Building a website used to be the domain of experienced developers and designers. Today, almost anyone with a computer, internet access, and a few dollars can create a professional website. The two most popular tools are general website builders and content management platforms (CMS) like WordPress.
Although website builders and CMS platforms achieve the same objective, the two platforms work differently. Each platform also has its advantages and disadvantages. This post pits website builders and WordPress head-to-head to help determine the best option for you.
Website Builders and WordPress Compared to the Best
WordPress didn’t make it to our list of the best website builders simply because it is a full content management system (CMS) and not strictly a website builder. Our recommendation for the best website builder is Shopify for its versatility, superior ecommerce capabilities, high-quality templates, and easy no-code design. Try the full-featured Shopify website builder free for up to three days with no credit card or commitment required.
- Shopify – Best for selling products and services
- Wix – Best website builder for your first website
- Zyro – Best for keeping website costs low
- Bluehost – Best for WordPress websites
- Squarespace – Best website builder for creators of all stripes
- Weebly – Best for solopreneurs
- GoDaddy – Best for building your website from your phone
Website Builders vs. WordPress High-Level Comparison
Many people mistakenly categorize WordPress as a website builder. Instead, WordPress is a content management system (CMS) that also includes a site builder. Although website builders and content management systems both let you build a website from scratch, they are still vastly different tools.
A website builder provides a platform and tools for creating a website from scratch. Usually, the platform supplies pre-made themes and templates to choose from. These platforms also feature drag-and-drop functionality, allowing you to add and position website elements on the template easily.
Website builders primarily target beginners with little or no coding experience. There’s no server-side coding or technical know-how required besides using the platform’s editor. Still, website builders offer customization options, such as changing the template color and adding custom backgrounds.
WordPress is the most popular CMS platform, and it targets more experienced users who want more customization and control over the design and functionality. A CMS is also more versatile, allowing you to create, manage, store, delete, and search content in a database.
The WordPress CMS is open source, meaning anyone can access the source code. This access means you have complete control over building and customizing the website. However, WordPress also requires technical knowledge since you need to manage hosting, domain registration, security, and backups. Check out our in-depth review on WordPress for even more detail.
Products and Services Offered By Website Builders and WordPress
Although both platforms allow you to build a website, you can expect different products and services from each. Therefore, the better option depends on your requirements, what you want your website to do, and what you expect from your service provider.
Website builder offerings vary depending on the platform. However, most core features are similar across platforms. Some of the features you can expect from a good website builder include the following:
- Web hosting
- SSL certificate
- Drag-and-drop editor
- Design features like scroll effects, video backgrounds, and animation
- Pre-made website templates
- Built-in search engine optimization (SEO) tools
- Media galleries
- App market
There are two versions of WordPress, WordPress.com and WordPress.org. Both versions are generally the same, with one distinct difference. WordPress.com is a hosted service, meaning the company handles domain registration, hosting, updates, installation, and setup.
WordPress.com is a web-based service. You don’t have to download the software. You simply choose a subscription and start building your website. There’s also a free version.
WordPress.org is the open-source, self-managed version of the software. You can download the software for free and use it to build your website. You can also change the code to customize the website to your requirements.
Self-managed means you’re fully responsible for website maintenance, including finding a web host, registering a domain, and installing security patches and backups. However, you can create a personalized website with unlimited customization possibilities.
In general, WordPress tends to offer more customization and flexibility than strictly website builders, but it comes at the cost of a steeper learning curve.
For more information on WordPress.com and WordPress.org, read our in-depth comparison to see which might fit your needs better.
Company Health and Stability of Website Builders and WordPress
The phrase “the internet never forgets” is a cautionary saying, but it can also have positive implications. For example, you don’t want to build a beautiful website and spend years growing it only for it to disappear overnight. So the reputation, health, and stability of website builders and CMS platforms are valid concerns.
WordPress is a reputable company that has existed for over 15 years. WordPress powers over 810 million sites, which accounts for roughly 43% of the internet. Some of its famous users include BBC America, Sony Music, Time Magazine, Microsoft News, and Skype.
Website builders have also stood the test of time. Reputable companies like Shopify, Wix, and Zyro have been around for over a decade. So, there’s little risk that the company will suddenly shut down and disable or unpublish your website.
Many platforms also host your website in a secure environment with high-tech and modern security features. And with managed hosting, you don’t have to worry about updates and patches to secure and optimize your website. The main thing is to choose a reputable website builder with a steady track record of stellar services.
