Building a website can seem like a huge task. It doesn’t have to be. There are two ways in which to build a website. By hand coding (having an agency do all the heavy lifting) or using web design software.
In this article, we are going to explore web design software packages available to build a website.
We will cover the most popular ones to use, when to use each one, and explore the pros and cons of each.
We will then look at why using a website builder can be at a disadvantage over hand coding a website.
This will provide you with good insight as to why you would pick one method over another and most importantly, provide you with the information on website builders so you don’t have to do the bulk of the research yourself.
Credit to SquareSpace
SquareSpace provides a website builder, team collaboration tools, client management and website hosting.
You should use SquareSpace when you need flexibility as it allows you to upscale and downscale your website as and when.
This means you can add new features and take them away. Control the layout of pages per-page, or site whole. You can even migrate your SquareSpace site to a completely different system.
You should also pick SquareSpace if you think you will want to move platforms down the line, or are still unsure and testing the waters.
What SquareSpace offers you:
- Modern Templates
- Customisable layouts
- Mobile optimised design
- Designer website templates
- Flexible features for every idea
- Powerful website integrations
- Award winning customer care
- Free unlimited hosting
- Domain Names
- Superior uptime
- Marketing tools
SquareSpace is not the most affordable option when comparing them to their competitors (we will look at these soon!).
There are two main price points with SquareSpace.
Personal and business.
Personal starts at £13 per month and business start at £21 per month.
These prices are for a standard website.
One thing to point out here is that when you are browsing themes, there are e-commerce options available.
If you want an e-commerce site, the pricing goes up, considerably. For a basic e-commerce site, the cost will be £23 per month and for an advanced e-commerce site, the cost will be £37 per month.
Rich featured website builder
To start off building your site, you can simply select a template that you want to use.
Then, answering a few questions, such as the purpose of your website. This will provide you with a list of relevant templates.
You can then play around with your template to truly make it yours.
This is because you have access to and can customise the pages, design, e-commerce aspect, marketing, analytics, comments and general settings using the builder feature.
General settings provide you with a plethora of options, some of which include language, social links, domain names, email and many more.
SquareSpace generally provide better templates than any other website builder out there that make your site look professional and are highly flexible
If that is not enough, you have the option to add custom CSS. so, if you know how to code a little. You can really push the boundaries to make your site totally unique.
One last thing to point out with SquareSpace is their “unlimited” resources.
Are they really? Well, they do have a fair use policy that you have to follow. So, keep this in mind if you decide to use SquareSpace.
Not Beginner Friendly
After looking into SquareSpace one thing that kept cropping up is that SquareSpace is not totally beginner friendly. What this means is that you will more than likely have to follow a tutorial to get up to speed with building your website.
Be sure to carry out some in-depth research into SquareSpace to really find out their terms and conditions. As there are too many to list here.
If you ever need any help with SquareSpace they provide online support only. There are no contact numbers to phone.
Credit to GoDaddy
GoDaddy provides website hosting, domains, WordPress websites, web security, online marketing and most importantly the website builder.
They are also one of the largest domain and hosting service providers in the world.
You should use GoDaddy when you need a website fast. They say you can build a website in under an hour. You really can with GoDaddy.
GoDaddy is also known for its reliability and support. The types of support they provide include email, live chat and phone.
So pick GoDaddy if you want to be able to talk to a human if you ever get stuck. Remember, SquareSpace does not provide phone support.
What GoDaddy offers you:
- Modern Templates
- Professional imagery
- Swip to style interface
- Mix and match sections
- Foolproof style
- Online appointments
- Facebook page
- Email Marketing
- Domain Names
- Customer support
The pricing of GoDaddy’s website builder is relatively affordable. They start at £4.99 per month for a personal website and £6.99 per month for business.
As mentioned previously, you can have a website at £4.99 per month. But, it really isn’t that cheap. You still need a domain name, which is not included. This will bump up the price of your website, no doubt.
GoDaddy, just like SquareSpace have a different pricing plan for an e-commerce site. Prices start at £19.99 per month.
Godaddy’s website builder is aimed at simplicity. You choose a base theme that comes with preloaded blocks that you can drag and drop into place.
You can then customise these blocks by adding content and changing the colours, fonts, widths and heights.
This will allow you to customise the site away from the default theme look.
GoDaddy also provide you with a photo library with images from Getty, this makes it extremely fast and efficient at sourcing images for your site.
