best Website Builders
The Definitive Guide

Best Website Builders Featured Image

Dale McManus

Co-Founder & Web Developer

Aug. 29, 2019

Hey, my name is Dale! My partner Alex and I have helped tens of thousands of people build beautiful websites around the world. In this fully-packed, step-by-step guide, you’ll learn what the Best Website Builders are. Let’s dive in!

  • Level of Expertise: Beginner
  • Time To Complete: 45 Minutes
  • What You Get: Working Knowledge

For the record: It’s super important for us to keep this site 100% free for you and 100% high quality. To help us do that, we’ve partnered with some of the products we recommend and earn a commission if you buy through our links. Read our full disclosure and partners list here.

New to website creation? Website builders make it easy to make a pro website fast!

If you’re a beginner who’s a bit intimidated by the whole “website creation” thing, the best website builders provide a great option for getting your website up and running without having to mess with a bunch of technical settings or learning how to code. But in 2020, there are a TON of website builders to choose from to make your pro website. How do you know which one’s best for you? That’s exactly what we’re going to help you figure out in today’s website builder comparison!

Best Website Builders Featured Graphic

The Top Website Builders, Makers, and Creators

Wix Website Builder Logo Wix
4.5 out of 5
  • checkmark Ease of Use: 4/5
  • checkmark Customization: 5/5
  • checkmark Speed: 5/5
  • checkmark Support: 5/5
  • checkmark Pricing: 5/5
Constant Contact Website Builder Logo Constant Contact
4.5 out of 5
  • checkmark Ease of Use: 4/5
  • checkmark Customization: 5/5
  • checkmark Speed: 5/5
  • checkmark Support: 5/5
  • checkmark Pricing: 4/5
Squarespace Website Builder Logo Squarespace
4.0 out of 5
  • checkmark Ease of Use: 3.5/5
  • checkmark Customization: 4/5
  • checkmark Speed: 5/5
  • checkmark Support: 5/5
  • checkmark Pricing: 4/5
WordPress.com Website Builder Logo WordPress.com
4.0 out of 5
  • checkmark Ease of Use: 4/5
  • checkmark Customization: 5/5
  • checkmark Speed: 5/5
  • checkmark Support: 5/5
  • checkmark Pricing: 4/5
Duda Website Builder Logo Duda
4.0 out of 5
  • checkmark Ease of Use: 4/5
  • checkmark Customization: 5/5
  • checkmark Speed: 5/5
  • checkmark Support: 5/5
  • checkmark Pricing: 4/5
Gator Website Builder Gator Website Builder
4.0 out of 5
  • checkmark Ease of Use: 4/5
  • checkmark Customization: 5/5
  • checkmark Speed: 5/5
  • checkmark Support: 5/5
  • checkmark Pricing: 4/5
Weebly Website Builder Logo Weebly
3.5 out of 5
  • checkmark Ease of Use: 4/5
  • checkmark Customization: 5/5
  • checkmark Speed: 5/5
  • checkmark Support: 5/5
  • checkmark Pricing: 4/5
Strikingly Website Builder Logo Strikingly
3.5 out of 5
  • checkmark Ease of Use: 4/5
  • checkmark Customization: 5/5
  • checkmark Speed: 5/5
  • checkmark Support: 5/5
  • checkmark Pricing: 3/5
Site123 Website Builder Logo Site123
3.0 out of 5
  • checkmark Ease of Use: 4/5
  • checkmark Customization: 5/5
  • checkmark Speed: 5/5
  • checkmark Support: 5/5
  • checkmark Pricing: 3/5

What is a website builder?

Essentially, website builders are a kind of software that makes it easy to create a website – without learning how to code HTML/CSS (the two primary languages that are used to program websites). With one of the best website builders in your toolkit, you can make an awesome website in under an hour – which is something people have been dreaming of wanted to do since basically the beginning of the internet. See, it used to be that you had to know how to program in order to build a website – in the early, dark days of basic text sites of the late ‘80s/early ’90s. That all started to change with the birth of old school favorite GeoCities in 1994, which made it easy for people with basically 0 programming skills to publish content on their own little plot of the internet.
geocities homepage
Then came a wave of downloadable software that embraced the idea of What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG pronounced “wizzy wig”), led by companies like Microsoft and Adobe. These tools were still took a lot of learning to use, but at least you could see what the heck you were doing! Thankfully for everyone, the 2000s rolled around and brought with them many of the online, easy to use, website builders we know and love today like Squarespace and Wix.
the original squarespace

Two big upgrades here:

  • Templates, which make it easy for you to choose a pre-made website design that’s “close enough” to what you want so you don’t have to start from scratch.
  • Drag and drop interfaces, which let you not only see what you’re website will look like in real-time (thanks WYSIWYG!), but also simply “drag” things like buttons, text, and images to where you want them on the page and “drop” them in.
At this point, basically everyone – even the world’s best web developers – use some form of software that at one point would have been called a “website builder.” There’s just no sense in trying to write thousands of lines of code to make a website when there are so many awesome tools that do it for you!

Types of website builders

Website builders can be divided into four main categories:

  • Proprietary Online Builders: These offer the kitchen sink of website building, including the builder itself, templates, hosting, and in most cases a domain name – sign up and get creating, the rest is handled for you! These are what most people think of when they say “website builder.”
  • Hosting Company Website Builders: While companies like Wix and Squarespace started with website builders from the beginning, other companies started with hosting (which lets anyone share files and websites on the internet). There are some solid builders out there in this category (including a couple in this post), though in general, these tend to have more limited template and customization options than their pure-bred competition.
  • Content Management Systems (CMS): These kinds of builders sit in between a full-fledged builder and hand-coding a site. They offer a ton of flexibility and control (more than most builders) and are usually free. But you’ll have to pay for hosting and they’re harder to learn and use. Examples of CMSs include WordPress and Webflow.
  • Offline Website Builders: These are downloadable pieces of software you install on your computer to build websites before uploading them to your hosting account/the internet. They let you work on your website without an internet connection and might be a bit more secure, but mostly no one uses these anymore; they’re just as complicated as using a CMS, you still have to pay for hosting and you have to pay for the builder software too. Examples include Dreamweaver and Template Toaster.

How website builders work

Website builders are designed from the ground up to be easy to learn and use.

While there are lots of little differences between builders, there are a few features you’ll find in just about all of them like:

  • Zero knowledge of coding required.
  • Hosting and a domain name are included.
  • WYSIWYG, drag and drop website editors.
  • Tons of themes and templates.
Creating an entire website from scratch takes a lot of time – not just in the actual building, but in the years and years and let’s throw in some more years it takes to learn how to do it well. With website builders? If you can drag files around on your desktop, you can build a website following a super simple process.

1. Choose your template

wix website builder choose a template

All of the top website builders (including the ones on our list) make it easy to get started fast by offering a ton of website and web page templates.

Templates are basically like the “outline” to your websites “research paper” (making a website is way more fun than that, though, we promise!).

It’s one of the ways they help beginners make awesome websites, because learning how to lay out a website – where to put all the buttons, what colors to make everything, how big the text should be – that’s an art in and of itself.

With templates, spend a few minutes looking through starter designs made by pros, choose one that you like, and get creating from there.

2. Customize your site

squarespace website builder editing
Once you’ve got the bare bones of your site figured out by selecting an amazing template to start with, it’s time to make it your own. Here you’ll have tons of pre-made site elements like text, buttons, shapes, colored backgrounds, image galleries, contact forms, navigation menus, etc., etc., etc. to choose from – just drag something you like to the place you want it on your page, drop that bad boy in, maybe change the color, size or shape, good to go.

