Advice on providing a simple UI for users

Hi folks,

I’m about to take the plunge to set up a small business, but am struggling to get my head around the best technology for my needs.

Here’s what I’d like to do:

  • set up a sales website targeted specifically at a particular niche of people (who need a website in a pretty standard format)
  • if they sign up, give them the option to register a domain name, or use a subdomain
  • provide them with an integrated, very simple site-builder tool which asks them to upload photos, enter text for their website pages, pick a template for the design, etc. The goal here is that I will create a bunch of quality templates focused on the niche, so that people can quickly get a high-quality website with an appropriate design.
  • provide them a log-in to my front-end which gets them back to the site-builder tool so that they can modify the design as they wish
  • bill them monthly (or whatever) for the service.

Imagine something like in terms of UI, but without the photos. They host my website, but I don’t see any kind of web host control panel.

Based on my reading so far, it looks like I have various options, but I’m not clear what’s best.

  1. Set up a reseller account as a webhost, ideally using Plesk SiteBuilder (which seems the easiest to use). Downsides of this option:

    • I really don’t want to expose any kind of standard control panel to the user. These are way more complicated than the UI I imagine.
    • I really struggled to find any third-party web-designers offering Plesk templates, so getting a bunch of customized designs could be a challenge. Not sure if it’s even possible to modify the set of templates offered on a reseller account.
  2. Somehow set up something using Wordpress Multi-User. On the plus side, there are a million WordPress plugins out there, and a million themes. On the downside, it’s not so obvious how to set-up the domain name, email accounts etc, and the user interface for WordPress is more complicated than I’d like. I’d much rather a wysiwig interface.

  3. A variant of #1, where I get my own VPS server with Plesk SiteBuilder etc installed, which presumably gives me more ability to customize things and control how the different pieces are integrated together.

I should mention that I can program, so modifying scripts here and there is perfectly possible, but equally I don’t want to be creating this entire project from scratch!

All help would be very much appreciated!