Best Ecommerce Platforms: The Definitive Guide [2020]
These website builders make earning $$ on the internet a breeze!

best ecommerce platforms shopify woocommerce boxing
 

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 about the top 9 Best E-Commerce Platforms. 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.

Let’s get real for a second: you want to make money online.

“Oh, wow, how’d you know that?”

Ah, dear reader, because:

  1. You’re human
  2. You most likely found this post searching for something like “best ecommerce platforms” or “best ecommerce website builders” and that tells us a lot about who you are as a person (in slightly creepy and totally cool ways #smileyface #thanksgoogle).

You’ve made it this far which means you know there are some sweet sweet software tools that can help you make your ecommerce dreams come true…

…But you’re not quite sure what you need to know in order to choose the best one to help you make your ecommerce website.

Which is why we took our website building experience, stirred in a bit of hands-on ecommerce platform research, and put together one tasty (and vegan friendly) beast of an article for you today.

Lets! Get! Going!

best ecommerce platforms shopify woocommerce boxing
Wix Logo
Wix
 
 

4.5 out of 5

 
  • checkmark Ease of Use: 4.5/5
  • checkmark Design: 5/5
  • checkmark ECom Features: 5/5
  • checkmark Support: 4/5
  • checkmark Pricing: 4/5
Shopify Logo

 

Shopify

 
 

4 out of 5

 
  • checkmark Ease of Use: 4.5/5
  • checkmark Design: 3.5/5
  • checkmark ECom Features: 5/5
  • checkmark Support: 4/5
  • checkmark Pricing: 3/5
Squarespace Logo

 

Squarespace

 
 

4 out of 5

 
  • checkmark Ease of Use: 3.5/5
  • checkmark Design: 4/5
  • checkmark ECom Features: 4/5
  • checkmark Support: 5/5
  • checkmark Pricing: 4/5
Weebly Logo

 

Weebly

 
 

3.5 out of 5

 
  • checkmark Ease of Use: 3/5
  • checkmark Design: 3/5
  • checkmark ECom Features: 4/5
  • checkmark Support: 4.5/5
  • checkmark Pricing: 3.5/5
WooCommerce Logo

 

WooCommerce

 
 

3.5 out of 5

 
  • checkmark Ease of Use: 2.5/5
  • checkmark Design: 3/5
  • checkmark ECom Features: 5/5
  • checkmark Support: 3/5
  • checkmark Pricing: 5/5
BigCommerce Logo

 

BigCommerce

 
 

3.5 out of 5

 
  • checkmark Ease of Use: 4/5
  • checkmark Design: 3/5
  • checkmark ECom Features: 5/5
  • checkmark Support: 5/5
  • checkmark Pricing: 3/5
Ecwid Logo

 

Ecwid

 
 

4.5 out of 5

 
  • checkmark Ease of Use: 5/5
  • checkmark Design: 4/5
  • checkmark ECom Features: 5/5
  • checkmark Support: 4.5/5
  • checkmark Pricing: 5/5
BigCartel Logo

 

Big Cartel

 
 

4 out of 5

 
  • checkmark Ease of Use: 5/5
  • checkmark Design: 3.5/5
  • checkmark ECom Features: 3/5
  • checkmark Support: 3.5/5
  • checkmark Pricing: 5/5
Volusion Logo

 

Volusion

 
 

4 out of 5

 
  • checkmark Ease of Use: 3/5
  • checkmark Design: 3.5/5
  • checkmark ECom Features: 4.5/5
  • checkmark Support: 4.5/5
  • checkmark Pricing: 3.5/5

The 9 best ecommerce platforms and website builders

Wix

Best Website Maker

Wix Logo
Wix
 
 

4.5 out of 5

 
  • checkmark Ease of Use: 4.5/5
  • checkmark Design: 5/5
  • checkmark ECom Features: 5/5
  • checkmark Support: 4/5
  • checkmark Pricing: 4/5
Pros
  • Most customizable website builder
  • Manage just about everything you need from the main product page
  • No CC transaction fees
Cons
  • Highly customizable = less easy to use
  • Doesn’t have the most advanced ecommerce features
  • Human customer support hard to get access to

Bottom Line

There’s little denying that Wix is right at the top of the website builder game; when it comes to having near-complete control for creating a website that looks and feels exactly like you’re dreaming, Wix is the place to go.

When it comes to ecommerce website builders, some of the other choices on our list offer more/better features in the ecommerce department, but Wix has enough going for it that it’s worth including in the list.

Basically, if you first want a super slick, highly custom website and second want to be able to sell stuff fairly easily, Wix should be at the top of your “try it out” list!

Check out our Wix test site

Try Wix Now

Ease of Use: 4/5

best ecommerce platform wix dashboard

First things first, finding a fantastic looking template to start with Wix can be easy, or hard.

They’ve got a lot of options, and pretty much every template is 100 in the looks department.

So you won’t have trouble finding a template, but you might struggle to choose just one (hey, you can always make more than one online store)!

Because Wix’s templates include sections, text, buttons, etc already organized and designed for you, it’s pretty easy to get started once you finally make your choice.

They do have an “Artificial Design Intelligence” option to answer a few questions and have their technology build a site for you too, though we didn’t use this for our test because we wanted to see what the manual process was like.

On the backend/product side of things, adding new products and managing pricing, inventory, options like colors and sizes was all pretty straight forward.

We especially liked how almost anything you wanted to customize about a product was able to be done right in the main product editing page.

For example, with other online selling platforms, if you want to make a discount for a certain product you have to go to an entirely different section of the website, create a unique coupon code, and in some cases, you’d have to update your product description to let users know they have to manually enter that code at checkout.

Biggest takeaway here: it’s much easier to create a site with Wix than something like WordPress, but compared to other builders it’s not the easiest.

Which is largely due to the fact that you can pretty much customize anything and everything!

Design & Customization: 5/5

best ecommerce platform wix website builder

Like we mentioned above, Wix has a ton of templates (635 in total, 87 just for online stores) and they’re all pretty top-notch so you’re not going to go wrong here.

On the customization front, Wix is the top dog in the arena.

Want to change just one button’s color? Click on it, a menu pops up, done.

Want to set all of your H2 headings to a specific font, size, and color? You’ve got it.

Want to add parallax effects to your background images? Of course you can!

Sliders, forms, little shapes and splashes of colors.

If you can dream it you can do it with Wix… 

Once you learn how to navigate their system which is the tradeoff with them.

They don’t force you into a limited set of element arrangements or page sections or color options etc.

Which means you’ll have to do some learning and trial and error to fully wield the power that is the Wix online store builder.

Ecommerce Features: 5/5

best ecommerce platform wix product editor

Super advanced Ecommerce ninjas might find something missing here that more dedicated services like Shopify or WooCommerce have, but for most of us, Wix has the ecommerce bases covered like [insert the name of a famous baseball player here].

Between the loads of features accessible right on the product info/creation/management page, the app store, and the loads of Wix experts available for hire – it’ll be enough for you to get going and keep going for a long time.

As mentioned above, we especially liked that you can manage everything from the images, to the color and size variations and discounts from a product’s main editor page.

Essential features like worldwide shipping and tax customization, payment processor integration, stock tracking are all there too, along with some nice bonuses like mobile inventory management (through their app) and no fees for payment processing on their end (if you use a processor like Paypal, though, they’ll be charging you fo show, it costs money to keep that infrastructure running).

Support: 4/5

best ecommerce platform wix support

Have questions? Wix has answers.

Their knowledge base aka Help Center is super in-depth and easy to search.

Articles can be found for just about any question you’ll have, with photos and gifs and even videos where needed.

When you want to talk to a human, though, things get trickier.

Technically they have phone and support ticket help available, but you’re going to have to dig to find the right links to get these; they can only be accessed when you visit particular knowledge base articles.

Which we get, because support staff are relatively expensive. But as a customer this means points lost because we want to feel like a human being that can hold our hand when we’re cold and naked and afraid while we’re building sites at 2:46 am is easy to find…

Unlike Wix, we don’t have answers on the naked and afraid stuff… just trust it’s part of our process and it works.

Anyway, when you do find a person they’re helpful enough so overall this is a not-ideal but acceptable scenario.

4/5 instead of 3 because their knowledge base is so badass.

Pricing: 4/5

best ecommerce platform wix pricing

The plan we recommend: Business Basic

Pricing is pretty middle of the road with Wix, you can find cheaper ecommerce website builders and more expensive.

What you get for what you pay for is pretty spot on (aka you get a lot of value for the money).

We recommend the Business Basic to get rid of the Wix ads, get a custom domain and ecommerce features; the extra “hours of video,” storage space, etc that come with Unlimited aren’t needed to get started.

0% credit card processing fees (from Wix, your payment processor will charge you), and a 14-day money-back guarantee are tasty, grass-fed bonuses as well.

Try Wix Now

Shopify

Best for Non-Website Builders

Shopify Logo

Shopify

4 out of 5

  • checkmark Ease of Use: 4.5/5
  • checkmark Design: 3.5/5
  • checkmark ECom Features: 5/5
  • checkmark Support: 4/5
  • checkmark Pricing: 3/5
Pros
  • One of the most advanced sets of ecom features
  • Websites can look v good without a ton of work
  • Flexible (use their online store builder
Cons
  • Less customizable website builder
  • Monthly fee is on the expensive side
  • 2% CC processing fee

Bottom Line

Product creation: solid.

Inventory and order management: full-fledged.

Online store creator: well designed for its intended purpose.

What is that purpose?

To help people who mostly want to focus on building/running an ecommerce business, because their online store builder is simple/easy to use but limited in its customization options.

And probably for people who already have a product-based business up and running or have worked on them in the past, as beginners won’t be able to take advantage of advanced ecommerce capabilities Shopify offers – and charges a pretty penny for.

Check out our Shopify test site

Try Shopify Now

Ease of Use: 4.5/5

best ecommerce website builder shopify dashboard

Both product creation and online store building are pretty darn easy with Shopify.

On the ecommerce website creation front, you’ve got a simple sidebar setup; navigate to options for your site as a whole or for specific sections with a few clicks – no dragging, dropping, or inline typing on top of elements.

While this locks you down a bit on the customization front, it means you won’t accidentally break something which we like a lot.

On the product creation/management front, the product editor is simple, well organized, and includes tools like bulk variation editing to make your job and life easier.

We did face a couple of snags that weren’t so fun, like an update delay when changing background colors and an image upload size limit that other platforms didn’t have.

Hence 4.5

Design & Customization: 3.5/5

best ecommerce website builder shopify page builder

Customization is where Shopify really lost here.

All their themes/templates look great, though there are only 8 free options and premium ones start at $120.

Their store locks you into only using certain types of sections, which can be added, rearranged, and otherwise managed in the sidebar along with the options and content for each.

With 16 different types of sections, though, and options like text alignment, buttons/no buttons, layout, etc you’ve got enough to say what you need to say and do what you need to do in a unique enough way.

The ease of use vs. customization tradeoff finishes with theme colors and typography: you’ve got a handful of options for buttons, borders, text, so on and so forth.

Enough to be satisfied without being overwhelmed, though you won’t be winning any originality in your design.

Ecommerce Features: 5/5

best ecommerce website builder shopify product editor

Ecommerce is Shopify’s bread and peanut butter (keepin it vegan) – they’re definitely more ecommerce platform than website builder.

A full suite of discount/coupon, shipping, and tax tools, of course.

Unlimited products, Point of Sale app, and staff accounts? Very good.

Multiple sales channels, abandoned cart recovery, advanced analytics and inventory management, an entire ecosystem of apps and professional Shopify experts for hire and shipping discounts up to 64%?

Now that’s what makes a world-class ecommerce platform!

The free stock photos and free business tools are just icing on the cake.

Support: 4/5

best ecommerce website builder shopify support

Shopify’s knowledge base is top of the food chain; well organized, easy to search, videos and screenshots where needed, everything looks [star eyes emoji].

Forums plus chat plus email plus phone plus twitter support, all 24/7, means you’ve got people to answer questions when you need it.

When we talked to their chat, we found their English and product knowledge good, though we did have to wait half an hour, which isn’t ideal.

Pricing: 3/5

best ecommerce website builder shopify pricing

The plan we recommend: Basic Shopify

Their most basic plan, appropriately called “Basic Shopify” is definitely the place to start.

The extra $50/month you’ll spend to upgrade from there gets you more staff accounts, gift card/point of sale capabilities, and better processing fees and shipping discounts.

All great stuff, none of it needed to get started.

14-day no credit card free trial is awesome.

CC processing fees start at 2.9% plus $0.30 for Shopify Payments, if you use another payment processor like PayPal you’re paying Shopify 2% on top of that.

Not ideal and a big part of why we’d say you should only go Shopify if you’re not starting from zero in the ecommerce website world.

Try Shopify Now

Squarespace

Good Builder, Good Price

Squarespace Logo

Squarespace

4 out of 5

  • checkmark Ease of Use: 3.5/5
  • checkmark Design: 4/5
  • checkmark ECom Features: 4/5
  • checkmark Support: 5/5
  • checkmark Pricing: 4/5
Pros
  • The most advanced photo editing capabilities
  • Industry-leading customer support
  • Build your ecommerce website for free – only pay when you’re ready to launch
Cons
  • Doesn’t quite nail the customizability/ease of use equation
  • Ecommerce feature set is acceptable, not great
  • Online store builder was laggy

Bottom Line

From an ecommerce perspective, Squarespace is a solid choice. Slightly above perhaps.

Their website builder strikes a fine middle ground in the ease/customizability spectrum; more flexible than other, simpler platforms. Not as customizable as Wix.

On the store management front you won’t be disappointed if ecommerce isn’t your main focus. They offer the features and functionality you need to make a little online cash money but we got the impression that if you really wanted to sell at scale, other platforms would be better.

That being said if you want something more flexible than most online store builders, want to build non-ecommerce sites with Squarespace as well, and/or love the look of their templates.

Check out our Squarespace test site

Try Squarespace Now

Ease of Use: 3.5/5

best ecommerce websites squarespace dashboard

Getting started was as simple as we’d want, including a quick 4 step onboarding walkthrough that explained the basics of making a site with Squarespace.

There weren’t many online store options to choose from template wise which sped things up a bit.

Once we got inside the online store builder, things were mostly fine. With some patience and learning of their platform, it’s usable enough.

But we had a few issues, the biggest one being their WYSIWYG builder was laggy which feels frustrating and meant we had to do some extra work when we accidentally added extra sections because of the wait.

On the product front, figuring out where we could add/manage products took some digging to find – this is done in the “Inventory” section if you’re wondering.

On the plus side, automatic site-wide font changes with font packs, shipping calculators for USPS, UPS, and FedEx, and other little features like that were nice touches.

Design & Customization: 4/5

best ecommerce websites squarespace website builder

Squarespace is top of the game in the looks department, with a slant toward minimalist/artsy feeling web designs, topped with a built-in free Unsplash image search.

Speaking of images – you cannot find a better built-in image editor in a website builder. Anywhere. We’re talking Instagram levels of saturation adjustment and filter applying.

They also have a good mix of prebuilt sections to use as starting points that you can then edit from (rearranging, adding/removing content, changing colors, etc).

Overall Squarespace’s ecommerce website builder will lock you in a bit more than Wix, but it beats everything else when it comes to customization capabilities.

Ecommerce Features: 4/5

best ecommerce websites squarespace product editor

The ecommerce features packed in Squarespace’s platform are adequate.

You can sell stuff and all the basics of variations and images and stock counts and product categories are here.

The need to manually create every variation for a product was one example of a few things that led us to feel like we wouldn’t want to use this for a site we wanted to do a lot of ecommerce business through, though.

For example, with other ecommerce platforms you can just input your color and size options (Red, Green, Blue, Small, Medium, Large in our tests).

Then the ecommerce software would automatically say “okay, you’re going to want to keep track of stock, pricing, etc for Small, Red, Medium, Red, Large Red etc.

With Squarespace, our shirts, hoodies and pants all required us to manually create all 9 options for each of our 3 products.

Not something we’d want to do for 10 products with 25 variations each, let alone hundreds on hundreds.

Support: 5/5

best ecommerce websites squarespace support

Squarespace customer support is everything we hope and dream of.

If we could live in a world where everyone was this helpful then there’d be no more wars for sure.

That starts with the videos, in-depth guides, and interactive webinars you’ll find in their easy to search and well-organized knowledge base.

It continues with the forums, email, and live chat.

