Website Builder

What to look for in a Website Builder

You don't have to be a professional designer to create a website anymore, thanks to online website builders like Wix, Weebly, SquareSpace, and countless more. But is quick, easy and cheap a viable replacement for a professional web developer/designer or even for content management systems like WordPress and Joomla?

In this article, we will take a closer look at website builders. We will look at the standard features of a website builder, what to look for when choosing a website builder, the pros and cons of using a website builder and more.

What to look for in a Website Builder

What is a website builder?

A website builder is an online based tool for creating and managing websites. While there are many different website builders in the market, they all essentially do the same thing – make the process of building a website easy for beginners.

  1. It's online based
    There is nothing to install on your computer. The entire website creation process is all done via a web browser – just type in the website builder's address, sign in and you can start building your website. And because it's online-based, you can work on your website from anywhere as long as you have access to a web browser and the Internet.
  2. It's easy to use
    Mostly all website builders now offers a simple interface with a drag-and-drop editor. This makes the website creation process straightforward and easy. Website builders also come with a decent to good-sized collection of design templates to give you a head start so you don't have to sit and stare at a blank page canvas, not knowing where to start. Depending on the website builder, you can customize the template to varying degrees.
  3. You don't need programming or technical skills
    Probably the main reason why you want to use a website builder is because it doesn't require any coding, programming, technical skills. You also don't have to stress about how to make your website actually appear online. The website builder takes care of all the technical stuff for you. In fact, many website builders also provide domain name registration service – they take care of all the necessary steps to link your website to your domain name so you don't have to worry about that either.
  4. It's affordable
    You can easily find a free website builder on the market. The catch is that if you want more tools, or be able to do certain things, you will need to subscribe to a premium plan. Even if you decide to go with a paid website builder, the monthly fee is very affordable – you can easily find one for as low as $5 per month. Of course, the higher the plan, the more features and premium templates you get access to.
What to look for in a Website Builder

Why should I use a website builder?

If you are new to building websites or if you need to have your website online quickly, we strongly recommend that you consider using a website builder.

You can certainly use a content management systems like WordPress and Joomla to create a website. They are powerful and extremely flexible, but they also have a steep learning curve that requires a certain level of technical skills. New beginners may find WordPress overwhelming. For example, WordPress theme and/or plugin customizations often do require you to tweak some codes.

Let's look at these scenarios:

  1. I am not a technical person and I really don't want to learn how to code
    Website builders use the drag-and-drop technology and a user-friendly interface design. In other words, you can change, remove or replace any element with simple drag-and-drop movements. Once you're happy with your design, all you need to do is click on the "Publish" button and your website is up and running on the Internet. No coding, no programming skills required, no FTP handling and all the other technical stuff. If you can drag things around your screen with your mouse, you can build websites with a website builder.
  2. I have absolutely no design talent. I can't design anything from scratch.
    Templates are one of the best features of a website builder. If you are not sure where to start or don't feel confident in your design skills, simply choose a professionally-designed template and go from there. Templates are basically pre-designed layouts with space for you to add your own elements, such as images, text, videos, borders, widgets and more. Best of all, you do not have to stick rigidly to the template design. For example, many website builders come with a library of professionally designed color schemes you can use on your website in just a simple click.
  3. I am too busy. I need something that is easy to us and can make my website look good.
    Website builders simplify the entire website creation process by means of pre-designed templates, pre-populated web pages and ready-to-use elements that you can just drag and drop onto your website. Because they are easy to use, you can build and launch your website in no time.
  4. I have a limited budget and I don't want to spend too much on hiring a professional designer.
    Creating a website using a website builder does not require a big budget. There are free and paid plans that you can choose from. Even with the paid plans, website builders are very affordable compared to hiring a professional. Website builders typically comes with free hosting services, so you don't have the additional expense. And because you don't have to pay someone to design and maintain your website, you're saving even more. Many website builders gives you a 1-year domain name as part of your service plan.
What to look for in a Website Builder

Limitations of a website builder?

Website builders do have limitations, too.

  1. Not exclusive and unique
    Templates are available for everyone to use. Most of the more attractive templates are downloaded and used by many hundreds of users. So, while there are customization options, there is a chance that another site will look similar to yours.
  2. Customization limitations.
    While you're given the options and tools to customize your template, everything you do is confined to the limits of the template and the capabilities of the website builder. There is a point where you can't tweak the template any further and most website builders do not allow users access to the backend code.
  3. You're locked into your website builder.
    The template used by the website builder is copyrighted and you can only use it if you remain with that provider. If you were to move to another provider, you will need to start from scratch. Even if the provider allows you to transfer your website to another provider, features that are native to their system (ie. blog, ecommerce, etc.) will not be included. Not to mention, all the design skills you've acquired are not transferrable as well. The moment you move to a new provider, you have to re-learn everything again – new tools, new features and a new interface.
  4. Limited blogging and e-commerce functionalities.
    Because a website builder is designed to have your website created and launched as quickly as possible, many of the features have to be light and easy to use. If you need simple, basic blogging or ecommerce functions, the website builder is sufficient. However, if you need to setup a full-featured online store, a news website, or other heavy-featured websites, you will find the website builders do fall short.

