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When it comes to choosing a CMS, there are a lot of options to choose from. One can go with traditional ones, such as WordPress, Drupal or Joomla! Alternatively, one can opt for a hosted solution too.
Hosted CMSs tend to be quite popular with designers. While they may not be able to compete with self-hosted ones in terms of scalability, they have several advantages of their own. Apart from included hosting, they also come with A+ grade support from the CMS manufacturer, and thus you know that if something were to go wrong, you won’t be left feeling lost. Secondly, most of them feature intuitive interfaces to help you develop websites easily.
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Apart from that, almost all hosted CMSs come with Reseller Tools – you can re-brand and re-sell the websites you create to your clients. Thus, using a hosted CMS allows designers to not just work in an easy manner but also gain a residual flow of income. You have ready-made hosting, support and CMS deployment at your service – all you need to do is create websites and receive payment! Also, almost all hosted CMSs nowadays offer a free trial, so you can try before you buy.
In this article, we take a look at some of the major hosted CMSs. However, before we take the plunge, it is worthwhile to point out that this article, for the sake of clarity, mentions CMSs that project themselves as Content Management Systems in the proper sense of the term. Thus, awesome services such as WordPress.com have been left out (although WP.com offers WordPress as a hosted solution, it projects itself as a blogging tool and not a regular CMS).
Agility CMS lets you manage your content and create websites in a snap. The CMS comes with its own Content API. You can also use Agility CMS to manage websites built with ASP.NET
Pros: Great Rich Text Editing, support for JSON API and ASP.NET.
Cons: Bit overpriced, may seem too sophisticated for some clients.
Pricing: Basic Plan at $200 per month (includes two content editors).
LightCMS is a CMS specifically meant for designers. You can create a free website with 3 pages, but if you wish to resell and create unlimited websites, you’ll have to opt for the paid plans. The CMS does not have the typical Admin Dashboard – instead, it features in-context editing, that is, you can edit your website simply by clicking on the respective regions.
Pros: e-Commerce Tools, Reseller options, special plans for web designers.
Cons: Needs better documentation.
Pricing: Basic Plan with 1 GB storage at $19 per month.
Squarespace is another hosted CMS that lets you create a blog, website or portfolio. The CMS offers excellent templates, stats and specialized features for particular websites such as photo galleries.
Pros: Awesome apps for iOS and Android, Importers for WP, Blogger and others.
Cons: Virtually nil
Pricing: Standard Pack at $8 per month (billed annually) with 500 GB bandwidth and 2 GB storage
HiFi lets you create websites with zero design constraints. It offers a slick API and intuitive interface.
Pros: Excellent SEO settings, easy to use interface.
Cons: Plans should be limited in terms of bandwidth instead of pages.
Pricing: Starter Plan for $19 per month (maximum 25 pages).
Adobe Business Catalyst is an all-in-one platform for building websites, online stores and managing businesses. As the name suggests, it is useful only if you have enterprises and businesses as your clients. Apart from content management, BC can also help you with turn-key eCommerce, CRM, email marketing and other similar tasks.
Pros: Ideal for businesses and organizations.
Cons: May not suit the needs of non-businesses.
Pricing: The Basic+ Plan is available for roughly $12 per month. It includes 1 GB of storage and 1 TB of bandwidth, along with hosted emails.
Webvanta lets you build websites with ease. You can embed functionality such as blogs, photo galleries, slideshows, forms, etc. As a designer, you also have the option to become a partner and re-brand the CMS. For end users, there is a free plan with limited functionality.
Pros: Special plans for designers, priority support, monthly webinars.
Cons: Pricing on the higher side.
Pricing: Starter Plan at $149 per year (includes Premium Hosting).
Webpop is another cloud-based hosted CMS for designers. Unlike others, Webpop does not offer unwanted abstraction and instead allows you full HTML and CSS control. In fact, Webpop’s pricing plans too are modeled around designers’ usage – Personal, Freelance and Agency!
Pros: Excellent stats and analytics, gorgeous layout.
Cons: Virtually nil, though it can use a limited features’ Free Plan.
Pricing: Personal Plan is at $19 per month, which allows you to have 1 GB storage, 5 projects and 1 client/collaborator.
If Webpop is meant for designers, Edicy caters to end users. It offers out of the box SEO, responsive templates and layout, and support for building multilingual websites (native support, that is – you don’t have to do the translation).
Pros: Multilingual features, Competitive pricing.
Cons: Edicy’s own website seems to be slightly slow in loading (compared to others).