When we reached out to do our customer support test, we got a fast response from a human that seemed to know Squarespace and the English language in and out.

Winning!

Pricing: 4/5

best ecommerce websites squarespace pricing

The plan we recommend: Business

Start for free with Squarespace, build your site, only pay when you’re ready to publish/sell.

This is our favorite setup because sometimes (like, when you’re writing a post about the best ecommerce platforms), you’ll go sign up to try out a builder, get busy, then come back after your 14-day free trial ends.

Oops.

Once you’ve tried it out and decided Squarespace is the one and only you’ll make your ecommerce site, grab the Business plan to get access to the ecommerce features you need.

“Basic Commerce” is what they’ll steer you toward, but the 0% transaction fees (instead of 3%), customer accounts, analytics, etc won’t be needed until you’re a bit deeper in your ecommerce website journey.

Try Squarespace Now

Weebly

Hmm… Okay

Weebly Logo

Weebly

3.5 out of 5

  • checkmark Ease of Use: 3/5
  • checkmark Design: 3/5
  • checkmark ECom Features: 4/5
  • checkmark Support: 4.5/5
  • checkmark Pricing: 3.5/5
Pros
  • Sell multiple types of product (physical, digital, etc)
  • Automatic tax calculations
  • Product creation/management pretty good
Cons
  • Drag and drop builder was confusing/buggy
  • Misleading Pricing page
  • Too expensive for what you get

Bottom Line

If you try Weebly and like it.

If someone you’re working with to build your ecommerce website wants to use Weebly.

Go for it.

Weebly has everything you need to build a functioning online store website.

For us, though, it just doesn’t feel like it’s enough.

It doesn’t do website building as well as a site like Squarespace.

It doesn’t do ecommerce as well as a platform like Shopify.

And despite what you might think when you look at their pricing page (which makes it seem like you can build a free ecommerce website with them), you’re going to be paying damn near top dollar for the privilege.

Check out our Weebly test site

Try Weebly Now

Ease of Use: 3/5

free ecommerce platform weebly dashboard

Overall summary from the Department of Ease of Use: Weebly’s not as flexible as Wix, and it’s not easy enough to justify that lack of customizability.

The drag and drop builder was confusing and buggy.

Example: when you drag an element like an image onto the page, a little highlight appears letting you know roughly where the element will land.

Roughly being the keyword, because it’s not exactly clear that this image is going to make your text go nuts until you drop it and are left picking up the pieces.

That’s just one example of a bunch of little things like the interface feeling very 2008 (no one uses Flash on websites anymore), lackluster built-in free image search, and some confusion around offering the color “white” as a default option in their color selector.

All of which add up to “this functions but kind of hurts to use.”

Design & Customization: 3/5

free ecommerce platform weebly website builder

15 online store themes can be found in Weebly’s stockpile, and they actually look pretty good, a couple are great.

No Wix-level game changers but some solid choices.

20+ different types of elements (images, slide shows, product showcases, page dividers, etc) available are enough to say we can customize things.

20+ minus the Flash element. Just, no.

You get the freedom to arrange things unlike Shopify and other more simplified online store website builders.

But it’s not as flexible as Squarespace and, on the whole, doesn’t offer enough that Squarespace doesn’t.

Ecommerce Features: 4/5

free ecommerce platform weebly product editor

On the ecommerce front, Weebly does the job.

All the basics are well covered – inventory management, product SEO, analytics, shipping and discount and tax options, etc.

But it doesn’t have any exciting extras to really push it into the top-tier features-wise.

Support: 4.5/5

free ecommerce platform weebly support

We found Weebly’s knowledge base a bit less helpful than others, but email, community forums, and chat/phone support are all there so not too much worry on the “I don’t know what I’m doing help!!” end of the spectrum.

Because when we reached out using the literal “I need help” button, we found their support staff was friendly, helpful, and understandable.

Aka what you want in your times of need.

Pricing: 3.5/5

free ecommerce platform weebly pricing

The plan we recommend: Business

When we were first scoping out Weebly from an ecommerce standpoint, we thought that since it had “ecommerce” features like “Shopping Cart” and “Inventory Management” listed under the “Free” column, that you could get a free ecommerce store setup with them.

Which, despite its shortcomings, could make going with Weebly worth it.

But, we were going to recommend the “Professional” plan because to us, having a custom domain name and no “this is a free Weebly site” ads is a must.

So we bought the Professional plan and built our test site.

And we hit publish and were told we had to upgrade to the business plan to do that.

  1. We won’t go so far as to say “false advertising” but simply “someone must have forgotten to update the pricing page when they changed this.”
  2. The $12/month Professional plan was a pretty good price, perhaps enough to justify Weebly’s shortcomings. For $25/month, we’d say go with Wix or Squarespace or something else.

Like that little gotcha, you won’t find a refund policy, easily at least.

BUT customer support said it’s 30 days which is pretty cool.

Credit card processing fees are 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction.

Aka “too much for what you get.”

Try Weebly Now

WooCommerce

Best for Customization Freaks

WooCommerce Logo

WooCommerce

3.5 out of 5

  • checkmark Ease of Use: 2.5/5
  • checkmark Design: 3/5
  • checkmark ECom Features: 5/5
  • checkmark Support: 3/5
  • checkmark Pricing: 5/5
Pros
  • Most flexible ecommerce platform
  • Least expensive ecommerce platform
  • Thousands of free and paid plugins/themes
Cons
  • Online store builder is the most difficult to learn/use
  • Human customer support is basically non-existent
  • Need to install plugins to get features other platforms have built-in

Bottom Line

If you just want badass ecommerce features with little effort invested in building a beautiful site…

WooCommerce is absolutely not the choice for you.

BUT HOLD UP FAM!

Because if you want the cheapest possible (though not quite free) ecommerce website platform…

If you want the most customizable online store builder…

If you want the most options when it comes to ecommerce features…

WooCommerce absolute IS the choice for you.

 You will have to learn a lot.

You will have to put in some elbow grease to get your site looking and functioning the way you want.

But, at the end of the day, you’ll have a lot of ecommerce website building experience and a lot of growth potential for very little money invested when you go with WooCommerce.

(Note: the site we built and our ratings were done with only a few extra plugins; if we used something like Elementor or Divi to get a drag and drop building experience our scores would be higher but we didn’t want to assume you would use those plugins).

Check out our WooCommerce test site

Try WooCommerce Now

Ease of Use: 2.5/5

online store builder woocommerce dashboard

In case you don’t already know (because you skipped our “How to choose the best ecommerce website builder” section), WooCommerce is not a standalone platform.

It’s a WordPress plugin (one of the best we’d say).

And it comes with its own set of apps/extensions and themes to add functionality, much like plugins do for WordPress itself.

Why does that matter?

Because WordPress, on its own at least, is not a website builder like Wix or Squarespace.

Which means a lot but for our purposes here it means you don’t get a drag and drop builder by default (though with the plugins we compare in this video, you can make that happen).

And overall you get a much larger learning curve than the other top ecommerce platforms on our list.

Which is why we gave it the lowest ease of use score on our list.

BUT we love WordPress, it’s what we build the vast majority of our sites with.

We think it’s worth learning how to build websites with WordPress, and ecommerce websites with WordPress/WooCommerce.

We just want you to have the right expectations going in so you can make the right decision on the best ecommerce website platform for you.

Design & Customization: 3/5

online store builder woocommerce website builder

When it comes to themes for WordPress itself, there are literally thousands, both free and paid.

WooCommerce itself only has a few options, but you don’t have to stick with the ones built specifically for Woo.

Important to note these are Themes, though, not Templates, meaning they just give you some basic styling, not a complete layout of images, text, buttons, etc. (for the most part, some do give you layouts as well.

And with thousands of options, some look killer (like the ones on our top 10 best WordPress themes list), some – not so much.

And as we mentioned in the ease of use section: from a design standpoint, with the right plugins (like Elementor and Divi), you can get damn near the same level of customizability in a drag and drop/WYSIWYG format like Wix and the rest.

But for our testing purposes, we tried to install as few plugins as possible and just used the default WooCommerce theme so our review would apply to as many people as possible (yall are gonna use a ton of different themes/plugins on your WordPress/WooCommerce journeys).

And from that standpoint, there’s not a lot you can easily do with the basics.

Enough, but not a lot more aka “3 out of 5.”

Ecommerce Features: 5/5

online store builder woocommerce product editor

WooCommerce comes with everything you need from an online selling platform: unlimited products, product ratings and reviews, inventory management, physical, digital, affiliate products, product importing/exporting, shipping and tax options, email templates, one click refunds, reports and analytics…

You get the point, if you want it, if you’ve gotta have it, WooCommerce can probably get you your fix on its own.

With the thousands of extensions and other WordPress plugins out there, it’s game over for “I’d really love to do x but can I?”

Yes, yes you can.

Support: 3/5

online store builder woocommerce support

Support with WooCommerce basically means their knowledge base and community forums.

You can hire experts through them, or a site like Upwork to get professional developers who can help you.

But you’re getting the platform for free, and real human’s gotta eat.

Aka there’s not a live support option through WooCommerce.

Pricing: 5/5

online store builder woocommerce pricing extensions

The plan we recommend: Hostgator’s Hatchling Hosting Plan

Since WordPress and WooCommerce are a self-hosted ecommerce platform, you’ve got to get hosting.

Which can be had for as little as $5 a month for our recommended HostGator plan (Hatchling).

Note: when you click this link or that one above it’ll say $2.95 but that’s only if you sign up for 3 years – don’t do that unless you’re real sure you’re going all the way with this website stuff.

Once you snag that hosting, HostGator has an easy one-click installer for WordPress, and WooCommerce is as easy to install as other WordPress Plugins (see this post here – it’s very easy).

If you want to get one of the 372 premium WooCommerce extensions or 17 premium themes, they’ll start at $29 bucks; depending on what you’re trying to do, you may or may not need these at some point.

HostGator offers a 45-day money-back guarantee on your hosting so you’ve got plenty of time to figure out if this is really the way for you to make your ecommerce site dreams a reality or not.

And WooCommerce itself has 0 credit card processing fees, though some of their payment gateway extensions do.

Try WooCommerce Now

BigCommerce

Best for Bigger Biz-niz

BigCommerce Logo

BigCommerce

3.5 out of 5

  • checkmark Ease of Use: 4/5
  • checkmark Design: 3/5
  • checkmark ECom Features: 5/5
  • checkmark Support: 5/5
  • checkmark Pricing: 3/5
Pros
  • Detailed product attributes/features
  • Ecommerce platform interface looks good/feels good
  • Loads of help and support available
Cons
  • Very few online store customization options
  • Feature set isn’t aimed at beginner ecommerce stores
  • Limited online store template options

Bottom Line

By magic or luck or the kind of intentional branding that comes from well organized and funded businesses, the name says it all with BigCommerce: this one’s best for the big boys.

Not, like, Amazon big.

But if you’re going to use BigCommerce, you’ll probably want to already be doing some good volume selling products or have the kind of business skill and investor funding that means you’ll get there soon.

That’s not a 100% rule. They’ve got a good online store builder and are pretty darn easy to use even for beginners.

But you’re very limited in what you can do with your store’s design without getting involved in coding, and a lot of the top-tier ecommerce features included are more than you’ll need for a smaller or startup store.

Check out our BigCommerce test site

Try BigCommerce Now

Ease of Use: 4/5

best platform to sell online bigcommerce dashboard

So, as we talked about above in our “rating process” section, part of how we made our ratings more objective is by timing how long it took us to make a few products and a barebones basic ecommerce site with each platform.

BigCommerce was one of our fastest builds (just under an hour), which helped its score out a lot.

Maybe more than it should, but we made our plan/ratings system and stuck to it to be as honest and fair as simple humans can.

What are we trying to say here?

Well, that this score isn’t wrong, but the full story is that it comes in part because we couldn’t really do much when it came to design and customization (which we get into below).

At the same time, creating products was easy, their backend platform is easy and looks great.

So, it’s not wrong.

But when it comes to actually building a custom site, you’re not going to get very far without having to get into custom coding.

Which is not very easy, and if you’re going to spend time learning how to do that, we’d recommend going with WordPress/WooCommerce as you’ll have more flexibility in the long run.

UNLESS you plan to become a website building consultant to bigger businesses and want to learn BigCommerce to better help them.

Which, if that’s the case, more power to you!

Design & Customization: 3/5

best platform to sell online bigcommerce website builder

12 free and 139 paid templates here, the latter range from $150-300 aka “not cheap.”

They all look very good and include more advanced design elements like scroll over zooming in on images, built-in sliders, etc.

Modifications, without coding, are limited.

You can change colors globally from the website builder sidebar, along with some other options, and it’s possible to add images and text content where needed.

But you can’t add buttons, rearrange sections, etc.

In short: it’s adequate but not much beyond that.

Ecommerce Features: 5/5

best platform to sell online bigcommerce product editor

This is the stuff BigCommerce was really built for.

Yeah, yeah, discounts, inventory management, shipping and taxes, it’s all there.

Real-time shipping quotes, multi-channel selling, a mobile management app – okay, very cool.

Apple/Google/Amazon pay, real-time shipping quotes, gift wrapping options, minimum/maximum purchase quantities and super-advanced product details like “Bin Packing Number” (useful for larger warehouse operations).

Now that’s what makes for a 5/5 rating!

Support: 5/5

best platform to sell online bigcommerce support

Like BigCommerce’s ecommerce platform interface, the knowledge base looks great, is very in-depth and easy to navigate, has lots of getting started videos – it’s top of the game.

You’ve got Forums, but not just your standard community Q&A here; you’ll also find AMAs with BigCommerce employees, Site Critiques, Job boards, and “Town Hall” webinars.

That’s on top of live chat, phone, and email support which, in our testing experience, is very helpful and very much appreciated.

Pricing: 3/5

best platform to sell online bigcommerce pricing

The plan we recommend: Standard

To really nail home the “this is for bigger businesses” message, the lowest cost plan (Standard) is limited to “just” $50,000 in yearly sales.

More than enough to get started, and you won’t need the customer segmentation and abandoned cart emails that come with their mid-tier plan until you’re getting close to that sales figure anyway.

No refunds available, which is not great, so make sure you take full advantage of the 15-day free trial.

On the processing fee front – 0%.

Try BigCommerce Now

Ecwid

Best All Around

Ecwid Logo

Ecwid

4.5 out of 5

  • checkmark Ease of Use: 5/5
  • checkmark Design: 4/5
  • checkmark ECom Features: 5/5
  • checkmark Support: 4.5/5
  • checkmark Pricing: 5/5
Pros
  • FREE ECOMMERCE WEBSITE PLATFORM
  • Beautiful “Instant Sites” and Self-Hosted options
  • Built-in multi-channel support (Facebook, Instagram, Amazon, etc)
Cons
  • Online store builder could have more customization options
  • Have to pay more for some fairly basic features like Variations
  • No weekend live support

Bottom Line

If you DON’T REALLY WANT to get into website building but you DO WANT to get into ecommerce, Ecwid is almost certainly the place to start.

If you DO WANT to get into website building stuff EVENTUALLY, Ecwid is almost certainly the place to start, too.

Because it’s that badass of an ecommerce platform.

A free version that doesn’t leave you wanting when you’re just getting started.

A site builder that gets you a beautiful site in 5(ish) minutes.

The ability to move over to a Wix/WordPress/Squarespace/etc. site AND sell on Facebook/Amazon/Instagram/etc. once you’re up and running.

From all the top ecommerce platforms we tested, Ecwid did the best job we found at offering everything website building and ecommerce beginners would want and need.

Check out our Ecwid test site

Try Ecwid Now

Ease of Use: 5/5

best free ecommerce website builder ecwid dashboard

First off, the Ecwid dashboard looks beautiful. Not a must, but it’s the kind of detail that adds up to a feeling of ease for sure.

But more than that, it functions as smoothly as avocado spreads on toast (because butter isn’t vegan).

The sidebar items are well organized and make sense when you’re new and don’t know where to find things.

Great start.

The built-in “Instant Site Builder” is basically exactly what we’d want for what it is.

A complete set of tools to build any site you can imagine?

No. THat’s not the goal.

The goal, according to their website, is for you to get your website up and running in 5 minutes.

It’s probably more like half an hour unless you have supreme discipline when it comes to poking around and trying things out (we don’t).

Still, for a tool looking to be easy, it nails it.

And that super smooth experience carries over to the product creation tools – everything you’d want in neatly organized, easy to use and understand tabs.

