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 7 Of The Best Open Source Website Builders:
- Wix – The Best FREE SaaS Website Builder (drag and drop)
- WordPress – Open Source CMS & eCommerce Web Platform
- GrapesJS – Multi-purpose Open-source Web Builder Framework
- Symfony – Free Open Source Web Design Software
- Publii – Static Site CMS for Safe and Stylish Websites
- openElement – Free Web App with a WYSIWYG Interface
- Subrion – Free Open Source Content Management System
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).
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.
Publii – Static Site CMS for Safe and Stylish Websites
Publii – is a static site CMS for safe and stylish websites, which makes the process of creating professional projects simple and hassle-free even for newbies. This is the downloadable software, which is available for Windows, Mac and Linux. As opposed to other advanced static site generators, Publii comes with a user-friendly and intuitive UI, where everyone can add and edit posts and other required content. The software also offers multiple design customization options, styling tools, built-in themes and add-ons to create truly unique and personalized projects. Have a look at the major system avantages now:
- Great for Different Web Projects – As a Static Site Generator, Publii works great for the development of blogs, portfolios and company websites. The software makes it possible to launch, modify, customize and manage as many projects as you need at a time from the single app, using instant switching option. No coding, HTML or database installation are required to launch quality projects with the system;
- Google AMP Technology – The software grants an opportunity to start and run a stylish professional project that will display great both on desktop and mobile devices. This becomes possible due to the integrated Google AMP Technology;
- Shared Website Management – As a desktop app, Publii allows creating, updating and customizing websites offline either independently or with a team of other web developers. Just share a project via Dropbox or other cloud storage software to grant access rights to other members;
- WP Importer – Due to the availability of the integrated WP Importer tool, it is possible to migrate your blog posts, categories, websites pages and other assets from WordPress in less than a few minutes;
- Three Web Editors – The process of post editing becomes simple, smooth and convenient due to the availability of three editors to match your skills, goals and needs. The Block Editor allows getting full control over your web page, the Markdown Editor lets you deal with tech nuances, while the WYSIWYG Editor makes it possible to control all the steps of the web design process in action;
- Powerful Synchronization – Publii allows for one-click synchronization with the most popular external services, including GitHub, Netlify, GitLab, SFTP, Google Cloud, AWS, FTP and more.
Publii is initially a free open-source software. This means that everyone can download and use the system without any fees at all. However, the platform supports donation options, encouraging users to contribute to its development. You can make one-time or monthly donations to help the software develop and expand its functionality.
openElement – Free Web App with a WYSIWYG Interface
openElement – is a free web app with a WYSIWYG interface, which was developed for professionals involved in the development of custom creative projects. This is quite a straightforward and powerful web design tool, which requires preliminary exploration. It takes time to master it yet the projects launched with the system are professional and feature-rich. openElement automatically generates all the necessary codes to ensure proper website functioning. This eliminates the need to dive deep into the code editing process. Listed below are the most distinctive highlights of the software:
- Convenient Visual Editing – The platform makes it possible to control all the stages of the project development process in the convenient WYSIWYG interface, using several built-in elements. they are pre-designed, functional and adaptable at a time.
- Coding Support – The software supports CSS3, HTML, jQuery and responsive design. This makes it possible to customize the template absolutely from scratch to avail powerful performance and high end design.
- Integration of Elements – The system allows integrating pre-programmed objects into website pages. These objects are known as Elements and their list is quite extensive. Some of the elements include images, text areas, galleries, videos, contact forms, maps, blog items, product pages, banner page, logo etc. To simplify the choice, they are divided into several categories with regard to their implication.
- Multilingual Websites – With openElement, you can create multilingual websites to target international audience and clients and to reach the goals you set.
- Cross-Browser Compatibility – The software is compatible with various browsers, namely Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Opera, Safari and Internet Explorer.
openElement is absolutely free for everyone. There are no restrictions or ads here, which allows using the integrated functionality of the system just as you wish.
Subrion – Free Open Source Content Management System
Subrion – is a free open source Content Management System and framework, which makes it possible to create websites for any purpose, be it a forum, a blog or a large corporate portal. The software is PHP/MySQL-based, which allows for great flexibility and powerful design customization. The software offers lots of free HTML5/CSS3 themes as well as integrable plugins to boost your project performance. This is quite a good choice for web agencies and individual website developers, who adopt the decision to start a web-based business yet lack technical skills and expertise to do that. It’s high time to browse the list of Subrion merits now:
- Framework API – The software allows for easy and convenient integration of third-party elements. This can be done by means of using the advanced Subrion framework API to let you add the required stuff like plugins, packages, hooks and other elements;
- Built-In Themes and Plugins – There is no need to look for templates and plugins elsewhere. All the themes are available in the admin dashboard from the start. One-click installation is required to start using any of them;
- Powerful Blogging Functionality – It is quite easy to establish web presence due to the extensive logging functionality available by default;
- Multilingual CMS – Subrion comes with multilingual support, making it possible to use ready-made translations. Likewise, it is possible to translate the system into any language of your choice. This is what makes the software a truly multilingual web design tool;
- Premium Extensions – Apart from the plugins available in stock, there is an opportunity to pick and integrate external extensions that come at extra cost. These include Realty Classifieds Script, Articles Script, Yellow Pages Script, Auto Classifieds Script, Web Directory Script, Coupons Script and more.
Subrion is a free open source CMS. Everyone can download and use it at no cost. The system has a free demo version, which lets you test and explore its features before deciding on further software application. Integration of premium extensions is possible here, but this is an optional solution.
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.