Website-building technology has come a long way in the past 10 years. In the past, if you needed a website built for your business, you’d have to hire an experienced coder to build an effective, functional, and attractive site. Today, however, there are several online platforms that will take care of most of the work for you. This allows you to build and control your own website, even if you don’t have any coding experience.
Websites use CSS and HTML for their structure, content, and design. HTML creates the content of the webpage, including headers, paragraphs, bullet points, and images. CSS describes how these images will appear on the screen. Without changing the CSS code, everything on the webpage will look the same. Website templates use HTML and CSS to create unique, distinct websites. Four of the most popular template websites are WordPress, Weebly, Wix, and Squarespace. All of these website builders have different advantages and disadvantages. They also each offer different packages for varying costs, and the type of package will determine some of the features and the ease of use. Some site builders have different limitations than others.
As we break down the features, benefits, and cost of each platform, keep in mind what you need right now for yourself, business, and brand. Also, be aware what you might need in six months or year from now. At the end of the article, we’ll compare all the platforms. Each type of “house” is right for someone. It is a matter of find the right one for you and your website goals.
WordPress is the most well-known website builder, but it began as a blogging platform in 2003. Today, it’s one of the most flexible site builders, and web designers and developers have created many tools that can help you use the platform.
WordPress.com is a free blogging site, and WordPress.org offers a free download of WordPress so you can build a website on your own site hosting service. Most business owners use WordPress.org to create a WordPress site.
Type – Custom Build Your Home
WordPress is unique from Wix, Weebly, and Squarespace in that you have full access and own your website and content. The downside to owning is you need to decide how to build your home and maintenance. There are limitless options. WordPress allows you to custom-build your site, so it gives you full access to everything. You also own your website and all your content when you use WordPress. However, this means that you have many choices to make as you build your site, and the options can be overwhelming.
Features of WordPress.org
WordPress isn’t a drag-and-drop platform, but it does offer basic themes and plugins to simplify the website-building experience. If you want to use a drag-and-drop website builder, you can download a plugin, such as Aqua Page Builder or Thrive Themes, to turn WordPress into a drag-and-drop platform.
Some of the best WordPress features include:
Many web designers have created WordPress themes, some of which you can purchase and some of which you can use for free. You can choose an effective theme depending on your brand and industry, but some of the most popular paid themes include:
- • Avada
- • Enfold
- • X
- • Impreza
- • BeTheme
Most paid themes cost between $30 and $60 to use. However, there are also many excellent free themes.
Plugins are like apps that you can add to your website. They add extra features to make your website easier to use for yourself and for your site visitors. Like themes, you can find free and paid plugins to benefit any type of website for businesses in all industries. Some of the best plugins are:
- • WPForms, which allows your site visitors to easily contact you
- • MonsterInsights, a Google Analytics plugin
- • Sucuri, a security plugin that protects you from malware and other threats
- • Yoast SEO, which optimizes your website for search engines
As more and more people use their phones for Internet browsing instead of their computers, mobile-friendly design becomes increasingly important. Almost all WordPress themes are mobile-ready, but you should always verify that your website has responsive design. Before you choose a theme, check out the mobile version to make sure it’s easy to use and has the same features as the desktop site.
WordPress has a media library that lets you organize your content, edit your images, and add SEO data to the images.
Some plugins allow you to add self-hosted videos to your site. Other plugins help you add third-party videos from YouTube, Vimeo, and other video-hosting websites. Most of these plugins will make the videos responsive on mobile devices, too.
You can download some popular eCommerce platforms, like MarketPress and WooCommerce, as plugins. These are usually free, but you can purchase add-ons to make the platforms more specialized to your website.
Email marketing is helpful for most businesses, and some of the most popular email marketing platforms offer free WordPress plugins to connect your WordPress site with your email marketing. Some of the most popular email marketing plugins include:
- • MailChimp
- • SumoMe List Builder
- • SendinBlue
- • MailPoet Newsletters
Because WordPress started as a blogging site, its blogging platform is built into your site and is ready to use.
There are over 600 slideshow plugins available for free from the WordPress marketplace. Any type of slideshow you desire can most likely be found in the WordPress market or another website that sells WordPress plugins.
