What is the best website builder?
If you’re running a business and have identified that you’re going to need a website then you may be exploring cost-effective ways to go about it.
Website builder platforms offer a relatively easy means by which to create a functional website for your business. The standard of websites created through these platforms varies, as do the platforms themselves.
Are website builders a realistic choice for business owners creating a website and how do you go about selecting the right one for you?
What criteria should you use when choosing a website builder?
There are a wide range of different website builder platforms available, as well as companies offering a basic ‘off-the-peg’ website for small businesses for a set fee. When looking for the best website builder the options can be confusing, so it’s helpful to bear in mind a range of different criteria that can help frame your choice.
Ease of use
If you’re approaching website building for the first time then the platform you choose should be easy to use. If you don’t have any tech skills or experience at programming then it’s vital it comes with a drag-and-drop builder. The editing tools need to not only be powerful, but also easy to make sense of. Does it offer easy to follow guidance and instructions, and have all the potential quirks and more confusing aspects been ironed out?
Unfortunately, some of these potential banana skins for beginners are well hidden until you start to use the website builder. Check out the online reviews and see what other users are saying.
Different website builders offer a variety of price packages ranging from free sites that usually have to feature advertisements for other businesses, to more expensive monthly packages. This is a competitive field so you should compare what’s included in each price package. Does it offer a free domain, free SSL, free business email and eCommerce features? If it doesn’t, how much will you need to spend on additional extras?
It can be the case that when hidden costs are taken into consideration the cost of using a website builder can become much less competitive.
Design & Features
Many of the website builder platforms offer a very basic set of website templates and design options. These mean that your website risks looking generic and will lack flexibility. To secure extra templates you may have to pay significant subscription or one-off fees. You should ensure that your package offers or has the flexibility to add other features such as third-party marketing tools or Google Analytics.
Creating a website using a website builder can sometimes be challenging and you may encounter difficulties that you can’t resolve without professional support. It’s vital therefore that there is easy to access customer support as part of the platform. They should respond in a timely manner and be available 24/7.
Data ownership and portability
Many people when creating their website don’t pay much attention to the terms of service to which they sign up. Be sure to check that you retain ownership of your data, and make sure that it’s portable if you need to switch.
What are the limitations of website builders?
Website builder platforms are popular with people who want to get a website up and running quickly at a minimal cost. For many people they may be a stop gap during the early stages of running their business. The design limitations, the challenge of creating a website with little experience and the lack of meaningful support can all present challenges for business owners.
There are also a potential range of limitations on the platforms themselves, particularly with free or basic website builders. These will usually have an unrealistic storage limit, no dedicated domain name and may even place advertisements on your website. The number of pages you can have will be restricted and may feature company branding. Customer support will be very basic if it exists at all. In fact, advertising means that free website options are very rarely truly free.
What about basic package sites?
There are a number of different providers offering basic flat-rate websites for small businesses. These vary in quality but will usually give the business owner a limited choice of templates and then build a website for them based on answers to a questionnaire.
While this can save the business owner a lot of time and effort, the end results are by their very nature generic and limited. You will pay for a certain number of pages and the potential for customization will be limited. These websites are generated very quickly by the providers offering a basic website service to people who may feel that a more bespoke service is beyond their budget.
The advantages of a professional website development service
As tempting as a free or cheap website builder platform may be, the end results are rarely up to standard. A website development service will take time to learn about your business, explore what you need your website to do and then set about creating a bespoke website to best showcase your brand. The process is collaborative giving the business owner lots of potential for feedback and input. The website will be fully-tested, user friendly and versatile across different platforms.
The end result is likely to be of a much higher standard than you’re likely to create yourself with a website builder or receive from a flat-rate ‘off-the-peg’ service. The initial costs may be higher, but you will be free to spend time working on the core aspects of your business. The resulting website will be a shop window that you’re proud to show off.