Learning Your Lines: All About Website Builder Scripts
By Top 10 Staff
Are you overwhelmed by the number of free website builder scripts available online? Perhaps you're ready to take your Web development skills to the next level by adding dynamic, in-browser Web editing to allow for immediate changes and on-demand edits. There exists a plethora of competent solutions on the market with varying options and features, but at the most basic level, a well-developed site builder script will optimally satisfy a few critical requirements. We will highlight the best of these offerings, and compare their relative pros and cons.
How Website Builder Scripts Work
In the past, developing your own website meant that you needed to build all pages from scratch using a desktop Web editor—either through a WYSIWYG platform like Adobe Dreamweaver or Microsoft Frontpage, or by using a text editor such as Notepad or TextEdit. Accompanying images were developed and rendered as JPG or GIF files, and copied directly into the appropriate websites folder (e.g., images). Once the pages were completed, the complete site was then uploaded to the Web hosting account in its entirety using an FTP client. Subsequent edits required the same process to be carried out—that is, in order to make website edits, files must be first edited locally on your desktop computer and then uploaded to the server.
Recent text editors have grown in sophistication, allowing for near real-time editing of web pages to occur when manipulating pages on your desktop computer. That said, changes are not really taking place as they happen, as these text editors are in fact uploading and downloading the files in question as a background process, making it invisible to the end user. So while users are spared the extra step of manually uploading and downloading files with an FTP editor, they are still in fact using the same process for site updates. Changes can therefore be made quickly, but not in real time.
Benefits of Using Website Builder Scripts
As mentioned earlier, website builder tools enable users to build websites with or without manual coding. Earlier tools were software packages installed on desktop computers, but with the rise of ubiquitous Web hosting and broadly accessible website services, online website builder scripts and tools have become very popular.
Web hosting companies in particular are keen on adopting online website builder scripts, as they are usually open source (I.e., free or low cost) and easy to install as a standard application accessible through cPanel or alternative Web hosting management interfaces. Using a website builder script to build a website has numerous advantages.
For one, you're not locked into a proprietary and expensive desktop software tool for developing and managing your website's pages. Furthermore, most website builder scripts are designed for novice-to-intermediate Web developers in mind, so they're often more user friendly than their desktop counterparts. Last but not least, changes are immediate—any edits made are reflected immediately on the site once the Web page is saved.
Popular Website Builder Scripts
Most leading Web hosting companies feature numerous website builder scripts that can be accessed through the website's cPanel administration area. Furthermore, many Web hosting vendors have developed their own website builder scripts with extra features to aid Web development, as a value-add to their hosting services. For example, GoDaddy's Web builder features a number of selectable pre-built themes, as well as easy integration with major credit card processors and shopping carts for ecommerce functionality. Wix's website builder—like GoDaddy's—is drag-and-drop and template-driven to enable fast Web development, and also incorporate features to aid search engine optimization (SEO) with Google.
A competent website builder script should satisfy a few key requirements: it should be lightweight, easy to use, and fast. To this end, a wide variety of scripts are available that can either be self-installed; they may even come standard with your hosting provider's cPanel interface. In fact, cPanel's file manager itself has a built-in editor for making quick changes such as fixing typos or minor look and feel adjustments. The editor has all the features of a desktop text editor such as line numbering, code and syntax coloring, and search and replace. Changes to the file's permissions can also be accomplished in the same interface—an option that desktop editors may or may not have.
Of course, cPanel is not the only free website builder script available. Many exist, and are for the most part written in PHP (or an equivalent Web scripting language). PHP Beaver is a popular drag-and-drop website building PHP script that allows for the easy integration of website elements like sliders and contact forms. LiveSite is another popular PHP-based script for building websites quickly. Be sure to download any scripts directly from the developer, staying clear of premium or paid-for scripts that have illegally been made public (i.e., cracked). These are referred to as "nulled scripts," and can contain malicious code and other malware. Avoid nulled website builder scripts at all costs.
A Final Note on Website Builder Scripts
As they say, every tool was designed for a specific purpose--this certainly applies to website builder scripts. Using the appropriate one based on your specific requirements and/or skill set is important to ensure optimal results. For example, users with less coding prowess may want to opt for a proprietary website builder provided by a value-added Web hosting provider. This will allow them to enjoy a full, turn-key Web development experience. More savvy users may opt to install their own website builder scripts, and use cPanel's in-built editing tool for critical spot fixes and changes.
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