For years, website builders have been derided for underdelivering on what they promise to provide. Many claim to be capable of creating the so-called “professional-looking” sites on the fly, but they fail to live up to expectations virtually all of the time.
Shawn Hessinger, the Executive Editor of Small Business Trends, lists a number of disadvantages in using DIY site builders. These include limited customization, no ownership over the design, and limited features and functions. The proprietary nature of many website builders also makes them incompatible with other site creation and publishing platforms.
However, much has changed since the early days of the pioneering website builders. With technological upgrades come numerous features that enable the creation of more sophisticated websites and greater design flexibility. Also, these advancements enable fast web-based website building without the performance issues that plagued DIY website creators previously.
Yes, it is possible to build websites that are robust and unique by using website builders. With advanced features and functions, performance boosts, and optimization, the outputs of DIY website building platforms can be comparable to those designed and developed by professional web developers.
Feature-rich website builders
Live drag-and-drop editor features were all the rage for website builders. They make it easy to create websites in a WYSIWYG fashion. This feature has become the norm, though, so it is important to offer a host of new features that make website building easier, faster, and more convenient.
Elementor, for example, offers advanced web creation functions including custom CSS, separate responsive designs, and animations that help in building unique pages. It also allows users to create custom positions, margins, padding, colors, and typographies. Additionally, it helps achieve a professional web development workflow by providing the tools necessary for streamlining projects including global design settings and custom templates.
Elementor also makes use of widgets to enable more customization options for users. Its widgets are made to achieve advanced designs without the need to use WordPress plugins. By not relying on WordPress plugins, websites can run faster and reduce the instances of having third-party software issues.
These widgets include customizable headings, inner sections, image boxes, star ratings, dividers, icons and icon boxes, image galleries and carousels, counters, spacers, toggles, social media icons, progress bars, menu anchors, alerts, sidebars, text paths, portfolios, forms, share buttons, price lists, flip boxes, animated headlines, countdowns, calls to action, table of content, and reviews.
One of the complaints users had with earlier website builders is the inconsistent or borderline inferiority of the responsiveness of the site-building platforms. They find it difficult to appreciate the drag-and-drop interface because of the apparent latency problems and inability of the platforms to precisely reflect the actual appearance of the resulting website. There have been complaints about the site editors of Weebly and Wix, for example.
These website editor complaints are already being addressed by many website builders. The release of version 3.3 of Elementor, for instance, introduced significant performance improvements mainly through the splitting of widget operation. Only widgets that are being used get to load their dedicated CSS to use resources more efficiently.
On the other hand, complaints about the lack of optimization are already being addressed by many website builders. Previously, users were able to create complex websites but without adequate optimization, leading to “bloated” or too heavy websites that far exceed the average web page size to ensure quick page loading time. Many website builders at present feature options to optimize the resulting websites.
Going back to the Elementor example, its recent software update adds the ability to create conditional and inline CSS. This feature allows users to have better control not only over the way their sites look and operate but also when it comes to page loading time.
Squarespace does not have this feature, but it offers something to help users evaluate the performance of their websites and implement the necessary improvements. Under its Developer Tools, Squarespace has a function that displays load time. From here, users can do tweaks such as the activation of SSL, reduction of image sizes, and the use of Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) to boost page loading speed particularly when the sites are accessed through mobile devices.
With Wix, there is an option to cache pages to optimize page loading speed. This function is the Advanced Settings under Settings. Users just need to enable the page caching feature. Page caching is not advisable for dynamic pages, though.
Rapid website creation with consistent pro design
Weebly, Wix, Squarespace, and various other website builders provide a variety of professionally-designed templates to make it easy to get started with website creation. It is possible to start from scratch and come up with original and unique designs, but the templates are there to provide users a faster and easier way to start building their online presence or ecommerce sites.
Templates may not be enough for some enterprise applications, though. There are businesses that produce highly customized websites that they want to replicate for their branches or new product lines. Often, website builders do not provide easy ways to carry over the template customizations to new projects. To build similar websites, complicated and tedious processes will have to be undertaken.
Some website builders offer a convenient solution for this. They can provide website kits that contain everything necessary to put up a new website, from the headers and footers to the fonts, color palettes, and landing and error pages. Elementor has a simplified way for exporting the attributes of entire websites to new projects to provide a massive jumpstart for website deployment.
Additionally, the Kits Library features dozens of predefined full website kits suitable for different uses, from eCommerce to NGOs and artist or professional portfolios. These ready-to-use kits were created by professional web designers with the latest web design trends in mind.
Through the Kits Library, even those that build their websites using other website creation platforms can take advantage of the full website kits and rapidly create new websites for various purposes. Again, these are not plain and generic-looking sites. These are highly bespoke sites that can serve as the basis for deploying similar sites for related but separate purposes.
Optimization for different devices
The deluge of new web-enabled devices on the market has changed web design and development significantly. With smartphones, tablets, computer monitors, and web-connected TVs that have different screen aspect ratios and resolutions, web designers find it challenging to come up with designs that can be deemed optimum for different scenarios.
These challenges gave rise to the idea of custom breakpoints, which essentially dictate how a website adjusts itself to the dimensions of the screen of the device accessing it. Elementor offers custom breakpoints for a total of seven device types, namely desktop, tablet, tablet extra, mobile, mobile extra, laptop, and widescreen displays.
The ability to set custom breakpoints for different devices helps ensure the best possible experiences for website visitors across different devices. It is a new dimension in the idea of having a well-designed website. Before, the term “responsive design” was deemed sufficient to make sites readily adaptable to different device display sizes. The multitude of display variations, however, calls for better design optimization embedded in a website’s code.
New features such as custom CSS, custom breakpoints, full website kits, workflow streamlining, and a library of pre-designed complete websites put website builders in a new light in the context of professional web design and development. They are no longer the on-the-fly solutions associated with run-of-the-mill and mediocre output. They can be good alternatives to expensive professional web designers when it comes to building robust and well-designed websites.
Website builders offer enterprises and organizations a convenient way to start building their online presence without the need to hire web developers at a much higher turnover rate. Compared to the $5,000 to $30,000 upfront cost businesses have to foot when hiring professional web developers, the $6 to $500 monthly price spent on reputable website builders is definitely not a bad idea.