Website Builders Compared: Small Business Edition

by Kaye Marie Lott  |  24 July 2019
We’ve established that websites have become essential for small businesses to grow their customer base. In fact, according to Small Business Web, “8 out of 10 customers are likely to engage with your business if it has a website.” Now that you know you need one, how do you get started? When it comes to building your website, you need to keep your goals in mind. Which website builder will best accomplish these goals? In this website builder comparison, you’ll discover the advantages and disadvantages of some of the top website builders for small businesses.

Custom-Built Pros and Cons

With a custom-built website, you can have a completely unique design that isn’t restricted by a theme or template’s limitations. However, it requires knowledge of coding languages, such as HTML and CSS. If you don’t know these languages, you’d need to hire a professional, which can cost more for the amount of work and time that goes into building a site from scratch. Furthermore, the process takes longer, and any future maintenance or updates your site may need can take more time as well.

Joomla Pros and Cons

Joomla offers the best of both worlds: it has a learnable interface for non-programmers but also more customizable capabilities using framework languages, including Javascript, PHP, HTML, CSS, and SQL. One of its most important features is its built-in multilingual content management system (CMS). Additionally, as an open-source platform, Joomla has a publicly accessible design that can be shared and modified.

Yet, even though you can learn how to use the platform, the learning curve remains a large barrier to its use. Add-ons and extensions that make your website more engaging aren’t a huge priority on this platform—with limited options that aren't guaranteed to be maintained by developers.

Shopify Pros and Cons

Shopify is specifically optimized for e-commerce websites. It seamlessly integrates with Facebook, Amazon, and eBay for cross-platform selling. Shopify’s user-friendly dashboard allows you to easily handle all aspects of an order (payment, shipping, and more). Moreover, you don’t have to know how to code!

However, chargebacks can be a problem with this platform; they may charge you an admin fee, which they will only refund if you win the chargeback. Lastly, hosting costs start at $29/mo.

Consider...

Do you have the resources to put into a custom website? How much flexibility do you need in making changes?
Does your business serve a diverse audience and customer base? Is a multilingual website important for your business?
Do you primarily sell goods? Do you want to sell them online?

Squarespace Pros and Cons

Squarespace is a drag-and-drop–style website builder and hosting platform. Although they advertise its ease of use as the most important reason to choose it, the real pro is their 24/7 customer support, as the backend does have a learning curve. They provide excellent support via live chat as well as an in-depth onboarding process for new users. All features come fully integrated, so app or extension compatibility is guaranteed; on the other hand, it lacks support for third-party extensions.

This kind of service costs more since hosting, themes, and extensions are proprietary and included as part of the service. For a business website, Squarespace charges $18/mo, billed annually, so it comes with a higher upfront cost. If you choose to pay on a month-to-month basis, they charge more. Furthermore, it comes with several limitations: plans only allow for a single website; lower tier plans limit the number of pages and products you can have; and they have a limited number of themes to choose from.

Wix Pros and Cons

Wix, similarly to Squarespace, uses a drag-and-drop interface. One feature that makes Wix so attractive is that it offers free web hosting; you only have to pay for your domain. If you upgrade, premium plans include an SSL Certificate.

As you might expect, Wix limits free plans to 500MB of storage and bandwidth. If you need more, you must upgrade to a premium plan, which provides up to 20GB. Moreover, free plans generate Wix ads on your site, so it won’t have the professional look of a modern business’s website. Unfortunately, you also cannot change your site's template after you launch the site. Instead, you’d have to create a new website.

WordPress Pros and Cons

First and foremost, we must make this important distinction: WordPress.com is different than WordPress.org! This post exclusively discusses WordPress.org.

The platform itself costs nothing because you host the website yourself through a different provider, and your domain name is the only other necessary cost. Since you host it, you have full control and own all of the media and data associated with it. Moreover, people often underestimate the customizability of this builder. In fact, you can build custom themes from the ground up with framework languages if you want to. Like Joomla, WordPress is open source, allowing people to modify it. You may not even realize that well-known brands use WordPress too! Nevertheless, you don’t have to know how to code to use it since developers make thousands of themes and accessible plugins (both paid and free). You can even use third-party add-ons. 

On the other hand, since it has a variety of functionalities, WordPress has a higher learning curve than a drag-and-drop builder like Wix. The dashboard is not as easily navigable. Nevertheless, WPBeginner provides tutorials for new users which helps counter this issue. The major thing that sets WordPress apart, full control, means you have to maintain security and updates on your own. It would be your responsibility to make backups of your content and settings in case of loss.

Consider...

Are you looking for an all-in-one package? Is the upfront cost worth the resources provided?
Are you a small startup or freelance business with more limited resources?
Do you want more control over your site's design? Do you want more options to choose from?
Ultimately, your company’s goals dictate what you need out of your website builder. Weigh the features, the costs, and the user-friendliness of each option in order to develop your online presence and grow your business. You may even consider hiring a web design professional to help build your sleek new website, so you can focus on running the business.

Ready to bring your business into the digital era? Contact us today to learn how we can help you!