What Is Website Builder Software: Analysis of Features, Benefits and Pricing

What is website builder software? These solutions allow for creating HTML-based sites without manual coding. Scripting and other technical aspects in web creation happen at the system’s backend, while users are provided with a UI editor to accomplish the design, layout and structure of the site.

Although they vary in simplicity, these platforms aim to help the average user build a site without the need for or at least with minimal intervention from a webmaster or designer. Using drag-and-drop tools and WYSIWYG editor, users can build a site by arranging elements in blocks or replacing templates and themes with their own copy and images.

The result is non-technical users, especially small business owners, can now build, run and update their sites even without coding skills. This bodes well to their ability to feed their customers’ content consumption.

While social media reigns supreme in channels where customers consume content, a Forbes article reported that email newsletters are still a preferred medium in B2B marketing. To run a newsletter, you must have a well-oiled and regularly updated website, and website builder software makes that happen.

At the same time, many of the newer platforms today allow for mobile-optimization. This is important considering that many people today access the internet via their smartphone or tablet. In a Smart Insights study on mobile share of online time in 2017, 71% of Americans use mobile instead of desktop to access the internet. In the UK it’s 61% and in Indonesia it’s a dominant 91%.

Clearly, you need to get you site up, optimized and fresh and website builder software will help you do these things. In this guide we’ll help go beyond the definition of website builder software and explain in details how does website builder software work and more. Specifically, we’ll discuss these key points including a detailed answer to the question–what is website builder software?

  1. Examples of website builder software
  2. Benefits of website builder software
  3. Types of website builder software
  4. Features of website builder software
  5. Buying factors to consider
  6. Pricing of website builder software
  7. Potential issues
  8. Latest trends

1. Examples of Website Builder software

Website builder solutions come in varying forms. They can differ by deployment, feature set or by their main purpose. Here are some of the popular web builders in the market today.

  1. Wix. A popular cloud website builder with robust features, in-depth customization and drag-and-drop simplicity that enables you to create professionally designed but unique-looking websites. You can choose from a huge pool of templates or use it as inspiration to rearrange elements and create your own design. Wix also features e-commerce tools and is optimized for mobile devices. The builder is free and you’re given a temporary Wix subdomain; plans for upgraded features and hosting are available.
  2. Squarespace. It is ideal to build an online shopping site, plus it integrates with a blogging platform to help you pursue SEO and content marketing strategies. The solution suits the budget of small businesses. You get a wide selection of design templates, mostly with minimalistic appeal for a decluttered shopping experience. The templates are also mobile-optimized for smartphones and tablets. There are also deals for Free Typekit fonts and Getty images and cloud hosting.
  3. Weebly. It is similar to Wix in function and dynamics, although it has less integration options with third-party apps (about twenty). The solutions is SEO optimized, which means you can run campaigns to get more traffic. It is ideal for creating a blog, boutique site or an online shop with an integrated landing page and form for leads.
  4. DudaMobile. As its name suggests, the software is designed to help you build mobile sites. It is Google PageSpeed-optimized, meaning it loads fast and earns you SEO points. Likewise, it features drag-and-drop ease, a customizable dashboard and option for coding customization.
  5. Shopify. It is an e-commerce platform but also features a website builder. The main advantage of this, of course, is its native integration to one of the world’s most popular online shopping platform. If your site primarily aims to sell, this solution should be among your top options. Among others, it features advanced shopping cart tools, 100-plus design templates and web hosting.

2. Benefits of Website Builder software

What are the benefits of website builder software? Plenty, but generally, it aids you in building a site without depending on a technical person. Here are the advantages of website builder software.