Design & Customization: 4/5

best free ecommerce website builder ecwid website builder

79 beautiful looking modern themes to choose from here, any one is site-worthy – just pick the colors/fonts that fit your taste to get started.

The rest (layout and elements) don’t matter because you’ve got the ability to make any theme look like any other theme on those fronts (e.g. if one theme has a full page header image but the one you choose doesn’t, you can change that in the options).

With the Instant Site Builder, all modifications are managed from the sidebar like Shopify – no clicking on a piece of text to move or edit it, meaning it’s a bit less intuitive but also harder to accidentally mess up.

In that sidebar you’re stuck with a limited set of sections you can add and rearrange on your online store’s homepage.

And each section has a limited set of relevant options you can play with.

Example: the Headline & Cover Image section lets you add a headline, description, call to action button, and background image – the last of which you can add overlays to.

That’s it and that’s fine for what this thing is.

Full Wix-levels of customization? No. Enough to get something that looks amazing and is unique enough to get started with?

Absolutely.

And when you want more you’ve got options later, as Ecwid has integrations with a ton of website builders so you can keep the store you’ve already built with them and just embed things like your product pages and Buy Now buttons on a more custom site.

Ecommerce Features: 5/5

best free ecommerce website builder ecwid product editor

You know the ecommerce basics by now, of course those features are there.

The multi-channel support for marketplace sites like Etsy and Amazon, as well as social media like Instagram and Facebook is where things start to look “above and beyond” for Ecwid.

Because ultimately your ecommerce website should be a hub for your company/sales, but you’ll want to branch out and sell in a bunch of other places too.

You’ll also get some 5/5 grade features like automated tax and shipping calculations, an app market that lets you modify the design and functionality of your instant site, and local/in-store pickup options.

Mix that in with the fact that you can build a FREE ECOMMERCE WEBSITE to get started and pay for more expensive plans as you need the extra features makes Ecwid a real winner here.

Support: 4.5/5

best free ecommerce website builder ecwid support

The top-notch experience continues with Ecwid’s support.

Best-in-class grade knowledge base with videos, photos, and tons of in-depth guides?

Check.

Helpful live chat and email support?

You’ve got it.

The only thing holding back a full 5-star rating here is the lack of phone support.

And live chat isn’t available on the weekend.

Pricing: 5/5

best free ecommerce website builder ecwid pricing

The plan we recommend: Venture

This was a tough one.

The Free plan is really good and may very well be the best place for you to start.

BUT in our minds, one of the pro-website (ecommerce or otherwise) must-haves is a custom domain.

Aka “your-domain.com” not “your-domain.the-website-builder.com”

And being able to talk to a real support person is pretty important too.

For those, you have to get Venture.

For $15/month, this is not a difficult gelatin-free capsule to swallow.

No refunds or money-back guarantee but that’s what the refund is for and you can cancel anytime.

Add in 0% transaction fees and we’ve got ourselves a 5/5.

Try Ecwid Now

Big Cartel

Best for Artists/Influencers

BigCartel Logo

 

Big Cartel

 
 

4 out of 5

 
  • checkmark Ease of Use: 5/5
  • checkmark Design: 3.5/5
  • checkmark ECom Features: 3/5
  • checkmark Support: 3.5/5
  • checkmark Pricing: 5/5
Pros
  • One of the least expensive ecommerce platforms
  • One of the easiest to use online selling platforms
  • Create an online store for free!
Cons
  • Ecommerce features are just the essentials, missing some things
  • Live support took 2 hours to respond :/
  • Can only scale to a certain point

Bottom Line

Enough customization to make something that looks good.

Basic shop features covered.

Big Cartel does a pretty good job of making it easy to set up an online store quickly.

But beyond adding more products (which you can do when you buy higher-tier plans), we didn’t see a lot of room to grow your ecommerce website.

There’s only so much you can do to change the design, and the acceptable but minimal amount of ecommerce features wouldn’t lend themselves to scaling to a large ecommerce operation well.

Thus, we’d agree with Big Cartel’s suggestion that their ecommerce platform is “Easy online stores for artists & makers.”

Maybe add “& Instagram hot girls.”

Check out our Big Cartel test site

Try Big Cartel Now

Ease of Use: 5/5

online store website big cartel dashboard

Either Big Cartel was ahead of the Dark Mode game or they adjusted lightning-quick when that started trending, because it’s black on black in the dashboard.

And the whole thing is super simple and straightforward.

Homepage = sales stats and quick links to your products so you can see how they’re doing/make changes.

Orders = where you can track and adjust orders.

Products = add and modify products.

Discounts = add and change discounts.

Account = edit your online store and adjust payment details/shipping, etc.

Limited options means it’s quick to learn the interface and get things set up.

But the Big Cartel team’s also done a good job of following UX best practices so kudos where kudos are deserved there too.

Design & Customization: 3.5/5

online store website big cartel website builder

17 themes to give you basic fonts and color schemes, they all look pretty good and artsy.

Changes to fonts, colors, certain element displays, and adding/removing content are all done from the sidebar.

There’s enough here to not be lacking, but not a lot of room for customizing without getting into HTML/CSS code.

Which isn’t necessarily an issue (see Ecwid above), but their builder needs to do a better job of making things look nice for you.

Case in point: the slideshow on our test site is a weird, overly large size because it just got bigger to fit the large images we uploaded.

The fix? Just scale/crop our slideshow images so they’re all the same size and all a reasonable size.

But other ecommerce website builders do that kind of thing for you.

Or offer way more customizability.

Ecommerce Features: 3/5

online store website big cartel product editor

Creating products is simple and straightforward and limited.

You’ve got these options:

Price, name, description, options (variations), shipping, URL, Tax Code, up to 5 images, category, status (active/not active).

Enough to sell products? Yes.

But you have to enter all your variations in manually (Small/Red, Medium/Red, etc).

Only 5 images per product is fine but you’ll want more at times.

And the inventory management… you can add stock quantities and they’ll go down as you sell but it’s all very manual.

So, again, smaller shop, you don’t want to mess with a lot of more complex ecommerce options – Big Cartel is a solid choice.

If you want to go beyond selling merch for your Youtube channel (now or ever), we’d look elsewhere.

Support: 3.5/5

best platform to sell online bigcommerce support

On the support side of the equation, the knowledge base is likewise sufficient.

There are some images where needed, the articles are easy enough to search for and scan through.

There’s just not the level of depth you find with other ecommerce platforms.

Email and chat are available when you want to talk to a human, and those humans are helpful.

But it took 2 hours to hear back when we messaged them via chat.

Not ideal if you’ve got deadlines (but Facebook meme page operators probably don’t).

Pricing: 5/5

online store website big cartel pricing

The plan we recommend: Platinum

So Big Cartel is technically one of your free online store builder options.

But unlike Ecwid, in addition to a limited number of products, you’re only going to be able to have 1 image for each.

If you can make that work, go for it, but we think that’s not enough.

From our pro website perspective, you’ve gotta get that custom domain name too, so that’s where our Platinum recommendation comes from; beyond that, you’ll only need to upgrade plans if you want to sell more than 50 products.

No refunds since they have a free plan, 0 credit card processing fees.

Try Big Cartel Now

Volusion

The Weebly of Ecommerce

Volusion Logo

 

Volusion

 
 

4 out of 5

 
  • checkmark Ease of Use: 3/5
  • checkmark Design: 3.5/5
  • checkmark ECom Features: 4.5/5
  • checkmark Support: 4.5/5
  • checkmark Pricing: 3.5/5
Pros
  • Some of the most advanced SEO features for a Platform hosted option
  • Beautiful backend/helpful “getting started” flow
  • Helpful “how to run an ecommerce business” content
Cons
  • Online store website builder got buggy when adding content
  • Themes just look okay
  • Like Weebly – pretty expensive for what you get

Bottom Line

Like Weebly, Volusion is fine.

If you like something about them, if there’s something they offer that you need, go for it.

If someone you’re working with wants to use them, okay.

Like Weebly, we feel they don’t quite strike the right balance between easy to use and customizable.

They do have a pretty solid set of ecommerce features so that’s a plus, we’d go with them over Weebly for that.

But we think for most people there’s more bang for your ecommerce platform buck elsewhere

Check out our Volusion test site

Try Volusion Now

Ease of Use: 3/5

ecommerce site volusion dashboard

The dashboard looks great which got our hopes up, along with the nice quick start guide they had (complete with walkthrough/explainer videos).

We also like that they have video guides to help you get unstuck throughout their dashboard.

E.g if you go to the “Product” tab there’s a “?” button that has a video tutorial next to the “+” add a new product button.

When it came to using their online store builder, we found it challenging.

Like some of the other builders that try to keep things simple, changes are made from the sidebar, though you can click on your WYSIWYG page preview to change the section you’re editing, as well as add/remove and rearrange sections.

But the options you have when editing sections felt a bit of a mess; like they were trying to do too much with too little space.

And their text editing interface (which is a popup) was not the most fun to use.

Oh, and you have to manually press the “save” button so you don’t lose your work if you click away.

Design & Customization: 3.5/5

ecommerce site volusion website builder

14 free, 3 paid ($180) themes – all look fine, functional, but are missing some polish factors that make for a “wow” ecommerce website experience.

We liked that you could create and set typography and colors globally (across your whole site) and by section/block.

And we like that you could make blocks “reusable” – so if you, say, create a really nice “sign up for our newsletter” block you don’t have to manually recreate that across your site.

From a customizability perspective, Volusion does a good job for builders on the “make it easy” end of the spectrum.

There are a lot of options available for editing.

But we felt the site we ended up with in our quick and dirty test could look a lot better.

Ecommerce Features: 4.5/5

ecommerce site volusion product editor

Yes, they’ve got {insert the basics here}.

Payment support, inventory management, coupons and discounts, taxes and shipping, so an and such forth.

Plus some standout stuff to put them in the above-average rating realm.

Dropshipping integration? Ooo that’s nice.

Marketing and design help for hire through them? Ahh, that’s good.

XML sitemaps, Google Search Console tag adding, redirects manager…

Well, Volusion, here’s the award for most advanced SEO management we’ve seen from an ecommerce platform (that isn’t WordPress with the right SEO plugins).

Support: 4.5/5

ecommerce site volusion support

You’ll find what you need in Volusion’s knowledge base, along with some delicious extras like where to find dropshipping products and how to choose a domain name.

Online chat is available 24/7 and is readily accessible from the “?” on any page of the dashboard/online store builder.

We’d like to see email and phone support at lower level plans, but for the most part you won’t be disappointed when you need help (unless you’re also feeling lonely and want to hear the sound of another human being… but helping you with crippling depression isn’t really Volusion’s job #YesWeCryOurselvesToSleep).

Pricing: 3.5/5

ecommerce site volusion pricing

The plan we recommend: Personal

Phone support is nice, yes, and abandoned cart reports are handy but they’re not essential for getting started.

Especially not for an extra $45 a month over the Personal plan.

14-day free trial but no money-back refunds.

Their monthly plans are on the higher side so we’re glad they don’t charge credit card processing fees.

Try Volusion Now

What is an ecommerce platform and should you use one?

what is an ecommerce platform guy scratching head

Ecommerce platforms, put simply, are software tools that let you create an online store – without having to learn HTML/CSS/Javascript aka “how to code.”

They do this by including some/all of the features of a standard website builder and mix in some extra “ecommerce features” like:

  • Sales channel management (e.g. making it easy to set up/maintain your website, in-person sales, stores on sites like Amazon, etc).
  • Inventory management (so you don’t have to manually mark every sale down in a spreadsheet to figure out how many shirts/necklaces/gluten-free baking mixes you have left).
  • Sales reports (so you can stop wasting your time on products/channels that don’t do much for you).
  • Tax calculations (you know exactly why this is valuable).

The most common reasons people choose to use ecommerce platforms are:

They’re easy to use

Especially when you’re new to the ecommerce and “build a website” worlds, this is crucial. Back in the late 80s through the mid-200s, our ancestors had to make website pages, shopping cart features, and payment processing functionalities with their bare hands.

Ecommerce platforms let us, the fortunate children of modernity, do all that stuff with a couple of clicks in a fraction of the time.

They’re one-stop shops

Ecommerce platforms include everything you need to run an online store – web hosting, domain name registration, updates, and web page creation on the front end.

And customer, inventory, and sales management on the back end.

…For the most part. There are exceptions to this for good reasons, see the “types” below.

They’re “supportive”

You’ll also get customer support staff to help you, which is great because there’s a lot of “figuring out how to do it” involved with creating an online store without using an ecommerce platform.

Which is frustrating and time-consuming if you just want to sell stuff.

This one’s also a “for the most part” – one of the platforms we reviewed doesn’t have customer support per se, more on that below.

Bottom line

Do you like saving time? What about money? What about avoiding frustration?

The answer is, of course, “well, sure I do!”

Which is why you should probably use an ecommerce platform/website builder.

More specifically, they’re best for:

  1. People who just want to focus on their business/product creation, not their website.
  2. People who want to build an ecommerce business for themselves from scratch (without having to rely on a website building/programming expert).
  3. People who want to build ecommerce websites for other people without having to become coding experts.

Sound like you?

Sure it does!

But how do you choose the right ecommerce platform for your goals/hopes/dreams?

How to choose the best ecommerce website builder for you

how to choose ecommerce website list of options

Well, for starters, there are a few different types of ecommerce platforms to choose from.

Which type is best depends on what you’re going for.

Type #1: Self-Hosted

Basically, this means WordPress and WooCommerce (there are others but they’re really not worth mentioning in an introductory post).

With this option, you’ll pay a company like HostGator for the resources needed to make a website available on the web.

Then you’ll install WordPress and the WooCommerce plugin (and probably a bunch of other plugins too) through them.

The benefits: it’s a lot less expensive to do this than using one of the other options and you can do whatever you want design/functionality wise.

The drawbacks: it’s a lot more work to learn how to set up and manage hosting/all the plugins and tools you’ll need – some of which might not have great customer support available.

Type #2: Platform Hosted

These are your Volusions, your Big Cartels, your Wixes (Wixi?) – ecommerce websites that you pay to do all the technical stuff for you, including the hosting and the website building.

One monthly fee and you’ll be able to make a website, take orders, process payments, etc.

The benefits: what you need to do to get started is a lot simpler/clearer (they’ll walk you through setup, the platforms have more limited options/features than WordPress/WooCommerce plugins, and they’ll have plenty of helpful FAQ articles)

And you’ll have customer support from people who can see exactly what’s going on (with WooCommerce, one extension might not work because of a WordPress plugin you have installed, and the developer who made the extension won’t know that/might not respond quickly when you ask for help.

The drawbacks: They’ll cost more and you’re restricted to being able to do what the platform lets you do (e.g. some of the ecommerce website builders we reviewed didn’t give you many options when it came to making the website part of an online store).

Type #3: Mixed

Unlike pure website builders that all fall under the “platform hosted” category, ecommerce platforms offer a combination of both of the above options.

In our list below, this means Shopify, Ecwid, and BigCommerce.

Each of these not only has its own version of an online store builder, they also offer plugins for WordPress.

The benefits: you can get started fast with an easy to use ecommerce website builder, then as you grow you can expand to a self-hosted WordPress site to build exactly what you want while keeping the ecommerce features you need.

The drawbacks: you could argue you’ll pay too much.

In the beginning, maybe you should have just learned WordPress/WooCommerce and saved the money; when you’re using the ecommerce plugin, you’ll pay for both hosting and the ecommerce platform’s services when maybe you could have gotten by with the free WooCommerce plugin in.

Maybe on that.

The definite drawback is this is all too complicated/of no use to you if you don’t want to get that deep into the ecommerce world.

Which type is best?

Well, that really depends on you:

  • If you want to start as lean/low cost as possible, self-hosted WordPress with WooCommerce is the way to go.
  • If you want to have the most flexibility to build ecommerce or other websites and don’t mind putting in the time to learn a lot, WordPress with WooCommerce is the way to go.
  • If you’re more of an artist or business person or shop owner type, who just wants to be able to sell stuff online without having to learn a bunch about websites, a Platform Hosted option like Wix or Big Cartel is the way to go.
  • If you want to get started fast with an easy to use online store builder, with the option to expand to a “do what you want” WordPress website, a mixed platform is the way to go.

Once you know in general the type of ecommerce platform you want, there are a few things that differentiate one from the other, like:

  • Ease of Use
  • Design and Customization Features
  • Ecommerce Features
  • Customer Support
  • Pricing

And it just so happens those are the exact criteria we used to evaluate the ecommerce sites on our list!

