I often get asked about different website builders. Should you build your website in Wix, SquareSpace, Weebly, Shopify, GoDaddy, WordPress, or whatever? Should you even use one of these platforms? Why not have a bespoke, hand-coded website built exactly to your specifications?
I build all my websites in WordPress using a theme called Divi by Elegant Themes. There are a number of reasons why I do this.
And whilst I do believe WordPress to be the best option, what is on your website is far more important than the platform it is built on.
Your website needs to be built for your target audience. It needs to be clear who you help, how you can help them, how you have helped others like them and give them the information they need to know (in a clear, organised fashion) to take the “next logical step” in working with you. It also needs to be “visually appealing” and set out in a way to lead potential clients along the path where they get the information they need, without being distracted by unnecessary other stuff.
My first website wasn’t WordPress
Before I set up Beyond the Kitchen Table and started building websites for entrepreneurs and small business owners, I ran another small business. I sold locally made gift items.
I didn’t build websites then so I instructed a local web design agency to build one for me. I knew nothing about websites. I’d come from a corporate background. I knew about marketing. I knew what I wanted the website to do. But I knew nothing about the tech. I entrusted the tech decision to the agency I used (spoiler alert – big mistake!).
They built my website in Prestashop. Back in 2012 Prestashop was the bees knees (or so I was led to believe). It took months. When it was finally ready to go live (about 2 months late) the website didn’t work as it was supposed to. It took several more weeks to fix. Then when it was live I needed the agency who had built the website to make changes. And it couldn’t be updated without losing the bespoke formatting (or redoing it for a large fee). They had me over a barrel…
So whilst I had a website that technically worked, it wasn’t suitable for what I needed and it couldn’t evolve as my business did.
Eventually when it needed redoing, I did my research and decided on wordpress. I built my own new website in wordpress, built for family and friends and took more training and turned it into the business I have today.
So why WordPress?
WordPress is set up differently
The WordPress code is free and publicly available. The other website platforms are built on their own proprietary code, which is secret of course.
This means that other developers have taken the WordPress code and built lots of things to go with it. To improve it. To add functionality etc.
Other website builders (with the exception of Shopify) don’t do that. You have to use their proprietary add-ons too.
WordPress is very widely used
The first issue I had with Prestashop was finding other people to help with it. I was basically stuck with the developer who had built my website.
According to W3Techs, WordPress is now used by 43% of all websites on the internet (up from 13% in 2011) and 65% of all websites using a Content Management System (“CMS”). Shopify (the next most popular CMS) is used by just 4% of all websites on the internet (the rest are less than 3% each).
This means there are lots of resources out there on WordPress and lots of people who can help if you need it.
The growth in WordPress shows that this platform isn’t going anywhere. It’s here to stay (at least for the forseeable future). Just as importantly is the “ecosystem” that has grown up around WordPress. A lot of businesses exist to improve what WordPress does.
Why does this matter? It’s not just websites that date. Website platforms do too. You need your website built on a platform that is kept up to date. We’ve moved many websites for clients from other platforms which have not been kept up to date.
It has Flexibility
Using WordPress gives freedom that other platforms don’t have. Because the WordPress code is publicly available (unlike the other “proprietary” website platforms like Wix, Squarespace, etc), anyone can build tools for WordPress. So there are approx 60,000 free plugins (bits of code which give additional functionality) and over 9,000 free themes listed on WordPress.
What this means is you have choice. If you want to add a course to your WordPress website you can choose from one of many different course platforms which have been built to work with WordPress. Or you can code your own.
If you want to add a course to a Wix website, for example, you have to use Wix’s own course software. And that may not do what you want it to do. Or it may do it in a way you don’t like.
Shopify does allow third party developers to develop “apps” which can be used to customise your shop. And there are thousands of them, giving you that choice in a similar way to WordPress.
The flexibility to be able to grow your website as your business evolves is probably the most important reason I like and use WordPress. And if you’re running a shop I rate Shopify for a similar reason.
You Own It
Because the WordPress code is free for anyone to use, you can choose to host your website anywhere you want.
