A Practical Guide to Choose The Best Website Platform for Your Business
If you’re just starting out and you need to build your business website, one of the first questions that you’ll be asking is what building platform is the best one. There are a lot of possibilities to choose from, so here I will focus on Squarespace, Wordpress, Wix and Shopify, with a special mention to custom-build websites. There are other options such as Weebly or Showit but here I’ll focus on the most popular ones.
This web building platform comparison is designed to help you make the right decision for YOUR business. So I’m focusing on practicality, instead of giving a comprehensive analysis of each one. I HEAR YOU, I know your needs and frustrations in regards to your business website – that’s why I’m giving you practical answers and recommendations.
To compare the best website building platforms we’ll look at:
- Pricing (which is determined by your website’s main needs)
- Tech literacy (how tech-savvy are you?)
- Customisation (how flexible do you need your design to be?)
- Scalability (setting your eyes in the future to choose the right platform)
- Other functionalities
Most website platforms have monthly and annual plans. Here’s a pricing comparison for BUSINESS websites (not personal ones), which means that it’ll allow you to connect it to your domain, among other perks. Prices are in USD.
In terms of pricing, remember that you’ll also need to pay for your domain name. It tends to be approximately $10/year. Some of the main website building platforms offer free domain for annual purchases, although I would always recommend to purchase it separately via sites like Namecheap.
How comfortable do you feel creating and managing the back-end of your website? Does this simple thought make you want to disappear? If you’ve decided to take the reigns of your business website, I recommend that you consider how comfortable you feel with technology before signing up for a building platform. Some of them are surprisingly easy to use, others have a steeper learning curve.
In terms of how easy or difficult it is for you to create and publish a website, see the list below from the easiest (1) to the most difficult (4):
I was sooooo amazed to jump onto Wix and realise that they even build the website for you. Seriously. I couldn’t believe my eyes. After clicking on Getting Started, you choose to let them design and set up the website for you (or you can pick a template and do it yourself). If you choose to hand it to them, they then take you to a series of questions, for example what type of business you have, what look you like or what features your website needs (shop, blog, scheduling). Next. Next. Next. And then you just wait while they put the website together.
Tada! You now have a website ready for you to add your text, photos and logo. You can still move things around freely, and drag and drop elements anywhere on the page.
But if you just want to get out there right now, and make no big fuss with spending time editing the look of the website, jump on Wix and let them do the work for you.
I always recommend my people to choose Squarespace to build their websites. So, if you were my friend (I hope you already are by now) I would send you straight to SS. It offers you the perfect balance between user-friendliness, flexibility and beautiful design.
Not only the back end is very minimalistic and intuitive, but if you don’t feel specially gifted creatively, and struggle to visually put together a beautiful website, Squarespace does the work for you. With few tweaks you’ll be able to customise your website to your branding, but still making sure that it’s visually sophisticated.
You would only choose Shopify if you were running purely an online store. And even though the platform options for ecommerce businesses deserve their own attention (we’ll be sharing a comparison on those soon), I believe it’s worth mentioning Shopify as the most user-friendly option if you’re running an ecommerce business.
Managing an online store means that we need to keep control of stock, customers, shipping, taxes, etc. Shopify makes it super easy for any shop owner to deal with that information and it gives them the option to add advanced features whenever they need it.
I believe Wordpress is one (if not, THE one) most popular website building platforms. I started building websites using Wordpress, grabbing premium templates and customising them to my liking. I must say, though, that if you’re not very tech savvy, the learning curve is steep and therefore I wouldn’t recommend it straight away. The backend is not very intuitive, and because it allows you the highest degree of customisation, it can end up feeling a challenge only for the techies.
We’ve briefly touched these points above, but let me give you a quick overlook of the level of customisation of these building platforms:
All the building platforms have free and premium templates that you can purchase, set up and customize with your content and branding. Scroll down to the bottom of the page for a sneak peak of my favourite sites to find beautiful website themes.
There isn’t a straight-forward ranking of the building platforms in terms of scalability, as it depends on the mid-term goals of your business. I’m not saying long-term, because if your business ends up reaching a much bigger scope, you may decide to create a whole new website.
However, if you’re spending the time, energy and resources to build a website for your business right now, I always recommend that you think of your 3-year plan. For example, you may be a nutritionist currently offering one-on-one consultations. In one year, you plan on developing a range of teas to help support your clients’ health, and you will sell them online. Therefore, I would recommend you keep on the top of your mind an ecommerce functionality and choose a building platform that will offer you an easy integration.
Another example would be a business that is currently only operating in one country, let’s say Spain – so the website will be created in Spanish. The plan is to expand the business internationally at the end of this year, so we would need the website to be also available in English. With that in mind, we should choose a platform that enables us to integrate a multilingual option easily (for example, Wordpress).
Shopify, Squarespace and Wordpress are great options for business that are willing to expand their type of offerings, and jump onto a bigger scale. I’ve yet to see medium and big-sized business websites using Wix, so I wouldn’t probably decide to build on that platform if you’ve got bigger dreams for your company.
When we identify our business needs and how these are going to be reflected in our website, we may end up with a list that includes: multilingual, private site, offering digital courses, podcast integration, etc. It is very important that we keep them as a priority when choosing our building platform.
Wordpress is currently the best option in terms of functionalities. You have the option to add free and premium plugins for pretty much everything, and most other business-related apps have created plugins that integrate with Wordpress. For example: email service providers (Convertkit, Mailchimp, etc.), pop-ups, ecommerce, multilingual, testimonials, etc.
When integrating apps in other platforms such as Squarespace, you usually need to use workarounds. What usually happens is that you Google whatever you need to create, and end up jumping onto a blog of someone who’s found out a way to use Squarespace’s current functionalities to achieve that result. Another inconvenient of Squarespace in terms of functionalities is that at the moment it only connects with one email service provider (Mailchimp) and you need to use apps like Zapier or use embedded code if you work on Convertkit. I’m confident that they will slowly accommodate more options, but it’s still far from Wordpress in the functionalities realm.
Tell me who you are… and I’ll tell you what website building platform to choose
If you’re still not sure which website platform is best for you, here are my recommendations depending on the type of business you have:
- If you’re a blogger… choose Wordpress (and install Yoast SEO plugin)
- If you’re a creative… choose Squarespace (with basic edits, your website will look super profesh)
- If you run an online store… choose Shopify (their blogging feature is not the best, so if you’re blogging a la par with selling products, see below)
- If you have an overarching type of business, selling digital or physical products AND blogging regularly… choose Squarespace
- If you’re a service provider or run a brick-and-mortar business and only need your website to showcase information (and not deal with complex technology)… choose Squarespace (or Wix)
- If you’re just anyone, not very tech savvy, and need a VERY simple website that you don’t need to customize too much… choose Wix
- If you run a very unique business and need very specific functionalities… go custom-built (you’ll have to hire a web designer and developer for that, and set aside a minimum budget of $2,500)
- If you need a multilingual site… choose Wordpress
- If you sell digital courses… choose Kajabi (from $149/month), Teachable (from $39/month) or Wordpress (adding a paid plugin)
I chose my website platform… Now what?
Ok, now that you have a better idea of the best website platform for your business, the next steps are:
- Read the blog post: 7 Steps to Get your Website Up and Running Right Now
- Get clear on your website needs and goals
- Just to keep you moving, here are some of my favourite sites to find beautiful themes: Solopine, Stnsvn, GoLive, First Flight Studio, Creative Market.
I hope this cleared some doubts and helped you decide what website platform is the best for YOUR business. Now, let’s get rolling!