Blog: Web Design
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Site Builders vs WordPress

Avatar for John Locke

John Locke is a SEO consultant from Sacramento, CA. He helps manufacturing businesses rank higher through his web agency, Lockedown Design & SEO.

A few days ago, a Wall Street Journal columnist Joanna Stern published an article on building your own website.

In Stern’s post, she compared some common page builders: Squarespace, Wix, Weebly and Jimdo. The WSJ article put Squarespace and Weebly at the top when it came to site builders, as did Steve Benjamins on SiteBuilderReport.com.

So why didn’t Stern’s WSJ article cover WordPress?

Stern said in her post that “I ruled out popular options such as WordPress, which isn’t as user friendly…”, which is legitimate — to a point.

Getting started with WordPress can be easy. There are drag-and-drop WordPress themes out there, just as there are drag-and-drop site builders.

But there’s a definite learning curve with WordPress that many DIY-ers cannot overcome without help from a professional.

Because WordPress does provide the framework for everything from puppy blogs to enterprise level websites, it’s also very complex, and that’s okay, too.

Sometimes it’s preferable to use a tool like Squarespace. While I love WordPress, sometimes that is the right answer. I’ve referred people to Squarespace and helped them pick a theme when they just need somewhere to blog, and aren’t ever going to need anything more.

But here’s the thing.

For most businesses, having the versatility of a tool like WordPress is exactly what they need to grow their business.

WordPress Is Dominant For A Reason

Not only is WordPress powering 24% of all sites on the web, but it is powering 64% of all websites that have a CMS (Content Management System).

Joomla is a distant second at 14%; Drupal comes in at 8%. Squarespace and Wix are 2% each according to Wappalyzer.com.

Why do you think this is?

Many people feel open-source software means lower in quality, but Drupal, Joomla and most programming languages are also open source, so that’s not a very valid argument.

WordPress the platform gets updated — evolved, if you will — about three or four times a year.

The number of brilliant people that are involved in contributing and improving the core platform are legion. The community behind WordPress is, and always has been, it’s greatest strength.

It’s an incredibly stable platform, but that’s not why it might be good fit for you as opposed to a site builder platform.

For most businesses and organizations, WordPress offers the flexibility and scalability that a Weebly, Wix or Squarespace do not.

You will be able to extend the functionality of your website as your business expands. You can change the look and feel of your website without losing information. WordPress is better suited for SEO than site builders. It is easier to build something that grows with you and your business.

Consultant Rebecca Gill of Web Savvy Marketing summed it up in the comments of the WSJ article:

WordPress…offers a great deal of options and growth for the small business sector. It provides a low cost entry point, a huge selection of off-the-shelf themes, over 30,000 extensions for enhancing functionality, and it is superior for organically growing inbound website traffic through SEO.

Our firms receives a lot of inquiries from existing customers of Wix, Weebly, and Squarespace because the small business owners quickly outgrew the service.

While WordPress isn’t for every website or every user, it dominates the internet because it is a very solid solution for businesses.

Rebecca Gill

When Is A Site Builder Right For You?

Don’t get it twisted, WordPress does have a higher learning curve than something like Weebly, Wix or Squarespace. WordPress is also more flexible.

And just so you know, even with site-building software, the vast majority of non-developers need some assistance from a web developer to successfully launch a site. Numerous people have told me personally that their Wix and Weebly sites were hard to edit. So, no shame in your game if you just call someone for help to get any website done.

Something like Squarespace or Weebly is a good fit if all of these conditions are true:

  • Your business is still small.
  • You don’t plan on making big changes to your site soon.
  • You have a very tight budget for marketing, but you want to get started.
  • You don’t need anything custom built.
  • You have lots of time to figure everything out.

Perspective

WordPress is used in so many divergent ways. It means different things to different people.

To some people, it means enterprise sites. To others, it means small business sites. To some people, it means a blog. To others, it means an application database.

And they are all correct.

Perhaps it is easy to explain what a drag and drop site builder does, because that’s just one category. It’s easy to put something like that in a box and tell people what it does.

WordPress is moving much faster than many people think it is, and that’s good. It’s good for the market, because the needs of the customers help drive innovation for everyone.

Knowing What To Expect

The greatest strength of WordPress is also one of it’s greatest weaknesses. People new to the platformto it expect it to be easy, because that’s what they’ve read.

When a non-developer expects to set up a site by themselves over a weekend, and they can’t, they get frustrated.

Because many folks are expecting WordPress to be simultaneously as easy as a drag-and-drop (Weebly) and as versatile as a CMS (like WordPress or Drupal), expectations don’t always match reality.

