5 Must-Haves When Choosing a Website Builder

Building a website is totally easy! All you have to learn is how to code in HTML, CSS, PHP, and Javascript, how to upload your site, comply with accessibility laws, and make sure that you never get hacked.

Okay, so maybe it isn’t that easy after all. That’s why it helps to use a website builder, a tool that makes building a site as easy as point-and-click. In this article, we’re going to survey some of the top website tools and show you how to choose one that’s right for you.

What Is A Website Builder (And Why Should You Use One?)

If you’re running a business, there are two things I know for certain:

    1. You need a website. Too many business owners have trusted social platforms like Facebook and Instagram with their entire web presence and are now lost in the algorithm. Your website is the central source for customers to find your brand.

    2. You don’t have time to learn how to code. Web technologies are always changing, and it’s not the best use of your time to code instead of running your business.

These two facts lead us to a natural conclusion: you’re looking for a website builder that makes it easy to design and publish your website.

Modern website builders are powerful. They generate good, standards-compliant code with drag-and-drop interfaces. It takes a once daunting task (coding a website) and turns it into a creative experience.

But, not all website builders are created equally. How do you know what to look for when you choose a tool? Let’s look at five must-haves to guide your decision.

Must-Have 1: Ease-of-Use

Make no mistake: the top reason to use a website builder is to avoid all of the hassle and headaches of building a site from scratch. That’s why our top “must-have” is ease-of-use.

When it comes to ease-of-use, here are three key factors to consider when choosing a website builder:

  • Drag-and-drop - the best website builders are as easy as point-and-click, drag-and-drop. Usually, you have a list of standard elements like content boxes, menu builders, and more. With a website builder, you can mix-and-match those elements to build your website.
  • Support when needed - maybe you need help publishing your site online or finding a feature deep in the tool. The best website builders offer support to help you launch your site sooner.
  • No code - opt for a tool that doesn’t require you to write any code to take full advantage of the features.

However, don’t choose a tool that’s overly simple either. Most of the top website builders give you room to grow into more professional features as your needs evolve.

Online marketing guru Neil Patel calls this “scalability” in his website builder roundup. It’s the idea that a website builder is the best of both worlds: easy to start with, but scales up to meet your growing needs.

Building a website is an ongoing process, too. You’re always going to be testing, refining, and updating the site so that you serve your users better. Choose an easy-to-use website platform so that it’s not painful to update it frequently.

Make sure to check out Profit Blitz’s piece on 7 Landing Page Optimization Mistakes to learn tricks to improve your key pages.

Must-Have 2: Starter Templates to Help You Design

Website builders give you a lot of freedom to help you design your ideal site. Sometimes, it’s too much freedom and the process feels just as overwhelming as coding a website.

The right balance is to choose a tool that has starter templates that steer your design work. It’s the right balance of just enough help with the freedom to customize.

If you need help with your design, prioritize these website builders during your search:

  • Squarespace takes top marks for its deep library of designer templates that rival hiring a design professional of your own.
  • WordPress has a massive, community-built set of themes (many of which are free) for totally customized blogs and sites.
  • Weebly also features many templates that are easy to customize.

Design is more than a set of color and font preferences. Smart Insights writes that a website is “a reflection of your brand and everything that it stands for.” Users quickly form opinions about the brand based on appearance, and great starter templates help you convey your message easily.

Instead of designing everything on a blank canvas, lean on these starter templates. They help you launch your site faster without making every decision about how to lay out your site. Starter templates spark ideas for how to show your content.

Must-Have 3: Community Presence

Community presence goes hand-in-hand with ease of use. Platforms like WordPress and Shopify each have millions of users. This community means that someone has probably already asked the same question you have in mind!

Also, community means that others are building extras - like plugins and themes - that improve your experience. Many times the community works together to develop and add features that the original author left out.

There’s strength in numbers. Finding a common support topic via Google or a screencast on YouTube improves your experience. Choose a website builder that’s already popular, and you’ll reap benefits of learning that everyone else has already done for you.

Must-Have 4: It’s Built With You (And Your Audience) In Mind

When you’re building a website, you have a ton of options. There are many website builders that try to be “everything to everyone,” offering half-baked implementations of key features.

It’s better to choose a tool that is focused on your must-haves. Here’s how to think about making the right choice for your website:

  • For blogging and “constant content,” you need a website builder that focuses on managing that content. Tools like WordPress and Blogger focus on sites that constantly release new blog posts or pages. They include robust tools to manage large amounts of content.
  • Starting an eCommerce shop? You need a website builder to create product listings, take payments, and run promotions. Turn to solutions like Shopify and BigCommerce to focus on making sales.
  • It’s also okay to use what’s called a general purpose website builder for static content sites. These are best for building sites that are mostly static and don’t require user interaction. Try out Weebly and Wix for this type of site.

User-friendly multi-device access is essential. That means that your template looks great whether it’s viewed on a mobile device or desktop. These templates mean that you won’t leave your audience out no matter what niche your site falls into.

Most website builders have add-on features for more functionality. Weebly, for example, includes an online store option. But, it’s not the focus of the platform. Think about the primary purpose for your site, then choose the website builder for your niche.

Must-Have 5: Export Your Data to Change Platforms Easily

Your business is always evolving. So, what happens when your needs change and you need to choose a new website platform?

Imagine this scenario: you’ve been running your eCommerce shop on a platform like Shopify for several years. A new eCommerce platform comes along and you’re ready to try it out. But, you don’t want to lose years of order data, your product catalogue, and more. Data powers your business and you can’t simply lose it due to a platform change.

The worst case scenario is that you have to rebuild everything from scratch when changing platforms. It’s important that your website builder makes it easy to export your data.

Best-in-class tools (including Shopify) offer options to export your data. On blogging platforms like WordPress, for example, export your posts to a new platform with the help of the built-in export options. Even if your new platform doesn’t support importing that data, you’ll have it safely saved offline for future analysis and review.

Start Building Your Website With These Tools Today

Remember these five principles as you choose a website builder:

    1. Ease-of-use: you’re using a website builder to avoid the work and confusion of coding it. Choose an easy website builder so that you don’t create more work in the process.

    2. Starter templates: pre-built templates act as a guidepost when you start building your website. They save time and remove indecision.

    3. Community presence: it helps to have a friend. Choose site builders with a community around it to take advantage of advice, plugins, themes, and more.

    4. It Fits Your Needs: even the best site builder isn’t right for everyone. Choose the one that best fits your site’s needs.

    5. Export your data easily: don’t give in to lock-in effect. Before you sign onto using a platform, ensure that it’s as easy to leave as it is to begin.

Now that you know what to look for, you’re ready to choose a site builder. Make sure to take advantage of a few free trials and qualify them against this list so that you make the right choice.

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