Can you believe it?!

Of course you can!

Here’s a bit more about what WE look for in online selling platforms.

Our ecommerce platform review process

free ecommerce website review process checklist

The CaPW Ecommerce Platform Challenge

Here at Create a Pro Website, we want you, our dearest and most valued reader, to have all the information you need to make smart decisions when it comes to building websites, ecommerce or otherwise.

Which is why we do more for you.

See, there are over 200,000,000 results in Google for “best ecommerce platform.” 

best ecommerce platform google results

Some of those are for builders themselves (hello Shopify :).

Many of those are guides/blog posts.

And most of those suck for one simple reason: they didn’t actually use any of the ecommerce platforms or website builders they talk about.

We get it. 

Getting your hands dirty takes time and can be messy.

So maybe you can slap together a list of features, take a look at a few ecommerce sites and whip up a “best ecommerce platforms ultimate guide.”

Maybe.

But we’re not about that life here at CaPW.

Which is why we didn’t just casually slap a “Definitive Guide” at the end of our title.

We actually engaged in a little something we call “The CaPW Ecommerce Platform Challenge.”

Like our similarly named “The CaPW Website Builder Challenge,” this involved two basic steps:

  • Sign up and PAY for each website builder we review.
  • Time how long it takes to do the minimum setup needed to make an online store with them.

Now we’ve got a good bit of website building experience, and we were aiming to spend around an hour on each ecommerce site.

So don’t expect to be blown away by our demo sites (though we did include a couple of fun easter eggs in there for ya).

But what you will get from this is some honest, more detailed insights into how easy these online store builders are to use.

And more objective ratings than one can get from looking at a “/features” page for a few minutes.

With that, let’s look at our rating criteria:

Ease of Use

First up we’ve got Ease of Use, which is one of the biggest selling points of just about any ecommerce website builder.

Because no matter how awesome their ecommerce features might be or their templates might look, if it’s hard to build your online store website or manage your products and orders, the whole point of using an ecommerce platform is out the window.

We use these things to save time and frustration!

So, like our website builders challenge, to get a sense of how easy these platforms are to use we made ecommerce websites with each platform complete with products, shipping, and tax options as fast as possible (aiming for about an hour).

That means we tested both the website builder features – the tools for creating web pages – as well as the ecommerce features – the product creation and management tools.

Now the caveat here is that to fully test each platform we’d need to actually set up stores and make a bunch of sales because you can’t really understand how the order and inventory management parts of these platforms work without that.

But we hope you’ll forgive us for not going quite that deep (yet!).

Design & Customization

Beyond being easy to use, we looked at what each ecommerce website builder has to offer in the looks department.

Here we looked at things like:

  • How many templates/themes do they offer? How good do these look?
  • What options are there for editing the site (changing colors, fonts, adding images, rearranging content, etc)?
  • How good do our quick and dirty sites look?

Template/theme looks are especially important for beginners as these are your starting points for website building – first, you choose a theme that has the page sections, colors, and fonts you want, then you customize from there.

If the themes look great, it’ll be easier for you to make a beautiful website without spending a ton of time/having a lot of experience.

But you’ll always want and need to make some changes so the website becomes your own.

When you use an ecommerce platform like WordPress and WooCommerce, between the themes and plugins on offer and custom code, you can make a website look exactly the way you want – with enough time and $$ invested.

Online store builders like the one Shopify offers necessarily restrict what you can do – they’re hosting your site and need it to be a certain way to keep it running smoothly on their hosting infrastructure.

And by limiting the number of choices you can make, they limit the choices you have to make – which can mean an easier ecommerce site-building experience.

So there’s always some level of tradeoff between ease of use and customization.

Which is something we keep in mind while doing our reviews and you should while deciding which is the best ecommerce platform for you.

Ecommerce Features

Building ecommerce websites that look great is obviously important.

But so are the tools and options you have for selling products. Obviously.

And because we’re smart enough to check the obvious, we looked at each ecommerce platform’s ecommerce features as part of our review.

There’s a similar dynamic here as there is with customization and ease of use.

Some platforms offer a lot of features, but that can make them harder to use for beginners.

Or more expensive.

And maybe you don’t need all those features to get started.

But we know you’re smart, so we won’t try to make that decision for you!

This is why we’ve included ecommerce platforms that have all the features a big online brand making thousands of sales a day might want, ones that just offer the bare minimum so you don’t have a bunch of data/form fields to manage, and plenty in between.

BUT it’s important that any software calling itself an ecommerce platform includes a few basics, so we looked at things like:

  • Product management
  • Order/inventory management
  • Whether they have an app/extension/add-on store
  • Payment platform options
  • Sales and marketing features
  • Shipping tools and calculators
  • Analytics reports

to give you a sense of what’s available and what each platform has to offer.

Support

Like ease of use, this is another essential part of the ecommerce platform experience.

A big part of why you might choose Shopify over WooCommerce is how quickly and easily you can get answers to questions and solutions to problems that come up.

Every platform on our list will offer a Knowledge Base/Help Center/Support Desk…

Whatever you want to call them, they’re places where they have articles answering common questions related to using the ecommerce software or online store builder in question.

So we took a look at these Help Center/places to find answers without talking to a human to see how good they were.

Because maybe you don’t want to talk to a person if you can get answers on your own.

BUT it’s nice to know you can talk to a person when you can’t find those answers on your own (or don’t have the time to dig for them).

So we looked at what “talk to a human” options each ecommerce website offers.

Email is okay, phone and live chat are better.

And 24/7 is ideal though not always available.

Beyond just “taking a gander at what their website says” we also went a level deeper and actually reached out to their support staff (where applicable).

This way we could get a sense of how long it takes them to respond and how helpful/friendly their staff is (because no one wants to deal with an asshole when they’re already having issues).

Pricing

Finally, we took a look at how much each ecommerce platform costs and rated them relative to each other.

Meaning the most expensive platform gets a lower rating than the least expensive, but on a scale that factors in the general cost of ecommerce platforms on the whole (PERCENTRANK function for the win).

We did not, however, just look at the cheapest plan available.

Because though cheap is nice when you’re a beginner to the online store builder game, we’re also about building PRO websites here at… You get it.

So, for example, if the least expensive plan means you can’t use your own domain name or there will be ads inserted by the platform (not ones you add to your site), that’s not a plan you should get.

Which is why we figured out a plan we feel good recommending to a beginner that, at the end of the day, still wants a professional website.

Then we used the prices for those recommended plans in our rating.


The 29 Best WordPress Plugins for Just About Any Site
These premium and free WordPress plugins can help you take your site to the next level in minutes!

best wordpress plugins
 

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 about the top 29 WordPress plugins for just about any website. 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.

Some things just instantly make other things better.

Three examples: 

  • Ketchup, french fries.
  • Coffee, mornings.
  • Plugins, WordPress.

Now there may be people living on the fringes of society and decency that would deny the first two.

But no one would claim WordPress is better without plugins.

No one.

Sure, they may say there are bad plugins to avoid if you don’t want your site to crash irreparably.

And they may counsel against installing every plugin imaginable if you want your site to load sometime today.

But every WordPress-based website can be supercharged in no time by adding at least one game-changing plugin.

With 55,630+ plugins available on WordPress.org plus thousands more on premium marketplaces like CodeCanyon, though, figuring out which plugins you actually want and need could take way more time than it’s worth.

Which is why we’re saving you the time today by taking the hours and hours we’ve spent researching and using plugins on the sites we’ve built to give you a getting started point.

We’ve got the best free and paid options for 14 different types of WordPress plugins so no matter your budget or the kind of site you want to create, you should find something useful!

best wordpress plugins

What are WordPress plugins?

WordPress plugins are basically bits of code that are super easy to upload and install on your WordPress website (think a couple of clicks) that expand its functionality.

Want to add a contact form that automatically emails you when someone wants to reach out?

Want to create a membership-based site complete with exclusive content and easy payments for your subscribers?

Want the flexibility and low cost of WordPress but the ease of use website builders provide?

As the saying goes in the WordPress community “there’s a plugin for that.”

And while plugins are written by programming experts in PHP (the same coding language WordPress is written in), you can easily install and use the vast majority of plugins without having to write a single line of code.

As long as you’re using WordPress.org not WordPress.com, you’ve got access to thousands of WordPress plugins for free on in the official WordPress plugin directory, plus tons of premium ones too.

Premium vs free WordPress plugins

With more free plugins than your grandma could shake a stick at in confusion and sadness, why would you want to pay for a premium plugin?

Well, two main reasons:

  • Premium WordPress plugins usually come from developers/companies that create plugins professionally, meaning there’s someone whose job it is to make sure the plugin stays compatible with every new version of WordPress and secure against the latest hacks.
  • Premium WordPress plugins also usually come with professional tech support, which means they have more time and interest in helping you solve whatever challenges you run into than a plugin coded by a developer for free in their spare time.

It’s worth noting that a lot of plugins also follow a “freemium” model, where you can get a very functional version for free, with the option to upgrade if you want to get more features and better support.

These tend to be our favorite plugins because you get the quality of a plugin that helps pay professionals a salary, and a clear upgrade path if you decide you really like the plugin.

All while letting you get some sweet site upgrades for nothing more than a bit of your time to start!

How to choose the best WordPress plugins for your site

Alright, so you’re sold on getting some WordPress plugins, how do you figure out which you should add to your site?

Well, step 0 (if you haven’t done it already) is to figure out the purpose of your site.

We’ve got some help for you here if you haven’t done that yet.

Now that you know what you’re aiming for with your site, you’ll have an idea what features/functions you’ll need and thus we have a starting place for our search.

Now, besides our list below, two of the best places to find the best WordPress plugins are:

Because free is good, let’s start our search in the official directory; the process is basically the same for CodeCanyon or any other premium WordPress plugin marketplace.

Let’s say we’re looking for an SEO plugin for WordPress – you’ll want to be able to rank just about any website you make in Google, and these plugins help with that.

So we head on over to the official directory and type in the obvious phrase “SEO.”

wordpress seo plugins search

Which, naturally, turns up results for WordPress SEO plugins:

wordpress seo plugins results

Each result will show you a few different pieces of relevant information:

  • Plugin name
  • Plugin rating and number of reviews
  • A short description
  • Who developed it
  • How many active installations/users it has
  • The latest version of WordPress it’s been tested with
wordpress yoast seo plugin search result

So from a page like this, you’re doing some basic analysis to figure out which (if any) of these WordPress plugins are worth looking further into/trying.

Things to look for:

  1. Does the plugin description sound like what you’re looking for? (If so, time for step 2!)
  2. What’s the rating and how many reviews does it have? (more stars/more reviews = better)
  3. How many active installations does it have? (more = better)
  4. What version has it been tested with? (if it’s a much lower version than most results, be cautious).

Once you’ve found maybe 2-4 plugins that sound good, open them up in new tabs and let’s take a deeper look.

yoast wordpress seo plugin page

Here you’ll find a more detailed description of the plugin so you can get a better idea of its features and whether or not this sounds like what you need.

At the bottom of this description, the best WordPress plugins will also include screenshots for you to get a better idea of how the plugin works:

yoast seo plugin screenshots

As well as an FAQ section to help you get fast answers to common questions you’ll have:

yoast seo plugin faq

You’ll also find a couple more useful pieces of info in the sidebar.

In the first section, on top of some info you saw on the main results page, there’s also “Last Updated” info.

yoast seo plugin last updated

Last week is great, 3 years ago and this plugin is probably not being maintained.

Meaning it’s more likely to break and you’re less likely to be able to get help from the creators when it does.

Next, you’ll be able to see a more detailed breakdown of the ratings.

yoast wordpress seo plugin ratings

Just like Amazon, you can click on around to see the reviews left for each star rating.

Just like Amazon, it’s helpful to read a few positive reviews and a few negative reviews to learn what people like and dislike about the plugin.

The last thing you’ll find useful in the sidebar is info about the plugin’s support:

yoast seo plugin support

The more resolved issues the better, though even the best WordPress plugins with the best support won’t have every single issue resolved.

How to add plugins to WordPress

There are two main ways to install a WordPress plugin.

The first and easiest is to just head over to the Plugins section of your WordPress dashboard and do a search.

Get the deets on how to do this in our how to use WordPress tutorial post here!

The second involves manually downloading and installing the plugin.

Back in the official WordPress plugin directory, you’ll find a download button on the plugin details page:

yoast wordpress seo plugin download button

Click that and you’ll get a zip file for the plugin.

Then you just head over to your WordPress dashboard, then plugins -> add new in the sidebar.

best wordpress plugins add new

Then, at the top of the page, click “upload plugin” and choose that  zip file on your computer and click “install now.”

best wordpress plugins how to upload zip file

Then click activate on the page that comes up and you’re golden.

wordpress plugins activate installed plugin

Sweet, so now that we’ve got the background out of the way, let’s get into our massive list of top WordPress plugins!

Best WordPress membership plugins

best WordPress membership plugins

Want to create your own private forum or social network to discuss world domination?

Maybe you just want to include a private community as part of your upcoming course on underwater basket weaving.

Either way, WordPress membership plugins help you easily add, remove, and manage users so you can create your own free or paid groups right within WordPress!

MemberPress (premium)

memberpress wordpress membership plugin homepage

MemberPress is the go-to premium plugin for building membership sites using WordPress.

Create subscriptions, limit access to content based on subscription levels, securely accept recurring payments… it’s all here and it’s all easy to set up and maintain.

But at the same time, you get a ton of control over how your memberships work, which is the kind of flexibility that makes WordPress plugins great in the first place.

Top Features

Premium
  • Detailed access rules (super specific control over what content your users can access based on the membership plan and/or products they’ve purchased).
  • Premium community forums (integrates seamlessly with WordPress forum plugins like BBPress so you can create your own private, paid forums).
  • Plenty of payment gateways (you can use Stripe, PayPal or Authorize.net to accept payments so there’s plenty of options on how your members can pay you).

Cost

memberpress wordpress membership plugin pricing table

MemberPress starts at $149/year for their basic plan which we know isn’t a small commitment when you’re getting started.

BUT it comes with a 14-day money back guarantee.

AND there’s our other WordPress membership plugin recommendation is 100% free if that’s more your speed atm.

Checkout Premium

BuddyPress (free)

buddypress wordpress membership plugin header image

BuddyPress is definitely the top free WordPress membership management plugin.

It’s built and maintained by a solid core of WordPress developers so in this case, free doesn’t mean out of date and no support.

That being said, while it does offer some essential features that can help you build your own mini social networking site, it’s geared a bit more towards developers than beginners.

Meaning it’ll work, you just might have to work a bit harder to make it work.

Top Features

buddypress wordpress membership plugin features
Free
  • Groups (allow your members to create their own sub-groups around certain topics/conversations).
  • Activity streams (members and groups have their own version of a social feed where they can see the latest happenings).
  • Private messaging (your members can message each other individually or in small groups, separate from the main streams).

Cost

This bad boy’s 100% free!

Download Free

Best WordPress backup plugins

Best WordPress backup plugins

As anyone who’s used a phone/the internet at all knows, sometimes tech fails us.

WordPress websites are unfortunately no exception.

But smart people know that. And they know how to code.

So they’ve created WordPress backup plugins so even beginners can keep their hard work safe from bugs and hacks.

All with just a couple of clicks to backup or restore.

UpdraftPlus (freemium)

updraftplus wordpress backup plugin header

Updraft is basically the first plugin we install on every site we make.

Hacks can happen. Updates can break things. And sometimes you change nothing but your site just doesn’t load right when you wake up.

UpdraftPlus makes none of these much of a hassle!

That’s because their free version lets you set up automated backups (so you don’t forget to do it), backup your site via email or Dropbox/Google Drive (so you’re covered even if something goes wrong at the web hosting level), and unlike other free options, they let you restore too (obviously important and pretty terrible that others don’t).

Top Features

updraftplus wordpress backup plugin features
Free
  • Automatic backups (scheduled so you don’t have to remember)
  • Cloud storage (like Dropbox or Google Drive so you won’t’ lose them if your web server goes down)
  • Instant restore (so you can get a working version of your site back up ASAP)
Premium
  • Incremental backups (saves space by just backing up changes, not your entire site)
  • Premium support (so you’ve got pro help if something goes wrong)
  • Automatic backups when updating (so you can instantly revert if something goes wrong; updates are one of the most common reasons WordPress sites break)

Cost

updraftplus wordpress backup plugin pricing

Updraft’s premium subscription starts at $70 for your first year, then $42 after that.

