Pros and Cons of Online Website Builders (and my top picks)
It's a pretty basic fact of life: your website is your brand's front door to the world. Whether you're a business owner, and influencer, or hosting an online portfolio for potential employers to scope out, the fact is that these days, if you aren't visible online, you don't exist.
So many of my clients come to me and are intimidated by the entire process of setting up a site. What's a domain? What is hosting? Why do you have to pay twice? Is paying for search results bad? Do I really need to keep up with Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and oh gosh, here comes another one....
YOU MAY BE THINKING: I JUST DON'T HAVE TIME FOR THAT!
Listen up, because I have something important to tell you. It's not a problem. It really is not as hard as it seems. I know, I know, there's a lot of jargon out there. As great as a fully custom website is (and TimeJump Media can totally help you out with that, and meet you where you are), many business owners lack the time, the capital, or the desire to invest in an experience build from scratch. And that's okay.
There will always be a place for bespoke websites, but maybe you aren't there yet. There's also a middle ground somewhere between templates and a fully custom experience - we'll get to that in a minute.
Don't know how to code? Don't sweat it.
Enter the world of online website builders. They have come a long way since the earliest site builders in the 1990s - Geocities, Tripod and Angelfire (RIP, Jubie's World « my first website). Here is a list of six popular online site builders that are a good place to start (I've tried them all):
GoDaddy Website Builder (http://godaddy.com/websites/website-builder)
Cool! What are the capabilities?
Drag-and-drop website builders provide templates, options for typography, and options to customize. These tools allow users to go with an out-of-the-box template, upload your logo and paste your text, or you can apply further design customizations. They all provide automatic mobile-responsive layouts, so visitors can view the site on their smartphones, which is very beneficial for SEO (search engine optimization). They all have options to include social media links.
All of these builders allow you to integrate your Google analytics tracking code to monitor traffic and visitors.
Each of the above-mentioned options (with the exception of GoDaddy) offer both free and paid options. Free options will get you a web address with a sub-domain. If you subscribe to any of these services, you can connect your custom domain name for a more professional Web presence.
You can easily set up photo galleries, blogs, and even e-commerce stores where you can upload and organize your inventory and connect them to Paypal or your payment processing system.
I love GoDaddy in particular for it’s library of stock photos included - stock photos are expensive, and it can be difficult to find professional looking stock photos.
That's great. But everything comes with a catch. What's the downside?
If you don't mind getting your hands dirty and spending a bit of time setting up your site, these builders can host pages that are fast and easy to update. This works out great if you're the DIY-type. They all offer certain levels of support (GoDaddy has 24/7 phone and chat, others have webchat or email-based support) but if you think you'd like a more dedicated resource, consider saving up to invest in a designer and web maintenance person down the road. If this is your goal, websites builders can be a wonderful placeholder.
Each of the sites mentioned above comes with limitations as to the level of personalization you can apply and where photographs and text can be be placed. Some are easier to work with than others.
For example, if you want to move a button to the left or right, when the template offered has it centered, you cannot always do this.
If you're looking for pixel-perfect precision and full control over your layout and design, a more customized approach than online site builders is probably right for you.
GoDaddy site builder allows for injection of custom code and styling. Weebly.com offers limited ability to modify and customize the code. Aside from a custom installation of Wordpress, no online website builders allow for full access and customization via source code.
The wonderful thing about website builders is that you don’t need to know any HTML at all to put together a gorgeous website! And for the most part, your visitors cannot tell that you have used a website builder.
Better for intermediate to advanced users
Wordpress is an open-source framework that began as a blogging tool and has evolved into a complete publishing tool. It is extensible with free and paid plugins which enhance the out-of-the-box functionality.
Wordpress can be used from a basic, plug-and-play level all the way up to complete customization of the source code. For this reason, Wordpress is a great option if you’d like to start small but wish to expand or hire a developer in the future. However, Wordpress takes more time to learn. The good news is that there are many great videos and resources about how to do anything you’d like with Wordpress.
If you'd like a middle-of-the-road solution between an online site builder and a ground-up experience, a site running a customized version of the Wordpress.org framework is a great place to start. Contact TimeJump Media today for a free consultation to get started.