Website Builder vs Web Hosting: What’s the Difference?


Thinking of building your first website, but not sure where to start due to information overload? If so, you are not alone. While in theory anyone can create a fully functional yet stylish site today, it’s a little trickier once you try to put it into practice.

To start, you will need to purchase a domain name (opens in a new tab). Then you will have to think about choosing the right web hosting (opens in a new tab) service – feature rich but not something only the rich can afford. After that, you’ll want to tackle the problem of site builder tools, which is how you intend to build your site. And all the while, you’ll be coming up with content for your site that will soon find success.

If you’re new to site building, you’ll likely use both a website builder (opens in a new tab) and a web hosting service – however, you can do without either of these two services. Also, you might be wondering what site builders and web hosts are and what role they will play in your online venture.

If all of the above is true, keep reading this comparison guide. We are going to clarify what these two products/services are, what makes them similar and different, why you need one of them and which one might be a better choice for you.

Website Builder written with black marker

(Image credit: Shutterstock/TierneyMJ)

What is a Website Builder?

It used to be that creating a site meant getting to know the lines of code, having web design skills, and putting a lot of time and energy into your online project. Now it’s a totally different story, thankfully.

The number one tool that makes creating beautiful sites anyone can do is a site builder. It is a software solution designed to create all kinds of sites (to put it simply) and which does not require any technical knowledge. On the contrary, you can have a fully functional and operational site within hours.

To keep things simple, most site builders use an intuitive site editor with a novice-friendly user interface (UI) and drag-and-drop functionality. Also, there should be tons of ready-to-use and mobile-friendly templates and themes that can be modified to your liking.

The main advantage of using a site builder is the built-in simplicity and speed of creating a site with it. Plus, most site builders are budget-friendly, so you don’t have to worry about blowing your budget anytime soon.

However, this lack of complexity can be overwhelming for an ever-changing, sophisticated business site. Plus, the cookie-cutter principle behind building these sites doesn’t leave much room for advanced customization — meaning your site might end up looking like every other site in cyberspace.

For example, with site builders, you won’t be able to use plugins like with some open source site building solutions (such as WordPress (opens in a new tab)), and there are powerful plug-ins for just about everything. You name it, there is a plugin for that.

Unfortunately, with a site builder, you’ll always be a bit short of choices.

Internet, business, technology and network concept.  Web hosting

(Image credit: Shutterstock/Photonphoto)

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 a web host for short. There are several types of web hosting and which one you will want to use depends on your personal and business needs.

If you want to start a personal blog or a simple site, a user-friendly shared hosting plan should suffice. It allows multiple sites to use a single “shared” server, which makes this option cheap but constrained on server resources (CPU, storage space, bandwidth, and RAM).

However, if you need a web host for an essential business site, you’ll want something more powerful than shared hosting. Virtual Private Hosting (VPS) (opens in a new tab)) is probably the first upgrade you’ll want to make and it implies that you’ll get private hosting resources hosted on a virtual server. So, while you will be using the same server with other users, your virtual space and all your resources belong to you.

For those who want more, there is dedicated server hosting (opens in a new tab). As suggested, the entire server will be dedicated to you. Unsurprisingly, this is the most expensive type of hosting today.

There is also cloud hosting (opens in a new tab)which is similar to VPS but hosted by the cloud service provider – meaning your site will be hosted on the cloud and will use cloud resources.

Managed hosting is a subtype of several hosting types and it implies that the hosting company will take care of the installation, configuration, management, maintenance 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 roommate (opens in a new tab) hosting and it is a great alternative to hosting an in-house data center or using a dedicated server hosting service. For this, you will use your own servers, storage and other IT equipment and place it in a colocation data center optimized for this equipment. This is a sound and cost-effective strategy for large critical enterprises.

The main benefits of using web hosting include affordable prices, powerful site performance, solid security, tons of free perks, customer support to rely on, and simplicity of service.

In contrast, web hosting can go from user-friendly to costing a pretty penny as your site grows. Also, if you are using shared hosting (opens in a new tab) plan your site could run out of space for growth and suffer from poor performance. Additionally, since no company is truly immune to data breaches, you will place your trust (and your sensitive data) in the hands of the provider.

Similarities and differences

Although a web hosting service and a website builder both play a part in building a site, they aren’t that similar once you put them side by side. First, most site builders do not provide web hosting services and never act as servers for hosting multiple sites.

At the same time, while some web hosting packages include a bonus site builder, this is not always the case. Moreover, you can create a site without using a site builder – you can use a content management system (CMS (opens in a new tab)), create it yourself with HTML and CSS (if you have technical know-how), or hire a professional designer to do it for you.

Simply put, a site builder is a tool you can use to create a site, while a web hosting service is essential if you want 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 do without a web hosting service. As an alternative, if you have the required technical knowledge and the budget to back it up, you can host your own “self-hosted” server – however, this will be expensive and quite difficult.

On the other hand, while a site builder offers the most user-friendly way to create a site, you can use other site-building alternatives such as CMS, build it from scratch with HTML and CSS, or pay a professional to do the trick.

Web Hosting vs Website Builder: Which is Better?

If you’re new to all of this and want an easy solution to creating 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 a new tab)Squarespace and Wix (opens in a new tab)) also include free web hosting (opens in a new tab) services, so you don’t have to worry about that.

Meanwhile, everyone would benefit from an easy-to-use, cost-effective, and extensible CMS because it’s a more customizable and less overwhelming solution for complex sites. And if you are familiar with the lines of code, you can take it a step further and build your site from scratch. Simply register your domain name, choose a reliable web hosting package, and start building your site now.


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