How To Choose The Right CMS For Your Website

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Should you use SquareSpace, Wix, or WordPress?

There are a lot of feature-rich and affordable website solutions these days that allow you to build beautiful websites for your business without knowing how to write a single line of code. But, it can be challenging to decide which platform to choose — SquareSpace? Wix? WordPress? Weebly? GoDaddy?

Which website platform is best for you depends on how you plan on using it. If you’re a local business and don’t do online transactions or marketing, then a simple hosted solution like Wix or SquareSpace is perfect. But if you depend on SEO traffic and content marketing to attract clients and/or make online sales, WordPress is the way to go.

Let’s unpack that…

Hosted Solutions vs Self-Hosted Solutions

First, let’s talk about the difference between a hosted solution and a self-hosted solution.

Website content management systems — or “CMS” platforms — is really just another way to describe a piece of software that’s installed on a web server which allows you to design your website and store all its content in a database.

Hosted Website Solution Definition

With a hosted solution — Wix, Weebly, SquareSpace, et al — you’re essentially renting the use of their CMS as well as the actual hosting of your website’s design files and content.

Self-Hosted WordPress Website Definition

With a self-hosted WordPress website, you aren’t renting the CMS because it’s not proprietary — it’s open source, meaning, it’s free for anyone to use. You can install it on any web server you want — even on your home computer if you want to build your website offline. You have full control.

Technically, you could also set up a web server and be in full control of that aspect too if you want, but most people rent website hosting. The difference is that renting server space is very different because there’s nothing proprietary about web hosting — you can easily migrate your website from one web hosting service to another.

Pros and Cons of Hosted Solutions

PROS

Easier Maintenance

Because the CMS is proprietary, hosted solution companies take responsibility for backups, updating the software, and making sure everything is safe and secure without you having to worry about it. You can literally “set it and forget it” once your website is live.

Say you’re a local bakery and you rely mostly on foot traffic to sell your cakes and croissants. You know you need a website because people often search for your hours of operations, directions, and contact information — but you don’t expect heavy traffic to your website.

You don’t have time to be checking in on your website all the time because you have bread to bake and customers to ring up.

Businesses that operate their day-to-day business in a physical, brick-and-mortar business and are not doing any sort of online transactions will generally benefit from the easier maintenance that comes with a hosted solution.

In that scenario, one-thousand percent you should check into SquareSpace or Wix.

Easier Set Up

Expect a bit of learning curve when using a hosted solution, but they do try and make it very easy for you to get your website up and running very quickly.

They typically come with pre-made templates you can use as a starting point and make the set-up process intuitive.

Because I’ve been designing websites for a very long time, I personally find these tools frustrating because I’m used to writing code to get web pages to do what I want them to do — they are much more limited in terms of customisability. On the other hand, whenever something is limited, it becomes easier for non-techy people to use.

You’ll lose a bit of flexibility, but that’s a fair trade-off for not having to deal with code if that’s not your cup of tea. If you want something super custom or pixel perfect, this is definitely not for you.

Cons

You’re limited to the features it comes shipped with

While services like SquareSpace and Wix have many standard features and functionality built in (such as blogging capabilities), they’re not as robust as open source platforms where vast communities of users and developers are continuously contributing to and expanding what it can do — it’s pretty impossible for a proprietary platform to keep pace.

Eventually, you’ll be limited by what the CMS can do. Many of the tools online businesses use to expand the functionality of their websites — for example, third-party plugins for WordPress that do some cool thing you want to try — are not going to be compatible.

I once tried my hand at building SquareSpace websites for clients because I know that in certain circumstances it’s better for them than WordPress, but I found myself saying, “Sorry, you can’t do that with SquareSpace” a bit more than I was comfortable with.

That’s just not a conversation I have with WordPress websites — there are very few, rare circumstances that you can’t customise it to be exactly the way you want it to be.

