An online website builder, also known as a website builder, an online CMS or a web builder, is a special kind of content management system (CMS).
While traditional content management systems were designed to administer large websites, online website builders were designed with smaller website projects in mind.
This means the user doesn’t require any special programming skills or other technical knowledge, such as knowing how to install a CMS, apply a template or create a database.
Features of site builders
It’s possible to create a fully functional web presence with an online website builder. Updating your website’s text or adding new articles, images or multimedia content such as video or audio, is also easy via a user-friendly interface.
See how it works in our video:
Modern online website builders follow the key CMS principle of maintaining strict separation between content and design. The advantage of this is that websites designed in this way are more easily indexed by search engines.
It also means that making changes to the website’s design or templates is easy, and the content doesn’t need to be modified in the process. Read more about the advantages and disadvantages of online website builders.
Who are website builders for?
Different types of website builders – online vs. offline
Some website builders are entirely web-based and run on the provider’s server (e.g. Weebly or Jimdo). To work with these tools, all you need is a standard web browser such as Firefox or Internet Explorer. Other website builders come as software packages that you download and install on your computer (e.g. Rapidweaver). Both options have their own advantages and disadvantages.
Advantages of online site builders (e.g. web-based like Jimdo):
- No need to install anything on your computer.
- You can work on your website from anywhere (also great for team projects!).
- No need to worry about updating software or accessing FTP servers*.
- Website builder and web hosting are offered by the same provider.
- No need to purchase software.
- Many website builders offer packages that are completely free.
Advantages of offline site builders (e.g. locally installed like Rapidweaver):
- You can still work on your website even if you’re offline.
- FTP server access* offers greater flexibility.
- You are less dependent on your website builder service provider.
With internet access becoming increasingly fast and reliable, browser-based (i.e. web-based) website builders are becoming more and more popular. That’s also the reason why we focus on web-based website tools in our reviews.
* FTP means you can access the web folders where your website is hosted directly.
Which are the best providers?
The demand for easy-to-use website builders has increased with the explosion of Web 2.0 platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and other social communities. This has enabled content consumers to become content creators too.
Providers vary widely in the quality and functionality offered. Jimdo and Weebly are widely recognized as the best providers for beginners, while Squarespace is best suited to advanced users requiring more advanced features.
If I use a website builder to create my website, do I “own” the design and content?
You are the owner of your content: no website builder can claim any rights on things that you’ve created (copy, images, video etc.). You can also take it and move it to a different site builder or host anytime you want.
The website’s design is a different matter. If you are using a template from the library of your website builder, you basically only rent the rights to use it as long as you use their services. If you move your website to a different host, you cannot continue to use their template, strictly speaking. But we haven’t heard of a single case where a website builder company claimed this right.
This is all a completely new subject for me and I don’t know where to start. Can you help?
For complete website newbies, we recommend our eBook “Website Creation for Absolute Beginners” which gives you a quick overview of the subject.