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CMS vs Website Builder

Everyone, who is proficient in website building, knows that there are two effective tools to build a website, namely CMS and website builders. We won’t get involved in the everlasting debates regarding the best solution. Let’s better differentiate the specialization of these systems, considering their distinctive features. The truth is somewhere in between. We’ll find out now, when it’s better to use CMS and when a website builder proves to be a better choice.

To compare these system types, let’s point out their distinctive features now:

  • CMS require hosting installation, domain purchasing and more complicated management (databases, a variety of settings, safety support, manual updates etc.). Website builders are out-of-the-box tools, which don’t take any hosting setting effort, installation etc. You get all the features at a time.
  • CMS are generally more powerful than website builders. They offer direct code access through FTP, an opportunity to connect extra plugins, modules etc.
  • Website builders generally come with a rich template choice. CMS mainly offer 3-5 basic templates. You need either to purchase and install a quality theme, develop the one of your own or improve a standard one.

The conclusion is obvious: website builders are more convenient and user-friendly, while CMS are more functional, although, they require more advanced skills to be used effectively. Both system types include simple and highly complicated platforms. We’ll focus on the common services not to confuse you.

CMS vs Website Builder Comparison Chart

Software:Website BuilderCMS
Best for:Small business, portfolios, local online storesLarge projects, portals, online hypermarkets
EasinessBest for non-techiesLearn, learn and learn again – too hard for newbies
Website Templates:Predesigned free templates, which could be easily customizedLots of templates, but you should select it with care – some of them are low quality
Technical Support:Strong support teamFree CMS don’t have any official support except users’ community
SEO Options:Powerful SEO toolsYou have to install external plugins to manage website’s SEO in a proper way

So, if you deal with the development of client projects, it makes sense to use website builders. The majority of clients can’t even tell what exactly they want and they won’t be able to answer a question like “What web building tool should be used to create your website?” They would prefer to use a better option. In this case, a website builder will work better. You’ll just let your client know the login/password info, show the major principles etc. Everything a client will have to do afterwards is to make a yearly payment and that’s it.

Wix Dashboard

If you launch a CMS-based website, you’ll do an ill service both to you and your client, who will keep calling you every two weeks, asking questions that seem weird and obvious to you. As soon as hosting expires, you’ll be contacted again etc. Yes, you’ll be able to make money servicing and consulting your clients. Is this your major business goal?

Isn’t it better to make profit by developing/promoting projects rather than to solve lots of minor problems every day?

If your client base is large, you’ll be tired of repeating the same answers over and over again. It doesn’t matter a lot for an experienced web master what system type to use. This is because you know everything and can cope with the most complicated tasks. However, this choice matters a lot for clients with zero web design knowledge, even though, they won’t find that out until the time comes. As soon as they understand that, your phone will be overloaded with calls.

WordPress Dashboard

Thus, the major advantage of website builders is their maintenance convenience and short learning curve for newbies. It’s easy to create promo websites and landing pages as well as custom-made business websites with them. If you need an appealing website for personal use created within a short time period, this solution will work well for you as well.

What’s the purpose of using CMS? These systems are needed to develop client websites with notable budget that require ongoing maintenance, such as online stores, for example. They are also great for projects that require monetization, like websites for personal profit. You just create, promote and maintain a website on your own to make money with it.

So, website builders are meant for clients, while CMS work well for personal monetization as well as for clients with notable budgets, who are ready to pay for their website maintenance and servicing.

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:

Using a Website Builder

  • Signing up for the service or through the email or social accounts.
  • Wix - Signup

  • 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.
  • Wix - Pick a Template

  • 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.
  • Wix - Site Editor

  • 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.
  • Wix - Choose a Domain

  • Filling out SEO settings of web pages for effective online promotion, publishing a website.
  • Wix - SEO Wiz

  • Website design and content editing, publishing a website and saving changes.
  • Wix - Publish

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.

Using a CMS

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

  • Purchasing a domain name – you should find a good and trustworthy registrar at first.
  • CMS - Domain Search

  • Choosing hosting – you should select among thousands of hosting providers and dozens of hosting plans.
  • CMS - Hosting Search

  • Installing CMS (manual or automatic depending upon the hosting features).
  • CMS - Install CMS

  • Creating and connecting a database.
  • CMS - Install Database

  • Selecting and installing a theme.
  • CMS - Add a Theme

  • Setting up the theme in the dashboard, including the background, titles, fonts, menu, widgets.
  • CMS -Customize Theme

  • 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.
  • CMS Plugins

  • 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.

Bottom Line

Having reviewed the stages of developing and setting up websites in a cloud website builder and CMS, we can point out the advantages and disadvantages of each system type.

Service:Website BuilderCMS
  • 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.
  • 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.

When making a choice between a website builder and CMS, it’s crucial to correctly assess website functionality and main features of the tools used. If you need a simple promo website or a landing page, then creating it with a powerful system can be compared to asking a professor to solve simple mathematical assignments. He will, undoubtedly, cope with them, but his potential will remain unused.

An opposite situation – an attempt to launch a complex multi-functional website with a website builder – will be incorrect as well. The frames set by developers will soon put a user down. Such situations result in complaints that website builders are absolutely senseless services, which don’t allow creating anything useful at all. These are the thoughts of people, who have not assessed the complexity of their tasks adequately and, thus, have made the wrong choice.

So first things first set up main goals of your future website and only after that make a choice for a CMS or a Website Builder.

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