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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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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