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What is a Website Builder? Everything You Need to Know

Hey, champ. We see you killin’ that small business game. You’ve got a great business plan, a dedicated team, and a brand with lots of potential. But as you get things going, you know need something else: a web presence. 

But there’s a problem. 

You don’t know exactly how to build a website to make this happen. Hey, we get it. These things can be tricky. 

Want in on a secret? They don’t have to be! 

Using a quality host and a free website builder is a stress-free way to get a professional website up and running — no expertise needed!

There’s a slew of website builders out there, so where to begin? 

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What is a Website Builder?

Let’s start with the basics. 

A website builder is a platform or program that allows you to quickly and easily put together a website. These site builders help you get your piece of internet real estate set up so you can start establishing your online presence, a unique .com (or .whatever) outfitted with your brand’s own elements, content, and offerings, tailored to your specific business goals.

Website builders typically feature drag-and-drop software that lets you customize elements on a page with layouts chosen from a handful (and sometimes hundreds) of available web page templates.

Website builders exist in both online and offline formats, the main difference being an internet connection. An online website builder won’t require any software downloads; it’ll simply work through your internet browser. 

The plus? 

You can work on it anytime and anywhere (with an internet connection), so you can build on the go. Most online builders come with accompanying hosting services, so you don’t have to worry about that extra technical hoop. This is an easy-to-use option for newbies.

On the other hand, offline builders function as downloadable software programs, where your computer hosts your files until you’re ready to upload them to your web host. With this option, you can work on your site offline, but this will require a little more technical know-how. Plus, you need a plan from a web host, which you’ll need to buy separately. 

A website builder works basically like this:

  1. From your website builder’s library, pick a template that best fits your needs.
  2. Edit the template’s built-in elements with a click and add your own content (like images, video, social buttons, and text) to personalize your site.
  3. Publish!

Easy-peasy.

What are the Pros and Cons of Website Builders?

So who are website builders for, anyway? These platforms are an excellent tool for small business owners and entrepreneurs looking to establish a strong online presence — quickly and simply. 

Is going with a site builder right for your small biz? Let’s do some decision making with a good ‘ol pro/con list. 

PRO: Website builders don’t require extensive coding or technical skills.

Let’s face it — we’re not all computer whizzes. And that’s okay. To get a site up and running with a website builder, you don’t have to be. If you know how to click, you can build a snazzy site with text, images, videos, and a beautiful layout minus the hiccups of fancy-schmancy DIY web development. 

It’s true: You don’t have to write a single line of code. 

PRO: They’re low maintenance.

Think of website builders as an easy-going roommate (not the one who spends 45 minutes in the shower). They don’t require tricky or constant upkeep and won’t make you pull your hair out. Because of their simple setup, you don’t have to stress about your website, which is a big win. Your website will still need to be updated with fresh content regularly — all good sites do — but website builders make that easy.

PRO: Website builders set up your site in a snap.

As a small business owner, you’ve got a lot of to-dos and not a lot of time. Save your precious hours by using a website builder to simplify the website creation process. In a matter of minutes, you can create your own unique website from a collection of pre-formatted and eye-catching layouts outfitted with your brand’s content, images, and videos.

PRO: Options, options, options.

Worried that you’ll get stuck with a cookie-cutter site that looks just like every other .com out there? Don’t. 

A good website builder helps you stand out from the crowd. With a full library of choices, optimized layouts, attractive and user-friendly design elements, and customization options, you can make your site one of a kind. 

PRO: You don’t have to be a graphic design genius.

So maybe you weren’t a fan of art in school — no problem. You don’t need to understand color theory, possess Photoshopping skills, or be versed in typography to create an appealing website. 

Website builders do the heavy lifting by offering pre-packaged designs that look sharp. They also allow you the freedom of customization, so you can give your site your own personal touch within a professionally-designed template.

CON: Web builders may limit more experienced developers.

If you do have some technical know-how, you may want more freedom when customizing your site and may be eager to outfit it with more advanced bells and whistles not offered with website builders. 

If you’re looking for a top-of-the-line option, hiring a web designer or building a DIY website from the ground up may be worthwhile. Plus, with a site builder, you don’t always have control over the code governing your pages.

