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CMS vs Website Builder

cms vs website builder

Creating a website from scratch today has become easier than ever before. While newbies may opt for a simple website builder with an intuitive interface and drag-and-drop functionality to create and deploy sites of literally any type with no coding skills, more experienced developers generally prefer CMS (content management systems) with more web designing freedom to implement any style and benefit from enhanced flexibility. The choice mainly relies on the user’s goals and technical background.

A Quick Snapshot:

CMSCMS – is a more complex platform that usually comes as an open-source solution. It means no limitations in terms of web designing and customization. Good knowledge of HTML and CSS will let you create literally any webpage with self-crafted elements and blocks to make your site stands out from competitors. To achieve your goals, you need to have good coding experience and technical background.

Website builderWebsite builder – is a good alternative for non-technicians and newbies who do not want to do the learning. Such platforms usually come with DIY elements and drag-and-drop functionality to make the building process simple, fast and straightforward. The software provides readymade templates and layouts with built-in features, apps, and add-ons, while third-party integration might still be available.

So, what is the best option in terms of functionality, price, flexibility, and other crucial factors? CMS vs Website Builder is to stress the main hits and misses of both platforms defining the one that will serve your particular goals the most.

1. Ease Of Use

  • CMS. Systems of this class are programs that have to be installed on hosting (remote server, that is, a disk in a special computer connected to the Internet). This is the software – just like any of those you use on your computer. The only difference is that this software should be installed on the computer, which is available round-the-clock and comes with specific equipment and settings. This is required to make the websites created with the system available in the global network. This is the server you can purchase from any hosting provider.

    Wordpress Editor

    The process of using CMS is as follows: download, installation and basic setup of the system (you need to create and setup the database, where your website content will be stored). Then you’ll need to set up hosting to meet the needs of a certain system (nuances may differ).

    Having done that, you can start working on your website. This means that you will not go without any preparations at all. Yes, there are hostings with settings to come up to popular CMS (WordPress or Opencart, for example). As a result, you get a website dashboard, hosting control panel and domain register account (you can sometimes purchase domain name from the hosting provider). Thus, you get 2-3 login pairs, passwords and interfaces needed for the proper work of your website. This is too much and inconvenient.

  • Website Builder. The major distinction of this type of systems is out-of-the-box feature set. This means that if the official website of the service indicates that the system can be used to create blogs and online stores, for example, then you will get all the required functional elements to realize these website types. There is no need to look for/buy extra tools. Hosting (which is already setup), an opportunity to register the domain name and a set of templates are provided in the complex. This is available in terms of the same interface and is very convenient for newbies. You just register in the system and start using it. It takes only a couple of minutes from visiting the homepage of the website builder and up to the moment you start working with it. This is convenient.

  • Website builder Editor

    Such systems were initially meant for newbies and were created as an alternative to complicated CMS and manually written codes. The majority of them don’t need any coding, design skills and a certain website structure. As a rule, their interfaces come with a rich set of tips, FAQ, online chat etc. What matters most here is that templates come with demo content. Having a look at it, a newbie will better understand how the website should be designed and what content should be available there.

    Features offered by quality website builders are more than enough to develop advanced and visually appealing websites. They are easy to use both by web design pros (for quicker creation of standard projects) and newbies (this is often the only way to create a website with no skills at all).

CMS vs Website Builder: if working with CMS, you are responsible for literally each and every action from creating website menu, pages, categories, etc. to adding and updating plugins, registering a domain name, looking for a place to host your future website, and more. The website builder comes as an all-in-one solution with free or paid templates, custom widgets to integrate, free domain and hosting. Although it might be a bit more expensive, you will save more time needed to build and deploy your site.

2. Feature Set and Flexibility

  • CMS. As a rule, services of this class come with a basic set of features. All of them, however, support installation of extra components, such as modules, plugins, applications, scripts (the names may differ, but the essence remains the same), which will add the features that won’t be available in the stock version.

    WordPress Dashboard

    Each CMS has its own modules, which are incompatible with other systems. This means that for the effective use of such website builder, you have to understand the ecosystem of its modules and algorithms of their installation/use for this particular case. What we observe here is fragmentation – the use of different modules with diverse quality level, cost and convenience of use. That’s why, it’s so problematic to change CMS and experiment with the systems, when searching for the most suitable solution.

