Thanks to an influx of website builder tools on the internet, anyone can build a website without any prior web development or design experience. However, choosing from the tools in front of you may not be that easy. Which features matter most — and is there a right way to choose?
Related: Build a Website for Less Than $500
Five features you should compare
Every business has its own process of vetting tools and partners, but when it comes to the choice of website builders, the proposition is pretty clear. Examine the following features and you’ll end up finding the right platform for the job.
People like to say things like, “Oh, don’t worry about price. It’ll all work itself out.” But this is bogus advice. You have to consider the price when considering any business tool. If the price doesn’t work within your budget, then there’s no sense even looking at it.
Start with price and begin reviewing the cost of various site builders. Some don’t charge an up-front cost but do require monthly service fees after launch. Others charge a large up-front fee but don’t require additional service charges. It’s important that you know what you’re getting into.
You’re using a website builder because you don’t have web design and development skills. In other words, the goal is to simplify the process. With that in mind, consider how intuitive a platform is when you’re evaluating the options.
Many of today’s leading website builders feature drag-and-drop functionality. If you can find a builder with this technology, go for it. You never know when you’ll need to go back and change something later on. Easier is always better.
3. Customer support
Issues arise and problems come out of nowhere. How strong is the website builder’s customer support? Can you reach the company via phone, email and live chat? Are these people available 24/7 or only during business hours?
Hopefully, you won’t need customer support often, but when it’s necessary, you want it to be easy and available. Thankfully, customer support is a very competitive value-add feature right now, and many website builders are steadily improving these services.
4. Client testimonials
Website builders can rant and rave about how great they are on their own website and sales pages, but how do you know they aren’t just puffing themselves up to grow their bottom line?
This is where client testimonials matter. When you get down to two or three options, visit review websites and start reading testimonials. What do current and past clients like about the builder? Do they live up to their claims? Many do — but you don’t want to take everything at face value.
5. SEO features
Something as technical as SEO may not be on your mind when you’re selecting a website builder; but don’t ignore this issue. Having a website builder with SEO-friendly web design technologies built in can really give you a head-start over the competition.
You’ll want to look at both on-page and off-page features to really understand what exactly it is that different site builders are offering.
A look at the top website builders
Now that you know exactly what to look for, you’re ready to start evaluating some of the options in the marketplace. Web.com and Weebly are considered the web builder giants, so we’ll start with them:
- Web.com. With Web.com, you know exactly what you’re getting: exceptional website building features and responsive support. The service doesn’t charge any up-front fees, but you will have to pay a monthly maintenance fee that includes hosting, advertising and general upkeep.
- Weebly. Businesses love Weebly because of its thousands of templates and incredibly user-friendly, drag-and-drop format that makes building web pages a total breeze. You pay an up-front fee for the site and then choose which monthly features you want to invest in. Here’s an example of a website using Weebly. Notice how clean and smooth it is. These are characteristics that most people use to describe this site builder.
There are other options, of course. If you’re willing to look around, you’ll notice that there are at least half a dozen other practical options worth considering. These include:
- Wix. You’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn’t like Wix. It’s widely recognized as one of the leading website builders and features great responsive templates and a rather deep app store. Here’s an example of a website designed using Wix. Notice how smooth and responsive the site is, with a variety of content formats and high-resolution elements.
- eHost. While it doesn’t get discussed as much as some other builders, eHost is a tremendous platform. It has fantastic customer support and gives businesses free domain names with registration.
- Bigcommerce. Need ecommerce capabilities? While Shopify gets a lot of attention, Bigcommerce is arguably a better solution. It has a nice POS system that really sets it apart. Here’s an example of a site design with BigCommerce. It’s the perfect picture of how this platform allows you to incorporate a bunch of different elements without appearing overcrowded.
It all comes down to the features you need and the level of comfort you have with building a website. Definitely consider these five options, but know, too, that there’s a long list of other builders available.
Buying a domain name
Finally, it’s important to touch on the topic of buying a domain name. Before you’re able to build a website, you need an address that directs people to your site. While you can buy a domain name from a number of different providers, most website builders and hosts now offer deals when you sign up for one of their services. Some will even give you free domain name registration.
But even if you can’t get a domain name for free from your host, there are plenty of names that cost only a dollar or two. Be forewarned that if you want a one-word domain or one somebody else already owns, you may have to spend thousands of dollars. Something to think about.
Take your time.
Don’t rush. When looking for a website builder, take your time and look for the features that matter to your business. With a little bit of patience, you’ll eventually find the right solution that’s functional, intuitive and cost-effective.