CMSs and Website Builders: What are they, and how do they compare?

Both content management systems (CMSs) and website builders allow website owners to create a website relatively easily. Because of this, many people use the terms interchangeably, but they are in fact very different. However, a website owner does not need to use both in order to make a great website. So what are the differences between them, and which one should you use?

Website builders

Website builders are just that – a tool that allows a person to easily create a website. They do this by using components that already exist within the builder and typically different layout options can simply be dragged and dropped into the website. Many website builders make this very easy and a new website can built within an hour or so.

Website builders have many advantages, particularly for the novice website owner. They’re easier to use than most CMS platforms and you may not even need a web host, as many of these provide the option of self-hosting.

But as good as website builders sound, they’re not for everyone. Because they consist of templates and existing components, it can be difficult for a website to stand out in the crowd. They also aren’t as scalable or include as many advanced features as CMS platforms do, so they may not be able to accommodate a very large website.

Content management systems

Content management systems on the other hand, are platforms that have more substance than website builders. Templates and themes are still available, but the website owner is given many more options in terms of additional features. Many CMS platforms, such as WordPress, originally began as a blogging platform but they’ve come so far in recent years that virtually any type of website can be run from them.

While CMS platforms aren’t necessarily very difficult to use or require a lot of technical knowledge, they aren’t as easy to use as website builders. It can take some time to become familiar with these systems and understand them, but once you do, they’re very easy to work with. In addition to this, website owners who choose a CMS will also need to find their own web hosting solutions as these platforms don’t offer web hosting. Because of the steep learning curve, those who only want a very simple website may be better off choosing a website builder.

So which one should soon-to-be website owners choose? It really depends. In most cases, those who only wish to have a small website that’s relatively simple and straightforward may be better off with a website builder. But those who want to include a lot on their website or envision their site growing even larger in the future may wish to choose a CMS.
For those that still aren’t sure, many website builders offer free trials making it easy to give it a test run and determine if it offers everything that’s needed. Likewise, if you already have a web host a CMS such as WordPress can be installed and tinkered with to see if it’s something you can handle and want to work with.