They don’t offer any automatic money back guarantee, but if you contact them within 10 days of purchase and can show you have a technical issue that can’t be fixed, they’ll refund you.

Download Free Checkout Premium

VaultPress (premium)

vaultpress wordpress backup plugin header

Built by Automattic, the company that created/maintains WordPress, VaultPress is a solid backup solution for beginners.

Yes, you’ll pay a bit of money which isn’t 100% necessary with an option like UpdraftPlus, but for that relatively small fee (a plan that’s more than enough for beginners is just $3/month), you get word class support, very easy setup, and one-click restore or migration.

Top Features

Premium
  • Automated daily backups (so you’ll never lose much, if any of your work)
  • 30-day backup offsite archive (so you don’t have to use your own Dropbox/Google Drive space, and you won’t lose your backups)
  • Priority support (so you’re not alone when you’re at your most desperate)

Cost

vaultpress wordpress backup plugin pricing

Daily backup plans are perfect for the vast majority of sites and are only $3 a month.

30-day refunds if you decide for some reason you made a mistake.

Checkout Premium

Best WordPress popup plugins

Best WordPress popup plugins

They can be annoying.

They can be frustrating.

But they can also increase your email list opt-ins by 1375%.

The key is to do them smartly, tastefully, more like a fancy french restaurant than the Golden Corral buffet.

These WordPress popup plugins can help you out there.

OptinMonster (premium)

optinmonster wordpress popup plugin header

OptinMonster is a beast of a plugin for helping you convert more of your website’s traffic into email subscribers and customers.

It comes loaded with pre-made, high-converting opt-in forms so you can swap out some text and hit “publish” in no time.

Even if you want to make a few more tweaks than that, their drag and drop builder makes building the exact form you want a breeze.

Even the best opt-in popup can fall flat if you just toss it onto every page of your site, though.

Which is where their powerful targeting and personalization comes in.

Is a user coming back to your eCommerce site and looking at one of your products for the third time?

Pop up a quick little 10% off coupon to get them to buy.

Want readers of your “How to Buy the Perfect Starter Camera” post to download your free checklist (while not bothering those that just land on your homepage)?

OptinMonster lets you make just the offer on just the right post, at just the right time (when they’ve READ the post not right when they get to it) so you can build your list that much faster.

Top Features

Premium
  • Drag and drop builder/templates (makes it easy to create high-converting popups)
  • Simple integration with email marketing (whether you use MailChimp, Drip, ConvertKit, etc – setup is just a couple of clicks)
  • Advanced targeting (so you can make the perfect offers at the perfect time without annoying people just getting to know you).

Cost

optinmonster wordpress popup plugin pricing

Get your popup bases covered with Basic plan starting at $9/month (billed annually).

And if you realize you’ve jumped in too deep, too soon you’re covered with their 14-day money back guarantee.

Checkout Premium

Sumo (freemium)

sumo wordpress popup plugin header

If OptinMonster is the machete of WordPress popup plugins, Sumo is more of the swiss army knife.

With OptinMonster, you’ll be able to crush any popup marketing campaign you want thanks to their advanced popup features.

BUT you’ll have to spend more time (and money) learning how to harness that power.

And you’ll need to get your own email marketing software (like Mailchimp or Drip).

Sumo, on the other hand, offers a complete popup and email marketing solution that’s great for beginners because:

  1. It’s just one tool to learn to grow your email list with timed popups, schedule one-off emails or drip campaigns, and win back customers with cart abandonment emails.
  2. They have a freemium model which means you can get started (and get a ton of value) without being on the hook for a recurring expense.

Top Features

Free
  • Email opt-in popups (for growing that sweet sweet subscribers list)
  • Unlimited subscribers, 10k emails a month (so you’ve got plenty of room to grow your list for free)
  • Essential visitor targeting (customize how your popups are displayed by URL, device, etc to maximize signups/minimize annoyance).
Premium
  • Unlimited emails and Sumo-driven revenue (so you can message your list as much as you want, and convert more subscribers/visitors into $$$)
  • A/B tests (so you can compare versions of a popup and figure out which converts the best)
  • Remove Sumo Branding (essential for making your site/brand feel 100% pro)

Cost

sumo wordpress popup plugin pricing

Free is free obviously; their premium version is $39/month with a 30-day money back guarantee.

Download Free Checkout Premium

Best WordPress security plugins

Best WordPress security plugins

Whether it’s avoiding hacking headaches or maintaining trust with your visitors, keeping your website secure is as essential as keeping your house secure.

These WordPress security plugins help you hinder hackers and spank spammers so you can stay focused on building/running your site.

Akismet (freemium)

akismet wordpress spam plugin header

Up first we’ve got everyone’s favorite WordPress spam plugin, Akismet.

The main targets of spam on any site you build will be the comment sections of posts and pages and any contact forms you have.

For the second (forms), CAPTCHAS are a big help (see our list of best WordPress form plugins below, they all include CAPTCHA support).

When it comes to comments, Akismet’s your go-to.

Built by Automattic (the team behind WordPress itself), the plugin makes fighting spam easy peasy.

Just install and setup the plugin when you have a couple of minutes, then their system will automatically mark any potential spam comments for you so you can review them yourself (or just leave ‘em be – Akismet’s probably right).

Top Features

Free
  • Automatic spam detection (checks every incoming comment and filters the ones that look like spam so you/another human can review them)
  • URLs in comment body (reveals any hidden or misleading links – spammers will try to use these to sneak past your guard)
  • Automatic spam discard (outright blocks the worst spam to save you disc space and boost your site speed)
Premium
  • Enables use on commercial sites (aka ones that make money)
  • Advanced stats (so you can better understand how spammers come at you)
  • Priority support (so you can solve your spam problems ASAP)

Cost

akismet wordpress spam plugin pricing

Akismet’s Plus plan is all you’ll need for just $5/month per site.

If you buy annually you can get a full refund within 30 days, if you pay monthly though you’ll just have to cancel and drink one less coffee (no money back there).

Download Free Checkout Premium

Sucuri (freemium)

sucuri wordpress security plugin header

Compared to Akismet, Sucuri is more of an all-around WordPress security plugin designed to help you protect your site from hacking (and fix it if it gets hacked).

Most of the essential features like site scans and basic website hardening come standard in the free version.

If you decide to upgrade to the paid version you’ll get access to their Website Firewall to protect against things like brute force and DDoS attacks, and they’ll help fix your site if you do get hacked (which is something you’d have to pay hundreds of dollars for without them).

And with users like Yoast (the SEO plugin), Rainmaker Digital (a pretty big digital marketing company), CrossFit (the gym/workout company), and WP Engine (one of the best WordPress hosting companies) – you’ll be in some good company working with them.

Top Features

sucuri wordpress security plugin features
Free
  • Ongoing security auditing (logs every security-related event so if something happens you/a security expert will have a record to figure out how to fix it).
  • Remote malware scanning (scans your website for virus infections using Sucuri’s servers so your website will run faster/you’ll be notified if there’s a hack).
  • Security hardening (applies a bunch of technical tweaks to your website setup to make it harder to hack based on Sucuri’s experience cleaning hundreds of websites a day)
Premium
  • Website firewall (protects your website from things like DDOS and brute force attacks)
  • Malware removal (instead of just letting you know when you’re sites been hacked, they’ll fix it for you)
  • WordPress CDN (lets you connect your site to their Content Delivery Network for faster load times)

Cost

sucuri wordpress security plugin pricing

Paid plans start at $199/year for their “Basic” plan which is good for most sites; 30-day money back guarantee.

Download Free Checkout Premium

WordFence Security (freemium)

wordfence wordpress security plugin header

WordFence is another solid all-around WordPress security plugin that offers security standards like website scanning, a firewall, and brute force hacking protection.

The plugin also offers real-time traffic reports for web crawlers and bots, logins to your site, and 404 errors so you can get a clearer picture of potentially suspicious activity – something that helps it stand out from competitor Sucuri.

Their firewall also comes in the free version (where you have to pay for it with Sucuri) which is nice, though Sucuri comes out ahead in that they offer some performance features and hack fixing/repair in their premium.

Top Features

wordfence wordpress security plugin features
Free
  • WordPress firewall (blocks malicious traffic from loading and accessing your site)
  • Security scanner (checks your website files and code for hacks)
  • Login security (login page CAPTCHA so bots can’t try to brute force break-in)
Premium
  • Real-time IP blacklist, firewall rule, and malware signature updates (so as soon as hackers start using a new technique to break into websites, your site will be protected)
  • Reputation monitoring (checks 3 major IP blacklists to make sure YOUR SITE hasn’t been put on them because hackers have broken in)
  • Premium support (so you can get questions answered and hacks fixed asap)

Cost

wordfence wordpress security plugin pricing

A license for one site starts at $99/year, with discounts for more licenses (for more than one site) or when you pay for multiple years in advance.

Their refund policy is unclear but they do say it’s at least possible to get one if you ask.

Download Free Checkout Premium

Best WordPress gallery plugins

A picture is worth…

Nah, we won’t go that cliche, you already know you want to put pictures, graphics, etc on your site.

Which you can definitely do with raw WordPress.

These WordPress gallery plugins give you some advanced options, though, if you’re going to build an image-heavy site.

Envira Gallery (freemium)

envira gallery wordpress gallery plugin header

Envira makes creating WordPress galleries easy – no developer required.

They’ve put a ton of time and effort into making their drag and drop gallery creator super beginner-friendly while also including tons of customization options and performance improvements.

Translation: you’ll be able to get started fast but as you get comfortable, you’ll be able to do just about anything you want with Envira.

The free version is definitely enough to get started and add a few galleries to your site, but there’s a lot of great stuff packed into the premium options that those are definitely worth considering if you’re going to be working with images a lot.

Top Features

envira gallery wordpress gallery plugin features
Free
  • Drag and Drop Builder (makes it easy to create spectacular looking galleries)
  • Performance and SEO optimized (so you don’t have to worry about your images slowing down your site and they can help you rank in search engines)
  • Mobile ready (so your galleries will look great on phones too!)
Premium
  • Advanced display options (set different options for mobile, get access to pre-built gallery themes, split your galleries into multiple posts and more)
  • Image protection (add watermarks and restrict visitors’ ability to right-click and download images)
  • Social media and ecommerce integrations (make it easy for people to share your photos on social media or buy them from you on your site)

Cost

envira gallery wordpress gallery plugin pricing

Plans start at $29/year for “Basic” but if you’re really going to be using this thing enough to pay, you’ll probably just want to go straight to their $99 pro version as it’ll give you access to everything.

But you’ve got a 14-day money back guarantee so definitely explore your options.

Download Free Checkout Premium

NextGen Gallery (freemium)

nextgen wordpress gallery plugin header

NextGen is another can’t go wrong WordPress gallery plugin.

One of the key ways it sets itself apart is its focus on image/media management, making it easy to batch upload, delete, rearrange, and sort images into galleries, as well as edit metadata and thumbnails.

The free version also strikes a nice balance between easy to use and customizable.

You’ll only get access to three essential gallery styles and two album styles, but all of these are fully customizable (whereas Envira makes you pay for some of its more advanced customizations and themes).

Our impression is that NextGEN is a great option for photographers/artists who want to regularly add new images and make them look great without having to do a ton of work to set things up.

Envira’s probably better for websites that don’t change images as much but could benefit from more advanced customization and performance options.

Top Features

nextgen wordpress gallery plugin features
Free
  • 5 basic album and gallery styles (enough to get started with solid-looking photo collections)
  • Enhanced gallery/ media management (makes it easier to manage your photos and reuse certain collections across your site)
  • Advanced gallery display options (while the style templates might be basic, you’ll get a lot of control over them)
Premium
  • 9 premium album and gallery styles (for super fancy double backflip type stuff that wows website visitors)
  • Full-screen lightbox (to really put your images front and center)
  • Image Protection (to prevent people from being able to download your images)

Cost

nextgen wordpress gallery plugin pricing

$79 a year gets you started with their Plus plan that adds more advanced display features.

No word on their site when it comes to money back/refunds.

Download Free Checkout Premium

Best WordPress SEO plugins

Best WordPress SEO plugins

Free traffic from Google. Loads of it.

That’s the whole point and purpose of “search engine optimization” aka “get me to the #1 spot on Google so the exact customer/audience member I can help the most finds me.”

WordPress SEO plugins won’t get you there on their own, but they’ll help make it possible.

Yoast SEO (freemium)

yoast wordpress seo plugin header

SEO stands for “search engine optimization” and that’s technically what it is.

But when 90% of searches are made on Google, it kind of actually means “Google optimization.”

And when it comes to “WordPress SEO plugins,” everyone basically means “Yoast.”

The free version is great, covering all the basics of SEO you need in posts (like editing meta descriptions) and outside of them (like having XML sitemaps so Google can figure out what your site is about faster).

And the plugin has this red, yellow, green light system for pages and posts that lets you know whether they’re properly optimized around your target keyword or need improvement (with specific action items).

While super-advanced search engine optimizers might want to dig deeper and further to get every last ounce of optimization they can, this plugin’s more than enough for the other 90% of us.

Top Features

yoast wordpress seo plugin features
Free
  • XML sitemaps (makes it easier for search engines to find your content – no need for a dedicated WordPress sitemap plugin)
  • SEO and readability analysis (gives you red, green, and yellow lights for each page/post so you’ll learn what you need to do to optimize your content)
  • Meta information editing (set canonical URLs, meta descriptions, slugs and more without having to get into backend code).
Premium
  • Internal linking tools (makes internal linking suggestions and includes a redirection tool so you can maintain your optimization beyond keyword usage)
  • Video, Local, and WooCommerce SEO integrations (additional SEO tools for more advanced situations)
  • Premium support (answers = faster)

Cost

yoast wordpress seo plugin pricing

If you do decide you want to get black-belt with the premium version, you’re looking at $89 a year for one site, 30-day refunds.

Download Free Checkout Premium

All in One SEO Pack (freemium)

all in one seo pack wordpress seo plugin header

Because we’re all about giving you options here, All in One SEO.

Really, it’s great too!

All the same basics are covered when it comes to SEO (meta descriptions, sitemaps, etc).

And it even has some more advanced controls/features like Schema.org markup in the free version.

But it doesn’t look as slick as Yoast and while it’s technically beginner friendly, we feel if you’re really going to take advantage of the extra benefits of this plugin over Yoast you’ve got to be a bit further in your knowledge and skill with SEO.

Top Features

all in one seo pack wordpress seo plugin features
Free
  • XML sitemaps (so search engine bots can find your site content more easily)
  • Schema.org markup and Google amp (these are more advanced tools for getting to the top of certain highly competitive searches – nice to have them in a free tool)
  • Automatic title optimization and meta tags (handy for beginners who aren’t quite sure what to do here)
Premium
  • Video and ecommerce SEO (for more advanced sites)
  • Support for Google Tag Manager and more advanced Google Analytics (so you can track how people use your website more closely)
  • Premium support (because at this level, you’ll want a pro to help fix things)

Cost

all in one seo pack wordpress seo plugin pricing

Premium starts at $79 a year but there are no refunds so be sure you need it before you buy.

Download Free Checkout Premium

Best Google Analytics WordPress plugins

Best Google Analytics WordPress plugins

Knowing where your visitors are coming from and what pages and posts on your site are most interesting to them is an essential component of creating and growing a pro website.

Google Analytics makes that possible by capturing information about the people that visit your site (anonymously, nothing creepy) and compiling it into super useful reports.

As you get more comfortable with the whole website building world, you don’t technically need a plugin to get Google Analytics running on your site.

But these Google Analytics WordPress plugins make it easy to get started.

MonsterInsights (freemium)

monster insights wordpress google analytics plugin header

MonsterInsights is by far the best known Google Analytics plugin for WordPress, and it delivers exactly what you want: an easy way to install and view your GA data right inside the WP dashboard.

So you’re saving time on the install (not having to learn the technical details of getting Google Analytics to work) and on the maintenance (don’t have to learn how to read the not-so-beginner-friendly Google Analytics reports).

You’ll be able to get basic stats like the number of visitors and pageviews in the free version – plenty of info for a new site/beginner website creator.

And once you’re ready to get more sophisticated, you can go grab the Premium version(s) to get ecommerce tracking, real-time data, and more.

