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What’s the Difference Between a CMS, a Website Builder and a Web Editor?

We’re often asked about the difference between a content management system (CMS), a web editor and a website builder. In this article we’ll attempt to clarify misunderstandings that usually accompany this question, since there are many definitions floating around these terms. Today, we’ll try to deal with all variations of this question.

So what are site builders, web editors and CMS?

The web publishing options are endless. But in general, they can be categorized as follows:

A web editor. This option is popular among professionals who prefer creating websites from scratch. It implies using a type of program called an editor where you can create and save whole pages formatting them in a special way so that they can be viewed in a web browser. When the page is ready it’s transferred from your computer to your web host where it gets published.

The editor can be a visual piece of software like Dreamweaver, or just a plain text editor like Notepad.

Dreamweaver interface

There are people who refer to such programs as ‘site builders’, probably because these programs are used to build websites. There is some reasoning behind this point of view, as some of the most elaborate web editors behave more like desktop publishing software rather than a simple word processor. So let’s call this type of software offline site builders.

An online site builder. The difference between using an offline web editor and online site builder is that you don’t have to install any programs on your computer. Everything is done through your browser and the pages you create are automatically placed on your site. Online site builders often come as part of services offered by hosting providers.

Wix website builder

In most cases, such site builders only run on their own servers making it impossible to transfer your site elsewhere.

The obvious advantage of using an online site builder is the ease-of-use and the ‘all-in-one’ approach: you get everything you need to create, publish and maintain a website with just one account. Examples: uCoz, Weebly and Wix.

A CMS. To put it simply, a CMS is a piece of software that you install on your web host account. Once it’s uploaded and installed, you use your browser to access your website and make any changes to it.

Using a CMS is somewhat similar to using an online site builder, as you don’t need to run any software on your computer, but log into your website through a browser.

However, in reality, there’s a huge difference between these two options. When you opt for a CMS, you’re not tied to your web host at all. You’re free to move your website any time to another web hosting provider.

WordPress CMS

The downside is that maintaining a website on your own using a CMS has a steep learning curve. It’s more difficult than using a DIY site builder.

So which option is the best?

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution. It depends on your previous experience, how often you will be adding new pages and content, whether you plan to use different computers or a single device to work on your site, how in-depth you want to customize your site and many other factors.

If you just want to build a simple personal website, portfolio or start a blog, then we recommend that you sign up to a site builder to see how easy going live can be. Let’s take a look at uCoz site builder for instance.

uCoz website builder

uCoz is a freemium web service. You can build a website with uCoz for free and keep it so as long as you need. You can even connect a custom domain free of charge (if you have one), without having to upgrade your free account.

Once you’ve created an account, you will get access to the library of templates and uCoz’s unique system of modules that lets you build a website using ready customizable blocks or modules. For example, to build a webstore, you need to enable the e-Shop module. Additionally, you can activate Forum, Blog, Polls, Web Forms and other building blocks. Each module is highly customizable.

Only when you feel that it’s time to move from the ad-supported account to a premium one, you can upgrade your site. The cheapest ad-free subscription is only $5.99/month, including hosting.

Happy site building!