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  5. 9 Best Open-Source Website Builders + SaaS Options [2024]

9 Best Open-Source Website Builders + SaaS Options [2024]

Ivana Shteriova Ivana ShteriovaWebsite Development Expert
Open-source website builders can help you create a site with all the bells and whistles for free. But there’s a catch: while the code itself is free, you still have to pay for hosting, domain, plugins, and expert help. Unless you have the technical know-how, a free open-source website builder could end up costing you thousands of dollars if you need to hire outsid help.can turn into a $15,000 to $30,000 investment for a simple site. That’s how much agencies charge these days.

A custom website is no easy task – it’s ongoing work, often manual. You have to carve out time for maintenance, updates, bug fixes, and more.

Creating a site with a software as a service (SaaS) website builder is kind of like a casual relationship. You can enjoy your beautiful site with very little involvement behind the scenes, and it can take as little as 20 minutes to create a basic one. Integrations and customizations are just a click or two away.

While it all comes down to preference, free SaaS website builders are a great alternative to open-source. They provide web hosting, professionally-designed templates, and plenty of features to build and maintain a unique site without outside help.

I tested dozens of options to find the best open-source website builders but prepared a few free SaaS alternatives in case you don’t have the skills or budget for the open-source route.

When Should You Use an Open Source Website Builder?

If you can imagine it, you can build it! The best open-source website builders let you customize anything, from design and logic to systems and integrations of all types. But do you need all that?

Building a basic site with open-source code can take weeks, while a more complicated project will set you back even longer. If you’re in a rush to get online, open-source may not be for you.

Open-source technologies are continuously reinvented by thousands of users rather than one small group, giving you access to unmatched features. But not all community members use best practices – you need to have the knowledge to recognize and fix less-than-stellar code.

Don’t have the skills or time to build a website from scratch? Prepare to spend more. Agencies charge $61-80 USD/hr on average. You can save some money by going to Fiverr, but even developers and designers there charge $32/hr on average (combined expertise will set you back quite a bit more). Creating a custom site can take hundreds of hours, ongoing maintenance excluded. It’s best to doo the math before you commit.

If you need a complex website with full control over every aspect, then creating one from scratch with an open-source builder makes sense – provided you have the know-how or budget. For everything else, SaaS website builders are a better alternative.

The Best Free Alternatives to Open-Source Website Builders

Open-source website builders sound too expensive, time-consuming, and overwhelming? I got you! Here are the best free SaaS alternatives:

Wix tech firm website template
Wix templates are impressive as they are, but you can also fully customize them
Wix provides the greatest design freedom of all SaaS builders I’ve tested. Its drag-and-drop editor won’t frame your design into a grid, meaning you can freely move and combine elements. As a web design amateur, I was able to build a professional-looking site fast, which wasn’t the case with open-source website builders.

Wix has 900+ free designer-made templates across dozens of industries. You can use them as they are or make them yours by adding and removing elements, as well as switching the colors, fonts, styles, and buttons. You can start from scratch with a new template, but you can’t automatically transfer existing site content to a new template.

SaaS website builders often get a bad rep for SEO, but that’s not the case with Wix. Its redesigned SEO Dashboard rocks! It includes step-by-step SEO setup checklist, Google Search Console insights, and personalzed educational materials based on your level of SEO knowledge.

You get plenty of freebies with Wix, including SSL, web hosting, and up to 500MB of storage and bandwidth. While its free plan is limited, Wix is an excellent option for small to mid-size businesses, entrepreneurs, bloggers, and anyone looking to build a custom site on a budget.