On top of the affordable pricing, GoDaddy offers you one month totally free trial to test everything out. So, if it’s not right for you, you can simply leave.
One thing that cropped up is GoDaddy’s templates have limited freedom in terms of customisation and have a lack of depth in some features. Be sure to check out if GoDaddy can offer all the functionality that you need.
One thing to point out with GoDaddy’s ecommerce platform is that you are limited to 5000 thousand products for your site. So make sure you have calculated the required size of your website.
GoDaddy does not make it easy to switch themes, they provide you with a warning notice saying “Whenever you change your website theme, all your existing text, images, and settings are removed from the site.”. So be wary.
Loading speed. Loading times are everything when it comes to conversion. The speed of GoDaddy’s websites is not great.
For instance, we checked out this website (https://greenerneighbors.godaddysites.com/order-seeds) with three shop items on the page.
We were surprised at how long these items took to load for us. As you enter the page you are presented with three loading icons before you even see the products. This should be instant.
So be cautious if you plan on having a large website. More content will take longer to load.
Credit to Divi
WordPress itself is not a website builder. Divi is a website builder for WordPress.
Divi, in essence, is a theme for WordPress that provides you with builder functionality and is made by Elegant themes.
You should use Divi when you want a WordPress website, but do not know how to code one yourself, or do not want a WordPress theme that has no drag and drop page builder.
So, pick Divi if you want a WordPress website that’s easy to customise and provides more flexibility over other WordPress themes with no page builders.
Regarding standard WordPress themes – these themes require coding to drastically change how they look.
What Divi offers you:
- Real-time design
- Customise anything
- Organize with ease
- Click and type
- Responsive editing
- Global elements
- Elements for almost anything
- Import and export
- Premade layouts
- Powerful WYSIWYG editor
Elegant Themes provide a clear and simple price plan. Either £70 per year or £190 lifetime access. It makes sense which one to choose doesn’t it?
Divi provides you with a way to break away from having to get into the code to customise your theme.
Divi makes it really easy to build and add content to your website through their content blocks.
You simply click on a section on your webpage and you will be presented with a choice of blocks to include within that section.
From here you can customise the block by adding content and changing the styling of it. One example is the ability to easily add text shadows with the click of a button.
Because Divi is built on WordPress you have all of the WordPress plugins to choose from, this means you can add functionality to your Divi theme that other Divi themes do not have.
Divi allows you to split test your website theme, this allows you to test two different versions of a landing page with ease. Upon completion, you simply pick the one that yields better results.
Divi under the hood uses shortcodes to place content onto your webpage.
A shortcode is a simple way to add code to a WordPress webpage using the [my_shortcode] syntax.
When you place a content block on your webpage using Divi it will place a shortcode that will generate the content.
If you ever want to move away from a Divi theme, you will be left with nothing but shortcodes that cannot be used.
This means you will have to rebuild your website if you ever move away from the Divi theme.
Domain and hosting
Because Divi is built on WordPress, this means there are no integrated hosting services.
Other website builders have hosting and domain options available. This can see seen as a pro or con depending on how you look at it.
With Divi at least you have the flexibility to choose your own hosting and domain provider, but if you want a simple all in one solution. This is not it.
Credit to Weebly
Weebly is a fully hosted online drag and drop platform that provides a built-in code editor.
You should use Weebly when you want an all in one platform that is simple to use but also want to customise your site using code.
What Weebly offers you:
- Powerful design tools
- Responsive design
- Professionally designed templates
- App Center
- Third party integrations
Weebly has a few different price plans available, seven in total. On top of this, each price plan has a fair amount of listed features. These range from free to ecommerce and business.
The pricing is as follows
- Starter – £9
- Pro – £8
- Business – £17
- Pro – £8
- Business – £17
- Business plus – £26
Each one of these plans has an extensive list of features, so be sure to check them out.
Weebly allows you to choose from one of the hundreds of templates that can be customised with the drag and drop page builder. Weebly has gone to great lengths to make this as simple as possible.
The huge pro to Weebly is that they provide you with a built-in text editor. So, if you know how to code you can just as easily make changes to the theme you are using without using the builder.
Weebly is truly flexible in terms of how you want to build your site.
Weebly has a custom mobile app that lets you build and edit your website on the go. This means if you spot a glaring error on your website you don’t have to wait till you’re on your computer.
With Weebly you don’t have to worry about hosting or domain names, this is because it’s an all in one platform.