Top Features

monster insights wordpress google analytics plugin features
Free
  • Super easy setup (they’ve got an onboarding system that takes you step by step through the setup process – no confusion needed!)
  • WordPress dashboard stats (get your essential site stats right in your WordPress dashboard)
  • Affiliate link and download tracking (so you can see when and where your visitors grab a free guide or click a link that could earn you $$)
Premium
  • Ecommerce tracking (so you can get insights into your product pages and sales)
  • Forms tracking (so you can see how people interact with your contact and other forms)
  • Detailed page insights (lets you view more information about how individual pages/posts perform right inside WordPress)

Cost

monster insights wordpress google analytics plugin pricing

Their premium plans start at $99.50/year and come with a 14-day money back guarantee.

Download Free Checkout Premium

Analytify (freemium)

analytify wordpress google analytics plugin header

While MonsterInsights is the monster plugin for WordPress Google Analytics, Analytify gives them a good run for their money.

While not quite as polished, it’s still very easy to install and use.

AND they offer some more advanced stats like Social media and search in their free plugin, which means you can get more out of it before you’ll want or need to upgrade to their pro version.

Lastly, at less than half the price if and when you do want that pro version, Analytify is definitely worth checking out to meet your Google Analytics WordPress plugin needs!

Top Features

analytify wordpress google analytics plugin features
Free
  • 1-click install (a lot simpler than manually adding Google Analytics, a bit easier than MonsterInsights).
  • Analytics dashboard in WordPress (view your essential site stats right inside WP)
  • Social media and search stats (see what keywords people use to get to your site and which social media sites they come from; this is a premium feature in Monster!)
Premium
  • Real-time stats (see where visitors are on your site – RIGHT NOW)
  • Ecommerce integration (for use with WooCommerce)
  • Priority support (solve problems and get answers faster)

Cost

analytify wordpress google analytics plugin pricing

Their pro plan costs just $39 a year which is pretty great, though you’ll need to pay extra if you want ecommerce integration.

Decide it’s not for you and you can get 100% of your money back for 14 days.

Download Free Checkout Premium

Best WordPress migration plugins

Best WordPress migration plugins

Every once in a while you might find yourself wanting to switch web hosts to get a better price or service.

Sometimes you create a lot of great content under one URL but are able to snag a better one and need to get things moved over.

Or perhaps you’re launching a new site update and want to build out the new version under a different domain name before moving everything over to your live site.

In these cases and more, you’re going to want to have one of these WordPress migration plugins to save you hours in the process.

Duplicator (freemium)

duplicator wordpress migration plugin header

Duplicator does just what its name suggests – duplicates your website for backup or migration.

It’s a solid WordPress migration that will help you get the job done a lot faster than any attempt to move things manually yourself.

It’s particularly useful, though, for those of you who want to get into the webmaster game (building and running multiple sites for yourself or other people).

Why? Two reasons:

  1. It’s a bit more technical to set up and use than our other migration plugin recommendation (there’s a solid quick start guide and it’s not too terribly difficult but there’s an extra layer of work/learning here).
  2. One of it’s strongest features is the ability to create site “packages;” eg if you like to use a certain set of plugins, themes, or pages, you can create a template website, “package” it up with Duplicator, then any time you need to make a new site, just load up your package and you’re done.

Top Features

duplicator wordpress migration plugin features
Free
  • Backup files and database (you’ll need copies of both in order to get a 100% copy of your current site)
  • Filters (so you can exclude certain parts like posts or plugins from your backup/migration)
  • Migration wizard (steps you through the process = makes things easy)
Premium
  • Cloud storage support (save your backup/migration files to Dropbox, Google Drive, etc)
  • Automatic Database creation (so you don’t need to manually create a new database/database user when you migrate)
  • Large site support (lets you move multi-GB sites)

Cost

duplicator wordpress migration plugin pricing

Pro plans at $59/year for up to 3 sites, and you’re more than covered against buyer’s remorse with their 60-day money back guarantee.

60 money back guarantee.

Download Free Checkout Premium

All-in-One WP Migration (freemium)

all in one wp migration wordpress migration plugin header

Are you a WordPress beginner who’s found yourself in need of moving a website (hey, the best of us have spent dozens of hours on a site before realizing we were paying too much for bad hosting)?

Or maybe you’ve got some solid WordPress experience, you just really like to save time.

Either way, we definitely recommend All-in-One WP Migration if you’re in need.

One-click to export, one-click to import, done.

It’s really that simple and we were shocked that it worked the first time we used it (not that we had any reason to doubt the team who made it, we just have a sense of how difficult WP migrations can be).

If you have a bigger site (over half a GB once it’s zipped up), you’ll need to buy one of their premium extensions to import your backup to a new WordPress install, but if you’ve got the cash (starting at $69), it’s well worth it.

If you don’t, you’re not going to go wrong with Duplicator (you’ll just need some extra time to figure out how to make it work).

Top Features

all in one wp migration wordpress migration plugin features
Free
  • Minimal setup (doesn’t need any special code, configuration, or a ton of options to be figured out; just install and run)
  • Export in one click (seriously easy; click export, click your destination (file, Dropbox, etc), wait a couple of minutes, done).
  • Import in one click (seriously easy; select where you’re file’s coming from, wait a few minutes, done).
Premium
  • Unlimited file sizes (so you can import a backup from your computer or cloud storage no matter how big your site’s backup file is)
  • Cloud storage support (export/import from Dropbox, Google Drive, etc)
  • Premium support (just in case you run into trouble)

Cost

all in one wp migration wordpress migration plugin pricing

Most of their extensions are $99 apiece, one-time payment which is nice…

But they don’t offer refunds so make sure you need them before you buy them.

Download Free Checkout Premium

Best WordPress ecommerce plugins

Best WordPress ecommerce plugins

Whether you want to sell your handmade oven mitts, dropship some sweet snowboarding gear, or sell courses and ebooks, your website’s going to need:

  1. A way for people to say “I want to buy this stuff”
  2. A way to process payments
  3. A way to make sure things get shipped/sent where, when, and to whom they’re supposed to.

WordPress ecommerce plugins do all that and more.

WooCommerce (freemium)

woocommerce wordpress ecommerce plugin header

When most people think about building an ecommerce website, they think Shopify.

It’s a solid choice.

BUT it can be expensive, and while they have a great community with lots of support and extensions, you’ll bump into boundaries at a certain point where you won’t be able to do something you want to because “that’s just how Shopify is.”

Which is why people like to do ecommerce through their WordPress websites.

And WooCommerce is the go-to for that.

Like WordPress itself (it’s run by the same company), this WordPress ecommerce plugin is 100% free to use, with plenty of free and paid themes and “extensions” (the WooCommerce version of plugins) to customize your store exactly how you want.

Top Features

woocommerce wordpress ecommerce plugin features
Free
  • Ecommerce pages (lets you create specially designed product cart, and checkout pages to sell your stuff)
  • Payment options (gives you the ability to securely accept and receive money from your customers)
  • Shipping and tax calculators (so you can set it and forget it when it comes to sending packages and tax $$).
Premium
  • Premium themes (get plug and play styles for your website specifically built for WooCommerce and doing bizniz).
  • Premium extensions (these let you do things like create subscriptions, bundles, memberships, and more)

Cost

woocommerce wordpress ecommerce plugin pricing

The WooCommerce plugin itself is free and has plenty to get a basic store up and running.

From there premium themes and extensions range anywhere from $29 to $300; how much you’ll end up spending depends on what you’re trying to do and how much you want to drop.

30-day money back guarantee on anything you don’t like.

Download Free Checkout Premium

Ecwid (freemium)

ecwid wordpress ecommerce plugin header

See yourself building a massive ecommerce empire, a brand with thousands (millions) of fans buying products they love from you day and night, across the world and the internet?

Then Ecwid is probably the WordPress ecommerce plugin for you.

Like Shopify, the company has built its software and services from the ground up for ecommerce – meaning they’ve incorporated a feature set that makes selling products online super easy, though you’ll trade that for 100% control over getting it to do what you want.

Unlike Shopify, they’ play well with WordPress (so you can have just your shopping cart/sales stuff handled by Ecwid while WordPress handles your content).

AND they have a free plan, so you can set up your store without committing to a monthly fee.

While not quite as flexible as WooCommerce, they’ve got a really solid “solution” for creating an ecommerce business – meaning they’ll help you manage inventory and market your biz in addition to enabling you to sell online.

Top Features

ecwid wordpress ecommerce plugin features
Free
  • Product catalog management (so you can keep track of everything you sell and easily make changes to price, description, etc)
  • Marketing tools (makes it easy to manage Google Analytics, coupons, Facebook ads, etc from the dashboard inside of WordPress)
  • Reports (go beyond store revenue with time to purchase, sales by category, and more – for free, in WordPress)
Premium
  • More sales channels (sell on Facebook, Insta)
  • Mobile app for management (so you can track your sales, inventory, etc on the go)
  • Additional store tools (like gift cards, coupons, and inventory management)

Cost

ecwid wordpress ecommerce plugin pricing

Premium plans start with “Venture” which is $12.50/mnth when you pay annually.

No refunds when you sign up BUT you can do a lot for free so you’ll get a good idea of whether or not you’ll want/need the paid versions as you build.

Download Free Checkout Premium

Best WordPress social media plugins

Best WordPress social media plugins

The whole point of having a website is to connect with people from around the world, beyond your local community.

Which is what social media is all about, too!

Whether you want to share stuff from your social feed on your website, or want to make it easy for people to share the sweet sweet content on your site with their networks, WordPress social media plugins can make it happen.

Smash Balloon Social Photo Feed (freemium)

smash balloon wordpress social media plugin header

Fun fact: it used to take hours to download one low-res photo from something called a BBS.

These days, we waste hours scrolling hundreds of photos on Instagram, FB, etc.

Maybe it’s not all a waste (Gary Vee’s gotten us pumped to tackle some big challenges)!

Whether you just want site visitors to drool over your puppy pics or you’re trying to get some more engagement on your digital nomad account, Smash Balloon makes it easy to share Instagram content on your website.

When you do that, it’s a win-win: people stay on your site longer and are more likely to come back.

And more people are likely to see and engage with your Insta content so you can keep it growing.

Top Features

smash balloon wordpress social media plugin features
Free
  • Show content from user feeds (show all the latest Insta posts from any public account)
  • Display options (get your feeds looking spiffy with tons of visual customization options)
  • Shortcodes (makes it easy to drop one or a ton of Insta feeds anywhere on your site)
Premium
  • Display hashtag feeds (so you can show all the content from a hashtag rather than a particular user)
  • Show captions, likes, comments (so people who visit your site can see engagement on posts, which could keep them on your site longer/make them more interested in you)
  • More feed layout options (for when you want to get fancy with dat feed)

Cost

smash balloon wordpress social media plugin pricing

Premium subs start at $49 for one site and a year of support/updates; 30 days to get your money back if you don’t really want it.

Download Free Checkout Premium

AddToAny (free)

addtoany wordpress social media plugin header

Over the last decade, we’ve seen a lot of social media sites come and stay and go (really glad we didn’t bother with G+).

The same’s been true with WordPress social media sharing plugins.

Unlike ecommerce/Woocommerce for example, we haven’t really seen a clear, consistent winner when it comes to adding those “Share this post on Facebook/Twitter/[insert site here]” buttons to our juiciest of content.

Some look great but are buggy. Others work well but only for one or two sites.

ATM and for a minute it seems AddToAny is the best option.

It works well. It’s free. It does what you want it to (lets you add share buttons for a ton of sites, either at the top/bottom of your posts or floating along the side).

Top Features

addtoany wordpress social media plugin features
Free
  • Choose where to share (add sharing buttons to the top/bottom of your content or have them float alongside as people scroll)
  • Share on over 100 sites (basically: if it’s a social network, there’s a button for it)
  • Share counts (track the when/where of shares in Google Analytics AND show your visitors how many times your content’s been shared)

Cost

AddToAny’s a community created plugin so she’s free for now and forever!

Download Free

Best WordPress form plugins

Best WordPress form plugins

Websites and forms go together like hot dogs and ketchup/mustard (whichever’s your favorite).

Technically you can have a hot dog without, but jeez you should really reevaluate your life if that’s where you’re at.

From surveys to collecting leads for your email list, collecting information on a potential client or just giving people a place to say “hey,” WordPress form plugins make it easy to get messages and information from visitors and have it sent to your email inbox, marketing software, etc.

WPForms (freemium)

wpforms wordpress form plugin header

If you’re just trying to get a basic contact form up fast, WPForms is your go-to (which is why it’s the one we use in our How to Create a Contact Form in WordPress guide).

The free version covers the essentials of “Name, Email, Message” plus a bit more.

The drag and drop builder combined with their helpful getting started videos mean even if this is your first time in WordPress you’ll have your form ready to publish in minutes.

And, while the premium versions can get expensive at the highest tiers, they options there mean you have plenty of room to get access to more features when and as you need them (so you don’t have to re-learn a new plugin when you need it to do more).

Top Features

wpforms wordpress form plugin features
Free
  • Drag and drop builder (solid-looking forms that do what you want, easy as pie to make)
  • Essential form templates (prebuilt contact and newsletter signup forms so you don’t have to start from 100% scratch)
  • Helpful getting started videos (walks you step by step through how to set up and launch your first forms – right inside WordPress)
Premium
  • Advanced fields (capture phone numbers, addresses, take payments, etc)
  • Multi-page forms with conditional logic (get more information from people without overwhelming them with too many fields to fill out at once)
  • Premium Support (not really needed for the free version but with some of the fancy extras you’ll get when you pay this can come in handy)

Cost

wpforms wordpress form plugin pricing

Paid plans start with “Basic” for $39.50 which is well worth it if you like the free version (it “basically” removes the main restrictions you’ll find annoying in the free version so you can cover 87% of your form building needs).

14-day money back guarantee if you’re not 100% happy with the purchase.

Download Free Checkout Premium

Gravity Forms (premium)

gravity forms wordpress form plugin header

The headline on Gravity Forms’ homepage basically sums up what we’d say about it: 

“..The Easiest, Most Trusted Tool to Create Advanced Forms for Your WordPress-Powered Website.”

Easy? Yes, it is.

Trusted? Well “most” is a big word but it’s a solid plugin supported by a solid team.

“Advanced” – this is the operative word.

Yes, it’s easy to use so there’s no need to be afraid of it if you’re a beginner; you’ll get a form up on your site in minutes.

BUT it is a premium-only plugin (which you really don’t need to pay for when you’re starting out, see WPForms above).

And where Gravity Forms really shines is in the incredible amount of functionality they’ve packed in – and that’s before you start diving into the 30+ integrations with other marketing software they have.

Which means if you want to do it with a form, it can be done with Gravity Forms.

Top Features

gravity forms wordpress form plugin features
Premium
  • Drag and drop builder (easy to get started fast; instructions are laid out step by step right inside the form builder)
  • Multi-page forms and conditional logic (capture lots of info in a user-friendly way)
  • Integration with tons of marketing platforms (works with pretty much any email marketing software as well as tools like Slack and Zapier for loads of automation magic)

Cost

gravity forms wordpress form plugin pricing

Plans start at $59/yr for a basic license that’ll get you essential features and 15 integrations.

30-day refunds mean you’ve got plenty of time to figure out if she’s worth keeping.

Checkout Premium

Best WordPress cache plugins

Best WordPress cache plugins

According to Google, 53% of mobile users will abandon a site that takes longer than 3 seconds to load.

And depending on who you ask, mobile traffic accounts for anywhere from 40-60% of website traffic globally.

What the heck does this have to do with WordPress plugins?

Your sites have to be fast, and that’s a bigger challenge with mobile phones that don’t have as much computing power as laptops/desktops.

One of the key strategies for speeding up websites is to use caching, which basically means saving some or all of your website data in more than one place so people all around the world can get to it faster.

Technically there’s a lot more to it than that… which is what makes WordPress cache plugins so helpful.

WP Rocket (premium)

wp rocket wordpress cache plugin header

You’ll pay a premium for WP Rocket, but this is one we’d say is worth it – even for beginners.

In addition to the basic page caching a caching plugin has to offer, they’ve baked in a ton of optimizations to make your website load faster; things you might otherwise need at least 2 or three other plugins to do.

And it’s very, very easy to use. Just hitting the “install” button loads the plugin with basic settings that won’t break your site (a thing that can happen with any caching plugin when your website’s code/caching settings aren’t done right) but will speed things up.

Then you can customize/test from there to find the best settings for your site with the help of their guides and videos.

