Ahh, WordPress — it’s probably the first name that comes to mind if you’re thinking of building a site. It’s popular, it’s free, and it’s helped millions of users showcase their brand or personality.
While WordPress can be wonderful, it also can be tricky. Once you install the free software, you have to actually build your site, which doesn’t come easy to those who lack programming skills.
Fortunately, there are a number of WordPress themes and plugins that will make building your new site simple as can be — even if you’re a first-timer. Let’s take a look at the very best of these “website builder” options, along with other considerations you should have along the way:
1. Set Up WordPress Hosting
Before we dive into themes and plugins, keep in mind that you can’t build a WordPress site — or any website — without first setting up web hosting. Web hosting costs just a few bucks per month, and the best hosts will let you download and install WordPress in one click. Some even have WordPress pre-installed for you.
We’ve tested all the popular web hosts, rating them on everything from cost to support to eCommerce features, and we highly recommend these three as the best hosts for WordPress:
- WordPress pre-installed with NGINX server caching
- FREE SSL certificate and unlimited bandwidth
- Optional automatic plugin, theme, and core updates
|Money Back Guarantee||90 days|
|Domain Name||FREE (1 year)|
|WordPress Hosting Plans||www.inmotionhosting.com/wordpress|
Our Expert's InMotion Review
InMotion, long known for their shared hosting options, entered the WordPress space with a solid option built upon their reputation for great support and reliability. Costing a small premium over other budget-minded options, they do include some nice features to help justify that cost difference.
Build on an all-SSD infrastructure, their speeds are very good. We would have loved to see options like integrated staging and caching included in order to help take full advantage of the nice, modern hardware. The choice of datacenters (East or West) is nice however, as it allows you to target your local audience with better load times.
InMotion offers three different levels to their WordPress hosting offerings, which allows you to tailor the hosting to your needs or budget. For those needing eCommerce support, their middle or top offerings have you covered. Their top offering also allows unlimited installs for WordPress, which is great to see.
Each hosting package they offer comes with a free domain, unlimited disk space, unlimited emails, and free data backups for data security. If you need it, each plan also has support for PHP, Ruby, Perl, and Python, and includes SSH access.
InMotion Hosting has made a name for itself on support and reliability. While not the cheapest of the budget WordPress hosts out there, the packages offered are solid in performance and feature sets.collapse info -
- Formally endorsed by WordPress
- VPS technology and included CDN
- ManageWP pre-installed
|Money Back Guarantee||30 days|
|Domain Name||FREE (1 year)|
|WordPress Hosting Plans||www.bluehost.com/wordpress|
Our Expert's Bluehost Review
Aimed at personal bloggers and first-time users, Bluehost’s WordPress hosting packages are a great alternative to simple shared hosting. These service come at a premium, compared to Bluehost’s standard shared plans, but the WordPress optimization and platform-specific resources are arguably worth the cost.
Built on top of their VPS platform, Bluehost's WordPress managed hosting, though not as customizable as others, focuses on simplicity and speed. Their interface is easy to navigate and the instant provisioning allows for speedy setup. Integrated features, such as the MOJO Marketplace and ManageWP, are nice touches as well.
Though simple by design, Bluehost isn’t shorting you on some of the more important technical features. Integrated W3 caching, SiteLock security, and a CDN are standard across all WordPress packages. It’s also important to note that data backups are automated and resources are guaranteed.
Formed in 2003, Bluehost has long been one of the foremost shared hosts on the planet, and they now power more than two million websites. What’s more, Bluehost is on a short list of providers with the official WordPress seal of approval, doled out by the WordPress Core team. With an experienced team, competitive pricing, and always-there support, Bluehost is King when it comes to WordPress hosting services.collapse info -
- FREE Cloudflare CDN and 1-click installs for WordPress
- Turbo Server, SSD speed boost, and A2-optimized caching
- A2-optimized WP plugins for performance and security
|Money Back Guarantee||Anytime|
|Disk Space||Unlimited RAID-10|
|WordPress Hosting Plans||www.a2hosting.com/wordpress|
Our Expert's A2 Hosting Review
If shared web hosting is what you need, A2 Hosting is the perfect host to help launch your site with your choice of CMS, including WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, and others. As part of A2's promise to emphasize performance, they've concocted several A2-optimized features specifically for WordPress.
Getting Started: cPanel, 1-Click Installs, and Softaculous
A2's shared web hosting plans come with cPanel 11 control panel, where users can access Softaculous auto-installer. Easily install popular web applications, including your choice of CMS, with one click.
