I’m often asked about the new DIY (do-it-yourself) website platforms currently available, among them Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, and some other web builder tools that may be offered by registrar companies like GoDaddy. The question is, what’s the difference between these services and WordPress?
There are actually a lot of differences, not only in how they work, but what you can do with them. To be clear, there’s many circumstances in which these tools are very helpful and can be a cost-saving way to get your business online quickly. As I always say, just get yourself online. The details can be sorted out later!
That said, why pay to have a site built in WordPress when you can have a very good-looking site from Squarespace in about an hour? Well, you can – and Squarespace or similar services will deliver an acceptable website in a hurry. However, keep in mind there are significant tradeoffs. There’s some detail differences among them, but here’s the pros and cons overall:
- Speed – get online in hours
- All-in-one solution – no separate hosting or SSL bills
- Somewhat easy to use for non-techies (see related “con”)
- Generally inexpensive, saves on development time
- Basics are covered, but can also sell you a domain name or basic store functions
- No maintenance worries
- Inflexible. They can do a lot, but you will hit a big limitation eventually.
- Not as easy to use as you might expect. IMHO, WordPress is easier, but navigable enough for non-techie use.
- Not open-source, as WordPress is. No community of contributing developers.
- You can’t take it with you, because it’s not yours. If you outgrow it (and you likely will), you have to start over from square one with another development platform.
So, what are some options if you want to get online quickly and want to stick with WordPress? There’s the hosted version of WordPress, which is a limited version of WordPress (at WordPress.com) that you can build yourself. There’s no hosting or maintenance worries, but very limited flexibility, as it doesn’t allow plugins and only partial access to design controls. Upgrades to add some options require payment – and those extras add up. However, you can move the site data to a self-hosted version if you decide to take control of it.
A better DIY alternative for WordPress is StudioPress Sites, which combines specialized WordPress hosting with a selection of top-shelf layout themes. There are some limitations, but this service is your best bet if you go the DIY route. Note that you should have some comfort with using WordPress for this option to work well. I think WP is easier to use than the others anyway (but I’m biased).
Hopefully, this is a helpful overview of the world of DIY website builders. As with most things, it pays to plan ahead before committing to a website solution that will serve you well for years to come.