Your website is your company's online presence, reaching a digital audience. To create a website we use website building software or a program. When done your site is published on a domain you own, similar to or with the same name as your company. A website usually has multiple pages that are reached via the navigation menu and has a header and a footer with basic info. A well executed website would be molded, based on the client journey, that maps out the expected route and page depth a specific visitor might travel to reach their objective. Websites themes and trends are based on the goals of the owner and the needs of the target audience. Websites are used for online stores, to represent a business, to feature a portfolio, for personal use such a wedding site, for one time events, and to document stories on a blog.
If you are an entrepreneur or a small business owner ready to look at website options for your new company it can be overwhelming to find ‘the best website builder’. The internet has many bloggers with their own opinions and evaluations to choose from, most are written in an effort to solicit their services. At Plugin Matter we think quite a bit differently. Our main objective is to empower our clients while giving them the best chance at SEO and the ability to manipulate online search results in their favor.
An attractive and fully customized site does not necessarily mean, that the site is streamlined for optimal performance, purpose and needs of the company. In many cases it is the opposite. When choosing a website platform or software to build your website one should consider two variables first.
1. What search engine optimization parts can be executed using this website builder?
2. What tools does this builder offer to help me manage my marketing efforts while on the go using a mobile device.
To be able to effectively achieve those two requirements your new website builder should have the following qualities.
Functional - A website that is functional is able to fulfill a desired task and purpose. An example of a functional site is one that has most or all the parts needed in current online trends and needs. These include an online store, free version, blogging tools, downloads, image editor, editable on a mobile device and adding members. In building a functional website that actually works you also need easy access to back-end parts that need editing to stay within algorithm requirements. A functional site has the ability to outperform a competitor website of lesser quality.
Affordable - Businesses with small budgets require a reasonably priced builder that is affordable with free and upgradable options. A builder that is expensive is hard to manage and sustain when paired with your marketing budget and other digital expenses. A website builder with multiple tiers of pricing has the ability to grow with your business over time.
Sustainable - A website builder that is sustainable, is one that understands search, and what is needed to get search engine optimization. Such a company should be constantly making changes and doing updates to their software to stay up to date with requirements. A sustainable website builder would also have knowledgeable staff and developers who understand the digital needs of their clients and is eager to meet those needs.
Maintainable - A website builder that is maintainable, will enable you to easily update your template, look and feel in a matter of minutes. Changes such as replacing and moving parts, navigating basic pages and updates should be easy and quick to implement without the need of a specialized developer. Time is money and when your builder requires specialized skills it can cause unexpected financial strain and delays.
Do-able - A website builder that is do-able should be easy to understand and able to be effortlessly managed. Control of your company’s presence online means understanding all the moving parts needed to successfully execute your marketing goals in a timely manner. To make business sense it has to be practical, convenient and within the grasp of the average unskilled user to figure out with little assistance.
Accessible - A website builder that is accessible is one that also fills the needs of digitized users and business professionals, especially while on the go. It needs to be approachable, intuitive and fulfill their need in a comprehensive way. With clients filling many roles, it is absolutely crucial for your website, blog, store, contact forms and comments to be accessible via mobile or tablet for easy management and customer service.
Sources and Research:
PC Mag has this nice visual comparison chart of the best website builders of 2017. For functionality please note that Weebly is the only builder who has all the boxes checked off in green, even though it is only rated forth.
According to popular trends visible on Google Trends, the most favored website builder list would be:
Wordpress is the most searched builder followed by Wix, Shopify, Weebly and Squarespace. I think that this graph is a classic example of how peer pressure goes after what is popular, and attractive, instead of choosing a platform that is most functional for your small business needs. So knowing your needs and understanding what they are will help you to determine which website builder is best for you.
A recent blog published by Digital Trends mentions the following website builders as the best website builders in the world that range from free to premium - Published October 1, 2017.
This older article from Small Biz Trends compares well and is a quicker overview of free website builders. - Published June 10, 2016.
Lastly an article from Beautiful Life discussing the 15 best free website builders with a very thorough and detailed evaluation. - Published October 7, 2017.
A sustainable website has to be easy to find with easy addition of SEO and keyword parts. Performance wise it needs to load quickly with AMP technology in the development process. For best user experience the design has to be responsive in adapting to all devices. Read more about the building blocks of sustainable web design.
KNOWS WHAT GOOGLE WANTS
Personally I feel that a sustainable website platform should be up-to-date with google requirements starting with the visibility of their own company in a basic Google search. This is easily established with the presence of a google graph knowledge box on the right.
Website builder expert has a nice website builders comparison chart for 2017 with the number of websites powered in millions by each of the website builders mentioned. This is an important indicator of whether the company will still be around with your website for the next 10 years or not.
Website builder experts also mentions that Weebly and Squarespace has themes with responsive technology and that Weebly and Wix has mobile editors. Mobile functionality with responsive viewpoints is a requirement set by Google and shows who is taking the time to stay current.
BEST FOR SEO:
SME Pals has a blog on which website builder is best for SEO? The implementation of SEO parts is a clear indication of which builder is maintaining and updating their platform software according to algorithm requirements. Note Weebly ranking above Wix in both page-speed and underlying implementation of SEO features.
