CMS and Website Builders: What are they and how do they compare?

CMS and Website Builders: What are they and how do they compare?

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Mark Thurman
17 February 2021
Reading time: 10 mins
CMS and Website Builders: What are they and how do they compare?

Don't be paralysed with choice

The terms 'Content Management System' (CMS) and Website Builder are often used interchangeably, and whilst this is understandable because both allow you to build websites without any great web development skills or code level knowledge, the simple fact is though they are different tools for different purposes. So if you are looking to create a website here are some pointers to help you navigate these different methods and a little about our preferred approach.

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Credible Systems was founded in 2008 with the aim of helping organisations improve through the correct use of technology and experience earnt in the world of enterprise sized technology projects. 
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The Differences
Website Builder

A website builder is any tool whose a primary purpose of helping you easily put together a site using pre-built components. These days, most website builders rely on drag-and-drop functionality and various layout options to help you get there.

These tools include such names as WIX, SquareSpace and are a growing presence on the web.

CMS

A CMS tends to be a fully fleshed-out platform such as Joola, Wordpress or Magento. Simply put a CMS is a much more powerful and flexible tool for creating websites.  Something to bear in mind because although today your needfs may be no more than a hanful of static pages, your business may grow and flourish and the power of a CMS may be what you need.  The clue is in the name, "Content Management System" - this is a powerful tool.


Builder Pro's & Cons

So far, you may have gotten the impression that CMSs are a better option than website builders. However, the solution you should choose depends on what you’re looking for. Let’s take a look at some of the pros of using website builders:

  • They’re easy to use:

    This is the main selling point of website builders. If you have zero development experience and just need a very simple site then this makes sense.

  • Hosting Options:

    Builder platforms tend to provide the hosting as a part of the service.

  • Speed:

    If you just need to put together a very simple website, builder tools can help you to streamline the process and they hide all the technical steps away from you.  Nice!

As far as negatives go, the main problem with website builders is that they’re usually lacking in advanced features and scalability. That means they aren’t as strong an option for large or complex websites, depending on what functionality you need, and they can’t be customized as fully.

Additionally, although the hosting is included - most builder services do NOT allow you to migrate your site to a new host.  (You can move the fdomain name, but you'd can't for instance move a whole WIX site to a new host - it is not allowed)

CMS Pro's & Cons

As I said, CMSs usually provide you with far more features than website builders do. However, that’s not all they offer. Let’s go through the pros of using a CMS, one by one:

  • Focused:

    A lot of CMSs focus on helping you create and manage a specific type of site (although many can be adapted to multiple uses). Two perfect examples are WordPress for blogs, and Magento for e-commerce.

  • Extensible:

    Almost every CMS includes an extension or plugin system that enables you to add extra features with ease. Plus, you can outright customize the platform to your needs if it’s an open-source solution.

  • Themes:

    Website builders take the cake when it comes to ease of use, but most modern CMSs include their own theme features. With these tools, you can create stylish websites quickly.

The main potential drawback of using a CMS is that most of them have a steeper learning curve. We’re talking about full-blown management systems, after all, so you’ll need to get acquainted with their features and understand how to use them. And to be frank this is what we do for our clients, we manage that initial complexity for them as ongoung updates are very easy for any level of knowledge.

What other options are there?

Build from scratch

Learn HTML, CSS and Javascript and build your site from scratch.   What do you mean, you dont want to do this!  Okay!  Luckily we already did the legwork on this and can build you a bespoke site if you wish.

Webflow

Webflow is a new builder system that outputs very clean, correct HTML and CSS and also has CMS functionality built into it with its ability to define collections.  This is the ONLY builder tool we know of that allows you to build a bespoke site that at the code level actually looks correct, efficient and supports very nearly of the CSS possibilities that the CSS3 specification contains.

Yootheme

For us, this currently represents the best of both worlds.  Yootheme is a page builder tool that works within the two most popular CRM frameworks out there today, Wordpress and Joomla.  

So you have all the power and flexibility of a CMS but with the Themese, layouts, elements and shallow learning curve of a Builder tool.

Standalone site builders are fine for the very simplest of websites, especially when you don't anticipate growth or aditional features. However they incur a monthly cost that will likely eclipse the hosting cost of a CMS site within 3 or 4 months.

A solution with a CMS component such as webflow still incurs a monthly cost for hosting but is a step in the right direction and a platform we are watching closely as it is amazing.

As of today though, we feel that the sweetspot currently sits with a combination of a CMS and a page builder (works exactly like the website builder). This allows us to build sites quickly and present them to you, the client, in a way that allows easy ongoing ownership and management. If you can drag and drop, and use simple software you can manage one of our CMS/Yootheme sites easily.

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