So first things first: what is a website platform?
It’s a framework to build your website on. You might think of it as Windows v. IOS. Using a website platform gives you a basic structure and a number of elements that can be customized. It’s a shortcut to building a website from code.
You’ll find that many web developers and designers have their preferred platforms, but when you make a choice of what’s right for you, it should really take into account your budget, needs and abilities.
Let’s look at some of the pros and cons of each website platform and why you might choose one over the other.
Open Source Website Platforms
At this point one in four websites around the world are built on WordPress.
Why? Mainly because it is an extremely flexible website platform that lets you customize your site any way you’d like. WordPress is a considered an open-source platform, which means there are hundreds of people working it.
It is also supported by a huge network of developers that create a wide variety of plugins that help you add functionality or customization to your site. Think of this like the Apple App Store or Google Play and all of the apps they offer for your phone.
You may have also heard of Drupal and Joomla, which are two other open source platforms that function in a similar manner to WordPress. They have a smaller community of developers, and so WordPress has become the go-to platform for us at Social Light.
It’s worth noting that Social Light’s team includes designers and developers that are extremely comfortable getting into the code to manage a website. If that’s not your thing you could still choose a WordPress site, but keep in mind the following:
- You will need a hosting account to use WordPress.
- WordPress and its plugins are constantly getting updated with new features or bug fixes. You will need to do regular maintenance to keep your site running smoothly.
- There is no central authority that manages WordPress, and thus no handy customer service line to call for help.
So why the heck should you choose this platform?
- There are no limits to what you can do with WordPress. As an example, Social Light’s site has the following functionality:
- Ecommerce with subscription payments
- A member portal to manage and pay invoices
- An online calendar to book appointment
- E-sign capabilities for contracts
- Lead generation tools
- It’s easy to scale and grow
- Superior tools for SEO (search engine optimization)
- Endless options for design and customization
Template Websites – Wix, Weebly & Squarespace
Template sites are website platforms designed for the DIY crowd and don’t require any knowledge of code.
Of the template sites, we work with SquareSpace most often because they have beautiful designs that allow you to create a fairly sophisticated website. If you don’t have help from a designer, you can simply swap out the pictures and colors on the templates to make your site your own.
Some great things about template sites are:
- These platforms will all include your hosting as part of the monthly fee, so you don’t have to have a separate account.
- They manage the security and maintenance as part of their service, allowing you to be hands off.
- They have a 24-hour help desk ready to help you.
- They offer basic ecommerce to allow you to sell products, and even manage inventory.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? It can be. We find template sites to be a good option for new businesses, and those that need a purely informational site without a lot of bells and whistles.
The main reason we steer people away from template sites is if they have very specific ideas about how the website will support their business. For example, while these platforms do let you sell products, but they don’t allow for recurring payments or a member portal.
In full disclosure, we don’t do too much work with these kinds of platforms because we find they aren’t terribly easy to customize and have some limitations on the look and feel. We are more likely to build a WordPress website and use a Shopify plugin.
That said, if your primary goal is to find an easy way to sell your products and aren’t terribly concerned in having an extensive website, an ecommerce platform could be right for you.
You’ll have the ability to manage inventory, build customer lists, and create a mobile store.
If a lot of your business is done through trade shows or popup stores, this would be a great choice for you.
Hosting Website Builders
Many hosting providers offer a website builder of some sort that lets you create a website without any coding knowledge. Go Daddy is especially known for pushing this solution, as they position it as a way to have all your website accounts and tools in one place.
Sounds like a great idea, but we don’t recommend these platforms. For anyone.
We’ve found that most of the time people choose a website builder because they don’t know about any other options. Unfortunately these platforms tend to be difficult to use and frustrating for the average person and coders alike.
It is rare to see a site built on one of these platforms that looks clean and professional.
Lot’s to consider! If you read all this and still need a second opinion, we’d be happy to help. Get in touch or consider our website starter package.