There are a thousand reasons why you might want to build a website. Maybe you’ve started a business and you want to build an online community for your brand. Maybe you’re in a creative industry and you want a space to share information about upcoming shows or releases. Or perhaps you just want a space to share your thoughts and stories with a wider audience. In the past, you would have to spend a hefty chunk of change to hire a web developer, going through the tricky process of explaining your preferences to another person and hoping that you liked the finished product.
Of course, you could also spend weeks learning how to code and build the website yourself, but that’s never an easy feat. These days, it’s a much simpler process. Even people with no tech experience can make a decent website using some of the website builder tools available online today. And if you spend a bit of time customizing and working on your website, you can develop a really streamlined and professional website using these website builders.
There are several good website building tools available, but they aren’t all created equal. The four most popular builders are Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, and WordPress. These four website creation tools may look similar on the surface, but there are some quite significant differences between their platforms. It’s a good idea to find out what each tool does to save yourself serious time and heartache. After all, imagine spending hours designing your site on one creation tool and then realizing that a function you require in your website isn’t available. Or perhaps it is available, but only with a premium paid account. What if you could have saved all the work hours and effort by knowing, from the outset, which website building platform has all the functionality that you need?
That’s where this article aims to help you out. It will go in depth on what functions are available through Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, and WordPress, and fill you in on the pros and cons of each platform. It will also evaluate the four website creators to let you know which one is most suitable for the kind of website you want to build. Overall, the eight most important areas will be covered to introduce you to the four platforms and help you get to grips with what’s what:
- How popular are they?
- Who uses them?
- How much do they cost?
- How easy are they to use?
- How complex can your website be?
- How good is their SEO functionality?
- What’s the biggest pro?
- What’s the biggest con?
- Who comes out on top?
How popular are they?
The four website builders have all risen to relative popularity and they are certainly more successful than most of the other available content management systems at the moment. However, while Squarespace, Weebly, and Wix are all fairly well matched, WordPress dominates the industry at the moment.
Squarespace’s website mentions that they have over one million paying customers, and some successful businesses use their setup. Websites for the Marina Abramovic Institute, fashion brand Rodarte, and driver service Lyft all use Squarespace. Since Squarespace’s launch in 2004 it has definitely become one of the better recognized website builder tools.
Wix was founded in 2004 and reached one million users significantly faster than Squarespace after just three years. As of 2017, Wix is claiming over one hundred million users for their content management system. Of these, it appears that around two and a half million pay to use the Wix premium service – so perhaps Squarespace is a closer competitor than it originally seems. On top of that, Wix doesn’t appear to have as many high profile users as Squarespace.
Weebly are less transparent about their user data but claim to have over 40 million users. However, data on their paid user base is currently unavailable, so it isn’t clear how many of these users are voting with their wallets and how many simply set up an account with the service since it was founded in 2006. Again, their user base doesn’t appear to boast as many big names as Squarespace, their seemingly smaller competitor.
Although the other website builders are gaining popularity, WordPress is above and beyond the most used. Founded in 2003, WordPress now hosts almost 75 million websites, around half of which are paid accounts. This is a really staggering figure when compared with Squarespace, Weebly, and Wix. Many huge business blogs like CNN, The New York Times, and eBay use WordPress, so it appears that they are comfortably dominating the market in several ways at the moment.
Who uses them?
Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, and WordPress all cater to a variety of users in various industries and countries. There’s no reason why, for example, a musician must pick a different platform from a blogger or a large multinational. All of the sites offer reasonable customization (which will be discussed in more detail later on!) so they aren’t rigidly used by different groups. However, there are some basic areas in which users of Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, and WordPress tend to differ.
Who uses Squarespace?
Squarespace is perfect for image-conscious users which is why it is the chosen platform for many businesses and users in creative industries. The site offers sleek, attractive designs that are a great jumping off point for users to display images and creative work. Squarespace is a popular option for websites that are focused on high-quality images and a professional look.
Who uses Wix?
