Updated: Sep 30
Building a website has never been easier than it is these days. But with so many choices, it can be hard to decide which platform to use. Depending on your skill level and what you need, you'll want to look for different features in your website builder.
What features, you might ask? Let’s review:
Ease of use
Intuitiveness – Some website builders are easy to use and have simple interfaces with drag and drop functionality. This is useful as you won’t have to constantly troubleshoot every time you want to make changes.
Learning curve – If you are not great with technology, it is unlikely you will want to spend hours learning how to set up a website. Some website builders are much easier than others.
Setup time – Similarly, you may want to get your site up and running immediately, particularly if it is an event you want to promote. If you need something quick, you might be willing to give up some customization.
Ongoing management – Needing help from a web developer with managing your site defeats the purpose of a website builder. It should be easy to manage in terms of updates.
If you have an established business you should think carefully about scalability when it comes to creating a new website. Is it possible that your website will need to grow to accommodate your growing team, product inventory etc? Some platforms will be more capable of scaling while others will limit you.
Custom code – Does the website builder allow you to use custom code? Some website builders use standardized code, which are the building blocks of a website. These allow you to easily create a site with various features. In some cases, however, you may need your own custom features and the ability to write your own code. If this is something you need, make sure your builder allows it.
Integrations – You will probably create new goals as your website grows, such as running ads or embedding social feeds. Some website builders are more compatible with other platforms and are easier to integrate.
If you plan on running a site with a lot of visitors and it happens to go down, the last thing you want is an unresponsive support team. This is especially true if you plan on driving a lot of traffic at a given time.
A website builder with a strong support team is also useful if you are just getting started online, considering you may still get stuck, even with simple interfaces.
Support channels – When picking a platform you’ll want to consider the ways in which you can get in touch with support teams such as live chat, email, and phone. Does the platform have an in-depth FAQ page? This can be extremely helpful for troubleshooting. There is nothing more frustrating than encountering website issues and being unable to quickly reach a support person.
Responsiveness – If your site breaks at 5 PM eastern time, but their support team only works European hours, then you are in trouble. Some teams may also respond much quicker than others. If you have to reach out by email for example, it may take 24-48 hours (or longer) to get a response whereas platforms that offer chat functions can make customer support much faster.
Engagement – Even if a company offers a chat feature on their website, sometimes support teams can be useless. Maybe they are being paid very little so they do not care, or they are overworked. Either way, you need support that can actually solve your problems.
If you plan on making money from your website, either by selling products directly or to capture leads, then price should not be a key consideration for you. Make an investment in the best service for your needs.
However, if you just want to set up a small information site, then you could do with the cheapest options. Generally, website builders that have feature depth are typically more expensive as they solve more specific problems.
Cost – Some website builders can be more costly, with some reaching upwards of $299 a month. Others are permanently free with the option to upgrade for a small monthly fee.
Trial – Before you commit, it can be useful to take advantage of a trial offer to play around with the tools. You will likely find that some are a better fit than others. Be warned that using a free trial can be a false economy. Since it can take hours or days to develop a site, (especially if there is e-commerce involved), in most cases you won’t want to abandon your efforts after the trial period. Make sure you are happy with the platform before you get knee deep into a project.
Hosting & domain – Most website builders will host your website on the web, which is typically included in the price. Some may also offer a domain as part of the package. Otherwise, you would have to purchase these yourself.
The features of a website builder are the main thing to consider when deciding which route to follow. This is because they will have the most impact on your specific goals.
For instance, if you want to set up a landing page for a specific product, trying to optimize with a generic site builder will be a pain. It will probably lack the in-depth analytic tools that a dedicated landing page builder would have.
Also keep in mind that there are some features that you may not need now, but you could need in the future, such as if you plan on running paid ads to your blog posts.
Ecommerce shop – If you plan to sell things online, you need a website builder that allows you to do so. Consider sub-features such as payment processing and product catalogs.
SEO – Some website builders have tools that allow you to rank better in Google searches.
Marketing tools – You may also need other marketing tools, such as forms, pop-ups, and chat boxes.
Community – In some cases, you may want to expand your website into a community where people can communicate and network (otherwise known as a forum).
Analytic tools – Website builders may also offer analytic tools that help track traffic on your website or at least integrate with other tools that do.
Niche features – Perhaps there are some special features you are looking for such as the ability to set up a crowdfunding campaign in addition to having a standard website.
Themes and templates – Website builders allow you to start with a predesigned website that is customizable to various extents. Some themes serve different purposes in terms of branding and utility.
Mobile-friendliness – You will need to ensure that your website builder automatically makes your website easy for mobile users, typically with responsive design.
Customization – It is likely you will want to make some changes to your template. You will need to consider the various customization tools available.
Regardless of your goal, you should always be concerned with providing a great user experience to the people who are visiting your site. It simply makes logical sense – if your site is hard to navigate, people won’t get the most out of it.
The actual design and branding are important too. For instance, some designs are more corporate while others are more welcoming. There may be a design template that really suits your particular brand. And if you are selling something, you need to ensure that the design is optimized to increase conversions.
Now that you have a good understanding of the types of website builders and the features to look out for, get out there and compare the website builders that are on the market. You can see our take on the best website builders here.