About Website Building Tools

By Jesse Sears

  • Overview

    Website building tools have developed to a level that any individual with no understanding of programming can build simple but functional websites for personal or small business use. Here's a roundup of website building tools that lean toward the "ease of use" end of the spectrum. Even the most simple website building tools take some time commitment to learn their functions, so it is best pick a system right for your needs rather than dabbling in many, especially when you are first starting out.
  • Weebly

    Weebly has gained tons of steam in recent months as a browser-based site building and content management system, and with good reason. The interface is even easier to use than blogging software such as Blogger and WordPress, and building a simple small community website for family and friends to use can be done in a day. As a bonus, the basic service and associated web hosting is free. Weebly has a significant limitation, though: Unless you are willing to pay a rather steep fee to run Weebly on your own domain name "www.example.com", the system will place an "example.weebly.com" extension onto your site, making it unsuitable for business use. If you are new to building websites, though, it is a great place to start.
  • Joomla

    Joomla is open-source software, meaning the base platform is free, and you are free to modify it in any way you wish. For an individual with little to no programming experience who is willing to make a significant time commitment to learn the system, Joomla is a great and fun way to build a website. Neophytes beware, as Joomla is not plug-and-play. Anyone can learn the system, but be prepared to spend many hours tinkering around with things. You will be rewarded with a content management system (CMS), making it easy to add more features to your site as it grows. Joomla has many modules, or small programs that control how information is displayed and stored on your website, written by its huge open-source community.

  • Drupal

    Often seen as the most direct competitor to Joomla is Drupal, another open-source CMS and suite of website building tools. Drupal is in many ways harder to get started with than Joomla, but due to the more abstract nature of the way information is categorized in the guts of your site, it is vastly more powerful in the hands of an intermediate user who knows his or her way around a bit of code but does not necessarily know how to do complicated SQL database management and the like. What Drupal trades away in ease of use it more than makes up for in power. It is used for the basis of websites for many large corporations, including Sony. Unlike Weebly, there is no way to host a Drupal-powered website without having access to your own server, either directly or by purchasing virtual server space.
  • Adobe Dreamweaver

    Dreamweaver is expensive, whether purchased alone or as part of the Adobe Creative Suite package, which will also net you Flash and Fireworks, two other useful website building tools. It also has a very steep learning curve, even though it provides users with a powerful what-you-see-is-what-you-get ("WYSIWYG") interface for drag-and-drop web publishing. So why has Dreamweaver risen to the head of the pack of website building tools? After the initial learning curve, it does not carry the limitations of the other tools listed above, and it provides more direct interaction with the actual code you are using to build your website. In the long run, this will be of great benefit, as you will know why your site works the way it does, allowing changes and bug fixes with greater ease. With great integration with all web programming languages and a built-in FTP client, Dreamweaver is well worth learning if you plan to make a career out of website building.
  • Conclusions

    Whether you are using Weebly to build a small personal website or dedicating years of your life to the profession, it is important to gain at least a cursory understanding of the way code is built and the functions of programming languages such as HTML, XML, CSS, PHP, Javascript and Flash. It is very easy when changing or adding functions to a website to make a mistake and have the whole thing go kaboom. Whichever site building tools you use, take the time to learn how and why they work. It will be time well spent.
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