We know building your own online store can be a daunting task. Where do you start? How much does it cost? How difficult will it be?
These are all big questions. Big questions that deserve thorough, well-informed answers. You don’t even go to a new restaurant nowadays without looking up reviews first. But who are you more likely to trust – a review from Bob who lives down the road, or a professional food critic?
That’s where we come in. Website Builder Expert is the number one resource for information about how to get online. We don’t just try platforms – we carry out professional, in-depth research, and really put them to the test.
When it comes to building an online store, the easiest and most cost-effective option is to use an ecommerce website builder. Website builders are online platforms that provide you with the framework and support you need to design your own ecommerce website.
Naturally, some are better than others. We’ve tested the best platforms around to bring you a definitive answer as to which one is best for your needs.
From speaking to everyday people, just like you, we found out which areas matter the most. Below we’ll talk about each research area in a little more detail.
By its very nature, an ecommerce website builder should make creating an online store a simple process that’s accessible to everyone. As you’d expect though, some platforms are easier to use than others.
In order to test this, we assembled a group of volunteers from the general public and asked them to create their own online store using an assigned builder, working through a task sheet we designed ourselves.
Volunteers were asked to score how easy – or hard – they found each task. From there, we were able to not only calculate an overall ‘ease of use’ score for each website builder, but also see which specific tasks were easy and difficult on every platform.
A feature can be considered as an attribute a website builder possesses, or is capable of performing. If you can create a blog, for example, that platform has a blogging feature.
Given there are so many features to test, we divided them up into ‘sales’ features and ‘website’ features. A sales feature refers to any attribute that helps merchants sell products.
Below are three examples of areas we investigated:
- Inventory – we looked at things like the quality of the platform’s stock management, the amount of product variants you could have (e.g. color, size and fit of a t-shirt), and whether platforms enforced a product limit on how much you could sell.
- Multi-Channel Integration – assessing which platforms integrated with social media, and which allowed you to sell directly on these platforms as well as marketplaces like Amazon or eBay.
- Sales Type – seeing whether you can sell more than just physical products, i.e. digital downloads or services.
A website feature refers to more standard attributes that may not have a direct impact on sales, but are nonetheless central to a website’s success. Here we examined the quality of these features alongside other aspects, such as if the feature was built-in, or just available as an app.
Three of the areas that were researched and tested in this section were:
- SEO – this area was broken down into two sections: the amount of editing control you get (like being able to edit meta titles/descriptions, URL slugs and header code), and what SEO services the platform provides for you (like keyword support and SEO specific apps).
- Marketing – we wanted to know whether the platform had built-in email marketing, or relied on third party plugins. We also delved into the quality of each platform’s automated marketing campaigns, and examined which supplementary apps were available.
- App Integration – not every platform has its own app market, but of those that do, we wanted to find out how many apps they offered, whether they were free or came at an additional cost, and if they could be integrated without needing to know how to code.
The quality of web design can be a subjective matter. That’s why we enlisted the help of industry-leading experts who specialize in Design, UX (User Experience), and Branding.
We wanted to identify what the key components were to good web design. Off the back of our expert discussions, we formulated a list of criteria that each platform’s themes had to meet. How each fared against our criteria formed the basis of a Brand, Design and UX score.
We also looked into things like mobile responsiveness (i.e. do the platform’s themes automatically adjust screen size to fit mobile and tablet devices), and if there were image editing tools.
Finding the balance between affordability and quality is something everybody strives for. We weighed this up by offsetting our ‘quality of features’ score against the average price of the platform.
This gave us a good indication as to whether you’re getting your money’s worth when it comes to each platform’s capabilities.
When looking at the level of support you receive, it’s important to not only assess the quality, but also the different channels you can seek help though. Some people may prefer support via email, while others may want a more immediate interaction, such as a phone call or live chat.
Areas of investigation included:
- How many help services (e.g. phone support, email, live chat etc.) were available
- The minimum price you had to pay to receive at least four different help services
- If the builder had a restore option and/or autosave feature
The final question we wanted to answer was ‘what do potential customers want to know’. For this, we took a collection of information from our previous categories and formulated a score. Areas like value for money and UX were considered, alongside a few new areas.
We also got a recommendation score from our ease of use interviewees, based on how likely they’d be to recommend the platform they used to a friend.
All of our top five platforms have a place in the market. What’s right for your needs may not be great for someone else’s. With that in mind, for an overview of each platform’s capabilities, you’ll want to check out our comprehensive ecommerce comparison chart here.