• Everything You Need To Know About Website Builders

    PUBLICATION DATE: 21 Mar 2019 | AUTHOR: Johan van Seijen | CATEGORY: WordPress, Website Builder,

  • Quick Summary: Website builders come in many shapes and forms. Both as online tools and as downloadable pieces of software you have to install on a web server yourself. In this article we're going to explore the various sizes and shapes, the pros and cons, and what questions you really should be asking when building you're first very own business website.

  • What is s a website builder?

    Let's start with the obvious question: "what's a website builder"? To understand the answer I first have to give you a little background about the way websites work.

    Websites are shown in a browser. The place where a website is located is called a server. When you lookup a certain page on a website, for instance the homepage, the server on which that page resides sends this information to your browser. The browser tnen interprets that information and shows it on the screen.

    What you see on your screen is human-readable, what is sent from the server to the browser is not. The latter consists of code: HTML, CSS, Javascript, JQuery etc. So that's where website builders come into play. If you want to build a page, something that can be send to the browser to be interpretet, but you don't know how to code, what do you do? You use a website builder. The website builder let's you build a webpage (or entire website) without the need to know any of the aforementioned scripting languages.

    You can understand the rise in popularity of website builders, for it lowers the threshold of building your own website immensely. In fact, I would argue that nowadays, the far majority of website are being build without coding but with the help of website builders. And even the most popular tool in the world for content creation on the web, WordPress, has moved more and more into the direction of being a fleshed out website builder.

    What’s the difference between web hosting and a website builder?

    A website builder is used to build a website. Sound obvious right? Hosting is necessary for people to visit the website you've built with the website builder. Your site needs to be "hosted" on a web server to be available 24/7 to possible website visitors. Without hosting no outside person can go to your website.

    Is WordPress a website builder?

    WordPress is not a website builder but a content management system. Where a website builder focuses more on design WordPress is a tool to create content (text, photos, images), not layout and the overall look-and-feel of your site. For an in-depth article about WordPress go to " Everything You Need To Know About WordPress Themes.

    What can you do with a website builder?

    We've covered in the most abstract form what a website builder is: a way to build a site without coding. But in what way is this accomplished? Two ways. Layout and design, and website modules.

    Layout and design

    When you want to build a certain web page you can think of your editor as being a Microsoft Word file: one big blank sheet on which you type. Headlines, text, maybe an image or two. That's basically it. Website builders let you create more elaborate page layouts that include columns and rows. And besides granting you the ability to create these page layout elements, they let you move them around as well by dragging-and-dropping them.

    Layout does not only include rows and columns, but also how much white space is involved between them. This white space can be obtained by either margins or paddings and provide the user with more freedom to create the layout they want. In terms of layout there are more complex options but these are the basics that'll probably cover the far majority of your needs.

    Besides the overall layout, websites also have an overall look-and-feel. In your business you probably want to use a fixed set of colors for branding purposes. Your website should reflect the same colors. And website builders let you add the colors you want to the layout of your choice. Background colors, row colors, column colors, you name it. Opaque, transparent, gradients, all of these color varieties are available in the majority of high-end website builders.

    Website builder modules

    Some website builders call them modules, others elements, we call them widgets. Where with rows and columns you create the frame, modules create the content to fill up the frame. The most recognizable of them are titles, text and images. But there are many more. Here's a list of some other modules you'll be able to find in a website builder:

    - Events
    - Facebook Like Box
    - Flickr
    - Form
    - Image Gallery
    - Logo
    - Google Map
    - Navigation
    - Blog
    - Slideshow
    - Social (accounts)
    - Social Share Buttons
    - Twitter Feed
    - Testimonials
    - Text
    - Youtube

    What type of website builders are there?

    Website builders come in a variety of shapes, but they all basically do the same thing. Let's look at the different types of website builders.

    Online website builders

    Online website builders are tools you use directly in the browser. They are not pieces of software you download and install. Instead you have a subscription, either free or premium, which will grant you access to the online website builder interface. After you've logged in you can use every asset available to build the pages you'd like and add them to your site.

