Are you thinking about creating your first website, but aren’t sure where to start due to information overload? If yes, you’re not alone. While in theory, everyone can create a fully-functional yet fancy-looking site today, it’s a bit trickier once you try to put it into practice.
For starters, you’ll have to buy a domain name (opens in new tab). Then you’ll have to think about choosing the right web hosting (opens in new tab) service – rich in features but not something only the rich can afford. After this, you’ll want to tackle the issue of site-building tools – that is, how you intend to create your site. And all the while you’ll be coming up with content for your soon-to-be-successful site.
If you’re new to site-building, you’ll probably be using both a website builder (opens in new tab) and a web hosting service – however, you can go without one of these two. Also, you might be wondering what site builders and web hosts are and what role they will play in your online project.
If all the above is true, keep reading this comparative guide. We’ll clear up what these two products/services are, what makes them similar and different, why you need either of them, and which might be a better choice for you.
What is a website builder?
In the old days building a site meant getting to know the lines of code, having web designer skills, and pouring plenty of time and energy into your online project. Now, it’s a totally different story, and fortunately so.
The number one tool that makes building beautiful sites within everyone’s reach is a site builder. It’s a software solution created for creating all sorts of sites (to put it simply) and it requires no technical know-how. On the contrary, you can have a fully-functional site up and running within hours.
To keep things simple, most site builders utilize an intuitive site editor with a novice-friendly user interface (UI) and drag-and-drop functionality. Also, there should be tons of ready-made and mobile-friendly templates and themes that can be tweaked to your liking.
The main advantage of using a site builder is the built-in simplicity and swiftness of creating a site with it. Also, most site builds are budget-friendly, so there’s no need to worry about blowing your budget anytime soon.
However, this lack of complexity can be suffocating for a sophisticated ever-changing business site. Also, the cookie-cutter principle behind building these sites doesn’t leave much space for advanced customization – which means your site might end up looking like every other site in cyberspace.
For instance, with site builders, you won’t get to use plug-ins like with some open-source site-building solutions (such as WordPress (opens in new tab)), and there are some powerful plug-ins for pretty much everything. You name it, there is a plug-in for it out there.
Unfortunately, with a site builder, you’ll always be a bit short on choices.
What is web hosting?
In a nutshell, web hosting is an online service that makes your site and its content available on the internet – it’s a server where your site “lives”. The service provider that makes this possible is called a web hosting provider, or web host for short. There are several types of web hosting and which one you’ll want to use depends on your personal and professional needs.
If you wish to start a personal blog or a simple site, a pocket-friendly shared hosting plan should suffice. It allows multiple sites to use a single “shared” server, which makes this option cheap but tight on server resources (CPU, storage space, bandwidth, and RAM).
However, if you need a web host for a professional, mission-critical site, you’ll want something more powerful than shared hosting. Virtual private hosting (VPS (opens in new tab)) is probably the first upgrade you’ll want to make and it implies you’ll get private hosting resources hosted on a virtual server. So, while you’ll be using the same server with other users, your virtual space on it and all your resources are yours alone.
For those who want more, there is dedicated server hosting (opens in new tab). As suggested, the whole server will be dedicated to you. Not surprisingly, it’s the costliest type of hosting today.
There is also cloud hosting (opens in new tab), which is similar to VPS but hosted by the cloud services provider – which means your site will be hosted on the cloud and using cloud resources.
Managed hosting is a subtype of several hosting types and it implies that the web host will take care of the setup, configuration, management, upkeep, and support of your server. The most common managed hosting subtypes include managed VPS, managed cloud, and managed dedicated server hosting.
Last but not least is colocation (opens in new tab) hosting and it’s a superb alternative to hosting an in-house data center or using a dedicated server hosting service. For this, you’ll be using your own servers, storage, and other IT equipment and putting it into a colocation data center that is optimized for such equipment. This is a solid, cost-saving strategy for large, mission-critical businesses.
The main advantages of using web hosting include affordable pricing, powerful site performance, solid security, tons of free perks, customer support to rely on, and the sheer simplicity of the service.
On the downside, web hosting can get from pocket-friendly to costing a pretty penny as your site grows. Also, if you’re using a shared hosting (opens in new tab) plan your site might run out of space for growth and suffer from poor performance. Plus, since no company is truly immune to data breaches, you’ll be putting your trust (and sensitive data) in the provider’s hands.
Similarities and differences
While both a web hosting service and a website builder play a role in creating a site, they’re not so similar once you put them side by side. First, most site builders don’t provide web hosting services and they never act as servers for hosting multiple sites.
At the same time, while some web hosting packages include a site builder as a bonus, that isn’t always the case. Plus, you can build a site without using a site builder – you can utilize a content management system (CMS (opens in new tab)), create it yourself with HTML and CSS (if you possess technical know-how, that is), or hire a professional designer to do it for you.
To put it simply, a site builder is a tool you can use to create a site, while a web hosting service is vital if you wish to publish your newly-created site online.
Do I need web hosting and a website builder?
In short, every site needs a domain name and web hosting – so if you want to own a fully-functional site, you can’t go without a web hosting service. As an alternative, if you possess the required technical knowledge and the budget to back it up, you can host your own “self-hosted” server – however, it will be costly and quite challenging.
On the other hand, while a site builder offers the most novice-friendly way to build a site, you could use some other site-building alternatives such as CMS, creating it from scratch with HTML and CSS, or paying a professional to do the trick.
Web hosting vs website builder: Which one is better?
If you’re new to all this and want a simple solution for building a stunning site, a site builder is probably the best choice for you. Some of the most popular site builders (such as Weebly (opens in new tab), Squarespace, and Wix (opens in new tab)) also include free web hosting (opens in new tab) services, so you won’t have to worry about that.
Meanwhile, everyone else would benefit from an easy-to-use, cost-efficient, and extendable CMS as it is a more customizable and less suffocating solution for complex sites. And if you’re familiar with the lines of code you can go a step further and build your site from the ground up. Simply register your domain name, pick out a reliable web hosting package, and start building your site right now.