There are many plugins that add different forms to your website, including contact forms and payment forms. Some of these plugins are drag-and-drop, which allows you to easily build forms with just the information you need.
You can edit any part of your WordPress theme or plugins to further customize your site. If you use a child theme, you can make changes to the theme while still being able to update or upgrade the original theme.
Advantages of WordPress
The biggest disadvantage to using WordPress is the overwhelming number of choices and options as you build your site. The platform has many great advantages, though, including:
Use – Advanced
Setting up a WordPress website can take time depending on the theme and plugins you add. But, once the platform is setup and you know your way around, WordPress is fairly easy to use. It takes time to learn it, but the access you have might outweigh the time to learn it.
You do not own the WordPress platform, but you do obtain a license to every plugin and theme you acquire. All the customizations you do can move with you wherever you go. If you decide to leave WordPress at any point there is most likely a way to move it because you own the database information and can export everything or save the files and folder individually.
Use the WordPress Backup to Dropbox plugin to automatically save your database. You can adjust how often your website saves in the settings. Keeping your data separate is crucial to easily re-upload after a crash. Websites crash. It happens. Be ready for when (not if) it does.
Most website owners will only experience a brute force attack once in awhile, but when you do, the bandwidth used can shut-down your website even if it is not successful. If the attackers try long enough, they will be successful. Use iThemes Security Plugin to automatically block users’ IP addresses who try to login too many times with a bad username or wrong password.
WordPress can be a marketing powerhouse. Begin by installing Yoast SEO and have access within your post editor to add keywords and easily view the effectiveness of your keyword saturation
Weebly was founded in 2006 by Penn State students, and today, it hosts websites, blogs, and eCommerce stores for businesses in all industries.
Type – Drag & Drop
Weebly is a drag and drop platform, so you simply drag the feature or content you wish to add into the website builder and place it where you want it to appear. This is simpler than building a site with WordPress, but there aren’t quite as many options for customization.
With Weebly, you don’t own the design or code for your website. You only own your content, like your text and images.
Features of Weebly
Weebly hosts websites, blogs, and online stores (e-commerce) providing a scale of options through their monthly packages: Free, Starter, Pro, and Business.
Drag and Drop Editor
The drag and drop feature allows anyone to easily build a website, even if they have no technical knowledge or experience. You don’t need to know anything about HTML or CSS to build a website with Weebly.
To add text, photos, videos, maps, or other elements to your website, all you have to do is select your content from the menu and drag it to the webpage. Weebly also has a built-in text editor, which is similar to other types of word processing software and allows you to format text without HTML.
Weebly offers more than a hundred professionally-designed templates, so any business owner can find a suitable theme. You can choose a free theme or a premium theme. Every theme also has multiple color schemes. Some of Weebly’s most popular themes include:
- • CleanLines
- • Haberdasher
- • Infiniti
- • Ethereal
All of Weebly’s themes are mobile-friendly. Weebly also offers a mobile website editor, which lets you change how your website will look and function on mobile devices. The mobile editor also uses a drag and drop interface for ease of use.
Images are very helpful for getting visitors interested in your website. Weebly offers many royalty-free images that you can find through their searchable database. You can use free or paid photos. If you have your own photos you want to include on your site, you can add those as well.
Weebly has a video-embedding tool that allows you to add videos from YouTube, Vimeo, and other video-hosting sites to your own website. You can also upload and host your own videos on your Weebly website.
If you have an eCommerce website, Weebly allows you to sell services, physical items, and digital items. They offer many helpful eCommerce features, including a shopping cart, secure checkout, and inventory tracking.
Visitors can look through your inventory and sort by color, size, or other features. It’s also very easy for shoppers to purchase items through the mobile website.
Weebly has a blog module that lets you add a blog to your site. You can control the categories, tags, and sidebar for your blog. The module also includes comment controls, social media tools, and an RSS feed.
There are six slideshow templates in the Weebly slideshow maker. You can upload photos by dragging photos from your computer, then use the slideshow maker to display the images with captions. The slideshow maker also allows control over the transition speed, types of transitions, and auto plays the slideshows.
