Website builders are extremely useful tools because they allow those with little to no technical expertise the chance to build their own websites. This can be done quickly and easily with as little effort as using a word processor.
For Malaysians, an especially good bonus point is that prices are usually little more than what you would pay for web hosting in the first place.
The biggest obstacle to overcome for Malaysian website owners is overcoming the mindset of localization. Once you get past the border barrier, you’ll discover that there are thousands of web hosting options available across the globe – offering products that are better, faster, or even cheaper than what you find locally.
Similarly, the world of website builders today has its own set of challenges.
In the past, many people were using them to rapidly build websites. Yet today the challenged has moved more towards the eCommerce front. Thanks to the age of digital, borderless trade is booming and even small businesses can compete on the international stage.
Rather than spend on outsourcing, small business have the option to extend their capabilities on their own – thanks to tools like eCommerce enabled website builders. Now you can not only build websites, but turn them into full online stores, in some cases even with complete inventory control.
Taking that into account, do you know what your needs are as well as what’s available for you in the global arena? There are many factors you may need to consider, ranging from price all the way to unique features.
Working Past The Malaysian Ringgit
There isn’t really a way to put this nicely, but it’s simply a fact that we live in Malaysia and transact in Ringgit. The Ringgit is quite weak against the US dollar and mentally, when we do a conversion the final price of overseas services freaks many of us out.
Yet in terms of websites, especially websites built for a commercial purpose, remember that you can also expand your business beyond our borders. By working for and earning overseas currencies we can basically negate the difficult conversion rate and pull in US dollars instead.
Challenging Availability Of Local Resources
There are several local web hosting companies that are focused on business here, but no real entity that provides a custom website builder for the local market. Yes, some companies such as Exabytes offer website builder, but if you’ve ever tried those out comparatively, most fall short.
Website builders are expensive to design and need to be tested extensively. Because of that, unless they are sold on a global basis the cost becomes too prohibitive for any single country market to support.
There are also more limitations once you build everything down to a country level, especially if you’re considering specifics such as data housing regulations and country-specific taxes. Because of that, it is better to work with the performance and features of a global partner.
Expensive Or Unskilled Developers
Having overseen the website development process of several companies here, I’ve unfortunately become all too aware of the challenges. From thousands of freelancers hawking their wares to professional web development companies that charge exorbitant fees, your website could cost as little as perhaps RM300 all the way to over RM80,000 depending on whom you work with and what you need.
The most painful part of all this is that you’re working with very little available knowledge of the community of developers. Finding the right fit can become a challenge and at the end of the day, you’re meeting with an even half dozen simply so that you can say you’ve carried out your ‘due diligence’ in case something goes wrong.
Rather than go through all of this with multiple question marks in the air, why not contemplate using the power of a website builder? Yes, if your system is overly complex you might need some help, but many website builders are highly community driven, meaning there is help available.
You will also be free to have complete control over any changes in the development process easily, since everything is very modular.
Easiest DIY Option
Although using WordPress and getting your own hosting can be a viable option, website builders are still an easier option. Mastering WordPress can take some time and the numerous plugins available aren’t necessarily all the best quality. Finding the best web hosting will be another endeavour that will take time, research and of course, money.
For rapid site development there is still nothing that compares with most of these purpose-specific website builders. It gets even better when you consider the fact that they come with hosting and generally all the other tools you’ll need to quickly build your website.
Our top three website builders for Malaysia in 2020 are veterans to the game and have proven themselves to be able to support anything from individual small sites to massive corporate accounts. Before anything else though, let’s discuss how we rank the sites.
How We Choose The Best Website Builders For Malaysia
The problem with assessing website builders is that although the basic premise of each is the same, all of them have their own focal points. In general, users also have their own specific needs, so it is more a matter of going back to basics and what makes more sense from a utility standpoint.
If we heard back to basics, there are general parameters that (like it or not) all website builders need in order to even get their foot in the door. Once that is taken into consideration from the user standpoint, we also asses how compatible those features are with global requirements, for example mobile speed capability.
Finally, there are the ‘Notable Extras’ that tend to make a key difference. These are features that are hard to find elsewhere or otherwise help a brand to stand out.
Speed is the lifeblood of any website, from personal blog to massive online store. It affects so many things that it simply must be one of the key requirements in any host. Website builders not only help you create your websites, but also act as your hosting platform – affecting your website speed.
2. Ease of use
A tool is only as useful as its ability to be wielded. The most powerful website builder in the world is useless if it isn’t user-friendly enough to be used without too much of a learning curve. Ideally, it should offer mainstream features in website development but be so simple to use that instructions shouldn’t be necessary.
3. Mobile support
The world has gone mobile and even search engines like Google are placing enhanced focus on mobile friendliness. Website builders should at the very least be able to offer you the opportunity to make your website mobile friendly.
