Designers, Know Your Competition: 5 Do-It-Yourself Site BuildersBy Tara Hornor
If you thought that you only competed with your fellow designers for web-related design work, think again. Quite a few do-it-yourself site builders have become popular and surprisingly effective at producing basic websites. There are certainly many cases in which a business should hire a professional web developer/designer to create their website. However, sometimes all a customer needs is a quick yet professional website that they can build themselves.
Some customers may simply want to see how well your startup is going to fare before shelling out the big bucks for a professional developer. Or, maybe they’re starting a club that just needs a simple, informative website. Or, perhaps they’re a small business owner that just needs a professional point of contact or a simple ecommerce site. For these and similar scenarios, the right website builder could fit the bill and create stiff competition for any designer looking to bid on the same work.
In fact, some of the best website builders allow anyone — from beginners to experienced designers — to create an entire website in a matter of minutes. Most of the time will be spent looking for the right site builder for your needs. In an attempt to help designers understand their low-cost competition, I’ve compiled a list of 5 web builder sites online that have the best features and excellent reviews. Some of these have free trials and all require a monthly fee, but they’re worth studying if you’re looking to beat their quality and value.
As a free web builder tool, WebStartToday is among the best. In fact, you can build a website in less than an hour with this simple tool. It’s so easy that even business owners with little to no web design experience can use it to build their own sites. WebStartToday includes SEO customized for your industry in their web designs, as well as Google Analytics support. One of the strongest features includes the color themes, which make it so easy to customize any of the designs to match your brand. The image editing tool is impressive as well; it’s robust enough that I don’t have to leave the site to fine tune my photos in another software program. Other features include:
- thousands of designs to choose from
- Industry-specific content for 72 verticals
- Domain hosting
- Interactive design options
- Unlimited storage
- Easy to manage CMS
- 24/7 support
Even with the free version, you can get a site up and running to review right away with no obligation to pay a domain hosting fee yet. Unlike most free versions, it is good for an entire year. If you want a unique domain name — rather than the BusinessName.webstarttoday.com that comes with the free version — and no ads on your website, then you can upgrade to one of the paid subscriptions ($9.99/mo. or $99/year) at any point. With so many helpful features and one of the easiest web builder tools available, WebStartToday is a worthy option for small business owners or freelancers, even those without any technical knowledge.
This website builder has three different pricing options. The personal version is free and comes with 1GB storage, 5 pages, and limited features. Both the Pro and Developer versions ($8/mo with a 14 day free trial and $30/mo, respectively) come with 10GB storage, unlimited pages, and varying degrees of features. For instance, the developer version comes with the ability to manage multiple accounts, full CSS control, invoice creator, and more. Some of the major features common to most of the accounts include:
- Customizable themes
- Drag-and-drop content
- Blog functionality
- Calendar functionality
- Friend access — password protect certain parts of your site
The Pro and Developer versions include SEO and Google Analytics, embedding of third-party widgets or custom code, and a custom domain name. Not much comes with the free version, but the paid versions are surprisingly robust.
- Customizable themes
- Drag-and-drop functionality
- Data analysis tool
- Google Analytics and webmaster integration
- Third-party open format data integration
The free version is very limited with only 5 pages, 2 languages, limited features, and a domain of YourBusiness.edicy.co. Both the Standard ($11/mo or $96/yr) and Plus ($18/mo or $156/yr) come with a free trial. The Standard version comes with only 2GB storage, 3 users, 30 pages and 3 languages, and only one password-protected page. The Plus version is unlimited in these features and the yearly subscription version comes with a free domain name.
This web builder tool is fairly new — only about a year old — but it offers lots of strong features. It does not come with a free version, but you get access to all of the features and domain hosting for $9/mo. While it takes a bit longer to create a website with this tool, Breezi provides pretty much everything you need, from fonts to backgrounds to styles, which means that customization is very easy. More features include:
- Designs that are responsive/adaptive
- Unlimited storage and bandwidth
- “Skins” that can be switched up easily
- Customizable apps
- Unlimited pages
You don’t have to know any code to design a professional, customized site with this builder, and the CMS will make it easy for customers to manage their own content. It’s not quite as quick as other web builders that already have pages in place, but this could be a tempting option for those clients with a combination of very picky preferences and very tight budgets.
This web builder boasts 24/7 support and a 14-day free trial. And, you can choose from the normal blog, pages, or gallery website — or you can create an entire online store for your client. Squarespace has a tool called the LayoutEngine which makes lining up items easy. More features include:
- Store management with processing and inventory
- Image editing
- Easy importing
- Social network auto-publish
- Pre-designed templates
- Custom template builder
- Mobile sites
- SEO and analytics
The standard ($8/mo) plan comes with limited features, 20 pages, 500 GB bandwidth, 2 GB storage, and only 2 contributors. The Unlimited plan ($16/mo) and the Business plan ($24/mo) both come with varying degrees of features and unlimited pages, bandwidth, storage, and contributors. Customers can choose yearly billing for any of the plans for a free custom domain.
So, there you have it — it’s very possible for anyone, even those without your seasoned web design skills skills, to put up a website and in less than a day in many cases. These kinds of sites can pose a threat to many web designers, but there’s no substitute for having an expert at your disposal. Plus, designers are inherently very creative, and they’ll inevitably come up with ways to get the best of these competitors.
How do you compete with site builders? Has it ever come up in a client discussion?