Updated: Sep 30, 2022
But these days, website builders allow you to bypass the technical stuff and create functional, on-brand websites without any knowledge of coding whatsoever. The top website builders on the market offer hundreds of templates that allow you to customize and a variety of design elements to create unique, professional looking websites.
On the surface, these website builders come with a price tag that can seem higher than the low budget hosting and nearly free Wordpress options that are out there.
But are website builders worth the cost?
If you’re looking to build a website, it's important to weigh your options. Should you build something yourself using a website builder, or hire a web developer to go the traditional route? The answer depends on a variety of factors, including your goals, your budget, needs and how much time you have.
What is a website builder?
Website builders are DIY tools that allow those with little or no technical skills to build a website using a templates and design elements - with no code required. Builders empower you to create professional looking websites through a drag and drop editor, without the expertise needed to build from scratch.
Most builders also offer hosting services so that users can avoid the technical stuff when it comes time to launching their site or connecting their domain.
Some popular website builders on the market right now include: Elementor, Squarespace, Weebly, GoDaddy and Wix.
Here's a rough rundown of each:
Elementor is a live drag-and-drop WordPress website builder that offers extensive design features and a large collection of templates in its free plan.
Wix is a comprehensive, beginner-friendly, and scalable platform that helps you build a professional website without writing any code. (Wix is our ultimate fav)
Squarespace is ideal for users who have some technical skill and web design knowledge since the strength of the platform lies in visual design.
Weebly works well for small businesses, online stores, blogs, and personal portfolios. You can use its drag-and-drop editor to build simple, yet stylish websites.
With all these great options available, there are some key factors to consider when deciding whether to use custom web development or a website builder:
1. Speed and performance
More than ever, speed and performance is an important factor that Google uses to determine your website ranking. It’s also obviously an important factor when it comes to user experience. If your site is slow and clunky, your website visitor will not be impressed.
For website builders, site speed is largely out of your hands. Aside from bogging your website down with large video and image files - website builders take on the heavy lifting when it comes to optimizing your site speed.
Website builders like Elementor are inherently built for speed, but also feature continuous updates to optimize performance.
Wix and GoDaddy are the most reliable website builders in terms of page speed, faring well in both mobile and desktop performance.
And while your web developer may have more ability to create a lightning fast custom-built website, they will need to maintain the site regularly to keep it operating quickly and smoothly, which means you'll probably need to be on a support plan with your web developer, which can get pricey.
In this day and age, your website absolutely, positively needs to be mobile friendly and responsive. Depending on your industry, the vast majority of your site visitors will be viewing your site on mobile, and Google’s mobile-first indexing has made it clear that if your site doesn't show well on mobile devices, it’s unlikely to rank well in search engines.
But creating a mobile-responsive website from scratch is not an easy thing to do, even if you’re a professional web designer. If you're hiring a web developer, you need to make sure they are able to format your site so that it shows properly on different screen sizes.
Website builders have revolutionized this process, offering mobile editing tools to ensure that websites are 100% responsive, and features like mobile font size, responsive column width, padding and margins, reverse columns, responsive sizing, and visibility elements help create mobile-friendly websites.
3. Customization features
One of the arguments web developers often make against using website builders is that they are too limited when it comes to design. And while they are right, (you can’t design anything you could dream of on a website builder) website builders have come a long way in terms of design capabilities and customization.
Most website builders have a decent-sized library of templates that help kick start the website creation process, with customization options that allow you to make your website your own.
And depending on the builder, you can have your cake and eat it too.
Elementor’s Full Website Kits allows you to streamline your branding design and adds tons of flexibility to the design process, especially for eCommerce.
While some builders, like Weebly, are better suited to those who lack design sense and want well-structured templates that keep things consistent, Wix is an excellent choice for those who want extensive creative freedom. Wix has over 800 fully customizable templates, and an app market of hundreds of integrations to extend your site's capabilities.
Squarespace offers fewer templates but is designed to highlight visuals and ideal for specific artistic industries.
4. Cost and maintenance
There is no doubt about it: the cost of using a website builder is astronomically cheaper than hiring a web developer. And since website builders handle all the maintenance required to keep your site running smoothly, including all technical issues and security, you simply never have to hire a web developer to keep your site up and running.
Wix, Weebly, and Elementor have free plans with all the necessary features to build a functional website. Squarespace and GoDaddy offer free trials to help you decide if it’s the right fit for you. Popular plans for most website builders range between $12 per month and $23 per month.
Compare this to the upfront cost of hiring a website developer, which is typically between $5,000 and upwards of $30,000 or more depending on your website. And even if you score a deal on a custom built website with a web developer, there are always ongoing maintenance costs associated with your website, which typically cost between $500 - $1000 or more per year, depending on your web developer's maintenance plan.
Worse yet, if you hire a web developer to build you a custom website and don't take their maintenance plan? Your website will eventually just stop working properly, and you'll have unresolved issues with security and plugin updates.
And given the fact that most web developers still use templates to get started with your website - you’re basically paying for them to build your site in an overly technical way that you won’t be able to manage yourself after the fact.
One of the huge perks of website builders is that these companies almost always offer excellent technical support, in case you get stuck. Typically, you can access support specialists via email, phone or live chat.
While some are better than others, many website builders also offer extensive tutorials and FAQs to help users find answers to their questions. Wix has an extensive and searchable library of both written and video tutorials, as well as a live chat function. Weebly offers SEO Guides for tips on coding, keyword optimization, and improving site ranking.
Elementor has it’s Elementor Academy, a free platform filled with course materials on web creation developed by experienced designers.
Gone are the days when you had to peruse forums from 2011 looking for the answer to your website question.
All in all, website builders are an excellent option when it comes to building a unique, performance-optimized, on-brand website.
These builders allow you to create beautiful websites without any knowledge of code - and keep them up to date without the trouble or expense of hiring a web developer.
The price tag for these services is justifiable when you look at all that you get: an easy-to-use editor that doesn't require tons of technical knowledge, templates and design elements that are professional and tailored to whatever industry you're in, and no ongoing maintenance fees to ensure your site keeps ticking.
Here at Cat's Cove, we offer the best of both worlds. We build for our clients on Wix, then train them on how to use their website going forward, so they get a custom Wix website (at a fraction of the cost of a WordPress build) and zero maintenance fees.