Is blogging better with a web host or website builder?In today’s world, where lots of important discussions take place online, blogs are a natural means of self-expression. As such, many individuals with limited web design experience might find themselves drawn to blogging. While tons of resources detailing how to set up blogs exist, trying to follow them might initially prove to be overwhelming. We thought we’d help alleviate some of that confusion for new bloggers by going over two options available for blogging – web hosting and website building.

Web hosting vs. website building: What’s the difference?

We’ve compared both of these services before, but briefly:

  • Web hosting provides users with a server, where they can store the files that comprise their websites. Usually, these are files that the user has made themselves with markup and coding knowledge (HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP), but they may also be templates provided by the web host — most services provide templates for beginners who may not know how to code at all or have limited coding skills.
  • Website building services provide ready-made templates that can be edited with drag and drop features. This makes building web pages a snap, as users can literally use a grid to snap menus and pictures into place. Note that some web hosting services also provide website building tools.

What blogging features do web hosts provide?

Web hosts provide bloggers with tons of custom plugins and software for managing large volumes of content (referred to as a content management system, or a CMS). While getting the most out of a CMS and plugins would require some degree of coding knowledge, there are default settings and templates which exist for these programs, meaning they can be used, to an extent, by someone with no coding experience. Even so, content management systems can never perfectly rival the easy-to-use drag-and-drop experience of website builders.

In terms of sheer ubiquity, the king among content management systems – especially for bloggers – is WordPress which is estimated to be used by nearly 25% of all websites. A selling point for a lot of web hosting services is whether or not they allow you to use WordPress as a CMS, which all of the services we review permit. The reasons for WordPress’ popularity are its perceived ease of use compared to other CMS setups, its high degree of customization which can be accessed even without coding knowledge and the fact that it’s a blogging-friendly platform at its core.

For most web hosting services that offer WordPress, it’s a “one-click install” plugin, which means that with a single click of your mouse, the WordPress CMS will be integrated into your website. Still, using a CMS, even one as user-friendly as WordPress, can require managing a lot of moving parts like installing templates and in some cases – depending on the type of environment your web host provides – managing your website’s security features. The good thing is the frequent use of WordPress and even other content management systems means that you can easily receive help or support online.

What blogging features do website builders provide?

Website builders generally have premade templates sorted by subject or topic which can provide designs that compliment your content and give your website personality. In addition to templates, website builders also provide widgets, like social media plugins, allowing your readers to “like” your content directly from your website, or a PayPal button so that someone can make donations directly to you. CMS setups on web hosting sites also allow for widgets too, but the difference is that because of the flexibility CMS setups provide, it’s possible that you might have to troubleshoot plugins on your own if something goes wrong. On the flip said, all plugins you have access to with a website builder are guaranteed to work, but this means that you’re usually limited to the specific plugins your website building service has personally vetted.

A lot of the features that make website builders so much easier to use also, unfortunately, define the limitations of these services. For example, the drag-and-drop templates that website builders offer can sometimes result in cookie cutter web design, as it’s hard to be unique when using pre-defined features and designs that anyone has access to. Website builders do allow for customization, but without the degree of control that CMS and web hosting setups provide, you’re limited to changes that, at times, can feel more superficial than those you can make with a web host. Website builders, like Wix, attempt to bypass this issue by providing blank templates or development “from scratch.” In addition, most website builders allow you to have access to an HTML editor alongside its drag and drop editor. Even with just a tiny bit of markup knowledge, you can have more flexibility in designing your site without the hassle of managing all the moving pieces of a CMS. While these additional features don’t completely grant website builders the same degree of flexibility and customization that web hosts offer, it makes choosing a website builder a more palatable compromise – especially if a CMS proves to be too difficult to manage on your own.

Which should I choose for blogging?

Like many decisions, the choice of whether a web host or a website builder suits your needs is a personal one. Before deciding, however, you might want to consider your reasons for blogging. How seriously do you intend to blog? Do you wish to promote your personal or company brand? Is your blog something you see maintaining for a long time?

Most professional and full-time bloggers end up using a web hosting service to serve their needs, and while you can start off with a website builder, in the long run, a web hosting solution would likely be more feasible. Web hosts provide not just more design flexibility, but they also typically allow you to have more content and visitors on your site. Alternatively, though, if you run a niche site or you’re blogging for personal reasons or as a hobby, it probably doesn’t matter which you choose. The good news is that many website builders have free plans which allow you to “demo” features, albeit in a limited capacity. Both types of services also offer money back guarantees, usually for the first month or so of service, so if the experience absolutely doesn’t work out, you can cancel and ask for a refund. This means you can easily start with a website builder to confirm whether or not it meets your needs before moving on to a web hosting service.

Not sure which website builder or web host is right for you? Visit our website building reviews or our web hosting reviews to find a service that fits your needs.