The Difference Between Web Hosting and a Website Builder
There are lots of different ways to get a website online. Some of them require technical expertise and experience in things link HTML, CSS, and other coding languages. But there are also ways to build a website without any of those skills – the easiest to use is a website builder. Website builders are suitable for anyone with a basic understanding of technology – if you can post photos or videos to Facebook then you meet the requirements to create a site using a website builder tool.
But do you need website hosting as well? And what is the difference between web hosting and a website builder?
The simple answer is that you will need web hosting if you want to be online. A web host offers you the online space (server space) to store the files (content and images) that make up your website. Web hosting space is usually purchased on a subscription basis, and your site is available as long as you are ‘renting’ the server space. A website builder will come into play when you are deciding how to put your site together – will you hard code the design, or use pre designed templates that allow you to easily add or modify the images and copy?
If it’s still unclear how they differ, or whether you need one, or both, we compare it to a trip to The Louvre.
The Guided Tour – A Website Builder
The Louvre is home to some of the most important artworks in the world including the Mona Lisa and Venus of Milo. It is a fascinating place where the building itself is almost as stunning as the priceless works of art that it houses. It’s also huge.
For this reason, many visitors to The Louvre pay for guided tours. By doing this they benefit from the knowledge of the guide as they get a better understanding of the individual artworks and their histories.
Using a website builder is similar to taking the guided tour, and is the opposite of the do-it-yourself approach. In our Louvre comparison, the do-it-yourself approach is adopted by those visitors that choose not to take the tour. Instead, they chart their own path and set their own pace, viewing the collections and individual pieces that they choose while conducting their own research.
Of course, whether you go on a guided tour or you go-it-alone you must still visit The Louvre. Similarly, you will need website hosting for your site whether you use a website builder or not.
If you are looking for a web host to store your site files, you should investigate the website builder options they have, understand the options available, and if there are any additional costs for using the tool. You can check out what you get with the iPage WebsiteBuilder which comes free with any hosting subscription.
Pros and Cons
Before you make a decision on whether to go-it-alone and build your site from scratch or take the guided tour/website builder option, you should understand the benefits to both approaches. Let’s start with the benefits of using a website builder like the iPage WebSiteBuilder.
Benefits of a website builder:
- You do not need website building or programming experience or knowledge
- They are easy to learn and you can build websites quickly
- Most offer a variety of design options, with some customization options when it comes to elements like color schemes, and fonts
- Everything works so you don’t have to spend time with compatibility issues, bugs or broken functionality
- Performance is optimized by your hosting provider
- Your website hosting provider also takes care of the technical maintenance so that you just have to worry about content
- They are capable of building everything from small brochure-type websites to full ecommerce stores
There are limitations with a website builder though. A basic hosting subscription may limit the number of web pages you can create. And depending on the template you select, some of the major design elements will not be customizable. Websites built with a website builder are also not as scalable as websites built using other platforms, although this will only be an issue if your website gets significant volumes of traffic.
Benefits of doing-it-yourself
- You have more freedom over the visual design
- You can customize the code to get your website looking and performing exactly how you want
- The types of functions that you can add are almost limitless
- When built correctly they are easier to scale – so you can handle higher levels of traffic
- You can port your site more easily between web hosting providers
When it comes to dealing with your web hosting provider you will need hosting whichever option you choose – the guided website builder or the do-it-yourself approach. If you want to build the website yourself to save money and have more control but you do not want to spend weeks or months learning how to do it, go for the website builder option. If, on the other hand, you want the same sort of flexibility that you get by exploring The Louvre on your own, then just buy the hosting and build the website yourself. As long as the hosting provider has a website builder with the subscription, you can always back out if the self-coding option turns out not to be for you.
Editor’s note: This blog was originally published on June 30, 2014, it has been updated for relevancy and accuracy.