    There are a lot of these type of website builders out there, but the most well-known are: Wix, Weebly, Squarespace and Jimdo. In general, one of these builders is as good as the other, with the biggest difference being between the amount and variety in templates they offer as a starting point. As of this writing the amount of templates each of these provider has is:

    - Wix Templates: 514
    - Weebly Themes: 76
    - Squarespace Templates: 103
    - Jimdo Templates: 15

    As you can see the quantity difference between these four is huge, ranging between 15 for Jimdo to 34 times that size with 514 templates for Wix. Is this good is this bad? Having just 15 templates to choose from isn't necessarily a bad thing. Remember these are website builders. That means you still have a lot of work to do to finish you're own website. And clearly, Jimdo focuses more on the builders than on the people who want a website as quick as possible without having to do too much.

    The tools of online website builders are not interchangeable. Each provider has there own specific way of doing things. That means you cannot switch providers if you want to without basically having to start over or copy and paste your entire content. So once you've chosen for a certain provider, you're basically stuck with them until you decide to quit your site altogether.

    You can also not download the website builder tool and install it somewhere else. They are online tools and they stay that way without you having access to any of the underlying code.

    The general message is to be reasonable sure where you're starting your website. Once you're in, it's very hard to come out.

    WordPress website builder plugins

    Another route you can take is the Everything You Need To Know About WordPress Themes route. WordPress is a content management system you can download for free and install on any web server. That might sound complicated but really it's not. Many hosting provider, if not all of them, provide WordPress installations out of the box since it's so popular. WordPress powers almost 30 percent of the world's website, making it by far the most popular website tool on the planet.

    The reason it's so popular is because it's free while at the same time being incredibly powerful (and complex to a certain extend). But what exactly can you do with WordPress and how does that relate to website builders?

    With WordPress you can create your website content, not necessarily its look-and-feel. The basic components to create content are headers, text and images to make things simple. Remember I talked about the blank Word document? That's how WordPress kind of works. You can login to the tool, create a new page, which gives you the blank sheet for your to use.

    With the rise of website builders the "text editor" of WordPress has moved more and more into the direction of becoming a website builder, but it's not nearly as powerful as the online tools I mentioned earlier.

    However you can extend WordPress with plugins. Plugins can have the characteristic of a website builder model. So for instance there are plugins to create sliders, forms, pricing tables, share buttons, social accounts and so forth. The list is endless because there are litterally almost 60.000 plugins in the WordPress plugins directory. With that many plugins available you can effectively piece your own website builder tool together from the most popular and best plugins available in the repository.

    This does require some research and knowledge about how to operate these plugins, since they probably all originate from different plugin developers. That's the downside of WordPress. They wlll feel less cohesive, will take longer to master, run higher risks of creating compatibility issues and have varying degrees of overall quality.

    A subset of plugins are specifically created to enhance Wordpress with website builder functionality. The most populer currently being " Elementor" and " Beaver Builder". Both of them offer stripped down versions for free and add extra features within a subscription model. A prime example of a strictly premium plugin is " WPBakery Page Builder".

    What they do is adding the same type of functionality as discussed with the online website builders. The added bonus is that the overall experience of building a site increases because the user interface to create various elements is obviously the same since you're now only using one plugin. This lowers the time necessary to get the known the plugin.

    Another great benefit is that they are used within WordPress. And with WordPress you're not stuck with the same hosting provider. You are stuck with WordPress though, but I see very little to no reason to ever switch content management systems. This means that if you're not happy with your current hosting provider, you can migrate your entire website. But be warned, migrating a site is a highly complex technical endeavour. If you have zero knowledge about site migrations chances are huge you'll ruin your site in the process.

    WordPress website builder themes

    The last category of website builders I deem relevant to our discussion is the website builder themes category. When you use WordPress in conjunction with a website builder plugin, you'll still need a WordPress theme to create the overall look-and-feel of your site. Where WordPress is used to create and store your content and the website builder plugin expands upon the content creation functionality with modules, a theme creates the general layout of your website.

