Popular Website Builders: What You Need to Know

If you’re looking to build your first website you’ve probably heard of some of the most popular website builders. They’re a great option if you’re handy with a computer and have some time on your hands and not much money to spend – so we thought it would be handy to review what’s out there.

Wix

Straight from the login you can ask Wix to design your site for you. You just answer some simple questions and they’ll narrow it down to three nice templates you can use. It’s a free, streamlined process if you know what you want to put on your site and don’t need much functionality. Remember – once you’ve picked your template that’s it, you’re stuck with it, so choose carefully.

  • Editor: Drag and drop style with no coding required, it’s easy to make small changes to your website and you can edit a large range of the elements on your website with a few clicks.
  • Design: There are so many templates to choose from that you’re a bit spoilt for choice! Your website won’t be unique, but it will look good. Upgrade - some of the nicest templates are at an additional cost.
  • Hosting and SSL: These are the only features that are available for free.
  • Bandwidth: Your bandwidth is limited based on the plan you select
  • Domain Name: Premium plan required to specify your own domain name
  • Business Email: Once you’ve paid to connect your domain you can set up a professional mailbox
  • Ads: Premium plan required to remove their ads from your site – including their Wix ad right at the top of the page
  • E-commerce: Prices jump if you want to be able to sell online. They also offer Wix pay for card payments based on a commission of 1.9% + 20p per transaction.
  • SEO: We’d give this a 1/5 for capabilities, you can do all the basics and a few more things with a Wix website - as long as you’re on the premium plan of course.
  • Support: Very much a self-service buffet, all of the information is available you just have to find it and deal with it yourself. 

Even though it’s a 'free' website, there are so many small features which you cannot use without upgrading to a premium plan, right down to your favicon. The top of your website, if you choose to stick with the free plan, has a full-width ad across the top.

Summary

If you’re a serious business then the free site isn’t feasible. Once you’ve picked which plan has enough features you get a nice looking site, not alot of functionality and no good for SEO. 

Best suited to: businesses who are happy to play around and manage a site themselves, but happy to always be limited by it’s capabilities.

WordPress

An oldie but a goodie, WordPress offers a truly free experience if you know what you’re doing. Setting up a site is a lot more difficult than Wix, but there’s a lot more possibilities before you have to stick your hand in your pocket. Most other website developers and agencies use WordPress to create your website for you. 

  • Editor: It’s more clunky than the others, but still offers a front-end editor and doesn’t require any coding unless you want to do something other than basic design changes.
  • Design: Once again there are endless templates to choose from and if you know a tiny bit of coding then you can really make these templates your own.
  • Hosting and SSL: These need to be set up externally and connected, which takes some tech know-how.
  • Bandwidth: Your bandwidth is determined by your hosting, so you buy it elsewhere.
  • Domain Name: You can use your own domain name without additional cost, but it is a bit complicated
  • Business Email: The same as the domain name, it’s free but tricky
  • Ads: There’s a tiny advert at the bottom of your website, nothing intrusive like Wix.
  • E-commerce: You can add a shop to the website fairly easily by picking a plugin, installing it and choosing a theme which includes a predesigned shop front. Upgrade: some plugins cost a one-off fee.
  • SEO: We’d give this a 4/5 – there is nothing that you can’t do on a WordPress site to improve your SEO.
  • Support: It’s not as user friendly as the Wix sites, but there are a lot of how-to guides online to follow.  

It’s tricky to set up and there are glitches in the set up which, without coding, you’ll struggle to fix. Sites are built using third party add-ons, which means you don’t have full control, it gets bloated and you’re reliant on others for updates and security. 

Summary

If you aren’t tech-savvy I wouldn’t recommend tackling a WordPress website. If you have a bit of know-how in this area then this is the one for you - it offers more flexibility than other platforms.

Best suited to: businesses who can hire/have a marketer who can code with a lot of time available to build and maintain a site and happy to rely on third party add ons. 

Squarespace

The newer kid on the block and pretty heavy with their marketing budget, most people will have heard of Squarespace. But have they spent their money wisely?