You can use Weebly’s drag and drop form creator to build any type of form you need, including a contact form, payment form, or questionnaire. Your form can include checkboxes, text boxes, and drop-down menus. If a visitors fills out the form, you can either receive the information through your email or through your website dashboard.
Advantages of Weebly
User-friendly – EASY
Creating your website is very easy, intuitive, and fast. Registering for an account takes you through a setup process that asks about the purpose of your website. This can be a website, online store, or a blog. Next, you choose your theme, the color of the theme, and your website’s URL or website address.
Once these elements are set-up, you are placed into the website’s drag and drop builder. The builder includes messaged tips that help to guide you through the process.
The whole process can take less than 30 minutes, or if you are in a huge hurry you could do in less than 10 minutes. Weebly is made for the person that needs a website right now.
Every Weebly account offers website hosting and the drag and drop builder. All of the paid accounts offer unlimited pages and storage space.
Cloud-based hosting means that several computers work together to guarantee website resources. Every time someone visits your website a resource is used. Traditional website hosting stores your website on a single dedicated or shared computer. When your website reaches its allotted resources an error can occur in delivering your website to people. Cloud-based hosting guarantees performance.
All Weebly users can see their site statistics, including:
- • Website views
- • Page views
- • Search terms
- • Reasons the viewers were referred to your site
This information is valuable for attracting visitors and making improvements to your site.
All Weebly websites are designed for SEO. Sites have HTML-friendly coding, meta descriptions, and a sitemap, which are all important elements for SEO. Search engines now also consider speed and mobile responsiveness in their rankings, and all Weebly sites are fast and mobile-friendly.
Custom Web Address
You can use your own domain or web address to your Weebly website. This way, if someone searches for your web address, they will be directed to your Weebly site. You can also use a subdomain, such as example123.weebly.com.
Cloud-based hosting helps improve the speed of Weebly sites, and all of the themes are designed for quick loading times.
All hosting plans offer protection from hackers and spam. The business plan also offers SSL security, which creates an encrypted connection between the host and visitor.
Wix.com was founded in 2006 as an Adobe Flash-based website builder. After the success of the Apple iPhone in 2008 several website designers and website services moved away from the use of Flash for websites because the iPhone did not support the platform. Wix introduced an HTML5-based platform in 2012 and stopped the support and development for its Flash website builder.
Type – Drag & Drop
Like Weebly, Wix is a drag and drop website builder. However, the platform only builds one-page websites. If you need a larger site or more options for your business, you may need to move your website to another platform or start from scratch with a different site builder.
Features of Wix
As you begin building your Wix site, it will ask you what type of website you plan on building. You can choose a template for a restaurant, hotel, designer, retail business, or other industry. All of their websites offer a variety of features, including:
Drag and Drop Editor
The drag and drop builder allows you to customize your website without needing any technical knowledge. You can simply select the elements you want on your website and drag them to the correct location on the page. This makes the site building process very quick and easy.
However, it’s very helpful to have a sense of design when building the site. Even with the drag and drop platform, it’s possible to build a poorly-designed webpage. If you don’t have much knowledge or experience with design, it could be helpful to consult a designer as you build your site.
There are more than 500 templates available for all types of businesses. With Wix, you can create practically any website you need.
Wix moved to HTML5 in 2012, so all of their sites are now mobile-friendly. Because most people use their mobile devices more than computers today, this is an essential feature for all websites.
Wix offers more than 250 apps that you can use to customize your website. Some apps are free, but others offer premium versions. The most popular apps include:
- • Comments form
- • Wix stores
- • Form builder
- • Social media stream
- • Wix bookings
Pin to Screen
With the pin to screen feature, you can lock one of your site’s elements to a specific location on the page. If the visitors scrolls through the page or resize the screen, the element will always remain visible.
Wix has millions of royalty-free stock photos that you can add to your site.
If you want to include a photo gallery on your webpage, you can choose between 40 different gallery templates. You can also edit or retouch all of your photos before displaying them on your site.