  1. No coding required. Many website builder solutions today require no more than drag-and-drop, WYSIWYG, copy-paste functionalities that even those with no coding skills can quickly build a website. These solutions also provide a variety of themes and templates that help you start a website fast by simply replacing the images and text, while maintaining the layout and sitemap. If you want a more customized design, there are platforms that let you rearrange the layout and remove or add elements to make the website more unique in look or navigation. Integrating third-party apps is also simple by using plugins or copy-pasting embed codes.
  2. Plug and play functions. You can add a variety of functional elements via plugins like video, gallery, map, blog, analytics, forms, etc. without coding. Plugins are installed with a few clicks and permissions or their embed code are copy-pasted on the page where you want it.  
  3. Professional design. Website builders constantly add to their pool of professionally designed layouts that you can use for free. You have access to plenty of themes and templates that suit your business or purpose for the site. For a more custom-fit style, you can rearrange a template’s layout, add/remove elements, use plugins and, presto! you have a unique design.
  4. Updated content. Before website builders, you needed to ask a webmaster to upload content every time you’d update the site. Changing content took a while depending on the schedule of this webmaster. Now, you or your assistant can do it fast and in real time. If your site depends on trending topics or real-time updates, having a website builder is critical so your content is always fresh.
  5. Reduced cost. You can now do away with a webmaster or web designer and create the website on your own or ask any of your staff to manage it via the website builder. This greatly does away the cost of requiring a web agency or consultant for basic and boutique websites like corporate and product sites.

3. Types of Website Builder software

Going back to the question, what is website builder software? that depends really on the type of the platform. Let’s examine each type:

  1. On-premise website builders. It’s a platform type where you install the website builder on your server or a third-party server. These solutions require some basic HTML coding to implement because they don’t come with a WYSIWYG editor. Likewise, you are expected to have your own web server or use a third-party infrastructure. This type also comes with templates and themes, but it best suits users looking for more in-depth customization.
    Example:Wordpress
  2. Cloud website builders. These providers may offer a basic website builder for free and scales you to paid plans for more advanced features, hosting and even domain registration. You access the builder UI via the internet using your registered account  so you can publish, edit and update the site from any device. A good cloud website builder also provides a mobile editor. In many cases, this type suits a small business for ease of use and scalability. Scripting and  other backend technicalities are taken care of by the vendor; the user simply pays a monthly subscription and uses the WYSIWYG editor to create and update content.
    Example. Wix
  3. Web host. These are providers that primarily offer web hosting and domain registration but also bundles a web hosting facility. Because their focus is on hosting these vendors excel more in bandwidth scalability, mirror sites and other hosting technicalities and less on website builder functionalities. Many of these types have free but basic website builders. This type is ideal if you have dozens, even hundreds, of sites to maintain as hosting at this scale requires a lot of bandwidth flexibility and technical know-how.
    Example. GoDaddy

4. Features of Website Builder software

What does website builder software do? To find out, let’s review the different features of website builder software. These are the standard features; some platforms may have all these tools, while others only offer a number of these features.

  1. Templates and themes. They help you get your website off the ground with preset design and layout. You usually have a large selection of various themes to suit the site’s purpose and where the key elements are already in place. For example, a photography website template highlights an image gallery on homepage, while a primarily e-commerce site uses product carousel as the main element.Templates and themes include pre-designed page layouts for adding more pages. Depending on the software, you can customize the templates with drag-and-drop ease to reposition or replace the elements. Some website builders offer mobile-responsive templates, while others have a separate builder for your mobile site.
  2. e-Commerce. Whatever your site’s purpose, adding an e-commerce component is possible with a website builder. This is done either by adding a shopping cart module where the website builder has its own online store or integrating with a popular shopping cart system like Shopify and Magento. Often, the e-commerce module has its own template following the standard processes of shopping carts, but you can tweak the interface with your brand colors and logo.
  3. Image gallery. Photos are a main element in many websites and many website builder lets you display them in different ways. An image editor depends on the software, but the basic capabilities should be present, such as, caption, rotate, crop, resize and add effects. Images should also be displayed in different layouts, including vertical/horizontal, carousel, image strip and gallery.
  4. Forms. A good website builder has a form builder with customizable fields to suit your purpose. It may be for opt-in subscription, a registration form or contact form. The form is linked to an email address or database. Forms are customizable to varying degrees depending on the software.
  5. Social sharing. Most website builders let you add social sharing buttons like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest. These buttons either share your web content to the visitor’s social network or lead visitors to your social pages.
  6. Website analytics and reports. Most website builders allow for third-party integration with popular analytics solutions like Google Analytics. This lets you track web visits and identify your most popular pages and posts. Through integration, you can view the statistics and generate reports right inside the website builder interface.
  7. Mobile. Many of today’s website builders are HTML5-based, which allows for a mobile-responsive website. Other solutions provide a separate mobile interface where you need to redesign the site to fit into the mobile screen. Likewise, some solutions provide tools to integrate the mobile device’s features like GPS and phone camera.
  8. Blogging. Not all website builders have a blogging component, while some solutions are designed for blogging alone. Blogging features let you add post following a predefined layout, manage comments, automatically archive old posts, set categories and encourage social sharing. Some solutions also let you host the blog with a customizable URL.

