When I first embarked on my web development career, over fifteen years ago, the two main website building tools were Adobe Dreamweaver and MS Frontpage. Dreamweaver is still available, but it has moved to the Cloud. Frontpage was discontinued way back in 2003. The era of the WYSIWYG HTML editor is coming to an end. It's being replaced by a slew of revolutionary online "no code" website generation tools. Their main claims to fame are that they can be accessed from any device, where ever you are, and that they enable you to create a great site without needing a lot of programming or coding knowledge. Sound good to you? I agree. In today's article, we'll be taking a look at some of the most popular online website generation tools available today, starting with SILEX, Weebly, and Wix. But before we do, don't get to hung up on the exact ordering. Judging a product's worth is very subjective after all, so try a few of them out and decide for yourself which you like best.
Brought to you by Silex Labs, the Silex platform features a browser-based WYSWIG editor that features drag & drop, image and CSS editing, as well as real-time previewing. Silex Labs is a non-profit organization, so their product is free to use, without any hidden costs or licensing requirements. Pages that are edited on silex.me are stored on your hard drive, so that you always retain ownership of your data. From there, you can collaborate with other developers via Dropbox, or migrate your work to your host through FTP at the click of a button.
There are many free templates on github as well as paid template on templamatic. To add some pizzazz to your site, there is a whole wack of embeddable widgets for videos, forms, and slideshows, to name but a few.
Verdict: if you want an online builder that is easy to use and (mostly) free, you could do a lot worse than Silex!
There's a good chance that you've seen a Weebly site before because the company has been in the HTML5-based websites and templates generation business for years. Weebly pages are built by dropping text, images and other elements into the editor canvas. Elements can be re-arranged by dragging around the page and placed with great precision because elements automatically snap onto a grid. Some website builders cut corners by limiting the customizability of elements, but not Weebly. They provide numerous customization options. For example, the map element includes options for controlling markers, adjusting the zoom and setting longitude and longitude markers.
Weebly's functionality goes far beyond web page design. They also offer an app store called App Center that lets you install application functionality to your website. The App Center features everything from shipping and marketing apps to calendar and menu integrations. More services are added all the time thanks to an ever-expanding community of app developers and companies developing on new apps.
Weebly is really a one-stop shop for website and app creation, handling everything from domain registration to hosting and even SEO. That being said, not everything is free. The free plan includes the Drag & Drop Site Builder, 500MBs of storage, and a Weebly.com Subdomain. Your site will also displays Weebly ads. To break free of those and/or include additional features, you need to sign up for a paid account, which range in price from $10 to $60 per month.
Here's another (mostly) free site builder to file under "W". I say mostly because Wix provides the builder, unlimited pages, 500 MB storage, secure hosting and a mobile site gratis. Should that not suffice, you may choose to upgrade your site with a Premium Plan for more features. These range from a mere $4.08 USD to $24.92 USD per month.
Much like Weebly, Wix gives you a free URL address on the Wix.com domain. If you'd like to choose your own domain and register it with Wix, or connect your site to a domain you already own, you'll need to sign up for one of the Premium Plans.
Wix uses a blank canvas website editor. Pages are built by adding elements onto the canvas. These include shapes, icons, buttons, boxes, social bars, forms and audio players. Moreover, Wix also includes a diverse App Market that lets you integrate third party apps such as Twitter/Instagram social feeds and Live Chat. Blank canvas editors can sometimes lead to redundant complexity and disorganization, as adding more elements to the page eventually causes them to start crowding and overlapping. The Wix editor is smart enough to automatically move elements below new ones, thus avoiding component gridlock. The Wix canvas is so good that many reviewers have stated that it's one of the best (if not the best) blank canvas editors they've tried.
All-in-all, Wix is a solid option for those wanting fine-grained control over their website.
While your checking out these three sites, I'll be busy putting together a few more to present to you next month. Until then, don't make any hasty decisions.
Rob Gravelle resides in Ottawa, Canada, and is the founder of GravelleWebDesign.com. Rob has built web applications for numerous businesses and has recently developed his own jquery-tables library.
Rob's alter-ego, "Blackjacques", is an accomplished guitar player, that has released several CDs. His band, Ivory Knight, was rated as one of Canada's top hard rock and metal groups by Brave Words magazine (issue #92) and reached the #1 spot in the National Heavy Metal charts on ReverbNation.com.
Rob uses and recommends MochaHost, which provides Web Hosting for as low as $1.95 per month, as well as unlimited and disk space!