3. Publish that beast

weebly website builder published
This is where that “what you see” part of website builders comes into play – as you were building, you already saw exactly what your site was going to look like. So when you’re done? Just smash that “Publish” button and you’re on the web baby!

Who are website builders for?

Website builders are all about making it easy for beginners to create their own, super badass website.

Some of the key reasons people choose website builders instead of other options include:

  • You don’t have to know anything about coding – no years spent learning HTML/CSS and other languages.
  • Web hosting is included – no need to learn how to set up and use web servers.
  • Updates to the software are automatically included – no getting hacked because you forgot to install the latest security patch.
  • Most come with a free domain name – one less thing to pay for.
  • You don’t need to install anything on your computer – one less thing that might break.
  • You can work on your website anywhere that has an internet connection – hello Hawaii.
  • There are templates and features for any kind of site you want to build – bloggers, restaurants, photographers, ecommerce, you name it.
That being said, we want you to make the best decision for you, and there are alternatives to website builders. Is one of them better for you and your site? Let’s find out!

Website builders vs. coding

website maker coding

For most people, the choice is definitely website builders.

They’re waaaay less technical, so you can focus on being creative when building an amazing site that looks and functions just the way you want it – rather than making sure you’ve included quotation marks in all the right places and didn’t forget to close that <div> tag (seriously, these are things you have to worry about with coding).

Website builders are also way faster to use, even if you become a super sweet coder, which means you’ll get the satisfaction of having a beautiful, finished site sooner.

Plus you’ll have way more time for building your business, hanging with friends, and Netflix.

And you’re just going to have way fewer headaches with website builders; even the best coders make mistakes, and no matter how good you get it’ll take a long time to get your site working well on every device and browser when you code it by hand.

But, learning to code isn’t without its upsides.

Even if you don’t ever build a website entirely by hand, those skills can come in handy when it comes to tweaking your site to look and feel exactly the way you want it (most builders don’t let you code anything, but CMSs like WordPress do).

And programming can be a fun hobby and is a valuable skill – so there could be a future business idea in there!

Website builders vs. WordPress/CMSs

wordpress website creator cms

Content Management Systems like WordPress.org (different from WordPress.com, which is one of the website builders we reviewed below) or Webflow have a lot of the same features as web builders – they make it a lot easier to make a website as you don’t have to literally learn how to program everything from scratch.

But, they require more technical knowledge and skill.

At the very least, you’ll have to learn how to set up hosting, your domain name, and install the CMS yourself.

But, to get your site to look exactly the way you want, you might need to learn a bit of coding.

That being said, while a CMS like WordPress won’t come out of the box with a drag and drop editor, there are themes like Divi and plugins like Elementor that give you some of the same functionality as traditional website builders.

Plus, you have a lot more control over your site (because you’re less limited to the terms and features website builder companies have) and they’re free (you’ll just have to pay for hosting – which is cheaper than just about any website builder account).

The main trade-off here: CMSs are more flexible and can be cheaper, but they’re harder to learn and use.

Website builders vs. hiring a web developer/designer

webiste maker designer

If you’ve got a really unique, complicated website project you want to create, hiring a pro this actually might be your best bet.

They’ll be able to literally create anything you want, no limitations like builders and CMSs.

And they’ll save you a ton of time – they work on your site while you work on other parts of your business.

Keyword there being “business.”

If you don’t already have a business that’s making money and absolutely needs something super special or just has enough cash flow for you to justify spending money on a pro, this just isn’t for you.

A solid website from a pro designer/developer will cost you thousands of dollars to build, and you’ll have to keep paying them to update and maintain your site.

Website builders are a couple of bucks a month to get started.

And you can’t really put a price on the satisfaction of learning to build a site brick by digital brick with your own two hands!

So… should I use a website builder?

Bottom line: If you already know HTML/CSS or want to build Facebook, don’t use a builder.

But if you’re a:

  • Small business owner
  • Photographer
  • Artist
  • Writer
  • Blogger
  • Musician
  • Freelancer
  • Graphic designer
  • Wedding planner
  • Restaurateur
  • Hotelier
… that wants to build a have fun building a site fast and cheap? Website builders FTW!

What to look for in a website builder

searching for a website builder
So creating a website using one of the top website builders is your best bet. How the heck do you decide which one is right for you? Well, we’re diving into our website builder reviews below to help you out. But first, a few basic tips to help you in your search.

Tip #1: Free trials are your friends

These days, finding the best website maker for you is pretty much risk-free since they all offer either a free trial, money-back guarantee or even a free plan. Somehow found a website creator that doesn’t offer some sort of free trial or free plan option? Don’t do it. There are plenty that do. So when you’re sorting out this phase of your website creation journey, pick 2-3 of your favorites and give them a try. With a word of caution: don’t be tempted to choose a builder just because it has a free plan; will explain below.

Tip #2: Easy to use is the name of the game

This is probably the biggest thing to keep in mind as you’re choosing a website builder.

Do you find it’s actually easy to use?

They’re all built to be easy to use, sure, and they’re all easier to use than coding and (for the most part) CMSs.

That doesn’t mean they’re easy for you to use.

Yes, there are prices to compare, there are bells and whistles to ring and chime, and no matter how good a builder is, you’ll have to spend some amount of time and effort to learn how to use them.

But when you’re starting to build your first website, the easier it is, the faster you’ll get that bad boy up and running, the faster you’ll be able to keep making the world brighter.

So when you’re trying out builders, make sure the one you pick is easy to use.

Tip #3: Got features bro?

Every website builder you look at is gonna have two basic things:

  • Premade themes/templates
  • A WYSIWYG drag and drop editor

That’s what makes it a true, proper, legitimate website builder!

After that, they’ll start to vary in the details, but here are the most important things to look at.

  • Drag and Drop Editor: Does the editor let you add spaces, dividers, background images, custom menus and headings, change colors, fonts, and text easily?
  • Themes/Templates: Do these not only look amazing but also include the pieces and parts you need out of the box? A good editor will let you add things like banners, image galleries, and contact forms but if a theme already has them ready for you, that’s a whole lot less work for you.
  • Mobile Responsiveness: As of 2019 48.71% of website traffic is mobile, worldwide. Bottom line: your site’s gotta look great on phones, so your builder should automatically “respond” to mobile devices by scaling your website so it still looks and works properly. Bonus points if they let you manually adjust the mobile version of your site to your liking.
  • Domain Name: Just about every website builder will let you buy a domain name when you sign up; you’ve gotta have one to make your site live. Some include a domain name for free and that’s gravy on the potatoes in our book.
  • SEO Tools: There are a lot of ways to get traffic to your site, but Search Engine Optimizations (ranking in Google searches) is still a cornerstone for most sites. Explaining SEO is a whole video in and of itself, for our purposes here you’ll just want to check and see if the builder lets you add alt-text to images, meta descriptions to your posts and pages, and change your URLs as needed (eg so they’re not automatically the same as your page/post title).

Tip #4: Call in some support

Since you’re just starting out, it’s 87.54% likely you’ll have a question about how to do something with your website builder at some point.

We try to have your back with tons of awesome tutorials and guides here, but we can’t cover everything.

So at least look into what kind of support each builder offers to see if they’re actually helpful when you’ll need them to be.

A couple of things to check/look for:

  • A Knowledge Base: This is basically just a mini-Wikipedia with articles on how to do all the basic things with the builder (usually you’ll find these at the “support” link in the header or footer menus). Every builder will have one, some are way more helpful than others.
  • Live Chat/Phone/Email: When you can’t find an answer in the knowledge base, you’ll have to turn to a real person. Live chat is the fastest way to get help if a builder offers it, phone support is second best, if they only offer email it could take a minute to get your problem solved. On top of how fast you can get an answer, helpfulness is important too; sometimes those support people just copy/paste stuff from the knowledge base – not good. As you’re testing out builders see if you can think of a question, try to find it in the knowledge base or ask support so you can see how helpful they’ll be.

