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What is the difference between a CMS and a Website Builder? Which is right for you?

Very few websites are hand coded today. Instead most websites are built using a CMS platform or a website builder, which streamlines the site building process while saving you time and money.

Each option has its benefits and downsides, which we’ll be covering below.

But first, let’s define the two.

What is a CMS

A content management system (CMS) is a type of software that allows users to edit content on a website without the need to code. These platforms are self-hosted and offer a lot of customization.

Popular CMS platforms include WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, and Shopify. WordPress is by far the most popular, powering 38% of all websites on the internet. WordPress also holds 63.6 % of the CMS platform market share.

What is a Website Builder?

Website builders offer a drag-and-drop style visual editor that lets you manage and edit your site in real-time. They handle the hosting of your site and typically require monthly plans.

Sites builders include Wix, Squarespace, and Weebly.

Should I use a CMS or Website Builder for my Brand and Business?

Both options come with their own positives and negatives, and the choice between the two depends on the goals of your business.

We’ll be looking at 5 categories: Hosting, Ease of Use, Flexibility, Customization, and Cost.

Hosting

A CMS is self-hosted, which requires the user to buy hosting from sites like HostGator, GoDaddy, Bluehost, and Kinsta. You then upload your CMS directly to the host site.

A site builder takes care of the hosting for you when you sign up for one of their plans. This prevents you from switching between hosts in the future, however.

If you find certain features of a website builder to be lacking and you’d like to switch, you’ll be forced to recreate your site from scratch on a new platform.

Self-hosting platforms on the other hand let you export and migrate your site across different hosting platforms. You are not limited to just one platform.

Ease of Use

One of the main reasons many small businesses turn to website builders is that they’re easy to use.

Site builders are intuitive and come with a handy visual editor. The editor makes it easy to drag elements across the site and make edits in real-time.

A CMS is harder to use than a website builder and requires minor coding knowledge to get certain elements to work. Some plugins and themes may need minor code editing before they can be used on your site.

Certain builders exist that make the CMS site-building process easier, such as Elementor and Beaver Builder.

Flexibility

WordPress currently has more than 57,000 plugins for users to choose from. Given the open-source nature of the platform, countless web developers create plugins that cover a variety of functions.

If there’s a specific feature you’d like on your site, chances are you’ll find a plugin for it.

The increased amount of options does come with its limitations. Some plugins are not always updated to work with the latest themes and versions of WordPress. They may require coding to get started as well.

Site builders offer fewer plugins, but they have been tested to make sure they work at all times.

Customization

Site builders come with many free templates for users to pick from. They are clean, easy to add and customize, and guaranteed to work with the plugins offered by the builder.

Because these visual editors are made with the user in mind, they end up limiting your ability to code for the sake of simplicity.

A CMS gives the user full control of their site, and different visual elements can be added anywhere through coding.

If you don’t like a how a certain element looks like in a theme, you can get into the back end and change it

Increased customization comes at the cost of a steeper learning curve when using a CMS.

Cost

CMS platforms are typically free, such as Drupal and WordPress. Different hosting sites charge different prices depending on your needs. HostGator, for instance, has plans beginning at $2.75 a month while Kinsta offers plans starting at $30 a month.

Including the domain name (which can range anywhere from a few dollars to a couple thousand), the total cost of using a CMS with your own hosting is relatively low.

Sites like Squarespace and Wix provide their own hosting. They have monthly and annual plans, which can begin anywhere from $12 to $17 a month (starter plans).

They also charge you for a domain name, which increases the total price even more. If you ever intend on expanding into online sales, sites like Wix will require you to upgrade your monthly plan.

Site builders come with a higher price tag due to the ease of use of their platform and editor.

A CMS requires more knowledge to get things set up, but the overall price is typically lower.

Conclusion

Your choice between website builder or CMS comes down to the goals of your business. A CMS builder allows you to scale better in the future through increased hosting options. If you require specific site features to better show off your products and services, a plugin most likely exists that fulfills your needs. A site builder keeps things simple and easy, and are great for new businesses. If you intend on adding new features in the future, however, you’ll be limited by the platform you chose. Many site builders also include limited SEO functionality, which can make it difficult to optimize your site and content.

Want to get started with your own WordPress site? Check out this guide on how to get started building your own WordPress site for small businesses.

Need something a little more custom? A site that will help you bring in customers and is built with SEO in mind? Check out our Services or get in contact with us today to see which options are best for you!

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