Not all website builders, web-based or desktop, are created equal - including WordPress. Choose wisely.
I don't always use a web-based website builder to build your website, but when I do - I use the tool of your choice.
So you’re looking to build a website? Which free do-it-yourself web-based website builder do you choose? There are a plethora of builders available, from hosted website builders, to web-based content management systems, to powerful desktop publishers / html editors / html generators etc. The choice must be made carefully. Below is a list of the pros and cons of each: Hosted web-based website builders:
Examples: GoDaddy’s Website Tonight, Network Solutions eWorks XL, and Intuit’s Homestead site builder as well as free options such as Weebly, Wix, Jimdo, etc. Pros: • Template based (easy to set up - assuming minimal customization of layout) • “No HTML / CSS experience required”
Cons: • Template based (can be difficult to customize layout and graphics to make it truly unique and reflective of you) • Tied to the host (a site that must be moved must be reconstructed from scratch) • Customer service is not consistent (won’t get same person each time you call)
Recommendations: Do your homework to ensure ease of use, quality software (browser compatibility), quality customer service (help with questions), quality hosting (site uptime). Stay tune for host specific website builder reviews.
CMS (content management systems)
Examples: WordPress.org, Joomla, Drupal
Pros: • Not tied to host - if site needs to be moved, it can be downloaded and re-uploaded to another host that supports same CMS program. • Templates - many are available to choose from (free and paid). This also makes it easy to add and delete pages as “blog posts”.
Cons: • Installation support - hosted site builder agents often know their own product better than a 3rd party CMS like WordPress.org and therefore support may be limited. Even though the site can be moved, should the need arise, this can be an arduous process and must be done carefully. • Templates - again, customization of the template may or may not require knowledge of HTML / CSS to accomplish. However, HTML / CSS experience is a plus.
Recommendations: It will probably be much easier to choose a template and install it “as is” as opposed to attempting any significant changes to the color scheme, layout, fonts, etc. However, like any hosted website, once established, it should be fairly simple to maintain.
Examples: Dreamweaver, Microsoft Frontpage, Coffee Cup, & many other WYSIWYG html editors / generators.
Pros: • Power - many have the latest gadgets and widgets (such as slide shows) to add flare to your website layout. • Flexibility of layout - many have a drag and drop system, but allow you to place anything, anywhere on the page. They do not force you to stay inside the predetermined grid layout. • HTML / CSS knowledge - not required but can be a plus to maximize tools capabilities. • Not tied to a host - unlike a CMS, a backup of the site is already available on the desktop. Simply re-upload the site to the new host. • Backup - the software can publish the site to the desktop as a backup as well as via FTP to the host’s server.
Cons: • Learning curve - many have a steep learning curve to maximize the software’s capabilities. However, it should be no more than the learning curve associated with any other software, including hosted website builders or content management systems. • Expense - many are quite expensive however there are others more affordable (however, the learning curve remains). • Tied to desktop - maintenance of the site is tied to the desktop - other users cannot log into the web and maintain the site. A way around this would be a program such as LogMeIn.com.
All three of the options require content (pics / text) to be provided by the builder. However, building a site is more than taking a template and swapping out canned text and pictures. The current relevant content must speak to the target audience, the template as a whole must be visually appealing, the behind-the-scenes code used must ensure cross-browser consistency, and most importantly - it must be search engine friendly. This is something that is not learned overnight and something not all hosts provide intuitively (other than expensive search engine optimization or pay-per-click campaigns). In the end, the small business owner must balance marketing tasks with that of finance and operations.
We understand that the small business owner (on a small business budget of time and money) may not be inclined to take on this expensive and time-consuming task. That is why we are here - to provide quality, affordable, comprehensive online presence solutions (website design, local search engine marketing, social media marketing, online marketing) for those that do not have the time, want or know-how to do themselves.