13 of the Best Hosted CMSs

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

Shopify

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

LightCMS

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 Commerce

Highwire Commerce

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

Squarespace

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

HiFi

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

Business Catalyst

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

Webvanta

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

Webpop

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

Edicy

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

Concrete5

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 Go

Magento Go

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

SolidShops

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

Volusion

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.

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42 Responses

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  • Gustavo Jabbaz, January 18, 2012

    Impressive list, though I must admit I’m not familiar with all of them. We have our own Hosted CMS (yourwebdepartment.com) our clients think it is pretty solid and gives them all the features they need to promote their business online. We are not as big as some of the systems on the list, but we are working hard to make it to a list like this one. Our focus is SMBs and/or Web Designers; we make easy and we help a lot along the way.

  • Brooke, January 19, 2012

    Who knew there was all these cms’s out there? useful to look at, maybe too complex for me to go into though lol

  • Courtney, January 19, 2012

    Great list.. I will perform a little more research so I can compare them a little closer.. Thanks for opening my eyes up to something different.

  • Debby, January 19, 2012

    I use wix.com or webs.com for my clients. I prefer wix for its custom design capabilities. It alos includes an easy option to create a mobile version of each website. Webs.com is fine for businesses who need a simple site with little flexibility – they have nice templates available. The 2 options I use seem less expensive than the hosting fees listed for these CMS’s.

  • huron, January 19, 2012

    And Joomla?

    • Vandelay Website Design, January 20, 2012

      Huron,
      You can host Joomla anywhere. It doesn’t fit the criteria of this post.

  • Mike, January 22, 2012

    So far my favorite is Shopify, I have created two online stores with them and I am satisfied with their service. Very fast servers and good support if you have any problems.
    Their example designs looks great as well.

    Don’t know the rest of your mentioned, but could give them a try as prices are a bit more friendly that those at Shopify.

  • Smashious, January 23, 2012

    My favorite is Business Catalist, it’s free to start with and easy to use. Great post!

  • Doly, January 24, 2012

    Clients may see the designer’s branding rather than company. Interesting lists but need a personal research.

  • Dan Lenehan, January 24, 2012

    You might look at vSites too (http://www.vsites.com/), which launched last year. Like Edicy, vSites is mainly end-user focused, but it offers a number of features that appeal to designers, including a quick site building process, customizable templates, support for a wide range of external widgets and applications, and an admin dashboard that allows for easy management of multiple client sites.

  • pierre, January 25, 2012

    Hosted CMS’s can lick my balls… expensive, lack of control, lack of customization. Nothing but hate for all of these.

    If I cant install it on MY SERVER it aint getting used… ioncubed? not getting used. Zend encoded? not getting used.

    100% open code or nothing as far as I’m concerned.

    • Vandelay Website Design, January 26, 2012

      Pierre,
      Like you, I prefer being able to install a CMS on my own server (or the client’s server). However, in some circumstances I think they can work out well. For example, I have some experience with clients on LightCMS and it has worked out pretty well. I don’t use it all that much mostly because, as you mentioned, the prices are higher than a lot of other options.

  • Web Design Liverpool, January 31, 2012

    Thanks for the very use information

  • Logoswish, February 8, 2012

    SquareSpace is my favourite one. Amazing CMS. Simple & clean design.

  • Rajan Arora, February 15, 2012

    It’s a nice information.

  • daniel, February 16, 2012

    I just set up a store on LightCMS. I was able to get the entire thing up and running, including 500+ products with photos (about 100 unique products/photos) in about 10 total hours. I started with a remade template, then changed most of it, overrode a few things the cms was doing that i did not want it to with css and js. I now have a pretty amazing nice site (I need to re-shoot product photos and add some more copy). The entire experience was great. Not one thing acted in a way I did not expect it to. The imports product feature which is always scary was perfect even after multiple exports/imports to get things the way i wanted them.
    After a grueling experience with a custom eCommerce site this was truly a fun experience. More control, more time, now I just hope i get more orders…. :) O yeah and im not an experienced anything….. thank you Google for simple jquery solutions :)

  • Jennifer Peterson, February 29, 2012

    I work for IndieMade.com. For the money, $11.95/month (no set up fees), the features, ease of use and flexibility IndieMade offers (fully integrated store, image galleries, blog, events calendar, social sharing, embedding, etc.), is the best bet for small business without a developer or designer on staff.

  • Tyler Herman, March 9, 2012

    I’ve been playing around with WebPop and from the ones on this list I think it has the most potential. If you have 5 sites the basic plan is actually very cheap, about $4 per site. Hard to find hosting for that, not to mention you get to have all five sites in one easy location to access, so you don’t have to deal with multiple hosting accounts or your own dedicated server.

    Aside from easy of hosting there is also a nice version system where you can quickly make multiple versions of a site or quickly knock out a bunch of similar designed niche sites.

    The features are pretty barebones but if you have a handful of static sites it seems like a pretty good option.

  • Alex Sirota, March 26, 2012

    Does anyone know which of these solutions have built in mobile support and render websites in a clean way for mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets? Or are the designs by default smartphone friendly in any of these sites. Traffic is continuing to build on alternative devices and I’d hate to manage a completely separate CSS file and do autodetection from scratch. Looking for some support in a product that handles this well.

  • Alex Sirota, March 26, 2012

    By the way, you left out TypePad.com which is a terrific blog/cms system. It came out probably before any of these launchec back in 2002 You can check out a full review here:

    http://www.newpathconsulting.com/2010/10/typepad-as-a-content-management-system-guide.html

  • Jack, April 9, 2012

    Interesting article. I have some reservations implementing on a solution that is hosted outside of my control. Solutions like these seem to present a nice solution but what happens if you want to bring the hosting internal or switch vendors? We have requirements to support sites in multiple languages. Is that supported by any of the vendors listed above?

