Website builders are tools that typically allow the construction of websites without manual code editing. They fall into two categories:
- online proprietary tools provided by web hosting companies. These are typically intended for users to build their private site. Some companies allow the site owner to install alternative tools (commercial or open source) - the more complex of these may also be described as Content Management Systems;
- offline software which runs on a computer, creating pages and which can then publish these pages on any host. (These are often considered to be "website design software" rather than "website builders".)
Over time, software was created to help design web pages and by 1998 Dreamweaver had been established as the industry leader; however, some have criticized the quality of the code produced by such software as being overblown and reliant on tables. As the industry moved towards W3C standards, Dreamweaver and others were criticized for not being compliant. Compliance has improved over time, but many professionals still prefer to write optimized markup by hand.
Open source tools were typically developed to the standards, and made fewer exceptions for the then dominant Internet Explorer's deviations from the standards. The W3C started Amaya in 1996 to showcase Web technologies in a fully featured Web client. This was to provide a framework that integrated lots of W3C technologies in a single, consistent environment. Amaya started as an HTML and CSS editor and now supports XML, XHTML, MathML, and SVG.
Geocities was one of the first more modern website builders that didn't require any technical skills. Five years after its launch in 1994 Yahoo! purchased it for $3.6 billion. After becoming technically outdated it was shut down in April 2009.
Online vs. offline
Online website builders typically require customers to sign up with the web hosting company. Some companies provide examples of fully functional websites made with their website builder. The range of services varies anywhere between creating basic personal web pages or social network content to making complete business and e-commerce websites, either template based or, on the more flexible platforms, totally design free.
The main advantage of an online website builder is that it is quick and easy to use, and often does not require prior experience. Often, a website can be built and be up and running live on the Internet quickly. Technical support is usually provided, as are how-to video and help files. Though there are many general websites builders you can easily find an online website builder created especially for a specific niche (dating, medical etc.) with features needed for this niche.
Sites are generally created using either HTML or Adobe Flash. Flash is a proprietary format which became a de facto standard format, once supported by all major browsers. However it has a diminishing popularity, since having been superseded by web standards (HTML5) and is no longer supported by major mobile operating systems iOS (Apple) and Android (Google). Flash is more resource intensive than HTML.
HTML tools are divided into those that allow editing of the source code and those that only have a WYSIWYG mode.
Offline web builders cater to professional web designers who need to create pages for more than one client or web host. Modern offline web builders are usually both WYSIWYG and allow direct editing of source code and cascading style sheets (CSS) styling. They generally require at least a basic understanding of HTML and CSS. However, though they are more flexible than online builders, they are often expensive. However, some open source website builders may be downloaded free of charge or by "freemium" license model.
- Mark Lawson (August 9, 2005). "Berners-Lee on the read/write web". BBC News.
- "Amaya Home Page". World Wide Web Consortium. December 9, 2009. Retrieved September 29, 2010.
- "Yahoo! buys GeoCities". CNN.com. January 28, 1999. Retrieved September 18, 2014.
- "5 Awesome Free Builders Platforms". About.com. September 30, 2014. Retrieved November 22, 2014.