    WordPress Plugins

    The majority of CMS don’t have a clear specialization, offering a frame to install modules, coding and get the required features. FTP access to hosting files at the website allows editing any website files, if you have such an experience. As a rule, to use CMS you have to install applications to get online payments, social services, any SEO optimization tools (this is needed to solve problems with duplicated pages, work with human-friendly URLs etc.), edit the materials and look for the elements needed for better web page design (sliders, tabs, extra scripts, galleries etc.). All the enlisted elements are realized in the standard complectation either on a primitive level or they are not realized at all.

  • Website Builder. Settings typical for this system are clearly outlined by its specialization and can be extended by using brand system applications in some cases (for example, in Wix). This means that you will get a set of widgets or modules required to solve your particular task. As a rule, online services offer even more options than you might need, but there is nothing extra here.

    Website Builder Effects

    Excessive functionality somewhat complicates the use of the system. So, you either won’t find it at all or it will be provided as a set of optional applications that can be installed. An interesting nuance is that the apps are written by the developers of a website builder, who may also control their quality. This eventually guarantees their compatibility and correct work.

  • When choosing an eCommerce website builder, for example, you will surely get a convenient tool to accept online payments, shopping cart with the settings, an opportunity to choose shipping parameters, taxes, currency, show window display settings and those of a particular product, SEO and thematic templates. This is the minimum set.

    Wix eCommerce Editor

    Many popular services will offer you much more options (extra fields for products, form setup, import/export of products from CSV/XML files, an opportunity to issue an invoice, integrated CRM etc.). Thus, a particular set of options depends on the website builder chosen. Just select a top niche solution and get everything you need. This is a surefire way to make the right choice.

CMS vs Website Builder: CMS seems more flexible at first sight with an enormous selection of plugins, apps, add-ons, and third-party services to integrate. Moreover, users may access more eCommerce, Analytics, user acquisition, and other tools that may be of great use. However, handling all of them might be a hassle for users with little experience of working with CMS. At the same time, all plugins are developed by side developers, which may result in errors and malicious codes. Website builders are simpler from this point of view offering widgets and add-ons within a single package. You do not have to care about updates or pay for premium plugin versions.

3. Designs

  • CMS. As a rule, a user gets several standard templates (generally, 3-6 themes, but this number can sometimes increase) after the installation of a website on hosting. These templates are universal. They have very simple design and work well for manual customization by means of code editing. This is a raw material for a future website, which has a well-written code. Almost no one and never uses it in the stock version.

    CMS (WordPress) Templates

    The most suitable solution is the purchase of unique design from CMS developers or any other web studio, which has partnership relations with the system. You can also create your own template, but you have to consider the peculiarities of the CMS code you use. This variant works exclusively for professionals.

    Some CMS come with extensive template collections, but there are no many of them. Generally, a user needs to purchase unique templates or customize the standard ones. The more popular the system is, the more web studios design templates for it. You can also find and download free templates in the global network, but such samples are in 99% of cases spoiled by integrated external backlinks. It is better to buy a quality unique template from a trusted web developer. There is no sense in using standard designs without proper customization. Generally, you need money or advanced web design skills to get nice CMS design.

  • Website Builder. Any system of this type comes with a certain amount of templates (from a dozen and up to a thousand). Their quality varies a lot in different platforms, but it is still on a decent level. Templates of the best services impress everyone by their appeal and versatility of design approaches. In most cases, designs are sorted out buy themes, come with a convenient preview option and quick change in the process of designing a website. As a rule, you have to select the template after the registration in the system. A user can understand right from the start, how the readymade website may eventually look.

    Website Builder (Wix) Templates

    A template comes with thematic demo-content, which matters a lot for a user. Having a look at the sample, newbies may understand how and with what content they sho4. ld fill it to get visually appealing result. Design customization tools are available in any website builder. They may notably differ in various systems, but you’ll certainly have a chance to set up their fonts, color schemes and backgrounds.

    Options are more numerous in advanced editors and include an opportunity to position the elements in any desired order, set up paragraphs, transparency, form, sizes etc. Top cloud website builders come with a rich set of quality templates that can be customized, designed from scratch in the editor or downloaded from the web as they are.