Top Features

wp rocket wordpress cache plugin features
Premium
  • Quick setup (assuming your site isn’t super complicated, you can basically just hit install and get an instant speed boost)
  • Page Caching with Browser and CDN support (these are the essential components of a WordPress caching plugin – WP Rocket covers them…)
  • Loads of other optimizations (…beyond caching, WP Rocket also offers performance enhancements like lazy loading, database optimization, and GZIP compression so you don’t need to install a bunch of other plugins to get your site 100% optimized)

Cost

wp rocket wordpress cache plugin pricing

For one site, you’re looking at $49 a year for your first year, half-price after that when you renew before your license expires.

If you find this plugin just isn’t your jam, you’ve got 14 days to get your money back.

Checkout Premium

W3 Total Cache (freemium)

w3 total cache wordpress cache plugin header

W3 is another great WordPress cache plugin, this time featuring a free version!

Now normally we’re all for these; in most cases, it makes sense for beginners to get as many free versions of things as they can because your website wants and needs will end up changing a lot as you learn and grow.

So it’s usually better to not spend hundreds on primo themes and plugins you might not even use 6 months from now.

If you’re really strapped for both cash and cache, W3 is a solid plugin that will help you speed up your site.

BUT it’s not so easy to set up or use, so if you have the $49 for a year’s worth of WP Rocket we’d recommend going with that.

Top Features

w3 total cache wordpress cache plugin features
Free
  • Page, browser, database caching (basically if it’s a part of a website that can be cached, W3 has you covered)
  • Static file CDN (have parts of your site’s code that don’t get updated based on user inputs hosted on a CDN for faster delivery)
  • Minification (removes spaces from your site’s HTML/CSS files so they’re smaller and quicker to load)
Premium
  • Full site CDN (lets you have all of your site code hosted on your CDN not just the static files)
  • Advanced caching stats (logs and stats to let you better troubleshoot and monitor your site’s performance)
  • Enhanced caching (allows caching of some of the more technical pieces of code than standard HTML/CSS caching)

Cost

w3 total cache wordpress cache plugin pricing

W3 pro will cost you $8.25 a month, you can get your money back for 30 days if you’re not happy in the first month.

Download Free Checkout Premium

Best WordPress page builder plugins

Best WordPress page builder plugins

WordPress is great because:

  1. The software itself is free (and hosting can cost as little as a few bucks a month).
  2. It’s basically 100% customizable… depending on your skill level.

To number 2, WordPress out of the box lets you do a lot with zero coding skillz.

Then you start adding themes and plugins and there’s a ton you can do with some typing and button clicks and youtube research.

When it comes to making your website look the way you want it too, website builders like Squarespace and Wix generally have an edge with their “What you see is what you get” drag and drop website creation tools.

Except there are WordPress page builder plugins like the ones below that let you get the same easy to build experience.

Beaver Builder (freemium)

beaver builder wordpress page builder plugin header

As great as Squarespace and Wix are, they can be expensive.

And they’ve done a great job at giving their users a lot of control over the design and functionality of their sites, but that level of control comes at the cost of steep learning curves to get things looking and working great.

Beaver Builder, on the other hand, is free to get started with.

And, while the free version does have limited options, it has enough that you can make a solid, basic, mobile-friendly website pretty easily.

If you’re more of a business owner just looking to get a website built for yourself or you don’t want to dive super deep into learning how to make a ton of ultra-custom websites, we’d probably go with Beaver Builder as it’s a good balance of easy to use and customizable.

Top Features

beaver builder wordpress page builder plugin features
Free
  • Easy to use (there’s a getting started guide and getting pages setup is well designed; the basic options are easy to find and the more advanced stuff is there but hidden so you’re not bombarded all at once)
  • Highly customizable (even in the free version, there are some pretty advanced customizations like CSS IDs and border-radius controls so you won’t feel stuck as you learn how to use these)
  • Mobile-friendly (the plugin does a good job of making your layouts work well on devices of every size and includes controls to let you make adjustments for phone/desktop versions of your pages)
Premium
  • Premium support (solve problems… faster)
  • Premium modules (add more advanced elements like contact forms, maps, and buttons)
  • Templates (get access to pre-built, professionally created page layout so you just need to customize for your needs, rather than having to do everything from scratch)

Cost

beaver builder wordpress page builder plugin pricing

Paid plans start at $99 for a year’s worth of access.

You’ll have 30 days to get a refund if you’re not for it.

Download Free Checkout Premium

Elementor (freemium)

elementor wordpress page builder plugin header

If you’re in this website building game for the long haul…

If you’re ready to spend a good bit of time learning how to use the tools you’ll need to make completely badass websites time and again…

If you don’t mind diving deep to see just where your physical, mental, emotional, spiritual limits lie…

Get Elementor.

Lol drama aside, this is another great WordPress page builder plugin we’d definitely recommend.

Compared to Beaver Builder, you’re going to get more options in the free version with just as much customization capability.

And you’ve got a lot you can do with the paid version.

But we feel these extra options and features mean it’s a bit harder to learn, so while you’ll save 90% of the time you’d spend trying to do some of the same things in WordPress itself without a page builder plugin, if you want the absolute easiest, most straightforward experience go with the free version of Beaver.

For the rest of you, Elementor is a solid, solid plugin.

Top Features

elementor wordpress page builder plugin features
Free
  • Loads of widgets (add text, videos, images yes – but also star ratings, progress bars, icon boxes; tons of pretty advanced stuff for a free plugin)
  • In-depth custom effects (add things like box shadows and element animations with just a few clicks and some playing around with how bouncy you want to make that star shooting across your page)
  • Global styles (lets you set a color scheme, fonts, and a ton of other design options across your page/site so you don’t have to manually make sure every button has the same exact shade of green)
Premium
  • Global widgets (lets you create custom layouts and widget designs, then reuse them across pages on your site eg if you spend 2 hours creating a contact form that looks 100, you can just copy/paste from there).
  • Pro widgets and templates (lets you start with professionally designed page layouts and include more advanced widgets like countdown timers, media carousels, and pricing tables)
  • Popups and ecommerce (the pro version lets you build your own website popups and design ecommerce pages for WooCommerce to help you get more sales)

Cost

elementor wordpress page builder plugin pricing

Elementor paid pans start with “Personal” for one site, $49/year with a 30-day money back guarantee.

Download Free Checkout Premium

Best WordPress optimization plugins

Best WordPress optimization plugins

Re: WordPress caching plugins/”your site has to load fast or people will leave” stats…

Your site has to load fast.

Caching is one way to help out site speeds, but there are a few other methods/things to do on the “make my site load like Ricky Bobby around the track.”

That’s where WordPress optimization/performance/image compression plugins come into the game.

EWWW Image Optimizer (freemium)

ewww wordpress optimization plugins header

If there’s one thing we know for sure about modern websites, it’s that they HAVE TO HAVE images.

But we also know that image files are a lot larger than text files, which on a website means slower loading times.

Thankfully, we’ve got solutions to these kinds of problems:

  • Image compression (make those files smaller through the black magic of hardcore computer science)
  • Lazy loading (only loading images when people start to scroll down the page, so they can see the content before 100% of it is loaded)
  • Content Delivery Networks (take a load off your web host’s servers and put website data closer to your visitors so everything loads that much faster).

EWWW is a WordPress image optimizer plugin that delivers all of these and more.

And while it has some powerful speed demon features that are paid and a bit more complex to set up, it’s got a free mode and some basic “get started” options that make it a solid plugin for WordPress performance plugin beginners and experts alike.

Top Features

ewww wordpress optimization plugins features
Free
  • Basic compression (reduces file sizes a bit for faster loading)
  • Lazy Loading (only loads images when people start to scroll close to them – so people can see the top of your page faster than if they had to wait for an image at the bottom to load first)
  • Metadata removal (gets rid of things like date, location, names, etc. that may be stored in an image’s file so that nothing but information on the pixels remains; saves space/saves loading time)
Premium
  • Premium compression (makes your images that much smaller/faster to load)
  • Automatic image resizing/scaling (makes sure images are just the right size for the screen your visitor is using, meaning not too small on desktop and not too big on mobile)
  • Image CDN (takes a load off your main host’s servers by loading images from data center locations around the world – a lot faster because the data is closer and your web hosts servers aren’t having to do as much work)

Cost

ewww wordpress optimization plugins pricing

Premium Image compression starts at just $0.003 per image (that’s $3 for 1k images for those of you who aren’t so fond of math).

Their other image optimization services (Image CDN, auto-resizing/scaling) start at $9.

Both have 30-day money back guarantees.

Download Free Checkout Premium

WP-Optimize (freemium)

wp optimize wordpress performance plugin header

So looking at the plugins we’ve covered so far, speeding up WordPress websites basically means a few things:

  • Making files smaller so they transfer faster.
  • Moving files to different locations (like other web servers or your visitor’s computers) so they transfer faster/less computing power is needed for your website’s main web server.
  • Some other computer/programming/science magic to make stuff faster.

WP-Optimize is a WordPress performance plugin that does a little bit of each of these.

Image compression makes your biggest files (images) smaller so they load faster.

Caching saves parts of your website that don’t change on your visitor’s computer so they can get them instantly when they come back to your site.

And database cleanup does some rearranging of backend computing stuff so that your web server doesn’t have to work as hard to load your site.

All of that makes WP-Optimize a solid performance plugin on its own, or as a supplement to other plugins like EWWW or WP Rocket.

Top Features

wp optimize wordpress performance plugin features
Free
  • Database cleaning (clears out unnecessary data so loading your site uses fewer computing resources)
  • Image compression (makes image files smaller so they load faster)
  • Caching (tells visitors’ browsers to save your pages/posts so they load from their computer not your web host’s servers when they revisit – if there aren’t any changes)
Premium
  • Optimization scheduling (put regular maintenance/optimization on autopilot)
  • Lazy loading (loads images only when users scroll near so your pages can be shown to visitors without having to wait for every image to load)
  • Premium support (WordPress performance optimization can get tricky – these pros will help if something goes wrong)

Cost

wp optimize wordpress performance plugin pricing

Premium starts at $39/year for one or two sites, but be sure you know you want premium before you buy – they have a 10-day refund policy but you have to show them the plugin doesn’t work.

If you just don’t like it they don’t promise they’ll refund you.

Download Free Checkout Premium

More WordPress knowledge for ya

Whew, we’ve made it through. All of us. Together.

With that covered, you’re probably pooped out on this WordPress stuff for a minute.

That’s fine, take a minute to relax and digest and dream.

If and when you’re ready for more, here are a couple of other helpful WordPress related guides for you:

How to Choose Website Color Schemes
Rules and examples for making an effective and eye-catching website design

website color schemes color swatch example
 

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 seconds, 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 whether you’re making your site using a builder like Wix or crafting it with WordPress and a theme like Divi, having a “v yeet” color palate (as the kids would say) is very important (as the adults would say).

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?

Whether you’re using Wix or a WordPress theme like Divi, the answer’s the same: 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.

A lot of these sites are custom coded by teams of pro web designers, but if you find things you like in one and want to replicate them on your own site your best bet will be to use a website builder like Wix or, if you’re going WordPress, using a WP drag and drop theme builder like Divi.

Either one of those will let you get pretty damn close to anything you see below – without having to learn a lick of code!

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.

21. Simple, Assertive, Historical

100 years website color schemes examples
Source: 100 Years

#b63232
#fbf3e4
#397e77
#cf633d
#f7c156

The 100 years website uses assertive yet simple colors to take the viewer back to a unique moment in history. The website features a horizontal scroll that helps to create a unique sequence of storytelling. The amalgamation of rich and assertive red, the calming pops of refined emerald green, and the earthy accents of the muted orange and yellow, pair poetically with the minimal simplicity of citrine and white to create a historic carousel that invites you in to discover the many wonders of this website.

22. Rich, Refined, Artistic

abele interiors website color schemes examples
Source: Abele Interiors

#f9f5ef
#c19a5b
#1f1f1f

The color scheme used for the Abele interior design website is effortlessly elegant. They used a simple color scheme, consisting of only three colors, to grab the attention of site visitors. Anyone with refined taste will appreciate the rich and artistic creativity that went into designing this website. With colors of gold, soft tan, and deep charcoal, any client looking for luxury can be confident they have found it with Abele Interiors.

23. Professional, Powerful, Trustworthy

awink website color schemes examples
Source: Awink

#48aee3
#3181b2
#212221
#ffffff

Awink is a tech company committed to designing unique and incredible websites. Being the proficient web creators they are, they knew not to waste time distracting the user with an overabundance of colors. Two deep shades of blue, muted black, and white was all this website needed to come alive. Simplicity was the key to creating a professional and powerful ascetic that tells the user, “You can trust us with your business”.

24. Edgy, Funky, Vivacious

beans agency website color schemes examples
Source: Beans Agency

#fdeaa4
#f9ca46
#f8eff1
#f9dcd9
#d78576
#dee8fa
#1c2042
#badbe5

The brand agency known as Beans creates an inviting and enticing aesthetic for anyone visiting their site. The bold and rich spectrum of colors, like cape honey yellow, Kournikova gold, dawn, and azalea pink, rose Gold, and three shades of coastal blue make this a sight for sore eyes (get it? site/sight). Anyways, this color scheme was carefully thought out and took the work of a true creative genius which is why it was a must for our list!

25. Fun, Flirty, and Full of Life

damn good beauty website color schemes examples
Source: Damn Good Beauty

#cfdaeb
#b9a3c8
#f9daf0
#f7e79c
#c2c2c0

Damn Good Beauty uses a color scheme that pulls in the visitor and showcases their products with some playfulness mixed in with a little spark. With a color scheme consisting mostly of pastels, you can tell Damn Good Beauty does things a little differently than the other beauty and skincare companies on the market. The pastels are light and airy, signifying that their beauty products are the same. This is a great example of how colors can be used to amplify a brand and tell customers exactly what the product is all about.

26. Rich, Modern, Refined

earls website color schemes examples
Source: earls

#619481
#85714d
#0f344a
#3f4751

Earls is an upscale casual restaurant that offers many alluring and delectable plates that would tantalize any tastebud. But our focus isn’t on their culinary expertise. No, we’re more interested in the smorgasbord of colors paired perfectly on their website. Earls uses clean whites, soft hues of blue and deep Cyprus to create a clean and modern perception all while effortlessly combining deep, rich jewel tones, like shadow gold, and jade, taking you back to a certain era of refinement.

27. Masterly, Creative, Advanced

Etiya website color schemes examples
Source: Etiya

#242441
#dd782f
#f4f4f4
#816359
#a25a2b

Etiya has a mission to exceed every day. It promises to be a-head-of-the-curve from other software companies. Much like their pioneering professional capabilities, they equally have an extraordinary color scheme that emanates their ideas. This array of colors used for this site emit a masterful attitude, teeming with creativity, and advanced designs. With such a creative and sophisticated color scheme, it’s no wonder they have our attention.

28. Digital, Quirky, and Innovative

fiddle website color schemes examples
Source: Fiddle

#a872ee
#f6b841
#080b13
#ee9572
#d0d8e8
#eb6678

Fiddle Digital uses a vibrant and unconventional purple as their foundational color for this website design. Purple is a bold option that few choose but it’s a great choice to convey imagination and can be creatively used when incorporating a unique color palette. The blend of vibrant colors like amethyst and saffron in contrast to a variety of pinks and blues creates a quirky, yet innovative mix that just works so well. That’s why it had to be on our list of best color schemes for websites — the blend of colors is so crazy that it just works!

29. Monochromatic, Intentional

get golden website color schemes examples
Source: Get Golden

#fff7e2
#fedd87
#f9bf54

The brand is the color scheme and the color scheme is the brand. This may sound like something a tacky marketing agency would pitch to a business to develop their color scheme, but in this case, it’s true (and it works!). This company uses three shades of golden orange to create a monochromatic, on-brand experience that screams “THIS IS OUR BRAND”!

30. Futuristic, Dreamy, Inventive

hello nesh website color schemes examples
Source: Nesh

#c9d0fd
#804ef6
#f3b3a0
#140d41

Nesh is an AI Assistant for Search and Analytics, designed to find answers to your business questions 10x faster via the power of Natural Language Processing. The Nesh tool was no doubt an out of this world idea and the color scheme they created to go with it speaks to their impressive creative capabilities. deep and dreamy purples like violet and blue ribbon, combine perfectly with the soft periwinkle and mandy pink to create a cosmic and revolutionary website that screams “ I Am The Future”!

