The main “w” word that comes to mind when thinking about setting up an online business is a “website”. And once you know you’ll need one and you’ve bought a domain name to match, you’ll inevitably be hit with the other big “w” — a website builder.
Getting the look and feel of your business down in a website is not all that hard to do if you’re a front-end developer or even a UX designer. If you or someone on your team has these skills, it’s simply a matter of getting the vision down on paper to start.
But what if you don’t have a team and you’re flying lean and solo? You’re already convinced that an online presence is crucial to the success of your business — even if you’re a brick-and-mortar store.
Yet, you don’t want to have to reinvent the wheel. You’re convinced it’s necessary — but now, you need a tool that’s going to help you get your vision up and running without too much time, effort and, most important during the beginning stages, money.
Enter: the site builder.
What is a Site Builder?
A site builder is an all-in-one, DIY solution that walks you through the set up, visual design and implementation of an online website without requiring any prior coding knowledge.
Site builders do much of the heavy lifting for you. Usually, the type of site builder you use comes with pre-customized templates and (or) a visual composer for you to manually select objects and pop while in the “editing” mode.
Site builders also anticipate the kind of businesses and uses a website might be set up for. Their pre-made templates usually include functionality and designs specific to certain kinds of uses and businesses. For example, they may have a “scrapbook” template and an “e-store” template for easy set up and later configuration.
Site builders are also extensible. This means they don’t usually require you to have prior coding or design knowledge. However, if you do, this can work to your advantage and you can use your skills to extend the function and look of the site.
The point of a site builder is to save you from having to write and re-write a lot of boilerplate code that is required when you set up a website as well as using FTP to transfer manually-coded website pages from a local machine to the Internet.
Site builders will usually come with important meta tags (required for Google rankings and analytics) already pre-coded. And many site-builders are now sophisticated enough to be responsive and mobile-ready as well.
It’s an out-of-box solution that many users are taking advantage of.
Getting Started: From Themes to Editors
Weebly is an example of a flexible and extensible site builder. Weebly themes are used to quickly set up a site’s initial home and identity. Weebly itself provides users with more than 100 free themes, right away, for set up. Users can also swap between themes later on, if they want to change the purpose or look of their website.
There are two types of accounts that have different features: one is a standard user account that allows the individual access to 10 Weebly sites. The other is a designer account, which is perfect for individuals or teams who:
- Plan to use more than 10 sites
- Are building sites for other people
- Don’t want to set up multiple Weebly user accounts
- Want to give access to clients’ accounts only when payment has been made in full
Once you’ve selected your account type, you should forecast what your site’s primary use is going to be.
Do you intend on using it as a regular site, a blog, or a store? Weebly breaks this down to give very specific features for each kind of website.
Use “blog” if you’re going to be primarily communicating with readers and creating a lot of content. Use “store” if you plan to use your website to mostly sell. And use “site” if all you want to do is establish and online “home”, a place where individuals can land who are looking for information on you or your business.
How Do You Customize Your Theme In Weebly?
Once you’ve chosen a theme or a template that appeals to you, you can get to the “Editor” screen. Here is where you can start to really take a hold of the in-built template and customize the look and feel of your site.
You can add headers, banners, pop in comment boxes and other useful side widgets like tag clouds and search bars.
The Weebly Editor has four main tabs that you can use to customize your site. It’s essentially a visual and non-HTML representation of what your site will look and feel like. The tabs are Build, Design, Pages and Settings. Use the “Design” tab to customize themes, change the colors on boxes, or even take it a step further by editing the HTML and CSS on specific page elements.
You can use the the “Pages” button to create new pages that will automatically hook in to your website’s main menu. This is the time to decide on what type of content you’ll be displaying on your website. For example, if your website is for a restaurant, your menu might include “About Us”, “Contact” and “Menu”.
The entire point of Weebly is to be able to give its user as much or as little control over the whole website building process as they want. One thing is for sure, however: it streamlines all the small and annoying little things you once had to set up.