But WordPress is also not user-unfriendly. WordPress is easy to publish on. It still takes web development skill to do custom work on it.

Meanwhile, Drupal and Joomla have a learning curve that is nearly insurmountable for the average site owner.

WordPress is really somewhere in between.

WordPress is easy to use once your particular site is set up, but you’ll most likely need someone to help you set it up.

Going Forward

There are a lot of people still researching what to do about their web marketing and trying to decide what platform to build their website on.

We need to appreciate it when articles point out compare WordPress and other platforms. It gives us an opportunity to point out how the platforms are different.

Because many people have heard of WordPress, but some of that may be second or third hand information.

There are many publishing platforms continuing to emerge. And while the developers and innovators in the community continue to push WordPress forward, the larger community also has a large job to do.

There is a need for education about themes and plugins — hosting and security, and everything else that website owners need to know about.

When the average consumer has the correct information about the different web platforms in the market, they will be empowered to make the best decision for their situation.

Avatar for John Locke

John Locke is a SEO consultant from Sacramento, CA. He helps manufacturing businesses rank higher through his web agency, Lockedown Design & SEO.

5 comments on “Site Builders vs WordPress

  1. Are you talking about WordPress.com or WordPress.org? There is a HUGE difference in the two, and the article seems to float back and forth between them. For example, the number of websites is skewed heavily to WordPress.com. The customization portion (by and large) refers to WordPress.org. It would be helpful for future posts to make the distinction.

    There are a number of articles that start out with “WordPress is easy” that actually end up saying, “WordPress is NOT easy, and you should pay website developers handsomely to develop your website for you.” Naturally, these articles are from WordPress developers (or coaches of web developers).

  2. Hi Will:

    Thanks for your feedback.

    I don’t think I defined between WordPress.com and WordPress.org, but I’m also not seeing where the article bounces between those two.

    You’re right when you say these two are vastly different. The .com version only allows certain plugins and is more of a managed environment, but allows for custom enterprise development on the VIP service.

    The .org version runs the gamut from basic installation to drag and drop themes to 100% custom development. That’s a lot of ground to cover.

    For exactly that reason, WordPress is a bit challenging to keep up with. To be a competent developer in WordPress you have to know: HTML, CSS, JS, PHP, MySQL, and also keep up with the ever-evolving WordPress core functions. Not to mention being able to navigate the ecosystem of plugins and themes, and keep up with those changes as well.

    From your last paragraph, it sounds like you may have a cynic’s view of WordPress developers.

    Granted, for very basic needs, a stock theme does fine. But most businesses have greater needs than that, and finding the right solution, then building it is more work than business owners want to deal with.

    Why spend months (or even yearsyes, I’ve seen it happen) wasting time trying to do-it-yourself when you can pay a specialist to get it done for you? Quickly? Correctly? It’s a no-brainer.

    (For the most part, the folks that know what they are doing charge more than the people who don’t.) ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    Will, it sounds like you’re a programmer of some sort. I actually get a lot of business from programmers in other disciplines (as do other legitimate WordPress devs) to handle WordPress needs for them, because they are unfamiliar with developing for WP.

    Addressing your closing statement, what each consultantcy gets paid is really determined by the complexity and overall value of the problems they are solving, and who they are solving those problems for.

    Thanks again for reading and sharing your thoughts, Will. I do appreciate the feedback.

  3. Going for a self hosted WordPress site is the best possible option right now. I’ve seen a lot of website builders like Wix or Weebly and they don’t come close to WP; and I’m talking about their paid plans here. Because of the ease of WP and the multitude of free plugins (and paid ones) you have at your disposal, this platform is light years ahead of anything else imho.

  4. I agree with everything you’re stating, Ray. Wix is atrocious for SEO and not very flexible for layouts. Weebly is a wee bit better, but not much. If I were to consider moving to a new CMS or page builder, these two wouldn’t be in the running at all.

    WordPress is doing well because the ecosystem of the community and products is very robust. You can always get help, training, or find a solution if you look hard enough. There are also plenty of talented developers in case a particular solution doesn’t exist quite yet.

    The innovation in WP seems to be setting the pace for other CMS. That said, I think the next 25% of market share will be exponentially more difficult to grasp than the first 25% has been.

  5. While WordPress and DIY platforms do have their pros and cons, WordPress is definitely the much better option. WordPress’s active open source community guarantees that new features will always be available, whereas DIY platforms are constantly lagging behind due to the fact that they are closed-source frameworks that cannot piggyback on a large open source community contributing to the codebase. Read about website builders’ problems here and see for yourself why WordPress and open source are the way to go.

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