You can add videos to your webpage or play a video as your site’s background. When done correctly, this makes your site very unique and can create a powerful user experience.
Parallax 3D Effects
Parallax is an effect that can scroll text as a static background image. A parallax 3D effects move layers of a website at different speeds creating a 3D appearance. Wix.com homepage is an example of this effect. The background image for each section overlaps and the text moves at a different speed than the background. To see an award-winning example do a Google search for “The Boat SBS” to view the graphic novel presented in Parallax 3D.
Wix allows you to add a blog to your site, which is helpful for SEO purposes and for providing your site users with more information.
Wix users can create an eCommerce store and list products or services on their site. Wix also provides a management tool that allows you to track orders, payments, and shipping. The Wix Touch feature lets you create an app for your store.
Advantages of Wix
User-Friendly – Easy
The drag and drop builder is very simple and easy to use. After you enter your email and password, you will receive a pre-selected template based on your business type. You can choose a subcategory to create a more customized template, and you can replace the template’s temporary content with content of your own.
Wix provides a video tutorial to teach you how to use the platform. After you sign up, Wix will also send you training emails with tips for building your website. If you need more clarification, there are plenty of other online resources with Wix tutorials.
Every Wix account includes the most important features, including:
- • Drag and drop builder
- • Webpages
- • Website hosting
- • Online storage space
- • Blogging
- • Invoices
There are more than 250 paid and free apps that you can include on your website to improve user experience and make your site more effective. Many Wix users use third party apps like Google Maps, PayPal, Soundcloud, and Constant Contact.
Wix offers a site booster app, which helps search engines find your site.
You can add the visitor analytics app to your site, which gives you valuable information about your site visitors.
When you register with Wix you are assigned a subdomain based on your email address For example if your email is name@XYZcompany.com your website address will be name.wix.com.
Custom Website Address
Wix offers their lowest premium plan to add your own domain or website address. If your company owns XYZcompany.com you can add it to your account and people will be able to access your Weebly website by entering XYZcompany.com into their website browser.
Squarespace was created to make good design easily accessible to artists and local businesses to place the focus on their stories. They are a trusted website builder who is known for their reliable support team. Do not underestimate your future need for tech support. It will always come up no matter what platform you use, so it is something to keep high on your priority list. Squarespace hosts all of their websites to retain the ability to help you when you need it.
Squarespace is a drag and drop site builder. It’s similar to Weebly and Wix, but unlike the other site builders, you own some of your code when you use Squarespace. After your contract ends, you can take some of your code to convert to another platform. Not all of the code will be convertible, but you can use some of the files to start building a site on a different platform.
Most of Squarespace’s users are eCommerce business owners, small businesses, designers, and artists. Many of the platform’s features benefit these types of sites. Squarespace has a very easy-to-use interface, and you can easily create your website in under an hour if you’re in a rush. Their features include:
Drag and Drop Editor
There is no need to know HTML or CSS to use the platform. The visual editor immediately reflects what your website will look like as you edit. Just as beautiful as the front-end and themes.
All of Squarespace’s packages include hosting and the option to use your own custom domain name. Squarespace has an in-house team that designs and runs the hosting platform, which is very helpful if your site crashes or if another error occurs. It’s easy to receive help with an issue when your entire website is supported by just one company. Squarespace’s support team handles security and web backups, and they can access your code to find the cause of a problem.
Squarespace offers 40 different templates, most of which use a minimalist style. The themes are modern and simple, but you’ll find enough variation that you can choose the right theme for your website. Although Squarespace doesn’t have as many themes as other site builders, you can use multiple themes for different pages within your site. You can also adjust the color scheme and fonts.
All themes are mobile-ready. You can’t design a mobile site separately with Squarespace, but all pages use responsive blocks that are optimized for mobile viewing.
Although not available by phone, customer service is always available by chat or email. It is common for website builders to have standard business hours within their time zone, so it is unique Squarespace has 24/7 help available. Also, I can’t stress enough how much easier it is to have real hosting by your website builder so you don’t enter a circle of calls between a hosting and website company trying to figure out what is wrong. Most of the time, no one knows.
