Website Builder Reviews
Building your website has never been easier or more affordable and with a plethora of website builders on the market today, where does one start in deciding which website building platform, if any, is the right one for you. This review will give you an introduction to website builders, what they are used for and how they work, who they are best suited to and the pros and cons of using one versus hiring a web developer.
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Overview – What are website builders?
In today’s technologically driven world, there’s pretty much an app or tool out there that does what you want it to do. Building your own website is not as difficult or laborious as it once was and can now be done with limited technical skill and knowledge, and without breaking the bank either. It was not that long ago you would have had to either go through a painful process to learning how to code or spend thousands of your hard earned cash in order to hire someone with the technical skills in order to build a website. Thankfully with today’s website builders, there is no need to have prior knowledge or HTML or CSS coding, of site servers or of web hosting services. You can pretty much sign up, select a template, change some copy, upload some images and you’ve pretty much created your own website in a matter of minutes.
A website builder is a tool that allows you to create a website without the need for manual coding. The quality of website builders available on the market today are of such high standard that they are incredibly intuitive and user friendly, even the most technologically unsophisticated novice will be able to embrace it. With normally hundreds of slick, pre-designed, templates available to choose from (often categorised by theme or end-use to make the job of selecting one even easier) the end result is a well-designed, professional and responsive website, whether it’s a fashion and lifestyle blog or an ecommerce store.
For those who do have some knowledge of coding, you can absolutely use this to your advantage and take the customisation and functionality of your website to a whole new level to create something that is truly unique.
Who are Website Builders best suited to?
Larger business often have generous budgets and are able to splash out on a fully customised site but that doesn’t mean smaller businesses or individuals can’t have a fully functioning, professional looking website too. For a relatively small amount per month, you can achieve a high quality site that will (almost) give larger sites a run for their money. If it is a very basic website that you are after, then there are a number of website builders out there that offer a free plan. The free plan will offer you basic tools and features, a minimal amount of storage and data, and will also often include branded adverts from the provider. Wix and Weebly are considered to be quite generous with their free plan (read our Wix review here and our Weebly review here).
Website builders usually have a wide selection of well designed, professional looking templates. You can choose one that you like the look of or that best suits your site’s requirements, add a little bit of customisation using the tools and features provided (which should be very easy to do in very little time). Before you know it, you’ll have a high quality, functional website with very little resources spent. This is the perfect option for entrepreneurs or start ups/small business who are typically limited when it comes to resources, in time and in money.
How do Website Builders work?
Very easily. Website builders function through an interactive, visual user-interface, whereby pages a created simply dragging and dropping elements (text, images, videos, forms, social buttons etc) into the desired position. These elements themselves can be customised e.g. changing the font style and colour of text, uploading an image or video, and changing the layout of a form) usually within a click or two of a button. Once you’re happy with your edits, create a new page (assuming your site consists of more than one page) and repeat the process. When you’re done and ready to go live, simply hit the publish button and voila!
Pricing – Are website builders free?
Website builders can be free but the free option is usually the most basic. If the most basic site is what you are after (e.g. a very small site with limited pages, some text and a few images) then you can pretty much build a site for free (only at the cost of your time and even then it shouldn’t take too long). Each website builder will have their own price plan structure in place and the number of tools and features provided within a price plan will normally increase in line with the fee charged per month. Take Wix for example, at $8.50 per month for the Combo plan, you will get 2GB of bandwidth, 3GB of storage, a free domain name, a custom favicon and the ability to connect your own domain to the site. You’ll also be able to free your site of Wix ads (which unfortunately comes with the free, basic plans). With Weebly, their Starter plan will set you back $10 a month, and for the most part it’s gives you similar features to Wix (custom domain, domain connection, no ads) but you get unlimited storage. It will all depend on your site’s requirements whether you need to upgrade to a premium price plan or not. If you’re unsure, we recommend that you try out the free option and see how you get on with using the builder software. If you like it but find that you need access to more advanced features and tools, then you can upgrade to the relevant price plan.
Which Website Builder is Best?
This very much depends on the user and what it is you need from it. There is no better way to decide then to try them out for yourself. As mentioned, most website builders offer a free plan so you don’t have much to lose to try before you decide to commit. You’ll be able to get a good feel for them e.g. see what design templates they have to offer and whether it fits with your vision for the site, understand features they provide, find out how easy it is to navigate and use the editor interface to create your site etc. Some of the more popular ones are Wix (read our Wix review here), Weebly (read our Weebly review here) and Squarespace (read our Squarespace review here).
Website builders are a much welcomed addition is today’s technologically driven world, and where resources such as time and money aren’t always available to everyone. They were developed to help build and power conventional websites and are ideal for small businesses and freelancers/entrepreneurs who neither have the time to learn code or the budget to hire a web designer to build their site.
Most website building platforms available don’t call for previous skill in coding or any experience website building. They are purposely designed to be intuitive and very easy to use so that anyone, whether you are a student with some coding knowledge (from a class you took last year) or a small business owner with absolutely no coding knowledge at all, can build a proficient website with little money and within in a matter of minutes.
There are a number of website builders on the market that offer a free plan (no installation required) with the basic tools and features. Simply sign up with an email address, select a template and you’re ready to start editing your site.
Like with most things, there are both benefits and drawbacks to using website builders.
Pros of website builders
Website builders are undoubtedly the easy and cost efficient option for many particularly those who are tight on time and money.
- No Skill Needed The provide those with no prior knowledge of web development or coding skills a way to produce a high quality website in no time at all. With Pre designed templates and a drag and drop visual editor, anyone can create a website within a matter of minutes.
- Affordability It’s an affordable option and even free for those who want a basic website. With a variety of price plans to choose from, you simply select the plan that offers you what you need. There’s no need to pay more than you have to for advanced features that you won’t use, especially if you’re creating a simple website.
- All Inclusive Website builders include hosting and often cover the registration of a domain name, so you can focus purely on what you came for, creating your website.
- Security & Updates Website builders also offers security and ongoing maintenance so you can be sure that your site is always up to date with automatic feature updates and through constant security updates, you can rest assured that your site is safe from hackers.
- Support Should you encounter any issues, technical support is on hand and is often offered via email, forums or via live chat.
Cons of website builders
- Limited Flexibility Website builders aren’t the most flexible which is fine if you’re building a small site. They offer a variety of ready-made design templates geared towards different types of sites e.g. blog, portfolio, salon, restaurant, shop etc, so you will likely find a template that suits your design palette (some website builders will allow you to change your template quite easily whilst others will require you to start from scratch e.g. re-insert content and re-upload media, if you want to select a different template). If you’re building a big site which requires custom design and features or if you have a specific layout in mind, you might be better off hiring an experienced web developer.
- Adverts With website builders, you will often find the inclusion of external adverts on your site that usually comes part and parcel with the free plan. If you don’t want these adverts cluttering up your site then you will usually have to upgrade and pay extra.
- Lack of uniqueness Whilst many Website builders offer a great variety of design templates which have improved vastly over the years, there is still a certain level of homogeneity amongst them. The downside to this is being able to stand out from the competition. If you are after a design that is unique and will differentiate you from your competitors, a custom website created by an experienced developer is probably the better option to achieve this.
Whether a website builder is the right option for you or not, you don’t have much to lose by finding out. With so many reviews out there, including the ones on our site, you can narrow it down to a couple, sign up to the free plan with each and have a play. You’ll soon find out which one you are the most comfortable using as well as which ones offer the template, tools and features you need. You may need to upgrade to a premium plan but by then you would have a good idea how the website builder works and how easy it is to use.