One of my closest friends works in a multinational. We were chatting when she asked:
“Given that you are closely associated with the website development space and one of the recent projects I was assigned involved a website development task, I wanted to ask you what is best: website builders or do some PHP coding and build it from scratch?”
Looking further, I realized that the client wanted a sleek business website and knowing the availability of premium website builders to accomplish the same, I recommended website builders like Bookmark. Pleasantly surprised, she asked if the website builders could achieve what the client wanted. A 30 minute chat later, she felt convinced and promised to talk to the project manager about the benefits of using website builders.
These kinds of discussions are not new, having participated in several over the last 8 years. Sometimes people make the mistake of comparing website builders with WordPress, but you need to understand that WordPress is a content management system (CMS), not a website building tool.
In this column, I will present the argument for website builders, hope this helps my readers.
What are website builders?
A website builder is a tool to make it easy to create a website without manual coding. These can be proprietary online tools or offline software running on the computer to create pages for posting.
In the early 1990s, websites were manually coded in HTML. An early leader in the space was Dreamweaver, but it drew various criticisms, one of the main ones being non-compliance with W3C standards. In 1996, the W3C launched Amaya as a showcase for web technologies as a “web client”. One of the first modern websites built without any technical skills was Geocities, bought by Yahoo! in 1994 for $3.6 billion and closed in 2009.
Online website builders such as Bookmark and Shopify have introduced modern support for web publishing “templates”. You register with them and get access to these templates which are fully functional demo websites waiting to be uploaded by the user with personalized features and content. The range of services ranges from personal web pages to full-fledged e-commerce websites, with fully customizable modules.
Using website builders does not require any prior experience. How-to videos, help documentation and technical support come with the package. These builders are suitable for freelancers, small businesses, startups, and e-commerce retailers.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Website Builders
Let’s see what you get and what you don’t get when using website builders.
Benefits of Website Builders
Here they are:
#1 Single Window
The “plan” or “package” includes hosting, software, blog/online store and automatic feature updates. No programming skills are required to use them and they are much easier to use than CMS platforms like WordPress and Joomla. It’s as simple as creating a LinkedIn or Twitter profile. Just place the element where you want and it’s done.
#2 Manage traffic spikes and low costs
Without a website builder, you have to make a separate web hosting purchase, which means additional cost. The cost of signing up with a website builder is often similar to buying a web hosting plan. Some website builders are “free” (limited to certain features), but hey, web hosting is still included for a limited measure of web traffic. This brings me to the next point.
With a builder, spikes in traffic won’t cause website downtime. Usually, you buy a shared hosting package and when the site receives a sudden surge in traffic, the site faces downtime as thousands of other sites are also working on the same server and the server resources are distributed. Website builders can handle a high volume of traffic due to their custom hosting infrastructure.
#3 Drag-and-drop integration
There is absolutely no coding involved. Website builder templates are often in widget format. Just drag and drop the widgets like Google AdSense, audio players, video players, PayPal button, contact forms and more onto the website pages, save them and you’re done.
Finally, as I mentioned before, there is no limit to technical support. All data is recorded with maximum security.
Disadvantages of Website Builders
Here they are:
#1 Commercial stability
It is necessary to use reliable and popular website builders from a business point of view because if the website builder company goes bankrupt, you also lose the website. Even if you can back up regularly, it will just be more complicated to set up a new website in the future. Always go with an established provider.
#2 Limited flexibility
For some features and uses, a website builder may not be suitable. For example, if you want to create a database-oriented search engine like Housing.com, a website builder won’t do because it requires custom coding. As I said before, website builders are best suited for freelancers, small business owners, startups, and small e-commerce retailers.
Website Builder Options
There are many website builders in the market. I will give just two examples.
#1 Website Builder Example for Normal Sites – Bookmark
Bookmark is a website builder for freelancers, professionals, and small to medium business owners with a variety of website needs. From personal blogs to professional portfolios to service sites, this tool does it all. Requiring absolutely no technical skills, Bookmark templates allow you to create feature websites in a jiffy. Just pick a template, edit whatever you want, and “go live” instantly. Moreover, these websites are responsive on all devices.
To help their users succeed in their business, there is an in-depth resource section with tutorials and guides, as well as e-learning courses.
#2 Website Builder Ecommerce Example – Shopify
Powering over 270,000 stores, Shopify is one of the top-ranked “one-stop-shop” e-commerce sites for building small to large online stores. The Shopify team and software take care of building the e-commerce store, leaving you to focus on growing the business. There are premium storefront themes with extensive app store and advanced e-commerce tools to allow multiple integrations with one-click setup.
You can check out some examples of live stores here. Although WordPress can be an option for building e-commerce websites, it lacks the flexibility and capability of Shopify. You have WordPress tools like WooCommerce plugin to attach necessary e-commerce functionality to the website, but you have to put together various plugins and modify CSS codes and integrate payment methods and more to make the website work. You can either DIY or hire someone, which increases the budget and takes time.
But, with Shopify, you can think of it as tailor-made for building e-commerce stores. It powers thousands of small businesses and also offers an enterprise solution for businesses with six or seven figure annual revenue.
Website builders are better as “one-stop-shop” solutions due to their cost feasibility, low learning curve, technical support, and simple yet effective website building options .