If you want to get a website online with a minimum of effort and a maximum of creative latitude, look no further than Wix. Its interface is one of the most intuitive, slick, and powerful in the ever-growing group of website-building services we’ve tested. Wix offers standout features, such as online storage for your site assets, cool video backgrounds, animations for titles, and mobile apps. A free account option, a gallery of third-party site widgets, and strong blogging and commerce features round out this Editors’ Choice website builder. The company is aggressively working to improve the service, too, adding features such as Wix Code for building dynamic web applications, performance upgrades, and business tools.
Getting Started With Wix
The only thing Wix requires for you to get started is an email address. If you want a site with a custom URL, no Wix promotions, a custom favicon, and a web store, you must upgrade to a paid account. These range from the $13-per-month Combo account, which lets you use a site address you already own and gets you 3GB storage and 2GB of monthly data transfers, to the full $39-per-month VIP plan that includes a shopping cart, 20GB of storage, domain name, unlimited bandwidth, a professional logo, and priority support. Business and e-commerce plan cost between $23 and $500 per month. For a full rundown of account types, see Wix’s premium account grid.
That pricing is reasonable. Duda paid plans start at $14 per month. Squarespace and Weebly both start at $12 per month. Their top business plans are $74, $40, and $25 per month, respectively. A less expensive exception to this pricing ballpark is Gator (from Hostgator), which starts at $4.15 per month and runs to just $8.30 for its eCommerce plan.
After creating an account, you choose a general site type—business, designer, event, blog, and so on—and then choose whether you want Wix to automatically create a site for you using Artificial Design Intelligence (ADI) or to use a site template. More on ADI in a bit. There are 12 top-level site types, each with several subcategories to choose from. For instance, there’s a Restaurant choice with subcategories for bar, café, catering, and more. For our first Wix test site, we used Photography > Travel Photographer. Clicking a big Go button opens a generous choice of templates. There are 20 beautiful template options just for that narrow field, including those for landscape, street, and portrait photographers.
In all, Wix offers hundreds of template choices, more than Squarespace or Weebly. Many are free, though some business choices require an eCommerce level subscription. Each template preview helpfully shows you how your site will look on a smartphone screen, too.
One downside: Unlike Squarespace or Weebly, Wix doesn’t let you switch templates once you’ve chosen one. That’s a significant ding against the service, as you need to create a seperate site and transfer your files over to the new pages if you want to give your online destination a fresh template.
Web Design in Wix
After you’ve chosen a template and started editing your site, you’re treated to a one-minute introductory video. Templates are modern and attractive, many pinning your navigation to the top as the site viewer scrolls down. Five round buttons that expand when you hover the mouse over them let you add elements, change the background, access the App Market (from which you get third-party site widgets), see your uploads, and start blogging. You can easily hide these controls if you need to edit the area under them.
Elements you can add include everything we’ve become used to on webpages. All the usual options for text, media, social media widgets, buttons, shapes, and so on are available, and you can find anything not in Wix’s default selection in its App Market. You can also embed HTML and Flash code. You can easily add SoundCloud and Spotify playlists to treat your site visitors’ ears, too.
Editing the template design is a cinch. Just click on any element, and you see resizing handles and dragging buttons. You have a lot more freedom to place objects where you want them than in Weebly or Squarespace. Double-click on text, and you can edit and format it. As you move objects around, guides appear when they’re in line with other objects, to help with alignment.
A toolbar on the right offers tools for sizing and arranging objects, including exact pixel sizes for objects, size matching, alignment, and overlap options. If you select than one object, you can move them together around the page. We like that any object can be animated on load, with effects like Bounce-In, Glide-In, and Spin-In.
One thing about the Wix site-building interface that really impresses me is that it uses right-click context menus. Most other builders do nothing with right clicks, so right-clicking in those just brings up your browser options, which don’t help with site building. Wix lets you change images or edit text that the mouse is over when you right-click.
You can customize page design to your heart’s content, including the number of columns, their sizes, and their alignment. But unlike Squarespace and Weebly, Wix doesn’t let you change the original template you chose at the outset. You can easily add new pages and drag them around to change site navigation hierarchy. Pages can be password-protected or require membership sign-up or sign-in.
The main account administrative interface is clearer than Weebly’s, too, with a full page listing your sites. Click into one and the site dashboard appears with a side rail of site option buttons. You also see a feed of site activity, and there are buttons for common tasks.
One disappointment is the lack of included site-traffic reporting—a particular strength of Duda. However, you can use the Web-Stat app for free or set up a separate Google Analytics account (which requires a paid account level) for this functionality. Web-Stats is pretty informative, telling you where visits came from and what display, computer, and browsers visitors used—even for free users. Another option for paid sites is to add Facebook Pixel reporting.
If you’re updating a site you haven’t touched since the arrival of Wix Turbo, you have to go through a site-updating process. For our 17-page test site, the process took under a minute and the site looked just the same after the process.