PRO: They’re easy on the wallet.

Getting a functioning (and gorgeous) site up and running doesn’t have to mean breaking the bank. Believe it! With site builder trial periods and many low-cost (even free account) options, you can save a pretty penny for other small biz expenses.

CON: Builders may have limited pages or functions.

Use a budget-friendly web builder and run the risk of restricting your site’s structure. Because you’re under the rules of your program, they might set limits on the number of pages a site can have, offer few e-commerce options, or lack responsiveness capabilities. 

If you have big plans for an expansive page structure down the road, you’ll want to research providers carefully to make sure you find the best match for your long-term goals.

Why should I use a website builder?

Building a website shouldn’t be a daunting task. With a good website builder, you can have a website up and running in no time. In this article, we will look at the benefits of using a website builder, beginner or advanced user alike. We will also look at why WordPress may not be the best application to use for building a website, especially for people who are not tech- savvy.

Benefits of using a website builder

 

  1. No programming or technical skills required. Website builders are designed for people with little to no technical skills. Website builders use the drag-and- drop technology and a user-friendly interface design, allowing the average person to type in text, upload images, or change and move any element with a simple click and drag of the mouse – all without having to write or edit a line of code and no FTP handling and all the other technical stuff.
  2. Your website can be edited at any time from any computer. Because website builders are online-based, your web files are hosted on the service provider’s server – not your own computer. You can log into your account, make a change and click save or publish and your changes are live – all you need is a web browser and an Internet connection, any time and from any device.
  3. No design talent required. Designing a website that attracts people requires at least a basic ability in graphic design. But if you are not sure where to start or don’t feel confident in your design skills, you can simply choose a professionally-designed template and go from there. Templates are one of the best features of a website builder and best of all, you don’t have to stick rigidly to the template design as almost all website builders lets you customer the template to fit your needs and style.
  4. Libraries and collections of applications. All website builders come with a library of free applications and tools that you can use to add functionality to your website. There are free and paid applications; some are built into the website builder, and others fully-integrated third-party tools. Website.com comes with a long list of built-in apps that you can easily add right from the drag-and- drop editor.
  5. Your website is up and ready in no time. Website builders simplify the entire website creation process. You start with pre-designed templates, pre-populated web pages and ready-to- use applications and tools. All you need to do is add in your own content and click on the Publish button and your website is launched in no time.
  6. Website builders make it easy for you to maintain your own website. Regular website maintenance is a must if you want your website to be successful. Visitors are always on the lookout for what’s new, so it is important that you provide them with new and exciting information, news, products or features. Because of the website builder’s drag-and- drop editor and straightforward, easy-to- use interface, making changes and updates to your website is easy.
  7. Building a website with a website builder does not require a big budget. There are plenty of free and paid plans to choose from. Even with paid plans, website builders are very affordable compared to hiring professional help. In addition, many website builders come with free hosting services and free domain names; Website.com even throws in free domain email services.

What about WordPress?

 

You can certainly use WordPress or any other content management systems (CMS), such as Joomla, to build a website. In fact, many people swear by WordPress when building a website. WordPress is a very powerful and versatile platform. It can also be relatively easy to use – but you will have to spend the time to familiarize yourself with the interface, features and the different plug-ins and tools – all these require a certain level of technical skills and/or experience.

So, someone who is not technically savvy will find WordPress’ learning curve a little on the steep side and the website creation process a little overwhelming. For example, in order to use WordPress on your website, you will need to purchase web hosting services and install WordPress on your website (nowadays, many web hosts offer a one-click WordPress installation). Also, many WordPress theme and plugin customizations require you to tweak some codes – not to mention, not all themes behave the same way, so there is no one standardized way.

If the setup, management and maintenance of a WordPress website is too much for you to handle, or if your website doesn’t require the level of advanced functionality that the WordPress platform offers, then website builders are the better, easier solution.

What features should a website builder have?

In this article, we will take a look at some of the important features a website builder should have. We will show you where to find these features on your Webguideblog.com account dashboard and editor.

