Choosing a platform for your website can feel very overwhelming for a lot of small business owners, so in this blog post, I’m going to break down some of the different options available to you, and the questions you should be asking yourself.
WordPress vs. Site Builders
For those who aren’t familiar with the term, site builders include services such as Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, and they offer pre-made themes into which you drop your content to build your website.
There’s not a whole lot of customization you can do on a site builder.
You are locked into the design and the capabilities of your chosen theme.
Obviously, I come at the issue from the point of view of a web development company, so I’m always going to be a cheerleader for WordPress because of the flexibility it provides to make your website look exactly how you want and do exactly what you want.
You own your website if it’s on WordPress.org. What I mean by that is that you can move it to another provider if you wish.
Think of WordPress as the construction company you use to build the house.
They provide the tools and the materials. If you use WordPress, you’re building your website on a hosting company that gives you the ability to pick up your property and move it to another piece of land, if you wanted.
Plus, you set the rules about what the house looks like and what you can do to it on WordPress in terms of ‘renovation’.
If you’re using a site builder, you’re just renting.
You are limited by what is allowed in terms of customization and you can’t move it.
You’re just a visitor. You own nothing but the content, and even that isn’t exactly easy to extract.
WordPress gives you flexibility.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think people typically build houses and then have any expectation of moving them.
But how many times have you heard ‘location, location, location?’ Watch any show on HGTV. “If I could just move this house to that location, it would be perfect!”
Well, that’s part of the value that building your site with WordPress gives you!
Simply put, you can use a site builder, but consider it similar to residing in a rental unit. You can live there. But you’ll have to leave the entirety of that investment behind if you leave.
So are you saying I *have* to use WordPress?
No, not necessarily.
That may be a surprise to those of you who know I’m a staunch advocate for the value of building on WordPress.
I do understand that not all business owners are able to invest either the budget to work with a professional developer, or the hands-on time to learn how to build an effective WordPress site themselves.
In some cases, WordPress may just not be the right fit for your situation.
What are your website expectations?
Your expectations for your website in terms of how it looks and acts are crucial.
If you understand the design/functionality/SEO limitations of using a site builder solution like Squarespace, or Wix, or Weebly or whatever.
If you don’t want or need more than those tools provide.
And if you’re happy with how the final product looks and works and it gives you the business you desire from your website.
Then a site builder may be all you need.
What are your website goals?
In order to really know what is right, what will satisfy your needs, your expectations and your own technical capabilities, you really need to look at your short-term and long-term goals.
If you’re just starting out, maybe a site builder has all the functionality you need – and expect!
Do you understand, and are you comfortable with the limitations that go with it?
For example, maybe it’s simply not important to you to create a specific design you’ve envisioned or to have advanced SEO capabilities.
Then a site builder may be all that you need at this stage of your business.
But if you’re a bit deeper into your business, maybe it’s time to put in some solid investment and have a more robust site over which you have more control.
Pros & Cons of Squarespace
Let’s make this a bit more concrete and look more specifically at Squarespace as an example, because its popularity makes it the go-to for so many people with whom I speak.
- Squarespace offers lots of really nice templates to choose from.
- Their websites are responsive and work well on mobile devices.
- Maintenance and updates are included in your fees, so you don’t have to manually and routinely deal with and pay for updates as they’re needed.
- It’s really user-friendly (that said, so is WordPress if it’s built properly!).
- It’s an affordable option, with prices as of February 2019 ranging from $12-40/month.
- Your site is dependent on the Squarespace framework; that means you can’t move it to a new provider.
- This includes your website theme, so, if you love the look of your website in Squarespace, it will not be able to be copied over if you decide to move your site (not without rebuilding the design from scratch).
- It’s not scalable. You can’t do much more with it than is offered. It is what it is.
- You are limited to only the templates provided; You can customize them, but you will likely need a Squarespace developer to really get the full benefits of customization.
- Advanced SEO is not an option, which is a big deal if you care about SEO, and you should!
The reality is, even with all the cons I listed, it may still be a good option for you.
But, understand that if you want to change or scale later on, you may be starting from scratch.
Do your research
Take the time to examine what your website needs are (both now and in the near future) and explore what each platform offers in order to determine which will be the right fit. It’s important that the extent of your research go beyond, “Well a site builder is easier to use, so… decision made.”
Choosing the easiest or cheapest route is rarely the foundation of a good business decision.
Obviously, cost and ease of use are both factors, but they should not be the sole basis of your selection.
The questions to ask to choose the platform for you
Before you can start researching what platform is right for you, you’ll need to understand your own needs and wants for your website.
So here are a handful of questions to get you started to get a better handle on what you need your selected website platform to be able to offer you.
What is your technical comfort level?
If you will be responsible for building and maintaining your own website but the idea of working in the WordPress admin strikes fear into your very heart, that is something to take into consideration when choosing your platform.
That said, don’t let that scare you off of WordPress… the purpose of this blog is to empower business owners just like you, and to help build your website confidence.
How much budget are you willing to invest in your website?
If you have an extremely limited budget at this stage of your business, then that is likely going to contribute to the approach you use for building your website.
How much time do you have to work on your website?
The amount of time you are prepared to invest in learning how to build and/or maintain your website will impact the best platform path.
What are your design expectations?
Do you require a very custom design that looks a specific way? Or are you happy as long as it’s clean and aesthetically pleasing. If you have unique design and customization requirements, a template-based option probably isn’t going to satisfy you.
Are there any unique features that will be necessary as part of your site?
You’ll need to ensure that the platform you’re considering is capable of providing the functionality and features you’re seeking.
Do you want to implement more advanced SEO techniques on your website?
If so, you may lean more heavily towards WordPress because when your website is self-hosted rather than hosted by a website builder platform, you’ll have more access to the files that allow you to perform technical SEO strategies.
One size does not fit all
Your business’s unique short term and long term goals, your skills and capabilities, and your current budget and free time will impact the right platform for you, so before you make a final decision on which platform to move ahead with, make sure you spend some time getting clear on your needs, wants and expectations for your website.