CMS vs Website Builder: Opting for CMS means accessing a wide selection of templates. You may choose a layout for any website type although some themes are paid. Website builders also offer a set of ready-made templates. However, their selection is sometimes pretty limited, while CMS functionality lets you change or customize any theme to implement the design you need considering you know how to code or work with HTML/CSS. Both options come with mobile-friendly templates.

Customer Support

  • CMS. Paid systems of this type generally have better customer support assistance. You will get time-limited premium tech support – just like the one you will avail when getting any licensed software. This period generally constitutes one year. As far as the upgrade to the next product version is generally paid, the tech support will be prolonged as well. However, situations differ and there may be various options here.

    Free CMS don’t have live online chats, offices, mailboxes, where the letters with questions or complaints can be found. Such systems are based on the communities of enthusiasts, supporting thematic blogs and forums. It goes without saying that if you encounter any problems when using these information sources, no one will compensate that. What’s more, it can be quite complicated to find out what exactly happened to your website and whether this is the fault of the hosting provider, user, platform or a developer of a low quality module.

  • Website Builder. As far as all the components of such systems come in a single set (software, hosting, platform), then it’s much simpler for website developers to control the way their product works. As a rule, such services are paid. Due to this feature, they frequently offer tech support, such as live chat, feedback email forms, an opportunity to get in touch with a manager. They have offices, licenses etc. So, if you face any problems, you can contact them when needed.

    As far as online services provide subscription-based customer support, its duration is generally unlimited. You enjoy all the benefits of the system, while using it. Such systems frequently offer website promotion services, custom made web creation etc. Professional website builders support forums, YouTube channels with educative videos, publish detailed FAQs, organize news blogs etc.

CMS vs Website Builder: Website builders come with more sophisticated and professional support. With CMS, you are actually left on your own with some third-party videos and discussion you may come across on the web. In other words, there is no dedicated CMS support unless you opt for paid platforms. Website builders come with full-scale assistance including live chats, phones, ticketing systems, video guides, custom blogs, and local communities.

5. Pricing Policy

The cost of platforms varies a lot. Almost all cloud website builders are subscription-based, which is quite logical. They provide hosting and often act as domain name registers (they just give it as a bonus). When using a free CMS, you also need to pay for the hosting with regard to the terms of your subscription.

  • The cost of CMS licenses differs as well and may reach up to $1000 and more. The most affordable of them may cost around $200-$300. It is also essential to consider the expenses on extra plugins and templates, if they are available. Thus, even the cheapest CMS may cost you around $600 (platform, hosting, domain name and template).

  • The cost of using website builders starts with $30-40 per year. Web developers often make discounts ranging from 15% and up to 50%. So, it is more difficult to calculate the exact expenses. A standard website will cost you around $100/year. If it is an online store, the cost will be around 2-4 times higher.

Generally, the cost of building a website with CMS may be higher or lower as compared to online services. There are many factors that affect the price. You can buy modules/plugins, programmer services, templates, standard or VPS hostings. The cost of platforms differs as well. It is simpler to pay for cloud services as their cost is more predictable and is reflected in the plans. What’s more, the actions are made in terms of a single account. You buy a plan and get everything you need (platform, hosting, domain name). This is simpler, more convenient and often cheaper.

CMS vs Website Builder: you are wrong to think that CMS will let you build a website at zero cost. You should consider hosting plans, paid templates, premium plugin versions. Domain registration and some other costs required to go online. The bad thing is that you need to handle every process separately. A website builder is an all-in-one solution. You pay only once and get free templates hosting, domain, SSS or other features depending on the plan. As a result, we have a website builder as even a more cost-effective solution.

DIY Website Development – Website Builder or CMS?

To make the final conclusion, let’s have a look at the major stages of the web design process. We’ll use Wix as one of the most popular website builders to illustrate the process of web development here:

Creating a Website With a Website Builder:

  1. Signing up for the service or through the email or social accounts.
  2. Selecting a website theme from a rich collection of modern responsive templates. Each template comes with a demo version that offers website preview on the screens of different mobile devices.
  3. Setting up the design and content of a website in a visual editor. No programming knowledge is needed here, the widgets are dragged and arranged with a mouse, the pages are easily added and deleted.
  4. Choosing a domain name. A third level domain is used during the trial period. Having upgraded to the premium plan, you can select a second level domain for your website.
  5. Filling out SEO settings of web pages for effective online promotion, publishing a website.
  6. Website design and content editing, publishing a website and saving changes.

