So, You Want to Build a Website?
Here’s everything you need to know about the top website builders: WordPress, Squarespace, and Shopify.
Have you put off creating a website until the last possible moment? Or maybe you sell/are present elsewhere like Instagram, Etsy, or whatever the cool kids are using nowadays. No worries!
We get it. The internet (and all the options it provides) can be intimidating. It can be especially challenging to start building a website if you’re already strapped for time and don’t want to choose the wrong platform.
But don’t worry, you’re not alone if you're wondering which platform to go with for your website. It's one of the most common questions we hear amongst business owners, bloggers, and internet fanatics alike.
So keep reading and we’ll give our honest feedback, pros, cons, tips, and you name it, on the internet’s “top 3” website platforms.
Read on for more on each platform.
While WordPress.com hosts blogs, WordPress is an open-source CMS that’s been around since 2003. What we’ll be referring to is a self-hosted WordPress website. Using WordPress.com is very limited, and it really doesn’t allow for much customization (which is NOT ideal).
Pros of WordPress
1. It’s Free!
You can download/install directly from WordPress.org or, chances are, your hosting platform will provide a link. Charges vary, but are lower than other platforms listed here, which often charge more for features that WordPress provides for free, such as e-commerce.
You can add hundreds of plugins and functions to a WordPress site, or edit the code to build a completely custom site. The possibilities for selling products, adding booking capabilities, chatting, members-only areas, creating courses, quizzes, pop-ups, landing pages, sales funnels, etc. are almost limitless.
3. It’s a popular platform!
Almost 27% of websites are powered by WordPress. That means it’s very easy to find tutorials or help with it. Also, other digital services like MailChimp and PayPal often cater their products to work well with WordPress.
4. You own your website.
You can duplicate your site, take a snapshot, store it as a backup, move it to a new server, and then make it public again. With WordPress, you own the code used to build your site.
5. One of the best options for search engine optimization.
WordPress is the best for SEO for a lot of reasons. Microdata is a tool that lets you tag your business to a particular location in order to show up in a local search. Another capability is the ability to efficiently format your pages and URL structure so content is easily
understood by search bots.
Cons of WordPress
1. Security issues.
Plugins and non-WordPress made themes, added by WordPress users, are subject to security flaws because they’re open source and so can be added to WordPress by anyone.
2. It can be overwhelming.
It is a lot of fun to use once you get used to it. However, it is also the most overwhelming, as it offers such a wide variety of choices.
3. Longer to build/launch your site.
Due to the depth of customization possible, the process of setting up can take a while.
4. No official “WordPress” support team.
WordPress has an extensive supporting community, but there is no official customer support provided. Occasionally, hosts offer support, but it’s usually paid.
They started in 2003 as a hosting company and didn’t become the drag and drop website builder they are today until they fundraised in 2014. Squarespace has a reputation for building beautiful, easy-to-make websites. However, its main downside is that flexibility and function have been devalued.
Pros of Squarespace
1. Easy to use and set up.
They simplify web design to its bare essentials for those who might get frustrated trying to put up a website on their own.
2. Beautiful themes.
Squarespace is great because the themes are always beautiful. The reason I say that is not to suggest you can’t mess it up -
but they always start off beautiful and are easy to customize.
Cons of Squarespace
1. Limited functionality.
Squarespace, because it was simplified for the masses, also limits what you can customize, what layout choices you have, and how you can integrate other services. Because of this, what you can do with custom code is quite limited.
2. You don’t own your site.
If you ever move to a different platform or take a break in paying the fees, it will mean starting from scratch.
3. Text-only customer support.
Customer service options include email and live chat, but only during certain hours and days, which can be difficult for those without tech skills.
4. Search engine optimization.
Although you can do off-site SEO stuff, like inbound linking, traffic generating, you cannot do microdata. That is an important factor in local SEO. Then strange formatting and permalinks makes on-page SEO impossible using Squarespace.
Pros of Shopify
1. eCommerce specific.
Its whole point is to get you to a sale, so you don’t have to worry setting up checkout pages like you do with WordPress.
2. Easy setup.
Shopify features thousands of themes that are designed to help you get your store running quickly. All you have to do once your store is up is put together the home page by choosing a theme and start selling.
3. POS integration.
In addition to providing inventory management, you can use the platform to sell products in brick and mortar stores and pop-up markets or online. You can even use Shopify’s Point of Sale system for a seamless integration.
Because Shopify hosts and collects payments for your shop, they take security very seriously. You only need to keep your login info safe, and create a strong password.
Cons of Shopify
5. 24/7 support.
The Shopify customer service is excellent and you can contact them by phone, email, or online chat at any time.
If your site does not sell products or only sells a few products, you’re better off sticking with WordPress.
2. Shopify owns your site.
Your content is stored on Shopify and could be shutdown at any time without warning. You do not have the ability to save a copy of your website, making it impossible to move your site elsewhere or to get blacklisted.
3. Product organization/Inventory management can be challenging.
With all of their associations, product sorting and variants can become quite complicated, including sizing, colours, materials, brands, etc. If you do not have a particularly clear idea of how items will be organized and ordered, then your store is destined to be confusing and frustrating for customers.
So, the takeaway here is that WordPress is great for customization, marketing, and integrations, Shopify is great for eCommerce and some inventory management for brick and mortar shops, and Squarespace is great for beautiful landing pages but not much more.