Every small business needs a website. It can be the difference between making it and breaking it. But with the high costs of a lot of professional agencies and the increasing accessibility to self-build services, small business owners are often left wondering which option is best for them.
I get asked this question all the time. Literally every day. But what’s the difference between website builders and CMS websites? This article will go over the main differences between website builders and CMS to help you understand which may be better for your business.
What are website builders?
Website builders are online services that help you easily build your website. They have drag and drop functionality, and you’re able to easily edit your website using a ‘front-end’ interface. So, no code required. Ever.
Often you start by choosing a template and then customise it to your needs. The most common website builders are Weebly, Wix, and SquareSpace.
What are CMS websites?
CMS websites, on the other hand, are Content Management Systems; software tools that help you manage, organise and publish information online.
They are created with user interfaces to make them easier to manage. You probably won’t need to understand code with WordPress, however, a little bit of knowledge in the area will go a long way if you’re using Joomla or Drupal.
What’s the difference between chalk and cheese?
Well, a lot. To make it a bit easier, let’s compare website builders & CMS across the most important areas for small business:
- Ease setting up
- On-going management
- User support
- Difficulty setting up
- Easy to set-up
You’re in business or looking to start. The budget is tight, but you know you need an online presence to grow, fast.
Most website builders will get your website started with just an account login. You don’t necessarily need a domain or a hosting. Weebly, Wix and Squarespace all offer hosting services, so there’s not techy stuff to worry about. If you already have a hosting service arranged, you will just need to login to your hosting service provider and point your domain’s DNS (domain name server) to your website builder. Most have detailed instructions in the help desk.
On the other hand, if you want to use a CMS you have to organise a domain name and hosting service. You also need to install WordPress on your web server. You can do this yourself or ask a webmaster, like us, to do it for you.
Of course, your website needs to be flexible as well. Say for example you want to add an online store to sell your goods, services or subscriptions, maybe you need your website to display rich media in different formats to showcase your portfolio or perhaps just a simple eNewsletter sign-up form.
You might not realise all of the things you need your website to do when you first build it, but your website needs to be flexible enough to accommodate these future changes.
Both Weebly & WordPress offer plugins that enable you to add in different functionality. The main difference is that WordPress is “opensource”, while website builders are not. This means anyone in the world can contribute to the growing bank of plugins you can add to customise the functionality of your website. WordPress has over 44,000 plugins to customise your website, compared to the handful available with Wix, Weebly & SquareSpace.
But bigger is not necessarily better. While there might be more options available in WordPress, the quality of the coding used to create them can be questionable. Whereas Wix may have fewer, those plugins (or extensions) are less likely to be buggy and don’t need to be “installed” because they’ve been integrated into the entire builder.
In terms of how easy it is to change your website; website builders are often drag and drop. Because they have a front end editing system, you can see how your changes will look in real time, and just press publish when you’re ready.
With WordPress however, it depends on the type of theme you’re using. Some themes like Divi offer front-end and back-end editing for ultimate control, whereas others don’t. If you’re looking for help picking your theme, get in contact with us for advice. WordPress is more difficult to learn, but once you’ve mastered the basics is more powerful. And yes we can help you learn WordPress, like a pro.
3. On-going management
Building your website may seem like a big task, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg. All websites need to be maintained, updated and monitored for your security and that of your customers.
WordPress is constantly being updated as are individual themes and plugins. It’s really important to perform these updates in a timely manner to prevent your site being hacked. You can update them yourself or your web manager may do it for you.
On the other hand, any updates to your Wix website will be done in the background and automatically deployed to all of your websites, so you only have to worry about updating your content.
4. User support.
Unfortunately, things go wrong with websites. So, who do you turn to when it all goes pear-shaped?
With website builders, you can just go to the support team and lodge a ticket. Very often the technical team will provide answers or sometimes do the changes for you.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for assistance with WordPress you have 2 options; firstly, the WordPress community has developed incredibly extensive tutorials across a range of subjects. Finding the right tutorial is your biggest challenge here. Alternatively, you can hire a WordPress Developer to set-up and fix any issues that you might have. A good developer will take the time to explain what’s happened and how to prevent it from happening again.
You’ve gone to the trouble to learn how to build your website to help your business grow. So, you want people to find it easily, right?
The biggest factor which will determine where your website will rank is whether or not you have a Search Engine Optimisation strategy or not. Really.
Generally, most people will say that WordPress website rank higher than website builders. However, if you don’t do SEO on your WordPress website you won’t rank. If you have an active SEO strategy you’re using with your Wix, Weebly or SquareSpace site, you might have to work harder than you would with WordPress, but you’ll still do better than a WordPress site that doesn’t have an SEO strategy at all.
So why do people say you WordPress is so much better with ranking? Well it might have been the case when website builders first came out, but now the big players have implemented some pretty strong SEO capabilities to catch up to WordPress
The bottom line is important and is one of the most important factors for small business. So, let’s look at the price structure of WordPress and website builders.
WordPress is free. Free to download. Free to install. No annual charges. No subscriptions. Ever (unless you go pro for your plugins). You will, however, need to purchase a domain and hosting. Some WordPress developers also include the first year of domain and hosting in their build price. Generally hosting shouldn’t be more than $130 a year, and normal domain registration no more than $30. You’ll also get access to emails as well.
On the other hand, most website builders have monthly fees, and these fees increase with the more demands you have, like online stores. These fees will differ depending on which website builder you use but typically range between $5-$75 per month. But you won’t get personalised emails.
I’m a bit of a control freak. I want to be able to customise and adjust websites to fit mine and my client’s needs. Because of that and its low cost, I will always go with WordPress.
For small business owners wanting to build their own site website builders are an excellent – if possibly costly – way to create an online presence. While historically they’ve been rubbished because of SEO, this isn’t as much of an issue anymore, and more important is having an active SEO strategy.
On the other hand, website builders have been considered the “noob friendly” option. Again this isn’t really the case anymore, with a number of WordPress themes having excellent front-end editors.
Website builders are easy to set up and don’t require any real tech knowledge. But you’ll need to organise a domain and hosting for your WordPress website or get someone to do this step for you.
Again, website builders require very little in terms of ongoing maintenance, but you’ll need to make sure you install updates for your WordPress site or ask a friendly web manager to look after this for you.