Which platform should you build your website on? WordPress, Wix, Squarespace or Shopify?

by | May 28, 2020

Which platform should you build your website on? WordPress, Wix, Squarespace or Shopify?

You know what? It really doesn’t matter. 

Ok, let me qualify that. If the platform has the functionality you need, then it really doesn’t matter. So the key is the functionality. 

The way to choose a platform is to compare its features with your business needs. Make a list of all the things your website needs to do, and then check if each platform offers that functionality and at what price. 

If you already have a website and you are switching platforms then you should also assess what is necessitating the move, and make sure the platform you are moving to will address that issue.

Don’t choose a platform on the basis that others say they are using it and it’s easy, or beautiful, or flexible, because you don’t know what their business goals are.

If you intend to hire someone to do your website for you, put together a brief for your website and chat through the functionality with each person you are getting a quote from. And have multiple discussions, because if one developer only works with WordPress then guess which platform they will recommend? 

For those of you who are going to develop your own site, I realise that it’s a little harder to assess the functionality if you have no prior knowledge of the platforms, so here’s the very abridged version to get you looking in the right direction—and this is only a starting point, not a way to make your final decision. So let’s have a quick look at some of the popular solutions for small businesses.

First of all, the difference between WordPress and all the others is that WordPress is open source software, you have more control, more flexibility…and more responsibility. The others are software as a service. There is no reason these days not to use a service, but you are restricted to the functionality they offer. For most small businesses this is not an issue as you can usually find a service that offers what you need.

If you require eCommerce functionality it’s really important to get to know whether the platform you are choosing can do what you need. Not all platforms handle Click & Collect well for example. Some platforms don’t handle multiple currencies as well as others. If you are confused about the functionality they offer, see if there are Facebook groups or forums where you can ask other users about them.

WordPress

Self-hosted WordPress will require more development up front and more ongoing essential maintenance. Generally speaking it requires more technical know-how, and I definitely wouldn’t recommend going this route if you are building your own website unless you have some coding skills.

However once you have a WordPress website it can grow with your business, and a good developer will be able to make it do almost anything you might want and a good designer will be able to make it look almost any way you want. 

Plus, you can back up your website. And since the software is open source, you can move your site from hosting company A to company B if there are any hosting issues or you need better hosting as you grow.

WordPress is great if:

  • You are very technical
  • You have a budget for a developer
  • You have specific requirements that the services do not offer
  • You have a lot of products and specific eCommerce rules 

Wix

You can get started fast with a website builder like Wix, much less up front development and no essential maintenance to worry about. You won’t have to worry about whether your SSL is set up properly, should you have a CDN, how to optimise for site speed, is your mail sending via SMTP and so on and so on. These are all things you do have to consider with WordPress.

However, I’ve never been a fan of Wix, it’s very user friendly, but actually it’s ease of use also makes it easy to mess up your design if you don’t know what you’re doing. And it doesn’t handle responsive sites properly, in my opinion.

Wix is great if:

  • You are not technical at all
  • You have zero budget 
  • You have a small number of products

Squarespace

Of all the popular website builders Squarespace is my personal favourite. There is a bit of a learning curve to get to grips with how to design on Squarespace, but if you’re doing it yourself there are plenty of templates you can use to base your design on. However, a professionally created Squarespace site is almost always preferable to doing it yourself if you can afford a designer.

The responsive nature of the sites is good, and it offers very solid basic eCommerce functionality. 

Squarespace is great if:

  • You are comfortable with basic technical skills
  • You have a smaller budget
  • You have a small number of products with little or no very specific eCommerce rules

Shopify

If you are primarily an eCommerce business, Shopify is a good choice. It is a very robust eCommerce platform with a lot of options. A lot of small businesses I know have bootstrapped getting eCommerce up and running by opening a Shopify account themselves. 

To be honest, it’s been a while since I used Shopify myself. At the time, I found it good, but I found the design features limited. I believe it has gotten better since then, but probably not quite as flexible from a design perspective as the other website builders. 

Shopify is great if:

  • You are comfortable with basic technical skills
  • You have a smaller budget
  • Your primary need is eCommerce and you have a lot of products

It really doesn’t matter

Remember way back at the start when I said it doesn’t matter? You have to match the platform to your business requirements and your budget. That’s it. After that, it doesn’t matter. But you know what does matter?

Your strategy.

Who is your dream customer? How are you going to get them to your website? When they get there how are you going to communicate with them in such a way that they are attracted to do business with you?

That’s what really matters. 

We see a lot of small businesses jump into developing a website, getting caught up in the technical details and forgetting to get the foundation of their strategy right. They end up with a website that just sits there, doing very little for them. Because it speaks to no-one. It invites no-one to engage. It doesn’t play its part in building a brand that matters.

Your website is not a strategy. It’s a tool that should play an important role in your strategy.

If you would like to know more about how to develop a website that attracts your dream customer to do business with you, contact us.

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