5. Buying factors to consider

Why use website builder software? Many people will tell you it’s because of the benefits and not the features. That’s why no matter how advanced the tools are, if they don’t address the following issues, users will abandon the platform. The purpose of website builder software is to help you build a site, not confuse you with features.

  1. Ease of use. A website builder software caters to people with little or no coding skills, so it’s important that the features are easy to use. These include drag and drop simplicity, drop-down menu for options and quick access to the editor. Most cloud solutions today have these features, while older on-premise website builders require a bit of basic coding. Look for a platform that’s easy to use, while providing you with the option to code for flexibility.
  2. Customization. An editor should allow you to customize templates to suit your preferences with drag-and-drop ease. Some solutions only permit you to change the color, background and font; however, go for the ones that let you rearrange the layout and edit each element with effects like shadow, border and size. For total flexibility, prefer website builders with an option to access the HTML and CSS codes.
    The same customization permissions apply to forms. Look for form builders that not only allow you to change text fields, but also an option to add/remove elements like checkboxes and CTA buttons and rich media.
  3. Integration. The website builder should integrate with your other key business systems like CRM, help desk and analytics to leverage visitor and customer data. Likewise, it should let you add an e-commerce platform for online shopping and, preferably, a payment processing to make online shopping a seamless experience for your customers. Some solutions integrate via a simple copy-pasting of the embed code, while others require more advanced coding to use the API key.
  4. Multi-platform. Check if the website builder supports different browser types, web and mobile operating systems and server environment. This ensures a smooth and consistent visitor experience wherever your site is being accessed.
  5. Product catalog. The e-commerce module should allow for flexibility in displaying your products in different variants or SKUs. Likewise, advanced tools for taxes, shipping, coupons and lend to your online customers more convenience and seamless shopping experience.
  6. Domain. You’ll be working on a temporary subdomain when building your site. But once it’s ready, you should have your own domain to own the search ranking. The usual setup is to have the domain hosted by a domain registrar (GoDaddy) and the website builder simply points your frontend to this URL. Over a period of time, even if you change the website builder, you keep the search ranking generated by the domain. If you rely on the temporary subdomain offered by the website builder, you’re generating SEO juice for the vendor not you.
  7. Hosting. Cloud website builders provide hosting as part of their service. On the other hand, on-premise solutions may not have a hosting plan; rather, you subscribe to a third-party hosting vendor. In this scenario, make sure the website builder supports the server environment of the host provider or the other way around. On this note, cloud solutions provide a more convenient way to upload your website without worrying about the technical aspects of hosting. On the other hand, should you experience a spike in web visits, a third-party hosting provider may have more capability to quickly expand your bandwidth requirements.
  8. Mobile UI. If you lack for coding skills, you need to use a website builder with a mobile editor. The mobile interface should have the same drag-and-drop simplicity to let you move and fit  elements into the mobile screen. Having a mobile site is now an important digital strategy with most visitors accessing the internet from their mobile device, as we’ve explained above.

6. Pricing of Website Builder Software

To find out the cost of website builder software let’s examine some of the more popular platforms today. Generally, pricing is based on feature set, additional modules and bandwidth allocation. 

  1. Wix. Cloud website builder solutions like Wix are offered in different plans based on a number of factors, such as, bandwidth, advanced features and SLA. For example, Wix has a separate e-commerce module at $16.17 per month, a domain connection for $4.08 per month, while the basic paid package starts at $8.25 per month.
  2. Squarespace. Another way cloud website builders are packaged is by the site’s purpose or scale of use. For example, Squarespace has three plans: personal, business and e-commerce. Pricing starts at $8 per month.
  3. Weebly. Despite its simplicity, this cloud solution offers an enterprise plan starting at $25 per month. It includes unlimited members, SSL Certificate, shipping and tax calculation and SEO and email marketing tools.
  4. DudaMobile. Aside from the usual scalable plans, pricing here includes a reseller package at $249 per year. This allows you to sell to third-party clients on behalf of the vendor.
  5. Shopify. Plans start at $9 per month featuring social media and website integration. Its web builder package starts at $29 per month, which also includes unlimited storage, credit card processing and unlimited SKUs.

