Website Builders Debunked | What Are They And Who Uses Them?
Ever wondered how hard it is to build a website? The answer – not very!
We know it can be intimidating, what with all the coding experts and web developers out there, but trust us, there’s an easier way with website builders.
A website builder is an online platform that lets you create your own website quickly and easily, without any coding knowledge!
With any of the builders listed above, you could create a website in a matter of hours! Sound too good to be true? Well we’d probably suggest taking a little longer than that. But the point is – anyone can make a website, and anyone can make it look good and work well. Curious? You can either click on one of the builders above to test it out, or read on for a whirlwind tour of all things website builders…
Over the years, we’ve moved from one revolution to the next. First the agricultural revolution, then the industrial and after that, the digital.
We’ve evolved and adapted over the years to make day-to-day life as smooth and easy as possible. When it comes to websites, it’s been no different.
In the past if you wanted a website, you’d either have to code it yourself or find someone to create it for you.
Then came the website builder revolution, helping everyday people build their own websites without needing all the technical knowhow. Technology ‘ey.
Website builders work by you picking from one of many premade templates (this forms the basic layout of your website) and populating it with your own content before customizing it to make it your own.
Some even place your information onto the website and design it for you! But we’ll get into that a little later.
Customization with website builders is easy too. Most work by allowing you to drag-and-drop elements or features onto your website’s pages.
Things like images, contact forms and videos can all be chosen, dragged, and placed exactly where you want them. Think of a website builder like PowerPoint. Simple, right?
So simple in fact, their popularity just keeps on rising! Below you can see the growing trends of people searching for different types of website builders, Wix, Shopify, Weebly and Squarespace, over the years:
That’s all well and good but who are website builders for? And, more importantly, you’re probably asking would they work for me?
Website builders can work for anyone and any industry.
From artists to businesses, blogs to charities, CVs to store owners, website builders cater for every need. Sure, some are better for certain industries than others, but there will always be a solution out there for you.
It’s not just a starting base, either. There’s some massive websites out there that were built using website builders.
Harry’s Razors, for example – a company founded in 2013 – is a popular ecommerce service for shaving products. It’s a multi-million dollar business and was built using Shopify, a ecommerce-specific website builder.
Galo Delgado, a Manhattan-based photographer who catches the essence of New York through his images, has designed his site on Wix.
In a world where every Instagrammer fancies themselves as a bit of a whiz behind the lens, Galo’s website helps him attract clients by standing out from the crowd.
As with anything in life, some website builders are better than others. Here at Website Builder Expert, we’ve spent hundreds – maybe even thousands – of hours putting each one through our in-house tests.
We’ve conducted research to score each website builder, awarding both an overall rating out of 5, and measuring them on the six different categories listed below:
Ease of Use – How easy is it to create a website for non-tech savvy folk? We tested this by getting average, everyday people to build their own website and interviewing them after on how they found it.
Help and Support – What type of support does the website builder offer? Phone, Email, Live Chat etc? And how good is their Knowledge Base at returning helpful, relevant results to commonly asked questions?
Design Flexibility – How many templates are on offer? Do they meet web design best practises? And how easy are they to customize?
Features – What is each website builder actually capable of doing? How many features do they offer and how good are really they?
Value for Money – Looking at the average price of the website builders’ premium plans and the features that are available on each plan.
Customer Score – What do people who actually use these website builders think of them? Are they satisfied, and how likely would they be to recommend them?
The below table is a summary of our findings, ranking the top ten website builders. A more comprehensive breakdown is available here.
Wix is incredibly easy to use, offers tons of cool and useful features, and comes in at a reasonable price. Result!
That’s not to say that Wix is always the best option for you, though.
This type of website builder works similarly to programmes like Microsoft Powerpoint. You select a template then add your content.
To change the layout, or add something new, simply select the item you wish to edit/add and drag it to the position on the page you’d like it to be. Easy, right?
Products such as Wix and SiteBuilder use a drag-and-drop editor, giving you full control over the placement of all your website’s content. Perfect for those with a very set idea of what they want, or who just need a simple way of creating a website.
The clue’s in the name with this one, your website is built in sections.
Imagine you have four different colored Lego blocks, stacked one on top of the other. You decide the red one in the middle actually looks better at the bottom, so you take it apart and place it there – a section website builder works on exactly the same principal.
You have sections, such as a contact form, banner image, and text block. If you decide on changing the order that they appear on your page, all you have to do is rearrange them.
These options are great for people who want creative freedom but may not know too much about website design and don’t want to go against best practices.
ADI (Artificial Design Intelligence)
Despite having the most complex name of them all, ADI website builders are actually the easiest to use!
Instead of selecting a template, all you do is answer a few simple questions – like the purpose of your website and its title – and, hey presto, it’ll design your site for you.
You can still customize your website after it’s been generated but ADI website builders are really designed for those lacking time and/or expertise who need a website live ASAP.
CMS (Content Management Systems)
In truth, every website builder has some form of content management system but a few are known for their powerful tools and analytics, making them the best choice for some people.
