Website builder vs. self-hosted cms

The usefulness of having a website is beyond doubt these days. If you are reading this article, it’s almost certain that you fit into one of the descriptions below.

You have a business (offline or online) and you need to be present on the internet both to attract new customers and also to give first-hand information about your company to those who already know you (Opening hours, services offered, etc.).

You are not thinking about starting a business but you are looking to create an online portfolio or blog to share your work and knowledge. Your idea is to develop your “personal brand” to help find a job, introduce yourself to a community on a specific topic or even have a bit of extra income.

Congratulations! You know what you want to do and what your goals are. Now, what is the best way to make your website?

 

Mini website glossary:

  • Hosting: The place where the files of your website are stored for access on the internet. The host is a physical place.
  • Domain: The name or address of your website.
  • DNS: The system to “translate” the domain of your website into a list of numbers to find the hosting of your website.
  • CMS (Content Management System): The system to manage the contents of your website.

 

Website builder vs. hosted CMS:

To keep things simple, there are basically two options when deciding to have a website, blog or online store. Use a website builder or a hosted CMS on a server.

Website builder:

During the early days of the internet, only large companies and people with computer skills could have a website. Eventually, the need to have an internet presence spread even among people without technical skills. This was when online tools such as Webnode developed to help every person create their website without technical knowledge or programming needed.

The process of creating your website with a website builder is very simple. First, choose a design from a selection of templates that the platform offers. Then, start customizing your site by dragging and dropping elements on the screen and uploading your own content (texts, images, videos).

Normally, you can always see the result of what you are doing. These website builders are known as “What you see is what you get” (WYSIWYG).

 

How much does it cost?

Generally, these types of companies follow a Fremium model. This means that you can create and maintain your website for free and pay if you need any extra functions. For example, Webnode’s prices of Premium Plans with extra functions range from $3.95 to $19.95 per month.

 

Pros:

– Easy to create: You don’t need a computer or programming skills.

– Modern designs created by professional designers

– You can create and update your website from any computer that is connected to the internet

– All you need for your website (hosting, domain, email) in one place

– You do not need to worry about technical updates or the security of your website

 

Cons:

– It does not work if your website needs unique or specialized features.

– It does not allow 100% freedom when it comes to personalizing your website.

 

Hosted CMS:

This is the traditional way to create a website. If you have the necessary technical knowledge (HTML, CSS, JavaScript and some SQL) you can register a domain and hosting vendors on your own and then use a CMS such as WordPress to upload and program how your content is displayed.

This way you have 100% freedom on your site because you can modify the code of the website and you can save some money at the expense of the time spent designing and maintaining your website.

 

How much does it cost?

There are many hosting and domain providers and the prices vary greatly based on the technical capabilities offered. The average prices of the largest providers for a .com website in a shared server in 2018 are:

Domain: $11 – $15 per year

Hosting: $7 – $14 per month (Average price of the 3 largest hosting providers)

This is the minimum price range. If you need professional help to design and manage your website, the lowest price you’ll find is $500. Some vendors of this type of service also charge a monthly maintenance fee.

 

Pros:

– You have 100% freedom in terms of design and development

– There are many “plugins” and online information to learn how to manage your website

– You can register domain and hosting providers separately

 

Cons.

– It requires more time even if you already have the necessary knowledge

– Coordination with multiple suppliers

– Security: Need to update and maintain the CMS.

– Time invested while solving technical and usability errors.

 

Time: The most important factor

When website builders were just starting out, their websites were heavier and less flashy than websites with hosted CMS. Today, the result in terms of speed and design have been matched and the differences are minimal.

With the technological bases covered, what has not changed is the recipe for success for any company website, blog or online store: Content and promotion.

Creating good and unique content in a correct format and easy to read takes time. Promoting your website through search engine optimization or PPC campaigns is also time-consuming. As the time to devote to your website is limited, especially if you are running a business, website builders allow you to spend your time on these most important factors instead of things that are “unseen.”

Whether you choose to go with a hosted CMS or a website builder, there are websites like hostingadvice.com that offer reviews of all providers, giving you the ability to make an informed decision and save time.

 

How much freedom do you need?

See it for yourself, 99% of the websites of small and medium companies have the same elements, the same happens with blogs and online stores. Having 100% freedom to do what you want is not always good as it leads to design and usability errors as well as time management challenges.  (Have you heard about the paradox of choice?)

If your website doesn’t need a unique and specific functionality, using a website builder allows you to benefit from designs created by professional designers so that your website will follow current design principles. Moreover, having all the technological elements (see the glossary above) in the same platform protects you from compatibility problems. Also, you will benefit from the platform technicians who are always looking for and solving any usability problems that may exist.

 

Content ownership and vendor dependency

Regardless of whether you choose to use a website builder or a hosted CMS, original content that you put on your website will always be your own personal property.

If you decide to use a website builder, you will depend on a single provider. With a hosted CMS, you may depend on several providers. Although it is not difficult to move your website from one provider to another, it is important to make sure that each of your providers will stay in business.

For these reasons, it is advisable to choose suppliers among the market leaders as well as know what each provider specializes in. Recently, many hosting providers offer website builders. However, this is not their main product meaning they can stop offering it at any time. If you want to use a website builder, it is better to choose between companies specializing in this.

 

Wrapping up

As you can see, there are several factors to take into account when choosing between a website builder and a hosted CMS. The most important things to think about are:

– Does your website require any type of specific functionality?

– How much time do you have available? Do you want to dedicate it to solving technical issues or to work with your content?

In 90% of cases, a website builder is the best option because it allows you to focus on what is most important for success while being more economical. However, if you need unique features or enjoy the process of learning the technical details behind websites, a hosted CMS would be a better option.