31. Bold, Vibrant, Pristine

isi global website color schemes examples
Source: iSi Global

#e54360
#f6b733
#0d2e40
#4da9af

An unlikely combination, iSi Global, pulls out all the bold and wild colors like saffron and cerise, all while managing to create a vibe that is fresh and pristine. this impressive design agency pulls off a look that many can not get away with. Their ability to implement a vibrant color scheme all while maintaining a sense of composure and professionalism speaks to their capabilities as of design agency.

32. Light, Sustainable

itemerie website color schemes examples
Source: Itemerie

#fff196
#e7f9f0
#eaffad
#ffcdff
#171447
#f4f5f8

This brand uses light and airy colors as their main color scheme, coupled with a dark, midnight blue contrasting color that portrays a sense of playful sustainability, yet coincides with its mission of curating ethically-sourced products for the home.

33. Unusual, Cohesive

katch me website color schemes examples
Source: Katch Me

#4bb2e9
#052355
#e2d1cb
#a793aa
#6adf91

Katch Me uses five, unusually-paired colors to create a color scheme that actually ends up working very well. The five-point color scheme seems contrasting but when used together appears cohesive, bringing together the brand’s voice with its’ style guide, creating a seemingly sharp and well-thought-out brand.

34. Relaxed, Welcoming, Earthy

lick website color schemes examples
Source: Lick

#354147
#a4493e
#444a57
#d6a76b
#606c62

Lick is bringing us all the warm welcoming vibes you hope your guest feel when they walk into your home. Lick, a website that makes decorating easy and hassle-free for the buyer, has perfectly mirrored the impressions of a comforting, beautifully curated home. They use relaxing earth tones like limed spruce, apple blossom red, wheat field gold, and olive to create a vibe that invites you in to experience the hospitality they so eloquently offer.

35. Big, Bold, Beautiful

markus website color schemes examples
Source: Markus

#c8ff00
#e0e0e0
#5301ff
#000000

This website uses neon colors paired with dark accents to create a bold and beautiful color scheme that showcases content visually and creates a vivacious and enthusiastic website brand. Their motto is “boring is bad for business”, and I think they really drive that point home with their bright and lively color scheme.

36. Bold, Retro, Edgy

mindkiss website color schemes examples
Source: Mindkiss

#3060f6
#90539a
#e8622a
#f7c444
#131516
#000000

Virtual Reality agency “Mindkiss” uses black and dark-gray background colors along with neon accent colors to portray a feeling of digital immersion. The color schemes Mindkiss chose for its website and brand bring back a sense of early arcade-style artwork yet make it work for the modern world. Neon purple, yellow, and blue contrast well with the black background used throughout the site.

37. Peaceful, Earthy, Organic

museum of peace and quiet website color schemes examples
Source: Museum of Peace and Quiet

#1f2c16
#757e6d
#fDfBf4

The Museum of Peace and Quiet just whispers greatness with its earth-inspired color scheme inviting in feelings of tranquility through the soft, linen white featured color used throughout its website. Camouflage green is used as a background color throughout the site, which pairs well with the dark, black-olive color used for the fonts. If there’s one thing the Museum of Peace and Quiet did right through its website color scheme, it’s exuding the very feelings of peace and quiet they showcase in their museum. Well done!

38. Funky, Fresh

mutek website color schemes examples
Source: Mutek

#4d8b2c
#c2d553
#2d1051
#282828

A festival and forum based out of Canada, Mutek’s color scheme is anything but traditional. Using two different greens — olive green and Granny Smith Apple green — is a bit of a risk, but the combination triggers a mind-altering daze when side-by-side with the deep purple and dark gray colors used in their color scheme.

39. Refined, Simplistic, Refreshing

muteza website color schemes examples
Source: Muteza

#fdf5f0
#f2a271
#f6cace
#1b262c

Muteza takes a fresh new spin on simplicity. Their website offers fresh, organic serums for your skin but the serum isn’t the only thing they are selling. With their sophisticated monochromatic orange color scheme, they offer their customers an experience of leisure, refinement, and freshness. Their choice to use soft charcoal for the text as opposed to a common black was a brilliant alternative that speaks to the organic and natural ambiance of this website.

40. Playful, Trendy, Organic

nutritional freedom website color schemes examples
Source: Nutritional Freedom

#e9d4c5
#336b59
#d69e92
#deb99c
#fdfaf6

Nutritional Freedom is a company dedicated to helping women ditch their diets and get healthy for good. Their attractive color scheme, consisting mostly of monochromatic natural pinks and beige, with beautifully contrasting pops of amazon green, call to the attention of women (their target market) and relates ideas of organic, clean living and eating. The earth tones and playful style of this website create an on-trend look and feel that encourages the client to trust the advice and intentions of the company.

41. Playful, Predominant

pets by spotify website color schemes examples
Source: Pets by Spotify

#a0c3d2
#e94236
#61c174
#000000

Spotify has taken its customer connection to the next level by adding a pet playlist feature. Now you can fill out the information about your pet’s personality and Spotify will curate a special playlist specifically for your furry-friend. Their unique and predominant color scheme matches their awesome new concept flawlessly! The rich but muted blue is a perfect choice to off-set the vibrant and deep saturation of red and green. This carefully crafted color scheme reflects the playful intentions of this clever Spotify creation and we could not be more about it!

42. Imaginative, Minimalistic

programmai website color schemes examples
Source: Programmai

#7e5dfc
#64d5d6
#4f5cfc
#3faafb

This website offers up a clean and simple look, stripping away any unnecessary fluff. It uses a minimalistic style with apparent pops of purple and shades of blue, showing their creative side and drawing the user into the important features of their website. This simple yet carefully thought-out color scheme helps to ensure the client can feel confident using the companies marketing services.

43. Elegant, Classic, Modern

shoma bazaar website color schemes examples
Source: Shoma Bazaar

#fad565
#ed7768
#292b37
#ab7c68

“Classic” and “Modern” don’t usually play well with each other, but Shoma Bazaar certainly knows how to create an elegant color scheme that just feels good. The dark charade charcoal color offers a backdrop to the goldenrod and burnt sienna colors that contrast well and excite the soul. As a culinary market, the dark-colored backgrounds offer a perfect canvas for showcasing their photos throughout the site which brings together the brand’s elegant, classic, yet modern look.

44. Thoughtful, Whimsical

studio simpatico website color schemes examples
Source: Studio Simpatica

#1b2337
#ee724b
#f5da7d
#9Caaf2

As we now know, colors relay emotion. In this case, we can tell that a lot of thought went into developing this color scheme as all the colors go together so well, but really show the brand’s personality and pair very well with the professional photos used throughout the site. The burnt orange color against the mirage blue color is whimsical yet apparent.

45. Strong, Inspired, Joyful

the children's society website color schemes examples
Source: The Children’s Society

#000000
#ffeb32
#f1be31
#ef8533
#e5e5e5

The bright and bold colors used in this website no doubt exude the inspiration, hope, and happiness the Children’s Society is aiming to achieve. They pair strong and daring colors like golden fizz, saffron, and jaffa orange with deep contrast like black and mercury grey to boldly get their mission statement across — which they do effortlessly.

46. Earthy, Organic, Trustworthy

the living lad of the national cancer institute website color schemes examples
Source: The Living Lad of the national Cancer Institute

#d9b395
#eee5df
#f4b25c
#3a7e6c
#000000

The Living Lab of the National Cancer Institute uses organic colors of pearl and tan with natural earth tones like sandy yellow and viridian green to generate an ecosystem that emanates health, nature, and all things organic. This is a company that pairs scientists, patients, and shareholders for the greater good of curing cancers. Their site colors help to build that sense of confidence, trust, and well-being they are hoping to convey.

47. Effervescent, Striking, and Elegant

the marvelous mrs. maisel website color schemes examples
Source: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

#132d3b
#ec7e9a
#e24897
#e56731
#eee8e4
#ebc22f

If you’ve ever seen the show “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” you know right away that this website mirrors the personality of the show’s star, Mrs. Maisel — effervescent, striking, and elegant all rolled into one. The lively pinks like cerise and Carisma, along with the vibrant flame pea orange, pair flawlessly with the rich tones of big stone teal and bright sun yellow to truly make this website a marvelous choice for color inspiration.

48. Comforting, Fresh, Sophisticated

veneziano coffee website color schemes examples
Source: Veneziano Coffee

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When you think of coffee, it’s rare to think of quickly sucking back a large to-go cup of steaming hot joe on the run. When coffee lovers imagine that first cup of coffee in the morning, the idea is to sit back and exhale all the worries the day will bring; to be in that moment and freely enjoy the luxury of the rich, hot coffee warming every inch of your soul. That’s precisely the vibes the Veneziano Coffee website gives off with their comforting, clean, and sophisticated color scheme. The deep and calming blue, the soft and subtle gray, and the hits of rich, golden taupe remind coffee lovers everywhere what coffee is really about and encourages them to sit back, take a moment, and enjoy the java.

49. Natural, Organic, Earthy

wokas website color schemes examples
Source: Wokas

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Wokas uses earth tones and soft, organic colors as part of its color scheme. This plant-based company has developed a well-branded website that displays boldness but also creates a sense of oneness with the land. grey and black, together with two shades of orange and two shades of green, offers a wide-ranging color scheme that heightens one’s senses and makes you want to buy the products they’re offering.

50. Sublime, Dreamy

wonderland website color schemes examples
Source: Wonderland

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Wonderland is a User Experience agency that uses a pretty off-beat color scheme on their website, though it ended up working really well. As you’d expect from a user experience design agency, Wonderland’s website infuses dark browns and grays with contrasting colors such as Electric Violet and Brandy Punch Orange, which may not sound like they pair well together, but they do! The five main colors used on Wonderland’s website play perfectly into the professional yet playful vibes of the agency’s brand.

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
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!

Note: you’ll need cheap WordPress hosting to follow along with this ‘un, grab that here to get up to 60% from our friends over at HostGator!

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 how to build a WordPress website tutorial…

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

wordpress web-hosting-domain-name

So step number one in our “WordPress for dummies” 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

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, the WordPress admin page 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 you want the all out super duper most customizable but still super easy to use drag and drop WordPress theme – Divi’s your go to for sure.

If neither of those are quite your jam, check out our Top 5 Best Free WordPress Themes for Beginners and Top 10 Best and Responsive WordPress Themes 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.

WordPress 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.

We’ve got a big ol’ post on the best WordPress plugins for you here.

If you don’t want to go that deep here’s a nice little starter list:

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 like Divi (which is the best, just premium), or another customization plugin like Elementor (also a winner when it comes to WordPress customization), 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: Creating WordPress Menus

When you smash that “Publish” button on a blog post, it’ll show up on your blog page right away.

BUT if you want your pages to show up in your header menu (which is where you usually link to pages), you’ve gotta add it to your site’s menu by hand (if you don’t have the “Automatically add new top-level pages to this menu” setting checked).

So once you’ve got your WordPress website pages built, jump on over to “Appearance” then “Menus” in the sidebar.

wordpress for dummies modifying menus

If you’re building a website with WordPress 100% from scratch, you won’t have any menus here (though sometimes themes like Hestia or WordPress page builders like Elementor will automatically add them).

Assuming you’re in the creating a website with WordPress 100% from scratch camp, start by creating a name for your new menu and selecting where it’ll be displayed (“header” is nice and clear, and you’ll probably want the “Primary” location though again, your theme might have a different name for the header menu location like “top” or “header”).

creating a website with wordpress make a menu

Tap that “create menu” button and you’ll be taken to the page where you can add pages; select all the pages you want people to have easy access to anywhere on your site, then give that “add to menu” a good clicking.

add to menu building a wordpress website

Now you can drag and drop your menu pages to change their order or make one page a sub-menu item of another.

changing menu order how to make a wordpress website

When you’ve got them where you want them, click the “save menu” button and jump over to your website to give your work a look and yourself a good pat on the back!

Step 11: 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 12: 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 13: 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 14: 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 15: 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.
  11. Learn how to add google analytics to WordPress in our tutorial here!

WordPress Tutorial Frequently Asked Questions

Still have questions?

TBH we worked hard on this how to make a WordPress website but we get it – there’s a sh*t ton to know.

Here are a few As to Qs you might still have:

Is using WordPress the only way to create a website?

Most definitely not, there are a ton of website builders like Wix and Squarespace you can use.

We like WordPress because, while it’s got more of a learning curve, it’s cheaper to build websites with WordPress and you get way more control over your site.

What do I need for building a website with WordPress?

Just three things (two of which you can get from our pals over at HostGator):

  1. Hosting (where your WordPress website files will be stored/accessed from)
  2. A domain name (the name people will use to get to your website)
  3. 60 minutes of your time and attention (the resources you’ll use to follow/complete the steps in this using WordPress tutorial 🙂

Do I need to know coding (HTML/CSS) when creating a website with WordPress?

NOPE!

Knowing these coding languages is helpful… eventually.

BUT you’ll pick up what you need to know about them along the way, and they definitely aren’t required to when building WordPress websites!

And using a drag and drop theme like Divi or site design plugin like Elementor will get you deep into customization without having to know a lick of code!

Is building a WordPress website free?

There are some free WordPress hosting sites, but we don’t recommend using them if you want to build pro websites like we teach you here.

Because?

Because they’ll place branding/ads on your site (ads you won’t get paid for) and most won’t let you use a custom domain name either.

How much does creating a website with WordPress cost?

It definitely depends on the kind of WordPress website you want to build, how many visitors your site gets per month, and which WordPress hosting site you use.

That being said, HostGator (our recommended WordPress host) will get you hooked up with a free domain name and a year’s worth of hosting for $5.95 per month when you get an annual subscription using our link!

How do I get a free domain name for my WordPress website?

Sign up for at least one year of hosting at HostGator using this here link!

Can I make money from my WordPress website?

You sure can!

The 4 main ways that’s done these days:

  1. With display advertising like Google Adsense (people visit your site, you get paid when they see your ads)
  2. With affiliate links (like the ones we use on this site – when you click a link to one of our partners, we get a small commission at no additional cost to you; sometimes you even get special discounts!!)
  3. By selling services (like building a WordPress website 🙂
  4. By creating an online store like we show you how to do in this post!

For even more online business ideas check out our big ol’ post on the topic!

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!

Note: if you want to apply what you learn in this guide to building an actual website but don’t have one yet, we recommend grabbing a free Wix account or finally get your WordPress website going with hosting and one click install from Hostgator.

how to design a website

What is web design?

what is web 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 (our favorite is Wix) and Content Management Systems like WordPress (which you can get with cheap hosting and one click install from Hostgator).

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

What colors mean

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

What fonts mean

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

graphics images videos

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

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

what layout means

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

what compatibility means

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

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?

what is a web designer

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?

what is a web developer

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 (we love Wix) and CMSs like WordPress (get it cheap and easy with one click install from Hostgator) 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

define your site's purpose

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 (though any of these can be built with a builder like Wix or with WordPress hosted by an awesome company like HostGator).

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

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 (especially when you get our up to 61% discount and free domain through HostGator!).

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.

Our Favorite WordPress Themes

If you’re going WordPress in your big ol’ website creation and design adventure, we’ve got a complete list of the best WordPress themes in this post.

Here’s the quick and dirty if you’re more in the doing than reading mode at this point:

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

choose your 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 color schemes

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.

As with so many things, we have a big ol’ website color schemes guide here.

Short version…

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

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 layouts and pages

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 (whether you use a builder like Wix or WordPress/HostGator hosting) 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

web page layout practices

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.

“What you see is what you get” website builders like Wix will def make it easy to implement these however you want; when it comes to WordPress a drag and drop theme/builder like Divi is the way to go as other themes will have more limited options for customizing layouts.

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

add content

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

copy for websites

Note: If you’re not a huge fan of writing, you can find some solid “website copy” and “website content” writers on Fiverr, but even if you decide to have someone from there write for you, it’s good to know the basics so you can check their work!

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

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.

unique 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

Images have meaning

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

Faces are good

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 Featured Image

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

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
Try Namecheap Now

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).

Try Namecheap Now

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
Try Google Domains Now

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.

Try Google Domains Now

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
Try Bluehost Now

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.

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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
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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!

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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
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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.

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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.
DONT’T Try Register.com Now

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.

DONT’T Try Register.com Now

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
Try Domain.com Now

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.

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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.

And if you just want to jump to the finding/buying a domain part of the process, check out our free domain name generator!

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

review process graphic

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)