WordPress? Squarespace? Wix? Drupal? Shopify? Woocommerce? Joomla?
Most small to medium businesses these days will have their website built using one of the more common website platforms such as WordPress, Squarespace, Wix, Shopify, Joomla or even Drupal.
And after witnessing a fairly heated debate in a facebook group recently, between two people arguing over Shopify and WordPress WooCommerce, it really reminded me how stubborn and fixed people can get in their thinking and how vehemently people want to defend their choice as the right choice.
So whenever I’m asked, “Which is the best website platform to use?”, I point out that the right question to ask is, “Which is the best website platform for your business?”
Every website platform, has it’s disadvantages and its advantages. It completely depends on what you value and what is right for your needs and it’s important that you do your own research and find out what each platform has to offer.
Full disclosure, I design and develop in WordPress so I know it really well and it’s my platform of choice because of what it enables me to do.
For example, WordPress is great if you want to get your hands dirty and have a lot more control over both the backend and the front end. This is particularly valuable if you need a more complex structure with specific features that need to integrate with each other. Because WordPress is open source software, you can create your own custom post types with exactly the feature set that you need. You also have access to thousands of plugins that developers have created to do almost anything.
WordPress is also infinitely flexible, so you’re never locked into a particular framework and you can choose to host your website with your preferred web host, which is a big plus, given how much impact a good web host can have on the performance of your website.
But of course, there is a downside too. The very fact that WordPress is open source code means that you need to choose your plugins with discernment so that you don’t accidentally pick one from a less than reputable developer that then messes up your site. But it’s not rocket science and there are a few best practice ways to make sure you pick a reputable plugin.
Another downside for some is that the open source nature of WordPress means that there are so many different ways to build a site in WordPress. Consequently there is a much higher learning curve in understanding how WordPress works and how best to use it.
Squarespace, Wix and Shopify on the other hand are website builders and exist within their own custom eco-system and their frameworks are less flexible and adaptable. This can be a really good thing and again, it depends on what you need and value. Because their software is developed in-house (so to speak) all their plugins are thoroughly tested and are guaranteed to work as they should. Squarespace and Shopify both have a really great library of website themes so you have heaps of choice when it comes to selecting the look of your site. These platforms are great if you need something fairly straightforward and you’re not interested in too much customisation. If you just want it done for you, then this is a good bet because these builders are very easy to set up.
The downside of these systems is that they are much more restrictive in terms of what you can do, so you need to be aware that as your business grows, you may find you bump up against some walls when it comes to expanding what your website can do.
Another downside for some, is that they are self-hosted so you don’t get to control the best conditions for your hosting. If that’s fine for you, then it’s no problem. These platforms also tend to have deceptively higher ongoing costs and can end up costing you more than going for an open source solution like WordPress or Drupal, even when taking into account premium plugins.
Unless you’re willing to hire a software developer to build something completely from scratch for you, then it makes sense to go with one of the more common web platforms. Just make sure you do your research to determine which one is the best for you.
Open source usually means you can pretty much build what you want, but it’s up to you to look after and maintain it.
Closed source means you give up the freedom to do what you want, but the site is managed for you.