A lot of smaller businesses use Wix and it’s easy to see why. The system is set up in such a way that it functions well for people who want to do all of the work themselves and develop a site from one of the many designs offered. People who want to pick a website template and work within it are served well by Wix’s many options, so it’s great for people who want an unfussy but professional web presence.
Who uses Weebly?
Weebly are popular with a variety of users but one particular user base are people who need a web presence but aren’t very tech savvy. While all four website builders cater to people with a basic level of computer knowledge, Weebly is really set up to make things easy for people who find the idea of building a website daunting. Individuals and businesses who need simple, functional sites tend to go for Weebly.
Who uses WordPress?
All sorts of people use WordPress and it is home to a variety of high profile sites. However, it has a significant user base of people and businesses who want to create websites with lots of scope. Due to the large number of available plugins and customizable options, WordPress is a popular option among people who want to create more impressive and comprehensive websites.
How much do they cost?
The four website builders all offer different pricing plans. Squarespace is the only site that doesn’t offer a free plan, while Wix, Weebly, and WordPress all have differing free options. WordPress offers the cheapest paid plan at $2.99 per month while Weebly has the most expensive package at $38 per month. There’s a lot of variation in the different price structures and what they’ll get you.
How much does Squarespace cost?
Squarespace does not offer any free option to users, so you’re looking at a financial commitment to get your site off the ground with them. However, they do offer a two-week free trial for users to try out their website builder and check that it is suitable for their needs. Their cheapest plan offers a 20-page site with unlimited bandwidth and storage and a free custom domain for $12 paid annually (although this rises to $16 if you want to pay month by month). There’s also an unlimited sized business option available at $18 per month paid annually (or $26 if paid month by month). Squarespace also offers separate plans for online stores, one at $26 per month when billed annually (or $30 month by month) and an advanced option at $40 per month when billed annually (or $46 month by month). The big difference between this options is that the advanced version offers abandoned checkout auto-recovery and real time carrier shipping.
How much does Wix cost?
Wix does offer a free option with unlimited pages, 500 MB of storage, and a Wix subdomain (so the website address ends in “.wixsite.com”). Upgrading to the Wix premium options gives users a personalized domain name, more storage, an online store, and no Wix adverts. The most basic option is $4.50 per month for 1 GB bandwidth with Wix adverts. For $8.50 per month the adverts are gone and users get 2 GB bandwidth and 3 GB of storage (that’s six times the amount available through their free and basic options). Their most popular plan, at $12.50 per month, offers unlimited bandwidth, 10 GB of storage, and their form builder and site booster apps. To add in an online store there are two options, one at $16.50 per month which offers 20 GB each of bandwidth and storage, and the VIP option at $24.50 per month, which offers unlimited bandwidth, 20 GB of storage, monthly email campaigns, and a professional review of the website.
How much does Weebly cost?
Weebly also offers a free option which uses a Weebly subdomain (so the site address will end in “.weebly.com”) and gives users 500 MB of storage while displaying Weebly adverts. For $8 a month (when paid annually – it’s $5 per month on a two-year contract and $14 when paid pay month by month) users get a free domain name, no Weebly ads, unlimited storage, and advanced site stats. For $12 per month annually ($9 on a two-year contract and $18 month by month) there is additional password protection, HD video and audio, and the ability to add up to 100 members. For $25 per month annually ($21 on a two-year contract and $35 month by month) unlimited members and membership registration are enabled. The performance package, at $38 per month ($35 on a two-year contract and $46 month by month) also offers users email marketing.
How much does WordPress cost?
WordPress has a free option too which gives users a WordPress subdomain (a website address that ends with “.wordpress.com”), basic design customization, and 3 GB of storage. The most inexpensive premium option is personal, which costs $2.99 per month paid annually and allows users to add a custom domain name and use 6 GB of storage, live chat support, and remove WordPress adverts. For $8.25 per month paid annually users are offered advanced design customization, 13 GB of storage, and the ability to monetize the site. The business package costs $24.92 per month paid annually and offers unlimited storage space, SEO tools, Google Analytics, and also removes the WordPress branding.
