Open-source content management systems like WordPress and Drupal get a lot of attention on design blogs, but they are not the only options when it comes to choosing a CMS. There are a number of hosted CMSs available that are popular with designers and their clients.
While the features vary form one hosted CMS to another, several of the primary benefits are common to all or most of them. Things like having the hosting included, the possibility for designing and developing sites very quickly, availability of pre-designed templates, and support tend to be listed among the benefits of choosing a hosted CMS.
Some hosted CMSs allow designers the opportunity for a private label, meaning that designers can brand the CMS as their own. In this case clients will see the designer’s branding rather than that of the company behind the CMS. In many of these cases the designer can also earn a commission on monthly hosting fees, which provides a nice stream of residual income for designers who use the CMS with a number of clients.
Here is a look at some of the best and most popular hosted content management systems.
Shopify is a hosted e-commerce system that includes content management. It offers all of the functionality needed to run a quality e-commerce site, including product management, inventory management, customer management, choice of payment gateways, and fraud detection. As a CMS, Shopify allows users to create and manage pages as well as a blog.
For designers, Shopify offers full control over HTML and CSS. As a design partner you receive a 20% share of the revenue that Shopify earns from your clients.
For end users, pricing starts at $29 per month that offers unlimited bandwidth, 100 MB of storage, 100 products, and a 2% transaction fee.
LightCMS from ElementFusion is marketed towards designers rather than towards the end user. As a designer you can sign up for LightCMS for free and offer a re-branded CMS to your clients, so it appears to be your own system. Designers also make money each month from each client, assuming the suggested monthly fees for hosting are charged.
One of the main features of LightCMS is in-content editing rather than using a typical admin dashboard. You can manage typical website elements like blogs, event calendars, forms, photo galleries, and more. Within the last year, e-commerce functionality was also added, allowing you to set up your clients shop all from within LightCMS (due to pricing being influenced by the number of pages on the site, it is more practical for small shops than large e-commerce sites). Suggested pricing for your clients starts at $29 per month for a site with up to 10 pages, 1 user, and 1 GB of storage.
Highwire offers fully-featured, hosted e-commerce. Features include order management, customer management, product management, and marketing. Users can choose from available templates as a starting point, or designers can take advantage of full HTML and CSS control to design custom templates.
Pricing starts at $19.95 per month for unlimited products, sales volume of $1,500, unlimited bandwidth, and 100 MB of file storage. No transaction fees are assessed by Highwire. A 30-day free trial is available.
Squarespace is a hosted CMS and blogging platform that distinguishes itself by allowing more freedom in terms of customization of design. Users can choose from a number of templates provided by Squarespace and can edit color and style variants to control their site’s look. You can also create your own templates with full CSS control.
As a designer/developer you can manage all of your clients’ sites from your account center dashboard. You can also get discounts based on the number of clients you have on the system. The discounts can be passed on to your clients, or you can keep it as profit.
Pricing starts at $12 per month (if billed annually) for a site with up to 20 pages, 3 GB of storage, and 1 TB of bandwidth.
HiFi features a templating system that allows for creative freedom, and an elegant user-interface with minimal learning curve. The custom field feature allows you more flexibility in creating sites for clients that are easy to manage.
The starting price for HiFi is $9 per month, which allows for up to 10 pages. All plans offer a 30-day free trial.
Business Catalyst, from Adobe, is unique because it includes content management, e-commerce, customer management, email marketing, and reporting and analysis. It’s marketed as being a replacement for 5 separate systems. The web apps module also allows you to set up basic web apps without any coding.
Like LightCMS, Business Catalyst is marketed towards designers rather than end users. It’s free to become a reseller and use Business Catalyst for client websites, or you can upgrade to a partnership plan ($995 or $1,995) for additional features including training and commission on client subscription fees. The premium partnership, $1,995, allows you to re-brand Business Catalyst as your own.
Pricing for your clients starts at $9 per month for a site with 1 user, 1 GB of storage, 1 TB of bandwidth, and limited features. In order to get all the features like blogging, e-commerce, email marketing, CRM, and custom web apps, pricing starts at $39 per month.
Webvanta offers designers the option to become a partner and re-brand the CMS, and it is also available directly to end users. Webvanta includes features like blogging, photo galleries and slideshows, forms, event calendars, RSS feeds, site search, and more.
If you’d like to use Webvanta on client sites you can sign up as a partner for an annual cost of $495. This entitles you to personalized support and consulting, priority support, directory listing, monthly webinars, and the ability to re-brand Webvanta as your own.
For end users, a limited free plan is available. Paid plans start at $15 per month for up to 20 pages and 2 users.
Webpop is marketed towards designers who want to us it on client websites. It offers full HTML and CSS control, in-content editing, and basic SEO tools integrated.
Pricing for Webpop is a little bit different than with most of the other options mentioned here. Rather than charging per client or per site, designers pay a monthly fee that allows them to manage a certain number of projects and clients. The starting price of $19 per month allows for up to 5 projects and 1 client. The Freelance package is available for $49 and allows up to 10 projects and 5 clients. Additional plans are available for those who need more.
Edicy is a hosted CMS that markets itself more towards end users than designers. It includes features like photo galleries, forms, templates to choose from, in-content editing, analytics, and more.
A limited free plan is available, or a paid plan is available for $9 per month that offers 5 GB of storage and unlimited users.
Concrete5 is a free, open-source CMS that can be self-hosted, but they also offer a hosted version. It features in-content editing, design flexibility, and plenty of available add-ons.
If you choose to have Concrete5 host your site, the pricing starts at $45 per month for 5 GB of storage and 25 GB of transfer.
Magento is a popular e-commerce solution with options for hosted or self-hosted sites. With Magento Go, users can start by choosing a template and customizing it with their own logo. Additional customization is also possible with full CSS control.
Pricing starts at $15 per month for a site with 100 products, 3 admin users, 200 MB of storage, and 4 GB of bandwidth. No transaction fees are assessed by Magento.
SolidShops is a hosted e-commerce solution that markets itself toward designers rather than end users. It separates itself by focusing on simplicity and is limited to essential features. Those features include easy product management, order management, and full design control.
Pricing starts at $29 per month for 100 products, 100 MB of storage, 2 staff logins, and unlimited bandwidth. No transaction fees are assessed by SolidShops. A 30-day free trial is available.
Volusion offers users a hosted e-commerce solution with free templates to choose from, product management, inventory management, customer management, order management, email newsletters, daily deals, customer wishlists, and more.
Designers can become resellers to make money by using Volusion on client sites, and to get access to HTML and CSS for custom designs.
Pricing starts at $19 per month for 100 products and 1 GB of bandwidth. No transaction fees are assessed by Volusion.
What’s Your Experience?
Have you used a hosted CMS for your own sites or for clients in the past? If so, feel free to share your experience in the comments.