If you're looking to build or design a website, there's certainly no shortage of options for where to begin. Quite a few website building tools can accommodate your unique needs, priorities, and skills—or lack thereof. This selection may seem helpful at first glance, but choosing the right tool or system can be surprisingly difficult.
In today's diverse website-building landscape, three main options stand apart as the best of the best: Wix, Squarespace, and WordPress. All three provide a myriad of benefits—and all three can quickly cause problems when used in the wrong context.
Wix vs. Squarespace vs. WordPress
The primary differences between these top platforms lie in their basic structure, which can be categorized as an open-source content management system for WordPress and website builder for Wix and Squarespace. Beyond this, however, several subtle differences may influence your ultimate decision. Although these variations may seem small, they could have huge implications for your web content strategy.
Not sure which approach is best for your project? Here's a broad look at their differences.
Wix is a website builder with a dedicated drag-and-drop structure that users must follow to produce website layouts and content, although some flexibility is offered in terms of template selection. Under this intuitive approach, it is possible to create fully-fledged web pages without knowing or actively using code.
Wix enjoys a strong reputation as one of the most beginner-friendly website builders available. Its drag-and-drop functionality allows for the immediate modification of website layouts and other elements. Users can avoid the steep learning curve associated with open-source options such as WordPress.
Much of Wix's appeal among novices lies in its status as a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) platform. As users drag and drop images, slideshows, text, and other elements, they can immediately see what they'll look like on the final page.
Wix offers hundreds of excellent template options. Some users prefer Squarespace for its trendier and more refined designs, but Wix gains ground with sheer variety. Unfortunately, the platform poses significant limitations regarding custom HTML and CSS. Still, many of its templates are attractive, as evidenced in a popular Karlie Kloss ad.
Helpful SEO Tools
While Wix's SEO offerings fall short of the numerous opportunities available via WordPress, it provides plenty of features for optimizing to maximize website traffic.
The Wix SEO Wiz delivers personalized plans based on submitted business information and keywords. From there, this tool produces a detailed checklist highlighting which steps are necessary for improving SEO—and why.
Even the most user-friendly platforms cause their fair share of headaches, particularly for web building novices. A robust help center, however, can bridge knowledge gaps while providing detailed guidance. Wix delivers customer support solutions that assist users with a variety of common concerns.
The platform offers a callback service in multiple languages, with categorized issues sent to specialized customer care representatives. Assistance is also available via Wix's help center. While these resources are not as extensive as those offered through Squarespace, they should be sufficient to address the most common concerns.
Keep in mind that support quality often varies based on customer classification. Wix's VIP users, for example, receive priority phone support. Others are forced to wait under a ticketed system.
Squarespace shares many common characteristics with Wix. Both services are considered web-building platforms, standing in stark contrast to the more broad, open-source nature of WordPress. For this reason, many prospective users group Squarespace and Wix together when narrowing down their selection. Both are similarly beginner-friendly—and both provide limited opportunities for customization among web design enthusiasts.
Despite the commonalities between Squarespace and Wix, numerous differences exist regarding template design, customer support, and SEO. These features should be examined in detail before making a final selection.
A Middle Ground
Squarespace is not nearly as customizable as WordPress, but it’s not as easy to master as Wix—hence, it holds the status of the middle-ground option. Mastery is well within reach for those who struggle with programming languages or other WordPress essentials, but a slight learning curve is likely as compared to Wix.
Like Wix, Squarespace utilizes easy-to-master drag-and-drop protocol. However, the platform's section-based approach limits the scope of this feature. That being said, perceptions of this limitation vary, with some users claiming they actually prefer the structured Squarespace approach. Under this system, web builders are less likely to accidentally produce overlapping elements.
Beautiful, Mobile-Friendly Templates
Fans of Squarespace sometimes refer to it as a stylish alternative to Wix. The platform may lack template variety, but the designs are impressive enough that many users aren't particularly bothered by the limited selection. Squarespace has highlighted its visually impressive templates in campaigns involving Winona Ryder and Jeff Bridges, both of whom use the platform for their respective sites.
Mobile functionality is also a strong suit with Squarespace, as its templates use responsive design to scale content based on the size of the screen. Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) can also be enabled to deliver a simplified, yet attractive design that appeals to mobile users.
Basic SEO Functionality
Those interested in attracting website traffic but who are not able to invest significant effort into a fully-fleshed SEO strategy tend to prefer Squarespace. While this platform offers some SEO functionality, its options are limited compared to WordPress. Thankfully, the platform's templates are designed to promote desirable search engine indexing. Ultimately, however, Wix's step-by-step approach delivers an easier and more customized take on SEO that will appeal most to beginners.
Squarespace provides extensive DIY assistance, including a vast collection of helpful videos. Users can also turn to live webinars, which, although not as helpful for complicated matters, provide excellent coverage for basic concerns. Additionally, Squarespace offers customer support via 24/7 email assistance, live chat, and even the dedicated Twitter handle @SquarespaceHelp.
WordPress is a self-hosted open-source content management system (CMS). Featuring plugin architecture and a template approach commonly referred to as themes, this popular website creation tool is written in a scripting language known as PHP.
WordPress grants users extensive control but also requires extra legwork, as necessities such as domain, hosting, and security must be managed and paid for separately. The very flexibility that makes this platform so appealing to some businesses makes it disastrous for those who lack the knowledge or capacity to handle intricate content creation procedures on their own.
For those willing to put in the extra work, WordPress offers the reward of endless customization. Users are not restricted to specific templates like those provided by Squarespace and Wix. Rather, they’re welcome to design their websites exactly as they see fit. This opportunity for customization makes WordPress the platform of choice for those with specific visions that cannot be achieved with Squarespace or Wix's limited approach.
Creatives adore WordPress, as evidenced by Jay Z’s devotion to the platform. He famously relies on WordPress to power his Life + Times magazine.
The WordPress Learning Curve
WordPress sites hold a greater potential for errors at all levels, but this is particularly true among those with limited site-building experience.
Effective WordPress design hinges on at least basic HTML or CSS knowledge. While the CMS offers an endless array of style and SEO choices, these can be difficult to implement for those unfamiliar with top web languages. Those eager to make the most of the platform's inherent flexibility may be forced to commission skilled developers.
Impressive SEO Functionality
In today's competitive digital environment, websites vying for traffic need as many advantages as they can get. While impressive SEO functionality is available with all three options, website builder or CMS selection can ultimately determine where pages place in search engine results.
WordPress features a well-rounded suite of SEO tools. Sorting options such as categories and tags make it easier for users to find the content they require. They also clarify website structure to boost search engine results. However, select WordPress features such as automatically-generated XML sitemaps must be added manually or via plugins.
No Customer Support
Customer support represents a notable area of weakness for WordPress, which fails to provide any semblance of assistance for dedicated users. Of course, many of these users do not actually require extensive support, as the CMS primarily attracts those with at least moderate coding ability.
Thankfully, a variety of outside options allow WordPress users to secure much-needed feedback, including public forums and even professionals dedicated to supporting WordPress users. Additionally, several resources offer maintenance plans, which remove much of the hassle from CMS management.
No one approach to website building will work in every situation. Chief considerations vary dramatically from one project to the next. Users with intermediate coding skills and a strong desire for flexibility may adore WordPress, which, meanwhile, could prove a disastrous approach for those with limited knowledge and a clear need for customer support.
Determine your needs and the nature of your website early on to ensure that you select the best possible approach for developing your online presence. This key decision could influence every aspect of your website's design, optimization, and efficacy as a marketing tool, so don’t make it lightly.
This article was written by Compose.ly writer Stephanie Lica.