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Are Website Builders Worth It? 5 Key Factors to Consider

Building a website requires an understanding of HTML and complementary languages like CSS and JavaScript or a JavaScript Framework like AngularJS. 

However, website builders now allow you to create functional, on-brand websites without any knowledge of coding. The top website builders offer hundreds of templates that you can readily customize and a variety of design elements to create a unique website.

Should you choose a website builder or hire a web developer and/or web designer to build your website? The answer depends on your goals, budget, needs, time availability, and other factors.

Modern website builders have advanced features and greater design flexibility than ever, so the output is comparable to that of custom web development.

Let’s take a closer look at website builders and how they stack up against web developers/web designers.

What are website builders?

Website builders are DIY tools that allow users to build a website using readymade templates without having to write code or create designs. They empower you to put together a professional-looking website by dragging and dropping elements.

They have both online and offline formats: you can edit directly in your browser using online website builders. Most online builders offer accompanying hosting services so users do not need the technical know-how around it.

Popular website builders include Elementor, Squarespace, Weebly, GoDaddy, and Wix.

Elementor is a live drag-and-drop WordPress website builder that offers extensive design features and a large collection of templates in its free plan. 

Elementor Editor
Source: CatsWhoCode

Wix is a comprehensive, beginner-friendly, and scalable platform that helps you build a professional website without writing any code. 

Squarespace is ideal for users who have some technical skill and web design knowledge since the strength of the platform lies in visual design. 

Weebly works well for small businesses, online stores, blogs, and personal portfolios. You can use its drag-and-drop editor to build simple, yet stylish websites. 

It makes sense to use DIY website builders because of the creative freedom and awesome design features they offer at affordable prices. 

Key factors to consider when considering custom web development vs. website builder

There are many good reasons to choose website builders over web designers/web developers to build a robust, professional website. Let’s take a look at five key factors that tip the balance toward website builders.

1. Speed and performance

Google is going all-in on improving the user experience as evident from the recent Core Web Vitals update. Website speed and performance are important contributors to a seamless, smooth browsing experience and search engine rankings.

Web designers use various methods to boost page loading speeds like compressing image files, using lazy loading and caching, optimizing JavaScript, using content delivery networks, and using fewer and better plugins.

Website builders like Elementor are inherently built for speed, but also feature continuous updates to optimize performance, such as:

  1. Selective asset loading: It improves front-end website performance by reducing the amount of JavaScript code loaded on the page by default. Page speed is boosted by loading only the functions needed. Some widgets have lazy loading to reduce page size and the number of HTTP requests when the page loads initially. This improves the page performance.
  2. Optimizing internal JavaScript and CSS: Users can configure the Google Fonts loading method and the font-display property in the Font Awesome library. It reduces the render-blocking processes and gives users more control over the way the website looks and operates.
  3. Improved code output: they have created a smaller DOM and simplified the code output by removing wrapper elements. It has also provided inline loading to allow the display of widgets without waiting for all JavaScript files to be fully downloaded before content rendering. 
  4. Optimizing backend and rendering processes: Dynamic CSS loading and the rendering mechanism have been improved with page caching. It improves server-side rendering times.
  5. Leveraging native browser support: The use of certain CSS and JavaScript libraries has been reduced and replaced with native browser support. This makes implementation efficient and reduces JavaScript execution time immensely. For example, the Waypoints library has been replaced by the native Intersection Observer API.
GoDaddy Page Speed Test Results
Source: Software Pundit

Wix and GoDaddy are the most reliable website builders regarding page speed, faring well in both mobile and desktop performance. These platforms have Google PageSpeed Insights scores between 94 and 92. 

For a custom-built website, frequent support from the web developer/designer is needed to keep the website in sync with the latest performance benchmarks. This would be quite a hindrance when you need to constantly add new content and update the website’s features, as it often happens in real estate. To avoid this, agencies prefer using real estate website builders designed to meet their needs. These platforms often have features that allow website owners to target a hyperlocal community while also staying in control when it comes to customization.

2. Mobile-friendliness

Google’s mobile-first indexing has made it necessary to have mobile-friendly and mobile-responsive websites. If your website doesn’t render properly on mobile devices, it is unlikely to appear on searches performed on tablets or smartphones. 