wix logo alt 2

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Features

  • Great blogging features. You can choose from 70+ blog templates and set up one in minutes. The Rich Text Editor allows you to style your blog with quotes, bullets, media, and more. You can add social buttons, put your content behind a paywall, and translate it into 180 languages with Wix Multilingua
  • Impressive marketing features. Wix has plenty of marketing tools and apps for email marketing, social media, promotional materials, video creation, and more. Ascend by Wix is an excellent premium all-in-one package of tools if you don’t mind spending some money.
  • 500+ apps. There’s a readily available app for every need through the Wix App market, and many of them are free! You can find categories with apps dedicated to Design Elements to customize your site further. The Wix Gallery App can improve your site’s visual presentation, while Impressive Site Menu lets you enhance your site’s navigation with different menu types and icons.
  • Excellent e-commerce features. Selling on Wix is a premium feature, ideal for small to mid-size online shops. Wix has 500+ online store templates, hassle-free store management, multichannel sales support, and 70+ payment options. It also allows extensive customization with APIs.
Read our detailed Wix review for more info.

Free hosting Yes
Drag-and-drop editor Yes, gridless editor that provides greater design freedom
Plugins/apps/extensions 300+ on the Wix App Market, accessible from the free plan
Price of the cheapest paid plan $16.00

2. SITE123: The Fastest Way to Launch a Site

SITE123 pet blog template
There’s a QR code on the mobile preview to scan and test templates from your phone
SITE123’s point-and-click editor made my website creation process a breeze. I was able to partially customize colors, fonts, header, and footer elements and make minor tweaks to the site structure. But some design options that are free at Wix, like custom colors, fonts, and cookie consent banners, require an upgrade at SITE123.

There are 180+ free mobile-responsive templates across different categories like Business and Online Store. While I found many templates share similar design elements, there’s enough variety that you shouldn’t have to look too hard to find one that fits your style.

You can preview each template on a desktop, tablet, and mobile right from the template gallery. If you scan the QR code within the mobile preview, you can see how your website will look on mobile. I liked that you can navigate through the template and interact with its categories to test things out before committing to a design.

SITE123’s free plan covers the basics – hosting and 250MB of storage and bandwidth. But you can’t install apps and plugins unless you upgrade to one of the paid plans, which are typically cheaper than competitors. If you need a basic portfolio site, blog, business site, or online shop, SITE123 can get you online fast.

site123 logo alt 2

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Features

  • Free useful site elements. If you have basic needs, you can build a fully-functional free site with SITE123 using elements like a blog page, forms, and an appointment booking tool.
  • User-friendly dashboard. You can manage your site from one easy-to-use dashboard, where all functions and features are clearly labeled.
  • Custom Code. If you’re a paying customer, you can embed a custom code for both your website front (e.g. banners and popups) and backend (e.g. heatmaps and tracking pixels).
  • Impressive customer support. While Wix makes it a bit harder to talk to a real human, SITE123 connects you with one in minutes. Its live chat is available in English and 16 other languages, and the button is accessible from every page on the site. When I first landed on SITE123, I was offered to schedule a 15-minute call with a SITE123 expert. The email support is also fast and attentive.
Check out our expert SITE123 review for more details.

Free hosting? Yes
Drag-and-drop editor No, point-and-click editor
Plugins/apps/extensions Yes, on paid plans only
Price of the cheapest paid plan $12.80

Wordpress.com music website template
WordPress.com has a small selection of free themes and thousands premium ones
WordPress.com is the SaaS version of the good old content management system (CMS) WordPress.org. Comparatively, the former makes it easier for newbies to set up a site. Unlike WordPress.org, you don’t have to deal with technical stuff. But it has a steeper learning curve than similar website builders.

WordPress.com has plugins galore – for every need and feature you can imagine. Getting them to work in harmony can be tricky, but there’s a plugin for that too. You can’t install any plugins on the free plan (only on the Business plan and up), but you get 3GB of storage space, hosting, mobile-responsive themes, and community support. Enough for a simple blog.