  • Editor: It’s not immediately easy to use, you should definitely watch the intro to the editor for tips. This isn’t as intuitive as Wix.
  • Design: There are templates and you can edit a lot of the features. 
  • Hosting and SSL: buy a plan to go live, all plans include hosting & SSL. 
  • Bandwidth: Unlimited and included in every plan.
  • Domain Name: Free with their plans, but only for one year. After that they’ve got you over a barrel a bit, haven’t they?
  • Business Email: Included in higher price plans for one year only, after that you’re once again beholden to their undisclosed ‘renewal rate’.
  • Ads: As all sites are paid there are no disruptive ads, there is a link in your footer – but you can remove it.
  • E-commerce: Must subscribe to a high cost business plan to sell online.
  • SEO: We’d give this a 2/5 – not the best and not the worst, as long as you’re paying the subscription. 
  • Support: Strong support and customer service from these chaps 24/7 by all accounts.  

Summary

This one's between Wix and Wordpress - middle on the capabilities and middle on the user friendly. 

Best Suited to: businesses without an expert, don't need technical capabilities but are likely to take off within the first year as after that costs start mounting.

Joomla

Another older system, this one is a popular choice for small and medium business with a little in-house experience of a CMS, no actual coding required. Unfortunately, there’s no clear online pricing structure like the other platforms. 

  • Editor: It’s not as polished as other systems, but offers more flexibility
  • Design: There are templates and you can edit most of the features, but they aren’t as beautiful as the other platforms.
  • Hosting and SSL: Included in your Joomla plan.
  • Bandwidth: Included in your Joomla plan.
  • Domain Name: Included in your Joomla plan.
  • Business Email: Doesn’t seem to be covered in this CMS, you need to set up separately.
  • Ads: As all sites are paid there are no disruptive ads.
  • E-commerce: Much like WordPress, there are extensions (like plugins) which you can add.
  • SEO: Another 3/5 – this is almost entirely editable.
  • Support: There’s a lot of tutorials, not much in terms of people to speak to. 

Summary

This system is like WordPress, more likely to be used by a developer or an agency. This one is between Squarespace and Wordpress on the tech know-how scale.

Best suited to: businesses which don't have enough time for fiddly WordPress, want some more functionality than the basic platforms but don't need full control, happy to rely on third party security. 

Which CMS should you use?

It's an important decision, one which is hard to change at a later date, so make sure you've thought it through.

 

If you want to go with the most popular website builder, WordPress is used on 35.7% of websites across the internet, by far the most popular CMS available. This is, however, due to the huge amount of freelance website designers and web development companies that build sites within WordPress. 

There’s plenty of other systems than those we’ve covered, but these are the most commonly used (at the moment) systems and give you an idea of what you might be letting yourself in for when you set up your own website. 

If this all sounds like far too much hassle, we also design websites. There’s a design & setup fee, where we create your site in our CMS (it’s called Envelope and it’s better than all of the above - if we do say so ourselves!) but we’ll take care of all your hosting, SSL, email, domain and e-commerce setup as well as designing an amazing, modern and completely unique website for you. 

For comparison, our most popular plan includes:

  • Editor: Easy to use, full editing ability you can use if you choose, and we can do this for you (included in setup fee) 
  • Design: We’ll do this for you (included in setup fee) 
  • Hosting & SSL: We’ll do this for you (included in setup fee) 
  • Bandwidth: We’ll do this for you (included in setup fee) 
  • Domain Name: We’ll do this for you (included in setup fee) 
  • Business Email: We’ll do this for you (included in setup fee) 
  • Ads: We’ll add ‘designed by Sonder Digital’ in small text at the very bottom of your website. 
  • E-commerce: We’ll do this for you (included in setup fee) 
  • SEO: This is a 5/5 on our CMS, there’s nothing you can’t do. If you don't want to do it in house then we have SEO packages, but these are not included in any website build cost (from us or anyone else).
  • Support: We are here for you, whatever the problem we can help, we can roll back any mistakes you’ve made on the site and we constantly roll out upgrades to all our sites as the requirements to be a good website change over time.  

Key Takeaways

Just because it says it’s free, doesn’t mean you’ll get everything you need for free – if it sounds too good to be true it usually is.

It’s more important than you think to make the right choice, once you’re set up with one company it’s a lot of hassle and effort to move your website to another, redesign it and get all your payments, socials and emails set up in a new system.

Upgrades and plans are an easy way to fall down an expensive rabbit hole. You need to identify what you want the website to do BEFORE you pick your platform, to avoid getting too deep before the costs start piling up.

Remember, if you don't want the stress of setting up domains, connecting a DNS, buying hosting or writing endless meta then we offer a hands-off service. You get a professional website that's always up to date with the latest tech, without having to lift a finger. We can take care of everything, just get in touch. 

Posted by Becky Cockman on April 21st 2020

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