Site Builders: Threat or opportunity for design agencies?

Written by Jo Stonehouse 0 Comments

Earlier this year we integrated SiteBuilder into our reseller platform - our ProSite site builder rebranded for our reseller infrastructure. The large majority of our resellers are web design agencies, and so understandably some have been sceptical about whether they should promote a 'do it yourself' site building tool at all. After all, their business is designing web sites - why would they want to make it easy for a customer to do it themselves? Surely a site builder should be perceived as a threat and not an opportunity?

Site builders are on the rise, but they'll never replace a web designer.

The fact is that many business owners are increasingly looking towards online site builders instead of web design agencies. For many people, online site builders appear to be a wonder tool that lets them get a web site up and running quickly and with minimal cost - and in many respects, they are. These days, online site building tools are becoming evermore simple to use - they have stunning templates, and for the most part allow people of all ages to build a web site with all the basic features they need, with maps, photos, videos and contact forms accessible with a simple drag and drop. If they're a small business just needing a simple, informative web site, or a startup who want to see how things go before they shell out the big money on a custom web design project, site builders present a very attractive proposition.

There's one major problem, however. As much as these tools can do wonderful things, just because they can do them, it doesn't mean that the people using them really know how to use them. Everyone can drag and drop and create the site - but not everyone has the necessary skills to produce a beautiful, functional web site - no matter how good the templates are or how easy the site builder is to use. The 'do it yourself designer' will often start with a gorgeous template, but by the time they've uploaded their own photos, added typefaces that aren't complementing or not considered usability - the final product can look nothing like the original template and the elegant design they started with is essentially destroyed.

What's more, an online site builder doesn't care that your web site is a success. It won't tell you not to upload horrible low res images, it can't help you craft copy that sells or which adds SEO value, it can't design beautiful logos and infographics. The truth is - online site builders will never replace the talent and flare that a real designer can add to a web site.

However this doesn't mean an online site building tools have to be the enemy of a design agency. Conversely, they are a welcome advancement in technology that should be an important tool in a web design agency's arsenal. Now, we're certainly not saying that they're a replacement for a web site that is created from scratch or using an appropriate CMS or framework - there will always be a case for using tools such as WordPress, Drupal Lavarel and so forth. Some projects will require functionality that can only be custom coded, some will need the powerful blogging components that WordPress handles so effectively. But there will also be some situations where using a site builder to design a site makes a whole lot more sense, and a web designer can use the tool to create functional web sites, whilst also adding their own flare, expertise and experience into the process.

WordPress & other CMS tools are a nightmare for the end user.

WordPress is by far the most commonly used CMS on our reseller servers, installed in over 70% of web sites that use a CMS. Now most of the good WordPress themes have snazzy page layout editors that make building layouts simple - however when it comes to handing over the project to the customer, training them on how to manage and maintain their site is often an impossible ask. The disjoin between how the 'front-end' web site looks, and how it looks in the WordPress admin area is jarring to most people unfamiliar with WordPress. They don't want to understand shortcodes, they shouldn't be expected to know that changing the footer text is buried deep in one of the theme options, and they most certainly don't want to know how to update plugins and maintain their site security. I could go on - but the fact is that for basic sites, today's CMS systems often add a layer of complexity that most people just don't get, not should they be expected to.

And then there's security. Whilst it may not be apparent to end users, there is a constant arms race under way. Content management systems, due to their extreme popularity, are the daily target of hackers and spammers who are continually looking for new ways to exploit these applications in order to gain access to the underlying hosting service. Developers of these software solutions are equally constantly implementing new security fixes to counter these attacks and close any security holes that are found. Maintaining security of these systems is a never ending process, and it either falls on the web design agency to maintain the system, or the end user, who inevitably will forget to update and will be hacked. At Kualo, we do an awful lot to protect sites that use these CMS systems, including automatic software updates, vulnerability patching and malware scanning - but nonetheless we still see a huge number of web sites each week that are on these systems and are compromised. The inconvenience to businesses that are hacked is huge, and for the most part, there is often absolutely no reason that the sites in question couldn't be built using a site builder that is not subjected to these security risks.

Flexibility and speed are paramount.

Some site builders are very limited in terms of what you can do - you can only position elements in certain positions or use fixed grids. One of the great things about SiteBuilder, bundled with our reseller hosting plans, is just how flexible it is; unlike some site builders, you're not limited to any fixed layouts and have have the freedom to move elements on the page absolutely anywhere with pixel perfect precision. You also have layering control so you can easily stack elements on top of each other, and you can easily embed your own custom HTML code if you have something more complex you need to achieve. We believe that you can use it to develop sites not only faster than you can with a CMS, but also, you'll be giving your customers a much more intuitive editing tool so they can update it easily, and you're eradicating the ongoing security and maintenance nightmare.

To show you just how flexible SiteBuilder is, take a look at the following video. Starting with one of our stock templates, in just a few minutes we've completely transformed it to resemble the Apple web site, complete with maps, image sliders and even multiple languages.

Using SiteBuilder means that you can design sites quickly. This means you can develop basic sites at a fraction of the time and hassle that you might have been able to create them using a traditional CMS. Again, SiteBuilder won't be suitable for every project - but for those quick jobs that aren't overly complex, SiteBuilder is a dream for both designer and client alike.

No lock-in, no additional cost.

With SiteBuilder, the website code is actually published to the hosting account and functions independently - you and your customer are free to move that code and host it wherever you wish. What's more, SiteBuilder is absolutely free of charge on our Advanced and Professional plans, and is available for a small monthly fee if you have your own server.

We include over 170 fully templates which are mobile and tablet ready - they can all be fully customised so you can transform them in any way you wish. If you're not yet on the Advanced or Professional reseller plans and would like to try SiteBuilder, you can try a demo here - no signup required.

Still not convinced? Here are 10 reasons you should consider using SiteBuilder.

  1. It's fully mobile optimised. You can completely tweak the layouts or add different content for mobiles, tablets, desktops and wide screens.
  2. It's multi-lingual. Easily add multiple languages without any complexity.
  3. It's SEO friendly. You can tweak page names, descriptions, meta tags and use search engine friendly URLs.
  4. It's Google friendly. Easily embed Webmaster Tools & Google Analytics.
  5. It doesn't use flash. Nuff said.
  6. It's completely flexible. You can completely transform any template and make it your own. You can even create your own templates and download them, and then import them for future projects.
  7. It's secure. No risk of hacked web sites. Nothing to maintain and update.
  8. Your clients will just get it. It's as intuitive for them to update their site as it is to use a desktop publishing suite.
  9. It's backed by Kualo's support team. We're here to help you 24/7/365 should you need us.
  10. It's included free. There are no extra fees or per site charges to use it.

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About the Author

Jo Stonehouse is the Founder and Managing Director at Kualo. He loves helping businesses succeed online, and is based in London were he lives with his wife, Sali, daughter Seren, son Griff and dog, Milo.