Website builders have seen a surge in recent years, and now it seems like almost everyone has a site that they built themselves on WordPress, Wix, Weebly, or Squarespace. These days, virtually anyone can build a website using one of the simple, template-based tools that are available at a low or even no cost.
With the growing popularity of these platforms, and more and more iterations being released all the time, do they represent a threat to the web development industry? Will web developers soon find themselves out of work as businesses choose to use drag-and-drop website builders instead?
As we’ll argue in this article, this is not necessarily the case.
The Rise of Website Builders
Since the birth of the World Wide Web in the 1990s, users have been creating their own sites, whether as a personal blog, a page for their local business, or a venue to share conspiracy theories. In the beginning, users who wanted to make their own site needed to learn how to code, which left this a fairly niche endeavour, with few people having the time or motivation to do so.
This all changed a decade or so ago with the rise of website builders. These are online platforms, generally with a simple, user-friendly interface, which anyone can use to create their own website. These days, using these tools is far cry from having to learn Java or Ruby on Rails, with drag-and-drop formats allowing users to simply input their own content, images, and other elements, in order to turn out a professional-looking site.
Most website builders nowadays work on templates, with dozens or hundreds of templates to choose from. Users simply choose the template that most closely fits their purpose, fill in the gap, and they’re good to go. The cost of these tools various significant depending on the platform and the level of features, with subscriptions ranging from free to $50 or more per month.
Web Development’s Point of Difference
Website builders with their easy-to-use drag-and-drop templates will create perfectly serviceable sites for bloggers, small businesses, and some entrepreneurs. However, there are many situations where a website builder is simply not going to cut it. Larger companies and leading brands, for example, want to have their own, distinctive site which matches their exact requirements and doesn’t look like anyone else’s. To do so they need a site build in code by a web developer. Certain customers will also have very specific functions and features they want on their site which can only be achieved through coding. In other cases these functions may be available through a website builder, but with less than perfect results.
Building your own site and taking it to a certain level is a highly complex task, and something that few non-web developers will have the skills to do, or the desire to learn these skills. People may build their own site, and they may even dig into the design or the SEO, however they are unlikely to employ the range of tools, such as analytics tools, that professional web developers will in order to deliver the best possible site.
Rather than seeing website builders as replacing the need for web developers, it is perhaps better to view them as opening up opportunities for smaller enterprises who may not have been part of the online world before. The brands and businesses how were hiring a professional website designer before will most likely continue to do so.
How Professional Web Developers can Promote Themselves over Website Builders
Website builders are a reality of the landscape web developers are operating today. Therefore, it would be foolish for web developers to ignore them and essentially deny their existence. Neither should web developers seek to trash or play down the importance of these platforms. If developers take the approach of saying website builders are ineffective or not useful, this argument will quickly be discredited as it is clear these are handy tools for a lot of people.
Rather, it will be a far better approach to recognise the existence and the usefulness of website builders, but emphasise that they are only useful in certain situations. Be clear that there are many types of sites that are bet built with code and require a professional web developer. Express that certain kinds of businesses will be much better served by using an expert web developer rather than a website builder.
Web developers should not see website builders as a threat, but rather as fulfilling a different niche. Website builders fulfil a specific and useful purpose to create a certain kind of site for a specific type of customer. However, they are unlikely to ever replace web developers, who offer an entirely different level of service that these platforms simply do not at the moment, and are unlikely to ever to in the future. Website builders can even be an opportunity for professional web developers to promote themselves: this is a great way to emphasize their point of difference, and what they offer that others do not.