Here at The Smart Bear, we don’t always build our customers’ websites; Sometimes they have been built elsewhere and for whatever reason, we take over the maintenance. Occasionally, the client has made their own website using a website builder such as Wix, Weebly, Brambl or Vistaprint.
These builders are often drag and drop which is perfect for those without any coding knowledge. And, they are often ‘freemium’ meaning they’re free to a certain point and then a subscription is required – either an ongoing monthly cost or a yearly one.
So what’s wrong with website builders?
The issue I’ve always had with these types of builders are they tie your hands behind your back when it comes to your website – which should be classed as a company asset.
Choose a website builder and you’re stuck with that company as your site will only work on that platform. They can charge you whatever they want leaving no scope for competition.
Perhaps you need more functionality, and yes they do offer the solution but only at a charge – is it wise to keep paying more on more? Or use that money to hire a professional.
What’s a better alternative to website builders?
There are many platforms that can be self-hosted*; here at The Smart Bear we have experience in many platforms like Joomla, Magento, Drupal etc but we specialise in WordPress and so, we wholeheartedly recommend it.
As open-source it costs nothing for the platform itself and it’s easily customised with a variety of free ‘plugins’ but as it is self-hosted, a hosting package is required – these days this is minimal costs (depending on the size of your site, of course). And, it give you the opportunity to shop around for the best deal whilst still keeping your website in tact.
They do require a bit of learning but our generally designed for non-technical people to use, in it’s basic form. And, there’s a huge support community to help answer questions, and a host of professionals to hire if you need something more complex.
*Self-hosting means buying/renting space on a server and uploading all the files. It can either be a one off yearly fee or a low monthly cost and usually comes with emails and a domain.
How to choose between a website builder and a open source platform
It’s a hard one, and my advice is look at the overall bigger picture and your long-term goals. Two years from now, are you going to want the same functionality or will you have outgrown it? Can you afford the top premium package of the website builder, in case you need that level of functionality.
Are you going to want to change the look and feel? Some website builders don’t let you change the template without a full rebuild. And, rebuilds cost – not just money but in your time – and rebuilds can seriously affect your search engine ranking if not done correctly. There might be an issue redirecting old indexed copy to the new pages, and some website builders don’t properly allow for the migration of content to either within their own platform or to others. Not good if you have spent years building up a lot of content.
If you do stay with the system does it give you full access to the back end coding to allow you to a. Develop further or/and b. Implement advanced SEO techniques?
Will my choice affect my search engine ranking?
And finally, there are mixed opinions on Google’s ability to index some website builder sites altogether. After doing a bit of research, I’m not convinced this is either true or untrue but are you happy to take that risk?
If you are happy to continue with a website builder, I’ve found the easiest one to use is Wix (or wordpress.com’s free blogging platform) but I have found Weebly the cheaper option.
My advice is to take the time to do a free trial on as many as you can to see which you prefer using and to make sure it fulfils your needs before you make the decision.