4. eCommerce features
One of the most important elements of an online store is the ability to process transactions. After all, without them there is no real eCommerce, right? Yet not all transaction processing is equal, and they come at various costs to the site owner.
5. Notable extras
Not all site needs are equal and as such, there are often subtly different features which one offers over another that distinguishes it.
With that, let’s look at the Top 5 Website Builders for Malaysia of 2020.
Ranked: The 5 Best Website Builders for Malaysian
- All pricing listed are based on 12-month contract introductory price.
- We use an exchange rate of 1 USD to 4.1 MYR for all prices listed.
- Lots of templates
- Great mobile editor
- Extensive third-party app availability
- Lots of useful extras
"Wix is bold, beautiful, and feature packed - just what a modern website builder should be."
Wix server speed report
- Wix sites are speedy
Among all the website builders I reviewed, Wix has by far the best speed performance among them. True, this may not be your key consideration, but I would suggest otherwise. Once you’ve found a great website builder – you need to be able to host a fast site there. A slow site will ultimately affect your sales somehow or other.
- Powerful mobile editor
As a website builder, Wix has a fantastic drag-and-drop interface but where it really impresses is what it calls its mobile editor. Malaysians are simply in love with the mobile devices and so are everyone else in the world.
The Wix mobile editor lets you modify the mobile version of your site – right down to having it show a different layout compared to the full site. This is very useful and in today’s market is a top-notch selling point for Wix.
- The app market is useful
Besides the standard features that it offers, Wix comes with a marketplace that lets you do all the things you might want or need. Add or remove them to give your site various features and you’ll find that you can have a very agile and thriving online business.
- Great marketing capabilities
Building your site is only half the problem – how are you going to attract people to it? With SEO Management built into the fabric of Wix, that solves a big part of the problem. SEO is often one of the most difficult aspects of hosting a site that new owners face – and even many veterans.
With Wix? Well, just click on their Wix SEO Wix and you’ll be guided through the steps to make it work.
The Downside: Your site is stuck with Wix
Given how powerful Wix is, it isn’t surprising that it guards its customers jealously. If you’ve created your site with Wix, you can’t move your business elsewhere easily. Wix doesn’t allow customers to export their websites, so in essence you either start anew or stay with Wix.
Wix in action
- Amazing marketing tools
- Access third-party apps
- Sell across multiple platforms
- Community support
"More for the online store than just average websites, Shopify is eCommerce ready to go."
When it comes to eCommerce website builders, Shopify is so much more than your average bear. Supporting more than 600,000 merchants today, Shopify offers a broad range of tools that are specially designed with online stores in mind. Its rapid-built technology combined with those tools offer customers a one-stop solution to becoming an eCommerce merchant.
- Great onboarding experience
Rather than just let you dive into the site building game blindly, Shopify guides you along right from the beginning. Offering an intelligent site building process which you help along by answering a few questions, it gives you something to work with. Once you’re there, then you can explore all the tools it has to your leisure.
- Wide variety of third-party apps
The Shopify gives you access to many third-party apps that can work with your online store. Although not done by Shopify themselves, they are approved for use on the platform. This means that you can very quickly and easily extend the functionality of your online store. Their apps are comprehensive and cover everything from standard newsletter creators all the way to managing exchanges and/or returns.
- Cross-platform capability
Selling online through a store you own is one thing, but is it enough? Thanks to Shopify you can sell through multiple channels. From Point-of-Sales all the way to Facebook, reach out to customers like you never have before!
- Combine online with offline
For those who already sell through brick and mortar stores, Shopify has an option for you to simply extend that business online. Their complete integration capability helps you merge your inventory and control all your sales channels at one – even from the physical store.
The Downside: Too expensive
For a purely local standpoint I cannot deny this – Shopify’s pricing is very hard to swallow. However, the features on offer here integrate much of what you would have to pay extra for elsewhere and does so very well.
Shopify in action
- Drag & drop editor
- Integrated SEO
- Lead capture
- App marketplace
"Weebly is versatile and built with the needs of the rapid site builder in mind."
Weebly may start off from as low as $5 per month but there’s a small catch. That price doesn’t apply to eCommerce sites. If you want to run an online store, you’ll need to buy in to Weebly at one of its higher-priced plans which start at $12 per month.
Weebly speed report
- Great feature-packed editor
With 35 templates in its stable, you can get started quickly on Weebly. This is an area in which this Website builders really shines. The term ‘drag and drop’ is very literal and you can use this to add almost anything to your site. From simple text blocks to complex rich media – everything is there.
- Responsive and totally mobile
With the basic feature being mobile responsiveness of their sites, I say that Weebly has gone far above and beyond in this area. Aside from a mobile editor they have a complete mobile app to benefit its users as well. The app is so powerful that you can virtually build your site from your mobile device.