If you’re not planning to pay a dime, you’re better off with Wix’s free plan that gives you access to its app market. WordPress.com provides next-level customization and flexibility that isn’t available at any other website builder. As such, it’s best suited for complex sites heavy on content, traffic, and features, especially if you subscribe to one of its top-tier plans.

wordpress logo alt 2

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Features

  • Full Site Editor. The site editor allows you to customize block-based themes without code. It consists of three parts: editing a page template, editing specific parts of the template, and customizing Styles like Typography, Colors, and Layout.
  • Block Content Editor. This treats every element like a separate block, allowing you to drag and drop them and apply specific changes like size, color, and media to every content block. It provides lots of flexibility to create diverse and wow-worthy posts and pages, making it perfect if you’re a blogger or creator.
  • Advanced customization with CSS. WordPress.com allows you to further customize your site design with CSS code on its Premium, Business, and Commerce
  • Excellent out-of-the-box SEO: You can easily optimize your site title, tagline, URL slugs, and descriptions. Each site comes with a powerful SEO toolkit that includes auto-Generated XML sitemaps that help search engines index your site, easy site verification methods, clean URLs for intuitive categorizing, and more. There are also plenty of SEO plugins like Yoast SEO and All in One Seo.
Read our expert WordPress review for more info.
Free hosting? Yes
Drag-and-drop editor Yes, with Elemenor
Plugins/apps/extensions 55,000+, available on Business plan and up
Price of the cheapest paid plan $4.00

6 Best Open-Source Website Builders

Up for a fancy, custom website? Here are the best open-source site builders:

1.  WordPress.org: Most Beginner-Friendly Open-Source  Builder

WordPress theme library
WordPress.org has the largest selection of free and premium themes among website builders
WordPress.org is the self-hosted version of WordPress.com, meaning that you’d have to get your hands dirty with installation and maintenance. It’s free to use, but you’d have to pay for hosting, domain name, and potentially for plugins, themes, and labor. Friendly reminder: WP developers charge $61-80/hr on average, but you don’t necessarily need one.

Places like ThemeForest and TemplateMonster have professionally designed themes that can make a great foundation for your site, provided you choose one that’s mobile-responsive and developed with best practices. You can install Elementor, a drag-and-drop visual page builder that can help you build sites fairly quickly with no code. If your site is a major part of your business strategy, WordPress.org has the resources to support your big ambitions.

Features

  • Easy monetization. You can put content behind a subscription, publish sponsored content, position ads and affiliate links on your site, create an online shop, and more without paying anything upfront, which isn’t the case with WordPress.com
  • An abundance of DIY troubleshooting resources.org has bustling community-based forums where thousands of experts hang out. Should you experience issues with your site, you can get free guidance there.
  • 55,000+ plugins. Better SEO? Yoast SEO is here to help. Fight spam? Akismet can save you hours of manual work. Faster loading time? Take off with WP Rocket. There’s just one problem: too many plugins (or even one poorly coded) can cause too many problems. Some of them will have a beef with others. Be careful who you’re inviting to reside on your site.

2.  Drupal: Most Secure CMS With Advanced Features for Design And Function

Drupal theme search filters
I was able to set filters to easily find a theme that matches my project needs
Drupal offers next-level customization, function, speed, scale, and security, but the fancy stuff is typically buried behind lines of code. Some low to no-code tools can help you make basic changes, but even maintaining your site might require technical knowledge. At some point, you might have to bring in experts, which means the costs can add up quickly.

Since it’s focused on developers, Drupal is best suited for sites that are complex, heavy on traffic, with large databases and resource libraries, and thousands of pages. It has built-in multi-language support, making it excellent for creating multilingual sites. Due to the smaller selection of plugins and themes, it’s considered one of the most secure CMS. Fun fact: NASA’s site runs on Drupal!

Features

  • 40,000+ free modules. Need to supercharge your site with forms? Check out Webform. Protect your site from bots? Captcha is here to help. Create and edit page layouts with a click? Display Suite can save you valuable time. Evaluate how your content is performing? Google Analytics.
  • 2000+ free themes. You can customize any theme sans coding by altering the color palette, background, and favicon. Make sure you choose one that’s flexible, mobile-responsive, and covered by the Drupal security advisory policy. You can also purchase themes.
  • Easy-to-use frontend and content creation tools. Creating and maintaining a Drupal site might require technical knowledge, but your site contributors don’t need to know any code. Writers and editors can add media, hyperlinks, and other elements using the simple editor. It’s as easy as using Word.

