If you’re a TL;DR kind of person, feel free to take this 5-question quiz to find out what platform you should use to build your website.
Whether you are a young professional, working to turn your side hustle into a business, a busy mom blogging as a creative outlet, or an entrepreneur trying to push your business to the next level, a website is a great place to start. There are several options to choose for building your site, each with their own pros and cons. These four, WordPress, Squarespace, Shopify, and Wix, are all website builder platforms, each with specific niches they serve. Some are built for convenience while others are built for increased functionality, hopefully, you’ll find one that fits your needs and your budget!
WordPress is a large open source platform for website building. An open-source platform means that that the design can be modified because the software is publicly accessible. Originally, it was a simple option exclusively for blogs but today, it is the largest Content Management System available.
Pros to using WordPress
1. WordPress is user-friendly.
WordPress is well known for having a very user-friendly content management system, or CMS. This allows you to manage your content and navigate your site easily. WordPress is especially easy to navigate if you have a blog or site with only a few pages. If you want a website more advanced than this, there may be a minor learning curve, but it’s easy to grasp once you get it. For this reason, WordPress is a good option for both beginners and for seasoned website builders.
2. WordPress is easily customizable.
WordPress includes thousands of mostly free (and some paid) plugins, themes, and layouts that allow you to easily customize your site to fit your vision. Additionally, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) has never been more important and WordPress has many features including plugins, to help with keyword focus, meta tags, and more.
3. WordPress is open source and is very responsive.
WordPress is what is known as an open source software, meaning the programmers at WordPress are free to openly share WordPress code online. This translates into you saving a lot of time in development as well as money, making it a good choice if you don’t want or need to pay for a custom design. However, if you do need an extensive buildout since WordPress is so well-known, you can easily find a developer who can help you with your website goals.
Cons of using WordPress
1. Regular updating is important to make sure your site continues to run smoothly.
In order to keep your WordPress site running smoothly, you have to make sure that you have the most current version of WordPress running. To do this, you have to install updates as they are released. While it doesn’t happen every day, it happens often enough that you may find it to be a bit of a nuisance. You may also find that, occasionally, updates can mess with the functionality or format of your site and you may have to change your site to accommodate the change. You will also find that if you do not update with the latest version, components of your site may not work properly.
2. Because WordPress is open source, it is more vulnerable to potential hackers.
Being an open source software, it is not hard to understand why WordPress might be attractive to potential hackers. There are safeguards in place to protect against being hacked, however, you do need to be careful when installing plugins. Do a little bit of investigating and install themes and plugins with caution.
3. WordPress can run very slow.
Some of the themes offered on WordPress have excess and generic code. This can cause your site to run very slow. If you do not have any experience with reading code, it may be challenging to determine which themes will cause this and you may have to result to the time-tested, yet completely inefficient method of trial and error.
Unlike WordPress, Shopify is exclusively for people who would like to participate in e-commerce without having to pay for someone to create one for you. It is customizable to fit your needs and allows for the sale of both physical and digital goods or services.
Pros to using Shopify
1. There is a wide selection of themes and plugins that help make your store look great.
Shopify has a very large selection of themes, broken down by industry of the product, for your storefront. Shopify also offers a wide selection of apps and plugins that help in managing some of the more time-consuming tasks and allow you to focus on more important tasks, such as marketing or producing a product. For example, there are apps that help in streamlining customer service and product reviews, managing and keeping track of inventory, shipping and returns, and much more.
2. Shopify helps with managing the technological needs of your e-store
Shopify is different from other similar builders in that it provides you with assistance in managing your store’s needs from a technical and operations aspect. This includes providing a clear, usable, interface, as well as access to several other useful ones. Additionally, Shopify takes care of your transaction processing time, making it easier to get paid for your efforts.
3. Shopify offers 24/7 customer support.
Shopify’s customer support team is dedicated to fixing whatever problem you may encounter. You can access a support team member 24 hours a day via live chat as well as over email and phone.
Cons of using Shopify
1. Shopify is much less flexible than other platforms.
Shopify is a great option for those less technically savvy or for those who don’t need the store to do much else then simply sell their product. However, it may not be the ideal option for people who need more functionality. It’s common to find a theme you love, only to realize it’s missing at least one aspect you’d like to have. Shopify is much less flexible when it comes to the different kinds of tasks it can perform than some of its competitors.
2. Many of the apps, plugins, and themes that make Shopify so appealing are not free.
One of the major benefits of Shopify is the variety of themes and apps that are available to shop-owners. However, only ten of these themes are free and very few of the apps and plugins do not have a fee associated with their use. This is not a problem for established businesses with a relatively steady income, however, this may prove problematic if you are just starting out and/or are on a tight budget.
3. 24/7 support doesn’t necessarily include help with technical issues.