"If you land on our WordPress landing page, and order WordPress hosting, we auto-install WordPress and our optimization plugin," Bryan said. "You don’t have to do anything."
A2-Optimized Software and Caching Tools
"We wanted to make these performance enhancements really accessible to people," Andy said, so A2 has come up with several plugins and tools designed to operate in their online environment. These features are available for all users, including VPS and managed services customers.
A prime example of A2's custom performance enhancers would be their exclusive Site Accelerator, which helps A2 users experience page loading up to 20 times faster than that of the average web host.
Auto-Configurations for WordPress, Joomla, & Drupal
A2 has optimized tools to auto-configure popular software, including WordPress, with auto-optimizations like compression and caching. "We're trying to ease all the friction points for the users and make sure we’re solving their problems," Andy told us.
Auto-Configurations for PrestaShop and eCommerce Options
Once you've installed PrestaShop, an A2-optimized cPanel plugin will automatically detect it and allow you to set up all "normal" optimizations. "We'll go in and configure everything the way that we know it will work best on our servers," Andy said.
Other eCommerce features include access to SSL certificates, PayPal merchant accounts, and a Merchant ID with E-onlinedata (with instant activation). When it comes to marketing your site or online store, A2 users can get $50 towards paid ads. Plus, with Attracta, a free SEO tool available in cPanel, sites are listed in Google within 24 hours.
A2-Optimized Enhanced Security
In addition to enhanced speed and performance, A2 Hosting includes "Perpetual Security," which features several custom technologies.
HackScan & KernelCare
All A2 accounts are offered a free hacking detection scan, featuring their own hacker detection mechanism: HackScan. A2 Hosting users also benefit from KernelCare: A2's product for conducting daily, rebootless auto-updates to kernels.
Proactive Protection & 24/7 Network Monitoring
A2 has built another custom plugin for WordPress users to prevent hacking. The software auto-hardens WordPress sites for proactive protection against hackers. Additionally, A2 offers virus scanning, a dual firewall, and brute-force attack protection — not to mention SPAM filtering for emails, which are also IMAP, POP3, and SMTP supported.
Final Words on A2 Hosting for WordPress
A2 Hosting offers 24/7 customer support and tons of A2-optimized features made with WordPress users in mind. Whether you're an online retailer looking to launch a fresh site with PrestaShop, or a moderately web-savvy WordPress user looking for speed and security excellence, we'd highly recommend A2 Hosting.collapse info -
Once you’ve set up a web hosting account and successfully installed WordPress, you’re ready to start designing. In the next section, we’ll cover the top theme and plugin options for building your WordPress site.
2. Choose a Theme or Plugin
As those who are familiar with WordPress can tell you, there are two easy ways to build a WordPress site yourself without having to write code: themes and plugins.
Themes are simply pre-made templates that you can manipulate to make a site look and function as you wish, while plugins are a common form of software that you can install on your WordPress backend to get a certain type of functionality — in this case, site-building functionality.
Below are the top themes and plugins we recommend as easy WordPress website builders:
Free Site-Building Themes (5)
The following themes are not only beautiful and intuitive, but they also feature easy customization tools for users of all skill levels. In addition to drag-and-drop editing, you’ll also get responsive (mobile-friendly) designs and tons of customization options — all for free.
1. Sydney ($0)
Sydney allows site owners access to all Google fonts, with full control over layout, coloring, and navigation options. Professionals can upload logos, header images, and full-screen slider content to create eye-catching, responsive designs.
2. Astrid ($0)
Astrid features a sleek, seamless layout that allows site visitors to scroll through the facets of your business with ease. The template is dynamic and designing is intuitive. You’ll get color options, the ability to add a full-width header image, options for blogging, and custom widget support.
3. Llorix One Lite ($0)
An all-star in the 1-page design arena, Llorix One Lite is ideal for professional-looking landing pages and basic personal site building needs. It includes a full-width template, a responsive blog section with threaded comment capabilities, and an array of color theme options to choose from.
4. Pixova Lite ($0)
For clean lines and a modern feel, Pixova Lite offers a variety of content options to make your site look like it was designed by the pros. Included features are custom slider, animations, 2-column and full-width layout, responsiveness, and custom menus and headers.
5. Moesia ($0)
Featuring cool animations, 11 predefined site elements, and two blog page layouts, Moesia makes building professional sites a breeze. This theme comes with an attentive support team, regular updates, and support for all the popular web browsers (Chrome, Firefox, IE9+, & Opera).
