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Website Building Options and Hosting

A website builder is a simple tool that helps you build a professional looking website with modern features, without you having to write any code. 

Using a website builder allows you to quickly get a new website for your business or organization up and running, with minimal hassle -- even if you've never built or managed a website before.

A little background on websites

Coding websites

When people started creating websites in the 1990s, it was a lot like creating a computer program. You had to know how write code. As web design got more complicated, you had to learn more and more things. And the amount of code you had to write got larger and larger.

Desktop website designers

After a few years, companies started creating programs (like Frontpage) that would write the code for you. All you had to do was install their software on your home computer, pick a template, and type in your content. This made it much easier for anyone, regardless of skill, to publish a website. Small businesses, churches, social clubs, and non-profit organizations took advantage of this new software to publish websites without having to learn how to code.

Content Management

But then, web design changed. Websites got larger, and more complicated. People started blogging. E-commerce became normal. Social media took over.

Many developers - the people who know how to write code - stopped writing a bunch of code for each individual web page and started using dynamic Content Management Systems (CMS). Content Management Systems are a little bit like those desktop website-publishing programs. They make building a website a lot easier.

You've probably heard of several popular Content Management Systems, like WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla. They help developers make professional-looking, modern websites with all the features people have come to expect - online stores, social media links, blogs, image galleries.

But here's the problem: We're back to websites being built only by professionals.

In theory, you don't have to know how to code to setup and use WordPress, but it really helps if you do. And if you don't really understand what's going on "under the hood," you'll never get the best experience from using it.

Website Builders

Online website builders are the next generation of those old desktop web page creator programs.

These easy-to-use tools bring the latest and greatest features from the world of dynamic Content Management Systems to non-coders. They allow you to take full advantage of modern web development standards and professional graphic design, without learning to program or hiring a programmer.

With just a few clicks, you can have a new website for your business, church, school, club, or non-profit organization.

Two different types of website builders

The most widely advertised and increasingly popular website builders are SaaS (software as a service) subscription companies. This means that they handle all of the hosting and technical details, and you log in to edit or make changes to your web site through an easy-to-use GUI (graphical user interface).

Typically, you pay a monthly fee for this type of service. Some of the more popular SaaS-style Website Builders are Squarespace, Weebly, and Wix.

The other type of website builder is a "self-hosted" model. These are provided as free apps in a web hosting plan, and the actual website that you build is stored within your own hosting account.

SaaS vs. self-hosted - Which is for you?

The SaaS-style subscription based website builders tend to be a bit easier to use and often (though not always) have more contemporary looking designs and bleeding-edge features. They also tend to cost more.

More problematic than cost is lock-in. Once you've built your website at Squarespace or Weebly, you pretty much have to keep it there unless you want to completely redesign it and deal with setup again.

With self-hosted website builders, you aren't usually paying for the site builder, you are paying for a hosting plan, and the builder is provided as a free add-on. This usually makes them much less expensive overall.

Sometimes, with the subscription services, you want to change something and you just can't. Another reason to use a regular web hosting company is the need to use a web server for additional things besides just the website, such as email marketing, data storage, or customer relationship management.

How to choose a website builder

If you decide to go with a self-hosted plan, choose the one with the other features and pricing structure you need. You'll have several website builders to choose from regardless of which hosting company you pick.

If you think a subscription based website builder is what you need, be sure to take into account all of the features you need before making a decision. Do you plan to sell products? Sell downloads? Do you need to accept donations? Host video? Publish a blog?

It's easy to get excited about putting your business or organization online, and so a lot of people end up focusing on the technical decisions:

  • Which host to use?
  • Which website builder?
  • Should I hire a developer?

Step back and figure out what you want your website to accomplish and what features it needs in order to do that. Then, you won't just make an exciting decision, you'll make the right one.

RVSiteBuilder vs Soholaunch

When you do a comparison of RVSiteBuilder and Soholaunch, you need to take the reseller option out of the equation. After all, unless you are web hosting reseller, you don’t really care that RVSiteBuilder is primarily marketed to resellers - you just know your hosting provider offers it to you for building your site!

Simply evaluating RVSiteBuilder and Soholaunch against one another is a pretty difficult comparison. RVSiteBuilder is a commercial website builder typically included as part of a hosting package offered by a hosting provider. By comparison, Soholaunch is an open source website builder available as a 1-click installation on many hosting platforms. These two website builders have many of the same features, and both are likely available to single site webmasters as a free site builder.

Bloggers and webmasters that have absolutely no interest in database or server management may end up saving themselves some work by deploying RVSiteBuilder, because those managed services would fall back on the hosting provider. When you install Soholaunch on your own server - whether its shared hosting or dedicated - you are likely responsible for the content you loaded there.

If you are looking for a simple site builder and your hosting provider offers RVSiteBuilder out of the box with your hosting plan, that may be the best choice for an inexperienced webmaster.

Website Builder Pro vs Soholaunch

While it was difficult to do an actual comparison between RVSiteBuilder and Soholaunch because they are basically the same softwares, Website Builder Pro and Soholaunch actually have some differences worth reviewing.

Website Builder Pro is a premium website building application that has an upfront license fee and then a monthly fee on top of that. Most webmasters should expect to pay several hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars upfront before the monthly fee, depending on what type of website they want to build.

By comparison, Soholaunch is an open source website builder available as a 1-click installation on many hosting platforms. Both Website Builder Pro and Soholaunch have been used by 1000's of website owners - like RVSiteBuilder, they also have many of the same features.

These two platforms vary widely in their associated costs, but provide similar features. This comparison brings to light one of the biggest problems first time website owners face when they attempt to choose a website builder - deciding how much they need to pay for a good site builder!

Selecting the right builder

Selecting a website builder is not an easy process. However, as documented above in the comparisons between Website Builder Pro and RVSiteBuilder and Soholaunch, many platforms have similar features and drastically different costs associated with them.

So… is it really necessary for you to purchase a website builder? The answer to that question depends on how much work you are willing to put into setting up your site. Most modern hosting providers will provide you some type of website builder “out of the box” with the purchase of your server space. If you are comfortable using whatever website builder they provide you, then you have no need to find a different website builder to upload to your site.

In addition to providing customers with a website builder as part of their hosting package, many providers take things a step further today by including hundreds of content management systems to their customers through a 1-click installation.

If you want to build your website on a platform like Wordpress or Magento - then a website builder won’t even be necessary! Instead, you can upload the content management system and integrate a third party theme onto your site from one of the thousands of theme galleries online.

Instead of finding a website builder that has high costs associated with licenses and renewal fees, it is probably much easier for you to use a website builder included in your hosting package. 

As the second easiest road to launching your site, find a content management system or site builder application available from your host as a 1-click installation. 

Thirdly, if you really want to use a website builder that wasn’t bundled in your hosting plan - take some extra time to search for an open source builder over one of the premium versions. 

You'd be amazed what you can find out there for no fees and also available as a 1-click installation with your hosting provider.

Further Reading: Website builder services (hosting + DIY site builder): Weebly, Wix, Squarespace

Popular website building software: RVsitebuilder, Soholaunch, more below: