Why Use a Website Builder? Ashday Consulting Study

There is nothing wrong with using a website builder for creating your website. There, we said it. In certain cases, it is actually the perfect fit for the needs of a project. We agree with that sentiment enough that it gets a spot in our "Which CMS should I use?" tool we have here on this site. What do we mean when we say, "Website Builder"? We mean a proprietary tool that is most often a drag-and-drop builder tool. These are common amongst shared hosting providers and in the top search results for how to easily create a website.

In the study below, we will walk through a scenario that would warrant a website builder. This will outline a bit of the thought process involved and also include a few caveats that could change that. Look at this study as less of a how-to guide and more of a demonstration of the decision making process that goes into this. Something similar to this would happen on a free one-hour consultation with an expert here at Ashday.

The Scenario

Jerry owns a painting service and has been in business for longer than 18 years now. He doesn’t have very many employees right now, but he is hoping to expand his business. Clients can only find Jerry through his listing in the phone book or if they see his paper flyers across town. He does some of his client communication via email, but his primary method is over the phone.

Jerry isn't looking to move his entire business online, but he is finding people are always asking about it. The closest he currently has to an online presence is his Facebook account he uses for close family. With that in mind Jerry finds himself faced with a problem he isn't sure how to solve. He needs a website that he doesn't have to fuss with much and that is about it.

The Process

We need to first start by understanding what Jerry needs. Gathering requirements from him is important for many reasons. Often, there are requirements that the client isn't aware of themselves and with a case like this that is likely. The only thing known up to this point is that Jerry's business needs a website. No one knows what it should do, who it is for, or what it should look like. The first thing to figure out would be to figure out who it is for and what they should be able to do with it.

In this simple case, Jerry is only looking for a business card type website. People want to be able to find him online and listing services won't accept his business without a website. His target audience for the website are going to be potential and repeat clients. The goal for those visitors to the website would be that they use the phone number on the website and call for an appointment. After talking this through with Jerry, it turns out that he wouldn't mind it if visitors could also send him an email through the website.

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When asked how often Jerry would update the website, he indicates that he is hoping to set it up once and not much after. He doesn't have a lot of spare time for creating content and only plans to upload a picture or two on occasion. A follow-up question would be if website visitors might be able to add reviews or testimonials to the website. That is something that Jerry isn’t sure of, but figures we can come back to that later if things go well.

His painting service has performed a large number of commercial jobs over the last few years and it would be nice to be able to showcase the images on the website. Jerry isn’t sure if there is an easy way to do this, but he indicates it is something he would like. This becomes a requirement on the website after some discussion. Showing examples of the company’s work would be a useful addition to the website and should be easy to accomplish no matter how the site is built.

When discussing potentially more complicated things with the website, we discover that Jerry isn’t interested in taking payments for work through the website and won’t need anyone else to log in. He also isn’t planning on using any sort of social media integrations for the website as well. He isn’t active enough on any of those networks to make it feel worth it to him.

As for the look of the site, Jerry wants something simple. The company has a logo, but there aren’t any company colors to speak of. He isn’t interested in mockups and spending a ton on design of the website. When he originally considered a website he thought he could just pick from a few designs that look nice and go from there.

The Analysis

Jerry is looking for a simple website with a contact form and a few changing images. He isn’t picky about the design or many of the website features. There won’t be any dynamic content or e-commerce features either. Describing any website as simple can be deceptive at times. There is a lot of work that goes into crafting custom sites of any type. Luckily, Jerry isn’t looking for much of a custom website here outside of some minor branding and static content.

A drag-and-drop builder is a great fit for this situation. The content isn’t changing often and there isn’t much of it. These tools shine when requirements and design are flexible enough to use stock features without any tweaks. The slideshow of past work done by the painting company will be a simple drop-in widget and the same should go for the contact form. Future changes to the website should also be easy to perform as website builders are known for being intuitive and full of great help documentation.

While this scenario seems to be a bit over simplified, it should be noted that this could have gone another way with only a few changes to the requirements. Jerry could have been looking at a content management system like WordPress if he wanted the website to have reviews, a blog, or more custom forms for getting an online quote. Even something as simple as having other people editing the website frequently could have pushed this in that direction.

It goes without saying that the design requirements are also light for this scenario as well. It doesn’t take much to make it so a template on a website builder is no longer able to accommodate a design. If there were specific look and feel type requirements this would have been a CMS suggestion as well. Some website builders allow for more customization of the theme than others, but due to the general nature of those systems it isn’t possible for extensive tweaks to that. WordPress and Drupal can also have templates added that have a similar effect to the ones found in website builders, but they can be customized much further.

The Conclusion

Most enterprise websites would find it difficult to fit into a website builder’s ecosystem. There are a number of limitations inherent to that sort of system that would prevent that. That isn’t to say that they are not useful for certain scenarios. These tools are popular for small businesses and static brochure-type websites. They are cost-effective and can look quite good despite using canned templates. Some very lightweight e-commerce sites can also do well with this sort of website setup, but any specific needs will quickly find that another tool is required for the job.

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