When faced with the task of building a website, there’s an overwhelming amount of options available to you. Most people don’t have the coding skills required to build an entire website from scratch – that’s where website builder software comes in. Today, we’re going to describe the difference between the two most popular types of website builders: hosted and open source website builder software.
What is a Hosted Website Builder?
Hosted website builders are typically SaaS (software-as-a-service) platforms that offer an all-in-one solution for building a website. Website builders that are hosted are cloud-based, meaning that you access the software via the Internet and can make changes to your site in real time. This means that hosted website builders provide everything you need to build your website, including a support team that can assist you with any issues you have while using the platform.
Most hosted website builders come with a variety of built-in features, tools, and website templates to utilize and customize within the platform’s parameters.
- Pro: Maintenance, security and updates are taken care of for you.
- Pro: A dedicated support team is available for assistance.
- Con: This type of software is usually more expensive than open source solutions.
- Con: Customization is limited to what your platform offers.
What is a Self-Hosted Website Builder?
Self-hosted website builders run on open source software, meaning that it’s software you download and install onto a server rather than access over the internet like hosted, cloud-based solutions. Once you download the open source website builder software, you’re free to make any changes or customizations you need to on both your website and the platform itself. Typically, open source website builder software is free to install and use, but you’ll need to consider other expenses like your website’s domain name and hosting.
- Pro: This type of software is flexible and easily customizable.
- Pro: It’s easy to migrate to other platforms from open source software.
- Con: You’re responsible for every facet of the build and management.
- Con: There’s typically no access to dedicated, centralized support teams.
Top 4 Hosted Website Builders
3dcart is a hosted SaaS eCommerce platform designed specifically for making online store websites. Pricing ranges from $19/month to $229/month depending on the features you want and how much in sales your online store makes per year.
Within the 3dcart Theme Store, there’s nearly 100 themes to choose from – all of which are built on their proprietary Core Templating Engine that ensures responsiveness on all devices. To customize your website’s theme, you can use the Core Editor for simple site-wide edits like colors and font sizes or the Page Editor for adding in blocks of content on specific areas of the page.
3dcart hosts its platform on Level 1 PCI compliant servers. They’ll also register a domain for you for free, but only for the first year – every year after that, you need to pay to renew it. With the platform, you’ll also have access to unlimited disk space, unlimited email hosting, and unlimited bandwidth.
Wix is a SaaS website builder for any type of website and is available for free. If you’d like to remove Wix branding and ads, have your own domain name (without the Wix subdomain), and enable eCommerce functionality, you’ll need to choose from one of the premium plans, ranging from $13/month to $39/month.
Regarding hosting, most plans have a monthly bandwidth limit and a storage space limit ranging from 500 MB to 20 GB. For support, you can contact them 24/7 via their phone number, email, and FAQ resource pages.
Squarespace is a SaaS website builder, similar to Wix, which you can use to build any type of website (including an online store). Compared to Wix, Squarespace has much more functionality for eCommerce. There is no free option for Squarespace; pricing ranges from $16/month to $46/month.
Over 100 website templates are available from Squarespace to apply to your website and edit. All themes are optimized for any device; however, some themes rely more on images than actual design elements. The source code of your site can also be edited via HTML and CSS, but this is only available if you’re on the Business plan.
Like 3dcart, your domain name is registered for free for one year; every year after that, you’ll need to pay to renew it. Squarespace does not place any bandwidth or storage limits on website owners. Support is also available 24/7 via their email, chat, and FAQ pages.
Shopify is a SaaS eCommerce platform with a built-in website builder, among several other features designed for online businesses. Like 3dcart, Shopify is meant to be used for eCommerce websites only. Pricing ranges from $29/month to $299/month, making it one of the more expensive options on this list.
While Shopify does host your site for you, you will need to purchase and register a domain name on your own, unless you’d like to use Shopify’s shared URL. The hosting that Shopify provides runs on Level 1 PCI Compliant servers and bandwidth and storage is unlimited for all sites. Support is available 24 hours a day via email, phone and live chat.
Top 4 Self-Hosted Website Builders
Magento is open-source eCommerce software that allows you to build your own online store via a platform that can be customized to fit your specific needs. Magento Open Source is free to download. Although, Magento has a steep learning curve, so you may need to hire a web developer.
Because Magento is meant for eCommerce, it comes with a long list of built-in features for online stores. However, Magento doesn’t offer any premade themes for designing your website; instead, all themes are available from third-party developers. To customize your site’s design, you can create a theme from scratch, purchase a third-party theme and edit with it’s in-dashboard customization tools, purchase a customization tool extension, or use the new Page Builder, which is a drag-and-drop editor for easier website design.
Due to Magento being open source, you’ll only have access to resources on their website and community forums for support.
WordPress is by far the most popular open-source website builder option, used by nearly 75 million websites online. The WordPress software is free to download, but you will need to pay for WordPress hosting, a domain name, and anything else necessary for your site separately.
The WordPress platform is flexible and customizable, with the ability to change anything with and plugins. One of the most popular plugins is WooCommerce, an eCommerce tool. With this plugin integrated, you’ll have full eCommerce functionality for free.
In the way of themes, WordPress does offer a few free themes itself, however you will most likely be looking to a third-party theme website for your site’s ultimate design. Because of this, the ease of editing your site depends on the theme you’ve chosen, although there are several plugins available that can streamline this process.
Like most open-source platforms, there is no customer service or support. You will have to look to community forums or external resources for assistance.
OpenCart is open-source online shopping cart software that is free to download, use, and upgrade (aside from the obligatory hosting, domain, and security costs). OpenCart’s feature set out of the box is relatively limited, so you may want to look into add-ons for advanced functionality; there are 13,000 available to choose from.
Similar to WordPress, OpenCart’s themes are available from third-party website theme sites like Theme Forest. To make changes to your site’s design, you can easily add and move around sections from within the design panel. However, for more advanced changes, you’ll need to edit the source code (which is written in the Twig coding language).
Most support for OpenCart is limited to community forums and documentation. However, you can pay for the $99/month dedicated support plan or the $99 one-time fix plan if you’d like support directly from OpenCart.
PrestaShop is an open-source shopping cart solution; it’s software is free to download and use. Once you’ve downloaded the software, you’ll need to install it on your server and pay for hosting and a domain name to build your site and take it live.
The theme store for PrestaShop hosts over 3,000 mobile-responsive templates created by third-party designers. However, all of these themes are paid, with the only free option being the default theme that comes with the software. To edit your site, you can use the WYSIWYG editor to make changes to the default theme – add a logo, change page layouts, and more. You also have full access to the code to build and customize your site further.
Support from PrestaShop is not available, so you’ll need to look into community forums and documentation.
Now that you understand the difference between hosted and self-hosted website builders, you can make a more educated decision on what’s best for your website and business. Each type has it’s benefits and drawbacks, so be sure to choose what best meets your needs, skill level and budget.