Creating a responsive website from scratch or multiple website variants (for each device) is not straightforward—even for professional web designers.

Website builders have mobile editing tools to ensure that websites are 100% responsive. Features like mobile font size, responsive column width, padding and margins, reverse columns, responsive sizing, and visibility elements help create mobile-friendly websites.

Wix Mobile Editor
Source: Website Planet

Wix offers a mobile editor wherein you can edit pages, blogs, and eCommerce functions to suit smaller screens. Its templates are mobile-friendly rather than fully responsive, but they’re improving constantly. 

Squarespace and GoDaddy have mobile-responsive themes that look great across different mobile devices. 

All of Weebly’s stylish and customizable templates are mobile-responsive and you can even switch between them.

Elementor 3.4 offers custom breakpoints for up to seven devices (including mobile) enabling better, more responsive websites. Thus, your site can deliver a better user experience.

With a slight learning curve, everything about your website’s mobile performance is under your control. This is not the case when you rely on a web developer/designer.

3. Customization features

Website builders usually have a library of templates to speed up website creation. They offer a variety of customization options and widgets to ensure that each website is unique and on-brand.  

But it is a challenging task to ensure that all branding elements like logos, color palettes, fonts, and layouts are consistently applied across all the websites, landing pages, and resource pages of a brand. Website designers have to redefine global settings repeatedly to preserve brand cohesiveness.

Squarespace Templates
Source: Applet Studio

Elementor’s Full Website Kits solves the problem with customizable website kits that can be exported as an entire website and applied to a new or an ongoing project. Its latest eCommerce update (Elementor 3.5) adds more flexibility to design an online store with new widgets like Cart and Checkout.

Wix is ideal for people who want extensive creative freedom with over 800 customizable templates. Its app market offers hundreds of free and paid integrations to extend your site’s capabilities.

If the design is not your forte, Weebly will guide you with its structured and consistent patterns. Its App Center offers more advanced features and tools, both free and paid. 

Squarespace has fewer templates compared to other website builders but they’re designed to highlight visual elements and include industry-specific features and layouts.

Thus, the website builder platform helps you optimize your eCommerce site for a streamlined customer experience, improved conversions, and consequently, better sales. 

4. Cost and maintenance

Put simply, it costs much less to build a website using a website builder than it is to hire a web developer/designer. There are little-to-no maintenance hassles either as the website builder company takes care of everything needed to keep a website operational and protect it against malware and technical issues.

Wix, Weebly, and Elementor have free plans with all the necessary features to build a functional website. Squarespace and GoDaddy offer free trials to help you decide if it’s the right fit for you. Popular plans for most website builders range between $12 per month and $23 per month.

Compare this with the upfront cost of hiring a website designer: between $5,000 and $30,000 (or more). And website maintenance further costs around $500-$1,000 per year. 

Web designers and developers either create websites from scratch by custom coding or customize a readymade template to align with your branding elements and other requirements.

5. Support

Website builders are designed to make it convenient for you to build a custom website.

A huge part of this convenience includes technical support, should you need help with any of the advanced features of the platform or if you face any maintenance/downtime issues. Typically, you can get quick answers from the support team via email, phone, or chat.

Elementor Academy
Source: Essential Addons

Website builders also offer extensive knowledge bases and FAQs to help users, such as Wix’s comprehensive and searchable knowledge base and Weebly’s SEO Guides for tips on coding, keyword optimization, and improving site ranking. 

Elementor Academy is a free platform with course materials on web creation developed by experienced designers. It has a variety of learning formats—how-to tutorials, video lessons, webinars, and full-fledged courses.

Over to you

Advanced features like custom breakpoints, full website kits, selective asset loading, and workflow optimization empower you to build a website that is comparable or even surpasses one built by a team of web developers and designers. 

All in all, building a unique, performance-optimized, on-brand website is not a herculean task anymore. You can have a powerful website up and running without coding knowledge and easily keep it up-to-date.

So to conclude, website builders can be a better solution to speed up the time to market without cutting corners on performance, user experience, or security.