  • Ease of use

    Because a website builder is designed to enable the average person to create and launch a website as quickly and as easily as possible, it must be easy and straightforward to use. If the website builder is difficult to use or if the interface is confusing and hard to follow, then you should look for another one. You shouldn’t need to be spending hours of extra time trying to figure out how to work a website builder or compromising with workarounds and alternatives because of a clumsy or missing feature.

    Webguideblog.com’s editor is clean and organized with tools and features laid out clearly in the editor, from adding pages to adding elements and changing color schemes.

    One more thing to mention, Website.com’s platform relies on “absolute positioning” and there is almost no limitations on the drag-and- drop editor – you are allowed to place elements literally anywhere on your web page.

    • Quality of website design templates and themes

      It doesn’t matter how user-friendly a website builder is if the templates lack quality. When it comes to templates, you want to use clean, modern, mobile-friendly and customizable designs.

  • You will find hundreds of clean and modern templates spanning over 10 main categories. Each template comes with a full preview mode – you can play around with the functionality of the template, click on pages and buttons, etc. This allows you to select a template with more confidence. In addition, all templates are fully-customizable and mobile-ready.

  • Website design template customization options

    You should also be able to change the look and feel of your website. Most website builders let you easily change the color, font, layout and background of your website via the editor; some even gives you access to the template’s HTML/CSS codes for more advanced customizations.

    What to expect from Webguideblog.com’s template customization options:

    Although Website.com doesn’t allow site customization at the code-level, you can customize the template’s color scheme, background image/color, font and text styles right from the editor.

     

    In addition, each element comes with its own customization options, including effects, border and shadow, and more.

     

  • Pre-formatted web page layouts

    Your website design template gives you a head start by providing you with the basic design elements: layout, color, font style, etc. But what if you need to add more page but don’t know where to start? This is where pre-designed and pre-populated page layouts come in handy. Simply put, pre-populated page layouts comes with placeholders for images, text and other elements that are most commonly found on the particular page type so all you need to do is pick one that fits your needs and then replace the sample content with your own.

    What to expect from Webguideblog.com’s pre-formatted page layouts:

     

    In addition to building your own pages, Website.com comes with pre-structured app pages and pre-formatted page layouts.

    App pages include blogs, photo gallery, product catalog and calendar. While you do get a choice of different layouts, you won’t be able to add elements or modules into these pages.

    In terms of pre-formatted page layouts, Webguideblog.com offers over 40 page layout designs to help you make your web page look professionally-designed. In other words, if you are not sure what you need on your Contact Us page, just pick one from the layout library.

  • eCommerce solutions

    If you are planning on selling products, physical or digital, on your website, you will need to make sure the website builder you choose offers eCommerce solutions and tools. Some website builders offer a simple built-in online store, while others simply offer an integrated third-party application. Then there are also eCommerce-dedicated builders that let you build a full-function online store with all the advanced eCommerce tools and apps for shipping, taxes, coupons, etc.

    What to expect from Webguideblog.com’s eCommerce solutions:

    Webguideblog.com’s eCommerce functionality is simplistic. It is offered on all Website.com plan, but digital/downloadable product is not supported, and if you need online payment capabilities, you will need to subscribe to the Professional or the Managed plan. PayPal is the only option for online payments. And because Website.com is not an eCommerce-dedicated website builder, you won’t find many advanced tools such as shipping and tax calculations. But if you are looking for a simple solution to display your products, the Webguideblog.com’s shopping cart feature works well.

     

     

  • Form builder

    Your website builder should let you create contact forms easily and seamlessly. You should also be able to customize the form fields to create forms that fit your needs, whether it be a contact form, a registration form or a feedback comment form. But not all form builders are created equally – some are highly customizable, allowing you to create as many form fields as you want; some form builders offer very limited customizations, only allowing you to add text fields (ie. no option to add radio buttons, checkboxes, etc.)

    What to expect from Webguideblog.com’s form builder:

    Website.com offers a highly-customizable contact form. You can add as many form fields as you want, and you can choose from fourteen different field types, including radio buttons, checkboxes and more.

     

    You can also customize settings such as security and protection (such as CAPTCHA), custom confirmation messages and notification settings.

