These days, you don’t have to be a tech whiz or even know a single line of code to create an attractive, user-friendly website. All you need are the right tools. Thankfully, those tools are plentiful and budget-friendly.
But how do you choose the right content management system (CMS) and website-building tool for your brand? Let’s take a closer look at three of the most popular options available, Wix, WordPress, and Squarespace, to see what each offers.
If you’re an absolute beginner at building and maintaining a website, Wix is the pick for you. It’s meant for people with little to no experience with coding.
Wix’s ease of use lies in its templates. You pick a template you like, then drag and drop images and content onto it. Its templates are mobile-friendly, so you can feel confident that your site will look great whether someone views it on a laptop or mobile device.
Where Wix falls down is in flexibility. Once you pick a theme and go live, you’re stuck with that theme. If you want to give your site a refresh or a new look, you need to pull everything down and start over from scratch.
Wix also has fewer design choices compared to its competitors, WordPress and Squarespace.
You can get a free website using Wix, but that might not be the best move if you’re going to take digital marketing seriously. Free Wix sites have Wix branding all over them. To get the most out of the platform, opt for a paid plan.
Before Wix and Squarespace came around, WordPress was, hands down, the CMS to beat. No respectable blogger or brand would be caught using something else.
WordPress still has its perks, but it’s not as beginner-friendly as Wix or Squarespace. If you’re going to build a website on your own, you need to have a basic understanding of how the web works to use WordPress. WordPress also has a steeper learning curve compared to its competitors.
There are two versions of WordPress, which can get confusing for newbies. WordPress.com is a website and blog builder similar to Wix and Squarespace. WordPress.org, on the other hand, is the CMS. To use WordPress.org, you need separate hosting and your domain name. WordPress.com gives you a URL for free, but it’s usually something like YourBrand.WordPress.com. Not exactly the most professional look.
If you’re ready to get serious about your website and have some skills, WordPress.org is the way to go. The CMS has thousands of design themes and plug-ins, many of which are free to use. You will have to pay for hosting, usually from a separate provider, which starts at a few dollars per month.
The beauty of WordPress is that it’s infinitely customizable if you put in the legwork. You may not need to know how to code or much more than some basic HTML and CSS, but you will need to figure out your way around the platform. Once you do, you can tap into multiple resources that can help you grow your brand, including SEO tools.
Squarespace, like Wix, is another beginner-friendly CMS. Unlike Wix (or WordPress), there isn’t a free version of Squarespace, so you need to commit to a monthly fee to use it.
While Squarespace is intuitive and user-friendly, it’s a lot more limited compared to Wix and WordPress. Wix gives you hundreds of themes to choose from – and WordPress has more than 50,000. With Squarespace, you get 40. That’s right – 40. You might notice that every Squarespace site looks a little similar, and its limited design offerings explain why.
If you know a bit of code, you have the option of jazzing up your Squarespace templates, to give your site a more distinct look. But if you know how to code, you might as well just be using WordPress.
Squarespace creates a mobile-friendly site without you having to fiddle with a template or make any adjustments. While its templates are limited, it does happen to have some pretty breathtaking choices, which may be why it’s usually the pick of brands that want to make a big visual impact or that are design-centric.
How to Choose a CMS Platform
At the end of the day, there are several features to keep an eye out for when choosing your CMS. Those features are:
- User-friendliness: You want a CMS that’s easy to use and figure out, without a lot of trial and error. If you’re a newbie, Wix will be the CMS to beat, while WordPress may appeal to more advanced users.
- Design options: You don’t want a cookie-cutter website that looks like the rest. Squarespace has limited template options but gives you more freedom to customize those templates than Wix. WordPress has thousands of templates, which can almost make it too hard to find one you like.
- SEO tools: SEO helps your brand get seen on the web. There’s a learning curve to it, so a CMS that holds your hand and helps you through it will be useful. Wix is more hands-on with SEO help than Squarespace or WordPress.
- Price: You get what you pay for, sort of, when it comes to a CMS. Skip the free version of Wix and choose one of their paid plans, or go for a plan with Squarespace. If you’re already paying for hosting, give WordPress a try. The platform itself is free, but you may have to pay for plug-ins.
One last piece of advice on choosing your CMS: try before you buy. Wix and Squarespace let you try them out for 14 days before you commit. If you’re not happy, try another CMS until you find one you click with.