You’re building your business on rented land

This is probably the biggest “con” when it comes to hosted solutions — while you own the intellectual property of your website, it’s not like you can easily move it elsewhere if you want to.

What if there’s a change in the quality of their service? What happens if they go out of business? What if you want to do something and the tool isn’t capable of it? You’re kind of stuck unless you are keen to do a redesign on another platform.

Just something to think about.

Pros and Cons of Self-Hosted WordPress Websites

Let’s start with the cons because I’ve already started talking this up and I’m clearly a bit biased…

Cons

More Maintenance

There’s a little more maintenance that goes into having a WordPress website. If you’re hosting it on a reputable website host like SiteGround, they will have security and backup features in place, but you’ll want to create redundancy there because ultimately, they’re not responsible if something should happen.

That means you’ll want to do things like…

  • Use malware and scanning security monitoring software
  • Create your own backup system and restore plan
  • Keep your software updated

It’s no different from keeping your software and files secure on your home computer — you’re just doing it remotely on a web server.

The good news is, WordPress makes this super easy and there are many free tools available. It’s a simple matter of installing plugins for security and backups — which only takes a few minutes to set up and then you’re done.

(Check out this post to see how easy it is to install a free backup utility.)

Then, checking in from time to time to update things – which WordPress also makes easy with “one click updates.” You just have to remember to do it, and if you can do that, you’re good to go.

Learning Curve

Now, I have to mention this here because some people perceive WordPress to be more difficult than hosted solutions. I personally haven’t found that to be the case at all, but let’s address it.

Yes, there’ll be a learning curve and yes, it can be frustrating. But you won’t avoid that entirely with hosted solutions either… and in fact, you’ll find there are fewer resources out there to help than WordPress.

Its active and gigantic community means the answer to any trouble you experience is a Google, YouTube, or Facebook Community query away.

Visual layout builders like Divi or Elementor make the actual design process very easy even for those who have zero experience working with web code — they’re drag and drop visual editors that even come with pre-designed packages to start from.

If you invest in a good, professional theme (which controls your site design) – such as Divi or Thrive Themes — you’ll also have the support of their development company and you’ll find an active community of users.

Pros

The advantages to WordPress are many and I’ve gone over a few of them already…

  • You are free to move your website anywhere you want
  • It’s (nearly) infinitely customizable
  • Large development and user community
  • The largest options when it comes to third-party extensions, add-ons, and integrations

But that’s not all…

SEO

One of the primary benefits of WordPress is that it’s designed to be search optimised out of the box. If you were to just install WordPress and use the default theme (design) it comes with and do nothing else, your site will be structured in a way that Google will love.

Then, there are really powerful plugins that easily integrate with it to help you optimise your content further — such as Yoast SEO, All in One SEO, and my personal favourite, RankMath.

Design Customisation

This is where WordPress really shines. There’s no limit to what you can do to the design and there are countless beautifully-designed themes available that you can use as a starting point.

Divi, for example, comes complete with 800 professionally-designed templates and 100 template “packs” in all.. the packs make the price of the theme worth it on its own because they include templates for all your common pages. Just press a button to install and voila.

I recommend staying away from free themes unless they’re the ones that come installed with WordPress or they’re made by a reputable and dependable development company. You’ll want to make sure whoever made that theme is going to provide you with updates as things evolve.

Divi, Thrive Themes, and StudioPress child themes for the Genesis Framework are all great options. You can also buy a visual editor like Elementor that can be used with any theme — even free themes.

The Astra theme and Elementor make a great combo and you can try the free versions of both.

Conclusion

The website platform you choose depends largely on how you plan on using it. For heavy-duty online marketing and SEO capabilities, you can’t beat self-hosted WordPress.

If you’re looking for a low-maintenance “set it and forget it” website, check out a hosted solution like Wix or SquareSpace.

I hope that was helpful! Let me know if you have any questions in comments.

More Resources To Help You Get Started With WordPress

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