Tip #5: Price is kind of last

Yes, we know.

Especially if you’re starting a new online business venture that has 0 cash flow cost matters.

But just about every one of the best builders costs between $8-12 a month for a starter plan, which in the grand scheme of your world takeover, isn’t a huge difference.

If you happen to like a less expensive builder, go for it, save yourself some hard-earned cash.

But if you really like a builder that’s a bit more expensive, don’t be afraid to spring for it – in the long run, having more fun and saving more time while you’re building and updating your site is well worth it.

The problem with “free” website builders

kermit not free website builders

Speaking of cost, we’re almost positive you’ll think (if you haven’t already thought) about going with one of the free website builders options out there.

Make a website for free, sounds fantastic, right?!

Hold up just a second, we’ve gotta drop some wisdom first.

Just like there are no free lunches when mom’s not buying, no free Hawaiian vacations without someone trying to sell you a timeshare, no free candy unless you get in the strange man’s white windowless van, “free” website builders are just too good to be true.

Three main problems you’ll run into here:

Free website builder problem #1: No custom domain name

You’ll spend hours making a super custom, super pro website to get it pixel perfect and ready to launch.

When that time comes, you’re gonna need a domain name for people to find you on the web.

The pro version of this looks like [yourbusiness].com

Or something pretty close (there are a ton of domain name squatters out there, sometimes you’ve got to do a little dodge, duck, dip, dive, doge to get something that’ll work).

What do you get with a free plan from a website builder?

[yourbusiness].wixsite.com

[yourbusiness].weebly.com

[yourbusiness].site123.me

Pro-style? No, it is not.

Unique style? Nope.

Gangnam style? Not that either.

Assuming you’re building your website for some sort of professional reason (like making money with it), you’re just not going to get the credibility you need with a free plan and non-custom domain.

Free website builder problem #2: Ads

For a lot of free website creators, the money is made with ads.

Fair enough, makes sense.

Also, if you’re looking to build a pro website for your business, not something you want.

For one, you won’t have control over the ads they display, so who knows what they’ll place there.

They could be totally irrelevant and distracting, or they could be your direct competition.

For another, you won’t have any control over where they place those ads.

So they might be big and bold at the top of every page.

And they might get slapped in on one of you big money pages – the ones where you sell your products and services and want your visitor’s full attention on those.

Free website builder problem #3: Plan restrictions

If those weren’t enough reason to steer clear of the free website builder trap, the final nail in the coffin is the restrictions you’ll have with a free account.

Want more than 5 pages on your site? How about $10 a month for that.

Want contact forms or videos? Gonna need $12 from you.

Oh, need a bit of help and support? Great, we’ll give you some live chat help for $8.

Ecommerce shop?

More than 10 themes to choose from?

Site Statistics?

Storage and bandwidth to support more than a handful of visitors?

Yep. Paid.

Some website builder features will always cost you more (in a lot of cases, e-commerce isn’t included in a base paid package).

But usually, you’ll get most of what you need in one of the low-cost plans, while you won’t in the free version.

So we recommend investing in yourself, your business, and your website.

It’s well worth it!

Our website builders review process

We covered the basics of what to look for in a website creator above.

But for the sake of transparency (all about it here at CaPW) and giving you an even more perspective into what you’ll want to look for in a website builder, here’s what we did to review each builder and rate them for this website builder comparison.

The CaPW Website Builder Challenge

kid at bottom step website builder challenge

There are over 420,000,000 search results in Google for “best website builder.”

Most of those posts and guides suck, largely because of one dirty little secret: they didn’t actually use the builders they talked about.

Which we get; it takes time to get your hands dirty with them, there are a lot of people searching for that term, and plenty of websites would love to get a slice of that search engine traffic pie.

So they’ll take a quick look at the features lists, maybe poke around the site, see what others have said about each builder, then whip something up, post it and pray.

Not how we do things here at CaPW.

There’s a lot of crap out there, but there are also a lot of solid website builder reviews as well.

Our aim: be the best. Live up to the “Definitive Guide” title.

So we came up with a little something we call “The CaPW Website Builder Challenge.”

Simple idea, really, but one we haven’t seen anyone else do.

Really just two steps:

  1. Sign up for each website builder we review.
  2. Time how long it takes to build a website with them, using the same general text and design for each.

Now, we’ve got a good bit of website building experience here and we built sites as examples, not to really work effectively as the digital home of an online business.

So don’t expect to take the relatively short amount of time we did for our sites.

But, this process helped us really put the “ease of use” aspect of these builders to the test.

And from that experience and a bit of further digging afterward, we came up with an overall rating for each builder based on the following criteria.

Ease of Use

Like we said above, this is #1 in our books when it comes to things to look for in a website builder because no matter how awesome and near-perfect the template you pick out is, you’re going to need to do some customization and setup.

So this was the main thing we were testing in the “how fast can we build it” part of our challenge.

Sure, we were moving quick and dirty, and we’re more familiar with builders in general than you probably are.

But the easier it is, the easier it feels, the faster we were able to create a site – well all of that will translate to your experience too.

To test this as part of our challenge, we made sure we did all the basic things you’ll want to do with your site to make it yours, including:

  • Adding text
  • Adding images and video
  • Adding buttons and contact forms
  • Adding social links
  • Changing font sizes and styles
  • Changing colors
  • Image sizes and arrangement
  • Moving sections around on the page

Design and Customization

  • # of template options, the variety
  • How good the templates look out of the box
  • How detailed can you get with customizations
  • Whether they had essential customization features like autosave and undo/redo

If Ease of Use is king when it comes to making your site look good and work well, Design and Customization is queen.

It should be easy to get a website up and running with a website builder.

But making that site yours is also super important – which is why we looked at how good you can make a website look using each builder and how much you can change to work in your special sauce.

For this, we looked at things like:

  • How spicy good do the templates out of the box?
  • How many template options are there to choose from? Are there templates that will work for a variety of sites (restaurants, photographers, ecommerce sites, etc.)?
  • What can and can’t you change? Colors, fonts, adding text of course, but can you add videos, layout sections of your page in different ways (one column, 2 column, etc), or add shapes?
  • Do they have basic editing tools like autosave and undo/redo?

Speed

When you’re just getting started and have little traffic, speed isn’t a number 1 concern, most builders should be fine.

But when you’re in it for the long haul, having a site that loads quickly is important for 2 reasons:

  1. If it takes too long for your site to load, people will leave before they even see it (according to Google 53% of mobile users will leave your site if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load).
  2. Because of this, Google takes loading speed into account when ranking pages and sites (so there’s SEO traffic at stake).

Bottom line: the faster, the better in the website world.

So once we built our sites for the Challenge, we tested their speed to see who’s the best.

Support

Whatever website builder you choose, at some point your gonna have questions – how to change something on your site, update your plan or billing info, etc.

When that day comes, it sure is handy to get an answer fast so you can move on with your day (instead of waiting anxiously for a response).

That support usually comes in one of 4 forms:

  1. A knowledge base where you can look up and find answers for yourself, no other people required.
  2. Live chat right on the website (usually the fastest way to get answers you can’t find in the knowledge base).
  3. Phone calls.
  4. Email

When we were evaluating builders on their support, we looked for all of these – if they didn’t have a knowledge base, that’s definitely points off because sometimes you just need to quickly learn how to do something, it’s not a complicated problem.

For more complex problems, we definitely want live chat for a fast response, though phone calls are okay. Just email? Well, that’s acceptable but those can get confusing and hard to follow fast.

