If you’ve been following along with my series on planning your website, you’re getting close to the end! The next step is to select a website builder. What are you going to use to build your website? There are a lot of factors to consider, and I’ll cover the ones I usually consider when evaluating builders for my clients.
We’re still in planning mode for this episode! If you’re following along in my Website Planner, you should have identified your offer, goals, and target audience. You should have also created an ideal customer avatar, identified your competitors, identified your unique value proposition, listed your content ideas, and identified the functionality you need for your website. So what’s next? Well, now it’s time to use your goals, content, and functionality to select a builder for your website.
I’m not going to lie. This is a difficult decision to make. There are a lot of options to consider, like WordPress, Squarespace, Wix, and Shopify. And you might have heard a lot of advice from various experts about which one is the best. But those experts don’t know your exact situation, and you do, so you need to take all of the information you have and review the options based on several factors. That means you’ll need to do some research.
You’ll need a way to track your research, so create a spreadsheet. If you’re using my Website Planner, there’s a link to a spreadsheet you can use in the Select a Website Builder section, but otherwise you can just create a new one. Then create a column for each builder you’re going to research and a row for each factor you need to consider. If you’re not sure which builders to consider, I suggest starting with some of the most popular ones, which include WordPress, Squarespace, and Wix. If you’re doing e-commerce, you should also add Shopify to your options. There might be some other options to consider depending on things like your offer, goals, target audience, and functionality, so you might need to do some more research to even start on your research. Like I said, this can be a difficult decision.
As for the factors to consider, I’ll tell you about the ones I evaluate when helping a client decide on their website builder. Remember, each of these can be a row or rows in your spreadsheet.
- The first thing I usually consider is whether the builder is hosted or installed. Have you ever heard the term “software as a service?” That is what I mean by “hosted.” Basically, the website builder is software that the provider installed on their web server. It’s often proprietary software that you can basically lease to use for the website. For most hosted builders, you won’t have access to the source code, so you can’t easily pick up your website and move it somewhere else if you decide you don’t like the host. It’s not always easy to determine if a builder is hosted or installed, so I’ll just tell you that Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, and Shopify are all hosted. Builders like WordPress and Drupal are installed. You can also find WordPress and Drupal hosted, but because the underlying software can be installed elsewhere it’s a little bit different from the other hosted builders.
- The next thing to consider is the cost. Some builders are free, but they have limitations on what you can do with the free version. Other builders have monthly subscription fees and additional costs for add-ons, customizations, and other features. You’ll create a budget later in the planning process, but for now, when you look at all of the options, make note of the monthly or annual cost. If you need any add-ons for your particular website, make note of those as well. For example, if you’re creating a membership site, and a basic plan for the builder you’re researching doesn’t have that functionality, you might need to either upgrade or pay for an add-on, and you’ll need to take the cost of that upgrade or add-on into account.
- Next, consider the design. Do you need complete control over the appearance of your website? Are you comfortable with using only pre-designed templates? Or are you looking for something in-between? If you’re starting with templates, you should look at the options offered by the builder to see if they suit your needs.
- Another thing to consider is ease of use. Are you comfortable with coding? Are you comfortable with some tech but don’t want to code? Do you need a drag-and-drop interface that requires no coding knowledge or technical skill? You might need to watch some videos or sign up for some free trials to determine the ease of use for a particular builder.
- Next, you’ll need to consider the functionality provided by each website builder. Some platforms offer a range of functionality like e-commerce capabilities, blogging tools, search engine optimization, integration with third-party services, and much more. Some are really good at one thing, like e-commerce, but not so good at other things. And depending on your requirements, that might actually be a good thing. I recommend writing down a row in your spreadsheet for each of the items you identified for functionality for your website and then note if the builder supports it. You can also add notes about the strength of support for that functionality. If a builder specializes in a functionality that’s critical for reaching your goals, it might be worth weighting that functionality in your comparison.
- Another factor to consider is scalability. Think about the future growth of your website. You might not need much right now, but will you need more in the future? Does the builder allow you to start small and add on later when you need it? Think about this in terms of functionality, content, and traffic.
- Performance is a big factor for me, and I think it’s something everyone should consider when evaluating a website builder. How fast do websites that are built with the website builder load for users? Are they fast? Are they slow? If they are slow, do they have tools you can use to speed them up? Some builders allow you to tweak performance and others don’t. I will add that in my experience, you can tweak performance for installed builders much better than you can tweak them for hosted builders.
- I also encourage you to consider exportability of your website. If you decide you want to use a different website builder in the future, how easy will it be to get your content out of your current website? Some website builders are not exportable at all. And I can tell you from personal experience, copying and pasting an entire website is no fun. Exportability might not be very important to you when you’re first getting started, but it might be critical in the future. I’m a big proponent of planning, hence the whole Website Planner, so I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t point this out as a factor.
- Another factor to consider is support and community. Can you ask someone for help if you need it? Is that help included in the cost of the builder, or do you need to pay extra for it? Are there any resources outside of the official support channels that you can use if you need help? Is there a developer community for the builder? If you want to hire someone to just do everything for you, can you easily do that?
Depending on your situation, there might be other factors to consider, but I think the ones I just listes should get you started.
So now that you know some factors to consider, where can you get the information? For some of the builders, you can get a lot of the info from their websites. This is particularly true for the hosted builders. You might need to dig a little more for installed builders like WordPress. For example, because you can host WordPress just about anywhere, you might need to check with a few WordPress hosting providers to get an idea of the monthly cost. In addition to doing your own research, I recommend getting feedback from other people who have used the builders you’re considering. What do they like? What don’t the like?
Now, with all of that information in mind, I want you to get started with your research! Make a copy of my spreadsheet or create your own and do a comparison to figure out which builder will best suit your needs.
If you are more of a “done for you” kind of person, I have some videos that go over most of the factors in my list for WordPress, Wix, Squarespace, and Shopify. You can get the videos from the Plan Your Website masterclass on websitesuccessacademy.com. Of course, I can’t fill in the blanks for you when it comes to functionality, but I did the research for the other factors.
Well, I hope you found this info useful. Thanks for tuning in, and I’ll see you in the next episode.