Website Builders: Are They Right For You?
Table of Contents
What is a website builder?
During the ‘Dot Com’ boom of the late 90s, sites like Geocities and Angelfire allowed users to do something they’d never been able to do before: build their own simple websites. Features were limited, though, and the results were often crude. Fortunately, website builders have come a long way in the last twenty years. Companies like SquareSpace (see our review) and Wix (see our review) now offer incredibly robust tools that allow the layman to build a great looking website with a minimum of fuss.
The market for this kind of service is becoming more and more crowded. Currently, SquareSpace and Wix have a long list of competitors with increasingly odd names (Weebly, Moonfruit, and Jimdo are but a few). But how do these modern Builders really stack up, and when is it better to hire a professional Web Developer? Let’s take a look at some pros and cons for each method.
Website builder software pros:
- Builders are easy to use, period. Choose from one of dozens (if not hundreds) of templates, make some simple layout choices, pick how many pages you want, and you’re off to the races. Filling in content takes up the bulk of your time. A total novice should be able to complete a simple website in under an hour.
- Price is another upside. SquareSpace hosting packages start at $10/month. An introductory Wix package will run you $9.25/month. Many webhosts (Tierra.net, for example) include a web builder in their plans for no extra charge. In the event that they do charge it as an add-on, it’s rarely more than a dollar or two.
- Website Builders allow you to make updates to your site at your leisure. If you’ve got an Internet connection, you’re good to go.
Website builder software cons:
- Builders lack flexibility. If you have an idea for your site that doesn’t fit the scope of the template you’re using—guest what? You’re out of luck.
- Websites created with a Builder do not scale well. Want to expand your web page with e-commerce, widgets, or other features? You’ll probably have to upgrade your plan. The more features you add, the more your monthly cost will increase, sometimes at an exponential rate. Also, as your site grows larger and the tools grow more complicated, you may need to bring in a web developer anyway.
- Website Builders are not designed to be portable. If you build a site with a company like Wix or SquareSpace, you’re going to have to stick with them as the host, or risk having to rebuild your site from scratch. Most of the services will let you export certain content (like text) but you won’t be able to migrate your whole site if you want to change hosts.
Web developer pros:
- Contracting with a Web Developer will first and foremost save you the time and hassle of having to build a site yourself. If you’d rather spend your time on your business, and save the hours spent futzing over design and sifting through tutorials, then this is probably the option for you.
- Web developers can give your site a level of personality and style that is more difficult to accomplish with a website builder. If you want your website to stand out from the rabble, then collaborating with a web designer is going to yield better results than any builder solution you run across.
- Developers allow you the flexibility to get really specific with your web design. If you can sketch it out on a piece of paper, a good web designer should be able to make it happen.
Website developer cons:
- The big one here is money. Developers are expensive. Think $50-60 dollars an hour on the low end. All in, a website with multiple pages could cost $800 to $1500. If you add in e-Commerce, forums, and other features the cost only goes up.
- Another con is the bottleneck that comes from relying on another person to update your site. Updates can take days or sometimes weeks depending on how complicated they are.
- One other thing to factor in when hiring a developer is that the cost of web hosting is not included in their fee. That’s an additional $10 to $100 per month, depending on the size of your site. Web Builder packages typically include the cost of hosting.
Which is right for me?
The best advice I can give when choosing a solution is to be honest about what you need your website to be. Do your customers simply need a quick place to find basic info about your company? Then you’re probably better off saving some money and using a builder. If you need to build a robust e-commerce site or something stylized and artistic, then I’d drop the extra money on a developer.
Did you use a builder to create your website? How did it go? Let me know in the comments.