Depending on the nature of your problem, you may find it challenging to get technical support from the 24/7 customer service team. Rather, you may have to pose your question to a forum to see if anyone has an answer for you or to see if a developer will respond with suggestions. Additionally, customer service phone numbers are separated by region and only cover New Zealand, the US, the UK, and Australia.
In the big wide world of site builders, Squarespace resides in the realm of the all-inclusive and provides you with everything you need to build your site. It is a great choice for those who are just getting started in a service-based business and have an eye for aesthetics. Squarespace is ideal for those with an entry-level web design background and who need a very sharp, professional-looking site.
Pros to using Squarespace
1. Squarespace offers great templates as well as aesthetically pleasing and easy to use backend design.
Squarespace certainly strives to provide customers with the tools to build their site according to their tagline: “build it beautiful”. Squarespace has a huge selection of eye-catching and professional templates for beautiful and professional sites. Additionally, this is also translated to the backend functionality of it in contrast to other purely functional but visually unappealing software.
2. Squarespace is an All-in-One Platform eliminating confusion with extension and plugin compatibility.
All of the plugins, apps, and extensions are Squarespace owned and operated meaning that they automatically work well with each other. There is no need to question the compatibility of the themes and the extensions because they were designed to work together regardless of the combinations you put together.
3. Squarespace offers the 3 S’s: Speed, Security, and Support.
Squarespace hosts sites with their performance in mind. They are fast and they take your site’s security very seriously and ward off any potential hackers. Additionally, if you run into a problem with your Squarespace site, 24/7 customer support is available via live chat and email. They also offer a wide variety of tutorials and troubleshooting videos to help you figure it out yourself.
Cons to using Squarespace
1. Squarespace can get very expensive.
One of the hardest decisions to make is how much to spend on building your site. Where do the roads of do-it-yourself and professionalism intersect? Squarespace users might argue that the fees associated with Squarespace’s features are absolutely worth it, however, it may not be the best choice for those just starting out or those who have a casual blog or site. A Squarespace membership might be best suited for those investing in their business or blog.
2. Squarespace does not support third-party plugins, apps, and extensions.
The all-in-one platform is great because it ensures that there are no compatibility issues with different plugins and extensions, however, this is also a major disadvantage. Because Squarespace does not support third-party apps, you are at the mercy of whatever you can afford and/or are willing to pay.
3. Squarespace is not ideal for SEO.
Unlike the other website buildout platforms out there, Squarespace does not have a seamless option to include SEO elements. If you are familiar with what you need for a search engine optimized site, then you will be able to add the necessary components. However, if you are not seasoned in SEO enough to include it in your site, this may cause an issue to be easily discovered through search engines.
Wix is another all-inclusive option, similar to WordPress and Squarespace, that allows you to create and manage a site, in its entirety, all in one place.
Pros to using Wix
1. Wix offers free, Short Term, and long-term Pricing, allowing for less permanent solutions to temporary projects.
If you do not mind having your site structured for you, Wix has a free plan. Additionally, Wix does offer both short and long-term pricing options, making it a good option for non-permanent solutions. Long term, the prices are reasonable and tiered and there are tiered discounts based on the length of time you sign up.
2. Wix is functional to the core, simple, and fairly self-explanatory.
If you are a visual learner, then Wix might be simpler than others, such as Squarespace. This allows for quick and easy set up with little fuss over technical issues.
3. Wix does a good job of organizing its themes with functionality and has a solid selection of modern themes.
Wix has a streamlined “triage” system for managing its customers based on their needs for their site. Additionally, Wix also offers a significant selection of themes. Unlike Squarespace, many of these themes do not require large, professional pictures to look nice.
Cons to using Wix
1. Wix can get pricey long-term and even paid plans don’t remove Wix ads.
Compared to other options, Wix is a bit pricier in the long term than some of its competitors. Additionally, the paid plans do not get rid of ads and none of the paid options allows unlimited bandwidth or file storage.
2. The designing of your site may take more work than you expect.
Wix offers a drag-and-drop option that allows you to build your site to your image, however, this also requires some work to make it look professional. You will need to do some additional work over other platforms to make sure your site is responsive. While they do provide some guidelines, other choices provide professional sites with much less effort.
3. There are many technical limitations to using Wix.
Though they have improved enormously in the past few years, Wix remains scorned amongst the professional SEO community for its use of Flash. Additionally, if you are more experienced and want to add something they don’t have, you may find it a bit challenging to add your own code as Wix trades convenience for control over the structure of your site.
WordPress, Shopify, Squarespace, and Wix are relatively representative of some the categories of the options that are available to you. Just remember,, the more functionality you need out of the site, the more you’ll have to put in as far as time and money. Ultimately, it is up to you and what you envision for your brand, to decide what’s best for your website.