CMS vs Website Builder - Which Should You be Using?

When it comes to creating your website, you have a few options. Many designers prefer to use a CMS (content management system) that offers superior functionality and customisation. There are also plenty of ‘out of the box’ solutions that are very tempting for the uninitiated, but are they the right way to go?

Here we’ll be exploring the pros and cons of CMS vs website builders so that you can decide which is the right path for your brand.

CMS vs website builder

Before we dive into the pros and cons, here are the differences between these two website options.

A Content Management System (CMS) is software that runs on a web server that lets you create, store, search, and manage content without being limited to a specific host. The most popular example of a CMS is WordPress.

When you have a CMS, you need to find a host and maintain the website (including security updates, performing backups and installing new plugins) so many people choose to have an ongoing relationship with a web developer who can look after this for them. 

A website builder allows you to host a website on their platform. They are popular due to their ease of use – examples include Shopify, Squarespace and Wix and you can choose from subscription packages. 

If you want a bespoke or custom site, web builders do allow for customisation but a CMS tends to be more flexible as it has been designed for developers.

Ease of use

Website builders have a ready to use, straight out the box format. A lot of website builders market themselves on how beginner-friendly they are if you want to create a DIY site. After all, not everyone is a die-hard coder or seasoned web designer. Some even use AI to autogenerate a website for you based on a few key questions.

On the other hand, a CMS has a steeper learning curve, but near limitless potential and customisation, especially if you use a professional website developer. It’s possible to build a damn fine site with a CMS and further customise it later if your requirements change or your brand grows.

Search engine optimisation (SEO)

Search engine optimisation commonly referred to as SEO is the process of making sure your website is visible on search engines like Google. 

Website builders tend to come with integrated SEO tools, which can be either very basic or more advanced, depending on the service you are using. Getting to grips with SEO is essential if you want your site to get seen, but if you’re still an SEO novice, then these integrated tools can be useful. However, it’s not always easy to make more substantial changes to ensure that your site is as SEO-friendly as possible.

A CMS is more adaptable when it comes to SEO. They don’t come with standard SEO settings like website builders, so you need to incorporate plugins to provide the functionality. The great thing about these plugins is there’s a huge range of options out there, giving you access to advanced SEO functionality, which is essential if you want to climb those SERP rankings.

Customisation and design

Customisability is usually where designers see a clear winner in the CMS vs website builder battle. For example, WordPress, a popular CMS, has a huge variety of plugins/extensions available to add customisation and increased functionality to your site. 

WordPress also has an active, helpful community which is great for technical site advice and for getting to grips with different plugins. When you factor in the coding possibilities for CMS sites, the potential for customisation is nearly limitless.

Website builders are typically much more limited in their customisation options, but that doesn’t mean they only produce cookie-cutter sites. There’s usually a broad selection of themes/designs to choose from, as well as the opportunity to edit fonts, colour schemes and backgrounds, so you don’t need to worry about ending up with a duplicate of someone else’s site. 

Some of the top website builders also allow for extensive customisation of their templates that really allows your developer to put your unique style on your site, so long as they know what they’re doing. For example, as official ‘Shopify Experts’, developing custom and bespoke Shopify sites is something we are doing here at Studio Illicit for a selection of clients.

Final thoughts

Website builders are better for beginners who want a site up and running ASAP and have limited time to update or maintain their site. However, they are not always the best long-term solution, particularly if you will eventually want to add advanced functionality and customisation and secure a high ranking in the SERPs – these are the areas where a CMS truly shines.

For the best possible results on either type of platform, you will want to engage the services of a professional web developer who can build you a bespoke site. Even though website builders are designed to be beginner-friendly, experienced web designers can get much more out of the platform than a layman can.

If you’re looking for professional web designers to set up your new site, give us a shout and see how we can help.