Choosing the Best Web Site Platform

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3 months ago
Website Builder

Finding the best Website platform can be tricky for beginners. There are so many options on the market such as WordPress, Shopify, Squarespace, Wix, just to name a few; so how do you know which one is the best solution for your business?

In this article, we’ll help make your choice a little easy by going over the pros and cons of the most popular options on the market today.

What You Should Know

Before analyzing your options you need to define the website you plan to build. Three questions to consider:

  1. What type of site are you planning to build?
    • Informational Site
      • This type of site is typical for services, lead generation, news and blogging sites
    • eCommerce site
      • If the main focus of the website is to sell online, you will benefit from an ecommerce focused platform
    • Portfolio builder
      • If your website is simply to showcase your work, you will benefit from a Portfolio Builder website. This is perfect for Freelancers, Photographers, Illustrators, Designers and Artists
  2. Who will maintain your website?
    • Are you a one person team and have time to make all changes yourself?
    • Do you have staff members, with no web/coding experience that you would like to update your site
    • Do you have budget to hire agency to take care of development and management of site?
  3. How fast you plan to grow?
    • Do you plan to sell items in future?
    • Do you change your product line every month?
    • Do you plan to start a blog in future?
    • Do you plan to add additional services in future?
    • Do you have a big marketing campaign or PR that might spike your traffic in the near future?

CMS or Website Builder?

Creating a website from scratch has become easier than ever. Gone are the days where you needed to hand code. Two options come to mind when deciding the best system for your business either a purely Content Management System (CMS) or a Website Builder.

Content Management System

CMS– is a platform that usually comes as an open-source solution. It can be a bit complicated for beginners as they also imply extensive integration options. There are lots of plugins and themes designed by third-party developers for each of these systems. 

Good knowledge of HTML and CSS will let you create literally any webpage with self-crafted elements and blocks to make your site stand out from competitors. 

To achieve your goals, you need to have someone with good coding experience or a technical background, if you do not have this experience it’s advised to hire an expert or agency.

CMS Pros & Cons

CMS Pros

  • Unlimited flexibility of creating different types of websites, ranging from blogs and to online stores.
  • Rich choice of extensions for advanced functionality.
  • Website editor available in visual and HTML.

CMS Cons

  • Need to know basic programming languages to interact with the system, including template change, addition of new widgets etc.
  • User is responsible for the maintenance of the system, its safety and updates

Website Builder

Website builder is a simpler alternative to pure CMS. A good alternative for non-technicians and newbies, who do not want to do the learning and don’t have a budget to hire a professional.

These systems mostly come with usage guidelines that help users cope with all the stages of the website design process with minimum time/effort investment. Website builders generally have ready-made DIY elements as well as drag-and-drop functionality, which also simplifies the process of website creation for all user categories. This is what makes the use of these systems quite simple, straightforward and convenient.

The software provides ready made templates and layouts with built-in features, apps, and add-ons. Most of website builders also come with integrated blogging and eCommerce engines. Website builders offer multiple free and paid plans that come with versatile terms, tools and services so that you could pick the solution that works best for that very type of project you are currently working on.

Pros & Cons

Website Builder Pros

  • Ease of use.
  • Speed of website creation in a visual editor (from several hours and up to a couple of days).
  • Technical support provided by web developers.
  • Self Hosted

Website Builder Cons

  • Serious restrictions in editing website code structure.
  • Inadequate multi-functionality (as compared with CMS).
  • Inability to transfer a website to another hosting or website builder.

CMS Platforms

For small business the only CMS I would recommend is WordPress. It has the biggest market share of websites (over 30% of all sites in the internet and 60% in the CMS market).

Cost to entry is a lot more accessible than other CMS and you can create something descent with not much coding experience.

Other noteworthy systems in the CMS space include: Magento, Joomla, Drupal these are all great platforms but recommended for larger organizations; a system such as Magento can start at around $20k but easily reach $40k or enterprise level costing over $100k. Magento handles large stores, multiple locations, and customer management with ease, it has great security features protection from hacking and store management. An experienced developer will definitely be needed for either Magento, Joomla or Drupal.

