If you’re reading this, you've likely heard of different types of website builders.
Perhaps a contact or connection has extolled their virtues; maybe you’ve taken heed of a warning to avoid them.
Or you might be looking to create a website and are unsure if you should be using one.
Either way, you've probably got questions, starting with 'Which', 'How' ', Why' or any other interrogative. That’s okay because we (hopefully) have answers.
Creating a website can be daunting, especially if you have little experience in the area.
In previous years, this would be the reserve of a dedicated web designer who would code each page from scratch and handle all the editing moving forward.
As technology moves on and businesses change, the priorities change – cost, ease of use, and flexibility become increasingly important. Various solutions have been borne from those common desires.
Now, many different website design solutions are available that provide a quick and effective solution.
Don't forget about the website designers though – take care of them. They're rightfully feeling threatened.
Let’s begin by looking at the different types of website solutions available on the market.
These can be categorised roughly into three different groups.
We will dive into each, discuss their pros and cons, and show some examples.
Hopefully, this should help you make an informed decision when it comes to asking, 'which website product should I use?'
You’ve no doubt heard of some names which have become commonplace due to the size of their business, their convenience, and affordability.
Some examples include:
These are your 'all-in-one' solutions which take care of all aspects of your website, from registering your domain name all the way through to providing you with email addresses and allowing you to design, build and edit their look (within their pre-determined parameters, of course).
On the face of it, why wouldn’t you?
A one-stop shop for everything digital within one place? It sounds perfect for the small business owner who wants a quick and effective presence without prior web design knowledge and/or a small budget that won't stretch to engaging with a web design or marketing agency.
Using a website builder, it's perfectly possible that you could go from signup to a live and functioning website within an hour (presuming, of course, that you have prepared all the other assets in advance, such as content, imagery, branding etc.).
Sure, it might not look incredible, but it is quick.
It comes down to independence, really.
When using a website builder service, they have your website. You can't pick it up and move it to another provider.
You can move your domain somewhere else, even have another provider supply your email addresses – but the website will have to stay there.
The ease with which you can build a website using a website builder means that the code is hidden away.
That works great for the 'drag and drop' systems that many utilise. Still, if you want to manipulate the code yourself, or you are engaging with a marketing or SEO company to improve the page speed or incorporate new features that are not allowed as standard, then they will have a nightmare trying to do anything.
In this case, what you see really is what you get.
We are acutely aware that the phrase 'website builder' is a somewhat lazy term, as there are different levels to the game.
When we talk about companies like Wix, Squarespace etc., we think of them as a website building and hosting company, whereas the frameworks for building websites differ.
You’ve selected your hosting provider and decided that you want to use WordPress (you’re not alone, WordPress is used by 43.2% of all websites on the internet in 2022).
WordPress allows you to install custom-made themes and templates, but you want more freedom.
Many drag-and-drop page builders give a range of flexibility to the novice, as well as the more seasoned designers and developers.
Some of the big names include Oxygen, Elementor, Beaver Builder and Divi – but new ones are being created all the time as the market for alternatives is huge.
Each brings its own unique take on building a website, and you may find you work better with one than another.
At Orca, we've worked with many of them. We find Oxygen bridges the gap between being effective for designers, and enough to keep the developers happy with their deep integration with dynamic content.
You’re at the stage of owning a website where you want more freedom than companies like Wix etc., offer. Still, you wouldn't go as far as to say you were a designer or developer. These frameworks are great for the 'control freaks' that don't want to be tied down to a contract with a single provider.
Once you've built your site, you can move it to a new hosting provider as and when you want, without being tied to a monthly contract.
The step up from a fully-managed service to using a framework can be a big jump – if there's a problem or something doesn't work as it should, then it's on you.
Sure, you can look to engage with a company that hopefully has experience using that particular provider, but that means you may spend a fair bit of money just to achieve normality.
Frameworks can be fantastic to work with, and with some of the bigger names, the opportunities to integrate with other design/development sources are huge…but it's all on you.
For many, the page builder is the happy medium between a website builder and a framework.
These builders will integrate with the default theme shipped with your system of choice (think WordPress or Joomla) but give you the freedom to make your pages as unique and dynamic as you want.
Suppose you go looking for a page builder. In that case, you'll notice that WPBakery often appears, mainly due to it being bundled with many themes that can be purchased on sites like ThemeForest.
It doesn’t offer the same altogether flexibility that its counterparts Divi, Beaver Builder and Elementor offer (For clarification, all three have standalone page builders and full theme builders we have mentioned above).
A page builder is perfect for those that want to be able to put their own stamp on their website but not get involved with the coding and the more advanced theme building – just install, and it'll integrate with most themes to give you more control over your content than you would if you had purchased a theme, or using a paid-for service like Squarespace and the like.
Suppose you are a burgeoning designer or developer (and many are out there). In that case, a page builder will frustrate you with its limitations.
You’ll be able to fully impact your content area on your web pages, but what about that menu?
What about the footer that needs a tweak?
This is where a page builder works for the novice, but the more experienced will want to look at taking the leap towards using a theme builder or framework.
Now, I must stress that these are only loose categorisations; some products may straddle more than one category, whilst others may argue that they fit into a category of their own. But this is the internet; it was built for arguing (it seems).
Like with many areas of the digital landscape, website design has changed hugely in the past ten years.
Businesses want to take control of their website and want to keep costs down.
Of course, with any of the above options, there are free and paid versions. Still, with those, you gain/lose what could be core functionality just because your finances won’t stretch to it, and that isn’t fair.
You may find that the best option is to discuss these options with an experienced web company…
Yeah, you know where I’m going with this.
Thankfully, at Orca, we have been using websites collectively for decades. From design, development and upkeep, we can trace our routes back to 2004 in some instances! We’ve seen it all and used quite a lot of it.
There’s a time and a place for using a website builder all the way through to having a fully custom-built website from an agency – the key is what works for you and your business. If you want the control and flexibility to impact changes to the sites, then let’s discuss what you'll want to achieve, and we‘ll see how we can support you with it.
So close that Themeforest tab, stop worrying about which builder to use and pick up the phone – let us translate your needs into the website solution that benefits you and your business, not one that leaves you with your head in your hands.