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.
CMS – is a more complex platform that usually comes as an open-source solution. This means no limitations in terms of web designing and customization, although, coding proficiency is highly recommended here. Website 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.
|Best for:||Complex personal/business projects, including landing pages, business websites, portfolios, web stores, blogs etc.||All types of business and personal websites, including promo and business projects, blogs, landing pages, web stores, portfolios etc.|
|Easiness:||Above average/complex||Simple to complicated|
|Templates:||Hundreds of responsive customizable templates||Multiple mobile-ready, niche-specific designs|
|Technical Support:||Extensive community support, tutorials, informative forums, video and text resources etc.||Powerful knowledge base, ticketing system, VIP support, phone and live chat assistance, video and text tutorials etc.|
|Blogging Options:||Integrated blogging platform or blogging plugins||Built-in blogging platform|
|SEO Options:||Standard SEO settings||Extensive SEO features|
|Pricing:||Free and paid solutions||Freemium models as well as free and paid subscriptions|
So, what is the difference between cms and website builder? Thus comparison is to stress the main hits and misses of both platforms defining the one that will serve your particular goals the most.
CMS vs Website Builder: General Overview
CMS is a Content Management System, which allows completing different types of web design tasks. The platforms usually come as open-source solutions that require download and installation before proceeding to the website design process. CMS are mostly quite complicated for beginners as they also imply extensive integration options. There are lots of plugins and themes designed by third-party developers for each of these systems. Their integration can add to the functionality of projects that are under development.
Good knowledge of HTML and CSS will let you create literally any webpage with self-crafted elements and blocks to make your site stand out from competitors. To achieve your goals, you need to have good coding experience and technical background.
Website builder is a simpler alternative to CMS, which especially matters a lot for first-timers. These systems mostly come with usage guidelines that help users cope with all the stages of the website design process with minimum time/effort investment. Website builders generally have ready-made DIY elements as well as drag-and-drop functionality, which also simplifies the process of website creation for all user categories. This is what makes the use of these systems quite simple, straightforward and convenient.
The software provides readymade templates and layouts with built-in features, apps, and add-ons, while third-party integration might still be available. The prevailing number of website builders also come with integrated blogging and eCommerce engines. This allows starting feature-laden blogs and web stores, even if you don’t have such web design experience yet. Website builders offer multiple free and paid plans that come with versatile terms, tools and services so that you could pick the solution that works best for that very type of project you are currently working on.
Both CMS and website builders work well for the completion of diverse web design tasks. The systems provide extensive integration and design customization options. They make it possible to pick and edit niche templates. It is also possible to subscribe to any plan you consider suitable for your project and web design goals.
Website Builder vs CMS: Which One Is Easier to Use?
CMS is a program that has to be installed on hosting (remote server, that is, a disk in a special computer connected to the Internet). This is the offline 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.
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.
As to the customer support options, paid CMS 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 for 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 provides 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.
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).
As far as all the website builder components 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.
To sum it all up, 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, when working with CMS. 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.
CMS vs Website Builder: Design and Flexibility
CMS and website builders use different approaches to the process of website creation and customization. No wonder, they differ a lot when it comes to functionality, design and flexibility. To figure out the system, which has more to offer in this respect, it initially makes sense to compare their main parameters.
eCommerce and Blogging
CMS frequently don’t have a clear specialization (excluding specialized eCommerce software), 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.
eCommerce and blogging features also become available via integration of corresponding plugins, extensions or modules. Each system has a certain pack of such apps available both in stock and online. Your task is to browse them and pick those that work best for your type of project and web design preferences/requirements.
Website builders mostly come with integrated eCommerce and blogging platforms. This allows for easy, quick and hassle-free launch/customization of blogs and web stores that may differ in complexity and functionality. There are also specialized eCommerce website builders as well as systems, which work best for blog creation.
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.
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.
eCommerce and blog development is possible both with CMS and website builders. It’s up to you to define what type of project exactly you need and whether you have enough skills to work with each of these platforms.
Third-Party Apps and Extensions
CMS mostly 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.
Each CMS has its own modules, which are incompatible with other systems. This means that for the effective use of such system, 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.
Website builders generally come with settings, which are clearly outlined by their 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.
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.
As to the integration options, CMS provides access to more apps, plugins and widgets that can extend its initial functionality. There are hundreds of plugins available on the web, which make it possible to give your web project high end performance. Website builders also allow for external widget integrations, but the range of these features often depends upon the software you work with.
CMS usually provides several standard templates (generally, 3-6 themes, but this number can sometimes increase) after the installation of a website on hosting. 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.
