7 Best Open Source Website Builders 2023
Welcome to our extensive review of the best open source website builders.
A good website is extra vital in our digital age for establishing a strong online presence and building credibility for businesses and individuals alike.
A well-designed and user-friendly website enhances user experience, boosting conversions and customer retention and driving business growth to the next level.
Luckily, anyone can create a professional site with the availability of open source website builder software. These tools are made with code freely available to the public. Thus, anyone can view, modify and distribute the software (according to the terms of its opens source license).
And you’ll benefit from many goodies when using an open source site builder, like:
- Flexibility and customizations
- Community support and updates
- Extensive collection of themes, plugins and integrations
- Security and transparency
- Freedom to choose any hosting provider
- No proprietary restrictions
This post covers:
Understanding Website Builders
What is a Website Builder?
A website builder is a tool that allows individuals, businesses and organizations to create websites without the need for extensive coding or technical experience.
It typically equips you with a user-friendly, intuitive interface and predefined themes. Users can then customize these designs by adding custom content, images and branding elements to build a unique and professional-looking site.
In most cases, you benefit from the handy drag-and-drop functionality, which makes it easy to arrange and organize elements.
In general, a website builder is an efficient solution to establish an online presence quickly, with minimal investment in time and resources.
Types of Website Builders: Proprietary vs Open Source
When choosing a website builder, you have two options: 1) a proprietary website builder and 2) an open source website builder.
What are the main differences between the two?
- A proprietary website builder is developed and owned by a specific company or organization. Unlike open source website builders, the source code of proprietary website builders is not freely available to the public. Users can access the builder through a subscription or licensing model and are often restricted to the features and functionalities. It may also come with vendor lock-in and the risk of dependency on the provider’s long-term sustainability.
- Open source website builder is a tool that’s freely available to the public. In other words, everyone can access and modify the source code. Users can use the builder to create websites with a high level of customization and flexibility, as they can modify the code and add new features as needed. Plus, open source website builders often have active communities of developers and users who collaborate to improve and maintain the platform.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Website Builder
Whoever wants to use a website builder wants a quick, easy solution to build a pro-level website. Thus, these are by far the two most important factors to consider.
But there are many other elements and features that the software you choose should have.
Look for a website builder with a user-friendly interface, intuitive navigation and drag-and-drop functionality. This ensures you can easily create and manage your website without extensive technical knowledge.
Ensure that the website builder offers a variety of templates/themes and design options that can be easily adjusted and matched to your brand and requirements. These will save you a lot of time and energy!
Features and functionality
Assess the website builder’s built-in features and add-ons. Depending on your needs, you may require stuff like contact forms, galleries, popups, or social media. Make sure the builder supports the specific functionalities you require. (But you can usually install a (free) plugin to add the element you need.)
With a high percentage of internet users accessing websites on mobile devices, selecting a website builder that optimizes your site for mobile viewing is essential. A mobile-responsive website ensures a positive user experience across various devices.
It’s important that the builder you opt for creates websites that offer epic performance and load fast. Just like responsiveness, performance also contributes to boosting user experience.
Check if the website builder supports essential SEO features, such as customizable meta tags, URL structures and XML sitemaps. A builder that facilitates good SEO practices will help your website rank higher in search engine results.
Blog and online store
Even if you don’t create a blog or start selling items online initially, knowing that the website builder you pick supports making both is beneficial. Always be prepared for expansion.
Regardless of the website type you want to establish, you will definitely publish some type of visual content on your website. Double-check that the website builder supports different content types (image, video, audio, etc.) and formats (PNG, JPEG, SVG, etc.). Plus, don’t forget about the embeds!
Free and open source
Remember, although an open source site builder may cost you nothing, you will still have expenses, like purchasing a domain name, hosting and even premium themes and plugins.
Ensure the website builder allows you to retain ownership of your website’s content and data. Avoid platforms that lock you in and make it challenging to migrate your site to another service in the future.
Considering these factors, you can select the website builder that best aligns with your needs and helps you create a successful and functional website.
Best Open Source Website Builders
1. WordPress: The Gold Standard of Open Source Website Builders
WordPress is one of the most widespread solutions on the planet, powering a whopping 43% of all the websites on the internet.
You can use it to build nearly any responsive and SEO-friendly website your heart desires. And the “development” process is a piece of cake with thousands of free and premium WordPress themes and WordPress plugins.
Start by selecting the ideal theme and then enjoy altering it however you want. A WordPress website is easy to modify and tailor to your needs. And there’s a saying that goes, “If you need to add a feature to a WordPress website, there’s a plugin for that.” But feel free to check our extensive guide on how to make a WordPress website if you need additional assistance.
Its user-friendly interface makes it accessible to beginners, while developers can delve into the open-source code for extensive customization.
Supported by a thriving community, WordPress.org provides regular updates and security enhancements, ensuring a secure and dynamic platform for building websites of all types and sizes.
It’s important to note that WordPress requires users to have their own domain name and WP hosting to set up a self-hosted website. This means users have complete control over their website’s data.
Don’t forget to check our amazing WordPress statistics and learn all the ins and outs of this superb tool.
- Unlimited pages and posts
- Simple publishing tools
- Easy media management
- User management
- Built-in comments
- Easy installation and updates
- Gutenberg block builder
- Free to use
- Plenty of free themes and plugins
- Total control over everything
- Custom code and scripts
- Own your data and content
- Cost of domain name and hosting
- Security and backups are on you
- Extra fees for premium tools (themes, plugins, etc.)
Ideal for: Blogging, eCommerce, Professional Websites
2. Joomla: Power and Flexibility
Joomla is another highly popular open-source website builder and content management system with plenty of goodies to choose from.
It’s a fantastic and versatile solution with plenty of flexibility for building a wide range of websites, but it’s best for corporate, newspaper and small business projects.
With a vast selection of templates, extensions and modules, users can create visually appealing and feature-rich websites with 0 coding knowledge. One great advantage is the very many native content types that make altering the site’s features and functionality according to your needs easy.
Joomla’s user-friendly interface and extensive documentation make it accessible to beginners, while its open-source nature allows developers to customize and extend the platform to suit specific requirements.
With hundreds of developers contributing to Joomla, the tool matured into a flexible, secure and stable solution you can use for years to come and take your online presence to the next level.
- Fast and easy installation
- 1-click updates
- 70+ translation packs
- Handy publishing tools
- Contact forms
- Admin messaging
- User registrations
- Routing system
- Microdata library implementation
- Fantastic content type flexibility
- Great SEO performance
- Built-in caching tools
- Supports eCommerce
- More complex than WordPress
- Many extensions are not up-to-date
- Lots of poor-quality templates
- Compatibility issues can occur
Ideal for: Corporate Websites, Online Newspapers, Small Business
3. Drupal: A Robust and Scalable Solution
Drupal’s ability to handle complex and large-scale projects makes it an ideal solution for enterprise-level websites.
The platform’s extensive customization options and modular architecture offer flexibility and versatility in creating unique websites.
However, one of the biggest downsides of Drupal is it’s not as beginner-friendly as some other open source website builders on this list. In fact, we recommend Drupal to more tech-savvy users, while beginners should use other platforms, like WordPress.
Drupal’s active community provides continuous support, frequent updates and a wide range of contributed modules, enhancing the platform’s functionality and keeping it up-to-date with the latest trends.
Additionally, its robust security features and access controls make it a safe choice for handling sensitive data and protecting against potential threats.
Drupal is a fantastic alternative for users who require advanced features and scalability for their web projects.
- Smooth translation
- Marketing automation
- 50,000+ modules
- Customizable templates
- Easy to reuse content, blocks, fields and media
- Vertical and horizontal scaling
- BigPipe technique (aka caching)
- Compatible with 3rd-party integrations
- Regular updates
- Solid security
- Drupal multisite
- Large user community
- Learning curve (not as beginner-friendly)
- Heavy memory usage
- Lack of pre-made designs
Ideal for: Educational Institutions, Government Websites, Large Enterprises
4. SilverStripe: For Businesses of All Sizes
SilverStripe is a powerful and flexible open source website builder, ideal for complex and enterprise-level projects.
The platform’s modular architecture and extensive customization options allow users to create feature-rich sites quickly.
Something you’ll notice about SilverStripe is the user-friendly interface and intuitive content editing experience. This makes managing and maintaining websites an easy, breezy process.
Moreover, SilverStripe is lightweight, not adding unnecessary bloat to your website and potentially slowing it down. Plus, you can use it headless if you want.
What you’ll also like about this great builder is the high level of security it provides.
SilverStripe’s active and supportive community ensures continuous updates, enhancements and a wide range of contributed modules, expanding the platform’s capabilities.
The only real reason we may not recommend using SilverStripe is if you have no experience with coding and building sites. For all the rest, you’ll probably stick to using it for years to come.
