If you are new to building a website, or are just undecided on what to do, there are a large number of different options on how to build one. Many many different voices compete for the attention of potential customers, and they all say that their system is the best. Well, obviously not all are the best. There is actually no one best solution for every person and every situation. Once you make a choice, you very likely will both lose a lot of money and also probably have to completely rebuild your whole website if you change your mind on what type of builder and hosting plan you want to use. It is best to be careful, so if there is one page on this site to read, it is this one.
Starting off, you need to know that not all website code is the same. It has inherent strengths and weaknesses. Even though you personally will likely not have to deal with much of any code yourself, it still is a good idea to be aware that there are differences, and this will translate into the experience that you get out of the builder. The point here is that no matter what company you get service from or what type of builder you use, do not blame them for having an experience that is not completely logical. We all would love to just imagine some perfect page, then have a builder simply and easily do what we want, but the technology behind it is just not ready for that yet. We just have to compromise and get the best tool for the job that is available.
Website Builders vs WordPress and Other hosted CMS: The first distinction that you need to know is the difference between a proprietary builder like Wix or SquareSpace versus a more customizable and complex one like WordPress, Joomla, or Drupal. If you have not heard much about these builders, understand that proprietary ones like Wix and Squarespace are on average easier, more expensive, and less flexible. Any proprietary builder is not going to have the vast resources that you will have if you choose WordPress. That is always going to be a fact set in stone. Additionally, you can guarantee that none of the proprietary website builders from any company will just let you take your website with you to a new host. That is not how they work. A hosted option like WordPress is one that you can move to other places should you want. It typically is harder to do, but can cost less and is generally much more flexible.
So why would you ever want a more expensive option that you cannot take with you to a new place, and that is not as flexible. The reason quite simply is ease of use and a more attractive learning curve. For normal websites, they are a good bit less trouble. For anyone that wants their own online shop, proprietary website builders are a whole lot less problems. So many problems can come up with making your own more customized shop on WordPress or other similar methods that for those starting out, it is typically well worth the considerable bit more money spent and less flexibility that you will have to deal with. Learning WordPress is very doable for an average website, but when you add a shop, it is just a lot harder. If you are very uncomfortable with technology, then as much money as they can be, then a website builder is probably the best choice, especially if you are building a shop.
If you choose a website builder, know you are choosing something that you CANNOT MOVE without completely rebuilding. It will probably cost more, and sometimes a lot more. It is less flexible and you may not be able to do what you want to do. For most halfway decent website builders you are probably never going to get hacked. Any decent builder is almost never hacked as the code it is built on is usually proprietary and designed by the company you purchase it from to be pretty safe. They can control the code better than when you build a custom site usually.
- Harder to hack for people new to building websites.
- Easier to use on average.
- Much easier to use for those that build a shop.
- You cannot move your site to a different company without rebuilding.
- You cannot back up your site data. Some builders back themselves up though.
- It is usually somewhere between a little more money to a lot more money.
- If they raise the price, you are stuck and just have to pay what they ask, unless you rebuild.
Many people looking at building a site want a drag and drop builder. They do not want to settle for anything that is not 100% drag and drop. The problem with that is when people build a site on their own computer, it will look exactly how they want in the builder. Publish that and try looking on phones, tablets, and other computers and that is a much different story. When you look for a builder, do not get stuck on wanting drag and drop. You may find one that is exactly what you want, but it usually is a compromise.
I am not going to recommend any brand of website builder. I mention Wix and Squarespace because they are very popular and you are going to hear about them if you do any searching. I will say that I do NOT recommend Weebly. It has good points, but I would stay away from it. I will say that you need to be aware that you will be more limited when you pick a builder. It is not going to be perfect. I advise to just try several that look good. You can try most of the good ones for free. Do not try just one. Try several. Pick the one that you feel most comfortable with AFTER first having looked closely at the pricing and renewal pricing (which is sometimes very very different than the introductory price).
I will also advise strongly to go with a company that specializes in their builder and is not trying to sell a tool for everything. Hosting companies do usually have website builders, but in my experience, you will get a better experience just going with a brand that does that one thing. The website builder tends to work with much fewer bugs.
Adobe DreamWeaver and other HTML based builders
As soon as you start doing one search for website related services, you will likely be inundated with all sorts of ads for this and that way to build a website. You may even come across tools that do not easily fall into either the hosting category I mentioned earlier or the website builder category. Some of the random builders you will see are like WIX and they will host your site (meaning that you do not have to buy hosting from another company to make it work) The random builders you come across can be based on HTML code, PHP code or other types of code.
If your eyes are already starting to glaze over, then it is best to not pick a random builder off of a Facebook or Instagram ad. If you know what HTML code is and feel confident that you know the benefits vs drawbacks, be my guest. Some of them are pretty decent. If you do not, I would stay with more major players. HTML builders are not generally for novices, unless you are pretty decent at learning.
Adobe DreamWeaver is a pretty decent product. It does have the ability to build remarkably good sites that you really cannot easily get in other ways. It is a builder that is well worth looking into if you know what you are doing. In no way would I advise just a random person that is new to building websites to use it. Yes you may be good at it. There is a free trial on as of the time of this writing. If you want to try it, go ahead. I will not say anything bad about it. It has a lot of potential for what you can do. I cannot recommend it here though for the sole reason that it is just too difficult for some users to get what they want out of it. It is great for some, but you have to know that you are one of the people who really is up to the challenge of getting the most out of it. I am not going to explain much about it or how to use it here. If you have to have someone explain it in a short article format, it may be better to just go to an easier builder. Intermediate level users go ahead, it is very decent.
So essentially everything in this category is something that I do not advise that you get unless you already know what you are doing and do not need to read much about these types of builders.
WordPress and other Hosted builders
If you want more flexibility, a lower price, and the ability to take your site to a different hosting company at any time you want, then these types of builders are right for you. When I say these types of builders, there are a lot of them out there. In reality, WordPress is pretty much the only one most use now though.