I’m a believer in the advantages offered by professionally built websites (see our recent article). And this is honestly not just because I build websites for a living. No, rather it’s because I’ve experienced the difference in income that a professionally designed website affords. In fact, this article is reminiscent of the reasons that I am currently in web design and SEO.
Years ago I started out using free web builders for the other businesses with which I was associated. And over time I learned that there were reasons that other sites, that didn’t even look as good, still outperformed mine. Of course, early on, some of this was due to being behind the curve in SEO practices. But eventually, even when I began learning about the on-page optimization of my websites, they were still being outperformed. And so began my journey into web design and SEO.
So I am absolutely not dismissive of website builders. To the contrary, they fulfill a niche need because they bridge the gaps in affordability and opportunity for the DIY initiative that drives entrepreneurs. In fact, web building software has come very far and with the integration of AI coming, I see them being even more robust and viable going forward. In fact, that’s the very reason our company also offers building websites for clients on a few of the top builder platforms. And so the purpose of this article is not to bash web builder software, but rather to compare and offer just a little bit of guidance.
A Word About Online Website Building Software
Website builders are an excellent solution to businesses and individuals who want to start a website but aren’t familiar with the intricacies of website design. Not to mention that Squarespace or Wix users, for instance, don’t have to bother with hiring a developer to build a website for them. Though it still pays to have some design sense. Most users will fall into one of three categories.
The first group finds that they love the simplicity of not having to learn a great deal about designing a website. And the second group begins to learn about the complexities of effective web building, and they find most of the free builders too limiting. Then the third group discovers that building and managing their own sites simply isn’t for them.
Finding a website builder software that works well for you can prove to be tricky despite there being so many out there. So, how do you know which is right for you? Well, that’s exactly what we’ll run through in this article.
Free Website Builders
We decided to start with free website builders since that’s something just about everyone wants to know if they should use. Free website design platforms will allow you to design a website, but it will continue to bear the markings of the tool, i.e. the URL, their logo, slogan, etc. If you are creating a corporate or business website, that kind of branding isn’t desirable, especially since it is going to confuse your clients and shoppers.
The other thing to keep in mind is that most of these so-called free offers are limited if not restricted. The service restricts bandwidth, storage, and even access to some tools for free users. Though the most generous free offers of them all are by WordPress, Wix, and Weebly.
One other important point to keep in mind is that as your business grows, you will eventually discover the need to move off of the free site platform to your own hosted space. And this can be somewhat problematic at times.
How does Website Builder Software Work?
Now while each type of website design platform works in a slightly different manner, they generally start by having you choose a template. Squarespace and Wix, for instance, use templates that are mobile-friendly and so your texts and graphics are reformatted when the site is accessed via a mobile device. You’ll also be able to find templates categorized by business type and niche, which makes finding what you want easier.
Once a template is chosen, the next step is to customize it. The site builder allows users to change and tweak aspects of the template like fonts, color schemes, page layout and also add a couple of new pages. Some site builders also have a set of sub-templates for inner pages like Contact, About, FAQs, etc.
Many website builders allow you to add third-party widgets for things like social feeds, forms, chat, etc. though these widgets will have to be purchased separately.
The Most Popular Website Builders
Okay, so now the next step is to find the right one. It is essential to highlight that the right website builder will be different for everyone, that’s why we’ve discussed the best ones out there so that you can choose one that’s right for you.
WordPress is the Most Popular Choice
“Is WordPress the best website builder?” is one of the most popular searches in this space. Why? Because whether you want to use some sort of creative marketing design, a run-of-the-mill template, or design your custom layout, WordPress is the reigning king. Not only does it have an ecosystem of literally millions of free and paid templates, but there are numerous website builders that can be installed as plug-ins to the platform.
The biggest selling point, perhaps, is that the platform is easy to use and happens to be free. So it is an excellent choice for someone who wants to use a platform that they never have to pay for. The only drawback to using WordPress, if you can even call it that, is its complexity. The platform is definitely more complex because of the numerous features added with each update. A good friend of mine used to love to say, “With flexibility comes complexity.” And WordPress is an amazingly flexible platform.
Squarespace Makes Building Business Websites Easy
Squarespace boasts of a robust infrastructure for hosting and managing your website. Squarespace website design is made easier thanks to a selection of tools which can be used by just about anyone. Every template is editable, and you can use multiple templates on a single website. That’s the type of flexibility that’s hard to find anywhere else.
If you are running an eCommerce business, it is possible to add an online store and manage products with a few clicks. However, the only drawback is limited integration with major third-party services which may be required by many growing businesses. Currently, users can process payments via PayPal, Stripe, and Apple Pay.
Wix is the Wholly Cloud-Based Builder
Wix is a heavy favorite among novice builders and startups. It offers an entirely cloud-based solution which includes everything from hosting to building a website. There are literally hundreds of very nice templates from which you can choose. All templates are editable using the platform’s drag and drop functionality. Not only that, but subscribers can also use a laundry list of paid apps to add various features to their website. Just be sure to pick the template you want to stay with, because you cant change it once your site is published. And, if you do decide to switch anyway, you will lose all your customizations and your content, so choose wisely!
While the free plan is pretty generous and gives users the opportunity to test the waters, they are plagued with branded ads and limited bandwidth. Though this is easily remedied with a paid plan. So at that time, you may want to decide whether it’s worth it pay them to remain in their ecosystem, or if it’s time to have the greater flexibility of hiring a professional and choosing your own web hosting option for the future.
A word of warning: Wix is free to use as long as you want to. However, if you do decide to make a site with more professional features, you must choose one of the premium plans. While these can seem somewhat reasonable, once you extrapolate those out over several months to several years, you may be better off building a professional custom site on an installment plan. (Heads up, shameless promotion alert: Ozark Web Design offers monthly installment plans on startup websites that can grow with your business!
Weebly is the King of Responsive Design
Weebly has many strengths as a website builder, but its biggest one has to be the intuitive interface and an attractive set of response design themes. In addition to this, users get full site stats and numerous commerce options. And, paid users can download their entire site in CSS and HTML. There is also an iOS app which makes editing the site on your mobile device easy.
The drawback to using Weebly is that there isn’t enough photo storage. So, if your website is going to be image-centric, this may not be the best platform for it. Also, mobile sites have limited customizability. The upside perhaps is that there is a free option which will help potential users play around with it to see if it’s a platform they can use for their business before paying for it.
GoDaddy offers a Website Builder with Your Hosting
Godaddy offers a generous amount of storage and a good amount of bandwidth. The website builder is pretty easy to understand, albeit basic. Though you still get enough tools to build a decent looking website for mobile and desktop computers.
While it is easy to use, the level of customizability is limited. So, there isn’t much you can do with the template. That being said, it’s a fairly quick way to get up and running with a website in a couple of hours.
We have watched many users gravitate to GoDaddy because they have been a big and recognizable name in the industry for a long time. However, most businesses’ website needs cause them to outgrow their finite options pretty quickly, so we tend to steer users away from this option. Plus, there are many better cost-saving options available as your online business presence grows.
Free is seldom really free!
We hope our brief rundown of the best website builder software has helped give you enough of a snapshot to help point you in the right direction. You will find that in most cases, any options that are entirely free will be limited and branded by other companies. So we encourage you to investigate all the upgrade costs and compare them before you make a commitment.
Our final bit of advice is to try out the free trials that are available and engage in a little bit of your own free website design first. And then pay for what you think works best for your purpose.
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