How easy are they to use?
Not all website builders are created equal and the four here are no exception. Wix and Weebly are perfect for users who want to quickly build a simple website, and even if you’re terrible with computers you should find them easy enough to use. Squarespace will make it easy for you to build a visually appealing website, and WordPress offers a variety of plugins and tutorials that make adding functionality to your site a stress-free experience.
Squarespace Ease of Use
If you want to build a simple, professional-looking site easily, Squarespace is a great platform to start with. You select your website’s function at the outset and fill in basic information about the name and location (if applicable). From there, you choose a template and move straight onto the site builder app. Squarespace does seem to have the upper hand when it comes to the aesthetic appeal of their site. The site templates are sophisticated and well-designed so you don’t need to do much tinkering to have a very visually appealing website layout. The site builder app also allows you to visualize how your site will look in real time as you make changes, so there’s no need to spend too much time worrying about every individual change you make. That said, their platform does take some getting used to for first time website creators.
Wix Ease of Use
Wix has a reputation for being particularly easy to use, and it certainly lives up to the label. When you sign up you will classify your website into one of the many categories and subcategories, so it is streamlined from the very first step. This can be a good thing if you want to make things simpler for yourself, or a little frustrating if you want a lot of options. Wix’s website builder also offers a huge number of website templates arranged into easy to understand categories so even if you don’t want to look too hard, you can find your website’s category and then search within it for an appropriate design (are you Advertising & Marketing, Music, Health & Beauty, Weddings & Events, or one of the other many options?). Once you’ve selected a design you use the custom builder app to customize it with video tutorials to help you along. The templates are filled with stock content that you can systematically replace with your own information, articles, or features as you go along. You simply drag and drop the features that you want to create your perfect website.
Weebly Ease of Use
Weebly’s website builder tools make it very easy to get a website up and running quickly, but it may be a bit more tricky to produce the kind of quality you want if you’re looking for a more complex website design. Weebly asks you to categorize your site right away – blog, online store, or website – and then allows you to change the template and colors. You can change the templates whenever you want as you make changes in the drag and drop editor. The editor offers you helpful tips as you move through the process of setting up your website. It is a little harder to make your website stand out or to add any functionality, however, as the templates on Weebly are not very customizable. But if you’re looking for a quick and simple website you could be up and running on Weebly in twenty minutes.
WordPress Ease of Use
WordPress is the most popular content management system and part of this wide appeal is probably down to its easy to use and intuitive website builder. It isn’t difficult to get a website up and running quickly with WordPress. However, unless you’re using the WordPress subdomain, you’ll need buy a domain name yourself and secure a web host. Luckily, these two processes aren’t difficult and there’s plenty of help available through the WordPress site and the wider community of users. WordPress then offers thousands of themes to suit all different types of websites, so there’s no way you’re going to have trouble finding what you want. The customization can be complex but it is also laid out intuitively with tutorials and support to help you achieve the look and functions you want. There are plenty of plugins, free and paid, to help you add functionality to your website too.
How complex can your website be?
Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, and WordPress differ quite noticeably when it comes to how intricately you can design your website. Weebly, for example, was set up specifically to enable college students to make online portfolios, and in many ways it still reflects those simplistic origins. On the opposite end of the spectrum, WordPress enables you to add thousands of plugins created by different developers. This means that it is viable to gain insight into your website’s analytics, add functions like commenting and appointment booking, and enhance security on a WordPress sight. Squarespace and Wix fall somewhere between the two poles.
Squarespace is very visually appealing so luckily you won’t need to do much playing around to make your sight look good. However, it can be quite limited in terms of adding functions to your website. Squarespace doesn’t have any free apps so you may need to stark tinkering with the underlying code if you want to make changes to your site. Also, while you can export some content from your Squarespace website into an .xml file, not all of your site will export as much of it relies on Squarespace’s platform. That means that if you decide to leave Squarespace, you might not be able to easily transfer your website to another platform.