3.  Joomla: Endless Resources for Complex Sites and E-commerce

Joomla forum
Joomla has a bustling forum where you can ask questions
Similar to Drupal, Joomla is not a beginner-friendly open-source website builder. However, it is a very powerful, flexible, and scalable one. Personally, its content panel full of dev terminology, myriad of settings, and a complex database structure overwhelmed me. Even installing extensions is not as straightforward as on WordPress.org.

You can use the Joomlart Page Builder for drag-and-drop functionality. For anything more complex than a basic blog or small online shop, you either need technical knowledge or hire a Joomla developer. It’s best suited for complex e-commerce sites and medium to big sites that require advanced features.

Features

  • Ability to use more than one template. Your Joomla pages don’t have to look alike! Joomla allows you to choose different templates for different pages and create diverse designs across your website. The customization options may vary based on the templates.
  • 8,000 free and paid extensions. That’s far less than WordPress.org, but nothing to sneeze at. Joomla Content Editor (JCE), Widgetkit, Akeeba Backup, Admin Tools, RSform, and SP Page Builder are the most used among web developers.
  • Advanced e-commerce functionality. It has a vast range of features that allow you to do almost anything with your store. Some of them include multilingual support, easy multi-store management, shopping cart and payment gateway integrations, control lists for different customer groups, one-page checkout, etc.

4.  Symfony: Best For Complex, Unique Features And Easy Testin

Symfony open-source website builder documentation page
Here’s a sneak peak of all the topics you need to learn if you decide to use Symfony
Symfony is a full-stack, PHP, open-source framework that can be used to build all types of websites, from mommy blogs to the next Spotify. It boasts one of the most active communities among PHP frameworks, with users continuously introducing new and fine-tuning existing modules and other components.

Although it’s known for simplifying the web development process, you still need the technical know-how to rack up those benefits. If you have it, you can use Symfony to develop and implement complex off-the-shelf features for your site. Otherwise, get ready to pay for a developer or spare a few months to master the framework.

Features

  • Easy testing. Symfony makes unit testing a breeze with its PHPUnit-Independent Library, which comes with reliable tools for behavioral and functional unit testing. It simulates HTTP requests and validates the output without coding and scripts. You can also automate functional testing.
  • Customization features. You can use the full stack version option if you need a complex website with multiple functionalities. The brick-by-brick process allows you to use specific features of the framework to develop a site with selective functions based on your unique needs, while the micro framework is ideal for developing very specific functionalities.
  • 30 independent components. These are standalone reusable PHP libraries that you can use as a foundation for various projects on your website to speed up the development process.

5.  GrapesJS: Plenty of Customization Options

GrapesJS website editor
At a glance, the GrapesJS website editor doesn’t look intimidating
GrapeJS is a free, open-source web builder framework that helps you build HTML templates without touching a line of code. Personally, I didn’t find it as easy as it sounds – it takes time to master the platform if you’re a total beginner.

It has a drag-and-drop visual editor and blocks of reusable HTML, which are elements like buttons, forms, and images that you can use to build complex pages in less time. There are built-in blocks, but you can also create your own and give them different attributes, which ultimately requires you to code.

Features

  • Responsive design. GrapesJS provides all the tools you need to optimize your site for different devices.
  • Limitless styling options. Its Style Manager module allows you to customize website components separately for a unique look. You can use the default version or expand its capabilities using the Style Manager API.
  • Layer and Asset Manager. The Layer Manager allows you to manage and move components faster, especially when your site has too many. The Asset Manager keeps your media files organized and helps you arrange them in ways that complement your site structure and aesthetic.

6.  Publii: Best For Static Sites

Publii website editor interface
Publii’s intuitive UI that makes the process of creating a site fairly easy even if you’re a beginner
Publii is an open-source static site generator. Unlike WordPress.org and Drupal, where content is stored and managed in a database, Publii uses a content source and creates HTML pages from components or templates that are uploaded directly to a server.