Website Builders vs. WordPress Pricing Comparison
Price is a critical consideration when choosing between a website builder and WordPress. The total price varies depending on the service provider, your technical skills, and the type of website you build. So it is difficult to say right off the bat which option is more expensive.
However, it is possible to build a free website if you’re willing to make some concessions. For example, most website builders and CMS platforms allow you to create a basic website for free. However, you may have to give up custom branding, monetization, support, your domain, and removing ads from your website.
Similarly, the cost of paid website builders varies broadly depending on your chosen options. The price can be as low as $2.59 per month or as high as $200+ per month. But, again, it largely depends on the website features and capabilities you want. These prices include paying for better hosting, more bandwidth, a unique personalized domain, premium themes, and more.
While WordPress.org is free, you still need to pay for the same web hosting, plugins, domain name, and themes. Again, the cost of the website can vary widely depending on the functionality you’re looking for. Lastly, WordPress.com plans start at $4 per month.
Pricing Structure of Website Builder and WordPress
While the actual cost of a website builder depends on the provider, most builders have similar pricing structures. Usually, there are multiple packages with different features and usage limits.
For example, Wix has four pricing plans ranging from $4.50 to $24.50 per month. All Wix plans offer a free SSL certificate, free domain, and let you connect a custom domain. However, the cheaper plans don’t let you remove ads and have limitations for bandwidth, video hours, and lead-capture forms. This type of structure is common across most website builders.
The pricing structure for WordPress depends on the version you choose. However, there’s a free option with either version. Furthermore, WordPress.com follows a similar pricing structure as most website builders.
WordPress.com’s free plan offers a pre-installed SSL certificate, Jetpack essential features, WordPress.com subdomain, and basic design customization. However, you’ll need to upgrade to a paid plan to access additional storage, upload plugins, install themes, and enjoy advanced design customization.
WordPress.org is free to download. First, however, we’ll discuss the details of how much it actually costs to build and publish a website with the WordPress CMS. There’s more than meets the eye beyond simply designing a website.
Cost Comparison of Website Builders and WordPress
In most cases, using a website builder is cheaper than WordPress because website builders provide everything you need to create and publish a website. For example, the website builder also includes hosting, templates, domain, plugins, security, and the website editor you use to create the site.
Furthermore, some website builders let you create and publish your site for free. Of course, you’ll have to contend with ads and limited resources, but it might be worthwhile for a personal blog or hobbyist site.
While downloading the WordPress.org CMS is free, you may have to pay for a WordPress developer if you don’t know your way around code. You can avoid this if you either have the expertise to design it yourself or are willing to learn. Developer hourly rates start from $30-$175 per hour. And that’s before you’ve factored in additional costs like:
- Domain name – from $14.99 per month
- Web hosting – from $7.99 per month
- Pre-made themes – free, with options up to $200
- Plugins – free, with options up to $1,000
- Security – from $50 – $550
Some of these costs are either one-off or recurring. Furthermore, you’ll need to pay a developer whenever you need assistance or updates with your website. Unless, of course, you’re proficient with coding.
Overall, website builders offer more value for money. Their pricing packages provide everything you need to create and publish the website, which is cheaper than paying separately for individual services. These websites are also easy to build and maintain, so you never have to pay a developer.
It’s worth mentioning that WordPress.com may be a cheaper option since you get everything you need to take your website live. However, this is only true if you have design chops. Otherwise, you’ll need to pay a developer to customize the website.
Trials and Guarantees for Website Builders and WordPress
Most website builders offer a free version if you don’t mind a generic domain, no custom branding, and ads on your website. Others, like Shopify, offer a free trial for a limited time. The free trial lets you use all builder features before purchasing a plan.
Similarly, most website builders offer freebies to entice you. The most common giveaways include a free SSL certificate, domain, hosting, migration, templates, and themes. However, some of these add-ons are free for a limited time, usually one year.
Similarly, WordPress.org offers free templates and plugins. However, you don’t get as many free add-ons as website builders unless you opt for the managed WordPress version that provides a free SSL certificate and domain.
Website Builders vs. WordPress Core Criteria Comparison
Cost is only one consideration when deciding between website builders vs. WordPress. There are other critical factors to consider before making a decision. So we’ll pit the two tools head-to-head to determine the best option for your scenario.
Although there are multiple criteria to consider when comparing website builders and WordPress, three critical elements provide an accurate assessment. These include ease of use, depth of customization, and the ability to earn money. These criteria cover almost everything you need to decide which tool is worth it.