The only major things you need to worry about is choosing a theme, customising it and picking a domain name. Weebly will take care of the rest for you.
The major issue with the free plan is that you are tied to the domain name Weebly give you. This means if you want to build your brand, you will be stuck. This is because you can’t have a domain name that is drastically different from your brand.
One thing that needs to be pointed out is Weebly’s templates can be restrictive when it comes to customising them. This is one issue that we have seen come up when researching Weebly.
Keep this in mind if you want true customizability.
Because Weebly has its own hosting, you need to make sure you want to stick with them for as long as your website exists.
Credit to Duda
Duda is a web design platform aimed at agencies who build websites for other people.
You should use Duda if your design agency wants to focus purely on design and no code.
- Design control
- Image management
- Mobile editing
- Site widgets
- Templates and sections
- Website personalization
- Site comments
- Content library
On top of these design features Duda offers:
- Team collaboration
- Client management
Duda offers four different price plans
- Basic – £10.90
- Team – £17.21
- Agency – £56.59
With the agency plan, you are still restricted as to the number of websites you can build within your team. The number of sites is eight. This seems pretty limited.
Duda is superb for agencies that do not want to code, yet design great looking fully responsive websites.
Duda can be used for multilingual sites and is easy to set up.
Website personalisation tools
Duda makes it really easy to make a website truly personal. For instance, a specific message can be sent to website visitors based on their location.
Duda uses Amazon web services to host their websites. This means you are provided with extremely well known and trusted hosting solutions meaning you don’t have to worry so much if your host will be able to keep up with large amounts of website traffic.
Even though Duda is multilingual, it isn’t fully multilingual. At this present time, blog articles and the ecommerce section cannot be translated. This means if you want a multilingual site, it needs to be relatively simple.
Duda does not provide a tool for setting up and sending out newsletters. This means you will have to go to another provider.
Duda seems fairly expensive. If you are an agency you will definitely be building more than eight websites. Just imagine the number of websites built throughout the year, that small price of £56.59 will slowly start to multiply and you could be left with hefty bills on your payment date.
Credit to Wix
Wix is a leading website builder platform and you will probably have heard a friend or colleague mention that they have a Wix website.
You should use Wix if you are a small business, restaurant, online store such as an artist or photographer and want an all in one solution (website + hosting + domain).
You should also use Wix if you are not good with technology at all, this is because they have a feature called ADI which we will get to soon.
Wix can be used for blogging, selling, online forums, appointment booking and collecting contact details.
What Wix offers you:
- Wix Editor
- Modern templates
- Total design freedom
- Full responsive templates
- App market
- Unlimited fonts
- Scroll effects
- Media galleries
- Advanced features
- And many more
Wix offers seven different price plans.
- Connect domain – £3 per month
- Combo – £6 per month
- Unlimited – £8.50 per month
- VIP – £18 per month
Business and ecommerce
- Business basic – £13 per month
- Business unlimited – £16 per month
- Business VIP – £22 per month
Be wary that not all price plans will include the features you need to build your website how you want it.
A prime example is the form builder (a form in most cases is a must on any website) is not included in the first two packages.
Wix is super simple to use and provides you with pre-designed templates that you can modify to your needs.
Wix has a really powerful feature called Wix Artificial Design Intelligence.
If manually picking a template is daunting for you, Wix has the perfect solution called ADI.
This feature works by asking you a series of questions and collecting information about your businesses using an online search. This will generate an appropriate layout that can then be fine-tuned to your needs using the drag and drop builder.
Even though Wix templates are responsive, Wix uses a lot of absolute positioned elements to create pixel perfect designs that stay the same as the screen changes.
If you have a lot of these elements, these can break the webpage as the screen size changes. This is because the elements do not adjust to fit on a smaller screen, this means these elements will flow past your screen hiding content.
This means extra effort is needed to make sure these elements are hidden properly or repositioned for different screen sizes.
As a side note, other website builders do not use as much absolutely positioned elements as Wix.
As you know Wix provides its own hosting and domains. This simply means you have to stick with Wix if you have built your website with them. So, make sure you are 100% happy with using them as if you think you will want to change hosting you will have to build a completely new site.
Credit to Shopify
Shopify is a well-known ecommerce platform. They also provide a platform that allows you to easily build and run your ecommerce site with ease.
You should use Shopify if you want a straight up ecommerce site that you want to build yourself and want simple means of hosting.
