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Web hosting vs WordPress vs website builder: Which is best?

laptop on a desk displaying website templates
(Image credit: Photo by Domenico Loia on Unsplash)

When it comes to creating a new website, there are a series of options open to you or your business: web hosting, WordPress, and website builders. All three of these methods can be used together, so they're not mutually exclusive options for building a site: but it's useful to have each service defined, so that you know where to begin.

If you choose to build a site using one of the best website builders, you have to decide how much of the work will be undertaken by you, and how much you’ll outsource to developers or experts. The best approach to a site will depend entirely on how much time you can spare, the level of control you want over the build, and the amount of technical knowledge you've got. 

Thankfully, website builders provide a strong option for creating sites when you've not got the necessary experience. With their simple drag-and-drop interfaces, anyone can make a website, even if you don’t know HTML, CSS, or JavaScript code. These builders create the underlying code for you, and save you the hard work.

If you're building a site yourself or with a web design company, you'll need to buy web hosting from one of the best web hosting services. Here, you’re renting disk space on a remote computer server, onto which you upload your site's files, allowing visitors to then access the site from all around the world. 

However, if all of that sounds too complex or too much work for you, there's a third option in content management system (CMS) software, which makes creating web pages simpler. WordPress is the most well-known CMS, and has a particular focus on blogging sites. You can create and publish a WordPress site in a few minutes or hours, even without web development experience.

In this comparison feature, we discuss and evaluate these three options, pitting web hosting vs WordPress vs website builders and exploring their relative pros and cons for site building.

Web hosting vs WordPress vs website builders: Web hosting

HostGator's homepage

A web hosting service offers maximum flexibility but expertise is required (Image credit: HostGator)

When you buy web hosting, you get online storage space, and the rest is up to you. Buying a web hosting service gives you the greatest control over how your website will turn out, but it invariably increases the amount of work you must do to get your website off the ground.

Having your own web hosting from the beginning makes it easier to add additional features to your website when your business grows. You’re also not locked into using any one piece of software.

Hosting providers often have one-click installers for popular CMSs that can save you lots of time. Most companies need not reinvent the wheel, so it makes sense to use tools that make building and managing your site easier instead of creating everything from scratch.

Pros:

  •  Maximum flexibility
  •  A huge number of providers
  •  Scales well 

Cons:

  • Requires technical expertise
  • Longer development cycle
  • Increased maintenance and management

WordPress

WordPress.com's homepage

WordPress has good flexibility and is relatively easy to use (Image credit: WordPress)

You can install the free WordPress CMS via one of the best WordPress hosting providers, or you can host your site and utilize a website builder for WordPress, installable as plugins. Read our WordPress review for a full analysis of the service.

The best thing is how easy it is to build a website with WordPress through its browser-based editor. Thousands of themes exist for WordPress, so you can quickly have a professional-looking site, and there are over 55,000 WordPress plugins you can install that add functionality to your website. Read our WordPress review to see what we made of the company's website builder.

WordPress is an excellent choice to get a fully functioning website up and running quickly. However, security is a concern on WordPress sites. The software itself is considered relatively secure, but themes and plugins are all developed by distinct people, so bugs and security holes are often introduced. WordPress is the most hacked CMS in the world.

While WordPress itself is free, premium themes and plugins are not. You must also update the software regularly as security holes are patched, which can inadvertently render a theme or plugin on your site unusable until it has been updated. 

Finally, although selling goods on a WordPress site is possible, WordPress wasn’t built with ecommerce in mind. If you’re selling goods online, consider a more ecommerce focused CMS like Shopify.

Pros:

  • Thousands of themes
  • Powerful plugins
  • Easy multi-creator blogging

Cons:

  • Cost of plug-ins can mount up
  • Better options exist for ecommerce sites
  • Security is a concern

Website builders

Wix's homepage

A website builder like Wix is fast and simple to use but has limited scalability (Image credit: Wix)

Website builders such as Wix, Weebly, and Squarespace create website code for you. You need not know anything about website development to use a website builder, as all you do is drag and drop the elements you want onto the page. 

The other major advantage of using a website builder is speed. You can make a website much more quickly using a website builder than if you were coding each page yourself.

Unfortunately, website builders are rather simplistic, so you’re restricted to specific, generic templates. Adding functionality to your site that isn’t inherently part of the website building tool is challenging, making scaling your site up later a problem. 

Finally, the created website code is machine-generated so it can be difficult for a web designer to work with. This makes transferring your website to other platforms difficult, essentially locking you into using the website builder forever. 

Website builders are a fine choice for small, basic websites that won’t need to grow into something bigger in the future, but their limitations make them a poor choice for everything else.

Pros:

  • Fast website creation
  • Low cost
  • No technical knowledge required

Cons:

  • Difficult to transfer code
  • Cookie-cutter designs
  • Poor scalability

Web hosting vs WordPress vs website builder: Which is best?

In conclusion, you can see that despite comparing the three different areas of web creation, elements of each are better than those of the competitors, but all three allow for website creation in one way or another. It depends entirely on what you and your business are looking to achieve, whether it be ecommerce, blogging, a high-capacity webpage or all three.

Mark Pickavance

Mark is an expert on displays, reviewing monitors and TVs. He also covers storage including SSDs, NAS drives and portable hard drives. He started writing in 1986 and had contributed to MicroMart, PC Format, 3D World among others.