Website builders are software that converts visual design elements into HTML/CSS files that can be displayed as websites by browsers. Website builders come often with hosting, which provides storage and server capabilities for the files.
A website can be compared to a home. Website builders can be compared to pre-built homes or condominiums, which have infrastructure and services. The home usually includes the hosting, address (domain), and other services. Although there are some limitations and costs, it is usually much easier than building a house from scratch.
This is the quick version. Website builders are more than that.
What are website builders?
Website builders are software that converts design and content elements to valid HTML / CSS. These HTML/CSS can be displayed in any Internet browser. Although they have a long history, their capabilities have changed significantly in recent years.
Since the invention of the Web, people have desired to create websites without knowing the underlying HTML and CSS programming languages. In the beginning, website builders were actually desktop programs that you needed to download and use (frontpage FTW!). These were WYSIWYG software (What you see is what you get).
Website builders began to evolve and change rapidly as web technology, software and consumers evolved. Very few people can create HTML & CSS from scratch .
Even seasoned front-end web developers, everyone uses some type of “website builder”. Everybody wants to create websites quicker with better features and design elements. It’s becoming more common for people to use templates, libraries and themes, theme frameworks, content management systems, scripts, and other tools to build websites faster.
This shift has resulted in what we now refer to as a “website designer” actually is a web-based program that not only provides the HTML and CSS conversion but also hosting, security, support, integrations, marketing tools, and customer support that most people desire when they say, “I want a site”. Technically, the term should be “hosted site builder”.
Consider different housing types as an example. A “website builder” was originally a pre-cut construction material that could be used to quickly build a house. A “website builder”, in modern times, is more similar to a condo or townhome development. You are limited in your choices. You can still customize your home and pay a small fee for maintenance, garbage pickup, and lawn care.
The rest of this FAQ will be focused on hosted website builders. These website builders not only create your website’s HTML and CSS, but also bundle support, security, etc. into one subscription fee.
How do website builders work?
Website builders often use proprietary software. It’s difficult to know exactly how they work but it is generally the same.
Hosted website builders will create an account and provide server space. This software allows you to log in and manage both your design and content. Browsers will also use the “backend” to create the website that visitors see.
Are Website Builders Worth It?
It all depends on your goals, needs, and knowledge.
If you’re confident in your ability to solve problems, and want to build a long term project with lots more versatility, then I strongly recommend you steer clear of hosted website builders and instead learn how you can set up your own hosting account . This goes for many different kinds of websites.
Website builders are worth the investment if you value speed and convenience and have the funds to pay the monthly fees. You get most of the services you need for a predictable monthly fee. They offer personalized customer service and manage all updates.
It’s like looking for a home vs. a condo. Although homeowners may be skeptical about the benefits of owning a house, they can still feel confident. The thing about a home is that you are responsible for it. Even if the grass isn’t cut, someone has to do it. You have to figure out who you should call. It is possible to build a pool, but you must maintain it.
Condo owners have just sent a check to their Homeowners’ Association. They must also abide by HOA rules, which limit what they can do for their property.
Are website builders good for SEO?
It all depends on your goals, knowledge and needs. This is similar to asking whether a condo is suitable for hosting parties.
You need to clarify a few things. For example, how involved are you in organizing parties? Are you looking for a place that looks nice and allows you to focus on the food, or do you want to create the ultimate party space over the course of several years?
Because Flash is a Flash , website builders have earned a little bit of fame with SEO . Flash was the original drag and drop tool used by website builders. You would also find some strange URL structures. Googlebot was unable to crawl and index websites created with web-based website builders.
This issue is no longer a problem for most big brand website builders. Googlebot is far better than circa-2012 . While some website builders still have issues, I believe that SEO is not the primary concern. What you want to do with SEO should be the main concern. Here are some examples of past clients/readers.
Client A was looking to establish a strong presence in a niche market of the senior housing sector. They were looking to rank high for competitive terms, and they wanted to revise and update many pages using Schema markup. Also, they wanted to roll out a consistent content strategy. They were using Wix. My first suggestion? My first recommendation? Stop doing everything. Spend money to rebuild your entire website on self-hosted WordPress. Wix, a hosted website builder, would not be able to handle the content and integrations we required.
Client A needed a website to promote a hyper-local restaurant and deli. They wanted to rank for local terms and brand names. The site was and they had no budget or time to update it except for the menu, which they could edit via their smartphone every week. They knew how to integrate food into Wix and had previously used Wix. They did a great job with the SEO they needed (eg Google Maps and local terms and menu terms).
Client C started a side-project about personal fitness. They had no plans but just wanted to start. They just got up and running on Squarespace. Their blog started to take off after it worked for a while. You can only get plugins and capabilities with your own hosting account. They decided to build their own website with WordPress using a self-hosted VPS. Then they migrated from Squarespace. The organic traffic has increased dramatically since then, largely because they can manage their content and not because Squarespace’s SEO is “bad”.
It all depends on what SEO you require. Website builders aren’t “bad” for SEO. However, they can’t be considered “good” SEO unless they do what you want.
What makes a good website builder?
Good website builders are those who help you succeed with your project. That’s all.
If the “BEST!” a website building tool has too many features or limitations that it hinders you from reaching your goals, then it is not the “BEST!”.
Yes, there are certain website builders that are better than others. These are the ones I would not touch for ANY project, no matter how big or small.
Write down the features you like. List the features. Write down your goals. It is less important what you write than the fact that you are actually thinking about it.
Drag and drop may not be as important to some people as data export…which might be less important than phone customer support.
Good website builders should always create readable, indexable, and crawlable HTML & CSS that visitors are able to access. It’s up to the website builder to do more.
Which website builders are the best?
This is the implied proposition.
I have reviewed many of the top-name brands such as Squarespace, WordPress.com, Wix, Weebly and Squarespace. There are many options available. Some hybrid options exist, such as BoldGrid that overlays drag-and-drop functionality on a self-hosted WordPress installation. You can also find GATOR, and many other options.
Next, you should do some research on your goals and then get to work! Many website builders offer a free trial. You can take advantage of these to make your final decision.
Learn more about What is the Best Website Builder? and How to Start a Blog.