A lot of website builders have come and gone in the last few years thanks to the dominance of WordPress. Make no mistake, with figures from 2014 stating 75 million websites around the world utilising the content management system, it’s ruling the roost with aplomb.
The secret behind WordPress’s success lies in its relative ease of use and broad selection of supporting documentation, meaning that even the most inexperienced of publishers can get to grips with it. Whether it’s the .com or .org version, WordPress is usually the first word on people’s lips when it comes to starting your own website.
Some of the biggest websites in the world, such as Forbes, CNN and PlayStation, utilise WordPress to deliver their content. Other smaller businesses use builders to alleviate website cost as they’re, by and large, drag and drop, meaning that even the most inexperienced can use them with some practice.
But can any of the website builders out there really match the CMS in terms of quality?
Website Builder Overview
A beautifully simple interface that relies on minimalistic aesthetics, Squarespace is easy to navigate and straightforward to use. It’s hard to lose your way and you’re never more than a few clicks away from what you need. Compare that to WordPress with its multitude of different settings options that are confusingly laid out for beginners and there’s only one winner.
Just like its interface, Squarespace websites offer stunning simplicity. HBO and Wired depend on the builder to offer ease-of-use to their millions of visitors, but for the everyman designer/developer, it’s sadly restricted – a common theme with website builders.
The major sticking point for Squarespace is how disappointing it is from an SEO perspective. Title tags cannot be altered from the page title, alt text cannot be defined independently (the image title is also its alt text), and other simple edits (like altering your .htaccess) are a real chore to sort out. For publishers looking to make an impact on the social side of things, Squarespace might suffice.
Compared to WordPress’s massive selection of free plugins, Squarespace doesn’t offer a great deal of competition. Most you will find are paid with Squarespace offering a free monthly plugin to customers; there’s a sense of quality over quantity.
Of all the website builders out there, Weebly could very well be the easiest to use. It comes somewhere in the middle between Squarespace and WordPress, offering the simple navigation of the former and the variety of settings of the latter. Everything’s segmented off into (mostly) where you think it should be, allowing for straightforward edits and additions.
This is where Weebly begins to fall down. By modern standards, Weebly websites can look quite outdated and a little gauche, mainly due to the inexperience of those using it. With a lot of probing and prodding, you may be able to create a Weebly website that belongs in 2016, but for the same amount of time and effort, you could be better off getting to grips with the intricacies of WordPress instead.
Possibly the best website builder out there for your SEO needs, Weebly doesn’t lack the depth you need to edit H1’s, set metadata et al. It does suffer in comparison to WordPress (particularly when using it’s Yoast SEO plugin), but is a good middle ground. Weebly websites also offer decent loading times: an important factor to consider in the performance-driven algorithms of today’s Google.
Quite a poor selection from Weebly considering the competition. If you look hard enough, you can find some quality tools to improve your website, but as with all website builders, the selection available pales in comparison to WordPress’s offerings.
You guessed it, Wix is again very simple to use from its interface. A few drags and a couple of drops here and there and you will have your very own website with little fuss. They also provide plenty of supporting documentation for beginners, though it can admittedly be quite easy to get swept up by how many options there are.
If you want simple, stunning themes for your website, Wix is for you. If you want to be able to edit anything from a HTML or CSS perspective, Wix is not for you. It’s frustratingly restrictive, especially considering its high monthly price – you have to opt for one of the more expensive packages to even remove Wix’s advertisements for itself from your website.
October of 2015 was a catastrophic month for Wix as websites built with it started drastically falling in Google rankings. The search giant later apologised for the supposed error, but if you want to create a long-term business and are looking at Wix as an option, the incident in October should make up your mind. If you wish to persevere, Wix’s SEO Wizard tool is easy to use and full of depth.
Wix’s broad support for free apps/plugins puts it miles ahead of the other website builders covered here. Sliders, pop-ups and many more are easy to find and implement, meaning that the restrictions imposed by the rigid templates aren’t quite so daunting.
There’s no denying there are pros and cons for each website builder covered here. For anyone who knows little to nothing about web design, a builder should be seen as a decent starting point, but mastering WordPress or another CMS in the meantime should be a top priority for anyone looking for longevity.
To the trained eye, it’s easy to distinguish a drag-and-drop website, but this is much harder with WordPress thanks to the scale of customizability. From an SEO perspective, WordPress is also the clear winner. If the Wix troubles are any indication, website builders might not offer the sustainability your website deserves in the rankings.
There’s a good reason why so many businesses across the globe have adopted WordPress. Although it can present quite the challenge to novices, its plentiful benefits when compared to the restrictions imposed by website builders means it’s a content management system worth the effort of learning, even if it takes months.