- Awesome app centre
Here is where the beginners in Website builders drop out and champions like Weebly shine. It offers you not just its own features, but the features of a ton of other developers. Extend your site functionality with add-on tools covering a massive eCommerce market. There’s everything from simple analytics to advanced marketing available.
- Bonus extras
Malaysians simply love freebies and that’s what comes with each Weebly plan. All paid plans come a free domain. There are also lots of free apps on their App Marketplace that offer fantastic features such as MarketGoo which gives you free SEO analysis reports on your site.
The Downside: Speed is a little wonky
Although Weebly managed a strong A rating overall in our BitCatcha speed test, we were a litter disturbed that response rates are good for US sites but drop the further away it gets. For Malaysians sites targeting local traffic this isn’t ideal but if you’re looking to cater to international traffic it’s fine.
Weebly in action
- E-Commerce friendly
- Over 60 designer templates
- Mobile optimised
- Hot-swappable themes
"Squarespeace is priced to suit a very middling market but its capabilities extend far beyond."
With a starting price point of $12 per month, Squarespace certainly isn’t the cheapest on this list. However, it does perform exceptionally well and is a great resource for someone who wants everything they need to create a professional-looking site in one place.
Squarespace server speed report
- Great Asia performance
Malaysians will be especially happy to learn that Squarespace sites perform just as well from any corner of the globe. Speed was of course slightly slower than tests from US-based servers but overall, 151ms from Japan isn’t anything to be sneezed at.
- Excellent starting choices
One of the most appealing things about website builders is not just the ability to create sites with less effort, but also to get going quickly. With over 60 designer templates to start off with, you can bet that you will hit the ground running with Squarespace.
- Drag and drop goodness
Not only does Squarespace have that drag and drop interface that’s key to a fluid site building experience but you can customize the exact location of elements. This gives you great control over your website and is markedly different from website builders that limit your element locations to certain ‘blocks’ that are pre-set.
The Downside: It’s pay all the way
Although you can sign up for a free account with Squarespace, there’s no free meal here. All sites that are build must convert to paying accounts before you can start using those sites. If you don’t convert to a paying account your site will expire after some time, rendering it useless. Did I also mention that it starts from $12 a month? Quite a fee once you’ve converted that into Malaysian Ringgit.
Squarespace in action
- Drag & drop editor
- Built for WordPress
- Runs on cloud host
- Mobile friendly
"WordPress fans can now build to please thanks to BoldGrid and its tool pack."
The BoldGrid brand does have some leeway in the website builder market but it hasn’t been something that has actively come across my radar. It certainly hasn’t managed to rank in the top five website builders in terms of market share.
BoldGrid server speed report
- Built on WordPress
When it comes to website builders, the ones I’ve come across so far are either standalone systems that come with hosting such as Wix or dedicated page builders that plug in to existing installations, such as Elementor. BoldGrid is built for and integrated with WordPress, giving you a drag and drop website builder with full access to the whole WordPress ecosystem.
- Runs on cloud hosting
At what works out to be $5 per month, BoldGrid offers and excellent price point for websites to run because they’re based on the Cloud. You get your own little slice of Cloud hosting which offers excellent performance for more than competitive prices.
- Migratable sites
Unlike Wix which jealously guards its secrets or other third-party website builders, you can easily move your site away from BoldGrid. This works back to the fact that they’re essentially built for WordPress and work in the same way.
- Free accounts available
Just as WordPress is free, so too is the use of the basic BoldGrid builder. In fact, you can build a complete site running on that Cloud account with no investment at all, except perhaps a little of your time. The downside is that free accounts can’t use premium plugins and are forced to carry a little BoldGrid branding.
The Downside: Slightly complex
I would say that BoldGrid still needs to be used by someone who is at least a little familiar with WordPress. Because it works with WordPress, users aren’t isolated from other site needs such as plugins, site customization and other WordPress-specific needs. The BoldGrid interface itself is only a small part of that, which can be hard for absolute newbies to work with.
Which Website Builders Should I Go For?
As I mentioned earlier, the biggest obstacle to overcome in the context of Malaysian sites is localizations. Yes, that means location and hence, price. We are also often tempted to work with local companies because they’re accessible to us.
This needs to be overcome if we’re to compete on the global stage. Working with a remote partner, whether they are a company here in the country or beyond our borders shouldn’t be a challenge. Instead, I urge you to look past that and for a change, compare them in terms of features and performance.
Pricing with online companies is also often in US dollars and this is not great for us because of conversion rate to Malaysian Ringgit. However, remember that we will also be selling internationally and earning in the same US dollars. This should help narrow the gap a little bit.
Ultimately, earning those dollars means you’re competing with everyone else in the world – in speed, functionality, access and a thousand more points. Find a good partner that can do that with you and you’ll be clearing the path to a successful business.
Let’s recap our top 3 host picks for Malaysian websites: