What is a website builder?

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The best website builder is exactly what it sounds like – an online or offline app that helps you build a website. Back in the day, building websites involved a lot of coding, choosing a web hosting provider and building something complex like an eCommerce portal was off the mark for many. Gone are the days of website builders, which are great for individuals and small businesses to build a website without hiring the services of a web developer.

Why use a website builder?

These days, even experienced web developers prefer to start with a website builder. This is because these web development tools can help build websites in a fraction of the time it takes to code one.

Even if you have a good grasp of the web languages, namely HTML, CSS, JavaScript, using a website builder reduces the chances of making mistakes. You don’t have to worry about keeping track of HTML tags or making sure everything on the page is aligned properly.

Besides helping you save time coding a website, most website builders have an extensive portfolio of templates that help you select a visual appearance for your website. Instead of brainstorming and coding different appearances, you can spend time customizing a template to suit your needs.

Plus, website builders are much cheaper than hiring a web developer, and there are tons of free website builder providers out there.

Blocks

(Image credit: Blocks)

Types of website builders

There are several website builders to choose from. While each has their strengths and weaknesses, you can categorize them into two broad categories: offline and online website builders.

Offline website builders are desktop apps that you download and install on your computer just like any other app. These give you the option of working on your website whether or not you have internet access. When you’re done, all you need to do is upload all the files to a web hosting account and your website goes live. Popular offline website developers include Blocs, Rapidweaver, and Pinegrow Web Editor.

Then there are online website builders that are web based and don’t require any installation. All you need is a modern web browser and an internet connection. With this convenience, online website builders are very popular, especially since many of them offer as much flexibility and functionality as their offline peers. Popular examples of online website builders are WordPress.com, Wix, Weebly, SquareSpace, etc.

Wix

(Image credit: Wix)

How Do Online Website Builders Work?

Website builders, especially online ones, can help you build a complete website without writing any code. Although they all differ in terms of functionality, they all follow the same workflow and provide users with the ability to build websites by simply dragging and dropping items as needed.

You will start by going through their list of models and selecting the one that best suits your needs. Some website builders have a library of a dozen templates, while others have hundreds of them categorized according to the type of website you want to build.

The templates will usually come with several built-in elements that you will then need to modify to suit your needs. Along with the visuals, the templates will also contain generic text which you will again need to replace with your own writing.

After modifying the template as needed, most website builders will also allow you to rearrange the different elements just by dragging them from their original location and dropping them to the desired position.

As you get more comfortable, you should also use the website builder’s ability to add new elements and widgets to the template. Most of the tools allow you to add images, videos, contact forms, social sharing buttons, etc. Usually each of these add-ons provides additional customization options once you add them to your website.

This can be especially important when it comes to website builders for photographers, portfolio website builders, and even website builders for musicians.

Things to look for in a website builder

As we have already mentioned, there is no shortage of website builders. Typically, you’ll need a tool that strikes the perfect balance between cost and functionality. Here are some of the things you need to consider when shopping for a website builder:

1. Ease of use: The whole point of using a website builder is in its user-friendliness. However, not all tools are built the same and some will offer more convenience than others. Look for website builders that cater for beginners and advertise the use of drag and drop functionality for most common tasks.

2. Templates and customizations: Look for website builders that offer a wide selection of templates, as it will be easier to start with a predefined base that you can then customize. Many users worry that websites built with templates will look too alike, which is why you need a tool that lets you customize many (if not all) of the elements in a template.

3. Easy to update: Although this one depends on the type of website you are building, most websites have some form of dynamic content that needs to be updated at regular intervals. That’s why it’s important to make sure that your website builder makes it easy for you to add and edit content on your website.

4. Mobile compatibility: With an increasing number of users accessing the web from portable devices, it is imperative that your website displays well on their limited screen. Keep an eye out for website builders that make it easy for you to create a website that looks great on mobile devices.

5. Specialized tools: If you’re planning to start an ecommerce store, you’ll want your website builder to have tools like a shopping cart and the ability to process payments.

6. SEO tools and analyzes: All good website builders will incorporate these two elements into the design and help you tinker with them when building your website. From basic SEO tools like keyword generators to Google Analytics integration, the right website builders will help improve your website’s search page rankings and also help you better understand your visitors.

7. Affordability: There are website builders for all budgets. Free ones that offer features limited to paid ones that cost between $ 3 / month and $ 25 / month. You will need to choose one based on your needs and budget. There are also a number of free website builders.

Once you’ve picked a website builder, spend some time going through their help and getting started documentation. Besides the illustrated texts, many website builders also offer easy-to-follow video tutorials to help you familiarize yourself with their features and functionality. While it can be tempting to get started right away, we recommend that you spend some time and review these resources to make the process of building your site easier.


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