You don’t need to learn programming languages or have special experience to complete these 7 steps. Any user can create a website with uKit in less than one day.

Cost. The final website cost will include the cost of the 2nd level domain (around $11/year) and that of the premium plan ($36/year with a promo code). General cost of using a website builder will constitute $47/year.

Creating a Website With a CMS:

Let’s have a look at the stages of building a website with WordPess CMS now.

  1. Purchasing a domain name – you should find a good and trustworthy registrar at first.
  2. Choosing hosting – you should select among thousands of hosting providers and dozens of hosting plans.
  3. Installing CMS (manual or automatic depending upon the hosting features).
  4. Creating and connecting a database.
  5. Selecting and installing a theme.
  6. Setting up the theme in the dashboard, including the background, titles, fonts, menu, widgets.
  7. Setting up CMS. This includes filling out website name and description, changing the regular link type, installing a plugin to add SEO settings, creating back ups, unauthorized access protection, anti-spam features and other important functions.
  8. Creating web pages.
  9. Publishing content.

It takes more time to set up CMS, especially if you do that for the first time. You’ll have to watch the tutorial, read manuals and forums to understand how to create appealing posts or a dynamic homepage. You can’t just take and change the positions of blocks at the web page. You have a template and you can add widgets in the sidebar, create a menu in a dashboard, but you’ll have to edit the code in the CSS editor to change the comments form or perform any other simple operation.

Cost. The cost of creating a website with CMS includes a domain name ($11/year), hosting (quality hosting will cost around $60/year), website theme ($50), a set of plugins ($50-$150). Thus, general cost of a simple WordPress website constitutes around $170-$250 granted that you develop it on your own.

Pros and Cons of CMS and Website Builder Use

Service: Website Builder CMS
Advantages: Ease of use.
Speed of website creation in a visual editor (from several hours and up to a couple of days).
Technical support provided by web developers.
Extensive opportunities of creating different types of websites, ranging from blogs and up to online stores.
Rich choice of extensions for advanced functionality.
Website editor available in visual and HTML regimes, which allows users to learn HTML basics.
Disadvantages Serious restrictions in editing website code structure.
Inadequate multi-functionality (as compared with CMS).
Inability to transfer a website to another hosting or website builder.
Necessity to learn programming languages to interact with the system, including template change, addition of new widgets etc.
It is a user, who is responsible for the condition of the system, its safety and updates.


Both CMS and website builders might be good for launching a site from scratch. However, you need to clearly realize your website goals and purposes it should serve. You need to think ahead about the way you want to interact with the audience and tools you might want for that. In this case, it will be obvious, which platform is a better option and why.

CMSCMS is a better alternative for experienced web designers and coders who are not afraid of complexity and need to create a unique web project with custom-made design. It is great for those who are able to handle various processes separately, do not require a ready-made solution, and crave for maximum freedom in terms of flexibility, integration or web design.

Website builderWebsite builder is a simpler, faster, and more affordable way for newbies to deploy their new web projects. It is super easy to use. It delivers all necessary functions and features out of the box depending on the site type. You pay only once and get a ready-to-use tool with no need to care about updates, domain or hosting.

Summing up, website builders are taking the digital arena by storm offering a growing number of newbies amazing building tools to come up with a ready-to-publish project at minimum time. CMS is still pretty popular although new AI-based and other website building instruments are pushing brick-to-mortar software back.

Overview Comparison Chart

Software: Website Builder CMS
Best for: Small business, portfolios, local online stores Large projects, portals, online hypermarkets
Easiness Best for non-techies Learn, learn and learn again – too hard for newbies
Website Templates: Predesigned free templates, which could be easily customized Lots of templates, but you should select it with care – some of them are low quality
Technical Support: Strong support team Free CMS don’t have any official support except users’ community
SEO Options: Powerful SEO tools You have to install external plugins to manage website’s SEO in a proper way

About the Author

I'm Howard Steele, the founder and editor-in-chief of this website. With over 10 years of web building I know how complicated and tiresome this task can be for a non-IT person. Can’t decide which service to choose? Feel free to ask me for advice. Just describe your website needs, and I’ll gladly help you.

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