If you want to create a website of your own but don't know a thing about code, WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) software and web builders are the perfect solution. You can build a beautiful, functional site without any HTML, CSS, or other programming knowledge.
Dreamweaver is a software package available via Adobe Creative Cloud, which requires a regular subscription of $19.99/month. You can download a free 30-day trial prior to purchase. Adobe offers discounts for students, teachers and educational institutions as well.
A tool often used by professional designers, Dreamweaver offers an interface where you can see the code and the WYSIWYG portion of the site side-by-side on your monitor. The software comes with templates for beginners to use and Adobe has many tutorials on their website as well as a support forum. The numerous features and flexibility make it a powerful tool for experienced designers, but it may be overwhelming and harder for a complete non-coder to grasp.
You will need to have some knowledge about setting up hosting and loading your site to a server, although the software does a good job of walking you through the steps.
WYSIWYG Web Builder
No HTML knowledge is necessary to use WYSIWYG Web Builder, available only as a digital download for $49.95. There is also a 30-day free trial version if you want to test it out first.
This is a true drag-and-drop interface that helps you create responsive websites with many features like support for e-commerce, video, animations, slideshows and more. The "one-click publishing" feature makes publishing your website to the internet easy, although you still have to set up your own web hosting.
Download with one of the several free templates from the website to get started, then follow the helpful tutorials with directions and screenshots to walk you through the process of building your site. There is a forum to post questions, which they claim are answered within 24 hours.
Wix is one of the most popular drag-and-drop site builders. Basic service is free, which includes unlimited pages on your site, 500 MB of storage, hosting and a mobile site. With their free plan, your site will feature ads for Wix and your domain name is restricted to domainname.wixsite.com, which may not look professional if your site is for a business.
For $5 per month, you can use your own domain name, but Wix ads will still appear on your site. For $10 per month, the ads are removed and you get more storage. Additional plan options scale up to $25/month for such features as unlimited bandwidth, ad vouchers, online store support, and apps for forms.
Create mobile-friendly websites with any number of different templates, organized into several pre-set categories such as business, online stores, portfolios and restaurants. Absolutely no coding experience is necessary and because Wix is a complete online service, you do not need to worry about setting up hosting.
The Wix ADI feature will create a site for you after you answer some questions about your business if you prefer. Wix also has a support center with tutorial articles. Priority support is available for the highest-level plan.
Similar to Wix, Squarespace is a drag-and-drop builder that includes cloud hosting. You can start Squarespace with an initial 14-day free trial which requires registration but no credit card. If you're still not sure, you can extend the trial for seven more days one time only.
After that, the lowest plan is $16 per month with a discount if you purchase a whole year at once. You get 20 pages with unlimited bandwidth and storage, the ability to have an online store, SSL certificate, a free custom domain (if you purchase the annual rate), mobile friendly site and metrics for analyzing your site's performance.
For $26 per month (or $18 if you get an annual subscription), you additionally receive unlimited pages, a discounted credit card transaction fee, a professional email address (email@example.com) and credits for Google AdWords. Squarespace also offers a one-time student discount, which is a nice option if you're creating a site with your portfolio to look for a position post-graduation.
There are many templates that you can download and personalize with your own text and photos. Templates are also mobile-optimized and work well on all different types of devices. Squarespace offers some useful integrations with other platforms too, including Google Drive and Adobe Creative Suite. If you already have purchased a domain name, you can move it to Squarespace. SSL certificates are also included with all sites, which is an important feature now that Google is showing sites that are not HTTPS as "unsecure."
If you need help, Squarespace has a searchable database of articles and videos, as well as a "video workshop" to walk you through the process when you first get started. There is also a forum where you can post specific questions.
You can choose to make a website using the WYSIWYG tool on Simbla for free. You are limited to just 300 MB each of storage and monthly bandwidth, and you must use a domain with Simbla's address. This is a decent option for a simple personal website.
