The eternal battle between SaaS website builders and open source platforms is on. Some people still opt for open source software due to its affordability, functionality, flexibility, etc. While being publicly accessible, open source platforms are easy to customize, modify and share.
They attract more and more enthusiasts to offer some great new widgets or fine-tuning tools. This fact reserves more space for implementing various web design and feature ideas. On the other hand, what seems to be a good choice, at first sight, might turn into a challenge when it comes to the website building process.
Using open source software can be too difficult. The things might get even worse due to a lack of technical support and other crucial issues. This is where SaaS website builder may turn out to be a better alternative.
We Tested Out 5 Of The Best Open Source Website Builders:
SaaS website software appears to be a more functional alternative. Most platforms come as an all-in-one solution. They are easier to use. The package includes a free domain, hosting, templates and features you might need for each particular website type. Let’s review some of the top options listed above:
Wix – The Best FREE SaaS Website Builder (drag and drop)
Wix – is a platform, which meets several goals at a time. The software lets newbies come up with any website type within a couple of hours. From professional blogs, portfolios and business cards to eCommerce and small business suites – Wix offers various packages with a set of features:
- Stunning Templates – Wix boasts probably the widest selection of templates divided into different categories. All templates are mobile friendly. Users will also appreciate the website mobile preview mode.
- Simple Editing – You can easily edit the website yourself or opt for Wix ADI tool. The AI-based instrument will offer a website layout in accordance with your needs. Wix Dynamic Pages make it easy to create a single web page layout for multiple uses.
- Wix App Store – Choose from a huge selection of add-ons and widgets to customize your website. The availability of third-party integration adds more flexibility to the software. You can create any type of website adding payment options, analytics, blogging section, etc.
- All-in-One Package – Once you have chosen a plan, you get hosting, domain, templates and other features totally free in addition to SSL security, unlimited bandwidth and storage depending on the plan.
The software has a free plan to let you check if the system meets your expectations.
WordPress – Open Source CMS & eCommerce Web Platform
WordPress – is a trusted CMS and the best open-source alternative to SaaS. It is the veteran of the web design niche and one of the top contemporary website building tools. Easily customizable with lots of extensions and plugins, WordPress boasts the following features:
- Relatively Simple Editing – WordPress is much easier to edit of compared to the rest of CMS platforms. It has a simple interface and numerous visual editing extensions like Elementor or Divi. You will get used to it pretty fast. Once you have learned how everything works, you will find the website management rather simple.
- Enormous Collection of Themes and Plugins – One will hardly find a wider selection of plugins and themes to any type of website. Whether you need a solid webshop template or professional blog, you can choose from both free and paid themes and customize them with plugins for eCommerce, SEO, email marketing, etc. Keep in mind that free themes will require some extra customization to stand out.
- Endless Design Capabilities – Are you good at PHP or HTML? WordPress is right for you. Simple access the editor’s mode through the dashboard and edit the code as you like, add new scripts, shortcodes, etc.
Another great advantage is that WordPress is a totally free platform. However, it offers the only platform without a domain name or hosting. It is still possible to use Bluehost as the official hosting provider recommended by WordPress, which encompasses affordability and functionality.
GrapesJS – Multi-Purpose Open-Source Web Builder Framework
GrapesJS – is a free open source web builder framework that is used to launch an extensive variety of projects. The system encompasses a rich toolset and multiple features that have the same goal – to build HTML projects without any coding knowledge at all. It takes some effort and time to master the system, which may pose a problem for non-skilled designers or first-timers. Here is the list of features that make the framework a worthy choice:
- Drag-and-Drop Integrated Blocks – The platform allows creating website templates and layout out of built-in content blocks provided in stock. If their amount is not enough for some reason, you can add your own custom blocks and arrange the settings;
- Responsive Design – GrapesJS grants access to the toolset needed to create responsive website design. This lets you design themes, which look great on different mobile and desktop devices;
- Unlimited Styling Options – The system introduces a powerful and quite understandable Style Manager module that makes it possible to give any website component independent look and unique style. Additionally, it is possible to modify its settings to use any CSS properties;
- Code Accessibility – There is no need to bother about code accessibility. It is always available in the system so that you could use and edit it anywhere and anytime;
- Asset Manager – GrapesJS Asset Manager lets you easily organize and edit media files to make them fit your website style and structure in the best way possible.
GrapesJS is initially used as a free platform yet it supports the donation option that lets any user financially contribute to the system’s budget to enhance its performance. The system allows for three contribution options, namely Custom Contribution (one-time/recurring investment, no fixed cost), Backers (monthly donations, the costs starts at $2/mo) and Sponsors (regular sponsorship rewarded with extra advantages, cost starts at $100/mo).
Elementor – The Best Website Builder Plugin for WordPress
Elementor – is a popular WordPress plugin used for the development of web pages. The plugin, which is also known as a free page builder, delivers flexible and deep feature set, which is quite easy to master and use. You can launch and manage literally all types of websites with it, giving them one-of-a-kind functionality. Listed below are the major features that make Elementor a smart choice for each WordPress user:
- Front-End Page Builder – The system is the front-end page builder that provides real-time preview of all the edits you make while working on your project. The system provides you with the list of modules or elements you can pick and drag to your website (videos, texts, headings, images, buttons etc.);
- Templates and Blocks – Elementor comes with a set of page templates and blocks (About Us, CTA buttons, user testimonials, FAQs etc.) you can choose for your individual project. Template and block integration takes a few minutes only, which is a time-saving solution for everyone;
- Compatibility with WordPress Themes – Elementor is compatible with all WordPress themes, both free and paid;
- Extensive Feature Set – Elementor abounds in high end features that contribute to the plugin performance. These include website personalization options, mobile responsive nature, powerful popup builder, integrated theme builder, header/footer builder etc.
