Blog / Growth

You should not use a website builder for your marketing site

Is a website builder, like Squarespace or Webflow the best option for your SaaS marketing site?

Photo by BR on Unsplash

iIt’s without a doubt that, at Spinal, static site generators (SSG) are popular. It’s because Spinal exists. I used Jekyll (🐐) for the first time in somewhere in 2011. Being able to design a website how I wanted, using the tools I wanted and not have to mess with any database, was such bliss. A truly stark contrast from what WordPress offered.

Over the years my preference for SSG has changed (from Jekyll to Middleman to Bridgetown), and while all Ruby, I’ve also dabbled with many of today’s javascript/node-based SSG.

With web technology getting more powerful, also complete “website builders” have become a more popular choice for many SaaS companies to built their website with. What are the upsides? What are the downsides? Spoiler alert: it’s not as black and white as the title suggest.

What is a web builder #

Website builder make it easy to create websites without knowing any code. Some popular ones are Squarespace, Weebly and Webflow.

They allow you to drag and drop items onto your canvas. These elements are pre-designed, so there’s no need to learn design either. These elements can be anything from tabs, video and an image carousel. To make things even simpler they often give you a template, where all these separate items are matched together for you.

What is a static site generator #

A static site generator is a tool that can turn content, data and templates to html files which can then be deployed to hosting provider, like Netlify or Vercel.

You can use any tool you know to create a static site. Maybe you like VSCode or, more old-school, Sublime. You also run the SSG locally on your computer. Whenver you change something, it rebuilds the whole site.

Most SSG support many different filetypes, like markdown and yaml. But most also allow you to read from a API, get its content and do something with it (think get some customer reviews to add as a testimonial).

Because a SSG uses the language it was written (eg. Ruby or JavaScript), the possibilities are endless. Anything you can think of, you can do with a SSG.

A simple x/y-axis showing extensibility vs ease-of-use between website builders and static site generators

Pros and cons of a website builder #

Let’s look at the pros and cons of a website builder.

Pros #

  • easy to get started
  • no coding skills needed
  • no design skills needed
  • tool-dependent: market-place with many ready-to-go features available

Cons #

  • lock-in; not easy to move away from the tool
  • “in the cloud”; always a internet-connection needed
  • often hard to “bend” the visual design to your will
  • possibility it hurts your SEO
  • limited in the features: anything special is unlikely to do

Pros and cons of a static site generator #

And now the pros and cons of a static site generator.

Pros #

  • use the tools you already know
  • not limited to the templates or visual element of someone else
  • build any awesome idea you can think off
  • you control the hosting
  • you control the technical SEO
  • related to the former: easily move hosting providers
  • you can use Spinal 😅

Cons #

  • need code knowledge
  • need a designer’s eye

So, website builder or static site generator? It’s not as simple as the title says. They both have their place. One could go with a SSG for their marketing site, but use website builder for something (semi-)related to the the company.

But in the end, assuming you have some of the knowledge (in house), choosing for a static site generator simply allows you to create more interesting pages, spin up new ideas more easily and generally be more versatile.

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