As the global landscape of business shifts to operate almost exclusively on digital channels, COVID-19 has become the catalyst for a massive technology boom. Businesses all over the world are closing, but some really unique businesses are also just getting started. All of these businesses require an invaluable tool in order to conduct business in the digital era – an easy-to-use website. Every credible business has a website, but the catch with websites, is that they’re not all created equal. Today on the Launchpad Blog, let’s dive into the discussion of which Content Management System (CMS) you should build your business website on.
First of all, what is a Content Management System (CMS)?
A CMS is just the tool that’s used to edit your text, photos, and the design of your business website. CMSs are typically used to be able to edit website code without the need for the user to have coding knowledge. This is most commonly done through the use of “drag-and-drop” builders, where you might click and drag a “heading” block, a “text” block, or a “gallery” block to add those specific elements to a page of your website.
So, what are some different kinds of CMSs?
Though there are many different CMSs, we’re going to highlight some key differences between the three primary contenders for small businesses: Wix, Squarespace, and WordPress. Each of them have their pros and cons, and there’s also some confusion around what some of them do and why one might be preferred over the other.
What kind of confusion?
The primary point that needs to be clarified before we dive into the comparison is the difference between WordPress.org and WordPress.com – as they are vastly different services.
WordPress.com = A website hosting service, as well as a CMS that you can build a website on. You pay a monthly fee and have your website, but you need to pay quite a bit of money in order to be able to customize this website beyond the default drag-and-drop builder that the CMS comes with. Put simply, building a website with WordPress.com is kind of like using the “lite” version – where you have to pay to unlock additional functionality everytime you want to add something custom to your website. The cheaper plans do not offer plugin functionality, which is crucial to a professionally built website. New Moon Strategy does not recommend WordPress.com to its clients.
WordPress.org = A standalone CMS. This means that you need to find your own hosting provider, but that you can load the CMS onto a website server of your choosing. Using the WordPress.org standalone CMS opens up the CMS to the marketplace / app store of more than 54,000 plugins and allows for custom coding of the website, meaning the website designer isn’t limited to the drag-and-drop builder. This is why WordPress is used as a standalone CMS by professional designers, but more on that later!
Understanding the difference between these two is going to be crucial as we discuss these different CMSs. New Moon Strategy primarily builds websites by using WordPress as a standalone CMS (WordPress.org), and that is the version of WordPress that we are discussing in this article.
Without further adieu, let’s talk shop. There are 5 primary considerations to make in the discussion of Wix vs. Squarespace vs. WordPress: Website Speed & Hosting, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Design & Functionality, Support, and Pricing.
1 – Speed & Hosting
Where you host your website and the kind of data that your website is able to handle will play a massive role in the effectiveness of your website. Numerous studies have been done on this matter, but what it all boils down to is this: your website needs to load in 2 seconds or less. Anytime your website takes longer than 2 seconds to load, you start to lose visitors, and losing visitors means losing potential sales!
Both Wix and Squarespace cost a monthly fee, but that fee is integrated with using their service. That means you’re paying for the hosting, but you’re also paying to be able to use their CMS and drag-and-drop builders.
Wix – Provides you with a barebones amount of storage and bandwidth. This is an important consideration to make if you plan to have lots of images, content, or large documents or audio files on your website. With Wix, you’ll need to keep upgrading your website storage and bandwidth, this gets very pricey as the business scales. Essentially what this means is, Wix sites are tailored to smaller website builds, where one doesn’t expect too much website traffic and doesn’t expect to have a particularly engaging website. Not having as much storage means you’re limited in terms of photo & video content, and your site won’t have the bandwidth to handle large amounts of traffic.
Squarespace – Squarespace is actually far more reasonable in this area, providing you with unlimited storage and bandwidth. This does make them a more appealing option because you don’t need to keep bumping your plan up to a higher pay structure in order to handle more traffic or host bigger files on your website. They do still have tiers for your storage and bandwidth usage though.
WordPress – Using WordPress as a standalone CMS means that you aren’t hosting directly with WordPress (this would be using WordPress.com). Instead, by using a standalone CMS (WordPress.org) you can host your website with any provider that you choose. This opens the door for very fast websites with unlimited content. This is significant because while Squarespace will keep increasing your bandwidth or storage threshold as you need it, WordPress as a CMS allows you to pick a hosting provider that meets your needs from the start. Having all that extra bandwidth and storage out of the gate means that your site doesn’t ever run into issues with being slow or maxed out on storage.
2 – Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO is like the secret science of the internet. When someone uses a search engine, there’s quite a bit of programming that’s been done by various marketers, agencies, and/or Search Engine Optimizers (SEOs) to make sure that their search result shows up for your search (if it’s relevant). It’s also, unfortunately, one of the least understood components of digital marketing. Because of the lack of understanding in this area, SEO tends to be where there are A LOT of unethical practices from marketers and especially from DIYers. Many people use black hat softwares that actually damage your business in the long run and can get it banned from displaying in search results.
As far as costs, a thorough SEO strategy will typically cost 50% – 80% of a website build or even have a monthly fee associated with it. Because of the extreme variance in SEO costs, many people try to do it themselves. However, SEO is far more complex than picking a few words that are relevant to your products, service, or website. SEO is a very complex science that takes as long – sometimes longer – than it does to build a website. Proper SEO requires a thorough strategy – research on search behavior, an understanding of all of the components that go into the science of SEO (there are three different kinds of SEO), an analysis of keyword competition & costs, a very solid understanding of how to communicate with search engine robots or crawlers, a strong grasp on user experience, and so so so much more. SEO is kind of like working with wires or fixing a car, if you don’t have the expertise, you should hire an electrician or a mechanic to make sure that the job gets done properly! It’s not cheap, but that’s because it is absolutely vital to getting found on the internet. A website with a good SEO strategy will generate organic traffic and keep a business alive for years to come.
As a side note, it’s best to have your SEO conducted by a professional who is certified with Google’s search advertising program or one of several other SEO certification courses. At New Moon Strategy, we have a combined 14 years experience in SEO and have been certified with Google for the past 8 years.
Now that we’ve touched on what SEO is and why it’s so important, let’s discuss why it matters in the conversation of Wix vs. Squarespace vs. WordPress:
Wix – This is really the CMS to use if you plan on doing your own SEO. Wix handles some of the more basic functionalities that might typically require coding – such as adding a secure, encrypted connection to your website (Did I mention that website speed & security is part of SEO?). Above and beyond that, though, there isn’t much room within Wix for a professional SEO strategy. Wix provides capability for the core functions of SEO – being optimized for mobile devices, being able to customize URLs, etc. – but nothing above and beyond the basics. This is why Wix is really tailored to very small businesses or people who just want a URL for the purpose of vanity – having somewhere people can go to read more information. Typically, people using Wix aren’t concerned with SEO, because they’re not concerned with creating a user experience.
Squarespace – The next step up in a thorough SEO strategy would be Squarespace. Squarespace is more of a “middle-of-the-road” solution, providing users with the functionality of implementing several more SEO features, such as image tagging (SEO data also has to be integrated into images), an automatically generated sitemap for search engine robots, etc. But the platform is still lacking as far as SEO capabilities. While you’ll get the basic functionality of the Wix SEO capabilities and a few extra goodies, you won’t be able to implement the quality of SEO strategy that a professional would create. Squarespace’s SEO functionality is still very limited. While it’s a step up from Wix, it still lacks some of the core functionalities that search engine robots want to see in order to rank a site high up in search results.
WordPress – The top tier of SEO strategies would be accomplished by utilizing WordPress as a standalone CMS. This is because WordPress allows the website developer to integrate the important SEO data directly into the code of the website. This makes it so that search engine crawlers can gather the data that they need and immediately know where to find it, as well as search engine specific files that are hosted on the website for these robots. WordPress also allows for the customization of just about every component on the website, and thus, every component of the SEO strategy. While you’ll get the functionality of Wix and Squarespace, you’ll also have complete control over all of the behind-the-scenes data that search engine robots look for and need – much of which is lacking or unavailable on Wix & Squarespace. For these reasons, professional SEOs commonly prefer to build their strategies on WordPress, as information may be lacking and the strategy may not be successful if it’s built on a more barebones CMS, such as Wix or Squarespace.
3 – Design & Functionality
The most immediate consideration that people tend to make when choosing a CMS is that of design & functionality. Each of these platforms has their own strengths and their own weaknesses. Let’s take a look:
Wix – Being tailored to much smaller businesses, Wix, again, covers all of your basics. You’ll use the drag-and-drop builder to design the website. Many of the smaller tasks that you have to do manually on WordPress – such as renewing your security certificate every 90 days – are handled for you automatically. Wix’s platform is meant more for those who need to publish a website quickly, smaller operations, or those who don’t need to consider user experience. With Wix, you’ll shop their rather extensive marketplace of templates to choose a starting point for the design of your website. From there, you will have to work within the provided functionality. Many Wix templates or themes are also one-page themes, which – from a marketing best practices and website usability standpoint – is a huge no-no because the website performance can’t properly be monitored. Again, a common consideration to make as those who use Wix typically aren’t concerned with user experience or even website performance.
Squarespace – The design & functionality of Squarespace is very similar to Wix. As mentioned, there is a very basic core component to the Squarespace drag-and-drop builder, but there are also several ways to add some of the more advanced features to a Squarespace website. On Squarespace, you’ll shop from their themes to get started. However, there aren’t nearly as many Squarespace themes as there are Wix or WordPress themes. This is because Squarespace is a mix of beginner solutions intertwined within the realm of more customized solutions. Squarespace does have more eye-catching themes and website designs than Wix, but without the advanced functionality to properly track all of these page elements, it still misses the mark for a professional business website.
4 – Support
A really quick and simple point, but considering the type of support you’ll have for your business website is also important!
Wix – Being tailored for those with little to no website development or coding knowledge, Wix offers 24/7 support for its users. While this is appealing, it’s also important to note that you’re more likely to run into an issue with Wix’s interface, as many of their templates claim to be mobile responsive, but may need additional tweaking for this to be the case. This means that until your support ticket is resolved, you could have a website that doesn’t display properly on mobile phones or tablets – which are responsible for more than half of all internet traffic. Wix’s “pick any one that you like” approach to website templates is the most likely to run into issues, as every website is different and contains different code. So, what someone else puts into a template may not work for you, and vice versa.
Squarespace – Squarespace also offers email support (24/7) and live chat support (weekdays 4AM – 8PM). It’s worth noting that support tickets may take longer to resolve with Squarespace, as the coding is more complex than on Wix’s platform and COVID has changed their support process.
WordPress – Here’s why beginners, freelancers, and DIYers don’t like WordPress – there is no support. Websites and their elements very commonly update once a week, and so when things break on the website, it can be really tricky to get everything working properly again. However, keep in mind that WordPress is primarily used by professionals, so your “support” team is your website administrator or developer, who should have the necessary knowledge to make sure that your website is always working properly. At New Moon Strategy, troubleshooting and support is built into the cost of doing business with us, and weekly plugin updates, functionality checks, backups, and security monitoring are built into our hosting fees.
It’s important to note that Wix and Squarespace have seen a huge increase in traffic and support tickets due to COVID-19, and though support is available, that doesn’t mean that issues will be resolved right away. Even with WordPress, when you’re dealing with website development, there’s a lot of trial and error needed to resolve an issue.
5 – Pricing
The final consideration to make when choosing a CMS is price. The pricing structure of these CMSs is very much a similar story to their capabilities and functionalities:
Wix – The most affordable option for low-budget start-ups, freelancers, and DIYers. However, as your business scales, you will need to pay to unlock additional bandwidth and storage for your Wix site. This is why New Moon Strategy doesn’t recommend Wix for its clients, as the cost can far surpass that of a WordPress build as the business scales.
Squarespace – As has been the reocurring theme with Squarespace, it’s pricing structure is pretty reasonable and allows for one to scale a business fairly well. While Squarespace won’t charge you for additional storage or bandwidth, it will be necessary to pay to unlock additional features and integrations as the business scales, such as email newsletter functionality or added e-commerce integrations.
WordPress – As a standalone CMS, WordPress is completely free. WordPress will have more of an initial investment cost to get set up and started with (because development is far more complex and customized, and it requires a professional), but as for the long-term sustainability of its use, you’ll pay for the hosting and maintenance of the website – never to unlock additional features. This means that you’re essentially on par with the monthly fees of Squarespace or Wix, but with the added benefit of being able to do just about anything you can think of with your website.
So, which CMS is best for a business website?
Though there are many options for CMSs and website builders, if you’re focused on creating a legitimate small business website that’s the level of quality that a large marketing firm is going to create, then WordPress is really the only way to go. WordPress is the CMS of choice for small and large marketing agencies alike.
Wix and Squarespace are tailored more to the beginner user, the DIYer, or the freelancer reselling the service. WordPress sites provide far more functionality, make up the largest market share of websites on the internet, rank better on search engines, are less likely to have speed or performance issues, and they can be tracked far better. WordPress requires a higher initial investment, but that comes with the added benefit of not exponentially increasing costs as the business scales.
For a best practice WordPress website, contact New Moon Strategy today!