2017 Reviews

Best Website Builders - 2017 Reviews

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Expert Interviews
"An often-overlooked part of it is making sure, no matter what CMS you pick and what design you pick, it’s mobile responsive. It’s almost a no-brainer in 2017. I’ve seen more and more websites designed to look good only on the computer. But they never bother to check it on tablet and on a cell phone. Cell phone searches and cell phone traffic is now surpassing desktop. Most of the categories we work in, traffic from mobile devices is now double that of a desktop. That makes sense. If you come home from work and you see your sink is leaking and you need a plumber, you’re not going to go upstairs, boot up your computer, and look for a plumber. You pull out your cell phone and search. Make sure to treat mobile as a top priority no matter what CMS you choose. In 2017, it’s no longer that you design your site and make sure it works on mobile. It should be a mobile-first philosophy. That’s how behavior is driving the use of websites."
Alex Melen
Co-Founder, SmartSites
"Drupal is one of the 2 large opensource projects, the other being WordPress. The main contrast that we’ve seen is WordPress is great for the lower end of the market. It’s very opinionated in terms of how it works and what you can do with it. One of the things we say in the sales process is if you can do it in WordPress, you probably should. But for most of our clients, there’s something more complex that they need. Drupal is great because it gives you a lot of functionality out of the box, the core functionality that’s been built by thousands of developers over time. It’s really solid, tested, and secure. The modules that are created by the community are really where the power comes and where it stands out."
Jeff Calderone
CEO, Elevated Third
"The ecosystem is much more developed today than it was seven or eight years ago. People have many options to choose from and one of the important things to consider, depending on where someone is within their business process, is doing upfront research on each platform. There are hosted solutions like Shopify, which is a great option for many people, but doesn’t offer the level of customization which some companies need down the road. So, if someone starts a store, they need to think about where they will be in a year, three years and then five years and make decisions today, which will set them up for success in the long run."
Jonathan Martin
CEO, coolblueweb
"If possible, customers should know the tool’s capabilities out-of-the-box, and look at how they’re hoping to manage their needs in the future, whether outsourced or in-house—what the delta between the current level of comfort and what would be needed to truly carry out the vision is, and what the level of comfort with the incumbent team is, at the moment. It’s also important to consider that since the functionality is open source, it is possible that over time, maintenance would cease or wane for specific functionality, and they may not have the support of the maintainer for free anymore. This is normally because there was a reduced need. It’s effectively crowd behavior, so, if there are a number of use cases for a bunch of customers which need such a thing, it will normally be well-maintained, while a small need will most likely fall off the radar screen of the maintainer, being eclipsed by more current ones. Therein lies the reality which people have to incorporate into their strategy."
Chris McGrath
Founder, Celebrate Drupal
"It’s very important that the agency or individual you’re working with doesn’t hardcode the code inside of the editor, or in a way where you have to edit the code to edit your website. Everything should be very user-friendly. If you’re a restaurant like a burger shop, you can flip burgers really well. Your job is a chef. You know what to do, what temp it should be, etc. You shouldn’t have to have any web knowledge because you’re paying a professional to have that knowledge for you. I don’t like going into a restaurant and telling the chef how to do their job, and we shouldn’t as web developers have to tell the customer how to do our job. It’s important when you’re developing a site to make sure it’s extremely editable."
Blake George
Founder, BMG Media
"The whole point of using a CMS like WordPress or Drupal is to make it easy for site owners to keep their content up-to-date...These platforms are used by millions of websites and like any other computer software, they have bugs which can be attacked...I hope people are coming to realize that leaving sites unpatched is like leaving your front door wide open – someone will come in and take over, use the website to attack other websites, consumers, DNS servers, or simply use the site’s resources to mine Bitcoins, and so on. Instead of having a website that supports the business, the website becomes a part of a much bigger problem—it may be controlled by malicious actors who are attacking other people, whether or not it interferes with the business directly."
John Locke
Founder, Freelock
"I think there is a tendency to be excited about the platform, when starting a web project—Drupal versus WordPress, and the feature sets associated with each. Clients can sometimes forget the main objective, after becoming enticed by the different things they can do. It’s important to be focused on that, and we don’t always need complicated solutions. Simple things can work as well, and can be easier to maintain in the long run, as long as they accomplish the project objectives...No matter how great a platform or beautiful the template is, if the content doesn’t convey the message, getting people to buy the new product a business may be offering, or to change their points of view, or to provide answers for a problem, the website platform itself can’t help with that."
Abhijeet Chavan
CTO, Urban Insight
"We can do the most with them, since they’ve been around for a long time. WordPress is used for 60-70% of the published web, and it’s open-source, which means there are multiple plugins available. A lot of people have added to the capabilities of this platform, and it’s all available for others to use. There are also robust CMS communities in place for support, whether it’s WordPress, Drupal or Joomla. A CMS-based website can be easy to get up-and-running for anyone with a bit of web development experience, but the challenge is that there are so many plug-ins. It can be a challenge to find the right one, and make sure that it’s the best choice. You don’t really need to worry about malicious plug-ins, but it’s important to find the ones which will actually do the right job."
Jill Starett
Design Strategist, Fresh Tilled Soil
"If someone is looking for a scalable, easy-to-use and secure CMS, WordPress is the best bet. Drupal comes second, in our opinion, but it’s used for different purposes. It’s more of a framework on which to build a custom and unique solution, whereas WordPress is more of an out-of-the-box CMS. There are other platforms, such as Craft, which is good, but doesn’t have as strong of a community. The reason we’ve chosen WordPress is the support of the community and the premium plugins which are available, as well as the ease of use for clients and junior developers.'