Shopify provides you with:
- Professional themes
- Theme Customisation
- HTML and CSS control
- Start accepting orders in minutes
- Create customer groups
- Create customer accounts
- Fully featured CMS
- Extendable functionality
- Detailed customer profiles
- Custom gift cards
Shopify offer three price plans:
- Basic Shopify – £22.18 per month
- Shopify – £60.42 per month
- Advanced Shopify – £228.68 per month
Shopify ‘s price plan really does increase in price. You need to make sure you have chosen the correct plan before going ahead.
Dedicated ecommerce platform
Unlike the other website builders out there, Shopify is dedicated to ecommerce. This means there are no separate plugins you need to install (adding Woocommerce to the Divi theme for example).
Shopify provides their own hosting service and you can only use Shopify on their host. This is superb if you don’t want to deal with hosting separately. Because Shopify is a dedicated ecommerce platform, you can rest assured your website will be able to handle the traffic of potential buyers.
Because Shopify provides a website builder and its own hosting you can focus on designing your online store and forget about the technical aspects.
The whole process has been streamlined for you and is designed so you can start accepting orders in seconds. You simply choose a template, add products and begin accepting orders.
Shopify is no doubt expensive. Their pricing is actually broken down into four steps.
- your monthly fees (set price needed to be paid every month)
- your platform transaction fees (percentage paid based on sales)
- your credit card fees (credit card fees through payment gateways)
- your addon fees (third-party apps and plugins to add extra functionality)
Shopify may boast a simplistic approach, but choosing the right plan, deciding on any extra functionality needed so your store can be fully functional can get complicated. For a simple example, there are add-ons for inventory management and wholesale features.
So you really do need to do your research to see if Shopify itself is enough or if you need to buy any additional add-ons.
So, after looking at the available builders it may seem like they are the be all and end all.
For a summarisation:
- You pick a template/theme
- Customise the template/theme
- Add any plugins/addons
- Add content to the template
- You are ready to go
One point that I would like to mention that kept cropping up is:
Builders and templates are cheap and fast.
The drag and drop features are simplistic.
Even GoDaddy says you can build a website in under an hour.
But, are they really as good as they make out to be?
and is a “quick fix” what you really need?
For this, we need to explore the disadvantages of using website builders over an agency. This will reveal the “in-depth behind the scenes ins and outs of website builders and templates.”.
The disadvantages of using website builders over an agency
Now that we have covered the recommended website builders, when to use them, what they offer and the pros and cons of each. We are going to discuss why website builders can be of a disadvantage over using an agency.
First things first, templates, templates, templates. Or themes. This is all you really see when it comes to website builders.
What does this mean in terms of building your brand? Being unique? Standing out from the crowd?
Well, templates have one major flaw. No matter how much you customise your template, it is going to have the same look as your competitor using the same template.
Why? Because they are all made the same, meaning the same base layout and visual design.
Simply put, if you don’t know how to code you are limited to drag and drop features available on your builder. Builders may make it sound like there are unlimited features and blocks available. But is that true?
Remember when we talked about Divi? We said there are “Elements for almost anything” and “Content blocks that can be added to your page”.
Well, these are premade by the theme developers themselves and with their ideas in mind. So if you really need something totally unique, chances are it might not exist.
This is what starts to make your theme look similar to other themes because everyone is using these same blocks.
People over time are going to notice this on your website as they move from one site to another. This, in turn, reduces your brand credibility and uniqueness.
Templates and customisation
Templates are built by other developers. Simply put, dealing with other people’s way of doing things can be a headache when it comes to customising a theme.
As a matter of fact, we have an in-depth article exploring “The Problem with Off The Shelf WordPress Themes”. Here you can have a proper read into the issues of themes/builders in general (remember builders use templates that you customise).
Template loading times
One issue that was mentioned earlier when looking at GoDaddy’s website builder was the loading speed. This actually is a huge issue with template/themes and builders. Our article (above) explores this issue in depth, so that’s another reason for you to check it out!
Themes may look affordable. But remember when we looked at Shopify and we said that there are add-ons to extend your shop’s functionality? These are the things that can weigh you down along the line.
Also with Wix, not all plans provide you with the functionality that you may need (some plans on Wix don’t even come with a form builder.).
If you are no web designer or developer, you are unlikely to know what features and options you really need to have your site functioning exactly how you want it to.
Slowly buying add ons or switching plans on top of your already set monthly fees is soon going to put costs up and up. On top of this, you may end up buying an addon that doesn’t quite fit your needs.