Elementor is a free WordPress plugin, which works pretty well for a standard simple website. To give your project high end performance and appealing design, though, it makes sense to upgrade to one of three premium plans. These include Personal ($49/year), Plus ($99/year) and Expert ($199/year) subscriptions.
Symfony – Free Open Source Web Design Software
Symfony – is a high performance open source PHP-based micro-framework, which is used to create advanced and complicated web apps. The software has been used as a substitute to Silex – an open-source website builder, which is out of use nowadays. Symfony application does not imply the knowledge of coding basics, which saves time for website development. Community of users contributes to the functionality of the software, offering their own modules, components and elements. Here are the major advantages the software boasts:
- Extensive Design Customization – Symfony comes with powerful design customization options that allows creating user-focused apps. It currently offers 3 types of project customization, including Full Stack, Brick by Brick and Micro Framework options;
- Easy Testing – Symfony simplifies the process of unit testing via the application of integrated PHP Unit Independent Library. It comes with a trusted set of tools that can be effectively used for functional and behavioural unit testing. The software stimulates HTTP requests, verifying the output without any coding or scripts involved;
- Rich Set of Components – Symfony components are represented as reusable and decoupled PHP libraries. There are hundreds of them you can use to develop your own applications. These include BrowserKit, Cache, Asset, ClassLoader, Config, Console, Contracts, CssSelector, Debug, ErrorHandler, EventDispatcher, Filesystem, Inflector, Lpck, Locale and many more.
Symfony is a free software that was created in 2005 to be further released under the MIT license. It is sponsored by SensioLabs, which is the French-based software developer and provider of professional services.
Open Source Website Builders: Myth or Reality?
Despite all the popularity of open source software, it has always been surrounded by myths and delusions. This fact results in certain misconceptions whenever you get to the website building process. To avoid any of those, you need to have a clear understanding of what to expect from the chosen platform. It is high time we figured out which of those myths are true and false.
True or False: Open Source Platforms are Free
When we say “FREE” open source software, we do not actually mean zero monetary costs. It more refers to freedom that open source platforms provide. However, they are not totally free. You should be ready to pay for:
- Domain and hosting.
- Premium widest and integrations.
- Each new upgrade or modification help by third parties or custom developers.
Moreover, some website builders do not provide any information regarding any available integrations. Considering the fact, that the platform is relatively new, it seems like they are hoping to generate as many users as they can to show up with some extra charges for widgets and more customization tools. A few things can be free in our world. The product development requires some costs and involvement even when held by enthusiasts.
The Verdict: False.
True or False: Open Source Software is Licensed
However, there are no particular relations between a user and the platform’s developers. Every time you access the code, you do it at your own risk without any warranty. On the other hand, the vendor can charge extra fees for accessing or modifying the code. It means the developer sells you the right to use and customize the software but not the platform itself.
The Verdict: False.
True or False: Open Source Software is Easy to Use
Those who have tried open source platforms at least once would never say so. The software might only seem to be pretty easy at first glance. As a rule, adding or editing content is never a challenge. However, the slights update or customization may require additional technical skills without mention web design modification when accessing software.
Setting some plugins can also be rather hard for non-technician. It will take some precious time. For example, it will take you about 4 hours to learn how to use the Silex open source platform and less than 1 hour to learn how to use Wix SaaS website builder.
The Verdict: False.
True or False: Open Source Platforms Have Poor Support
You should never count on 24/7 customer support helpdesk when opting for this type of software. While being open source, the platforms can be used by multiple companies and development teams. They are not obliged to deliver any support.
On the other hand, most proven leaders in the niche offer users’ communities, forums, and guides. They come as a huge relief for those who face technical or other issues. On the other hand, the community unites the same users. The answers do not guarantee a quick resolution. Forums can hardly be considered as a professional customer support.
The Verdict: True
True or False: Open Source Platforms are Well Secured
Open source software is certainly good when it comes to reliability and digital security. The system offers constant updates you need to handle manually. On the other hand, we should consider the fact that most settings, plugins, and widgets are delivered by third-party development teams and web design enthusiasts.
Can you guarantee their products are 100% safe? Hardly. Nevertheless, open source platforms have been serving pretty well since their debut back in the 90’s. We can assume they are reliable enough though nothing is perfect in the digital world.
The Verdict: True
The Bottom Line
Open source software might look like a great option considering its affordability, flexibility and some other great features. However, users are very likely to face several stumbling blocks on the way to deploying a ready-to-use website. Despite many years on the web, open source programs are far from being perfect especially considering complex customization and web design tools that require special knowledge.
SaaS website builders look like a safer, cheaper and easier solution for non-technicians and those who have a value for time and money. They represent the latest web technologies in the face of AI-solutions in addition to tons of great features and functions. They have certainly proved to be a better, faster and more cost-effective solution to build different types of websites from scratch within several hours.