Drag-and-Drop vs. Templates

Drag-and-Drop vs. Templates

When it comes to running a business in today’s interconnected world, not having a website is missing out on one of the largest potential customer bases that the world has ever known. Originally, this was a highly complex operation that involved using code in a text editor, but things have been made a lot simpler as the need for easy to publish websites has grown. Now, there are a few ways that even rank amateurs can create their own websites — often in minutes — and publish them online for the entire world to see.

The question is, what method is the best way to go? Here are two of the most common ways to easily create a website.

Drag and Drop Web Design

When it became clear that people who weren’t programmers wanted to make their own websites, you started to see the rise of the drag and drop Web design program. Starting as options of popular Web browsers of the time like Netscape, drag and drop utilities were created as a way to visualize what would otherwise be code, building it in the background while you worked with a format called What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG). That eventually evolved into the drag and drop formats that we see now, most popular in things like WordPress blog creators, where you have access to boxes and shapes on the screen that you can easily move around within your Web browser, add more, and change certain aspects of it with the click of a few buttons.

This approach to Web design can best be described as “modular,” making every aspect of your website an object that can be moved, adjusted, taken out, or replaced by other objects at will, making it simple to put together a website that matches fairly closely to the kind of vision that you would have had for it.

Not only do large objects like text boxes find their way into this modular design scheme, but the items themselves can often be further sub-divided into smaller pieces, creating complex websites by working with small parts to build a larger whole.

Templates

The other popular Web design solution that is commonly available in the modern era is the use of templates. Originally, these were files that were provided to be used as the basis of websites, usually just downloadable HTML files and their associated images and folders. For many years, this was an easy way of dealing with website building: simply download a template, change a few words and upload to your own server.

While this method is still in effect, and plenty high quality templates can be found to be used in an open source manner across the Internet, there is an even simpler approach to templates now. Websites will offer the ability to create accounts, often free ones, and let you build your website based on a number of templates online, immediately hosting at custom URLs when you’ve filled in the appropriate information. These tend to be incredibly easy to use, and you can often get a website up and running in minutes by using one of these template sites.

Drag and Drop Pros and Cons

The biggest advantage of the drag and drop method is that it’s much more customizable than a template is. If you’re building the website online as you work, you’ll find that there are just a lot more things that you can do with the drag and drop interface.

Further, with drag and drop, you tend to have finer detail control. Not every site will allow it, but if you do know any HTML, you can occasionally access pieces of the code to get things exactly the way that you want them if it becomes necessary. Finding this same availability on a template site is highly unlikely.

Unfortunately, with higher customization comes more time. It takes a while to get your drag and drop looking like a website. Even if it only takes an hour, it’s still longer than you will have with a template website.

If you’re unfamiliar with drag and drop website building, you may run into a problem and not know whether it’s a restriction of the platform or whether you’re doing something wrong, and not every place provides useful support for their systems.

Finally, it’s more complex. With additional customization also comes additional room for error, and it’s much easier to mess something up using a drag and drop utility. Depending on which utility you’re using, it could be easy or very difficult to correct that mistake, and lead to hours of frustration trying to get things right.

Templates Pros and Cons

Templates are an excellent choice if you want a fast, easy and stress-free website. Often, the only thing that you have to do is fill in a few text boxes, which will then be used to automatically add the appropriate copy to your website. There are usually a number of styles and looks to choose from, and you’ll have the chance to change small features like color scheme or font in certain areas depending on who you’re going with.

Similarly, it’s usually a lot easier to publish a template-based website. Drag and drop has services like wordpress.com that allow you to create and publish immediately, but they tend to be the exception to the rule. With templates, almost every website that helps you build on them will also give you space to store data, a custom URL and get your site on the Internet immediately upon completion. They are also much, much quicker to build.

The main problem is that you are often locked into a certain look and format. Even with templates that you download, if you don’t know HTML, which is likely if you’re looking at these Web design methods, then you can’t really do much to change how the site looks. If you dislike a font or the placement of a text box, there isn’t much that you can do about it in most cases.

Beyond that, if there is a mistake or something doesn’t look right, you have to deal with somebody else to fix the problem. That may require an email and several days to get a response, and if your business is on the line, you don’t have the time for that.

Finally, with at least most of the free template services, you usually have to deal with ads on your website, either for the service itself or for other people that the service sells through. Sure, it’s what you pay to have a free site, but if there are going to be ads there, wouldn’t you rather be getting the revenue for them yourself?

There is no perfect solution to building your own website yet, but there are a lot of really good solutions, and if you are willing to make some tradeoffs, you’ll find that they can fit your needs quite nicely.

Posted on Friday, June 6th, 2014