Ads for website builders are everywhere – turn on the TV or view a YouTube video, and you’ll likely catch an ad for one of the several popular services plying their trade. You may be wondering what a website builder is, or even whether you should consider their services for your needs. This article outlines both.
What Is a Website Builder?
Though features and services vary among website builders, most promise you a user-friendly dashboard on which you can choose, move, and alter website elements. Most website builders offer standard layouts, templates or themes, or start with a blank site and drag-and-drop design elements you choose. Options for hosted and non-hosted solutions exist, depending on your needs:
Hosted solutions offer you the option to allow the company to host and manage the software. You’ll pay a fee, usually monthly, and avoid downloading software onto your computer.
Self-hosted solutions require you to pay for software and hosting, download the software, and manage updates yourself.  WordPress being an exception, most CMS solutions are free to download or install.
What Are Some Advantages of Website Builders?
- Coding experience isn’t necessary. Users can add content, as well as previously complicated features like maps, videos, and forms, as easily as dragging and dropping.
- You don’t need web design experience. The website builders’ designers do the work for you, creating layouts and templates into which you simply drop your own content. Templates and content are often easy to rearrange without technical experience.  A lack of knowledge in design, UX or coding disciplines is both a pro and a con.
- Changes are simple. You won’t have to ask a webmaster to make changes on your behalf – just add new content as you see fit, or click to delete content that no longer belongs.
- Relatively low cost. Website builders can be affordable due to the client-generated nature of the product, and eliminate the need to pay a web design service or webmaster.
- No software downloads necessary. If you choose a hosted solution, there’s no need to update or take up hard drive space with website software.
What Are Some Disadvantages of Website Builders?
While website builders offer several benefits for the inexperienced website owner, they are not without their drawbacks, many of which directly correspond with advantages.
- You’re locked into the builder’s platform. While drag-and-drop features abound, any extra elements you may find to add to your website are completely dependent on the template you chose. This means adding certain new features may be impossible.
- No web design experience is available. After developers have churned out the templates, they leave you on your own to determine the elements you’ll need to fit your website’s purpose.
- You must do all content changes and reconfiguring. You won’t have access to a webmaster or web designer to help you determine which additions are beneficial and which could do more harm than good.
- You get what you pay for. Relatively low costs can come at the expense of several features.
- Not hosting means a loss of control. If you don’t host your own site, you lose control over your domain name and aren’t able to track marketing with Google Analytics.
Should You Use a Website Builder for Your Small Business?
Chances are, use of a website builder could un-complicate the process of building your business website. The benefits of a builder, such as easy to use, fixed templates and no need to hire a webmaster, can also turn out to be negatives for some business owners. Once you’ve built your site on one of the common builders, you risk losing your customizations if the company goes out of business or you decide to switch providers. Worst of all, you may even lose ownership of your content. Read the terms of any website builder agreement carefully before deciding if their services are right for you.
 Designing a website without any experience or knowledge of user experience, design principles, the marketing industry or markup languages is both an advantage and a disadvantage. Website design is a discipline that requires an investment of a minimum of two years and $9,000 to earn an associate degree in information technology. As with any career that requires skill, a DIY job can cause more harm than good. You can try to fix your car, or your plumbing, or do your own taxes, but a mistake will cost you far more than you anticipated. With a lack of web design skills, you can lose customers or injure your small business credibility long-term. ↑
Let Master Web Creations help you determine which solution is right for your business. Learn more about our small business web design process and contact us for a consultation today.