Beyond how fast we got answers, we also looked at the quality of those answers.

To do that, we searched through the builder’s knowledge bases and Reddits to find questions newbies like you might have that aren’t easy to find online, then rated how helpful the responses were.

Because if all support can do is copy/paste answers from their website, that’s not very helpful.

Price

Finally, we looked at how much each web builder costs and rated them according to where they fall relative to other builders.

Important note here: we didn’t just look at the cost of the cheapest plan, but for the plan that is actually worth paying for.

While some website builder pricing plans are only a couple bucks a month, if that plan doesn’t do things like remove ads and allow you to publish more than a couple of pages, it’s not enough to build a pro website!

Also, we based our pricing rating on how much each website builder costs when paid annually – you’ve gotta pay for your domain name for a year anyway, so you might as well save some $$ and get your website builder for a year too!

The 9 best website builders, makers, and creators of 2020

Wix

The best all-around

Wix Website Builder Logo Wix
4.5 out of 5
  • checkmark Ease of Use: 4/5
  • checkmark Customization: 5/5
  • checkmark Speed: 5/5
  • checkmark Support: 5/5
  • checkmark Pricing: 5/5

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Tons of beautiful templates to choose from to get a solid start
  • The most powerful design and customization features around
  • Quick and easy answers found in their thorough knowledge base
Cons
  • No live chat (but you can call)
  • The editor is a bit harder to use than some – but not by much
  • Not the cheapest

Bottom Line

Wix is what we’d like to call “the website builder’s builder” – it really sets the standard for everyone else. It’s not the cheapest and because it’s so customizable there’s a bit more of a learning curve. But if you’re going to fully dive into the world of website creation, you won’t go wrong here.

Check out our Wix test site.

Ease of Use: 4/5

wix best website builder editor

Wix isn’t the absolute easiest website builder to use, but it’s as close as you can get with all of the design and customization features it provides!

Want to edit some text, change a color, make something bigger or move it around?

Just click the thing you want to change and a contextual menu pops up with all the options you need.

Adding new sections, text, images, videos, etc. etc. etc. is also super easy with just a couple of clicks and a quick search from their “add” menu.

Really the only downside is the way that sections and elements are changed/moved – you have to do a lot of manual shifting around and aligning which takes some extra work and might make things slightly misaligned.

Design and Customization: 5/5

wix website builder test site

Wix is the cream of the crop when it comes to design and customization – literally anything you want to do is possible.

Their templates are top-notch and easy to search by category or keyword; find something you like, check out the demo, then click “edit this site” and you’re off to the races!

Once you’re in the editor you can add contact forms, galleries, lists, and more, rearrange and resize anything you’d like, expand your site’s functionality with apps the world of website creation is your oyster with Wix!

Speed: 5/5

wix website builder speed test

Wix has been at the top of the game for a while, and that’s true when it comes to speed as well, with a .3 second loading time.

Support: 5/5

There’s no guarantee you won’t’ run into a problem when building a site with Wix, but you’re definitely guaranteed to find a fast solution!

Wix’s knowledge base is the best around, with hundreds (thousands? We didn’t try to find them all) of super helpful articles on just about everything a website maker like you would need help with.

And if you don’t quite find the answer you’re looking for, you can call and talk to a real human if you’re pressed for time, or submit a support ticket to figure it out later (Crossfit’s at 6 pm, the website can wait – get ripped!).

Price: 4/5

wix website builder pricing

The plan we recommend: Combo

For what you get with Wix, the $13 you’ll pay for their Combo plan (which is more than enough to get started) is nearly a no-brainer.

BUT you can find some solid builders for less, so it’s a strong 4/5 here.

Squarespace

The best website builder for photographers and artists

Squarespace Website Builder Logo Squarespace
4.0 out of 5
  • checkmark Ease of Use: 3.5/5
  • checkmark Customization: 4/5
  • checkmark Speed: 5/5
  • checkmark Support: 5/5
  • checkmark Pricing: 4/5

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Beautiful, highly refined templates give your website instant class.
  • Their website builder isn’t the most powerful, but it has everything you need and makes it hard to make a mistake.
  • The best support experience in the industry – loads of helpful articles, videos, and live chat people that actually think about what you need.
Cons
  • The editor is a bit harder to learn (a lot of options are buried in menus).
  • Some top-notch editor features like mobile site editing, section by section background colors, and free form element placement aren’t included.
  • Their pricing isn’t terrible if you want just a basic site, but you can get more features for your dollar elsewhere.

Bottom Line

If you’re a photographer or artist that wants to create a solid, classy portfolio website, this is your jam (the whole experience feels a LOT like using Apple products). But if you want to build a fully custom, fully functional site with additional apps or e-commerce options, you either won’t find what you need or pay a lot for it.

Check out our Squarespace test site.

Ease of Use: 3.5/5

squarespace website creator editor

Squarespace’s editor is solid, just not as intuitive as others on our list.

When you click on different parts of your page, you get a few obvious options – you can drag images and text blocks around, adjust font sizes, and write new text.

But we found it hard to select the things we wanted to change sometimes (if you’re editing parts of one section of your page, you have to save or cancel those changes before you can work on another part).

There’s no clear way to undo a change or two you make (which, trust us, you’ll want to do more than once).

And rather than popping up all the options you want and need when you click on an element of your page, a lot of the customizations have to be found in menus that get buried in the sidebar.

Design and Customization: 4/5

squarespace website builder test site

Squarespace is absolutely at the head of the pack when it comes to the quality of their templates.

Simple, clean, elegant is the name of the game here.

They’ve also got the best built-in image editor of any builder we’ve tried; brightness, saturation, contrast, blur – if you didn’t quite get a pixel perfect image the first time (or you’re using stock photos and want to really make them pop), Squarespace has your back!

Once you learn how to use their editor, you’ve got just about everything you need to make your site’s template your own font changes, colors, arranging parts of your page, it’s all there.

But you don’t have quite as many options when it comes to adding things like shapes, changing the background color of parts of your page, or specifically editing the mobile version of your site.

So if you want 100% complete control we’d look elsewhere.

Speed: 5/5

squarespace website builder speed test

Yep, she’s plenty fast. 1.1 seconds isn’t the best we’ve seen but it’s more than enough to keep visitors happy.

Support: 5/5

Best in the industry support comes standard with Squarespace.

Extensive knowledge base? Check.

Super useful video guides and webinars? Yes indeed.

Forum to get ideas and help from other users? Yeah buddy.

Email and Live chat that actually provides useful answers (not just copy/pasting from the knowledge base)? You betcha.

In summary: whether you want to solve a particular problem you’re having right away or want to become a black belt Squarespace ninja, they have all the help you’ll need.

Price: 3/5

squarespace website builder pricing

The plan we recommend: Personal

For getting started, Squarespace’s personal plan offers all the basics you’ll need for just $12/month.

This particular package doesn’t have as many “bonus features” like e-commerce capabilities and advanced website analytics that some other builders offer, but you won’t miss those when you’re just getting started.

Weebly

Just… Average

Weebly Website Builder Logo Weebly
3.5 out of 5
  • checkmark Ease of Use: 4/5
  • checkmark Customization: 5/5
  • checkmark Speed: 5/5
  • checkmark Support: 5/5
  • checkmark Pricing: 4/5

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Their support is solid – phone, live chat, email, and community forums
  • Their editor leaves more to be desired but it’s definitely usable.
  • They’re not missing any of the core features you’d want and need in a website maker.
Cons
  • They’re at the bottom of the pack speed-wise
  • Their templates are just meh
  • Their editor was more buggy than the others – we’d prefer to not lose our work.