An amazing comparison done by Website Tool Tester with a handy table of the best website builders for SEO comparing Wix, Weebly and Squarespace. It is an older blog but a clear indication of who takes SEO seriously. - Published May 26, 2016
Website Tool Tester has a website builder reviews comparison chart for 2017 blog where they mention Weebly as having 'unmatched ease of use'.
Website Builder Expert did a blog about why you should not hire a website designer where she refers to Weebly as 'Stupid Simple'. - Published September 2017
Website Setup has a blog about website builders written by an HTML developer who has never used a website builder. He has a clearly and undeniable bias opinion towards Weebly. I find most developers does have this as Weebly has the ability to replace a huge chunk of their work as technology progresses. A sad but necessary part of digital evolution needed to help empower small business owners.
Another questionable blog is a shopify review by merchant maverick saying that 'ease of use is Shopify's niche'.
So to check on this I did I basic Google trend comparison of the website + developer. This search helps to show which platforms are easy DIY and which created the desire to do a search for help after a business owner ran out of patience and time trying to figure it out themselves. As you can see no one needs help putting their Weebly or Wix website together. Shopify rates in difficulty below Wordpress according to this popular search for 2017.
For something to be doable you need to not have to hire someone to make changes and be able to DIY your marketing plan on-page and off-page search engine optimization elements. I find that most website reviews are done by technically inclined people trying to match it up to their technical expectations. I was unable to find even one website review by a normal technically illiterate person so there really is no controlled experiment available. Weebly tends to score on the lower end but that is absolutely expected with case studies done by programmers.
Searching for a website developer is one thing but looking for tutorials clearly indicates a DIY mindset without the financial ability to do otherwise or possibly the entrepreneurial spirit to learn how to DIY.
Being excited to learn how to manage your business can be exciting but staying within setting logical expectations for yourself will avoid harsh disappointment. What I see today is that building a website is so easy that a child can do, but not any website is a functional website. Often a pretty website has no or limited SEO frustrating owners on why it is not working. The hard reality is that website builders promoted for their customization is much more difficult to manage than a website builder with limitations. I like to think of the limitations being set in place to help an unskilled user to not 'break it'. Looking at which builders has the highest learning curve it is clear that Wordpress is right above the rest with Shopify and Squarespace on it's heels.
ON THE GO ACCESS:
Business owners and entrepreneurs on the go needs to have access to their website quick and easy as they take care of daily tasks. This helps to be able to check on comments, manage your blog, all basic customer service with a digital audience. Website platforms who are helping to make this possible are as follows:
Weebly is the only website builder that has a Weebly Mobile editor that can build a website from the beginning to the end using only your mobile device. Read more on by Addictive Tips on how to easily create and manage your website on the go using Weebly for iPhone. PC World also has more on how to build and manage a website from your iPhone with Weebly.
Weebly has a detailed and intuitive mobile dashboard helping you to manage your website, blog and various parts of your website and marketing.
Wordpress and Wix has only limited access, where you are only able to manage your blog on your phone with Wordpress mobile App and managing your blog with the Wix mobile App. WordPress Beginner suggests going as far as using third party apps with best mobile apps to manage your wordpress site. This unfortunately is not a holistic solution but only a limited one for the small business owners who is wearing many hats while managing their businesses online.
Ten years ago a website was an investment. One that would last you about 5 years, so you would choose the best developer using the most trusted software. Today in an age of digitized users your website is literally your company being represented in a digital space. It is a moving and changing thing that needs to be able to evolve as your company evolves. It is a place for interaction such as adding FAQ posts and page content to deal with current queries. Your website is a place for new content such as blog posts documenting research, service developments, events, news, deals. It is a place for commerce, making changes to products and adding new inventory. On your website you should have affirmation, add new team members, awards, publications and partnerships. Just as you manage your business in the real outbound world, so you should be able to manage your digital inbound business yourself.
Wordpress might be the most popular website builder used by small businesses but taking into consideration the very specific needs of digitized entrepreneurs it is not at all a practical choice.
Shopify is new and emerging, it is getting a lot of attention but it is not a smart choice if you are looking to manage your website without help.
Web.com is visible with a strong marketing campaign but they fall short because they are unable to satisfy most basic small business needs.
Squarespace is definitely one of the leading choices but what the builder lacks is crucial parts for being able to sustain your site in the long run.
Wix is a good alternative to Weebly, but limits you in maintaining your site, it falls short on all other variables making it a second best website builder.
Weebly is made specifically with the small business in mind and it meets all the needs of digitized business owners wanting to succeed in a digital world.
Our Plugin Matter team works as contracted partners with business owners and entrepreneurs who would like to get a grip on their digital presence. We do not charge a monthly hosting or management fees as with traditional web design companies. Our clients are active partners managing their own websites after the initial building or updating process. If you are ready to take control and responsibility of your own website while learning skills to help you also take initiative Plugin Matter is here to guide you on the path to website empowerment. Call us for a free TLC evaluation of your current online system.
Written by Melien Lavoie