Website builders or DIY site construction kits have come a long way and are now holding a large segment in the web building and publishing market. These days, when everyone needs a personal website, Do-It-Yourself web services appear like mushrooms after the rain, leaving us wondering which one to choose. The choice is really overwhelming. I’ve already reviewed more than a dozen, and there are twice as many. So, based on my personal experience, I’d like to present you with my own classification of website builders for the novice. Hope it will help you get the picture of the current market.
As I see it, the most distinguishing specification is specialization. Therefore, I would define two major groups: specialized and versatile website builders.
Specialized platforms are geared towards building a specific type of websites, let’s say eCommerce websites, portfolios, gaming websites etc. On the one hand, specialized services deliver more specific features (QR code generators in eCommerce, live chat and forums in gaming websites, chic galleries in portfolios etc.), but on the other hand – they can’t be used for other purposes. For instance, you can’t add an e-shop to your Gaming site or live chat to your portfolio.
Versatile website builders combine different feature sets allowing users to create websites of different complexity by activating and mixing system widgets, modules, apps or whatever you might want to call them. One of the vivid examples is uCoz. This platform offers a set of default modules that can be used in different combinations. For instance, I can build a website that will have a Blog, Forum, E-Shop, Mini Chat, GuestBook and Ad Board simply by switching these modules on.
Usually, website builders are very affordable. The cost often equals the average web hosting package, and sometimes – even cheaper. From a pricing standpoint, I would divide website builders into license- and subscription-based.
Subscription-based website builders offer their services on a monthly/annually/biannually basis. As a rule, these are all-in-one website builders like IMCreator for instance. They offer ‘turnkey’ website building solutions. You pay a monthly fee ($3 – $20 on average) and get a CMS, web hosting, out-of-the-box updates, technical support and high security levels.
One-time payment or license-based website builders sell templates only, but don’t offer any web hosting solutions. The templates already include an admin panel and editing tools. You pay once and get the chosen design and tools. Then you have to purchase a web hosting plan somewhere else and upload your template to the server. That’s a pretty burdensome task comparing to the traditional, all-in-one web builders. However, there’s also a benefit: you won’t have to pay a monthly fee. Only for the chosen hosting plan.
Many website builders began as Flash-based constructors. Their designs were stunning and people seemed to be quite satisfied. However, because Flash websites are considered to be SEO-unfriendly (because crawlers aren’t capable of analyzing Flash elements), many website builders switched from Flash templates to HTML. However, there are also website builders that offer both HTML and Flash templates, MotoCMS for instance. This versatile, license-based website builder has a collection of effects-rich Flash and HTML themes. Their Flash themes all have inbuilt HTML copies that make these themes visible to search engines.
This division is very simple: there are website builders that have Mobile Editors and those who have not. Mobile editors allow users to configure the mobile look of their websites using the same easy, drag-and-drop tools. Below is Webydo’s Mobile editor:
Social Media Sharing
It’s impossible to imagine a successful, established web presence without social media sharing functionality. Therefore, website builders have taken care of this aspect to make social media sharing as easy and effective as possible. With Wix, for instance, you can position your social media buttons anywhere on the page simply by dragging and dropping the chosen icon in the right place. Afterwards, you can change the style of the social bar as per your needs (display your followers, customize text etc.). Speaking about social sharing, it’s important to note that there are site builders offering automatic publishers. Once configured, they automatically send your blog posts to the chosen social networks. This feature can be found on uCoz.
Website builders range in price, features and ease-of-use. It’s impossible to agree upon the best one, as they are all very different. When selecting a site maker bear in mind your business needs, ambitions and budget. Good luck!