How We Conduct Our Ecommerce Website Builder Research

Last updated on November 30, 2018

We know building your own online store can be a daunting task. Where to start? How much does it cost? Will it be difficult?

These are all big questions. Big questions that deserve thorough, well-informed answers. You don’t even go to a new restaurant nowadays without looking up reviews first. But who are you more likely to trust – a review from bob who lives down the road, or a professional food critic?   

That’s where we come in. Website Builder Expert is the number one resource for information about how to get online. We don’t just try platforms, we carry out professional, in-depth research and really put them to the test.

When it comes to building an online store, the easiest and most cost-effective option is to use an ecommerce website builder. Website builders are online platforms that provide you with the framework support you need to design your own ecommerce website.

Naturally, some are better than others. We’ve tested the best platforms around to bring you a definitive answer as to which one is best for your needs.

From speaking to everyday people, just like you, we found out what areas matter most. Below we’ll talk about each research area in a little more detail and reveal which ecommerce website builders came top in each category.

1

Ease of Use

Why it matters

As helpful as it would be, we’re not all computer experts. If you don’t see the Matrix running across your eyeline every time your laptop boots up, you’ll want a website builder that’s easy to use. Simple to navigate, simple to edit, and simple to manage.

How we test this

Testing ease of use isn’t straightforward. What’s easy for you may not be for someone else. That’s why we tested this by getting regular folk to build their own online stores on each ecommerce website builder.

To make it fair, we used a wide range of people. Some with a decent level of computer knowledge, who had used different ecommerce website builders before. And others who had limited computer skills, who’d never even heard of a website builder before, let alone used one!

Everyone was asked to fill in a task sheet while they created their online store and score how easy, or difficult, they found certain tasks. These scores were then combined and averaged out for each platform, giving us a final ‘ease of use’ score.

Category winner: GoDaddy

GoDaddy prides itself of simplicity and efficiency. You may not get all the fancy features available on other ecommerce website builders, but what you do get is a fast, intuitive and reliable platform.

Read our detailed review of GoDaddy ecommerce here.

2

Sales Features

Why it matters

Let’s start by explaining why features has been separated into two areas:

Website features refers to things like image galleries, contact forms and calendars. They’re things you may need on your website, but they don’t literally help you sell products.

Sales features are things like abandoned cart recovery or the amount of payment gateways that are provided – things that have a direct impact on your revenue.

Sales features can ultimately be the difference between a customer completing a transaction, or leaving your site. They’re vital to your success in the world of ecommerce.

How we test this

More than just checking if the platform did or didn’t have each feature, we wanted to know how good that feature was.

Let’s use multi-channel integration as an example. Multi-channel integration is a feature that lets you sell away from your website. In other words, can you sell directly on marketplaces and social media, like Facebook and Amazon.

First we checked if the platform had a multi-channel feature, then, if so, how many different websites you could sell on. We also took into consideration if the feature came at an added cost, if it was in-built, or if you had to add it through an app.

Category winner: Shopify

Shopify is one of the most powerful ecommerce platforms on the market today. Its focus is to help you grow and scale your business. From what we’ve seen, there’s no denying that. They have tons of features and apps – that don’t require coding – all ready and waiting for you.

Read our detailed Shopify review here.

3

Website Features

Why it matters

It’s all well and good being set up to sell, but what about the extras? Things like blogging, email marketing and SEO can help, not only take your online store to the next level, but transform it from a house to a home.

How we test this

Much like sales features, we wanted to see what was offered and the quality of each feature. This time let’s use domains as the example:

First we wanted to know whether you could buy a domain directly from the platform. After that, we looked at the cost and if a 1-year free domain was provided. We also made note of how many variations you could have (i.e. .com, .co.uk, .org etc.) and if you could transfer an existing domain to the platform.

All of this gave us an overall domain score, which formed just one part of the total website feature score. Still with us? Great.

Category Winner: BigCommerce

BigCommerce sells itself as the complete package. So many of its features are in-built and if it doesn’t have it, you probably don’t need it. BigCommerce is designed for medium to large-scale businesses looking for a long-term ecommerce home.

Head over to our BigCommerce review for further details.

4

Design Functionality

Why it matters

People use ecommerce website builders so they can be in control. That doesn’t mean they want to sacrifice aesthetics, though. Design looks at the themes offered by each platform and how customizable they are. Don’t be fooled, looks matter!

How we test this

This was an area that posed a lot of questions. Obviously, we wanted to know which website builder had the best-looking themes, but also how functional they were. We spoke to branding, design and UX (user experience) experts to get a feel of what they thought was vital to great web design.

From there, we drew up a list of criteria each platform’s themes had to meet. This helped us determine who had the ‘best’ themes, but we wanted to know more.

We also investigated how many industries the themes covered, whether or not they are mobile/tablet responsive, and if you can switch themes after you’ve published your site.

Category Winner: Squarespace

Squarespace oozes class. Its sophisticated and elegant templates will make your products pop and jaws drop. If you work in a creative field – like an artist who sells their paintings – Squarespace is the obvious choice.

See our in-depth Squarespace review here.

5

Value for Money

Why it matters

Cheap quality is something everyone wants. It’s not that easy to come by, but we were determined to find the best deals. Pricing plans across platforms ranged from free to in the hundreds, so what makes an ecommerce website builder worth the money?

How we test this

Price is obviously important, so it was the first thing we researched: how much the average cost was across each platform’s pricing plans. Next up we checked for freebies – a free trial, a free plan? It’s always nice to try before you buy.

Finally, we brought the value aspect into our testing. We looked at the scores taken from our features testing and worked out how much you had to pay to get certain key features. These scores were then all calculated to give us a final value for money rating.

Category Winner: Wix and Weebly

We have a tie! Wix and Weebly both scored identical marks. They both have free plans, low average pricing, and a healthy amount of features at affordable rates to boot. Wix scored higher in the overall ratings, but Weebly is making a conscious effort to improve its ecommerce offerings. Either way, you’ll get bang for your buck.

See our expert analysis of Wix eCommerce here.

Read our assessment of Weebly eCommerce’s features here.

6

Help and Support

Why it matters

Few things are more frustrating than getting stuck when no one’s around to help. Having support is important, whether it comes from reading helpful guides, or picking up the phone and talking over your problem with someone.

How we test this

We started by exploring how many different types of support were available (phone, email, live chat etc.). Then if you could contact these services 24/7 or not – you never know when you might have a 2am crisis!

To avoid crashing websites and smashed keyboards, we also checked for restore options and if there was an autosave feature. To round off, we looked for the minimum price you can get at least three types of support, and tested how good the help center was at answering common queries.

Category Winner: Wix

Wix provides email, phone, help center, forum, and in-editor support. Its guides are clear, helpful, understandable, and they have both autosave and restore features. Combine that with being fairly easy to use, and you can be sure that Wix is pretty novice-proof.

See our expert analysis of Wix eCommerce here.

7

Customer Score

Why it matters

Now, we said at the start that professional reviews matter more than personal opinions – but that’s not to say that Bob from down the road’s opinion doesn’t matter at all! Far from it. People who have used or experienced these platforms tend to provide good second opinions.

How we test this

After our ease of use testing, we sat down with people and interviewed them. We wanted to know their general thoughts on the platform. They may have found it complicated to begin with, but that doesn’t mean they thought the platform was useless.

We asked how likely they’d be to recommend the platform they tested to a friend, on a scale of one to five. Like with ease of use, these scores were then tallied up and gave each ecommerce website builder either a seal of approval or a warning sign.

Aside from that, we looked into how big the company was (smaller platforms can be more vulnerable to going bust!). We also took our value for money and user experience scores into account, giving us the final customer score rating.

Category winner: Shopify

The public have spoken: Shopify came out with the highest recommendation. It’s also a massive, successful company that’s helped over half a million merchants sell online. Oh, and it finished second for ease of use!

Read our detailed Shopify review here.

8

Final Results

The overall ratings are in and… Shopify is the king of ecommerce! With the best sales features and customer score, an intuitive interface, helpful support, and slick design, it’s little wonder Shopify topped the bill.

All of our top five platforms have a place in the market though. What’s right for you may not be for someone else. With that in mind, for an overview of each platform’s capabilities, check out our comprehensive ecommerce comparison chart here.

Best all-around ecommerce platform
Top Choice

4.7 out of 5

Ease Of Use

4 out of 5 stars

Design Flexibility

4 out of 5 stars

Sales Features

5 out of 5 stars

Website Features

4.5 out of 5 stars

Value For Money

3.5 out of 5 stars

Help And Support

4.5 out of 5 stars

Customer Score

5 out of 5 stars

Best website builder with ecommerce functionality

4.3 out of 5

Ease Of Use

4 out of 5 stars

Design Flexibility

4 out of 5 stars

Sales Features

3 out of 5 stars

Website Features

4 out of 5 stars

Value For Money

4.5 out of 5 stars

Help And Support

5 out of 5 stars

Customer Score

4.5 out of 5 stars

Most scalable ecommerce platform

4.2 out of 5

Ease Of Use

3.5 out of 5 stars

Design Flexibility

3.5 out of 5 stars

Sales Features

4.5 out of 5 stars

Website Features

4.5 out of 5 stars

Value For Money

4 out of 5 stars

Help And Support

3.5 out of 5 stars

Customer Score

3.5 out of 5 stars

Lets your products shine

4.2 out of 5

Ease Of Use

3.5 out of 5 stars

Design Flexibility

4.5 out of 5 stars

Sales Features

3.5 out of 5 stars

Website Features

4 out of 5 stars

Value For Money

4.5 out of 5 stars

Help And Support

3.5 out of 5 stars

Customer Score

4 out of 5 stars

Great value for money

4.1 out of 5

Ease Of Use

4 out of 5 stars

Design Flexibility

3.5 out of 5 stars

Sales Features

3 out of 5 stars

Website Features

4 out of 5 stars

Value For Money

4.5 out of 5 stars

Help And Support

3 out of 5 stars

Customer Score

4 out of 5 stars

Website Builder Expert aims to provide you with honest data. That’s why we conduct our own research and obtain direct, personal insight. Analyses and graphics in this article are based on authentic sources, cross-validated by our in-house experts. We take great care to ensure the information we publish is reliable and accurate. However, WBE takes no responsibility for any inaccuracy in information supplied to us by users, research participants, or other entities.

Please note the insight contained within this article is for general information purposes only. We’re happy to answer any questions you may have about this article and its supporting research. For further information, please contact Website Builder Expert directly via email at info@websitebuilderexpert.com.

Charlie Carmichael

About Charlie Carmichael

It's my job to research website builders and find out which one's really are best for your specific needs. Having tested numerous builders, I'm in a great position to help you guys not only get online, but have great success once there.

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Charlie Carmichael

About Charlie Carmichael

It's my job to research website builders and find out which one's really are best for your specific needs. Having tested numerous builders, I'm in a great position to help you guys not only get online, but have great success once there.

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