You have an idea in mind and want to launch your business. You also know that every kind of business needs to have an online appearance, be it an agency, your portfolio, or a bricks-and-mortar store.
Before you even start to read reviews or compare the different providers, we recommend that you first write down what you want to do with your website and also what your skills (or background) are. It would be good to go over and answer the following questions since they will help you decide which way to go:
- What are your skills?
- Do you like tinkering and tweaking your website?
- Do you like coding?
- Do you want to be able to customise everything (literally)?
- What is your budget?
- What is your approach (just build it and no maintenance, you don’t mind maintenance or something in between)?
- What are your goals?
- What do you want your site to do for now and in the future?
- What features do you want on your website?
- How important is design?
- Do you have very specific business functions and processes that will be part of your website?
Let’s say for example you like tinkering, absolutely want to be able to customise everything, but most importantly have a shoestring budget, then you may reconsider choosing a website builder and take the self-hosted route. Should you have the resources and very special business processes, you should look into hiring a web designer or an agency.
On the other hand, should you write down for yourself that a simple website will cover your needs, you want to be up and running as soon as possible as well as value a hands-off approach, once the site is live, a website builder is a good choice.
If you’ve decided to build your site with a website builder, read on. If not, we will soon post a guide on how to find the right hoster and/or web development team.
Now that you know that a website builder is the right way for you, you need to find the best one for you and your business.
- What is your budget?
- What are your needs and priorities?
- See how easy it is to use for you
- Are there built-in SEO features?
- How is customer support?
- How is security?
- How are managing and maintaining the site?
- Your website builder checklist
What is your budget?
The first thing to figure out is what you can afford. Think not only of the monthly running cost of the website builder, but you also need to account for domain registration and depending on the provider, hosting. Also consider that you need to buy the theme (or template), images and invest in the copy for your site.
Some website builders offer a free plan but when you want to go live, you have to buy a subscription plan, while others offer a free tier but your site will display ads. Typically, once you grow and also need to scale your website, your monthly fee will rise as well. You can expect the monthly fee to range from $5 to $40 for the lowest plan. Also important to consider is if the provider will take a transaction when you run an online store.
Since some providers don’t offer a free plan or free trial period, you may want to look into their refund policy.
What are your needs and priorities?
First things first: You need to understand your business, your goals, and what your website needs to do.
What is your skills level in web design and development?
Even though website builders should make it easy for anyone to create a site, some are still easier to figure out and to use than others. If it’s your first online project, look for providers that offer tools like drag-and-drop functionality, WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor, and website themes.
Do you need every detail to be just right?
If you’re particular about getting every little detail just right, you’ll want customisability and flexibility. Look for service providers who have a myriad of themes (also called templates) that let you tweak them or more flexible editing options that allow you to make extensive changes to the design.
Do you need an online store?
If you plan to sell in the future, not only do you need your website to have a shopping cart and check out functionality. The design or template should also help guide and encourage people to buy.
What media types will you show on your website?
If you’re a photographer, your portfolio will include a stunning gallery. If you’re an agency, you will want to have a map so that your clients can meet you. An online store may want to show videos that explain how to use a product. Be sure to choose a website builder that supports all your required media types.
Do you need a staging website?
A staging website is where you test out new layouts, new copy, or any other changes before you go live. On a staging website, you can test out a new template, integration, or anything else without breaking the site in production.
When do you want to go live?
If your time horizon is very short, say by tomorrow evening you want to go live, look for the simplest tool that has everything included such as domain registration.
See how easy it is to use for you
Some website builders have a very steep learning curve, where the user interface looks like an Adobe application for a creative professional. Look for a builder that has an easy-to-grasp editor that makes changes easy to carry out. A drag and drop editor will also make your life easier.
Are there built-in SEO features?
Building the website is just the start. You want people to find your online presence and for that, you need to implement SEO best practices when you create your site. A good provider will make it easy for you to do all the on-site optimisation.
How is customer support?
Check out how well the knowledge base, FAQ, and other resources are so that you can learn how the tool works.
If you should get stuck with the knowledge base, you’ll want to get support. Check out what kind of support there is also what their support reputation is.
How is security?
You’ll be happier to know that your chosen tool will be PCI compliant, make backups of your website, or offer a free SSL certificate for your project. Also worth checking out is how the website builder can handle high traffic volumes.
How are managing and maintaining the site?
Building the site is only half of the work. Once you’ve launched your website, you need to manage (especially if you’re running an online store) and maintain it. A website builder handles the maintenance for you, but you have to keep in mind that you will be managing the website and from time to time need to update its content.
Your website builder checklist
This checklist will help you to look for the optimal web builder. You can reorder and rank the items to your needs and priorities.
- blog functionality
- customer support
- ease of use
- hosting included
- integrated marketing features
- language support
- modern design, ie responsive so that it looks good on all devices
- themes and templates
Download the website builder shopping list and rank the features according to your priorities.