Bottom Line

If you’re building a site for someone else and they REALLY want to use Weebly, you can do it. If you’re choosing a builder for yourself, we’d look elsewhere as they don’t do any one thing particularly well.

Check out our Weebly test site.

Ease of Use: 3.5/5

weebly website maker editor

Weebly’s editor works well enough to get the website building job done – drag new elements like images and text to where you want them on the page, click on a button or form that’s already there to get some options for changing it.

But it wasn’t as smooth as we’d like (sometimes the editor would get hung up and we’d have to reload, losing some changes).

We had some trouble selecting things (trying to quickly select all the text in one part of the page with ctrl+a lead to the whole page getting selected).

And it was hard to get certain context menus to pop up when we wanted them to (had to click around to find the right spot to change text or background images).

Overall, it’s fine, but where a builder like Constant Contact sacrifices some design and customization for ease of use, while Wix does the opposite, Weebly’s not that great at either.

Design and Customization: 3/5

weebly website builder test site

Weebly doesn’t offer as many templates as other website creators which is okay – sometimes more options mean more time wasted trying to find the perfect one.

But the templates they do have don’t look that great. They’re acceptable, they’re not stuck in 2007, but we like to see sexier, sleeker options here as the better your template is, the less work you have to do to turn it into a stunning, custom site.

It also wasn’t easy to find images through their built-in search, those images weren’t as high-quality as other builders, and we couldn’t easily resize our images if they didn’t match others we added (see the “our services” section in our test site).

Which is a bit of a big deal since images are such a crucial component of a modern pro website.

Speed: 2/5

weebly website builder speed test

Oof, not good. Realistically, you’re probably fine – our test site still loaded in less than 3 seconds (which is what the average web user will give you before they give up and click away from your site).

But at 2.8 seconds for only 2.6 MB of site content, doing anything much more complex than we did with our site would likely push you over that “nah, not worth it” edge.

Support: 4/5

Lack of “wow factor” in their builder aside, Weebly’s support is pretty solid.

They’ve got a community forum which we always appreciate because sometimes you’ll just want advice or feedback from other people building sites just like you.

Email, phone and live chat that’s actually helpful means you can get your problems solved when you can’t find an answer in their knowledge base (which is pretty good).

Those aren’t 24/7 so if you’re cranking away before your day job you’ll have to wait to hear back.

Price: 4/5

weebly website builder pricing

The plan we recommend: Pro

Weebly does offer one of the cheapest plans around…

But don’t go for that $5 “Connect” subscription – you’ll have Weebly ads injected all over your site and that’s just not professional.

That being said, removing those ads means buying their $12 “Pro” plan and that’s not a bad deal in the website maker world!

WordPress.com

The best if you just want to blog

WordPress.com Website Builder Logo WordPress.com
4.0 out of 5
  • checkmark Ease of Use: 4/5
  • checkmark Customization: 5/5
  • checkmark Speed: 5/5
  • checkmark Support: 5/5
  • checkmark Pricing: 4/5

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • One of the least expensive builders out there
  • It’s just not possible to find better blogging features than king Press
  • Their support is helpful – even with the more technical problems you might face using this website maker
Cons
  • It isn’t drag and drop/WYSIWYG (at least with the theme we used)
  • They have a lot of templates but none really wowed us (YMMV)
  • To fully customize your site (or get close to it), you’ll have to learn some code

Bottom Line

WordPress.com was built around blogging and they’re definitely the best at it. But, fully customizing your site takes a lot more work than other builders and by the time you do that, you might as well have learned and used WordPress.org. So we’d either do that or go with another builder unless you JUST want to make a sweet blog without anything too fancy.

Check out our WordPress.com test site.

Ease of Use: 2.5/5

wordpress website creator editor

This site is built on WordPress.org (that’s the free CMS we mentioned earlier).

Most of the sites we’ve built were on WordPress.org.

We love WordPress.

But for a beginner looking to get an easier start with a website creator, WordPress.com (which is basically the same as .org, just with hosting included) is not ideal.

We’ve found and used WordPress.org themes and plugins that are drag and drop/WYSIWYG but that wasn’t the case with the theme we found and used to build our test site (though we’ve heard some of the WordPress.com themes do offer this).

Because of that, you’re going to spend a lot more time jumping around to see how what you’ve done actually looks on your site, you’re going to have to learn how all the menus and options work, and to get something to look exactly the way you want it to, there might be some coding involved.

And by the time you’ve done all that – you might as well have learned and used WordPress.org!

Design and Customization: 3/5

wordpress website creator test site

WordPress offers a lot of theme options at 300+ pre-built themes.

From what we saw in our search, most looked fine but nothing really stood out to us as “this is amazing, I really don’t have to customize it that much.”

And since you will have to customize it, it’d be nice to have lots of features to support that.

They’ve got the basics for sure – you can change colors and font sizes/styles, add and arrange images, etc.

But since this isn’t a true drag and drop builder, you’re pretty limited in what you can do (without having to use some code, which is not what you’re looking for in a website builder).

Speed: 4/5

wordpress website creator speed test

Speed’s not a problem with WordPress. Our test site loaded super fast at just over half a second, even though it doesn’t have the highest performance grade thanks in part because the page size was so small.

Which confirms our instinct that WP is solid IF you just want to make a relatively simple blog site.

Support: 4.5/5

WordPress’ knowledge base has plenty of helpful articles for problem-solving and troubleshooting when you need it.

They also offer support tickets and live chat powered by people that really know what they’re doing, so if you get yourself into some weird, deep, web building territory they’ll help you find your way out.

And they’ve got loads of helpful tutorial videos that help shorten the learning curve their more hands-on platform has.

Price: 5/5

wordpress website creator pricing

The plan we recommend: Premium

If you’re really strapped for cash but fully committed to jumping in the website making game, WordPress is one of the best spots in town.

Even though we don’t recommend their “wow I can’t believe how inexpensive this is” $5 Personal plan because you don’t get access to all their premium themes, at $8 their Premium plan is well worth the price of admission.

Duda

Great for building a website with and for other people

Duda Website Builder Logo Duda
4.0 out of 5
  • checkmark Ease of Use: 4/5
  • checkmark Customization: 5/5
  • checkmark Speed: 5/5
  • checkmark Support: 5/5
  • checkmark Pricing: 4/5

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Their editor is freaking awesome – strikes the perfect balance of easy to use yet supremely powerful
  • Their templates are pretty mighty in the looks and functionality department
  • Nice set of extra functions like popups and notification bars built-in
Cons
  • One of the most expensive builders on our list for the plan we recommend
  • A lot of their unique features are geared towards people working in teams
  • No domain included – you’ll need to buy one somewhere else and do the technical setup work

Bottom Line

Duda is one of our favorite builders when it comes to the editor itself – it’s damn near the perfect mix of easy to use and fully customizable. But we firmly agree with the headline on their homepage “The Web Design Platform for Scaling Your Agency…” It’s really best for when you need to work on a site with a team, especially at these prices.

Check out our Duda test site.

Ease of Use: 4/5

duda website builder editor

If you’re looking for an easy to learn yet fully capable website maker – Duda’s a go-to choice.

They really nail it with their context menus that let you edit everything about an image, piece of text, or background color by a right or left-click.

For example, left-clicking text lets you change the font size, family, color, etc, while right-clicking lets you change design elements like the background color of just that piece of text, the padding and more.

Plus, when it comes to adding and rearranging elements like contact forms, buttons, and images, just click and drag from one part of a page to another or from the “Widgets” sidebar and everything snaps in place along a pre-aligned grid for the perfect combo of flexibility and low risk of creating a messy design.