Publii has dozens of stylish themes, but only eight of them are free options. Its plugin ecosystem is pretty basic, including essentials like Google Analytics, LiveChat, and Commento. There’s a selection of customization options and styling tools to personalize your site. Publii is mainly for creating blogs, portfolio websites, documentation sites, and landing pages, but don’t expect a static site to grow with you.

Features

  • Content creation tools for bloggers. Publii offers 3 different, intuitive writing editors (block, WYSIWYG, and markdown editor), rich media options, Tags and Authors system to organize content with keywords, and more.
  • Plenty of site speed tools. Static sites load faster, but Publii also provides tools like automatic file compression, lazy loading, responsive images, and code minifying to help you run even faster across the web space. You can also install the Image Decoding plugin for your image-rich posts to load faster.
  • Strong SEO tools. Publii has all the basic SEO options plus automatic data markup, XML sitemap, and open-graph tag support. It also allows you to create your own SEO logic. The Pretty URL option is pretty cool – it allows you to switch to SEO-friendly URLs in an instant.

Choose a Website Builder Software That’s Best for Your Needs

I’ve been casually playing with code, but it’s far from a serious romance.

I’m not a developer, and every time I read that coding is easy, I roll my eyes. First, you need to spend a fair amount of time learning the terminology before touching any code, and that’s a job in itself. I’m not saying it’s not worth it or that the best open-source website builders don’t have an advantage over SaaS builders in terms of customization, flexibility, and control.

BUT.

Factor in the time you need to master an open-source platform or the cost of hiring professionals to develop and maintain your site. If you’re a busy small business owner  or work full-time anything, opting for an open-source website builder can turn into a burden for your schedule, budget, and maybe sanity.

If you have the resources, go for it. If you don’t, but open source still excites you, I’d say go with WordPress.org. It’s not as easy as Wix, but it’s the most beginner-friendly among open-source builders. If you want the best of both worlds – ease of use and features – choose Wix.

Here’s how Wix and other SaaS website builders compare against free open-source website builder software.

Best Feature Free Hosting Best For
Wix Gridless drag-and-drop editor that expands design freedom Small to medium business owners, bloggers, creators, and entrepreneurs alike who want a unique website
SITE123 Easy-to-nnavigate interface Launching a simple website fast
WordPress.com Robust blogging features Bloggers, and small business owners who want a feature-rich website
WordPress.org 55,000+ plugins Bloggers and businesses that need full control over every aspect of their website Try for Free
Drupal Next-level customizations Large, high-traffic, multiple pages, content-heavy websites with multilingual capabilities Try for Free
Joomla Advanced e-commerce features Big sites with advanced features, and custom e-commerce sites Try for Free
Symfony Speeds up development Sites that need complex off-the-shelf features Try for Free
GrapesJS Lots of styling options Greater control over content management and display Try for Free
Publii Excellent content creator tools Blogs, portfolio, and documentation sites Try for Free

FAQ

What is the most popular open source website builder?

WordPress.org is the most popular open-source content management system (CMS), accounting for 43% of all websites on the internet.

Is Wix actually free?

Yes, Wix has a free plan that allows you to build and publish a personal website. It includes hosting, up to 500MB of storage and bandwidth, 800+ templates, and access to its customer support.

Is Wix easier than WordPress?

Yes, Wix is easier than WordPress. There’s a difference between WordPress.org (Content Management System CMS) and WordPress.com (website builder). Wix is a SaaS builder, meaning you can create sites sans code. You can use WordPress.org without coding but not to its fullest potential. WordPress.com is a more beginner-friendly alternative, still not as straightforward as Wix.

What is the best free software to build a website?

Wix is the best free software to build a website. The website builder’s free plan comes with essentials like web hosting and up to 500MB of storage and bandwidth. You also get access to 800+ professionally designed templates, an SEO dashboard with personalized advice, analytics, blogging functionality, a free stock library, and dozens of free apps to enhance your site’s function.

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