How to Choose the Right Site Builder for Your Business?
Every day, tens of thousands of websites come online. Some of them are for personal reasons but many are created to help businesses increase their reach. If you are a small business, then using a site builder might be more economical than hiring a web designer or programmer to build a site for you. Some website builders are strictly for web design and have intuitive, drag-and-drop interfaces. Others, like WordPress, are full-fledged content management systems, with advanced dynamic capabilities for integrating e-commerce tools and platforms like Shopify, BigCommerce, and others.
The reality is that a website is no longer optional. If you’re running a brand and hope to see it grow, then having a well-designed site is a prerequisite.
Building a website, of course, presents another challenge. What tools should you use to build your website? Should you hire someone to create and manage it, or should you do that work yourself? In this guide, you’ll learn a few important things to take into consideration when looking for the right website builder for your business.
What is a Website Builder?
A website builder is a software tool that is normally accessible through a web interface and is used to create website pages without having to write the underlying code. They can be used to make multiple types of websites and pages such as, including personal websites, small business sites, and e-commerce sites. The sites themselves may include portfolios, blogs, catalogs, events calendars, memberships, and more.
Many website builders are specialized to serve specific types of businesses so they have features and templates to support that objective. For example, Bigcommerce provides software for e-commerce brands. A major benefit of website builders is that the software provider is responsible for code and browser-related updates and ensuring the security of the site, including providing SSL certificates and other security features. Note that the level of service depends on the terms of your web hosting package. Note that some web hosting packages come with free site-building tools.
Free Website Builders
Many of the popular site builder applications offer free plans in addition to their paid plans that, thanks to drag-and-drop website builders, make it easy to build an online store and even add plugins. However, functionality with free website building plans are is usually limited. For example, free versions usually do not come with a custom domain name. Most come with a range of templates for easy website design, but you may not be able to change the template down the road.
Another downside to free versions is that they may have fewer customization options and widgets than paid versions, and you may not have the capability to add all the e-commerce features you'd like.
Website Builder vs Hiring a Web Designer
Many organizations opt to use a site builder because building your own website is less expensive and cheaper to maintain. Some brands choose to hire a web designer because they want more control over how their online presence looks and works.
If you’re new to creating websites, working with a web designer may be a good way to learn best practices and ensure your design is professional-looking. Just be sure to request that the designer use a website builder, so you can maintain your site independently of the designer and make your own changes going forward.
If you’re experienced with creating websites and have the budget, you may consider a designer so they can make a design that stands out. When you’re a beginner and don’t have a large budget, using an inexpensive website builder like Wix may be your only option. Before you choose a website builder, there are a few things to take into consideration.
What to Look for in a Website Builder
The following factors are important but make sure you take your situation into consideration. For example, a website builder’s laundry list of features shouldn’t sway you if they don’t feature you’ll use.
Make a list of all the features you think you’ll need in your website and site builder both now and in the future. Why? Well, perhaps a website builder tool has everything you need at the moment, but after you pass certain milestones, it won’t serve your needs. In that case, it’s better to skip the website builder platform entirely because switching from one website builder to another can be difficult and at times it’s impossible without a lot of manual effort.
If a tool has the features you need right now and the ones you’ll need in the future, think about how implementation within the site builder tool actually works. For example, some drag-and-drop editors only allow you to drop elements on a page into predefined sections or blocks, while other tools allow you to place elements on a page exactly where you want them.
Also, be sure to take the level of customization into consideration. Here's a short checklist of design and feature options you should consider when choosing a site builder and web host package:
- Customizable colors
- Customizable menus
- Customizable fonts
- Ability to switch templates
- Email marketing capabilities
- Social media integration
- E-commerce functionality
- Blogger add-on tools
- Other marketing tools
- Inventory management tools
- SEO tools or Google Analytics integration
- SSL Certificates
- Combo site builder/hosting services
- Bandwidth limits
- Customer support levels
- Customizable CSS and access to HTML code
Pricing is always important to take into consideration. Some tools cost hundreds of dollars a month and others cost less than ten dollars a month. Some are open-source and free. Pricing will also be affected by the features you need, such as PayPal or Square integrations. Before you begin your search, then, decide on what you need and the range you’re willing to comfortably pay for a website builder.
It’s also a good idea to look at how a particular professional website builder has increased prices in the past. Did it suddenly raise them and force customers to leave the platform or upgrade their plans on short notice? Do they raise prices often? As mentioned earlier, it’s hard to switch from one website builder to another so be wary of any company that has suddenly forced a price hike on users.
Ease of Use
A site builder may have the perfect price and have all the features you need, but none of that matters if you can’t figure out how to use it. While all tools have a learning curve, many feature-rich tools can become bloated and difficult to navigate over time. Options are sometimes hidden behind dozens of clicks and you have to consult the knowledgebase or reach out to customer support regularly.
Depending on your needs, this may be inevitable, but try to avoid it as much as possible – especially if you’re working with multiple people. Even if you can eventually figure it out, your team may find the tool difficult, and productivity will take a hit. Most site-building tools provide a free trial or even have a free version. Take advantage of such offers to see whether the software is something you can learn without too much effort.
If the user interface is well-designed and the tool is easy to use, you probably won’t be contacting customer support often. Even if this is the case, however, an issue will eventually come up. You want to make sure the people you’re going to communicate with are responsive and knowledgeable.
There may not be a direct way to test this yourself, so you’ll have to rely on the opinions of others. If many people praise the customer service in reviews then you can be sure it’s good. If people stay silent about the customer service then it’s adequate but not exceptional. If there are many comments about it being bad then you can safely assume that it’s horrible.
Be sure that before you choose a website builder, you’ve figured out how versatile the templates are. Some website builders don’t allow you to change the template after your website is live. If you change the theme or template, you’ll lose all your content and have to start from scratch. Try to avoid a website builder that has these limitations.
SEO is an important part of the marketing mix for most websites. The website builder you choose doesn’t need to have advanced SEO tools, but it should allow you to do the basics like update the page titles, meta description, SEO title tags, insert image alt tags, control the robots.txt, and a few other things to set yourself up properly for SEO.
Mobile Editing or Auto Responsiveness
More than half of all internet traffic in the world is mobile. Depending on your niche, you may get an even higher concentration of mobile users, that if your website doesn’t look good on phones and other mobile devices, then the people using those devices will likely leave in favor of a website that’s mobile optimized. Search engines will also stop showing your website to mobile visitors.
Check to make sure any pages built on the website builder of your choice are optimized for mobile automatically. Most platforms provide this feature but don’t take any chances. Also, look for platforms that allow individual desktop and mobile editing. It’s not a deal-breaker if they don’t have it these features, but these features will let you put your best foot forward.
Whether you build your website from scratch yourself or hire a web designer, there are many benefits associated with using a website builder to host the site. This list has gone through some of the major considerations before choosing a tool for your business. Use these tips to shortlist a few candidates and then test them one by one until you find the right tool to meet your needs. You can also use our helpful reviews of the best-handpicked website builders to narrow your search.