Pricing: Pro Plan at $9 per month, with 5 GB storage (Free Plan also available).
Shopify is a hosted CMS meant for creating e-commerce websites and stores. It provides you with all the functionality you need to run your e-commerce website, such as product/inventory/customer management, payment gateways and even fraud detection.
Pros: Ideal for running an e-commerce website, good tools for designers.
Cons: Not useful for non-e-commerce sites.
Pricing: Basic plan at $30 per month with 1 GB storage and unlimited bandwidth.
Magento Go is another hosted solution for e-commerce websites. Basically, it is the hosted version of the famous e-commerce web application Magento.
Pros: Terrific features for e-commerce stores.
Cons: Awkward pricing (after 800 MB, the next storage option is 5 GB, with no other price point in between).
Pricing: ‘Get Going’ Plan at $15 per month with 200 MB storage and 4 GB bandwidth.
Yet another e-commerce CMS, Highwire lets you manage orders, customers, products and marketing in an easy manner. As a designer, you have full HTML and CSS control, and as an end-user, you have unmatched e-commerce tools at your service! There is also a free ‘Facebook’ Plan for users.
Pros: Awesome stats and analytics, good tools for e-commerce.
Cons: Can use a better documentation.
Pricing: Bronze Plan at $19.95 per month (unlimited features, but your sales volume cannot exceed $1500 per month).
SolidShops is a solution for e-commerce stores. Bored of e-commerce already? Well, SolidShops is different from the rest in the sense that it focuses on designers, not end users or store owners. The feature set is mere essential, and the focus is on simplicity. Also, it offers full design control.
Pros: Meant for designers of e-commerce websites.
Cons: Simplicity in features may not suit everyone.
Pricing: Basic Plan at $29 per month with 100 MB storage.
Volusion is a hosted CMS meant for (yes, you guessed it right) e-commerce websites. It offers several beautiful templates, management tools for orders, customers, products, as well as many unique features such as email newsletters, customer wishlists, daily deals, etc.
Pros: Many unique features for e-commerce websites.
Cons: Needs better documentation.
Pricing: Steel Plan at $19 per month with 1 GB data transfer.
Concrete5 is primarily a self-hosted CMS like Drupal and WordPress. However, they also offer hosting and thus, Concrete5 can be run as a hosted solution too. Speaking of the CMS, Concrete5 is easy to use, features many unique elements and can power many different genres of websites, from enterprise entities to blogs. I once did a two-part review of Concrete5 here and here.
Pros: Awesome CMS with in-built Sitemaps, Stats and SEO.
Cons: Slightly expensive (CMS itself is free, but the hosted version isn’t).
Pricing: $45 per month with 5 GB storage and 25 GB bandwidth.
Breezi is a visual CSS Editor and edit-in-place CMS meant for designers. It offers great control over style, useful apps, powerful WYSIWYG, custom tracking codes, integration with Google Fonts Library, and several other features.
Pros: Interesting set of features, good support.
Cons: Still in BETA, so may not be everyone’s cup of tea.
Pricing: $12 per month.
CushyCMS is a simple CMS meant for designers. It is versatile and swift in operation and offers several features.
Pros: Extremely easy to use.
Cons: Features may seem limiting as compared to others.
Pricing: Pro Plan at $28 per month (Free Plan also available with limited functionality).
Vae Platform is an integrated CMS and e-commerce solution along with redundant hosting. It includes support for shopping carts, newsletters, analytics, etc. Also, the CMS offers full support for PHP, CSS, MySQL, and Subversion. It also comes with a 90-day money-back guarantee.
Pros: Perhaps the best pick for e-commerce websites.
Cons: May seem expensive if you do not need the advanced features.
Pricing: Solo Plan at $299 per month which allows hosting 10 websites.
PageLime is a CMS meant for designers. It offers reseller tools and support for mobile devices. We did a detailed review of PageLime here.
Pros: Reseller tools, iPhone app.
Cons: Feature set not as advanced as other CMSs in this league.
Pricing: Professional Plan at $19 per month which allows you to have 50 websites (Free Plan with limited functionality also available).
With that, we come to the end of this round-up. Do you use a hosted CMS? If so, feel free to share your thoughts with us in the comments.
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Sufyan bin Uzayr is a freelance writer and artist. He writes for several print magazines as well as technology blogs, and has also authored a book named Sufism: A Brief History. His primary areas of interest include open source, mobile development, web CMS and vector art. He is also the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of an e-journal named Brave New World. You can visit his website, follow him on Twitter or friend him on Facebook and Google+.