If you have a website with the likes of Squarespace, Wix, Shopify etc you have to use their code with their hosting. This means you have to abide by their terms and conditions, which of course they can change. You can’t move a Squarespace or Shopify website to another host because you think they’re now too expensive (or want to do something different). You have to start again. And, depending upon how much you have on your website, that can be painful!
You can easily move a WordPress website to another host.
It’s Easy to Use
If you go back a few years, the website builders like Wix, Weebly etc were popular because they were very easy to use with a drag and drop interface. WordPress was more difficult and you couldn’t see what you were building as you were doing it because everything was done in the backend.
That is no longer the case with WordPress if you use a theme like Divi (which we do). It is very easy to use, to modify and to update. We always show our clients how. You can see exactly what you’re doing on the front end as you work. And, if you get stuck, there’s lots of great tutorials out there to help.
Many people will say it is still quicker and easier to build your own website on Wix or Squarespace. And if you need to build something quickly then that may be the right option.
If you are getting a website built for you then, provided you get the person building it to show you how to make changes, I don’t think there is any real difference.
A bespoke, hand-coded website is not suitable for most small businesses because, unless you know how to code, you will need the person who built your website to make any changes in future. And that is just not practical.
You Can Build What You Want
The argument in favour of bespoke, hand-coded websites is the flexibility to build whatever you want. You can do that in WordPress too. It is much more difficult with any of the website builders which use templates.
How easy it is to do in WordPress depends upon the theme you use.
We like and use Divi by Elegant Themes precisely because you can build a website that looks however you want it to look (with no or minimal coding). And if you want to change the way it looks? You can do that too. Without having to change theme.
That’s important because a website should be built for you and your clients. It needs to be set up to take them on a journey to give them exactly what they need to take the “next logical step” to working with you.
You don’t want to be restricted by the template or theme you use. Because they may compromise the client experience. And if you decide to do things differently in the future many templates/themes are restrictive so you have to start again with another. And that is frustrating!
Many people will say that WordPress websites are better for SEO (Search Engine Optimisation – ie getting found on Google). It is coded in a way which makes it easier for Google to crawl and find what it needs.
Whilst there are a few minor tech differences which give WordPress a slight edge, to be honest, there is not a huge amount between the different platforms when it comes to SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). They can all be made to work. The content you have on your website is going to make a bigger difference.
If you are using WordPress it is vitally important, for SEO purposes, that you have an SSL certificate, it is mobile responsive (if it has been built in the past couple of years with a decent theme it should be automatically) and you have used a good host.
Safety and Security
No website is 100% safe and secure, but WordPress is a very safe and secure platform to run a website (provided you use a good host – we like and use Siteground).
The best thing you can do to ensure your website keeps running is to regularly back up your website. That way, if there is a problem, you can go back to an earlier version.
Because WordPress is “just code” it can’t itself go down. If your host has a problem with its server and you have a backup elsewhere you can redirect your website to another host. You can’t do that with the website builders because the code and the hosting are tied together.
Given the open nature of the WordPress code any security flaws in new updates tend to come to light very quickly and get “patched up” before they’re likely to do any damage to your website.
WordPress is actually the cheapest option for most people. Although that’s pretty low down the reasons we prefer it.
WordPress itself is free. You just need to pay for the website domain and somewhere to host (we’re not a fan of wordpress.com for hosting). You can choose a free theme (we use Divi which is not free!), build it yourself and get a website up and running for very little cost. Of course if you want someone to build it for you then it is going to cost more (you can see our pricing here)
The website builders include hosting within their packages (some include a domain for a year too). These vary in cost depending upon what you need. And the cost can rack up pretty quickly. You might also choose to pay for someone to build it for you (or to help you “tidy it up” at the end).
The platform you build your website on is not the most important part of your website. The content you put on it is.
Nonetheless, we use and recommend WordPress for all our websites. If you are selling products then Shopify is a good alternative (although not one we have personal experience of).
Your website needs to be able to change as your business grows. From both an aesthetic and functionality point of view, WordPress is better than any of the other website builders in doing this. It is user friendly so you should be able to make changes easily yourself. And a WordPress website doesn’t need to be expensive (ours aren’t!)