So far, we have lumped website builders into one category. However, we have an in-depth post comparing the best website builders that includes a section examining the criteria for choosing the best website builder for you.
Ease of Use – Website Builders Win
Website builders generally don’t provide access to the source code, meaning you don’t need coding knowledge or technical expertise to design or modify your website. Furthermore, website builders tout ease of use as their main attraction.
The typical website builder has a minimal learning curve. They come with a drag-and-drop editor where you choose your elements and position them where you want them. Most also provide in-platform help, tutorials, tips, and suggestions to get you going.
These website builders also provide pre-built themes and templates. So it’s only a matter of choosing your favorite one and customizing it. But, of course, these platforms also limit customization options, so you can hardly go wrong.
Some website builders leverage artificial intelligence to lower the learning curve further. For example, the WIX ADI requests information about what you want your website to do and your personal preferences. Then, the AI creates a professional website in just a few minutes.
While WordPress isn’t difficult to use, it does require technical knowledge. A seasoned developer shouldn’t have a problem using WordPress. However, lay people will likely require professional assistance or significant time learning the software.
Furthermore, depending on your WordPress version, you’ll need to buy a domain name and pick a hosting provider. However, these extra steps may prove too much for a novice. You can skip these steps by opting for a WordPress.com plan.
The upside is that WordPress is the easiest CMS to use once you master the basics. The platform also has an extensive developer community where you can ask questions or access information when building your website.
It is also possible to create a WordPress site without coding. However, you’ll miss out on advanced customization and extra features if you take the no-code route. In this case, it’s better to stick with a website builder, which is easier to use.
Depth of Customization – WordPress Wins
Customization and branding go hand in hand. Whether you use a builder or WordPress, you’ll use the same templates and themes as other websites in your niche. So the depth of customization significantly affects whether your site can stand out among millions of other websites.
Website builders provide pre-made templates that you can customize to fit your brand and aesthetic requirements. You get an editor’s panel to customize your website easily. You can customize elements like images, layouts, colors, backgrounds, and text.
Website builders also provide hundreds of free and paid templates. The templates are professionally designed, allowing you to create a beautiful website with minimal skills. The builders also offer purpose-built templates for blogs, online portfolios, or ecommerce stores.
The main downside of website builders is the limited customization options. The pre-built website templates are generic and don’t provide enough customization to stand out. Therefore, website builders aren’t the best option for people with specific aesthetics and functionality ideas.
WordPress offers far more website customization. The platform allows you to add custom code to customize the theme to your specifications. In addition, there are over 10,000 templates to choose from, whereas most website builders offer a few hundred templates.
WordPress also provides numerous free and paid plugins to enhance your site’s functionality. While many website builders offer apps to expand your sites’ capabilities, you don’t get the wide variety that WordPress offers. You can bet on finding a WordPress plugin for virtually anything you want your website to do.
Furthermore, WordPress lets you use custom plugins. You can create a plugin from scratch, configured to the specific functionality and usability you want. Website builders don’t provide this type of creative freedom.
Ability to Earn Money – WordPress Wins
Most website owners are in it to make money. However, the type of tool you choose can affect your earning potential. So, it’s worth paying particular attention to this consideration if you intend to make money from your website.
Most website builders have specific packages for ecommerce websites. So pay close attention to ensure you don’t purchase the wrong plan. Generally, free and cheaper website builders don’t provide ecommerce functionality or the option to monetize your website.
On the plus side, website builders with dedicated ecommerce plans are perfect for starting an online store quickly. These plans come with everything you need to start earning immediately, including a shopping cart, checkout pages, product lists, and payment gateway. As a result, you can usually go from creating the online store to selling in hours.
On the downside, there’s less room for customization with website builders. You may need specific functionality that the builder doesn’t provide. You also have limited access to plugins to enhance your site’s functionality, so website builders are better for smaller stores and startups.
WordPress requires more effort to create an online store. However, the extensive customization options and numerous plugins make your success more likely. Furthermore, WordPress offers additional opportunities to monetize a website beyond ecommerce, such as membership or dynamic content, advertising, and affiliate marketing.
Final Verdict – Website Builders Win
While WordPress offers many advantages over website builders, these benefits only apply to a small subset of users. The average person doesn’t have the technical knowledge, budget, or patience to create a website from scratch using WordPress. Therefore, website builders win by default for their value for money, ease of use, simple maintenance, time to launch, accessibility, and professional support. Find the best website builder for you using our guide.