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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. To prove all mentioned above, let’s dive deeply in comparing website builders and CMS.

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. The major distinction between these two systems is about the necessity to work in several interfaces, when it comes to CMS, and installation of extra plugins (we’ll talk about this further). A newbie can easily get lost here. Cloud systems come with more tips and generally offer a clear working strategy: the system slowly drives you from one stage of work to another, showing the samples of actions.

Speaking about CMS tech support, it is less responsive as well (free systems don’t have it at all and it is available only to user communities). Unfortunately, many CMS don’t have a certain specialization, which complicates the process of working with them (you need to understand what exactly these systems lack to solve your task, install the required tools and set them up).

Cloud website builders guarantee the result right from the start. These systems have diverse rate result control and adherence to user expectations. CMS are more complicated from all points of view. What’s more, they don’t guarantee the safety of website work (you have to manually control this process). Cloud website builders will work both for web design pros and newbies, but with diverse motivation. The more advanced online services become, the less beneficial the application of CMS for an ordinary user is.

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. Theoretically, CMS offer more features, but their use is actually more complicated because of the high module fragmentation: not all of them work well and are compatible with other components. You may eventually face website security problems after their installation or spoil it at all. So, if you have already decided to use CMS, you should obligatory have a fresh backup version of your website at hand, especially if you are going to experiment with modules and settings.

Cloud website builders balance between functionality required to solve a particular task and convenience. It’s simpler to use them and there are no extra components here. If you need more, then you can expand the options by means of installing applications (if there are any) or synchronization with external services. Generally, CMS are more powerful due to the access to website code and chaos triggered by a large amount of modules, but they are also more complicated in use. However, decent out-of-the-box services always offer more functionality than a standard CMS.


  • 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 (like WordPress, for example), 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 should 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. Both system types offer a broad range of serious options regarding website design. CMS mainly focus on the improvement of readymade templates via web code editing, while cloud website builders make it possible to design websites by means of using a visual editor. However, some CMS also have visual editors and many cloud services allow editing CSS codes of their templates. Rich assortment of readymade themes depends upon the chosen platform in both cases. General rule, however, tells that the market leaders in both types of systems offer a better selection of products than their competitors.

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. It goes without saying that general quality of tech support is better in website builders as all of them are commercial-based. It is also easier for web developers to control their websites’ safety, quality of services and apps provided as well as other separate functions. As a result, users get quick answers to their questions, have a better understanding of their problems and decide them much quicker.

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 VPN hosting. 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.

Read also:
How Much Does It Cost to Build a Website – deep research of website creating cost using different services.

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 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.

  • 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.


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.

CMS also come with functionality limitations, which are defined by the amount of basic settings and external plugins. However, you get more control over the website code here. So, if you wish to write plugins and design templates on your own, you can easily do that here. If you lack skills to do that, it doesn’t make sense to choose CMS at all.

When it comes to the cost aspect, a typical Website Builder is often cheaper than CMS as all the expenses are obvious right from the start. Just have a look at the pricing plans to find out the monthly/yearly cost of a website. CMS prices are not that obvious as the cost of a website comprises lots of price aspects.

As a result, it is often more beneficial to use a Website Builder. An exception is when you need a large-scale website – a portal, a hypermarket or anything like that. In this case, you’ll need code access, specific modules and full control over the hosting. These features distinguish the essence of CMS from that of cloud website builders.

If you need a blog, a business website, a local online store, a portfolio or a landing page, then it’s simpler and more beneficial to create these websites with website builders. This is especially true, if you are a newbie. What you will get is decent tech support and website safety level. For the majority of people, the use of a Website Builder is the most suitable option. You just need to choose the system that works great for your task.

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