Ten years ago, you needed to know coding languages, Photoshop skills, and how to upload files to a server to build a website. Today, it’s much user-friendly and easier to build a fully functional, elegant website. I’m asked on a daily basis which web platform is best for a business website. Weebly, Squarespace, and WordPress are some of the best website platforms available . We’ll review each platform based on a few key components: Themes & Layouts, Features, Ease of Use, Cost, Support, and Security.
Let’s start with Weebly. It’s one of the simpler website platforms to use and is aimed at the DIY business owner. It’s perfect for the business on a budget and needs a simple 5-7 page website. Think of it like moving into a brand new apartment: it’s adaptable (you can customize some parts), you don’t have to manage all the details yourself (for example, don’t have to pay for web hosting), and it’s easy to move if you need to (Weebly lets you export your website info.)
Themes & Layouts
Weebly offers lots of free templates if you subscribe to their plans. They are offered on their website and are organized by online store/business/portfolio and more. Since March 2015, all of Weebly templates are mobile-responsive.
Weebly has an App Center that offers both free and paid tools that go beyond what the basic Weebly platform offers. Here you’ll find social media buttons, galleries, forms and much more.
If you buy the Weebly Pro of Business Plan packages, you can upgrade your site to include membership clubs. These clubs allow you to share private information with selected members, create courses for students, and just control content from the public.
Weebly also has an online store option with their Business Plan. It allows you to process credit cards with Stripe, Square, PayPal, and Authorize.net. It’s a good deal at $25/mo for unlimited number of products, no transactions fees. Plus, you can host the shopping cart on your own domain. What that means is instead of going to paypal.com or another website, the customer will stay on your Weebly site and not be bumped around.
Ease of Use
You will have limited access to change a template’s customization options. On Weebly, you get to see your website come together as you add, edit, and change each section in real time on their site builder. Additionally, Weebly also allows you export your website, if you decide to move to a different platform (so you aren’t stuck with Weebly forever).
Weebly offers email (24/7), phone, and chat support. Phone support is only offered to the Pro and Business Plans.
Weebly manages all the security upgrades for all website. They make sure your website is always up and running, and protected from hackers.
Weebly offer 5 options for their plans. I don’t recommend the free plan, since it includes ads on every page of your website. If you decide to go with Weebly, your best investment would be to use their Pro plan. This way, you can have your own domain, no ads, a small store, and much more.
Squarespace is a more sophisticated, pre-packaged website platform that manages everything in sleek, modern aesthetics. It’s perfect for artists or professionals in the music or food industry since Squarespace has specific templates for those industries . For those who don’t mind a learning curve and a higher price bracket, Squarespace offers more control and flexibility than many competitors.
Think of Squarespace like renting a stylish condo in a fancy part of town. If you pay a certain amount, you have the ability to customize and choose layout/formatting, but have to work with the landlord and get approval and hire a contractor for large changes. Similarly, Squarespace websites can be customized up to a point and then you need to hire a web designer to modify code. Squarespace acts like the HOA (Homeowner Association). They set the rules about what tools can interact with the website, to help protect the property (website) from problems and theft (updates and security/hacks).
Themes & Layouts
The platform comes with many category-specific designs, offering templates in categories like Business, Musicians, Restaurants, and Commerce. All templates are designed with mobile devices in mind.
When you drag and drop pictures, text, slideshows, etc directly into the website builder, you immediately get a glimpse of how the website will look like “live” as you are building the website.
Squarespace features include an eCommerce platform that uses Stripe for credit card processing. Squarespace also hosts form builders, galleries, blogs, multiple contributors content, and more.
Squarespace allows apps on your phone to create and edit posts, take notes, and monitor website performance.
Squarespace also partners with companies like MailChimp to provide email newsletters integration directly into their software.
Ease of Use
You can switch your Squarespace template at any time, so you’re never tied down to one.
If you or your developer want to make custom changes to your website, you can get “under the hood” and apply custom code using the Developer Platform. This customization level is available only with Professional and Business plans.
Like Weebly, Squarespace lets you export your website and blog and move them to a different website platform.
