Building a website is not easy business. You can outsource it to a professional web designer or try to build it yourself. One can be expensive and the other headache inducing. Thankfully, there are platforms out there that make the process easy and cost-efficient. The first step is to pick a website platform to build your website on. But, how do you choose? Which one is the right one for your business? With all of the options available to users, picking one platform can seem overwhelming. First and foremost we have some questions to answer.
Just what is a website platform and how does that relate to my website?
A website platform is a general description for software, underlying structure, back-end, or methods used to create a web page or website. Simply stated a website platform is the thing on which your website is built. Many website platforms are also considered Content Marketing Systems that are platforms that allow users to create and manage customized websites. CMS’s put the power in the user’s hands and can significantly reduce costs for small businesses.
What platform is best for my business?
When picking a platform to create your website on, you have to consider the features that matter the most to your business. How easy is it to learn how to use? Does the platform offer good customer support? Is the platform able to help build my e-commerce presence? How customizable are the website templates offered? All of these questions and others are important to consider when deciding which platform to move forward with. To help your small business get a better idea of what each platform can offer along with the pros and cons of each, we have compiled the following comparison guide. For the purposes of this guide, we are going to compare WordPress, Shopify, Squarespace, Weebly, GoDaddy, and Wix. Each of these platforms has a large presence both online and off-line through advertising and word-of-mouth. They all specialize in similar yet different areas of website design and offer users unique features.
What is WordPress ? WordPress rose to fame as one of the premier open source blogging platforms on the Internet. Today, it is considered one of the foremost content management systems for your website. The user-friendly and easy to learn platform has an awesome user interface. Features include a plug-in architecture and a template system along with a content management system (CMS) based on PHP and MySQL. WordPress is used by more than 22.0% of the top 10 million websites as of August 2013. WordPress is the most popular blogging system in use on the Web, at more than 60 million websites and arguably the best choice for your small business.
- Easy to install and lower total cost of ownership with no set-up or design fees – saving you money from the get go!
- Open source software
- Most used platform – which means finding tech support is easy
- It can handle multiple authors.
- Thousands of free themes and plugins- along with hundreds of mobile ready themes
- Unlimited pages – you dream it, you create it with no limits
- Blogging platform integrated.
- Not all themes and or plugins are free – making the design options limited if your budget is.
- While the use of WordPress as a platform is free, the hosting company you use will not be.
- Having some technical skills is necessary in order to install into your hosting service.
- No extra help with SEO is possible – this can result in less traffic to your site.
What is Shopify? Shopify is one of the best platforms to build your website on if you want to focus on eCommerce. It offers a complete eCommerce service that allows you to set up an online store to sell your goods. It lets you organize your products, customize your storefront, accept credit card payments, track and respond to orders — all with a few clicks of the mouse. It is an incredibly easy platform to use and learn how to operate. Shopify features a searchable customer menu that helps your business with targeted marketing campaigns. It, also, offers great growth potential for your business along with content flexibility.
- One stop shop – no need for separate hosting
- Great for eCommerce – unlimited product display and no need for separate payment processing programs
- Themes are fully customizable – over 100 themes to choose from.
- In store point of sale system if requested- but this will cost you $49 extra.
- Low credit card processing fees.
- User-friendly interface that is easy to learn.
- You are locked into their program and hosting – which starts at $14/month
- Primarily focused on businesses that sell items through their website – if you aren’t an ecommerce site this platform isn’t for you.
- Limited storage based on plans
- Additional features typically cost extra including applications and most templates.
What is Squarespace ? Squarespace is one of the hottest and fastest growing website building platforms out there. It operates as a content management system (CMS) that is composed of a drag and drop website builder, blogging platform and hosting service. With Squarespace, you can create and maintain your website using its designer templates and extensive styling options. It currently powers 1.8 million websites and is ideal for boutique businesses, bloggers, and restaurants.
- Unparalleled template, design and styling options – if you want an creative looking site this is for you.
