Though technically true, it’s misleading to think of either drag-and-drop builders or Content Management Systems (CMS) as absolutely free.
Yes, industry-leading web builders like Wix and Weebly have forged much of their success on the back of their “free website” packages, whilst the majority of top content management systems like WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal are what’s known as “open source” software, meaning anyone can download and use them without paying a penny.
But there are costs involved with both, especially if you’re looking to develop a professional quality website complete with a domain name.
Cost of setting up a website with a CMS
With Content Management Systems, there’s no getting away from this. In order to use a CMS, you need space on a web hosting server to install and run it. These cost money, though not as much as you might think.
With some web hosting companies, it’s possible to get a solid, reliable shared hosting plan for between £2-3 per month for a first-term of 12, 24, or 36 months.
After that, those costs will usually increase to anywhere between £6 and £12 per month.
Meanwhile, “free website” plans with website building companies often come with certain drawbacks that make them an unattractive option for businesses and others who need to maintain a professional image online.
Sign up for a free plan with some of the big-name brands that we’ve already mentioned in this article, and you’ll be left with the company’s branding and advertising displayed on your website, not to mention a lack of top-level domain name, meaning customers will need to access your site through a web address such as “mynewwebsite.wix.com.”
In order to remove that advertising and connect a proper domain name such as .com, .net, or .org, you’ll need to invest in a premium level plan.
With most website builders, prices for premium plans typically run from £5 to £20, depending on which company you use, and which plan you sign up for.
The good news, is that both web hosting plans and premium website builder packages often come with a free one year’s domain registration, saving you the added cost of buying a web address separate from your actual website package.
Themes and templates
Both types of platform come with a number of free-to-use, pre-designed templates which can be fully customised to create a website that looks just how you want it.
What’s important to note here however, is that if you build your site with a platform like WordPress for example, you’ll find the free templates pale in comparison to those that you pay for, whereas with something like Wix, you enjoy access to a fully range of professional quality templates which, though they may not be as all-powerful as a paid-for WordPress theme, don’t require any extra cost to use.
In terms of figures alone, a low cost hosting package, free CMS, and free theme will likely set you back less than paying for a premium plan with a top online website builder.
It’s worth pointing out though that numbers aren’t necessarily everything, and when you consider quality, simplicity, and the fact that website builders are far easier to learn than getting your head around something like WordPress, opting for Wix, Weebly or a similar package may well prove the better option for those with limited web experience or technical skill.
If on the other hand, you’re looking for a challenge, a hosted Content Management System will not only cost less, but ultimately provide greater levels of functionality and the flexibility to create a very impressive looking site.