    This might sound confusing but a website is of course more than just the pages you add to it. You also have a header, your main navigation, maybe a sidebar, the footer and how they look. Because WordPress was pretty rigid in terms of layout, themes we're created to fill this gap and give you access to things like fonts, colors, homepage layout etc. Granted, where you do what, WordPress, theme, plugin, is not as clear as it used to be.

    There are themes that include a website builder tool within them. Nexus Themes is a prime example of this way of doing things. Another strong contender in the website builder theme arena is Divi. Obviously I know how our product operates and have also used Divi extensively. Again, standard functionality with respect to website building is the same with only minor differences between the two.

    Website builder themes combine the most integrated and fluid user experience while still enabling the flexibility of adding more WordPress plugins.

    Even the most popular online website builder tool Wix, cannot compete with the tens of thousands of both themes and plugins available in the market. And since people like to tinker with their website WordPress will keep being the most popular choice when building your site. Also, when just starting out people our hesitant to be stuck with a premium subscription.

    Is Wix better than WordPress?

    Wix is very different from WordPress. As we said earlier, WordPress isn't a website builder. You cannot build a website using WordPress. You can create content using WordPress but you'll need either a WordPress theme or plugin with an integrated website builder to have that type of functionality at your disposal.

    The next question then becomes: "is Wix better than either a WordPress theme or WordPress plugin with a website builder integrated?" and the answer is "no". But it isn't worse either, because all three try to achieve exactly the same thing in more or like identical way. If you like what WordPress has to offer and you're willing to take responsibility over maintaining this part of your site (hosting, theme, plugins) then WordPress might be your best bet. If you don't want that extra responsibility I would go the online website builder route.

    What’s the easiest website builder for beginners?

    If you want to build a website and you have zero experience with website building tools, what's the best tool for the job? Honestly, it doesn't really matter and here's why.

    If I look at the support emails coming in everyday at our support desk, less than 10 percent are related to questions having to do with how to use the theme's website builder. So either we offer the best website builder tool available or how to use a website builder just isn't the biggest issue for people working on their site. And I know for sure it's the latter. Not that we don't offer a great product, but there are a lot of website builder providers who are just as good if not better than what we do.

    We not only offer WordPress themes but also hosting. And of all the people buying hosting from us, nearly half of them barely touched their website. These people either uploaded a logo or maybe changed one of the slides in the slideshow. That's it!

    Is that because using the tool is so difficult? No, we just learned how little of support questions are related to the website builder. It's not because using the tool is complex, but creating content is. Writing texts, finding the photos, shooting the right videos. That's what's difficult for people: content creation. A website builder tool is a means to an end. The end being the actual content you want to put on your site. That's where the execution part comes in, that's where all the time investment goes.

    And, unfortunately, for a lot of people starting a website, life just takes over again. Whether it's their family, their relationship, their kids, their job, it get's in the way of working on the site. That's the reaon I say it's not about the tool, it never was, it's about executing and forcing yourself to work on the website.

    Why choose us?

    We've come the realization that content creation is the achilles heel of starting website owners. And we filled in that gap by creates hundreds of ready-made layouts for specific industries. When you decide to host your website us, it includes a template with all of the content out-of-the-box. And we install and activate it for you, taking away that extra technical hurdle to get started.

    We realize and know for a fact that content creation is key to finish your business website and we want to give you that headstart. And yes, it also includes a very user-friendly and easy to use website builder. Take a look and pick one of the business categories you see on the right and start your online journey.

  • About the Author

    Johan van Seijen

    Co-founder

    Johan van Seijen is co-founder of Nexus Themes and our lead designer. After gaining a Master's Degree in Information Science he decided to try his luck in the illustration industry, working for clients as Avantgarde, Cosmopolitan and Glamour. With the return to the software industry grew the desire to create something to be truly proud of and which could spearhead his ambition of having his own company. And this company is what followed. He lives with his wife and daughter in Amsterdam.