If you wish to upgrade, the lowest plan is $6 per month, which allows you to have your own domain, 1 GB of storage and bandwidth, and access to other features such as a database, SSL certificate, blog, and more. The highest level plan includes e-commerce capability and is $48 per month.
Simbla's templates are based on Bootstrap, are fully responsive, and feature some professional-looking parallax scrolling. Simbla also offers businesses an affiliate option for referring other businesses to use their website builder. Support is available as a series of articles on typical process questions. There is also a live chat feature.
Formerly known as WebDwarf, the SiteSpinner free web design software is downloaded to your computer. You will need to set up your own hosting and you are on your own for publishing to the internet. They do offer a discount for web hosting at Bluehost for new accounts.
The web builder is drag-and-drop with templates you can use or you can design from a blank page as well. There is no advertising on your site and there is a built-in editor for photos and graphics, which means you do not need any separate design software. Publishing to your host is easy with one-click publishing.
Primarily known for hosting and domain registration, GoDaddy offers a free website builder option that gives you professional template options based on the type of site you want to build. Once you complete the site, you can publish it for free to a GoDaddy URL (yourname.godaddysites.com) or to any domain that you have purchased through GoDaddy.
The GoDaddy web builder is free for one month. After that, you will need to pay based on the options you need. A personal site is $5.99 per month, which includes 24/7 support and a mobile-friendly site. The lowest level of business plan is $9.99 per month when paid annually or $11.99 monthly. This plan includes an SSL certificate, SEO and a Paypal button to take payments. Higher plans offer a shopping cart, ability to take credit card payments, social media integration and more.
GoDaddy is a good option if you're looking for an easy and efficient way to combine hosting and domain registration with your web builder. GoDaddy offers excellent support with phone, live chat and email support, as well as a helpful knowledge database.
As the need for a website continues to grow for businesses of all types, more drag-and-drop style web builder tools will flourish. Some other choices include Weebly, Vistaprint, iPage, Shopify and Bluevoda, to name just a few.
Pros and Cons of WYSIWYG Tools
While WYSIWYG software is a great option to get online cheaply and on your own, they do all have some common pit falls. When researching your choices, make sure you look into the following.
- Can you change your template once you have chosen one? Some will lock you into your choice, which makes updating your site in the future a hassle.
- Can you get your own domain name or are you stuck with using a domain that includes their address?
- If a site builder and host is 100% free, do you have to have their ads on your site?
- Do they include the option to have an email address with your name? Many do not which means you will have to use another service for email such as Gmail and Yahoo.
- If you want to make an online store to sell products and services, is this included or does this require paying higher prices for this and other premium options?
- What are the limits on storage and bandwidth? For a smaller site, this isn't an issue but if you plan to have a lot of images, video and other multimedia content, storage can quickly become an issue.
- How easy is the WYSIWYG interface? While some claim they are simple, you may not find it as easy to use as you think. Using a system with a free trial is a good way to test the interface.
- Do the templates match your type of business? Depending on what you do, you may find that there aren't options that match the look you want.
- Do you get to keep your content and can you move it to other sites or hosting? Many of these sites do not allow you to download your files and if you want to move to another service in the future, you will have to move the content manually and you may lose access to the original web builder for updates.
On the upside, a WYSIWYG web builder does offer several benefits.
- If you are looking for a simple, free or low-cost site to get started online, they are easy and economical.
- For a personal, hobby or blogging website, they are a good option if you don't need extra features and simply want a nice, clean web presence. They also are a reasonable choice for a small start-up business that needs to get online with a minimum of time and expense.
- Many offer the option of integrating with other third-party apps, such as Google and Zapier, which can add features to your website.
Choosing a WYSIWYG Designer
The beautiful thing about the internet today is that you can develop a site easily and cheaply without having studied a line of code. This makes having a website more accessible than ever. WYSIWYG software and web builders are useful tools for the everyday person or small business that needs a site without any fuss or a serious budget. Make sure you review the pros and cons before you make a choice and always consider what your upgrade needs may be in the future.