You are able to use Wix’s apps to make your website more complex, so the result can be more impressive than what you’d get on Weebly, for example. There are over 250 Wix apps, some free and some paid, which handle things like email marketing, finances, and social media. The addition of Wix apps does mean that you can do a lot more with your website to make it more complex and professional, although they don’t compare to the wealth of plugins available on a platform like WordPress. One downside of Wix is the fact that you are essentially renting space on their platform. Any customization that you do and any work that you put in to make your website more complex will not be coming with you when you leave. If you do decide to leave Wix, you’ll have to start from scratch elsewhere as you don’t own your code, template, or design.
WordPress offers pretty much any add-on and function that you could possibly want. Developers have created a huge number of plugins for the website which make it super simple to do things like track your website stats, create interactive calendars for making appointments, allow people to leave comments from their Facebook profiles, and so much more. You might need to pick up a little HTML and CSS knowledge to really elevate your website, but most designers make it easy for beginners to get to grips with their plugins these days. It is also easy to take the site that you’ve created and move it elsewhere if you’d like – your WordPress site is totally yours.
How good is their SEO functionality?
SEO, or “Search Engine Optimization” is the process that makes it easy for search engines like Google to find your website. These days, it is absolutely vital to get a handle on SEO and use a website that encourages SEO best practices. After all, you could create the best website in the world, but what’s the point if no one can find it when they’re searching for terms that relate to your site? Better SEO means more people will find your website, which also translates into more page reads, more subscribers, more sales, and more benefits in whatever area you’re focusing on. More site visitors is always a good thing. WordPress goes straight to the front of the pack due to the sheer number of plugins that you can add to your site to improve SEO. Wix is improving but it is still not particularly SEO-friendly, Squarespace is good but has some persistent problems, and Weebly seems to lag behind in this area.
The visual appeal of Squarespace can cause it to lag behind in terms of SEO functionality. Squarespace websites can be tricky to arrange which means that it’s harder for the information within them to be processed by search engines and users may find it hard to navigate Squarespace sites. However, Squarespace is quite SEO-friendly at its original setup which means that as long as you study up on SEO and learn how to customize your site at the backend to improve your SEO, you should be able to get into Google’s good books. In fact, Squarespace themselves mention that they routinely look into WordPress’s plugin options to make sure that this “extra” functionality is included on their websites from the get go. It seems unlikely that the huge range of plugins could be covered by Squarespace but it is certainly a positive step.
Wix used to have real problems when it came to SEO practices but it has improved massively in recent years. Many of the old issues are fixed, but some problems still remain. For example, Wix changes image file names so that it’s hard for Google to pick up on what images you’re showing, which can be very damaging if you’re a website that relies heavily on visuals. Instead of a file name that includes SEO keywords, you just end up with a string of characters. Similarly, Wix allows images to pop out and enlarge, which may make viewing them more easy, but creates extra pages for Google to index which aren’t very useful for visitors to your site. Overall, Wix is improving their SEO capabilities but they still have some persistent problems when it comes to optimizing content for search engines.
WordPress is pretty SEO friendly from the outset but it also offers the huge benefit of plugins to boost SEO. Because WordPress is open source (meaning that anyone can create themes and plugins for it), there are hundreds of themes which are optimized for search engine indexing. From the very first moment that you pick your template, you can ensure that you’re taking care of SEO. It is extremely easy to make permalinks clearly indexed, and even if you never do anything to your WordPress website, it’s pretty well set up for search engine indexing. Really though, the biggest factor in WordPress being so effective at SEO is the endless number of free and paid plugins which can handle SEO issues for you, or at least make them easier to work with. Plugins like Yoast allow even rookie users to optimize highly technical aspects of WordPress websites which would require a lot more tech knowledge, and sometimes be completely impossible, on other content management systems.
What’s the biggest pro?
Overall, what are these website builders bringing to the table?