What should I look for in a website builder?

  1. Ease of use
    Is the website builder fun to use? or is it frustrating? The main reason for using a website builder is so that you can create your website quickly and easily. If the website builder is difficult to use or if the interface is confusing and hard to follow then you should look for another website builder. A clumsy or missing feature could mean hours of extra time creating your site or leaving important content off your site altogether.
  2. Quality of templates and themes
    It doesn't matter how user-friendly a website builder is, if the templates are lacking quality, your website will suffer. Look for website builders that offer templates that are clean, responsive and customizable. This way, you know that you can get a head start with a great looking template, you can customize it to fit your needs and it will look great on all devices, whether it be a laptop, tablet or smartphone.
  3. Template customization
    You should be able to change the look and feel of your website – change site colors, upload your logo and images, change the layout, change site fonts, or choose a different theme entirely.
  4. Simple and flexible content management.
    You need to be able to easily add and modify your content, including text, images, videos, navigation menus, buttons, blog, forms, galleries and other types of content.
  5. Pre-formatted page layouts
    Some website builders offer a collection of pre-designed and pre-populated page layouts. These come in handy if you don't know where to start.
  6. eCommerce solutions
    If you are planning on adding a product catalog or a simple online store on your website, make sure the website builder you choose allows you to do so easily. It should support the basic e-commerce tools: display products, add to cart and checkout. Unless you're using ecommerce-focused providers like BigCommerce or Shopify, the ecommerce tools you get will be limited (for example, you might not be able to create coupons and you won't get a selection of integrated payment processors). It should have common payment solutions, such as PayPal, integrated. If there is a limit on the number of products permitted, is it enough for your business?
  7. Contact and forms
    Your website builder should let you create contact forms easily and seamlessly. You should also be able to customize the form fields to create forms to fit your needs, whether it be a contact form, a registration form or a feedback comment form.
  8. Image galleries
    Not only should your website builder let you create image galleries, it should give you the option to create galleries of different layouts. It should also let you easily upload and edit (including resize, crop, etc.) images as well as customize the look and feel of the gallery.
  9. Blog
    Most website builders have a solid blogging platform. But do remember that their main job is to be a website builder and not a blog. Don't compare your website builder to professional blogging platforms such as WordPress. Rather, look for a website builder that allows you to create blog posts, manage comments, and set blog categories.
  10. Social sharing
    Social media integration and sharing buttons are important features to look for in a website builder. For example, in the case of Facebook, it should allow you to add a Facebook Like and/or Share button. Same with Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, LinkedIn and other major social media platforms.
  11. Site Analytics
    Your website builder needs to let you track daily visitors and help you determine what pages are popular on your website. Look for website builders that allow you to integrate third-party analytics services (such as Google Analytics) or provide a built-in solution.
  12. Supports custom domain
    Some providers let you use a free sub-domain for your website. While it is the cheapest option, it is not the wisest choice. When using a sub-domain, you don't own the domain. The domain belongs to the provider and if you want to take your website elsewhere, you will not be able to. Some providers allow you to use your own domain, but you need to pay for the domain name registration. Then there are providers who will give you a free custom domain name, as long as you keep using their website builder service.
  13. Price
    Since you're probably on a tight budget, finding the website builder with a low price and all the features you need is the holy grail. You don't want to skimp to save $1/month and settle for a lower quality website, but you also don't want to pay $79/month for a website builder that isn't as good as a $10/month option. From my experience, you should be able to find a website builder to build a simple informational website for under $20/month with no problem.

It's very difficult to tell you exactly which website builder is best or better for you. Each website builder has its own set of pros and cons and it all comes down to personal preferences.

For example, you might like one user interface more than the others, or you might like a specific tool that one builder offers while the others don't. Also, some website builders may focus more on a user-friendly interface, while others focus on features and/or template design.

Here are some of the website builders available on the market:

All-inclusive website builders

Like other website builders, [] features an easy-to-use drag-and-drop editor and beautiful and fully-customizable templates. It is also jam-packed with features, gadgets and apps. But what makes highly-recommended is that they throw in a free domain name and email services. While other website builders offer a 1-yr free domain name, the free domain name you get from is free for the lifetime of your site builder account. They also offer various ways to get assistance – FAQ knowledgebase, Live Chat, email and phone support. They don't have a free plan, but there is a 30-day money-back guarantee. [] offers free domain names, free email, and easy-to-use website-building tools. However, the free accounts are quite restricted, with limited features (ie. blog and mobile editor are not included in the free plan). The free plan also comes with ads and brandings on your website.

SiteBuilder [] is essentially the same product as WebsiteBuilder. They are the same website builder, owned by the same company, but marketed on different domain names.

Website builders with stunning template designs

SquareSpace [] may not be as simple or as straightforward as many of the other website builders, but their templates are absolutely stunning. It is one of the best design-orientated website builder on the market. There are no free plans but they do offer a 14-day risk-free trial.

Wix [] is definitely one of the top website builder in terms of beautiful template designs. It is also known for its Wix App Market, where you will find massive collections of site apps and gadgets you can easily add to your website in just a simple click. However, one major drawback is once you have selected a template there is no way to change it.

