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Web hosting vs. WordPress vs. website builder: Which one is the best?

website builder
(Image credit: Photo by Carlos Muza on Unsplash)

When you first build a website, you must choose how much of the work you’ll do yourself and how much you’ll outsource to contractors. The best approach to take depends on how much time you can spare, the level of control you want over the project, and the amount of technical knowledge you possess. 

Here, we’ll discuss three options for creating a new website—web hosting, WordPress, and website builders—and their relative pros and cons⁠. You can use these methods together so they’re not mutually exclusive, but it’s useful to define what they are so you know where to start.

When you buy web hosting from a web hosting provider, you’re simply renting disk space on a remote computer server. You upload your website files onto that disk space and then people can access them from around the world. You still need to create the web pages yourself or pay a web design company to make them for you.

If that sounds like too much work, content management software makes creating web pages easier. WordPress is one such content management system, with a focus on blogging sites. Even if you have no web development experience, you can make a WordPress site in a matter of minutes. 

Website builders are another option for making websites when you don’t have any technical experience. With the simple drag-and-drop interface of a website builder, you can make a website even if you don’t know HTML, CSS, or JavaScript code. The website builder will create the underlying code for you.

Let’s look at each of these three options in more detail.

1. Web hosting

website builder

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 web hosting 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 content management systems 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

2. WordPress

website builder

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

You can install the free WordPress content management system on your own web hosting or you can host your WordPress website on WordPress.com.

The best thing about WordPress is how easy it is to create a website 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. 

WordPress is an excellent choice to get a fully functioning website up and running quickly. However, security is a concern on WordPress sites. The WordPress software itself is considered relatively secure, but WordPress themes and plugins are all developed by distinct people, so bugs and security holes are often introduced. WordPress is the most hacked content management software 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 e-commerce in mind. If you’re selling goods online, consider a more e-commerce focused content management system like Shopify.

Pros:

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

Cons:

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

3. Website builder

website builder

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