Paid Site-Building Themes (5)
WordPress themes are great, because even a non-techy can have a professional-looking website — complete with beautiful photo sliders, eye-catching buttons, and custom sidebars or menus — without touching a line of code. However, you can’t expect to get everything you want for free.
If you’re willing to commit around $50 to your site building endeavor, you can get the same drag-and-drop functionality, with more customization options, dynamic design options that may be limited in the free version, and all-around advanced features for premium-quality site building.
The following are our favorite premium WordPress theme options for site building:
1. Avada ($59)
Our favorite of the premium WordPress website builders, Avada comes with an incredible amount of template layouts, header options, color choices, and additional integrations. Whether you want to blog, sell, or display photos, Avada is the #1 pick in premium WordPress themes.
2. X ($64)
With X, you also get nearly two dozen extensions, including MailChimp integration, Envira photo gallery, and Olark chat. Plus, X users get to take advantage of the extremely popular UberMenu, so your site has a navigation menu that matches the look you want.
3. Enfold ($59)
Enfold is great for an easy start in WordPress site building. Its creators offer different versions for bloggers, business folks, resume posters, and for various industry-specific niches. The drag-and-drop editor and narrated video tutorials warrant its reputation for mega-fast 2-minute setup.
4. BeTheme ($59)
BeTheme is actually a beastly package of over 210 fantastic pre-made site templates, so you’re sure to find the design that matches your style. It’s fully customizable and easy to use — starting with the 1-click installation, all the way down to the custom font uploader.
5. Massive Dynamic ($59)
Massive Dynamic features a live website builder that allows you to customize colors, layouts, and shortcodes and preview how it will look on your site easily. Design the perfect header to meet your objectives — whether you want visitors to pick up the phone or check out your portfolio — using the customizable menu designs.
“Page Builder” Plugins (3)
Finally, the options below are plugins, which you install from your WordPress dashboard. To help you perfect your layout and content, plugins work with your WordPress theme — making dragging and dropping and manipulating elements of your site’s design that much easier.
1. Beaver Builder
Beaver Builder is certainly one of the most popular page builder plugins for WordPress out there. There’s no need to bother with HTML or custom styling, because Beaver Builder allows you to visually edit elements of your site right on the frontend. If you are slightly tech savvy, you’ll be happy to hear that you can add your own CSS classes and IDs, plus widgets and shortcodes.
2. Live Composer
The page builder of choice for over 30,000 site owners, Live Composer is an extremely easy-to-use drag-and-drop frontend editor. You can edit your content in real-time, so you can have a ready-to-convert landing page or a blog boasting your recent travels up on the Web in minutes.
MotoPress is a drag-and-drop frontend builder that’s compatible with nearly any WordPress theme. It features over 30 content elements, with the option to gain additional customization options with MotoPress add-ons. The end result is a completely mobile-responsive website.
These free WordPress website builder plugins also come with the option to upgrade to a premium license for around $50 to $100. Buying a license gives you access to expert support and more customization features than non-licensed versions.
3. Non-WordPress Website Builders
Ask yourself this: Why does your site have to be built with WordPress?
If you don’t have a highly technical answer to that question, your site probably doesn’t need to use WordPress at all. While WordPress is a nice and popular platform, there are plenty of website builder options that will give your site the same look and functionality as a WordPress-based site.
Next up are hosts that offer a super-easy combo package: hosting with a free website builder. For just a few dollars a month, these hosts will give you the excellent web hosting you deserve, plus free drag-and-drop website builders and tons of free templates to make your own:
- No coding skills needed with drag-and-drop website builder
- 100s of templates with industry-specific designs
- Add features via the App Market
|Money Back Guarantee||14 days|
|Disk Space||500 MB - 20 GB|
|Website Builder Hosting Plans||www.wix.com/site-builder|
Our Expert's Wix Review
Website building is where Wix shines. The thousands of templates, the intuitive editor, the industry-leading designs that cater to a variety of specific fields and use cases — all these facets represent a platform that excels at facilitating easy web design for the non-tech-savvy user. Sign up with your Facebook account or email address and get started for free.
I'll admit, the Wix Editor may appear daunting when you first meet it, but get to know the interface. Once you familiarize yourself with the environment, you'll realize that what first comes across as overwhelming is actually empowering — the customization functionalities to be had are many, and they're awesome. There's no need for coding of any kind. Just drag and drop elements of your new site and BAM: What You See Is What You Get (i.e., Wix is a WYSIWYG website builder!).