IM Creator [] hosts a huge library of stunning website templates in a long list of categories ranging from sports and medicine to business and academics. They also offer a blank canvas option where you start with a blank design and add in your own elements. IM Creator does offer a free plan, however the ads and brandings are prominently plastered on your website. Also, IM Creator doesn't have any e-commerce features or tools.

Website builders with cleanest, easiest-to-use editors

When it comes to user-friendly, Weebly [] is hands down one of the easiest to use website builder available, and a lot of it has to do with their drag-and-drop editor. Unlike the editors of Wix, or, Weebly's editor only lets you drop elements into certain designated area of the template. This decreases on the level of flexibility of the website builder, but at the same time, it keeps everything cleaner on your website and also prevents user errors, and most of all, because of this restriction, Weebly is able to ensure structural consistency across its templates - which is why you can freely change template anytime you want on Weebly - something you can't do on Wix. Weebly has a free plan, but the free plan comes with Weebly branding and ads on your free website.

e-Commerce oriented website builders

Jimdo [] is an e-commerce oriented website builder. It offers strong e-commerce tools for online stores. You can configure and customize product display, tax settings, item availability, shipping costs, payment options, cancellation and return policies and more. Jimdo also has a site creation app, available for both Android and iOS, that allows you to create and manage your website from a wide range of tablets and smartphones.

Shopify [] is the king of eCommerce website builders. Although it doesn't allow you to create a regular website, it's hands down the best way to build a full-function online store. You will need to overcome the initial learning curve, but once you do, you will definitely agree you've created the best online store you can. Shopify also lets you integrate your online shop on your Facebook page and a WordPress website.

BigCommerce [] is another solid choice for an eCommerce website builder. It's a little pricey and new beginners may find their collection of features overwhelming. Also, BigCommerce's collection of template is very limited, especially when compared to its biggest competitor, Shopify.

Website builders designed for small businesses

The tools that Shopify [] offers are slightly more geared towards small businesses. For example, it lets you build membership sites – you can manage members, send out group emails, set page privacy, and more. However, you may find their designs a bit outdated.

Website builders for one-page websites

Strikingly [] lets you easily create the best looking one-page websites. However, it does not allow you to build multi-page websites and many standard features require upgrading to a paid plan.

Website builders designed for advanced users/professionals

WebFlow [] is not designed for beginners but rather professionals who want to build sites for their clients without having to code - it allows users access to edit the HTML/CSS for total customization control. It also lets users create a website that can be ported over seamlessly to WordPress.

Website builders for responsive/mobile websites

Duda [] is an easy-to-use website builder that is focused on responsive/mobile websites. While most website builders only offer site creation in desktop or mobile views, Duda gives you the option to create your website in tablet view, too. If your website's look and function on mobile devices is a priority, then you need to check out Duda.

Which website builder is best?

What is the difference between free website builders and paid website builders?

While free website builders are more popular because they are free, they come with limitations.

Here are some of the main differences:

  1. Sub-domains and custom domain names
    Some free website builders require you to create your website on a free sub-domain. This means, you won't be able to use your custom domain. Not only does it make your website URL look unprofessional, if you want to transfer to another provide, you will not be able to.
  2. Ads on website
    Free website builders are known to add ads and footer labels to your website. While it may be possible to manipulate the size of the ads and labels, you won't be able to control the content of the ads.
  3. SEO-unfriendly
    Free website builders generally do not offer any SEO functionalities. On the other hand, most paid services comes with SEO tools to help you with your website's search engine success. Most paid website builders allow you to add keywords, meta tags, meta descriptions, activate Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools for your site.
  4. Inadequate support
    Usually, free website builders offer only the minimal level of customer support. Very often, the only help you have access to are knowledgebase/FAQ articles and a user/community forum. Paid website builders, on the other hand, will offer tech support helpdesks, email and phone support, Live Chat, etc.
  5. Quality of templates
    Most templates offered by paid website builders are stylish, modern, unique, customizable, and mobile-friendly. Paid website builders also give you access to a larger selection of high-quality stock images to use on your website.
  6. Limited features and storage space
    Free plans normally come with limited features and storage space. Most free plans do not include e-commerce solutions or a mobile editor, and the blog comes with bare-minimal features.
Which website builder is best?

If I use a website builder to create my website, do I own the design and content? Can I transfer to another provider?

No, your website builder cannot claim any rights on the content you have created and added to your website. You can take these content to a different site builder anytime you want.

However, the website's design is a different story. If you are using a template from the website builder, you are simply "renting" it. The template belongs to the website builder. If you want to move your website to another provider, your "rent" would stop. You would need to create a new website using the templates provided by the new website builder.

Which website builder is best?

How do I know if a website builder is no longer sufficient for my website needs and I need to turn it over to a professional designer or developer?

Typically, you would turn to a professional designer or developer when:

  1. You need something more complex than website builders can provide. For example, you are trying to create a full-function ecommerce website.
  2. You want a design that is completely unique. Template-based designs means any other customer can use the same template.
  3. You need more power and flexibility. For example, you need a database with search functionality for say, a real estate website.