Content management systems such as Drupal, WordPress or Joomla, are doubtlessly very powerful tools, and when combined with some of the multitude of plug-ins that are available, they become even more efficient.
However, many people lack sufficient knowledge to develop and manage a project with a traditional CMS. I think you might agree that one of the biggest obstacles of CMS for the mainstream user is its complexity. Nevertheless, many people wish to have their own website but do not have the necessary knowledge, time or finances to create one with WordPress, Joomla or similar tools.
In this post, I’d like to show you a few alternatives to classic content management tools: website makers (also known as website builders) that enable you to build websites for simple projects on a low budget. These are perfectly suited to small businesses and freelancers. These are mainly programs with WYSWYG editing features and web-based applications with Freemium business models.
Benefits of website maker platforms:
These tools are designed specifically for people without any web development knowledge and are therefore suitable for small projects. These online tools do not require any type of installation and are usually very affordable, for example, for a total price of around $60-90 per year, you can get web space, a domain name, an email account and an online editor to build your website.
A huge advantage is that these editors are generally backed by very powerful and reliable servers that receive regular security updates. Moreover, the providers offer assistance and customer support.
Weaknesses of webpage makers:
Although they are becoming increasingly more flexible, these platforms still have quite a few limitations (e.g. no direct access to the information is possible because it is located on the servers of the site builder). They are dependent on a provider that could potentially go bankrupt and disappear; in that case, your web project may disappear too. As no server-side programming works are possible, web page makers are clearly not designed for large-scale projects.
Website maker types: online and offline
Even though all webpage makers are based on the same easy-to-use principles, there are two types of website editors: some are part of the provider’s web building service system and are only available online; others need to be installed the old fashioned way on a local desktop. The industry trend shows that online web builders are on the rise:
Advantages of online (cloud-based) tools:
- You only need a device with an internet connection to get started.
- There is no need to buy software licenses.
- The web editor and the hosting service are part of the same package.
- You do not need to install software.
- Many providers offer freemium models that allow you to have a website completely free of charge.
Advantages of offline tools:
- You can use FTP connections.
- They are not dependent on the web building service provider but only on the software to be installed.
- There is no need for an Internet connection to work on a web project.
Most popular website makers:
If you look for website builders on Google, you will see that there are many different platforms out there; so choosing the right platform for your needs can be quite a challenge. We will review the most popular online web page makers and their main features:
- Weebly, which was created in 2007, is headquartered in San Francisco. Many people consider it to be the best web building platform for inexperienced users. It offers many adaptable designs (Responsive Web Design) and supports the creation of members (users) for the website. Moreover, it offers unlimited memory space. Next to three paid plans there is also a free plan with a limited number of pages and a small ad. Its servers are also located in the U.S.
Here’s a small selection of Weebly’s prepackaged designs:
- Wix is another of the most popular tools on the market. It was created in 2006 and comes from Israel. It is based on HTML5 technology and offers much room for creativity. Apart from being easy to use, it also has its own App Market to install new widgets or features. One of its major disadvantages is the fact that you cannot switch templates without losing the content of your website. Its servers are based in the U.S.
- Jimdo was created in 2007 and comes from Germany. The website editor provides all the features you would expect: online store integration, blog and even an app for mobile editing. However, their templates are not as flexible as those of the other site builders we have mentioned. A free plan with a small Jimdo ad is available (there is no page limit). Its servers are located in Germany, Japan and the U.S. Jimdo will automatically assign the server closest to the majority of visitors. Watch an example of how the Jimdo editor works:
- Squarespace mainly targets designers and artists, giving them a place to blog and to run an online store. It was created in 2004 and has its head office in New York. All their templates are responsive and include some of the latest web design trends (such as parallax scrolling). Although the learning curve is steeper than with other website builders, it is still far easier to use than WordPress or Drupal. Their servers are located in the U.S.
Website makers are particularly suited for small projects and an inexperienced target group. They have some weaknesses with regards to flexibility and do not allow for any server-side programming. That said, they are viable solutions for many users who are in need of a website but have a tight budget. Thanks to their easy use, they are an ideal solution for teams without any technical knowledge to create and manage web projects.
Not all platforms offer the same level of quality. Therefore, prior to your decision, you should always test the tools to find out if they meet the requirements of your project, this will help you to make a prudent choice before you sign up to one. You can compare the best website builders with our comparison tool.