GoDaddy Website Builder vs. Weebly vs. Wix – they are the three most well-known website builders. I’ve written about them individually here, here and here. But how do they compare directly to each other?
First, a bit of background. The process of building a website has changed radically since the early days of the Internet. Even though the core job of a website – HTML rendered in a browser – has not changed, the technology used to produce the HTML has. While you can still produce a website with nothing but a text-editor – most people choose a technology that makes the process of building and managing the website much easier and more accessible.
All-inclusive website builders have been particularly interesting. Companies like GoDaddy’s Website Builder, Weebly, and Wix have brought websites to everyone regardless of coding skills with their drag & drop and/or customizable templates.
There is a wide variety of website building solutions, and they all live on a spectrum with a tradeoff between control & convenience.
On the 100% control, but 0% convenience end – you have solutions like a text editor and server space that you purchase separately. It’s a bit akin to buying raw land to build your house for shelter.
On the 0% control, but 100% convenience end – you have solutions like Facebook and Twitter that provide no control (not even domain name control), but are highly convenient.
In the 50/50 middle – you have solutions like WordPress that live on your own server, but help you manage & build your website. It’s akin to buying a house that you own – you are responsible if anything breaks, but you can do really whatever you want.
Towards the convenience end, but with more control all live “hosted” website builders like Weebly, Wix, and GoDaddy’s Website Builder. They offer more convenience by bundling hosting, design, etc, but trade some control.
Using a website builder is sort of like leasing and customizing an apartment in a really classy development instead of buying and owning your own house. You’re still in control of decor, cleaning, and everything living-wise – but you leave the construction, plumbing, security, and infrastructure to the property owner. That point is key because there’s usually a direct tradeoff between convenience and control.
In the long-term, it affects your versatility, functionality, and, of course, your brand. In the short term, it can certainly add/take away a lot of headaches. That said, just like choosing a physical house or office, there is no such thing as an absolute “best” or “top” choice. There’s only such a thing as the right choice relative to your goals, experience, and circumstances.
GoDaddy Website Builder, Weebly, and Wix as a group compete with options like WordPress (which provides the free software to build a website that you own & control on your own hosting – see my WordPress setup guide here) all the way to options like typing actual HTML code into a text file.
*confusingly, GoDaddy also offers hosting, where you can install website software like WordPress. This comparison will focus on GoDaddy’s Website Builder that bundles hosting. You can find GoDaddy hosting alternatives here.
Make sense? Awesome, let’s dive into the comparison.
Side note – if you want this comparison in a BuzzFeed-style quiz, you can take my website builder quiz here…
Otherwise, we’ll look specifically at pricing, onboarding/user experience, design features, technical features, marketing features, customer support & company structure.
One other quick aside – a disclosure – I receive referral fees from all the companies mentioned in this post. My opinions & research are based on my experiences as either a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.
Comparing pricing among GoDaddy Website Builder, Weebly, and Wix is tough because their tiers are completely different. Weebly tiers are based on technical and eCommerce features. GoDaddy bases their tiers on service upgrades (like “Globally Optimized Speed”). Wix has several tiers based on a wide range of factors.
And all three have free plans.
The short version is that Weebly offers the most feature value and fewest real caps at each tier. Weebly’s cheap tier is a particularly attractive tier for most small business and personal sites.
Wix is competitive with GoDaddy’s Website Builder depending on use case. If you need a basic, cheap plan without a ton of features, then GoDaddy will be a better choice. But if you include all of Wix’s functionality and look at plans above $10/mo – then Wix is more competitive.
Weebly wins on overall value…but they are all competitive enough that I highly recommend making a decision based on other factors.
*Reminder – these costs are all very different than if you are looking at building your own site with WordPress or a something else. Part of the point of website builders is the bundled pricing. It’s possible to get a custom website with unlimited functionality for much cheaper if you build it yourself.
Onboarding & User Experience
No matter how intuitive and simple a piece of technology is, there’s always that moment of “what am I looking at and what do I do now?”
Onboarding is how products get you past that point. It is how companies move you from being a new customer to an active customer. And since website builders have a bundled product – in theory, they should have a huge advantage on this point.
Onboarding’s close cousin is “user experience” which is software jargon for how easy something is day to day.
But on a measure of how quickly you get from your first click to a live website – GoDaddy wins. But it has a bit of a caveat.
Weebly starts the process well with a way for you to immediately segment yourself by type of website (ie, “restaurant” or “real estate”, etc). They also offer plenty of unintrusive info buttons, pop-ups, a checklist and an email sequence to make sure you’re on track.
Wix is similar to Weebly in many ways. They do a lot of initial triaging to get the right template from the get go. Their backend is straightforward, but requires some clicking and strategizing to decide what to do next – especially because they have the most features among the three. Wix can run into trouble if you don’t start out with the right template.
Like I said earlier, GoDaddy’s website builder is fastest from start to finish. But part of that is due to the fact that they have far fewer features, fewer templates and fewer options in general than Weebly or Wix.
That’s not a good or bad thing – it all depends on what you’re looking for. But GoDaddy’s setup is much more akin to setting up a Facebook or Twitter profile than designing a website. This will crop up in the next few sections, but for now, it’s actually a huge advantage.
And since so many people use GoDaddy for their domains – they make it seamless to connect your domain to your website.
They also do plenty of segmentation and pre-filling templates.
Part of the overall value of website builders is design.
Design is hard. And it matters – a lot. A lot of people can spot a good looking website but have a harder time figuring out how to get there. Using a template for a foundation and then customizing it is a good way to get the site you want without paying for a custom design.