The only reason they didn’t get a 5 is that, like Wix, because they’re so customizable you’ll have to spend a bit more time learning how to use all their controls.

Design and Customization: 5/5

duda website maker test site

If you want to do it, Duda will let you.

Add animations to your text or images, shapes, icons, audio or video, they even let you edit the HTML/CSS of each element you add (not something you want to do as a beginner BUT this comes in handy further on in your journey.

On top of that, they have a ton of template options and they’re some of the best around – not quite as polished as Squarespace or as extensive as Wix but more than enough slick options to get a solid head start on any kind of site you want to build.

And they have some advanced features like site-wide business info (so any time you add a social follow button or section for your phone number it’s automatically correct), easy to add anchor links (for one-page websites or longer, more complex pages) and popups and notification bars.

So as you learn how to do more complex work in the website making game Duda will be there for you.

Speed: 4/5

duda website maker speed test

Speed is solidly on the higher end of our tests – you’re good to go here!

Support: 3.5/5

Duda’s knowledge base is loaded with helpful answers to the most pressing questions, and when you need more their email support team has your back too.

But they lose points for not offering live chat or phone support for the plan we recommend.

They do offer both but only in more expensive plans which, if you’re going to use Duda with a team you’ll need to get anyway, but don’t add enough extra value if you’re just building a site for yourself.

Price: 2/5

duda website maker pricing
The plan we recommend: Basic

Duda’s a really great builder in just about every way except price – even for their Basic plan, which has just about everything you need (besides live chat/phone support) to build an awesome pro website, you’ll be paying top website creator dollar.

Strikingly

Building multiple sites? Strikingly is a great option.

Strikingly Website Builder Logo Strikingly
3.5 out of 5
  • checkmark Ease of Use: 4/5
  • checkmark Customization: 5/5
  • checkmark Speed: 5/5
  • checkmark Support: 5/5
  • checkmark Pricing: 3/5

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Their prebuilt themes and layouts make it easy to customize your site without having to do everything yourself
  • Free domain and SSL included
  • If you’re building multiple sites they’re one of the cheapest builders
Cons
  • If you’re just building one site, they’re super expensive
  • While easy to use, they’re not as flexible as a builder like Wix when you want to do something really unique
  • Speed is fine but we’d like it to be faster

Bottom Line

Strikingly leans towards ease of use but for how easy it is there’s a ton of useful customization you can do – more than other super easy builders on our list. BUT, in order to remove their custom branding to make a truely pro website, you’re going to spend a lot more than other builders. However, that plan includes 3 websites (whereas with other builders, the price you pay is for just one). So if you know you want to build a few sites in your day and don’t think you’ll need complete control, go with Strikingly.

Check out our Strikingly test site.

Ease of Use: 4.5/5

strikingly website maker editor

Strikingly’s editor is probably the best for how much you can customize with it.

You can easily rearrange the sections on your site by dragging them up and down the sidebar.

You can also choose from a variety of pre-built sections, each of which has a handful of pre-designed layouts.

Need a features section with titles, descriptions, and images? Well, there’s a section for that with 5 ways of arranging those.

When it comes to editing the parts of that section, just click what you want to change and you can customize as you would expect.

While you don’t get as much freedom and flexibility as you do with other builders of this class like Wix, the fact that so much is done well out of the box makes this one a good choice when you want to build fast!

Design and Customization: 3.5/5

strikingly website creator test site

Strikingly offers a solid set of templates to choose from – they all look pro from the font and color choices to the modern layouts and design elements.

We also really like that it’s easy to manage your site styling from the sidebar – in one place, you can set all your fonts, colors, sizes, and page-wide animations.

But as with a few other builders on our list, easy to use comes at the sacrifice of control.

For example, you can only choose from a set of pre-selected color themes – every color you use on your page has to be from the palate that Strikingly creates from the “secondary color” you choose here.

And their prebuilt sections and layouts are great, more than enough for a beginner like you to create an awesome site with.

But if you want to do something fancy and really one-off as you learn more, you’ll be locked into the options Strikingly provides.

Speed: 3/5

strikingly website maker speed test

Speed is fine. They’re right at the limit of 3 second load times but you’ll still be able to get by the “this is taking too long” radar.

Support: 4.5/5

Strikingly support is fast, with a live chat button right inside the editor so you can quickly get your questions answered right when you need them to be.

And they’ve got helpful forums and a thorough knowledge base for when you want to figure it out on your own.

In our test their support was helpful enough, they went beyond simply copy/pasting knowledge base questions, but we felt like solving more complex problems might have taken some escalation and a bit more effort to talk with them on our end.

Price: 2/5

strikingly website creator pricing

The plan we recommend: Pro

The $8 “Limited” plan is great, definitely enough for any beginner website builder; we really wanted to recommend it.

Until we found out that eight bucks doesn’t remove the “Built with Strikingly” branding from your site, which by our standards is a must since we’re aiming for “pro.”

That means paying for the “Pro” package, which at double the price makes this the most expensive builder on our list for the plan we recommend.

However, you get 3 sites included with that (or $5.33 each) – whereas for other builders the price just includes one.

So if you’re for sure building multiple sites, they’re actually one of the cheapest builders.

Site123

Fine, but we’d use another builder instead.

Site123 Website Builder Logo Site123
3.0 out of 5
  • checkmark Ease of Use: 4/5
  • checkmark Customization: 5/5
  • checkmark Speed: 5/5
  • checkmark Support: 5/5
  • checkmark Pricing: 3/5

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • They cover the site builder bases
  • You can make a website that looks and functions alright
  • People will be able to visit the website you create with Site123
Cons
  • No template to choose from – you just tell them what your business is about and they autogenerate a not so hot looking site for you
  • Support people seem fake and aren’t super helpful (they just copy/paste answers, the photos seem stock)
  • Their builder is kind of confusing to use – where and how you change things is all over the place

Bottom Line

Just like Weebly, if you’re building a site for someone else and they won’t budge, you’ll be able to get by with Site123. Other than that, the only real saving grace here is that our test site loaded fast, but we’d honestly use Weebly instead.

Check out our Site123 test site.

Ease of Use: 3/5

site123 website creator editor

Site123 is not NOT easy to use.

But compared to other builders we’ve used and tested for this site, it felt a bit confusing.

To its credit, the fact that you can’t just click on something to move or edit that thing – text, images, little “services boxes” – means you’re less likely to accidentally screw something up.

And once you figure out you have to click the little black “page” or “color palate” icons to make changes, you’ll get the hang of it.

But then you’ll be treated to a bunch of nested boxes that cover up what you’re working on so when you add text or images, you won’t see how they look on your final site.

That being said, while we didn’t like how their website creator felt, we were able to get our test site built in about half the time as many of the other website makers on our list, so we put our feelings aside to give them a solid 3.

Design and Customization: 3/5

site123 website maker test site

When you visit Site123 before you sign up, you’ll find a bunch of template options to choose from.

When you go to make a website with Site123, you don’t get to choose those.

Instead, you tell them what kind of site you’re building (restaurant, portfolio, professional services, etc) and they automatically generate something for you.

This is an up and coming website builder feature – Wix has something called “Artificial Intelligence Design” (ADI) that does the same thing.

And it’s great to save some time trying to find the perfect template.

Site123 has some work to do, though, because what they gave us was lackluster. Not what we’re going for in our pro websites!

Once you’re in, they use a pre-selected layouts system for each section like Strikingly – easier to use compared to “do it all yourself”, not so great for customization.

But they had all the basic features you’ll need, and the final result isn’t terrible. 3 stars.

Speed: 3/5

site123 website maker speed test

Site123 blocked the speed test tool we used for all the other builders…

This isn’t necessarily a malicious thing, tools like the ones we use do take up server resources and could slow down their websites.

