If you think that you need a crash course in writing code to build your own website, think again. These days, online website builders allow even complete novices to produce and publish functional websites in as little as one day.

Affordable and convenient, website builders like Weebly and Squarespace have leveled the playing field in terms of web design. However, if you have never used a website builder, it’s easy to give up out of frustration. By learning a bit more about how website builders work, you’re more likely to get what you need out of them.

1. Know What Website Builders Are

A website builder is a tool that lets you build an entire website without having to do any manual code editing. For a small monthly fee, a website builder like GoDaddy or Wix provides intuitive website creation tools that virtually anyone can use. Although offline builders are available, online website builders dominate the market because they can be used just about anywhere — all you need is an Internet-connected device and a connection, and you’re good to go.

2. Know What Website Builders Can Be Used For

Convenient and affordable though they may be, website builders aren’t always the right choice. Examples of situations in which they make sense include:

  1. to try out an untested concept without sinking big money into professional web design services
  2. to develop and manage a small blog or personal website
  3. to create a website for a startup or new business
  4. to create a website for a solopreneur who earns $75,000 or less per year

Website builders don’t provide much in the way of flexibility, so they fall short in many situations. Businesses that generate more than $250,000 per year, high-transaction-value businesses, solopreneurs making $150,000 or more per year, and local companies in competitive niches are generally better off with professional web design services.

3. Know the Pros and Cons of Website Builders

There are many upsides to using a website builder, including:

  1. They are affordable: The cheapest popular website builder offers a plan that starts at just $5 per month, so website builders offer an affordable way to establish an online presence.
  2. They are fast: Unlike professional website design, which can take anywhere from four to six weeks or longer, website builders allow you to create and publish a full-fledged site in as little as one day.
  3. They produce decent results: If your website needs aren’t too extensive, a website builder can allow you to create a respectable site with minimal effort.

Of course, there are downsides to using a website builder. A few examples include:

  1. They don’t help with the big picture: There’s more to professional website design than putting together the images that you see on the screen. Effective design also is geared toward converting customers and generating sales — and website builders do nothing to help in that department.
  2. Their SEO capabilities are very limited: Although most website builders include SEO tools, those tools pale in comparison to the results that you will get from professional design.
  3. They produce generic websites: Even though most website builders offer dozens or even hundreds of templates, they all tend to look somewhat the same. When you use a website builder, you can be certain that there are tons of other sites that look the same across the Internet — and that can be a problem when trying to stand out from the competition.

Learn How Website Builders Work

Before looking for a website builder, it helps to understand the basics of how they work. That way, when you are researching different options, you can compare and contrast them more effectively.

The basic process by which a website builder works is as follows:

  1. Choose a design template: Most website builders offer large libraries of premade website templates. These templates essentially apply a theme to a site, dictating its overall aesthetics, layout and architecture. They are usually grouped into categories that make it easier to find suitable options.
  2. Edit the template’s elements and content: Next, you customize the template to suit your needs. Editing its content is usually as simple as clicking on a text box and then typing in or copying and pasting whatever you need into it. The various elements on a page, like images, buttons, and forms, can then be customized simply by dragging and dropping them wherever you want them to go.
  3. Add new elements: You aren’t stuck with whatever elements already exist in your chosen template. Website builders allow you to choose from a library of elements and widgets to make your site your own. These include things like videos, images, social sharing buttons, and contact forms.
  4. Review and publish your site: Website builders let you preview your design to see how it should appear after going live. When you are satisfied, all that is left to do is to click the “publish” button and your site goes live immediately.

Research Today’s Top Website Builders

Finally, take some time to compare and contrast today’s most popular online website builders. Here’s a brief rundown to get you started:

  1. Wix: More than 109 million sites run on Wix, which ranges in price from $4.50 to $24.50 per month.
  2. Weebly: Plans range in price from $8 to $38 per month. All plans include a free custom domain, and support options include live chat, phone support, and email support.
  3. Squarespace: More than a million sites run on Squarespace, which offers plans that range from $12 to $40 per month.
  4. GoDaddy: The popular web hosting company offers a website builder with plans that range from $5.99 to $14.99 per month. Unlike other builders on this list, a free domain is not included.

Given how affordable and intuitive website builders are to use, there is no reason to hesitate in trying one out. Although you may be intimidated at first, you will quickly see just how easy it is to create a great website with them.