Like I mentioned in the onboarding section, GoDaddy not only has plenty of templates, but they do an excellent job of pre-filling the templates with solid imagery.
On the flip side – GoDaddy has very limited actual design options.
They do not have drag and drop. You can add “sections” – but the color, typography, and layouts are pretty set. Their templates are fine, but certainly not groundbreaking or beautiful.
Weebly has a diverse range of templates. They are solid, but even as a non-designer, I can tell that they are more functional than anything.
Wix’s designs are solid as well. They’ve improved a lot over the last year. Wix doesn’t allow any CSS customization, so you have to use their editing tools, which in fairness are the best of the three.
Weebly & Wix tie on design in my experience. They both have solid templates and allow for customization if that’s your thing. I like the fact that Weebly allows CSS customization, though Wix does better ensuring that your site always works across all devices & browsers. If you want to deliberately limit yourself to a pre-filled template that does the job – then GoDaddy’s route is certainly an option.
Technical features are all the web development best practices that don’t really matter…until they matter a lot. I’m talking about generating clean URLs, editable metadata, allowing page-level redirects, etc.
For Weebly, they have plenty of front end tools. They automatically generate permalinks and well-coded HTML. You can edit CSS & HTML if you want. For a hosted website builder, they do very well from a professional’s perspective.
Wix is fine, but not a professional developer or marketer’s ideal. They use an HTML5 / AJAX engine to build and serve their pages. Most professionals who are adept with HTML/CSS are not fans of the setup. However, the setup is built with DIYers in mind.
GoDaddy makes sites that work…but are very limited from a technical perspective.
With GoDaddy – what you see is what you get. It creates clean URLs and renderable HTML. It is not suitable for a long-term project where you will want to upgrade and add features.
Website builders are limited on technical features by their nature, but Weebly does surprisingly well from a professional’s perspective while Wix does well when you factor in usability.
In Field of Dreams, Kevin Costner’s character famously says “if you build it, they will come.” Sadly, that is not true about websites. Just like any business, you have to actively promote and market your website for anyone to show up.
Marketing features like custom metadata, open graph information, Schema markups, email signups, share buttons, landing pages, etc all make marketing your site a lot easier.
For marketing features, Weebly does well by default with Wix doing well when you factor in their proprietary toolset.
Again, here Wix is a bit more nuanced. They use a lot of proprietary apps to provide access to tools. From a DIYer’s perspective, that’s great. It’s not complicated or technically-daunting. And it works, especially for websites who do not depend on 100% online generated traffic. From a professional marketer’s perspective, I don’t prefer having to get locked-in / limited by Wix’s toolset.
GoDaddy is, again, what you see is what you get. It’s simple but very limited. In fact, GoDaddy uses some marketing features as an upsell, while thoroughly miseducating their customers. Here’s an example on how they do this with “SEO” – you can read the full context in my GoDaddy Website Builder Review, but basically they create a non-issue with SEO and then sell the “solution.”
The issues here are that first, while all too common – the idea of “ranking higher” is misleading. Second, they put way too much emphasis on things like title tag formatting that sort of matter, but do not matter nearly as much as having a good keyword map with good content that targets an achievable theme of keywords.
Or – things like mapping out an effective marketing strategy.
If you simply need an online presence, all three will work. I’d prefer to work with a Weebly website. But I totally understand & could work with a Wix site.
Support & Service
All three have knowledge-bases and customer support. All three do phone support during business hours, in addition to email tickets and customer forums.
Since they all run on proprietary platforms, it’s usually straightforward to find a solution (ie, they built the software, so they can fix it). They all have anecdotal horror and success stories around the Internet. While I’ve never had a bad experience with any, it’s also unfair to judge any based on anecdotes.
They all offer good support channels, but they all also view customer support both as an investment and as an opportunity to upsell. Be sure to be direct and forthright about your problem, and watch for upsells. But there’s no real advantage / disadvantage between these three on support.
I’ve been looking at web services for years now. And while features & marketing materials change frequently, I’ve found it useful to understand a company’s structure to see where they are going. Here’s how each company is structured and what that means for you over the next few years.
Weebly is a private company that was recently purchased by Square, a privately owned payments company. The upside as a subsidiary is that customers can expect a lot of useful & cheap integrations. If you use Square or might use Square, then that should give big points to Weebly. Additionally, Weebly’s product could get subsidized by Square as they add features to the whole product suite. The risk for Weebly customers though is that Square only cares about Weebly as much as Weebly makes the Square money. If Weebly doesn’t make money for Square, then it could languish in neglect (see Blogger & Google).
Wix is a publicly traded company. You can go buy their stock right now. Additionally, website builders is their thing. That’s how they make money. The upside is that Wix’s website builder gets *all* their attention. They are constantly developing the product and customers can expect to see more development & focus. The risk for Wix customers is that they have all the downsides of any public company. Their job is to make a profit. Right now they are rapidly growing, but that could change.
GoDaddy is also a publicly traded company. But unlike Wix, their website builder is only one of a whole suite of products. The upside is that GoDaddy customers benefit from a whole slew of integrations and cross-subsidies. You get all the benefit of bigness. The risk is that GoDaddy changes the product or starts requiring integrations or generally starts to neglect the product. I don’t see that happening because it complements their products so well, but it could happen.
If you decide that using an all-inclusive website builder is right for you, then all three choices could be a fit depending on your goals & resources.
If you’re interested in building your own website on your own hosting (including on GoDaddy Hosting), check out my step by step tutorial here.