So this one looks different (thankfully, there’s more than one tool out there).

While the scores are a bit different, they basically tell us that Site123 speeds are fine.

Support: 2.5/5

We read through some of their support articles and they seem helpful enough.

But we had a heck of a time finding anything because the search function of their knowledge base was broken.

Ah, perhaps that’s what the live chat is for!

It is. That’s about all it’s for because, while the live chat was super convenient to access right inside the editor, they really only seemed to be able to copy/paste answers from the knowledge base.

Based on that and the fact that “Chris,” “Dennis,” and “Devin” all had headshots that looked suspiciously stock photo-esqe, we have a hard time believing we were even chatting with real people.

Price: 3/5

site123 website maker pricing

The plan we recommend: Premium

Well, there’s only one paid plan and so that’s the one we recommend!

At just over $12, Site123 is right in the middle of the pack pricing-wise, which is… fine.

Gator Website Builder

The cheapest… and that’s not a bad thing!

Gator Website Builder Logo Gator Website Builder
4.0 out of 5
  • checkmark Ease of Use: 4/5
  • checkmark Customization: 5/5
  • checkmark Speed: 5/5
  • checkmark Support: 5/5
  • checkmark Pricing: 4/5

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • By far the least expensive builder…
  • But that doesn’t mean their editor sucks – just the opposite, it’s powerful and easy to use!
  • Lot’s of extra features like built-in analytics and advanced elements that are missing or cost more in other builders
Cons
  • Templates could use some work – they look fine but aren’t amazing out of the box
  • The knowledge base needs more useful articles and a less buggy search function
  • Website speed could be faster

Bottom Line

We fully believe a good website maker is worth paying for… especially when it’s less than $4 a month! Gator is certainly the choice for the price-conscious website building beginner, but it’s also powerful and easy to use so you won’t be disappointed as you become a website creation wizard looking for a website creator you can grow with.

Check out our Gator Website Builder test site.

Ease of Use: 3.5/5

gator website builder editor

We were surprised to find that Gator’s website builder was almost as good as Wix.

Not that it shouldn’t be, just that Wix has been dedicated to website building for a long time and Gator is relatively new – to see them so close to matching one of the best is fantastic and we’re fans.

Add elements, rearrange sections, add pages, blog posts, change your website’s colors and fonts – all of it’s easy to find and modify in the sidebar.

When you click on a section, there’s a little sidebar that pops up with options so your controls are right there, same when you click on a piece of text, image, or another widget.

And, like some of the more restricted builders, Gator also has pre-built section layouts so you can get started fast – but then you can customize those layouts exactly the way you want which is a combo that knocked us out!

The only things holding it back from 4 or 5 stars are:

  1. Because it’s fully customizable, there is more work involved in making your site just right (same challenge Wix faces).
  2. Because we didn’t find exactly what we needed in their templates (which wasn’t the case with Wix, we found a near-perfect template in a couple of minutes), it took us longer to build our test site.

Design and Customization: 4/5

gator website builder test site

You want design and customization options?

Gator’s got them!

Everything we wanted to change – from the exact position of elements, to colors, our header menu, text sizes, and fonts – it’s all there, along with some unique and cool elements like video galleries, social media feeds and shapes.

Add in color palates and site-wide font size and style definitions that keep you on track BUT are fully customizable (unlike some of the other builders that are easier to use but give you less control) and well, Gator’s a go-to builder for sure.

The only reason we didn’t give it a 5 is that we feel their pre-built templates are only so-so in the looks department; they’re good enough to give you a solid foundation but you’ll need to put in a bit more work to get them looking absolutely eye-popping.

The good news: with Gator’s complete suite of customization features, you can!

Speed: 3/5

gator website builder speed test

Don’t let Gator’s average speed and performance keep you from using them. Sure, it could be faster, but it’s more than good enough to use for your site!

Support: 4/5

Support is solid with Hostgator – they’ve been at it a long time with their domain and hosting services.

You’ve got their knowledge base of course, along with email, phone, and chat support.

Bonus points for chat being available 24/7 unlike a lot of other builders (even the big boys like Squarespace have limits on that front) – so you’ll be able to talk to a real person to solve problems any time of day/night.

We would like to see a bit more from them before giving it 5 stars, though.

Main issues we had were that searching the knowledge base didn’t work so well – sometimes the search just didn’t load and when we looked for “how to add a facebook pixel” (not the most common question but definitely not a super-specific one) they didn’t have any relevant results.

And while the people in our support chats were helpful, we got the feeling they’d be stumped on medium-difficulty problems (which we trust would get solved, it’d just take more time).

But, it’s a relatively new builder so we’d bet they’ll improve this in due time!

Price: 5/5

gator website builder pricing

The plan we recommend: Starter

Oh, the price. Jaws dropped on this one.

Under $4 for one of the best builders around, there’s no freaking way!

Gator is by far the cheapest builder in town and that doesn’t mean they’re the worst to use either – far from it!

Start with the Starter plan (you’ll be fine without priority support) and you’ve got yourself an amazing tool for the price of one coffee a month.

Yes, that’s a cliche pricing comparison (everyone seems to think in terms of coffee), but since no other builder on our list can say it, we think it’s worth mentioning here. 🙂

Constant Contact Website Builder

The best website builder for small business

Constant Contact Website Builder Logo Constant Contact
4.5 out of 5
  • checkmark Ease of Use: 4/5
  • checkmark Customization: 5/5
  • checkmark Speed: 5/5
  • checkmark Support: 5/5
  • checkmark Pricing: 4/5

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Their editor is the perfect combination of easy to use yet customizable for those who want an amazing website without spending a ton of time to learn how to build them.
  • Price, speed, and support are all top-notch
  • They’ve got some super sweet extra features like a built-in logo maker. Freaking A!
Cons
  • Can’t fully customize your site, great for people who just want a quick site but you’ll want more if you really want to dive into the website building game.
  • Knowledge base is good but needs more articles and better search
  • Their blogging tools could use some work

Bottom Line

Constant Contact makes it super easy to make a professional website that looks great, with just enough customization to make your site unique without extra features that take time to learn.

Combine that with one of the best email marketing platforms around and a $10/month price tag and you’ve got a website creator perfect for a small business owner who wants a solid website without having to spend a lot of time or hard-earned cash!

Check out our Constant Contact test site.

Ease of Use: 5/5

constant contact website builder editor

Oh, boy was Constant Contact’s website maker easy to use.

Clean and easy to understand, when we wanted to edit something, we clicked on it and options appeared in the sidebar on the right side.

Adding pages, changing theme colors and fonts, rearranging sections, changing section layouts – all just a click or two away, accessed from logical places (the top bar menu, sidebar menu, and little blue buttons at the top and bottom of a section that appear when you click on that section).

AND they place just the right amount of limits on these to make things easy without leading us to feel we weren’t in control.

As an example, section content can only be arranged in one of a few layouts – but some like the “About Us” section had as many as 10 different options, and that’s on top of being able to add or own images and play around with the background (we added a cool little topographical design to it) to make something unique but slick – fast.

Design and Customization: 3.5/5

constant contact website creator test site

No, it’s not a solid 4 or outstanding 5 here, but don’t let that hold you back.

Constant Contact’s templates are super sleek and we’d be proud to use them on a site for our small business (if we weren’t in the website making business, where we’ve got to go all out on customization to stand apart from the competition).

They just weren’t quite as awesome as top-notch competitors like Wix and Squarespace.

And their builder doesn’t give you full control, so we’ve gotta take some points off there.

But again, we think that tradeoff is definitely worth it if you’re more interested in building a site for your business rather than getting into the business of building websites.