You don't have to design your website from scratch with Wix, though blank templates are available. There are thousands of templates, each one categorized by design need and further classified into industry niches, and the site's look can be molded to match your brand or personality very easily. Layout and design options include parallax themes (where the viewer scrolls down the screen and one page rolls seamlessly into the next), custom sliders, multiple columns, mobile-specific and mobile-responsive displays, and tons of button and menu navigation tricks.
While Wix isn't our favorite host in terms of expert support or top-of-the-line hardware, it's an industry-leading platform for website building. It's popular for many reasons: the simple startup process, the ease of use, the array of customization options, and the WYSIWYG results, as examples. Its reputation precedes it, and we can totally see where the rave reviews are coming from.collapse info -
- Choice of Weebly or WebsiteBuilder by iPage
- #1 Pick for WYSIWYG site building with FREE domain
- 100s of professionally designed, customizable themes
|Money Back Guarantee||30 days|
|Disk Space||100 GB - Unlimited|
|Domain Name||FREE (1 year)|
|Website Builder Hosting Plans||www.ipage.com/site-builder|
Our Expert's iPage Review
Do you want your website built today? If you answered "yes," you should look no further than iPage. In fact, it's possible for you to be online before you even finish reading this article. Thanks to iPage's user-friendly interface, instant provisioning, and free domain name, you can have a live, attractive website in mere minutes.
For those that have been around the Web for a while, you may remember when it took a day to get your server online; thankfully those days are gone. Your site is live the second you complete your order with iPage. A domain name is also included, so the ordeal of purchasing a domain name, setting name servers, and waiting for them to propagate is also extinct. Once that's completed, you are taken to the incredibly user-friendly interface, where you can begin your site creation process.
Powered by their own proprietary builder, iPage's WebsiteBuilder makes it easy to have a professional-looking site created in minutes. It all starts with your choice of template — with hundreds of options available. From there, you can customize color schemes, fonts, and sizes, and add your own pictures and videos. Adding forms for comments, RSVPs, or business contacts is just as simple. Before you know it, you have an attractive, functional website.
From the ease of use to the speed at which you are able to get a site live, iPage leaves us with little doubt as to why we've ranked them #1 on our list of web hosts with site builder functionality. An already incredible value, their 30-day money-back guarantee means that you can feel at ease knowing that iPage stands behind its product, and they're confident that you will be happy with their service.collapse info -
- Integration with Fotolia and Flickr image databases
- Pre-built and customizable content with GridBlocks
- Responsive themes with tablet and mobile editing views
|Money Back Guarantee||90 days|
|Domain Name||FREE (1 year)|
|Website Builder Hosting Plans||www.inmotionhosting.com/boldgrid|
Our Expert's BoldGrid Review
After taking the BoldGrid suite of plugins for a test drive, we experienced how they make WordPress more accessible for beginners and much more efficient for professional developers.
Because BoldGrid requires a separate hosting account and WordPress installation, it is a little more challenging for wide-eyed beginners to get started than it is for other website builders. However, by signing up with a reputable host — we recommend BoldGrid partner InMotion Hosting — you'll be equipped with a helpful support staff to lead you through the setup process.
BoldGrid themes are beautiful, modern, responsive, and come with usable content out of the box. Choose from pre-made page layouts or create your own using GridBlocks, which create clean, modular designs without any coding. Simply drag and drop each element to adjust its position and size. Unlike most other site builders, BoldGrid generates pristine code that is friendly to SEO and developers who want more control.
The two features most appealing to us, however, are the staging environment and editing capabilities for mobile and tablet views. The lack of a staging area has long been one of the few complaints about WordPress, and BoldGrid has solved that issue with aplomb. Use it to test new looks, plugins, or updates before you deploy them to the active site.
Although many other site builder themes boast mobile-optimized responsiveness, BoldGrid is one of the few platforms that give you control over exactly how your site will look in tablet or mobile modes.collapse info -
The beauty of these combo deals is that you get a free drag-and-drop editor to create beautiful, responsive designs and all you have to do is pay for the hosting — typically $3 to $10 per month.
Ready to Start Building Your Site?
WordPress is the foundation of some of the Web’s most popular sites — and yours could be next. While the increasingly popular platform can be tricky for non-techies, now that you’re equipped with the best options for hosting and building your WordPress site, there’s no reason not to get started today.
Let me know in the comments below how you do — I’d love to hear your success story!