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 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.
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.
Thus, 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.
CMS vs Website Builder: General Pricing Comparison
CMS is often downloaded and installed for free. Systems of this type come with a set of integrated features, tools, templates and special elements you may use, when working on your website development. If you realize that your project requires great flexibility, you may opt for more plugins and themes provided at extra cost. 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 a lot 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).
Website builders are generally subscription-based, which is quite logical. They provide hosting and often act as domain name registrars (they just give it as a bonus). 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. A website builder, in its turn, 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.
CMS vs Website Builder: Which One Is the Best for SEO?
CMS excels at search engine optimization of websites. This is because these programs don’t provide standard SEO settings by default. Instead, they make it possible to integrate multiple SEO plugins to contribute to better search engine optimization of your project. The choice of these plugins is really extensive and depends upon the CMS you plan to go for. All in all, installation of external SEO plugins is required to solve problems with duplicated pages, work with human-friendly URLs etc.These extensions differ in their cost, functionality, integration complexity. It’s up to you to pick those that match your current website promotion needs.
Website builder comes with a set of integrated SEO tools and features provided out of the box. These tools may differ in their functionality and complexity as well. This frequently depends upon the software you work with. Some website builders offer standard SEO settings, which are enough to cover the basic website optimization needs only. Others, on the contrary, pay special attention to this aspect, offering advanced SEO functionality. In most cases, these settings are available in a separate section of the system dashboard – just fill out the required fields to boost your website positions in the search engines.
When it tackles the SEO aspect, it’s up to the system to offer the parameters to match your project requirements. The difference is that CMS often require integration of external SEO widgets and extensions, while website builders provide them out of the box. This is more convenient and simpler in the prevailing amount of cases.
CMS vs Website Builder: Which One Is Better for a Small Business Website?
CMS is a nice pick for small business website development. This is especially true, if you expect to start a full-featured project to boost your company rating on the web and to attract more customers/potential investors. These platforms make it possible to choose the preferred template as there are lots of them available on the web. The same is about the set of design customization tools. Irrespective of the system you will go for, the chances that you will need to choose and integrate third-party plugins for your business project are quite high. Fortunately, there are lots of them available on the web – just browse the collection and choose those that cover your business needs most.
Website builder is a perfect solution, when it comes to small business website creation as well. Most of these systems offer splendid collections of responsive designs to fit almost any business niche. The selection of business tools is also versatile and impressive. Additionally, website builders frequently offer specialized business-focused tools (like Wix Ascend platform, for example), which are meant to make your business successful and profitable. Such tools ensure quality business presentation, promotion, marketing and monetization, but the choice still depends upon the platform you plan to work with.
As to small business website development, both types of systems make it possible to start and customize this type of web project with regard to your needs. While CMS is more associated with plugin integration required for business website creation/promotion, website builders deliver almost all the must-have feature set out-of-the box. This eventually saves your effort, time and budget.
Which One Is the Best for eCommerce – CMS or Website Builder?
CMS eCommerce functionality is certainly above the average, irrespective of the software you will work with. The thing is that CMS allows creating and managing almost all types of online stores – ranging from simple ones and up to feature-laden complex projects. It’s just that you will have to face the need of plugin integration to make your web store stand out from the crowd. Each CMS has a certain set of eCommerce plugins developed specifically to match its specifications. Some of them are free, but the prevailing amount of quality and safe eCommerce extensions are still paid. They will let you set up payment/tax/shipping parameters, create and update product galleries, upload and sell physical/digital products, create mobile-optimized product pages, set geolocation and language parameters, issue special offers etc. The plugin is free and it comes with a set of out-of-the-box features. These are the opportunity to upload and sell physical and digital products, issue coupon codes, create mobile-optimized projects, set geolocation tags and safety parameters etc.
Website builder also lets you start all types of online stores- both small and large. When you just start thinking about this typeof project, it makes sense to choose from standard (all-in-one) and specialized eCommerce website builders. Both types of programs come with integrated eCommerce engines that allow customizing and setting up the required web store parameters. Specialized systems, however, offer more advanced and flexible eCommerce management features and, thus, work better for large eCommerce projects that excel at functionality, SEO, marketing and design customization options. However, if you need a standard online store, most website builders will let you start it with ease. You will be offered a collection of eCommerce templates to choose from as well as the major web store-related features. That’s very easy and quick, indeed.
As to eCommerce website creation, CMS and website builders make it possible to run any types of web stores. The problem is about the complexity of the project you intend to start, the budget you plan to spend and the skills you have to complete the task on your own. CMS requires eCommerce plugin installation, which obviously implies special programming proficiency. Website builders provide basic eCommerce functionality by default, which simplifies the web design approach.