Ab Emam
Managing Director, WDG
"Drupal is an open-source CMS, one of the two most widely-known ones, along with WordPress. Drupal’s strength from the outset has been its ability to be customized and extended. It’s a powerful platform, and it can do just about anything. It’s very feature-rich in terms of its ability to model content, in terms of editorial capabilities, and in terms of its abilities to accommodate customized workflows and permissions governance. For some, the downside to this is that, with all of these capabilities, there’s a fair amount of complexity as well. Drupal has always had the reputation of having a steep learning curve. I personally feel that it’s a great choice for many industries, as well as different enterprises."
Brian Skowron
President, Lullabot
"The considerations are how much the customer is willing to spend and why. Squarespace is customizable, but, if getting every pixel exactly right is the priority, versus having a reliable, user-friendly site which looks good, it’s not the right choice. Users should look at their budget, and setup their priorities.It’s really about budget and priorities. If your budget is $10k or under, it’s probably a good idea to at least look at Squarespace. Conversely, if the person has a large budget and they want the site to look and behave perfectly, and they’re okay with ongoing maintenance, they should explore WordPress or Drupal. These sites won’t look good if they’re done for under $15,000. Even in that case, there will be ongoing maintenance costs and risks."
Jared Gold
Founder, Brevity
"The ideal person would be a small-to-medium business. WordPress is budget-friendly, as opposed to a larger enterprise CMS platform. Startup businesses or startup web apps which have to save a little on cost can also leverage the platform, instead of going fully-custom. They can have an initial proof-of-concept, and then build something custom.... If the site is heavy on customizations, WordPress may not be the best choice. Still, we’ve done some heavy customizations on it. I would typically say it’s a matter of speed and performance, but this can be managed with a team of good developers who can optimize the speed when working with a lot of data."
Paul Scott
Founder, GoingClear Interactive
"A lot of organizational decisions start with the budget and then decide how to spend it. I would recommend stepping back start with planning. What does the business really look like, survey the landscape, survey the competition, do an overall assessment of where things stand, and also do some technical discovery. We can look at the software a business is currently using to manage their website. We can look at the software that you’ve integrated in your website. We can actually start to get a much clearer picture and answer a lot of questions that maybe the client hasn’t thought about, or we haven’t fully understood."
Marty Vernon
Co-Founder, EDUCO
"A paid platform today must have a heavily maintained and supported resource center, and a good service model for marketers, technologists, or developers to provide access to staff for troubleshooting or recommending workarounds to non-traditional requests. One of the most interesting things about open source options in lieu of paid platforms is that even though there’s usually not real-time customer support, solutions to development problems are essentially “crowdsourced” by a community of developers who share and collaborate. You’re not subject to product development cycles; there’s constant innovation and collaboration."
Lori Dunkin
Director of Operations, FINE
"A CMS is not for everyone. As these content management systems have gotten more complicated, expensive, and cumbersome to manage and build, even in the industry, we’ve seen a bit of a retro-trend toward going back to simplistic websites for specific things. A good example would be a microsite. Often, you need a microsite for a very specific campaign, initiative, feature, or event that does not need to be updated very often. If that’s the case, it’s actually a lot easier just to build a static site, at least for a developer, than to deal with the overhead that comes with a content management platform. Sometimes, we just try to get back to keeping it simple and building static sites."
Brent Lightner
Founder, Taoti Creative
"WordPress has come a long way in its 13 years. Its potential audience and kind of user is vast at this point. Single users, sole proprietors, small businesses, medium-size businesses, e-commerce, there are a lot of use cases. I don’t think there’s a particular best user case. WordPress can be used for all sorts of projects... The biggest things that we come back to for WordPress are the community and the amount of people using and contributing to it, whether that’s the core platform, or plugins, e-commerce and extensions. The number of things you can find out there, either free or paid, there are some amazing tools."
Max Elman
Founder, Razorfrog Web Design
"If you’re looking for flexibility around marketing, Magento offers the ability to do whatever you want. Shopify struggles in some of those ways. If you’re a company that is ranking highly in search results on Google or Bing, Shopify has a very specific way of doing their URL structure. The product and category structure are done in a very specific way (due to Shopify’s database and technology stack) and you cannot modify that URL structure. If you are preparing to migrate to Shopify from another platform and you’re not prepared to do 301 redirects, then you don’t want to move to Shopify."
Mike Cristancho
Senior Project Manager, Gauge Interactive
"Start with the reason for building the site, who will be using the site from an admin and visitor perspective, what the site will be doing, such as selling products, providing information, or publishing something. Really ask the core questions about the who, the what, and the how. Where is this going to be hosted? Who’s going to maintain it? How is going to be maintained? Get the answers to these questions before determining which CMS to use."
Garrett Goldman
Managing Partner, State Creative
"People should really think about what they’re trying to say, what kind of message they want to put across. Also, make sure you think outside the box. While it’s good to have a nice website, what makes it stand out is that it’s different. At the same time, don’t be different for the sake of being different. Make sure you have the insight and research to validate the direction you’re going as opposed to looking like everybody else. It’s really about taking those calculated risks and those chances to make your site stand out."
Dominick Terry
Digital Creative Director, Borenstein Group
"One of the areas that is still a little weak is this whole idea of a content syndication. There’s still a big push where the content editors build webpages, and they want to control the layout, pages, etc. They get measured by the number of visitors to the website and all that stuff. I’m not saying that’s not important; however, we’re trying to push an idea of a web service content syndication. So, how you use these CMS’s to do that, so your content gets syndicated worldwide. It doesn’t necessarily have to be measured by how many people hit your website. It should be measured by the number of impressions."
Ken Fang
President, Mobomo