Website builders. Let's face it, we've all considered them. Who doesn't want a modern website built within a matter of minutes, at a fraction of the money it costs to hire a real developer? But wait, there's always a catch! In this article, we take a look at what website builders really are, discuss their specific pros and cons, and identify a simple rule of thumb to help you figure out if you should use one to build your startup website.
What Are Website Builders?
Website builders are online apps that let you launch new websites within moments, without knowing a thing about code. But they don't magically eliminate coding from the web development process. They are simply tools that use a predefined set of rules to automatically generate the code for you as you build. They use a drag-and-drop interface to let you make changes to your website visually, working in the background to translate those changes into code in real-time.
Because they're automated, website builders cost a fraction of what it takes to hire a real developer. For less than $50/month, you can have launch-ready websites, blogs, and ecommerce stores. Compared to that, hiring a web developer can cost anywhere between $5K to $30K. So, where's the downside? Auto-generated designs aren't ever the same quality as layouts that are constructed by hand. And the lack of flexibility makes website builders impossible to use when the requirements are complex. But more on that in a moment.
The Best Website Builders for Startups
If you've been researching website builders for some time, you've already come across names like Wix, Weebly, and Squarespace. They are the most famous website builders out there right now, with millions of users using their platforms each month. However, they aren't necessarily the best options for software startups, who often have more specific and niche requirements to consider. Here, let's take a look at some of the best website builders meant specifically for tech startups.
Carrd: Carrd is a very simple and easy-to-use website builder. It helps you build single-page websites that don't have lots of content on them and don't need to lean on fancy designs or complex layouts. For such a simple tool, however, Carrd's websites are highly intuitive and modern. It's a nice option when all you're looking for is a simple one-page site for a mobile app.
Tilda: With more than 450 design templates to choose from, Tilda can help you build websites that are slightly more complex. It's especially good for designing landing pages — the first page a user lands on when accessing your website. Sadly, Tilda is plagued by reviews about a slow and unresponsive customer service team. If you're looking for enterprise-level customer support, it might not be your best bet.
Umso: Umso bills itself as the website builder for startups. Whether it's a smartphone app or a software-as-a-service offering, Umso can help you build intuitive layouts from preset designs and get your website ready for launch in minutes. It also comes packaged with its own blogging platform and website analytics, as well as an email marketing tool to help you retain more customers.
Editor X: You have already heard of Wix. But did you know that the company has a more advanced product for early-career designers? Sure, it's a steeper learning curve and takes more dedication. But if you master it, you can build complex layouts and create fully-responsive websites without writing a single line of code.
Website Builders: Pros and Cons
There can be many advantages to using website builders. They're simple and easy to use. They don't require coding knowledge. They come packaged with things like web hosting and domain names. But most importantly, they cost significantly less than hiring an actual developer. However, there are also signficant disadvantages to consider, such as severely reduced flexibility, missing personalization features, and a lack of powerful integrations. Let's take a look at each of these pros and cons and see how they can impact your business.
Pros of Using Website Builders
Real-time Edits: Most website builders let you preview the changes you make in real-time using a simple drag-and-drop interface. Powerful website builders, such as Wix, even let you collaborate with other people while building your website.
Packaged Offering: Before taking your website live, you need to purchase and set up your web hosting and domain registration. But with a website builder, everything comes in a single package so that you can just get building!
Inexpensive Solution: Finally, a website builder costs a fraction of what it takes to hire a professional developer or creative agency. It's an extremely cost-effective solution for when you're low on cash and just need to get started.
Cons of Using Website Builders
Unoriginal Designs: Website builders use a collection of pre-built layouts and templates to help you launch quickly and easily. The downside is that your website will look just like everybody else's, because it will be using the same run-of-the-mill designs.
Optimization Issues: Website builders are famously "bloated", meaning that they burden your site with useless code that makes them slower to load and function. This frustrates human visitors and can even impact your ranking with search engines like Google.
Limited Features: A common trend among website builders is to lock away powerful features and resources behind paid add-ons or reserve them for costlier plans. Worse still, some advanced features, like pop-up forms and animated interactions, can be altogether missing from your website builder.
Missing Integrations: If you need your website to be compatible with a specific third-party application, not all website builders will support that integration. In fact, most website builders severely limit customizability because they force you to use a pre-defined environment to build and launch your site.
Should You Use a Website Builder?
So — should you use a website builder? It all comes down to your budget and how pressed for time you are. But don't let a website builder be a part of your startup's long-term marketing strategy. A professional developer brings experience and quality to your web design that an automated tool simply can't replace.
If you're having trouble deciding, here's a simple rule of thumb: if your startup requires niche solutions or complex designs, website builders are usually not a good idea. Even the most advanced website builders, such as Editor X, can only take you only so far in terms of design and functionality.
Here's another tip: If you want to see results, set specific goals for your website and optimize it for a particular call to action. Find out more about website strategy and download the free cheat-sheet from my other article: Website Strategy 101: How to Build The Best Website For Your Startup.