Site Builders vs WordPress: Which is Better?
One of the first steps to creating a website is choosing a platform to build it. But there are so many options out there.
We wanted to take a look at how WordPress compares to two well-known online ‘easy’ site builders: Squarespace and Wix. Both popular platforms with a very different approach to site-building. WordPress, Wix, and Squarespace are all capable of making beautiful websites, but one has distinctly more advantages than the others.
This post covers why WordPress remains the top choice for site builders — powering more sites every year than Squarespace and Wix combined.
If you want to cut to the chase and get set up on WordPress straight away, please check out Namecheap’s Managed WordPress Hosting, EasyWP.
In a Nutshell: Comparing WordPress to Online Site Builders
Let’s discuss the basic differences first. Fundamentally, comparing a unique platform like WordPress to a website builder comes down to hosting, templates, features, and customer support. As a small business owner, your choice will depend on some extra things including your budget, design specifications, and long-term aspirations for your business. To help guide your decision, you’ll learn which platform:
- is suitable for beginners
- offers the most control over your site’s functionality
- gives you the most control over your website design and layout
- controls your data
- is better when it comes to SEO
- is suitable for e-commerce
- requires the least investment
- offers flexible web hosting
(Note: This article focuses onWordPress.org — not WordPress.com. The latter is a separate platform, closer to a website builder. Here’s a good explanation of what both WordPress platforms have to offer.)
Is it Suitable for Beginners?
The main difference between site builders and WordPress is that WordPress is a standalone software that you need to install (or have it installed by a third-party) on a web server. Squarespace and Wix, on the other hand, are online tools/ services.
It’s widely accepted that site builders are the quickest way to launch a website. With Squarespace and Wix, anyone can build a site in a heartbeat. To use a site builder you simply sign up, log in, and get started. It takes care of hosting and provides you with a domain name if necessary.
WordPress is fairly easy to use, it just involves some technical work to install the software before you can get to work on your website. It’s far more customizable than either site builder (more on this later) there is a small learning curve. And, since you need to arrange hosting, it takes a few more steps to set up.
How Much Control Do You Have Over Your Site’s Functionality?
‘Apps’ in site builders work the same as Plugins in WordPress — they add extra functions to your site.
Website builders come with a small selection of conventional apps like photo galleries and contact forms. Wix’s apps can be found in its App market where there are around 250 free and paid apps to expand your website.
Squarespace doesn’t have a separate app store or plugins to add to your site. Instead, there’s a small number of quality apps developed in house, to expand your website. You’re limited to a few integrated apps including the analytics app, blog app, and portfolio app.
Given their lack of apps, site builders build stunning sites without a lot of flexibility. Whereas, with WordPress, it’s not difficult for a non-developer to add any type of features thanks to thousands of plugins.
To illustrate the point, let’s compare gallery apps across platforms. Squarespace has incredible galleries for photos that give you many ways to layout your photographs. That’s why it’s so popular with artists and creatives. However, if you want something that is even slightly different than any of the gallery options that they provide, you are stuck.
To keep things simple, Wix offers just one photo gallery app. Again, they do this so you can set up your site quickly, but at a cost of choice. On the other hand, WordPress offers hundreds of gallery plugins so you can get exactly the functionality that you want. It’s the same story for all sorts of features.
The strength of WordPress is the diversity of its sprawling ecosystem. So, if you have specific ideas in mind, WordPress is probably the best equipped to accommodate them. Things like letting customers book appointments, or start a community forum, there’s most likely a WordPress plugin to help with that.
Again, site builders take the edge on simplicity, WordPress knocks things out of the park for customization and flexibility.
How Much Can I Customize the Look of My Website?
Plugins are just one side of the website’s customization coin. Each platform provides templates to alter the design of your pages, things like colors, page layouts, fonts, and style for blog posts.
Just like with plugins, WordPress has a wider selection of theme templates than any other CMS or site builder. The good thing about WordPress themes is that you’re sure to find something that fits your needs. With 11,000 free themes, you’re pretty well-served aesthetically, within budget.
Wix lets you pick from over 500 templates. Each template is conveniently sorted by industry and includes some example content. This means, if you’re a cafe looking at a ‘Restaurant and Food’ template, you’ll have a good idea of what your final website can look like. The main drawbacks of using Wix templates are that not all the designs look good, and those that do are often used on multiple sites, which means your site won’t be unique. Also, you can’t change the site design later, you’re stuck with the first one you selected.