Squarespace Biggest Pro
Squarespace offers a large variety of sleek and expensive-looking templates which make it extremely simple to make your website look good. If you’re going for visual appeal and you want to be able to direct people to something that will make them say “wow!”, using Squarespace is the quickest way to achieve that aim.
Wix Biggest Pro
Wix’s drag and drop site builder makes it very easy to create a website even if you have very little knowledge of computers and web design. However, because Wix also integrates applications, it is easy to make your site a little more intricate if you’re looking for something more complex than the basic setup.
Weebly Biggest Pro
Weebly is extremely easy to use so it is a wonderful platform for people who may not know much about the web but who still want to create a basic online presence. If you want the options to be simply laid out and to take you from A to Z without fuss, Weebly is the perfect platform. Similarly, if you just want to get something out there quickly, Weebly can get you up and running in no time.
WordPress Biggest Pro
WordPress is open source so there are just so many options. When you want a theme that fits some specific desire or requirement of yours, it will inevitably be there. If you’re having a problem, there are a huge community of users to help you. When added functionality is required, there is almost always a plugin that addresses whatever your site needs. If you want to outsource things and hire a WordPress design agency or a webmaster, that’s easy too because the platform is so popular.
What’s the biggest con?
Where are these content management systems slipping up?
Squarespace Biggest Con
Although Squarespace can be used to create beautiful design portfolios and websites for creative businesses, its website builder isn’t as intuitive. This can make it difficult for first time website designers to get what they want out of the platform. You might find yourself having trouble keeping your Squarespace website in good order after choosing your template as a result, which can be frustrating as the editor reflects changes you make as you make them.
Wix Biggest Con
While it is very easy to use Wix to create an attractive website that works well, there are some barriers to overcome if you want to make your website really effective. This means that you might end up studying a lot if you want to really get the best out of your Wix website, because you’ll need to overcome some design flaws (you can’t change your template after you’ve originally chosen it, for example) and the lingering SEO issues on Wix websites.
Weebly Biggest Con
Weebly uses basic templates and site designs which means that your website might look plain when compared to competitor’s sites. Although it is easy to get to grips with the website builder and create something that is simple and effective, Weebly really isn’t suited to larger professional projects unless you’re willing to put in a lot of extra time and tinker with the underlying code.
WordPress Biggest Con
While it is simple enough to create a good looking basic website on WordPress, it can take a little longer to get to grips with WordPress because it is a content management system, not just a website builder like Squarespace, Wix, and Weebly. This means that if you want to build a site that looks as amazing as some of the best examples of WordPress, you may need to bring in some outside help or spend a few hours studying online.
Who comes out on top?
It seems that the clear winner is WordPress. While Weebly is a good option for people looking for something simple and unfussy, it can be pretty difficult to make a Weebly website stand out compared to the competitors. And although Squarespace can create visually stunning websites and is excellent for designers or other creatives who want a place to host their work, it can be harder to use and less useful for people outside that sphere (and on top of that, it doesn’t have any free option!).
While Wix is a good competitor, it has some underlying SEO issues and it simply doesn’t have the customizable capability that is available on WordPress. After all, with WordPress you are getting your own site that is yours to export and move where you’d like, and you’re benefiting from the knowledge of many more experienced users and developers. You might trust WordPress because it’s so popular, or you might choose it in the first place specifically because it is so popular, because that popularity has allowed a great community to grow around WordPress. You will never be in a position where you have a question that can’t be answered or a need that can’t be addressed because there are so many users and developers working within the platform. The huge variety of plugins alone make it the perfect option for website creation, because you can start simple and develop outwards with the help of all these excellent applications.
Ultimately, WordPress might take slightly longer to get to grips with than Weebly or Wix but if you’re serious about building a good website, it is well worth the effort. And while Squarespace can give you a professional-looking interface, the functionality is more limited and there is no free option at all. What’s more, WordPress has a broad user base so it’s extra easy to find handy plugins and WordPress design agencies to let you take your site to the next level. Whichever content management system you choose, there are plenty of online guides and design agencies available to help you if you want to create a truly outstanding website.