- User friendly and flexible eCommerce options
- Great 24/7-customer service – email support is highly responsive
- Manages entire hosting process – you can just focus on building your site and driving traffic
- Drag & drop capabilities allow customization of your design with ease.
- Basic SEO optimization and real-time analytics dashboard help your site get the visitors you want.
- Pricing is marginally higher than other platforms – prices start at $16/month for professional sites.
- Limited pages based in plans – $$$
- Limited free-trial period – only 14 days.
- Mainly used for eCommerce sites that want to emphasize artistic design.
- Locked into their hosting and their platform, leaving you with less flexibility.
- The styling and design options can be overwhelming – sometimes minimalism is your friend.
What is Weebly? Weebly is a free- yes that’s right FREE- website creator and one of the easiest/user-friendly services on the market. Weebly is known for being intuitive to use and doesn’t require any coding skills. All of Weebly’s site design elements are drag-and-drop, making it easy to create customized websites with pictures and changing content. Weebly supports basic blogging features and eCommerce capabilities, currently powering 20 million websites worldwide making it one of the most popular website builders around.
- FREE TO USE – there is no time limit either!
- Weebly automatically generates a mobile version of each website.
- Hosting is available or you can connect your website somewhere else, its up to you.
- eCommerce sites have access to payments through either PayPal or Stripe.
- Storage is unlimited – unique feature here!
- Offers visitor-tracking software – also compatible with Google Analytics.
- Users can incorporate ads onto their pages.
- Mobile application allows users to check on their sites while also changing content.
- Cannot support complex eCommerce needs – limited product displays and payment options.
- Average template choices with limited creative freedom – though they are improving!
- The service restricts individual file sizes – but again unlimited storage is a good compromise.
- Very limited blog functions – organization and management tools are very poor.
What is GoDaddy? GoDaddy has been known for their risqué advertisement campaigns and Super Bowl ads. A lot of people aren’t even sure of what the company does; however they do know the name. GoDaddy is the largest domain registrar in the world and offers one of the most comprehensive website building platform tools around. They offer hosting, domain registration, eCommerce software and services and one of the best customer-service hotlines in the industry.
- 24/7-customer support system- renowned for its service you can call, email, chat, you name it
- Easy to use toolbar– you can be up and running quickly
- Offers professional templates- over 300 themes available
- Drag and drop interface – standard and friendly
- Allows you to create backup copies and restore your website – no other platform offers this!
- Themes and templates are not changeable – if you want a change, you have to start over
- No e-commerce tools
- Mobile display interface is very basic
- No free trial periods and or free plans – check out user reviews and current websites before you purchase
- Many of the best features are limited or come at an additional cost.
What is Wix? Wix is a platform that can make even the most technically challenged individual look savvy. The websites built off this platform are both beautiful and interactive. It is a cloud-based web development platform that allows users to create professional looking websites using their drag and drop tools. One of the coolest features is the amount of functions they offer users. Users can add functionalities including social plug-ins, eCommerce, contact forms, email marketing, and community forums.
- Intuitive user interface and user-friendly functionalities
- Over 280 template choices
- Offers great support – help buttons are placed on each section of the platform, connecting users directly to solutions
- Drag and drop website builder
- Help button tutorials- you can easily learn more about functions and get the help you need
- Does not offer hosting – may we suggest GoDaddy?
- Users cannot change templates – choose wisely!
- Freemium model – want to connect your website to your own domain name? Pay up
- Prominent advertisements on the free platform – ads are on most free plans, but usually less obvious
- Not good for complex eCommerce needs – it is unable to send out confirmation emails to your customers
With so many different platforms out there for personal, professional, artistic, and eCommerce sites, take time to figure out what will be the right platform for your company. Hopefully the list above will help you chose the right one for you. For more information about any of the platforms discussed or for additional platforms, visit Website Builder Expert or Website Tool Tester.
Find a 2017 website comparison resource at our friend’s site here: https://digital.com/website-builders/