There are more disadvantages to using a website builder than there are advantages. There is a lot to know about building websites.
Should I use a website builder? There is several reasons not to use a website builder when creating a website. The main reason is you cannot move your website – you will be held hostage. If your website is important to you or your business, you should consider an alternative.
A lot goes into building a website. Buying a domain, obtaining hosting, choosing a platform to build your website on, the look and feel, writing content, and Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
I’ve been building websites for over 20 years. Here are my thoughts on when to and when not to use a website builder.
When it is OK to Create Your Website Using a Website Builder
I’m not completely against using a website builder. There are limited number of reason to use a website builder.
If you can answer yes to each of the following questions, you could be a candidate for a website builder. Even if you can say yest to every question, I would still take the time to consider the alternatives which could be helpful in the future.
- Do you want to have a website that consists of just a few pages – something like a brochure website?
- Are you reasonably capable of creating something visually appealing?
- Does ranking on the search engines such as Google not matter to you?
- Will you direct your own traffic to your website?
- Is site speed not important to you?
- You will never want to move your website to another host?
- You do not have any long term plans to expand your website.
If you answer no to any of the above questions, I would recommend evaluating other options.
The Disadvantages to Using a Website Builder
There are several reasons not to use a website builder. Below is my list.
Your Website Will Be Held Hostage
Website builders consist of the web hosting, the builder itself, and the visual layer – what your visitor sees. They are proprietary and specific to the builder themselves. This locks you into one provider. You lose control and must work within the parameters they provide or dictate.
This type of arrangement may seem good at the moment, however you have to ask yourself can your provider be bought out and the builder neglected? What happens if the host company decides they are not going to support their builder any further? What if the hosting becomes slow? Lack of support, show servers, and phased out products occur.
You own your content, and the hosting provider owns the hosting and the builder. The builder and the hosting are tightly coupled. You cannot just move your website. You can take your content elsewhere, however you will need to rebuild your website from scratch on the new platform. There is a good chance your website will drop in ranking on the search engines, at least for a while, if it ranks at all. It might take a year or longer to recover from a move.
So why take the chance?
Website Design Considerations
If you are a talented website designer the world is your canvas, however for the rest of us we need the help of a professional designer. I must say I have seen some amazing websites created using a website builder, however those were created by very talented people.
When using a builder, one must conciser the design aspect of the website. If you have an eye for design then this will not be an issue.
Remember you will not be able to take the design with you.
Potential SEO Issues
I’m not convinced that website builders will entirely kill your SEO, however I do believe they can hamper your SEO and potentially keep your website from getting any real organic traffic from the search engines.
Here is some of the SEO features that are limited or missing.
- Sitemap – Some builders create a sitemap, however you do not have access to it.
- Robots.txt – They may provide it however you have little or no access to it and no ability to modify it.
- Ability to configure redirects – If you ever want to rename an article or remove it you will have no way to relay that to Google or any of the other search engines.
You may need granular control of your website that builders do not provide. This could come at a price, especially if SEO and organic traffic is of importance to you.
Host on Their Web Servers
I’ve already mentioned the tight coupling of the builder and the hosting. This is a potential problem. I’ve already mentioned some of the potential issues and wanted to talk a bit more about this potential problem.
The big hosts put thousand of websites on each server. And some host do not do load balancing, some do. When I use the term load balancing I taking about the mix of websites on a server and how they utilize resources. Most websites use a small amount of server resources. Others may use a lot of resources. If your website is on a server that is overloaded with sites that are using a lot of resources, the server may slow and in turn your website may slow.
The solution is to have a mix of low utilizing websites with some resource intensive websites so the server is not overtaxed and therefor does not slow.
Believe it or not speed is an SEO factor so you want to be aware of your website’s load speed.
Another thing to consider is what happens if your website starts to get a lot of traffic. If you are using a builder your website is tightly coupled to your hosting and you may not be able to move to a faster server. This is could be problematic, or even catastrophic.
The Alternative to Website Builders
I assume since you are wanting to build your owe website you have a limited budget. I have a solution. You can build a website on a budget without painting yourself into a corner. Let me show you how.
I world recommend using WordPress. This will give you more options and can scale with you and will run on most hosting company’s servers. A lot of the hosting companies claim to specialize in WordPress. In reality WordPress will run just fine on most Linux web servers that run the PHP programming language.
I called several hosting companies to gather information on their website builders vs hosting with WordPress
* The above information is subject to change by the respective hosting providers.
There are some points I’d like to make concerning the above table:
- One of the support representatives did not seem very enthused about using a website builder and indirectly said it was entry level and seemed to think web builders were not for the serious web site owner.
- WordPress will run on the basic hosting plan. That is what I would choose to start with.
- The WordPress specific plans were limited in what they allow you to do as the website owner / administrator. Compare this the regular hosting where you install WordPress onto that hosting. The regular hoisting give you full hosting access to WordPress.
- The WordPress hosting plans provide a control panel that is external to WordPress. From my research I do not believe the WordPress specific hosting is worth the extra cost.
- On the regular hosting WordPress is installed by simply clicking a button on the control panel. A support representative can help you with the process.
Domain + WordPress + Theme + Some Customization + Basic Hosting
WordPress is pretty much SEO ready right out of the box. There is a ton of free and paid themes for WordPress.
All you need is your domain, a basic Linux hosting plan, WordPress, a theme, and some customization.
If you search YouTube you will probably find more than a few video’s that will wank you through every phase.
WordPress is Scalable and is Capable of Handling High Traffic Websites
I am aware of a website that gets a fair amount of traffic and contained 3000 articles that runs on WordPress. There are a lot of enterprise level websites that run on WordPress. If they can use WordPress it will meet your website needs.
No mater which path you take there is a learning curve. The site builder will come with a propriety learning curve. On the other hand WordPress will come with a learning curve that is not proprietary and you can use theses kills on any WordPress website that is hosted almost anywhere.
For Those Who Want to Create Their Own WordPress Design
There are several WordPress theme builders like DIVI. The cost is low. You can expect a learning curve.
Using a website builder over the alternative of WordPress comes with some opportunity costs.
- You will not be able to move your website. You are married with your host no mater what.
- Getting help will probably be limited to your hosting provider, while there a many WordPress meetups and support groups. And there are a lot of YouTube tutorial videos.
- Websites created using a website builder will have limited SEO options.
- Several of the hosts limit the number of pages your website can have. If you want organic traffic to your website you will need a lot of content on your website.
After a close look it is clear that a website built using a website builder will cost about the same as building a website using WordPress.
The builders look nice, especially if you have design chops. You may achieve the same effect on WordPress by using a template builder like DIVI.
For me I want the option of moving my website. The website builder limits your options. While using WordPress might be a little more complicated it is well worth it if you want to build a robust website that you hope will be visited.
The website builder, in my opinion, should be limited to the small brochure website that the owner does not have any plans to expand.
There is a lot to know when it comes to the anyone wishing to create a new website. I hope this article provides answers and helps you decide what to do – should you use a website builder or take another path.
I wish you the best in your endeavors!!