CMS website builders are most commonly associated with ecommerce platforms such as Shopify and BigCommerce as they help you keep track of your inventory, manage shipping and taxes, and present data to you on the users visiting your site.
WordPress is another example of a product with loads of tools to help you both create and maintain your websites.
CMS website builders tend to be used more by people with slightly higher technical competency, or businesses looking to scale.
Website builders vs Web designers
If you’re still unclear on what a website builder is compared to a web developer, allow us to explain:
A website builder is an online platform that helps you create your own website. A web developer is someone you hire to create your website for you.
Now that’s cleared up, you may be thinking ‘why would I take the time to build my own website when I could just get someone to build it for me?’
Well firstly, website builders cost a fraction of the price of hiring a web developer so unless you have a lot of money to throw around, a website builder may be your best bet.
Secondly, once your site’s been created you’ll have to manage it yourself. Wouldn’t it be a lot easier to maintain if you were the one that built it in the first place?
Finally, despite what you may think, website builders are actually incredibly easy to use. In fact, from our research we found that even though only 37% of the public thought they’d be capable of building a website, a whopping 83% of you can actually do it!
The only knowledge needed is how to use a website browser (if you’re reading this then you’re halfway there!) and how to use basic drag-and-drop tools such as PowerPoint. Even if you don’t, it’s super easy to learn and fast to pick up.
Of course there are some circumstances where hiring a web developer makes perfect sense.
If you have very specific things you want your website to do, and after reading through some reviews it seems that no website builder can help you, you may want to contact a developer.
It’s also a viable option if you’re money-rich but time-poor and it’s for this reason a lot of big, global businesses go down the developer route.
It’s not always a straightforward process, though. How do you know which developers you can trust? What exactly are you getting for your money? And where’s the best place to start looking?
Thankfully, our handy guide on Where to Find Good Freelance Website Designers, Graphic Designers or Developers takes you through the challenges, pros and cons, and best places to start your search.
The world wide web has come a long way from its early days. Back in 1993, there were only 623 websites on the internet, and they were all built with HTML code!
In ‘95, Microsoft provided users with software called FrontPage, but it was a small service called Geocities that first gave the average person access to website building.
Several other platforms popped up in the ‘90s and ‘00s and from there the website builders we know today were brought to life.
Squarespace was founded in 2003, Wix and Weebly in 2006, and on the ecommerce front, Shopify and BigCommerce joined the party in 2004 and 2009 respectively.
Looking into the future – not that we have a crystal ball or anything – it looks like ADI (Artificial Design Intelligence) website builders are the new order of the day.
With Wix having massive success off the back of launching their own ADI website builder, others have followed suit. GoDaddy even changed their product entirely to ADI at the start of 2018, creating their new website builder, GoCentral.
In a world where everyone wants things done yesterday, it wouldn’t be surprising to see more and more ADI website builders crop up.
On the flip side, website builders are also trying to muscle their way into the world of ecommerce.
Powerful platforms like Shopify and BigCommerce currently dominate the field, but the likes of Wix, Weebly and Squarespace are hot on their trail, constantly looking at how to improve their ecommerce services. And they’re doing a good job.
Now that you’re up to speed, we’ll be sure to keep you posted on all things website builder-related from here on out!
When should I use a website builder over hiring a developer?
A website builder is a fantastic way of creating and maintaining your own website. It’s simple, easy to do, and won’t cost you an arm and a leg!
These days, website builders are pretty comprehensive, letting you build almost any type of website you’re after.
If you don’t have loads of cash to splash, and you want a website which you can update with minimal fuss, then a website builder’s your best bet.
Which website builder is the best?
From spending our professional lives using, testing, and speaking to people just like you about website builders, we can say with confidence that Wix is the best all-around product on the market today.
If you’re looking to build an online store, however, where you can sell tons of products and grow your business into an ecommerce empire, look no further than Shopify.
How do I know which website builder is the best choice for me?
Wix and Shopify may be the top dogs in their fields but, depending on the purpose of your website, there could be a better option out there.
All website builders have their strengths and weaknesses, so we’d always recommend you read our website builder reviews then narrow your choice down to two options.
Most website builders offer a free plan (or at least a free trial) so from there you can ‘try before you buy’ and see which one really works for you. To find out which website builders are best suited to your needs, take our quiz here.
What is web hosting and how does it fit into all of this?
Hosting allows you to put your website on the internet. Think of it as the hooks that hold your pictures on the wall.
Most website builders provide domains and host your site for you. It is possible, however, to purchase a domain and host your website separately to the website builder you use and just connect the two.
Who are we?
Here at Website Builder Expert, we’re dedicated to helping you get online and be as successful as possible once there. Since starting up in 2010, we’ve connected hundreds of thousands of readers with the right platform for their needs.
We do this through consistently keeping up to date with the latest website trends and using our own in-house research team. From user testing to features analysis, we put all the website builders we use through the same rigorous process.
Ultimately, our success is your success. We provide you with the latest information, our expert opinion, and honest, thorough research to help you make the best and most informed choice possible when it comes to website builders.