Whether you’re an individual businessman or a marketing leader in a startup or SMB, you’d understand that a website is a necessity for your business. However, businessmen and executives hardly have the luxury of time. Thankfully, you don’t need time to build your website. What’s more, you don’t even need to spend any money to get a basic yet presentable website live. You just need the right Website builder software.
Neither do you need to spend time in learning CSS and HTML, nor do you need to invest thousands of dollars in hiring or contracting a website developer. By choosing a robust free website builder software, you can have your website live in an hour or less. There are too many options out there, which could often make choices difficult to make. The solution is here – read this guide, and understand how to compare website builders.
Evaluate The Parent Company’s Reputation and Credibility
Website builders come by the dozen. However, since your website is a long-term digital asset, you need the support of a credible and sustainable website builder. Here are three criteria to evaluate a website builder company’s reputation by:
- Years in business: Companies that have been in the Internet business since 2000 (or even before) have seen significant changes, and still showed the mettle to grow alongside the industry.
- Number of websites created: If there are already more than a million websites built using a website builder, it’s clear that the tool is robust enough to manage a wide range of web development requirements.
- Number of registered users: Incapable website builders get singled out with time. However, if a builder software’s user count is increasing, it shows that the tool inspires confidence.
Quality Of Website Templates
The first look of your website will make or break your brand. No business can compromise on the look and feel of the website. Most of this is dependent on the quality of website templates that a builder offers. Carefully selected color tones, appropriate typography, high-quality images, a good mix of animations, and neatly organized text content – you get it all pre-cooked in the form of website templates. Choose a website builder software that offers professionally designed templates for the niche of your website. Most importantly, be sure that the template should be responsive (mobile-friendly). You might also want to check the premium templates on offer, to make your website’s appearance truly unique.
Does the Free Software Use Forced Branding Tactics?
Here’s how most website builder software work. The parent company offers you a free trial (which could be a 30/45/100 day trial, or even an unlimited one). All the while you use the free trial, you will observe push messages from the company, egging you to buy the premium package (which is obviously better). However, you only want a free software at this stage. So, look for the constraints that a software has in its free plan. For many of them, the constraint comes in the form of forced branding. Here, you will see the website builder company’s own banding, or that of its business partners, on your webpages (in the header and footer). Though your website is free, you’d not want to show it to clients with all unknown banding messages on it!
Ease of Customization
The primary reason for using a website builder software is your desire to create a decent website in minimum time. So, look for the utmost ease of customization. A WYSIWYG builder lets you preview the exact look of the webpage while you design it. Drag-and-drop functionality makes it super easy to re-arrange existing content elements on your website template, and to add new elements.
Website builder software offers deep customization, wherein you can check each content element’s settings, and alter the look and feel. On-screen help texts go a long way in making the tool easy to use, as you can understand the purpose of every setting while you’re designing web pages.
Pure drag and drop website builders are a bit of a double-edged sword because if you change the template of the website, you’ll need to re-do the page design. Instead, the builder should allow you to switch the template, and automatically re-align the content to fit the new template.
Ease of Access to Customer Support
Even though website builders are mostly based on WYSIWYG and drag-and-drop editing, you will still get stuck doing things. Here, you need the help of expert customer support personnel. Good website builders offer at least email based support with free versions. Some even offer phone and chat-based support for free subscriptions. Better the coverage (availability across all time zones), better it is for you. Apart from email, phone, and chat support, look for knowledge libraries, FAQ pages, discussion boards, forums, and online communities related to the website builder you’re evaluating. These channels are invaluable in helping users resolve common technical problems, and understanding the tool’s true potential.
Basic SEO Features
It would be too much to expect fully-fledged SEO capabilities from a free website builder software. However, you need at least basic SEO in the free subscription/license version to be able to get some visibility for your website.
- For starters, many website builder software let you add title tags, descriptions, image alt tags, to web pages.
- Also, most software create SEO friendly URLs for your webpages.
- XML sitemap creation and submission is another important feature to look for.
Note: We recommend you check out the premium SEO capabilities of the builder, in case you decide to upgrade to a paid plan in the future.
Availability of Apps
The modern-day website could be as basic as a 5-page brochure explaining your business, or an advanced and integrated system of webpages, e-commerce store, blog, booking engine, etc. Today, you can’t really tell for sure as to which advanced website features you’d want a few months or years down the line. By then, however, you’d have built a brand for your website, and hence, should be able to depend on the best free website builders to add advanced functionalities to the website. Apps are a great way to do so. Website builders offer their own app stores, wherein you can find themes, plugins, and widgets to add more power to the core builder. Appointments and bookings management, customer loyalty programs, blog post scheduling, social media integration, email marketing – you can do it all via dedicated apps for website builder software.
Understanding Limitations of Free Website Builder Software
Free, of course, means that you don’t get it all. Some key limitations of free website builders are:
- You can’t use your own domain to hose the website
- Limitation on the number of pages you can create with the software
- You don’t get the more advanced design and customization functionalities
- The number of themes you can choose from is less
- Integration with social media and other web platforms isn’t possible
- The bandwidth allocated to your website is limited
- Software’s own branding on your pages could affect your brand image
The right choice of a free website builder software will not only give you a free yet good-looking feature-rich website to start with, but will also help you scale up quickly when you’re ready to buy premium software licenses and subscriptions.