Which One to Choose for Blogging – CMS or Website Builder
CMS works well, when it comes to blog creation. Some platforms, like WordPress, for example, were initially created for blogging purposes and, thus, come with powerful integrated blogging engines. Most systems, however, are multi-functional and you need to integrate blogging extensions to get started with your project. This is how you will be able to add and edit your blog posts, get access to multiple blog management and customization tools, integrated media files., adjust SEO parameters etc. Get ready to invest some effort and time into blog development with CMS because of the complexity of these systems.
Website builder blogging functionality is also on a high level. These platforms grant access to multiple blog templates and a variety of design customization tools to give them a required look. Their admin panels and dashboards are quite intuitive, which lets you update and customize the project on your own. What you can do there is uploading new posts and editing the existing ones, scheduling new publications, inserting media files, adjusting social media parameters and SEO settings and what not.
As to blog development, you can equally work with CMS and website builders. It’s all about the complexity of the project and your programming awareness. If your web design proficiency is on a high level and you wish to start a feature-laden blog, then CMS might be a good choice. In case you are still a newbie and need a standard blog for personal everyday use, then choosing a website builder will be a smart solution.
Key Differences Between CMS and Website Builder
|Ease of Use:||CMS is not the easiest web design platform you may ick for your project. It takes much time to explore and master it even for professionals, not to mention newbies.||Website builder works best for non-techies as they are quite convenient, intuitive and easy to use. At the same time, these systems have much to offer to web design pros, which depends upon the platform you will go for.|
|Functionality:||The system makes it possible to create quite complicated web projects for personal and business use. Due to its deep and powerful plugin integration options, CMS ensures impressive project flexibility and functionality.||Website builder is a feature-laden system. It provides advanced integration options along with website promotion and management parameters. The choice depends upon the type of the platform you will go for. Website builders allow creating all kinds of projects, such as business websites, blogs, web stores, portfolios, landing pages etc.|
|Design:||CMS abounds in designs available in stock and on the web. You can choose from free and paid themes, but make sure they are actually secure and quality. In many cases, template customization implies coding knowledge. This may be a problem for newbies.||Website builders come with pre-designed free and paid responsive (often niche-specific) templates, which could be easily customized. They are provided out-of-the-box and can frequently be switched during the design development process.|
|eCommerce:||CMS often don’t have built-in eCommerce engines, but they make it possible to integrate third-party eCommerce plugins for greater project flexibility.||Website builder mostly comes with an integrated eCommerce engine and a set of tools that let you start a web store.|
|Blogging:||The system doesn’t have a built-in blogging engine, which makes blog creation impossible by default. However, most CMS allow for blogging engine integration.||Website builders mostly offer integrated blogging functionality. It’s up to you to pick a design and start a blog with the system of your choice.|
|Small Business:||CMS grants access to multiple plugins, which are specially designed for the creation of small business websites.||With website builders, you can reach multiple tools, templates and features required for small business website development.|
|Pricing:||CMS is free for download and installation. The system still requires investments into templates, plugins, hosting and domain name.||Website builders offer free and paid subscriptions. Some of them provide free trials to test the functionality of the system you expect to use.|
|SEO:||You have to install external plugins to manage website’s SEO in a proper way.||The system allows setting up website SEO parameters with regard to the project type and your personal project preferences.|
|Customer Support:||No official customer support, extensive worldwide user community||Strong customer support team, live chat/phone/email support, powerful Knowledge Base, tutorials and video resources|
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:
- Signing up for the service or through the email or social accounts.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Filling out SEO settings of web pages for effective online promotion, publishing a website.
- 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 Wix in less than one day.
Cost. The final website cost will include the cost of the 2nd level domain (free for the first year for .com, .net, .org TLDs or $10-$15 for other zones) and that of the premium plan ($50/year with a 50% discount). General cost of using a website builder will constitute $50-$60/year.
Creating a Website With a CMS:
Let’s have a look at the stages of building a website with WordPress CMS now.
- Purchasing a domain name – you should find a good and trustworthy registrar at first.
- Choosing hosting – you should select among thousands of hosting providers and dozens of hosting plans.
- Installing CMS (manual or automatic depending upon the hosting features).
- Creating and connecting a database.
- Selecting and installing a theme.
- Setting up the theme in the dashboard, including the background, titles, fonts, menu, widgets.
- 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.
- Creating web pages.
- 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 a Website Builder and CMS Use
|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.
Comparison Conclusion: Which One Is Better?
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.
CMS 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 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.