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Blog/What is a website builder and should I use one?

24th February 2021

When I started out on my web design journey, websites took months to build and cost tens of thousands of pounds. You needed a seriously healthy budget and the services of someone who know how to code. But these days anyone can simply and quickly get themselves or their business a web presence using a website builder.

Website builders traditionally bundle a domain name, hosting and a platform on which you can build your website together in a variable subscription, depending on what you’re looking for from your site, ranging from free (but limited and in many cases with ads) to ££££.

The main difference of course, is that it’s DIY – you, the website owner, pay your subs, you’re given the tools and you crack on. No need for a web designer or developer.

Aimed at people without coding experience, you don’t need to do anything overly technical to get your site live – you do it all via an easy-to-use dashboard/interface, and what you end up with is a professional-looking website.

On top of ease-of-use, other benefits include 24/7 customer support, they’re quick to launch, there are lots of pre-built templates and themes to choose from and they have plenty of optional extras that you can ‘plugin’ or ‘add-on’.

So far so good, right? So what are the cons among all of these pros?

Well, in the same way that some people like to do DIY whilst others prefer ‘to get a man in’, if you’re not inclined to roll your sleeves up and get stuck in, then the DIY website approach might not be for you.

And like that DIY project you have at home, there are lots of different parts to get right for it to look or work perfectly. We all have a shelf that isn’t 100% level, or a skirting board that doesn’t quite meet up with the one next to it because you cut the angle wrong, the same is true of a DIY website. There might be things you can’t get quite right – that would have been an easy task for an experienced web designer, but you have to live with it because try as you might, you can’t get it nailed.

This approach can actually more time consuming than it might at first seem, and lengthier than if you tasked someone else with it.

Another ‘con’ is while a basic subscription might seem fantastic value for money, what you can do with that subscription is often limited. To get an email address for example, is a few pounds a month more. A custom domain name another couple of quid. Shopping cart, a bit more. Same with tech support, and all your other add-ons.

So by the time you tot it all up, you’re paying £50, £60 or £70 a month – due for the lifetime of your website – and all of a sudden, over a three year lifespan of your site, you’ve spent what you would have on paying a web designer and you’ve had to do all the legwork yourself!

Should your business grow, building your site using a website builder can also cause you more work further down the line. Not only is it notoriously difficult to export sites built on a website builder to any other useable format, but experienced developers can find the options they have available to them when they’re adding functionality to be extremely limited. So you might find yourself with a website that doesn’t do everything you need it to, and with no option but to start again on a different platform.

In summary, a website builder can be great if you want a web presence live quickly and cheaply. If you want, or if you think you might want in future, something a little more bespoke, then it might actually be more cost effective to task someone with web development experience to do it for you – and you might save yourself a lot more work further down the line.

Popular website builders include Wix, Squarespace, Ionos & Webflow.

Maddison Creative is a web design, digital media and advertising agency based in Newcastle upon Tyne, North East England.

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