There’s 24/7 email support and Live Chat support, available weekdays during the day. Squarespace also boasts an impressive knowledge base and a community-driven Q&A section.
All Squarespace plans are on managed cloud hosting. Squarespace runs in a “closed” environment so they control all aspects of the platform and manage all the updates and maintenance work for you.
Squarespace plans start at Personal/Business plan ($16-$26/mo) for simpler websites. If you want to host an online store, the Commerce package for Basic or Advanced plans run between $30-$46/mo for businesses that want the full-featured online shop. All annual plans include a one year of free domain registration, along with security and updates.
A WordPress website is perfect for an established business and/or specific actions you’d like your clients to take on your site (newsletter signups, e-commerce, membership, etc). Unlike other platforms, the WordPress publishing tool provides full control over your website and web hosting. With the ability to build a complete custom website, WordPress is best for business owners who are willing to invest in a web designer to set up their website for success. Solo entrepreneurs, holistic professionals, wellness practitioners, and other small to mid-size businesses are perfect for WordPress.
Also to note, WordPress is an open source platform, meaning that developers worldwide can freely contribute and update the code of the software on a regular basis. This is a completely different model than Squarespace and Weebly, who have a closed approach to how they update and maintain their software.
You can liken building a WordPress site to building a custom home. You can sketch the architecture yourself, but it’s highly recommended to hire someone (a web designer) to help with all of the details. From framing and dry walls to painting, fixtures, wiring, and plumbing, your new WordPress site needs expert attention to secure proper hosting, plugins, security, page structure, and functionality.
Themes & Layouts
There are thousands of free and premium themes for WordPress on the web. The biggest and the most official place to get a WP theme is the official library. If you decide to try a free theme from any other place, be sure to screen it for malware, an update history, and previous user ratings.
Some WP themes do offer some live-editing features like Weebly and Squarespace. However, you’ll still have to do a lot of manual HTML and CSS editing.
WordPress is easily the most adaptable platform. Whether you need to build a online store, a gallery, or a blog, WordPress can get the job done. Thanks to the extensibility of the platform, you can create almost any website imaginable.
When working with WordPress, you should be prepared to manage Plugins. Basically any new feature requires a plugin, be it a SEO feature, a social media plugin or a membership system. They are easy to install and configure, but over time your website can accumulate too many plugins. The plugins can overlap, and may make your website load slower. Some plugins can cancel the performance of other plugins as well. I recommend consulting with a developer to select your Plugins list, and ensure their compatibility and security.
Ease of Use
Compared to Squarespace or Weebly, WordPress has a bit more of a learning curve. Building a WordPress website from scratch can be daunting and overwhelming, especially if you don’t have an understanding of basic coding languages like HTML/CSS. We recommend finding a WordPress web designer who can make sure WordPress and its themes, plugins, etc are properly set up properly to ensure ease of regular updates.
There are thousands of video tutorials, forums and other resources offering detailed guidelines on creating and maintaining WordPress-powered websites. WordPress does not offer phone or email support. We highly recommend finding a professional web designer with experience in WordPress to be a resource to help train you on site use and maintenance.
It’s crucial that you keep your WordPress website up to date and create regular backups of your website. Since WordPress is an open source platform, it’s vulnerable to phishing and malware attackers. These attacks are usually sent through themes and plugins that aren’t updated regularly. There are security and backup plugins that can help keep problems at bay, we sure to consult with your web developer on a plan to keep everything updated.
With it’s open source model, working off the WordPress platform is fundamentally free. However, you’ll still have to pay for hosting and your domain name. You may also incur extra expenses through paid templates, plugins, and other features. If you have no prior webmastering experience you may also want to hire a developer.
In conclusion, the right website platform boils down to your needs as a business owner. If you want a simple website you can maintain yourself and don’t mind that it’s not as customizable, Weebly is the best solution. Squarespace is great for business owners that want a stylish website without having to manage everything, but they can still have an online store and basic modifications. WordPress is perfect for business owners who want control over your website, are willing to hire a professional to help build and maintain it, and know specific actions they want their customers to perform on your website.