One of my students recently asked, “What's the difference between a CMS (content management system), blog, website and a website builder?“.
Great question and it's no wonder that folks new to online business get confused with those terms that are so liberally thrown out, yet often with very little distinction.
OK, so here are the basic definitions as per Wikipedia:
- Content Management System (CMS) is a computer application used to create, edit, manage, search and publish various kinds of digital media and electronic text.
- Blog – (a contraction of the term weblog) is a type of website, usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video. Entries are commonly displayed in reverse-chronological order. “Blog” can also be used as a verb, meaning to maintain or add content to a blog.
- Website (or “web site”) – a collection of related web pages, images, videos or other digital assets that are hosted on one web server, usually accessible via the Internet.
- Website Builder – On-line proprietary tools provided by web hosting companies which cater to people who wish to build and publish their website without learning the technical aspects of web page production…
Note: Wikipedia distinguishes between online and offline website builders, refering to Adobe Dreamweaver as an example of the latter. For the purposes of this article however, we will deal only with online products and services.
So, to summarize…
- A website is a collection of pages.
- A blog is a website with pages and posts that runs on a content management system.
- A website builder also runs on a content management system.
OK, drop content management system out of the picture, and just know that it runs in the background to store, manage and publish your content.
Therefore, the primary difference between blogs and websites, is that a blog displays blog posts in reverse chronological order, i.e. latest post is shown at the top of the page – whereas on a website, pages are displayed according to how the webmaster chooses to set up his or her navigation through the site.
That said, you can create pages on a blog platform and choose to have them shown in any order you choose – just as you would do with a ‘static' website.
The other BIG difference between a website and a blog is that a blog allows interaction with your visitors, in the form of blog post commenting. You can choose to allow or disallow comments on individual posts and pages. In terms of developing an audience, that interactivity is another huge advantage to blogging over static websites.
That should leave us to distinguish between blogging and using a website builder.
How to Choose between Blogging and a Website Builder
If you are trying to decide whether you should set up your own blog or use a website builder, the primary considerations are ease-of-use and cost.
If you want to save some money and are willing to arrange your own hosting, install your own blog (takes no more than 2 minutes), source a good-looking theme, install some plugins and your autoresponder forms – go the do-it-yourself route.
If you get stuck along the way there are tremendous resources available (like this site) to help you get ‘unstuck' and many services that you can hire to help you what you might find more difficult, i.e. design.
However, if you don't mind paying a little extra and want a solution that includes hosting, blog and template installation, and many more tools all accessible from one interface, go with a website builder.
Take a good look at the site builder's feature list. Some include an autoresponder service as part of the package, while others others have datafeed integration but no autoresponder service. In some cases you may be surprised to find that adding that third-party service works out cheaper and you end up with even more bells and whistles than if you went with the more full-featured site builder.