    • Steven Snell, April 9, 2012

      Hi Jack,
      I’m not sure about multiple language support, you would have to check with the providers. I agree with you that there are some reasons to not go with a hosted solution, it’s really all about the specific situation. We typically use WordPress or another CMS rather than a hosted solution, but in some situations we have gone with a hosted solution for a client. LightCMS, for example, is a pretty good option for the right kinds of projects.

  • Webdesign dude, May 31, 2012

    Prettty impressive list wit a couple of newcomers I actually did not know about – and although I have a personal favorite of the bunch presented here I need to go and check some of the others out as well…

    LightCMS which I have run across quite a few times does seem like a solid all round solution – but it does not support any language besides English in the platform backend – right?

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Schermann, August 9, 2012

    Cheaper to buy all of these templates from envito for nicks and host it yourself off GoDaddy. Plenty of portable Dreamweavers around do simplify things…

    Nothing new here

    • Steven Snell, August 9, 2012

      Schermann,
      Yes, it would be cheaper to buy a template and host it yourself, but hosted CMSs usually aren’t attempting to compete by being the lowest priced option. They target a different type of audience that would rather have the convenience.

  • Paul Carlson, September 4, 2012

    Great list.

    I have been searching for a hosted ecommerce solution, and hadn’t heard of Highwire. They may fit the bill for my small shop, they integrate with Stripe, and have a lot of other integrations available (eBay, Facebook, blogs, etc).

    Going to give it a go. Thanks for putting together this list.

  • Eric Smith, October 19, 2012

    This is a helpful list – thanks very much for putting it up!

    We built a hosted CMS called Convergence ( http://www.convergencecms.com/ ) – which is built for designers/devs. It allows you to quickly build HTML/CSS layout files so you don’t have to mess with PHP. Blogs, Calendars, Photo Galleries and Forms are all built in. It also has an online store and one feature that we haven’t seen a lot of other places.

    It has a custom Item List function – you can add an Item List like “Restaurant Menu” then add any fields you want, and then start adding different “menus” to your site. You can do the same with Real Estate listings, rafting trips, or even Portfolios. We’ve found it’s really easy to use for client sites with lots of repeating data.

    Anyway thanks again for the list – and check Convergence out if you get a chance.

  • Mak, November 11, 2012

    Nice article and a great introduction to CMS sites.

  • John @ Best Web Hosting, December 5, 2012

    I know you mention WordPress as a starting or counter point at the beginning, so this is supposed be kind of a list of alternatives. But since the title is “Best Hosted CMS’s”, I’m surprised you wouldn’t include WordPress.com. It’s a pretty full featured and hosted solution, and given it’s size (60 million blogs?), it’s kind of the white elephant in the room that’s not spoken of here.

    • Steven Snell, December 5, 2012

      Hi John,
      I wouldn’t consider wordpress.com a real option for anything more than personal sites and blogs. For anything professional I’m not sure why you wouldn’t want your own domain name.

  • jeff, December 6, 2012

    Great roundup Steven, thanks! A hosted cms is what I’m looking for so I can focus on content for an ecommerce website.

    Since you’ve seen all of these, which in your opinion has 1) the best looking templates (subjective, I know) and 2) the best SEO?

    Thanks,
    Jeff

    • Steven Snell, December 6, 2012

      Hi Jeff,
      I haven’t paid much attention to the templates because if I was using one of them in almost every case I would be creating a custom design. As far as being able to create custom templates, I haven’t personally tried creating templates for every CMS on the list, but I did find both LightCMS and Shopify to be pretty easy. I know LightCMS, Shopify, and Highwire all have a lot of templates to choose from, but I’m not as familiar with the quality because I haven’t really paid that much attention to the templates.

      As far as SEO goes, since I haven’t tried them all I can’t really say which ones are better than others. LightCMS has some SEO options and I think most of the others do too. In order to say any of the options are better or worse for SEO I would want to have data from real world sites from a large period of time that I could go back and look at, but that is not the case. I don’t have access to the analytics for the sites that I have built with any of these CMSs, and in some cases I only experimented with the CMS and never built a real world site.

      For features, each one has a page that lists all of the features. I’d recommend comparing them to see what best meets your needs.

  • jeff, December 6, 2012

    Also, which is the most robust platform regarding features, options, add-ons, premium templates, etc.? Thanks!

  • daan, January 29, 2013

    what I’m looking for is something like WordPress but with freedom to edit almost anything like blogger. User (like me) need only to buy domain, and the CMS provider provide free hosting service. Data size limitation, bandwidth limitation, is fine, but no page limitation, and free domain mapping.

    Something like Blogger but with additional PHP ability like wordpress, and ability to upload document (not just image or video but also pdf and/ doc) just like like wordpress.

    Something like WordPress but without the needs to buying the domain mapping features.

    That’s hard to find :)

  • Elvis, March 18, 2013

    LightCMS is horrible. Waste of money. Their templates suck ass.

  • steve, April 10, 2013

    Thank you for this article. I’m a technical writer and a guitar player. I want to create two websites, one to showcase my technical writing skills and one to sell my music. It’s quite daunting for me to learn all this stuff, but I’m trying. I will look at Light CMS and SquareSpace. For my tech writing blog, part of it might be showcasing some WebHelp output which is a collection of HTML files… so I need a way to upload files and then display them in a frame. In any case, thank you for taking the time to write this and if you have any advice for me, please feel free to share! :) I obv. need to get more technical.

  • Kirionet, June 16, 2013

    Why not Joomla?
    like wordpress is one of the most supported CMS…

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