WordPress Pros

  1. User Friendly CMS:
    1. WordPress is a strong content management system because of its origin as a blogging system. 
    1. It is very easy for an admin to navigate through the backend of a WordPress site, edit pages and upload new content. WordPress makes it simple to organize content without a lot of website management knowledge.
  2. Plugins:
    1. There are thousands, mostly free plugins available. These plugins allow you to customize and enhance any WordPress site. If you need to make specific changes to the functionality on your site, chances are there is a plugin to do just that. 
  3. SEO:
    1. WordPress offer many SEO plugins available to help optimize content, meta tags, keyword focus and much more! My plugin of choice is Yoast SEO.
    1. Having access to free plugins, like Yoast, means each WordPress site is SEO ready. There isn’t a better platform than WordPress when it comes to SEO optimization.
  4. Responsive:
    1. WordPress has thousands of themes available. Generally, these themes are very reliable when it comes to being responsive. Having a mobile-friendly site with consistency across all devices is very important to the UX; WordPress does a good job with this. 
  5. Open source:
    1. WordPress is an open source software and any one can use, study, change and redistribute its source code” (WPBeginner). 
    1. Many of the themes and plugins are free and being an open-source software, WordPress programmers are able to openly share code online. The sharing of code can result in the ability to save a lot of developing time and costs by using an existing code.
    1. Using an open source platform is also valuable when you’re working with a 3rd party partner or agency to develop your WordPress website. 
    1. You won’t be stuck working with a proprietary software that only a small group of developers can work on. 
    1. There are a number of different WordPress developers out there that have the ability to support your website if you ever need to change partners.

WordPress Cons

  1. Updates:
    1. Installing updates is important to the health of your WordPress site, but can be a nuisance if not done thoughtfully. 
    1. Premium WordPress themes are updated and improved often. These updates are important to maintain proper security on WordPress websites. 
    1. Updates may bring some small problems to a website in which case you to revert to an older WordPress state.
  2. Vulnerability:
    1. Being an open-source platform, WordPress is attractive to potential hackers. 
    1. To mitigate this risk, again, it is always good to be knowledgeable in choosing plugins and themes for your WordPress site; always assess the quality of a WordPress plugin and install with caution. If you have unused plugins always delete them to prevent future problems.
  • Speed:
    • Certain themes contain a lot of unnecessary generic code. This can decrease the speed of the site and cause slow load times. Without prior WordPress experience it can be hard to understand what code you need and what code you can do without. A knowledgeable developer or agency should be able to help here.
  • Is not self hosted
    • Unlike website builders you will need to find a hosting company to host your WordPress site. This can be good and bad. It gives you the flexibility to shop around and switch hosting accounts if desired but if you chose the wrong company the website can get hacked, or cause major speed issues. Most hosting companies do have a WordPress plan, also take a look at WordPress three recommended hosting companies.
  • No ecommerce out the box
    • WordPress does not include ecommerce out the box, you need to install woocommerce and learn how to use this platform as well as wordpress. With that aside woocommerce builds a solid ecommerce option

Website Builder Platform

We the large amount of Website Builders out there we are only reviewing our top 3. But with our review criteria you should be able to assess others to make your own conclusion on what will be best for your business.

Shopify

Shopify is a web application that allows you to create your own online store.

It provides you with a wide range of ‘themes’ that can be customized to meet your own branding requirements, and allows you to sell either physical or digital products.

A key aim behind Shopify is to let beginners build an online store themselves — i.e., you don’t need to know how to code to use it.

However, the platform also caters for developers, as it provides full access to CSS, HTML and Liquid (Shopify’s coding language).

Shopify pricing range: $9-$299/month +

Shopify Payment Options:

There are two ways to accept credit card payments with Shopify.

  1. The cheapest and easiest option— for users in countries where it is supported — is to use Shopify Payments, Shopify’s built-in payment system. If you use this, you don’t have to worry about transaction fees at all.

However, there is still a credit card rate to consider — in the US, depending on your plan, you can expect to pay a rate of between 2.4% and 2.9% of each transaction. (In other countries, the rate can be considerably lower).

  • Alternatively, you can use a third party ‘payment gateway’ to process card transactions — of which there are over 100 to choose from. If you chose this option, Shopify will apply a transaction fee on top of your credit card rate — between 0.5% and 2% depending on your plan.

Shopify Pros

  • Ease of use
  • Shopping –online store, products to Facebook, Messenger, Instagram as well as POS system for brick and mortar stores
  • Designs (roughly 170 themes) or create  your own
  • Flexibility
  • Scaling
  • Apps & Community Support
  • Shopify 24 hour support team

Shopify Cons

  • URL structure
    Blog posts as regular pages does not use ideal URL structure for SEO. Shopify uses subdirectories such as /pages or /blog/ news/
  • Multi Language Stores – currently only ability if you purchase a third party app
  • Transaction Fee – unless you use Shopify Payments (not available in every country)  Shopify will charge a 1-2% transaction fee on top of the payment processor
  • Creating regular content Shopify comes with a blog  and you can create other pages but getting them to look the way you want it is not always as easy.