    While many other website builders simple forwards form data to a specified email, Webguideblog.com comes with a in-builder form data management tool where you can manage, view and edit all data collected.

     

  • Image galleries and image editing

    Another important feature of a website builder is image editing and display. Again, some website builders offers more impressive image gallery layouts and customization options, while some fall a bit short.

    In addition to displaying images, your website builder should come with image editing capabilities so you can easily resize, crop and add image effects right from your editor.

    What to expect from Webguideblog.com’s image manager

    When it comes to adding images to your website, Website.com allows you to add a single image, an image strip or a photo gallery.

    Website.com offers different gallery styles for you to choose from.

     

    And each gallery style has it own styling options.

     

    In terms of image editing, Website.com offers the standard features such as pan and zoom, crop, rotate and add captions.

  • Blogging tool

    A website builder’s main job is to build a website, not a blog, so it’s only natural that its blogging capabilities fall short in comparison to WordPress or other blogging platforms. Most website builders give you all the basic tools and features for your blog, ie. adding posts, managing comments, setting blog categories and implementing social sharing.

    What to expect from Webguideblog.com’s blogging tool

    Webguideblog.com’s blogging too comes with all the standard features: adding posts, managing comments, setting blog categories and implementing social sharing, as well as customizable blog post URL.

  • Social sharing functionality

    Social media integration and sharing buttons are important features to look for in a website builder. For example, in the case of Facebook, it should allow you to add a Facebook Like and/or Share button. Same with Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, LinkedIn and other major social media platforms. Luckily, most website builders come with integrated social sharing buttons you can easily add on your web pages.

    What to expect from Webguideblog.com’s social sharing functionality

    Website.com offers one-click social sharing buttons for Facebook, Google +1, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter.

     

    In addition, you can also add a social link bar on your website. You can link up to 12 different social media profiles on your social link bar, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Vimeo, Flickr and more.

     

  • Website analytics and reports

    Your website builder needs to let you track daily visitors and help you determine what pages are popular on your website. Look for website builders that allow you to integrate third-party analytics services (such as Google Analytics) or provide a built-in solution.

    What to expect from Website.com’s site analytics and reports

    Website.com is one of the handful website builders that offers both an built-in website analytics tool as well as allow the integration of Google Analytics. You can access your website statistics reports right from your account dashboard.

     

Custom domain name

When you create a website with a website builder, you are generally given a temporary site address and it’s usually in the form of a sub-domain, such as yoursite.example.com. Then, when you are ready to publish your website, you will be given the choice to use a custom domain (ie. yourdomain.com) or keep using the assigned sub-domain.

It is important that you use a custom domain – not only does it give your website credibility, it increases your website’s search engine ranking.

Luckily, most website builders will let you use your own custom domain name and a majority of website builders even throw in a free 1-year domain name with the purchase of their website builder service, but if you want to keep using the domain name after the first year, you will need to pay the then current renewal rates.

What to expect from Webguideblog.com’s domain name registration

Like many other website builders, Webguideblog.com also gives you a free domain name upon your purchase of an annual service plan. But Webguideblog.com takes the free domain offer to the next level:

  • Webguideblog.com doesn’t restrict the free domain to a .com or .net domain name. You get to choose from13 different domain extensions.

 

  • Webguideblog.com will auto-renew your free domain for the lifetime of your website builder service plan. In other words, if you renew your service plan for another year, Website.com will extend the free domain offer for another year.
  • Domain email hosting

    Domain name and domain email accounts go hand-in- hand. You need to have a custom domain if you want to create custom domain email addresses.

    For example, in order to create the email address you@YourSiteName.com, you will first have to register the domain name YourSiteName.com.

    While many website builders offers domain name registrations, not all of them offer domain email services. In fact, many website builders have partnered with either Google Apps/Gmail or Microsoft 365 to offer you domain email services; unfortunately, these email services are not free. Only a few website builders offers a built-in domain email management interface.

    What to expect from Webguideblog.com’s domain email management

    Webguideblog.com is one of the few website builders that offer a built-in domain email management interface, accessible right from your account dashboard. You can also access your domain emails via a configured email client, such as Outlook.

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