You will then have to go through the process of researching the exact addon you need. Again.
Migrating your site
Migrating your site to another provider can be a major headache. Remember with Wix, there is no option to access the code of your website, this means if you want to translate your website into another platform, you have to HTML, CSS or JS to work with. Meaning you start from scratch.
If you have a website built in WordPress by an agency and you are not happy with this down the line, there is nothing stopping the agency from preparing your files ready for migration.
With most website builders you are locked into their hosting and have to rely on them for your website hosting. This means if their servers go down for an extended period of time, you can’t move your site to another host in the meantime.
With an agency who build fully bespoke websites (bespoke WordPress website for example), you will more than likely have the option of what to do with your hosting and domain name.
If you are stuck the agency can help you out and provide you with options of what is best for you.
Also, because the agency will be dealing with the hosting. If that hosting ever goes down, they can deal with it for you and get your site up and running as quickly as possible.
One last point. If you already have a website, do you really want to go through the hassle of migrating your site to a new platform yourself? Then having to identify the features you need on the new platform?
With an agency they can get all of this sorted for you, doing all the heavy lifting.
Your brand is important and unique to you, do you really want to use a builder that has a premade template to build upon? No. what you need is a totally bespoke and unique website, built just for you.
You also need a website that is built around your vision. Professional designers and developers can translate your vision into reality, not from a theme that you think “suits” your brand.
It is all well and good customising your own website, but UI and UX play a massive factor in achieving conversions. You can’t just put elements anywhere on a webpage, they need true meaning.
Well, if you choose an agency that builds fully bespoke WordPress websites. No theming. You are going to get exactly what it is you have in your mind.
We have an article for you to explore as to why you should choose an agency.
One thing we explored when looking at website builders was the support they offer. The only support you will be getting is email, live chat or over the phone.
You are never going to be interacting with another human when getting your website sorted or when you need help.
Working with an agency will allow you to get to know them and for them to get to know you. What this means is they can truly see your vision and give you what you need.
On top of this, if your website stops working altogether, you can return to your agency and get them to sort it right away. No need to wait on the phone, wait in the queue on the live chat or wait a few days to get an email reply back.
Building a relationship with your agency can also add to the future success of your business. We actually have a good article on What Makes a Great Client / Agency Relationship? Be sure to have a thorough read.
Now back to the costs. Because the agency knows exactly what it is that you need, there will be no surprise functionality that costs money to get your site to where it needs to be.
You will have everything that you need right off the bat as soon as your website is built. This means no time spent faffing on researching what specific addon/plugin you need.
Selling products online is a big deal. The website builders we explored provide you with e-commerce functionality. But this tends to be at an extra cost, as we discovered.
One ecommerce platform that we would like to point out is the Woocommerce platform that plugs into WordPress. WooCommerce is 100% free.
If you pick an agency (us for example) to build a website and they happen to use WooCommerce, costs can be kept down. The end result is a fully bespoke ecommerce site that is different and unique from your competition.
This is much better than using a builder to build your e-commerce site, is it not? Surely you must be thinking the same after reading the disadvantages of using builders over picking an agency.
We have a good article on why we use WooCommerce here.
We have built some really unique ecommerce sites in our time as a creative agency. From personalised gift stores, to record stores!
Conclusion: What is the Best Web Design Software to Build a Website?
In this article we have covered the following website software:
Exploring what they are, when you should use them, and the pros and cons of each. We have also looked at the disadvantages of using website builders over using an agency.
In short, all of the website builders explored in this article are designed for a quick and easy way to get your website up and running into time at all.
They provide you with powerful editors that allow you to change the layout, design and content for your website.
Most provide you with hosting and domain names. But, as we found out this means you are generally locked into that one platform and migrating can be a headache.
Upon the completion of exploring the website builders, we covered the disadvantages of using website builders over using an agency, which in turn lead to why you should really pick an agency.
In short, by working with a web design agency:
- You can build a solid relationship with the team and get to know each other properly
- This, in turn, leads to the agency producing work that really fits you and your brand down to a T
- They are also transparent with any costs and identify straight away what specific functionality you really need
- You can have your site migrated to another platform, with ease
- Have less downtime if the hosting ever goes down
- Good one to one support with the team at the agency
What do you think? Have you used any of these tools to build your own website? Or are you using a web design agency to help? Let us know in the comments below.
If you’re interested in other types of software for your business, check out this blog post.