Squarespace is popular with artists and designers, so many of their themes lend themselves to image-heavy sites. They offer an in-platform image editor so you can make adjustments to your photos within the site builder.
You can easily add a blog to your website with Squarespace. There are many third-party apps that allow you to upload blogs to your site, including:
- • Dropbox
- • Google Drive
- • Gmail
- • Google Calendar
- • Evernote
Squarespace also has a Note App to help you organize notes or ideas. You can publish notes from the Note App to your website’s blog.
The e-commerce is fully integrated, permits you unlimited products, and designed by Squarespace. The platform is paid for either by transaction fees in the lower packages or is included in the more expensive, commerce packages.
When you choose a shop template, your shoppers will be able to use Image Zoom to see product details and Quick View to see a products specifications for clicking through from a product list. If you sell digital products, customers receive an email with a download link with a 24-hour expiration. You can also create single use or multiple use discount codes.
The e-commerce platform using ShipStation to import your customers’ information to easily print shipping labels. ShipStation is compatible with Fulfillment by Amazon and all major mail carriers. Keep track of your books with Xero, a cloud accounting service. Xero syncs with Squarespace to evaluate your revenue and tax liability. The e-commerce function is not fully as developed or robust as Shopify or WordPress’ Woocommerce plugin, so if this is the website’s main function, you should consider these other platforms.
Squrespace’s marketing features are basic, but they can be effective for your business. Sites are optimized for SEO and include social media share buttons. Squarespace websites are also integrated with MailChimp, an email marketing service. For other marketing needs, though, you’ll have to use off-site marketing.
Advanced Theme Editor
You can customize your theme with the advanced theme editor. However, this requires knowledge of CSS. Squarespace also gives users the option to upload their own themes, but it’s much easier to use one of the themes offered.
Advantages of SQUARESPACE
Squarespace makes it extremely easy to get going quickly and easily with your website, which will be beautiful if you have beautiful photography to add. It is also easy to maintain. However, marketing with SEO and landing pages is not easily done within the platform. Third-party apps are also very limited.
Like the other drag and drop site builders, Squarespace is very easy to use if you don’t have technical web design knowledge. This is a huge advantage if you’re creating a website without a designer. You can have your website up and running in an hour, and their support team can assist you with any difficulties you may encounter during the process.
Squarespace’s 24/7 customer support is also a great advantage. If your website crashes or encounters a big problem during non-business hours, you’ll still be able to reach Squarespace customer support for assistance.
All Squarespace themes are responsive and layouts are built in blocks, so you can easily visualize see how your desktop layout with cascade down when viewed on mobile. Building a responsive layout saves time in having to build multiple versions to fit different sized screens. Other platforms might have responsive options, but this drastically reduces your options if there are only a handful available and one (if any at all) that fits your website’s purpose
All the Squarespace templates have a clean and modern design, which gives you the opportunity to add plenty of images, text, or other original content. This type of design is especially desirable for artist portfolios.
You can upgrade your plan whenever you want and still keep the site you’ve already built. If you’re on a tight budget now, you can try out the personal plan when you register with Squarespace and upgrade to the business plan or to an eCommerce plan later. This way, you can try out the platform without paying for an expensive plan.
Which website builder is the best?
WordPress, Weebly, Wix and Squarespace all have their own advantages and disadvantages. Before deciding between them, think about what your website needs. Is having e-commerce functions or strong SEO more important to your website? Do you want to change CSS or HTML?
The biggest advantage of WordPress is customizability, but if you don’t have much design experience, its biggest disadvantage is the steep learning curve. The biggest advantage of Weebly is that it is easy to use and low cost, but the biggest disadvantage is that you won’t own the code or design of the website. The biggest advantage of Wix is its ease of use and wide availability of various themes and applications, but if you need a larger site, it may not be the most effective platform. The biggest advantage of Squarespace is the clean design and helpful support team, but there are not many opportunities for SEO or marketing on the Squarespace website.
Even if you choose a website builder, you must consider your budget and specific needs when choosing a software package. However, there are very few differences between the different plans, so it is not difficult to decide whether your site requires the extra privileges of a more advanced plan.
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