Speed: 5/5

constant contact website creator speed test

Oh, she’s got speed – you won’t be losing visitors because your site didn’t load fast enough with Constant Contact!

Support: 4.5/5

Yep, basics covered: knowledge base, chat, email, and phone.

And we were really impressed with their chat support – they seemed professional, competent at solving problems, and super helpful when we talked with them.

The only reason for the not-quite-perfect score is that, like Gator, they’re new-ish to the game and so they need to add some more articles to their knowledge base to cover a bit more than just the basics (which are firmly covered).

Price: 5/5

constant contact website builder pricing

The plan we recommend: Starter

Oh, and it’s all only $10 a month? Sign us up!

Grab the Starter plan to get rid of ads and you’ve got one of the best website creation tools out there.

Website Builder FAQ

What are the pros and cons of using website builders?

We covered this above in our “what is a website builder” and “who are they for” section, but for you TL;DR folks the basics are this:

Website builders make creating a website fast and easy without any coding or technical website setup knowledge.

But, they cost more than other options like getting hosting and using a CMS like WordPress, and you don’t get as much control over your website as you do with those other options.

Can I trust your reviews are honest?

Glad you asked!

We’ve worked hard to make our reviews as legit and honest as possible.

As possible? So you did slant things!?

Nope, not as much as we can help.

The reality is, we’ve used a lot of website builders and made a ton of sites – both for this post and outside of it.

So, like any human being, we have our opinions and preferences based on that experience.

But we knew going into this thing we needed to try to combat that as much as possible so we could deliver you the real, the helpful, the most objective info possible for you to make the best decision.

That’s part of why we created the website builder challenge – to get a sense of “Ease of Use” outside of our personal preferences, to really get in-depth with each builder (instead of just reading a list of features and making something up), and to get some real-world speed tests for each builder.

For the naturally more subjective “Design and Customization” category, we tried to include some hard facts like number of templates available to measure something more than our personal impressions.

Pricing was literally just a statistical comparison of each builder’s price (using the PERCENTRANK function for you spreadsheet geeks out there).

And for support, we used the same set of questions for each builder when we put them to the test.

In short: we worked hard to make our ratings as objective as possible.

Now if you’re a bit more savvy about how the online business game works (or just read our disclosure above), you’ll know we included affiliate links for most of the builders – so if you purchase a plan through our link, we’ll get a bit of a commission.

This doesn’t cost you anything (in some cases, you’ll even get a discount for using our link).

And we did not change our ratings to make the builders that pay more rank better.

We have our preferences in which builders we like to use, some builders pay us more, but we put that aside to make sure this definitive guide was the most helpful it could be for our most important customer: you, the reader.

If you have any questions about our website builder reviews and process, feel free to contact us and we’ll happily share more details!

Are website builders good for SEO?

For a beginner? They’re good enough!

SEO is a giant subject in and of itself, people make entire websites, companies, and careers out of learning every last detail of what does and doesn’t help a site rank higher in Google.

But if you’re looking to build your first (or one of your first) website using a builder, you really just need the basics, which include:

  • The ability to edit title tags, image alt text, and page/post meta descriptions
  • The ability to customize your URLs (to include keywords and make them human-readable eg “yoursite.com/a-blog-post” instead of “yourwebsite.com/1232194”
  • Automated sitemaps

Good news: all the builders we reviewed had them (for the plans we used and recommend), so no matter which you choose, you’re covered on the SEO front!

Should I buy my custom domain name through my website builder?

We think yes!

Buying your custom domain name is usually a part of the process of signing up for your website builder and the builder will automatically set it up for you.

So it’s really the easiest option compared to buying your domain name separately and having to figure all that technical stuff yourself.

And some builders offer a free domain name too – so you can save some $$!

That being said, it’s important to know that in most cases, you’ll have to pay for your domain name after the first year and that might be more expensive with your website builder than through another domain name registrar (the company that registers and manages your domain name for you) – typically you’ll pay $12-15/year through them.

But, domain names are transferable, so you should still get it from your builder for the first year to make things easy – then you can transfer it somewhere else and learn how to reconnect it later if you want to save some cash!

If you do think you’ll want to buy your domain name separately or transfer it later, we recommend using HostGator (yep, they do domain names too).

Can I move/export my website builder site once it’s made?

No, you can’t.

It’s kind of a downside but not really.

Modern websites are way more complex than ones in the past – they aren’t just HTML/CSS but also include more complex code like Javascript and AJAX.

So with any website you make, there’s a lot of work involved in moving them, say, from one host to another.

CMS like WordPress (not WordPress.com the website builder but WordPress.org which is the CMS version) do make the process of moving websites easier.

Because a lot of the technical backend stuff is the same from one installation to another, you can download/upload and restore pretty easily.

For beginners, we don’t think this is much of an issue.

But if you think you’ll want to move your website for some reason and don’t mind a steeper learning curve, take a look at building your website with a CMS like WordPress instead of a website builder.

Can I really build my first website by myself?

You can – but you don’t have to!

Website builders make it really easy to make an eye-catching website with no background knowledge.

With a bit of time and the right builder, you can definitely do it yourself!

That being said, we know it’s nice to have a helping hand.

Which is why we have a whole Youtube channel filled with tutorials and guides to help you out with anything and everything website creation related!

How much does building a website cost from start to finish?

Well, if you’re talking about having a site that looks good and includes functional things like contact forms, there are three main things you’ll have to pay for:

  • Your domain name.
  • Your hosting.
  • Your website building software.

With any website builder on our list, you’ll get the last two; with most, you’ll also be able to get your domain name for free.

If you decide to go with a monthly plan, you’ll have to buy a domain name for about $12 plus the cost of the builder, which is about $15 for your first month – so around $30 to get started plus the ongoing monthly builder costs.

With the discounts and free domain names you’ll get when you buy a builder for a year, you’ll pay about $100-200.

How do I choose the best theme for my website?

This is mostly down to personal preference and a bit to do with what you want your website to do/be about.

To choose the best website creator theme for you, start by figuring out two things:

  1. What your website is about/for (is it a health and fitness blog, restaurant website, photography portfolio, small business site, etc) – which you’ve probably already done lol.
  2. What you need your website to say/do (talk about you or your team, have contact forms, share portfolio items, etc). If you’re not sure here then you can go ahead and move onto your search and see what each builder has to offer and pick one that makes sense.

Most builders have their themes organized by category, so start with whatever’s closest to what kind of website yours is.

Then, look at the templates they offer and choose a few that look good to you – just go with your own preferences instincts – they’re probably right!

Then, look at each theme a bit more closely – does one look better than the others? Does one have certain page sections or features like a contact form and image gallery that you’ll need?

Based on that, pick the one that you think looks best/has what you need and customize from there!

What is bandwidth and do I need it?

Bandwidth is the amount of data your website can send and receive at any one time – which basically translates to how much traffic it can get before it temporarily crashes (until the amount of people trying to access it drops).

The more visitors you get, the more bandwidth you’ll need, especially if your builder hosts the videos you added to your site or you have a lot of high-quality images.

That being said, when you’re building a new site, it’ll be a while before you start to max out the bandwidth that comes with any of the plans we recommend.

So don’t worry about it for now and if it becomes a problem – good for you, you’re successful enough that it’s time to upgrade your plan!

What is the difference between web hosting and website builders?

Web hosting is when you pay for a place that holds your website online – if your website is a house, hosting is the land that house sits on.

Website builders include hosting but also include all the tools and materials you need to build your website house!

In the past, web hosting companies and website building companies were two separate things, but these days, web hosting companies like HostGator and GoDaddy (which we reviewed above) are starting to offer website builders as well.