How to Choose a Website Builder

So you’ve decided it’s time for a website, or maybe you already have one but are considering a change. Either way, good for you! A website allows your potential customers to learn more about you, understand what you offer, and decide if they’d like to work with you. Plus it helps them find you in the first place! Now comes the decision of where to create your website. I’ve taken three popular website builders – Wix, Squarespace, and WordPress – and highlighted some things to consider as you weigh your options.

And yes, I will end with my recommendation 🙂

Here are the key areas I am evaluating these website builders for:

  1. Flexibility and Expandability
  2. Learning Curve and Technical Skills Required
  3. Cost
  4. Upkeep

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are ‘affiliate links’ and they’ll be denoted as such. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I only recommend things I like, commission or not.

Flexibility and Expandability

We can’t have a conversation about websites without also defining some key terms – namely, “managed hosting” versus “self-hosting.” Think of a website as just a bunch of electronic files that need to be saved somewhere so everyone on the web can access them. Either those files are saved in the same place where you built the site (managed hosting, aka Wix and Squarespace), or in a separate spot (a server), which is called self-hosting (remember it this way: you pick the server yourself). WordPress is an example of a self-hosted website builder.

Sidebar: It took me a while to understand the difference starting out, but WordPress.org requires self-hosting, while WordPress.com is managed hosting. So technically WordPress has both options but the one I’m talking about in this article is the self-hosted version.

Why would you choose self-hosting over managed hosting, or vice versa?

How you host your site isn’t really as important as the platform itself. So I wouldn’t choose WordPress just because it’s self-hosted. I’d pick it because it allows me to customize literally every aspect of my website and I know I will have ample room to grow the functionality of my site if I want to start hosting online courses, sell goods, or set up a members-only community in the future.

But can’t I do those things on Wix and Squarespace too?

Sure – both platforms are always adding functionality and people are finding new ways to use both platforms for these purposes. However, you may not find the robustness of features and customizability that you can with WordPress.

OK, so really what’s the big difference then?

One glaring negative when it comes to Wix is that once you pick a template (design) for your website, you’re stuck with it. That’s a pretty big deal in my opinion. With both Squarespace and WordPress, you can change to different layouts/designs at any time (though I will say doing it on WordPress could take a few more steps so you can tinker with the theme before you make it public – that’s called working in a “staging” environment. Squarespace gives you the option to work on a second draft of your site with the new theme until you’re ready to make it visible to website visitors).

A final note on design – Squarespace offers some beautiful website templates. However, if there are little things you want to change, or already had a specific layout in mind that isn’t in their library, you may or may not be able to achieve that – maybe you want a photo to be animated a certain way, or a navigation menu to look at certain way. I’m not saying it’s NOT possible, but you may run into a few more formatting/design roadblocks on Squarespace versus WordPress.

Learning Curve and Technical Skills Required

Wix and Squarespace are going to be pretty evenly matched here – they’re intended to be easy to work with right out of the box and if you’re looking to use a pre-built template without a whole bunch of customizations, you’ll be fine with either website builder. There are also plenty of tutorials both on their respective websites and on YouTube.

WordPress, on the other hand, is going to be a little more time-intensive to set up, but it’s not that bad, really. And if you pick a well-respected, easy-to-use theme, it can also be fairly easy to design (I’m a big fan of Divi – affiliate link). Is WordPress harder than the other websites builders? Honestly, yes, a little – but not by much, if you’re starting with a simple site.

When it comes to digging into customizing your site above and beyond the capabilities of your chosen template or plugin (i.e. you want the rating stars for a recipe to be yellow instead of black), adding new features like opt-in forms, or optimizing for SEO, you may need a little more technical expertise with WordPress.

Cost

I believe Wix has gotten so popular in part because it’s “free” – but when is anything ever really free? 🙂 A new Wix site can be set up for free but you can’t have your own custom domain (i.e. a free site’s address will be something like http://username.wixsite.com/siteaddress versus just http://siteaddress.com). If you want to use your own domain, that’s $5/month but you’ll display Wix ads all over the site, which can detract from the professional image of your site.

Squarespace only has paid options but offers a free trial so you can try it out, and WordPress is completely free but you will pay for your domain and hosting, and any themes or plugins you may want to purchase (though many are free).

A quick cost comparison is below:

ProviderWixSquarespaceWordPress
Subscription$14/mo paid annually*$18/mo paid annually**None
Domain CostIncludedIncludedAvg $12/year***
Hosting FeeIncludedIncluded$3.95/month****
Total per Year$168$216$191.40

*Wix “Unlimited” Plan for entrepreneurs and freelancers, **Squarespace “Business” Plan for businesses of all sizes, ***Basic domain from GoDaddy, ****SiteGround “StartUp” hosting package (I highly recommend this hosting provider)

Finally, Upkeep

Unfortunately, there are some bad people out there who like to mess with other people’s websites. There are also just general changes and fixes made to software over time. Either way, it’s always important to keep your site up-to-date because this means it will run the way it should and be better protected from hackers (Example: Hackers will find a weak source of code in WordPress. WordPress developers will realize this and fix the weak code and publish an update. You need to update your website to the latest WordPress version so you have this stronger version of the software on your site).

Wix and Squarespace are going to update the website platform for you and keep it secure, generally speaking, because your site is managed by them. You won’t be updating software every month. If you start installing third-party plugins or features though, this could change.

WordPress, on the other hand, is your responsibility. You’ll want to install a good security plugin (I like WordFence), monitor your site’s activity, and install updates to the WordPress core, your theme, and plugins.

Therefore, what I will say here is that if you don’t think you can manage those aspects of WordPress upkeep on a monthly basis (updates can happen daily but I generally do all my updating once a month), you may want to reconsider the WordPress route.

A Closing Analogy Involving Legos

lego analogyThink of website builders like Lego sets. Wix is a small pirate ship set, Squarespace is a big pirate island kit with a variety of different ships, and WordPress is a big box of lots of Legos that you can assemble into anything you want – a pirate ship, a spaceship – anything.

  • Wix is good if you know you want that pirate ship. The instructions are clear, there aren’t a lot of pieces, and you can build it quickly. Once your ship is built, you won’t have to do much to keep it afloat.
  • Squarespace has more options and if you decide you don’t like one of the pirate ships in the kit, you can switch it out or add more pieces to what you build. But still, you generally only have the pieces that came with the set. So if you wanted to build a spaceship, that may take some digging, imagination, and it may not end up looking exactly like the spaceship you had in mind.
  • WordPress is a big bin of Legos from many different kits, and people keep adding Legos to the bin all the time. Sometimes the Legos they add are great (great plugins), but sometimes they’re not good (unreliable, unsecured themes and plugins). You may need to spend a little more time building your Lego masterpiece because you’re pulling together Legos from a few different places, but you can create literally almost anything. Once done, you’ll need to do a little maintenance on your grand Lego creation to keep it tip-top.

So… What’s the Best Website Builder?

If you’re looking for a standard website, my vote is for Squarespace because it offers an easy-to-get-going solution with room to grow. If you want to have even more room to grow and the most flexibility possible, choose WordPress.

I hope this has given you some insight into how these three website builders work and what they offer. I provide services for both Squarespace and WordPress, and this site is built on WordPress. What’s your favorite platform and why? Let me know in the comments!