7. Potential issues

Website builder solutions bring with them a few problems that can be easily resolved when proper steps are taken. Here are the common issues reported by users and how to resolve them.

  1. Domain ownership. If you host your site using the provider’s free subdomain you don’t actually own your website even if it displays your branding and is, in fact, all about you. The domain ownership remains with the vendor; hence, should you decide to transfer the site you lose all the SEO juice you’ve built or earned over the years. Worse, the vendor may even block the transfer especially if your site proves popular and profitable. The solution is to use your own domain and simply point to it the site you created in the website builder.
  2. Generic look. The problem with templates and themes is you use the same design and layout as do thousands, if not hundreds, of other users. Even if you change the background, color and branding, the templated structure gives your site a generic appeal, which won’t help your brand to stand out. Newer platforms, however, are addressing this issue by providing an option for HTML coding for in-depth customization, or they allow you to rearrange, not just the layout elements, but the entire sitemap and structure. The result is a unique design based  on a template.
  3. Server incompatibility. It’s a web designer’s nightmare: realizing late that the server host doesn’t support the website’s scripting. That means the site won’t get published and you have to go back to the drawing table for another round of web designing. While most server host supports the popular website builder solutions, there are still legacy and niche solutions that cater to specific server environment. Make sure to check compatibility before opting for a website builder.
  4. Not SEO optimized. If the website builder uses plenty of rich media and Flash elements, the site isn’t optimized to give you search rankings. DIY website builders may lack for SEO elements like meta tags and description, page titles, robots.txt and on-page factors, which greatly hinder your site’s ability to be found on search.
  5. Over-reliance on third-party apps. Website builders allow for easy integration of a variety of apps such as calendar, map, slideshow, newsletter and even e-commerce platform, but over reliance on these means your site depends on the customer support, legitimacy of and upgrades on these apps. Plugins from unverified sources are known to harbor viruses and provide the channel for security breaches, thereby, increasing the risk to your website. Extra care and a thorough background check on the app developer must be taken.
  6. No e-commerce. There are DIY website builders that don’t support e-commerce, whether with a built-in tool or via integration. This diminished the business potential of your website. Go for solutions that allow for uploading an online shop to your site.
  7. No blogging. Many lightweight and free DIY website builders don’t include a blogging platform. A blog is a good platform for SEO and content marketing strategies, enabling you to create and promote content on a regular basis. So make sure the solution supports a blogging tool or at least integrate with one.

Website builders are getting more sophisticated and able to address the common pain points the industry faced just five years ago. Today, you can apply in-depth customization and generate unique-looking layouts complete with a mobile interface even without coding skills. Five years hence or shorter, here are the trends we expect to be new normal for this software category.

  1. Pageless design. Also called single-page design, it contains all the information laid out on one page. This makes the site more responsive to different platforms and devices, especially Android and iOS mobile devices, and enable you to leverage on the huge surge in mobile internet usage. Pageless sites mirror user behavior on social sites, where users scroll down for more information. There are no page load slow-downs or page jumping that breaks one’s focus. You also leverage on a structured narrative, for example, how a product works or the history of your company.  Some experts agree also that a one-page design strengthens SEO because it has more robust content than traditionally designed pages.
  2. Simplified complex website builders. The race to providing a platform that’s at once easy to use for the average user and complex enough for a developer is on. It is said that website functionalities and elements can be broken down into fifty elements that can be reused and dragged to create unique sites. Beyond templates and themes, website builders are simplifying structure and sitemap, enabling both novice and advanced users to build pages around their preferred specs.
  3. Shift to customer service. As advanced tools become popular, standardized and commodified, the only defining difference among providers is customer support. Whoever gets to provide the best customer experience will win customers.
  4. Advanced hardware integration. The mobile-responsive site is but the start of websites adapting to new hardware. We’ll see sites that can be fully or partially loaded into VR headsets, cameras and Internet-of-Things devices.
  5. Single structure with multi-platform support. Instead of separate scripting and structure that adapt to different platforms and devices, we’ll see websites with modularized elements based on a single structure.  This makes for a seamless visitor experience including marking your latest navigation and displaying relevant content based on your user behavior and social signals.
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