Squarespace

Squarespace is not a website builder that is designed for those who want to tinker extensively — 

It is a platform that encourages you to pick from one of their 130+ templates, add some content and have your web published.

Squarespace pricing: $16 – $54/month

Key differences between the Squarespace plans

Ecommerce Features, Transaction Fees, whether or not you can use CSS or scripts, third party integrations, promotional pop ups

Pros of using Squarespace

  • Templates are contemporary, responsive, and beautifully designed.
  • Great image management options
  • Provides a good range of import tools for importing content from other platforms.
  • There are no transaction fees (so long as you are on one of its ‘Commerce’ plans).
  • It allows you to work with a huge range of web fonts.
  • It integrates nicely out of the box with many well-known third-party tools, including Google Workspace, Opentable and Mailchimp; it also lets you push content to social media networks easily.
  • A Zapier integration is available, which allows you connect your Squarespace website to a larger number of other web applications.
  • It comes with a pretty usable built-in email marketing tool.
  • two-week free trial is available.

Cons of using Squarespace

  • There’s no multi-currency selling functionality — if you’re hoping to create an online store that caters for a global audience, this will not be an option
  • GDPR compliance is poor in the area of cookie consent — As of this writing you’ll need to invest in a third-party tool to make your Squarespace website fully compliant.
  • Payment gateway options are quite limited.
  • Although support for Apple Pay is provided, there’s no support for Google Pay.
  • There’s no autosave for pages and posts.
  • SEO not good to optimize for site speed and performance are concerned.
  • POS is only available in the US, and is quite basic — only a card reader can be used when selling in physical locations (other platforms let you use a wider range of hardware, like barcode scanners, tills, receipt printers etc.).
  • The only third-party email marketing product that can be used with the newsletter and form blocks as a direct integration is Mailchimp (users of other products will need to rely on a Zapier integration).
  • No phone support available. Customer support can be contacted by email or live chat only. 
  • The app store for Squarespace (its ‘Extensions’ directory) is limited

Wix

Their visually impressive layouts are designed for small businesses, restaurants, online stores and artists such as musicians and photographers. Only recommend if your site is under 30 pages.

Templates are optimized for mobile devices and can be spiced up with one of the numerous apps available from the Wix App Market.

You can compare Wix to a prefabricated house: the fundamental structure can’t be modified. However, you can paint the walls as you wish (choose a theme) and add the furniture you love (photos)

For complete beginners there’s Wix ADI, Wix’s AI-powered website builder. All you have to do is answer a few quick questions, and it will build you a ready-to-go site in just minutes.

Most users, however, will probably feel pretty comfortable with using the regular Wix Editor. After picking a template, you’ll be able to use Wix’s drag-and-drop editor to customize your site pretty much any way you like. 

Wix Pricing: FREE – $39/month


Plan Options

Create a free website with Wix ads. Not included: your own domain name which will be additional $5/month. Other plans difference increase storage space, use premium apps and create online store. Ecommerce option starts at $23/month level

Pros using Wix

  • Excellent Templates – 800+ templates to choose from
  • Adding Animations – Animate text and other elements
  • App Market – hundreds of app’s to choose from
  • Wix Artifical Design Intelligence (ADI) – great option but only available for certain types of sites: portfolio, yoga sites
  • Automatic Site Backup – automatically creates backup points of your website that can be restored at any time.

Cons using Wix

  • Templates can’t be changed easily
  • Loading speed (wix loading pages are not ideal specially on mobile devices)
  • Supports 19 languages – if you plan to have a multi lingual site make sure your language is supported
  • Depth of Navigation – you can only have a maximum of two levels 
  • Page Limit – only can have 100 pages (not counting blog posts) Only recommend for sites under 30 pages 

Portfolio Builder Website Recommendations

Portfolio builder websites are very similar to Website Builder websites but with the focus of showcasing your creative work. Here is some platforms we recommend as well as Squarespace (a solid option; view review above):

Cargo Collective – $99/year | $66/year additional eCommerce

  • Best for Photographers, Designers and Writers

https://cargo.site

SmugMug ($7-$42/mo)

https://www.smugmug.com

  • Best for photographers
  • Photo storage, Photo sharing

Format ($15-$40)

https://www.format.com/

  • Build your portfolio
  • 14 days free trial
  • Best for Photographers, Designers, Artists, Fashion Designers

Conclusion

You have a lot of choices, but our suggestion is to go with a platform where you can easily find support and developers in your area. Consider your target audience, language and countries you would like to do business and make sure your platform of choice is compatible. If you are still trying to decide, revisit the first three questions in the beginning of article. If additional guidance is needed send us a message with your answer to these questions and we will send you our recommended platform for your business.

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