A few weeks ago I was in Los Angeles with Brad and Rubin, a few of my compatriots at Virb, and we were talking over dinner about how often we get asked a certain question—it has lots of forms but usually goes like this, "So you work on a website builder? Aren't you worried about competing with [Company]?" And my answer, always, is a resounding no.
Call it pride, or hubris, or confidence, but that's not really it. I'm not worried for one simple reason: I firmly believe that the way we let our customers build sites is not only simpler and easier, but best for our target market. At its core, it's actually one of our product's biggest differentiators, and one I'm surprised more products don't employ.
The reason I believe it's better is really less about Virb (we're by no means perfect), and more about the current trend of drag-and-drop website building used by a majority of our competition. With equal parts flashy UI, complex controls, and the possibility of endless design decisions for customers, this option seems great, right?
I would suggest the answer is a resounding "no" and the reason is perfectly summed up in this TED talk by Psychologist Barry Schwartz entitled "The Paradox of Choice."
Choice is something engrained in our culture, so much so that we barely think twice about whether endless choice is actually beneficial—for us or for our customers.
As a designer, I would wager that the single hardest part of any design is the blank slate, that point where the possibilities are endless. It's like when a friend asks you to make a tattoo (sidenote: why does that always happen?), and says "Just make something cool." It's why as an industry we've developed Creative Briefs, exploratory meetings, mood boards, style guides, deadlines, and budgets. We love operating inside a set of rules, and we love it because it helps guide us from point A to point B. If we've created all of these things for ourselves, and value the guidance they provide us in order to eliminate the paralysis of endless choice, why can't we provide the same guidance to our customers?
For my customers at Virb, I firmly believe that the best thing I can do is actually lessen the choices they face. As a design professional, I want to make decisions for my customers, if only to decrease the chances that they make poor ones. That's why we do what we do—to help people solve problems. If the core problem is that a person needs a website, as designers we should be creating solutions that say "Sure, let me help you as you build it," instead of "Just do whatever you want; good luck."
Sure, drag-and-drop feels great to us—our peers and Tech Blogs love it, and we get to flex all of our sexy-CSS/JS-transition muscles while developing an incredibly complex and powerful UI. But during that process all of our wisdom and knowledge is poured into this powerful tool we're providing to our customer, when at the end of the day I think that, sadly, most people who use a tool with that much freedom end up with exactly what they started out with: a blank slate.