Wix has several features that’ll enhance the hosting experience, including Wix Fitness, Wix Turbo, and Ascend by Wix.
Wix Fitness is a site building framework caters to, you guessed it, fitness entrepreneurs. It simplifies promotion, scheduling, client management, and even selling online workout videos.
Ascend by Wix is “a suite of 20 products that lets entrepreneurs start, manage and promote a business directly from the Wix web development platform.” The tools include chat, site membership, invoices, workflows, tasks, automations, and price quotes.
Wix Artificial Design Intelligence
We tried using the Wix ADI to build a test local business website. It dramatically simplifies site building, it’s surprisingly fun to use, and it offers lots of handholding. You start by answering a few basic questions about the site’s purpose, features, location, and title. It then searches the web for content related to your business or activity. You can optionally add social accounts such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. After this you pick a style, have ADI create a color palette based on your logo, and click Create My Site.
It can take some time to complete its automatic designing. It tells you what it’s doing through the process, like adding menus and optimizing your mobile site. We tested using a local bagel shop’s info, and ADI created a site that looks better than the place’s actual site! We’re also impressed by the site we made for an artist friend, who was actually wowed by how good the automatic design was. After ADI builds the initial site, you customize things like boilerplate text and sales items. If you aren’t interested in designing your own site, Wix ADI is definitely worth a shot.
Working With Photos and Videos
Wix has a big advantage over Weebly and Squarespace when it comes to photos: It lets you reuse images you’ve already uploaded by saving them in online folders for you. The other services make you re-upload photos if you want to use them in another place on your site.
Wix also lets you add images from other online sources such as Flickr and Facebook. Ditto for videos. You can use video in places where the others only let you use photos, such as the main theme background. The service also provides lots of stock images and videos to use on your site. Much of this content is free, but you can also purchase stock images from BigStock, at reasonable rates.
You get full photo editing and enhancement capabilities with the integrated Aviary editor. And it’s really easy to add a link to an image, either external or to a page in your site. You can also add a border, and animation such as a fade in, and choose among resizing behaviors such as autocrop, center, stretch, and fit.
You can set videos to auto-play on page load and to repeatedly loop, and as mentioned you can add a video as your background image.
Making Money With Wix
Wix offers rich e-commerce capabilities. The Store element from the main toolbar adds a Shop page with a product gallery prepopulated with sample products you replace with your own. You need an eCommerce premium plan to actually receive payments. The web store can have multiple pages of its own, including, by default, a product page, shopping cart, and Thank You page. Wix also offers customizable storefronts and recurring payment and subscription options, further expanding your money-making possibilities. There’s a detailed product-editing panel, and you can group products by collections, and offer coupons. Credit card processing options include Stripe and Square, and you can accept PayPal and snail-mailed cash. You can enter shipping and tax rules, but the built-in store doesn’t help you actually figure these things out with, say, UPS or FedEx integration.
Selling digital downloads is now built into Wix; it’s a simple option right when you start adding a product to your store. You can also sell music with no transaction fee through Wix’s own Music app. The app even can play music on your site, and it accepts MP3, WAV, FLAC, and ALAC file formats.
For marketing your goods, a Wix mail-blast app called ShoutOut lets you send up to 5,000 emails per month. Third-party integrations for email marketing are available from MPZMail, CakeMail, and V.I. Plus.
Ascend by Wix is a marketing service for your site. It lets you interact with customers via forms, chat, invoices, price quotes, and trigger actions. It even offers workflow organization tools. The Ascend Inbox can aggregate your email and chat messages. Ascend also provides email marketing, along with SEO, social posting, and video tools. Its Automations include things like sending reminders to customers about invoices due, and Workflows are useful for lead follow-up and contact management. Its Tasks tool saves you from using an external (though excellent) option like Asana. Finally, it lets you create a Members area, with special pages and features like a forum, store accounts, and user profiles. In sum, Ascend brings together a lot of useful tools for web businesses.
Adding a blog to your site is easy as clicking on the Blog entry on the main site element toolbar. You design your blog page layout just as with any other site page or choose a single-entry style or one with no header. Subscriptions and comments are options you can offer your readers. You can tag posts, and even display a tag cloud, RSS button, Facebook comments, and Disqus comments.
Wix has a separate, simple blog-posting interface, as opposed to Weebly, which just uses the same webpage interface for blogging. In Wix, you can add photos, galleries, video, and of course text, all formatted to taste. You can schedule any post for later publication and designate it as Featured if you like. In all, it’s a rich blogging tool with everything you need.
Wix sites aren’t responsive in the strictest sense (meaning you can resize a browser to see its contents squeeze to fit a smaller size), but that shouldn’t worry site creators: Wix produces mobile versions of your sites that pass Google’s test for mobile-friendliness. Tap the smartphone icon at the top of the site editor, and you can switch to mobile editing view.
By default, our site had the “Make your site mobile friendly” option checked, and because of this, we really didn’t have to do anything to make it work well on phones. But Wix gives you the option of editing the mobile view if you’re not happy with what it produces automatically. In particular, you can hide elements that you don’t want to show up on mobile screens. You can also add a Mobile Action Bar so that visitors can email or call you with a tap of a finger.
On the other side of mobile, Wix now offers apps that let you interact with site visitors and edit store items like products and prices. You can also upload photos from your smartphone, but you can’t actually create and edit sites from the app, as you can with Weebly and Jimdo‘s apps.
Databases, Dynamic Pages, and Forms require no formal knowledge of coding. The use of these prefab databases is similar to filling in a spreadsheet. Custom forms and user input controls are useful for collecting information from site viewers. A food site could let users submit recipes, for example.
Data-driven Dynamic Pages sound like they’re for developers, and indeed, using these capabilities increases difficulty of site design quite a bit. But really it just means that your site pages are built on the fly depending on entries in a table. A college course page designed in Wix can display different pages for each course, all using the same template. Duda’s InSite feature, which lets you send different content to viewers depending on criteria like time of day, date, location, and number of previous visits, offers similar dynamic customization. The Duda feature is simpler to use, but it’s not as powerful as Wix Code is.
When we first tapped the Wix Code menu, a panel appeared with an explanatory video and links to resources to get going with the feature. It does indeed add complexity to the site-building interface, adding Backend and Database entries to your Site Structure sidebar. From those, you can add modules and collections, respectively. The latter are similar to spreadsheets in which you add specific types of data, such as images or text.
A wizard helps you fill in the info necessary to create a usable collection, to enable things like dynamic pages, forms, or member-generated content. You can either add dynamic content to a page, dynamically created pages, or index pages drawing from the database. Though all of this is indeed powerful, it pushes Wix away from the easy site builder category toward being a developer tool. Those who prefer to keep things simple don’t ever have to turn on these developer tools. We managed to create dynamic pages with an index to a few of our reviews, and while there are a few hoops to jump through it produced the result we wanted.
The Editor X platform, which is positioned as a tool for web designers, lets skilled individuals adjust sites to fit different screen sizes via responsive text, image scaling, and anchoring. Editor X automatically back-generates CSS code based on a web designer’s drag-and-drop actions. This isn’t a tool for the average Wix user, but those who like digging into site code should find it useful.
Website uptime is a vital element of web hosting. If your site goes down, clients or customers will be unable to find you or access your products or services. It’s in your best interest to find a reliable web host that can keep your site up and running. Otherwise, customers may go elsewhere—and they might never come back.
To evaluate reliability, we use a website-monitoring tool to track our test site’s uptime over a two-week period. Every 15 minutes, the tool pings the website and sends an email if it is unable to contact the site for at least 1 minute. The data reveal that Wix was incredibly stable during the testing period. In fact, it didn’t go down once! You can count on Wix to be a rock-solid foundation for your website.
Since Wix is one of the more intuitive site builders around, there’s a good chance you won’t need to contact the support team. The Wix editor displays a question mark at top right that gets you to its well-stocked Help Center. If that doesn’t get you the answer to your problem by submitting a support ticket or requesting a phone call back (Monday to Friday from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pacific Standard Time). That service is, impressively, even available to free accounts. WordPress.com, on the other hand, only offers its free users access to a knowledgebase.
When you first contact support, a chat bot gets your site info and takes you through logical steps to remedy your problem. When you get to a point where the text robot can no longer help you, you see a Contact Us area, with two options: Submit a ticket, and Talk to a Support Agent. Of course, we chose the latter. You enter your phone number and a description of the problem. We made our initial request on a weekday morning, and a customer service representative contacted us roughly a minute later.
The customer service representative walked us through scheduling posts and what we would need to do if we wanted to change our website’s theme. Wix is to be congratulated for its combination of thorough online support and real human support.
Wix Has All the Tricks
For ease of site building and breadth of options, you can’t beat Wix. If the ability to export site code and a need for true responsive design are priorities for you, you may want to go with Weebly or Squarespace instead. But Wix offers the most when it comes to building your site the way you want it.
You get online storage of your media, a large third-party gallery of site additions, and a clear, well-thought-out interface. Its optional Wix Code feature, while adding a degree of difficulty, also enables more powerful, modern, dynamic site creation. Wix Ascend brings together useful web business tools. All this and fast, reliable page loading help Wix retain its PCMag Editors’ Choice award for online website builders, alongside with the also-excellent Duda.
For tips on getting started building your site, make sure to read our primer, How to Build a Website.
|Free Version Offered||Yes|
|Basic Image Editing||Yes|
|Product Price Type||Direct|
|Product Category||Web Site Hosting Services|