- User management
- Email integration
- Content blocks
- 3rd-party integrations
- Robust security
- Quick testing and refining
- Permission controls
- User workflows and approvals
- Powerful API integrations
- Easy to learn and use
- Simple interface
- Highly reusable code
- Software development kit
- Lacks high-quality themes
- Not as much documentation
Ideal for: Startups, SMEs, Large Enterprises
5. ConcreteCMS: Simplified Content Management
ConcreteCMS, formerly known as Concrete5, is a user-friendly and open-source website builder and content management system (CMS) that simplifies website creation and management.
Its intuitive drag-and-drop interface allows users to design and customize their websites without extensive technical expertise.
Also, it has plenty of fantastic features, so you don’t have to use as many plugins, which may affect the site’s performance.
Compared to WordPress and other CMS platforms, Concrete CMS is considered a bit more advanced, with some additional features that others don’t provide, like reporting, survey creation, statistics tracking, and more.
Note, while Concrete CMS doesn’t have an out-of-the-box eCommerce solution, it integrates with other platforms, like Shopify, to ease selling items online.
In short, ConcreteCMS is a reliable and accessible solution for building and maintaining dynamic and engaging websites.
- In-context editing
- Media manager
- Simple installation
- Image editor
- Reusable stacks
- Create and edit forms and surveys
- Integrated reporting
- Commenting system
- Customizable blog
- Social share buttons
- Modular editing
- WYSIWYG editor
- Great customization capabilities
- Easy to extend
- Packed with features to avoid using extra plugins
- No autosave feature
- File searching can be challenging
- Small community
Ideal for: Personal Websites, Blogs, eCommerce
6. ModX: The Creative’s Freedom
ModX is a flexible and powerful open source website builder and CMS that gives users full control over their websites.
With a focus on creative freedom and extensibility, ModX allows users to build and customize websites without limitations.
There are many community-made extras to choose from for maps, menus, SEO, searches, eCommerce, and more. On the other hand, you can also build your own extras within ModX Revolution (which you can then share with the community).
Its intuitive manager interface simplifies content editing and website management, while its template options enable stunning and responsive designs that are lightweight and great performing.
As an open-source platform, ModX fosters a strong yet small community of developers who contribute to its continuous improvement and security.
Note that ModX has a cloud solution with heaps of additional goodies to run your website – yes, including hosting.
- Create and publish any type of content
- Snippets and plugins
- Customizable manager
- Content protection
- Supports 15+ languages
- Community-made extras
- Create your own extras
- Complete content control
- Creative freedom
- Solid security
- Great performance
- Top-notch add-ons
- Small community
- Content blocks sometimes require extra care to function properly
Ideal for: Artistic and Design-Centric Websites
7. Grav: Speed and Simplicity
Grav is a modern and fast open-source website builder and content management system (CMS) that embraces a flat-file approach for simplicity and performance.
Therefore, many Grav users love the elimination of the need for a database, making web projects lightweight and efficient. Instead of using a database to store files, Grav uses text files and folders.
Not only that, but even using the admin panel is optional, which makes Grav a very user-friendly tool.
Its flexible architecture enables users to create various websites, from blogs and portfolios to beautiful small business sites. (But you can also create landing pages, product sites and even sell products online using Grav.)
Grav empowers users to build modern and visually appealing websites quickly and effortlessly, focusing on speed, security and ease of use.
- Flat-file architecture
- Instant install
- Multi-site support
- Modular pages
- Built-in media support
- Optional use of admin panel
- Usage statistics chart
- Advanced forms
- Customizable taxonomies
- Top-notch performance (great speed)
- Flexible customizations
- But it is also terrific for developers
- Not as scalable
- Limited support
- Some learning curvey is necessary
Ideal for: Personal Blogs, Portfolio Websites, Small Business Websites
Comparison Between Open Source Builders
Open Source Website Builders: A Deeper Dive
Customizability and Freedom in Open Source Website Builders
Customizations and (creative and tech) freedom are two key advantages of open source website builders.
Unlike proprietary alternatives, open source builders provide users unrestricted access to the source code for tailoring websites precisely to their needs.
The abundance of editable design elements allows users to create unique and visually appealing websites that align with their branding. Moreover, the freedom to modify the code grants unparalleled flexibility in adding or tweaking functionalities, ensuring sites are feature-rich and cater to specific requirements.
This level of customizability fosters innovation and empowers users to craft websites that stand out.
The Role of the Open Source Community in Development and Support
The community plays a crucial role in developing and supporting open source projects, including website builders.
Volunteers, developers, designers and users collaborate to improve the software, add new features and fix bugs.
Their collective efforts result in continuous updates and enhancements, ensuring the website builder remains relevant and up-to-date with the latest technologies and trends.
The open source community also offers invaluable support through forums, documentation and online communities (like Facebook groups), where users can seek help, share knowledge and troubleshoot issues.
This collaborative approach fosters a sense of shared ownership, transparency and inclusivity, making open source projects more robust, secure and sustainable in the long term.
Security Considerations with Open Source Website Builders
Security considerations are crucial when using an open source website builder.
While these projects benefit from (regular) community examination, potential vulnerabilities can be exposed to a wider audience. Therefore, keeping the software and all its components up-to-date with the latest security patches and updates is essential.
Friendly tip: Regularly monitoring the project’s security announcements and participating in community discussions can help you stay informed about potential risks and best practices.
You should also ensure that any third-party plugins or extensions used in the website are from reputable sources and regularly maintained. Usually, inconveniences happen because of the extensions, not so much because of the poorly secured website builder/source code.
Remember, open source website builders generally offer a robust and secure foundation for building websites.
Cost Implications: Upfront vs Hidden
What about pricing?
As mentioned earlier, an open source website builder is generally free (with a few exceptions), eliminating the upfront costs. This makes open source builders an attractive option for budget-conscious individuals and businesses.
However, it is essential to consider “hidden” costs that may (and will) arise during the development and maintenance process.
These costs can include the need for technical expertise, customization and 3rd-party integrations. Additionally, hosting (and domain name), security measures and ongoing support are other expenses to take into consideration.
While open source builders offer cost advantages at the outset, it is crucial to carefully assess the long-term expenses and make informed decisions.
Recap: Choosing the Right Open Source Website Builder
Ultimately, choosing the best website builder depends on your specific needs, technical expertise and the type of website you want to create.
Considering factors like ease of use, customization options, support and ready-to-use themes and extensions is essential when choosing the ideal tool.
Here’s a quick and final recap before you choose the right builder:
- WordPress: Best for blogging, eCommerce, professional websites
- Joomla: Best for corporate websites, online newspapers and small businesses
- Drupal: Best for educational institutions, government websites and large enterprises
- SilverStripe: Best for startups, SMEs and large enterprises
- ConcreteCMS: Best for personal websites, blogs and eCommerce
- ModX: Best for artistic and design-centric websites
- Grav: Best for personal blogs, portfolio websites and small business sites
The Future of Open Source Website Building
As technology continues to evolve, open source website builders are likely to adapt and incorporate innovative features (hint: AI – have you seen the best AI website builders?) and functionalities driven by the collaborative efforts of the loyal community.
Customizability and flexibility will remain at the core of these platforms, empowering users to create unique and tailored websites to suit their specific needs.
Plus, the emphasis on security and transparency will continue to grow to ensure everyone gets the most out of the tool they use (with comfort and confidence).
As open source technology becomes more mainstream, we can expect increased adoption by businesses of all sizes, developers and individuals seeking cost-effective, reliable and cutting-edge solutions for their web presence.
In short, the future of open source website building looks very promising.
Is it possible to switch from one website builder to another?
Yes, it’s possible to switch from one website builder to another. Before switching platforms, backup your data and learn about the new builder’s process first (even talk to their support team), so the migration will go as smoothly as possible.
How does an open-source website builder differ from a paid one?
An open-source website builder and a paid one differ primarily in their accessibility, support and level of customization. While the former gives you complete (code and design) freedom, it might not come with the necessary support. Plus, an early-stage learning curve might be required. On the contrary, a paid site builder will provide you with all the resources required to create your website without being tech and design-savvy.
Can I build a professional website without coding knowledge?
Yes, using a website builder, you can build a professional website (blog, business, eCommerce, portfolio, etc.) easily and quickly without coding knowledge.
What is the learning curve like for these open source website builders?
One of the main learning curves of open source website builders is getting familiar with the platforms and gaining skills to navigate through them comfortably. But open-source website builders often provide user-friendly interfaces and documentation to facilitate the learning process. And many have active communities that offer support and guidance.
How safe is my data on open source website builders?
Your data is generally very safe when using an open source website builder, but keeping the software and all related components up to date is crucial. Additionally, employing strong access controls, using secure hosting services and regularly backing up your data are essential to enhance data protection.
Do open source website builders provide SEO-friendly features?
Yes, many open-source website builders offer SEO-friendly features to help improve your website’s search engine visibility. These features often include customizable meta tags, clean URLs, XML sitemaps generation and the ability to optimize page/post titles and descriptions. But they’re also usually compatible with 3rd-party SEO plugins and extensions, allowing users to enhance their website’s SEO performance further.
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