Likewise, Squarespace offers a small set of designs. Every design looks modern and is in tune with current trends. Given these beautiful, customizable templates, Squarespace has a lot of traction in creative spheres. Musicians, photographers, even John Malkovich use these templates for everything from publications to portfolio sites.
One small issue – Squarespace assumes that you have high-quality images to slot into their large image headers and backgrounds. Your site’s final appearance is based upon these elements so unless you are design-conscious, Squarespace templates might be a bad call.
Who Controls my Data On Each Platform?
Who controls your data determines how easy it is to move your content from one platform to another. Should a site builder fold, or you have outgrown what they offer, you’ll need to consider data ownership and exportability.
Since easy site builders often include hosting, you can’t easily move your site to a new web host—if moving it is possible at all. For example, if you want to move from a Squarespace site, you can export some of your content to a .xml file, including regular pages, gallery pages, images, and text blocks.
That means there’s still a bunch of content that you can’t export including product pages, album pages, event pages, index pages, blog pages, audio, and video blocks, custom CSS and more. If you’re running an ecommerce site or one rich in multimedia, porting to another platform could be a laborious process.
Wix users haven’t got many rights to their website data. If you’re someone concerned with data ownership, the following statement should be a big red flag.
“Your Wix site and all of its content is hosted exclusively on Wix’s servers, and cannot be transferred elsewhere. Specifically, it is not possible to export or embed files, pages or sites, created using the Wix Editor or ADI, to another external destination or host”. Wix Knowledge Base.
Wix users can’t export files, pages or sites built on the Wix platform. That means, if you ever want to migrate elsewhere, you’ll be forced to start your website from scratch.
Taking your site away from either of these platforms is going to involve time and labor. You’ll also run into trouble if your content is deemed unsuitable. If for some reason it decides your content is not in tune with their guidelines, they can take your site down.
Conversely, WordPress makes it easy to move or transfer data. Compared to most easy site builders, no one comes close to WordPress. You can download, export and import every single piece of data on your site — because you control everything. Since it’s built around customization, and it’s self-hosted, you can post your data in several ways. Download content in one click in .xml format, download files, manually export a WordPress database and create a WordPress backup. Above all, you’re safer with WordPress.
Which Platform is Best for SEO?
In terms of on-page SEO, all platforms offer similar benefits: they are mobile-friendly, they are easy to connect to Google Search Console and Google Analytics, you can add alt-tags to images, and they all offer sitemaps meta descriptions.
SEO is easier to tackle when you build a site with a CMS thanks to an abundance of powerful SEO plugins. These give an SEO amateur the tools to develop and implement SEO strategy across your web pages and blog posts.
With Wix, it’s not possible to implement any such SEO strategy. You can get the basics done, but, for a tool catering for beginners, no form of SEO boosting plugin leaves a lot to be desired. The same goes for Squarespace, you can add things like personalized URLs, 301 redirects, customized image alt attributes, but there’s no powerful plugin for things like site speed and helpful SEO analytics.
Which Platform Requires the Least Investment?
There’s a lot of noise about site builders being cheaper, when in fact site builders can actually cost a lot more.
Squarespace and Wix users pay a monthly fee, on a sliding scale depending on the features they need. Squarespace has four pricing plans that range from $11 to $36 per month. With a basic plan, you’ll have limited access to integrations and blocks unless you upgrade to a business plan ($17) which supports e-commerce but you still pay transaction fees. The ecommerce upgrades cost between $26–$40 per month.
Basically, the more you pay, the more advanced features you unlock.
It’s a similar story with Wix. Wix’s cheapest ad-free pan costs $12.50 per month. If you want professional features like ecommerce or a custom domain (yourname.com instead of yourname.wix.com, it’ll cost more.
When you consider Square and Wix’s flat monthly billing, a website built with WordPress is probably going to be the cheapest option in the long-term. The cost of a WordPress site is calculated differently from site builders. WordPress is technically free, but you still need to pay for the following fixed costs.
- Hosting – shared hosting costs a few dollars a month. For just $6.88 a month with EasyWP you get quality managed WordPress hosting for a fraction of the price.
- Domain name – Domains are renewed on a yearly basis and can cost anything from a few bucks.
- Optional – WordPress users have an abundance of quality free themes, and plugins, you might want to purchase a paid premium theme for extra designs or functionality. Note that these are not necessary to run a successful site with WordPress.
|Total monthly cost
Let’s say I am looking to open an ecommerce store selling my handmade soap online. With Wix, I’d be paying a minimum of $23 monthly for the Business Basic Plan. This includes a free domain for 1 year and commission-free payments. With Squarespace, a similar site would set you back $18 per month for the Basic Business plan with a 3% transaction charge on sales. Even with the cost of a premium ecommerce plugin, you’ll pay around a fraction of the price for the same website powered by WordPress site and hosted by EasyWP.
Which Platforms Excel for E-commerce?
All platforms offer some degree of ecommerce functionality. To sell anything through Wix, you need one of their ’Store plans’, which cost more than a regular Wix site. You can choose from a pre-built online store template. This is fine for simple products like a t-shirt but lacks the ability to customize product information. This makes it awkward for variable or customizable products like t-shirts where you want to customize the product information for multiple sizes or colors.
For ecommerce, Squarespace has several drawbacks. First, you are required to use their payment processing system. While this system is secure and reliable, Squarespace charges you 2% – to 3% percentage of every transaction — if you’re not paying for one of their premium ecommerce plans.
These fees might not amount to much at first, but once your business grows, that could mean thousands of dollars a month. What’s more, out of the top 10 payment processors recommended by PCMag, Squarespace accepts zero of them. You can choose from just three payment gateways; Stripe, Apple Pay and PayPal.
Compared to the others WordPress provides more e-commerce support. It’s actually one of the most dominant ecommerce platforms thanks to two apps: WooCommerce that focuses primarily on physical products (powers 22% of the top 1 million e-commerce sites) and Easy Digital Downloads, focusing on virtual products like apps.
These plugins don’t end at handling your transactions. For each e-commerce plugin, WordPress has stacks of add-on plugins to extend your store even further. This gives you a huge amount of flexibility to handle fulfillment and display products, and more. For example, you can even find plugins that sync WooCommerce with a print on demand service so that you can outsource order fulfillment to someone else. Because of this flexibility, WordPress is simply better at handling ecommerce.
Web Hosting Options
If you like the flexibility of making your own web design, you might prefer to choose how your website is hosted. Squarespace and Wix give you no hosting choices, meaning you can’t choose an option that will scale with your site. You are stuck with hosting your site on the Squarespace or Wix platform.
With WordPress, you can use any hosting provider that fits your needs. Read the reviews, explore the technologies used by each host, and make a decision for yourself! Namecheap offers several different hosting options, including EasyWP, which is optimized specifically for WordPress.
Using a site builder means you’re handcuffed to their platform. While they might be tempting for the novice when starting a website, if you ever want to grow your site you will soon find out how limited a closed system is. If you want to move to another platform you will have to start from scratch again. The builders are designed to lock you in and not let you leave. WordPress is open-source with a millions-strong community where the philosophy of freedom and customization for the user is paramount.
To generalize, quick website builders like Squarespace and Wix are easier to use but far less customizable.
Squarespace is one of the top alternatives to WordPress. It does package together several tools all in one place and allows you to build a website very very quickly. The included themes are modern and dynamic, but one of the drawbacks with instant fast site builders, like Squarespace, and Wix’s limited flexibility. Wix has made it easy for anyone to build a site thanks to a lack of powerful tools and complex customization options.
With Squarespace and Wix, you’re putting yourself in a walled-garden. Any gains made in the speed and ease of putting a website together are negated by your limitations further down the line. You can’t install any new features on your own as you can with plugins which limits your customization possibilities.
On the other hand, there’s WordPress, with a learning curve, but highly customizable. Thanks to 1000s of free and paid plugins and themes, there are endless possibilities to adjust the way your site behaves and looks. Whatsmore, it’s the only platform where you own your data outright, and you won’t incur costs for professional features like ecommerce, as your business grows and your website needs to expand.
The WordPress platform is open source, which means the software is free for anyone to use and modify. You just need to set up WordPress on a web host — and although that might sound intimidating, there are hosts like EasyWP offering one-click installation.
There are countless advantages to choosing WordPress as your CMS over quick website builders like Squarespace and Wix. The benefits increase even further when you use EasyWP managed WordPress hosting because so many of the details are taken care of for you.
If you’re looking for something that’s cost-effective, flexible, ready to scale, and easy to customize, a WordPress website hosted by EasyWP is 100% the way to go.