When chatting about web design recently, I’ve found myself fielding a lot of questions about content management systems (CMS) — specifically, if WordPress websites are worth the time and cost investment or whether websites made on an all-in-one builder like Squarespace, Wix or Weebly are really that bad.
For those with a small budget, even less experience or just trying to get their feed wet in the wild world of web development, these programs can be awfully attractive beginner options. I’ll be honest, however: every time someone tells me that they’re using (or planning on using) one of these programs to build their business website, I always shudder. Setup is simple and cheap on these “cheater” sites, but they significantly limit the ability to execute effective marketing campaigns, keep up with technological trends or build a foundation for future growth. For those truly serious about creating a substantial brand and effective ongoing marketing campaigns, WordPress is the only content management system worth a lick of salt. (Or, a press of your mouse.)
Despite a slightly steeper learning curve and more frequent Webmaster attention, the long-term benefits of WordPress far outweigh any other CMS. (I’m such a big fan that I’ll even put my company’s product where my mouth is — every one of District Maven’s website design projects are responsive pages created in WordPress!)
Why do I so strongly prefer WordPress? I’ll give you ten reasons.
1. NO, IT IS NOT JUST FOR BLOGS.
Although WordPress originally started as a personal publishing platform in 2001, it has been an established, complete content management system for nearly a decade. Its evolution provided the flexibility to create nearly any type of website imaginable, from an e-commerce site to a flat business page or membership-based site. This versatility is one of the greatest things about WordPress and speaks to the heart of its popularity.
2. WORDPRESS IS OPEN SOURCE & THE REST ARE NOT.
WordPress has a superior level accessibility. As an open source software, it is completely free to download and comes with unlimited validity. Aside from the price of hosting, it costs absolutely nothing to use, edit and redistribute this content management system. In plain English: WordPress has the ability to grow alongside search and technology trends, offering a platform that will evolve with your marketing campaigns. By contrast, website builders like Squarespace or Wix confine the user to the capabilities as defined by that platform. As they are not open source, design and development features are limited to only those the CMS supports forcing Webmasters to wait for updates before implementing new functionality.
3. GREAT DESIGN FLEXIBILITY & IS SUPER EASY TO USE.
When sites like Squarespace or Weebly first came out, the easy to use platform with drag-and-drop front-end building capabilities was all the rage. Compared to lines and lines of HTML code, this is understandable. This functionality also opened up the world of web design to virtually anyone, regardless of experience or skill set.
It didn’t take long for WP to catch up, however. The already simple to use platform got even easier thanks to the several similar, fantastic drag-and-drop builders that now completely integrate within a WordPress platform. (I’ve often found that programs like Visual Composer or Themeify come with with far more dynamic and diverse functionality options.) It also provides greater design flexibility to transcend layouts and themes across pages on the same site, whereas Wix or Squarespace force Webmasters to maintain the same theme throughout. Why limit your options?
4. WIX & WEEBLY WILL MAKE A MESS OF YOUR DOMAIN & SERVER HOSTING.
I admit: setting up a website on Weebly and Wix is painfully simple and can be done in a matter of minutes. While the cost may vary slightly (depending on URL or theme preferences), it is also really cheap and these platforms seemingly take all of the hassle out of the process. So why not use one of these content management systems, especially when first starting out? The answer lies in where websites live in the Internet of things — a two part equation.
All websites must have their domain name and files hosted on a server somewhere. Although it is possible to set up a site with the domain and files “living” in different locations, it is always best to host these two things in the same place. Using a provider like BlueHost or GoDaddy for both domain and file hosting will allow servers to propagate quicker and communicate seamlessly when necessary. (And they are just as easy to set up as Squarespace or Wix.)
The aforementioned platforms may set up a webpage in a flash, but they will farm your server hosting to a third-party site no matter where you host your domain. (Unmapped domains are typically hosted internally while they will require mapped domains to be hosted via a third-party provider.) This sneaky white-labeling tactic makes websites convenient to set up but annoying AF to maintain or move in the future. Whether one is attempting to revive a down website or launch a new one, it will take much longer for servers to communicate when they’re in separate places.
5. SAY IT WITH ME: ACCESS TO OVER 48,000 PLUGINS
The bare-bones WordPress platform offers a lot of bells and whistles, but any webpage can be easily jazzed up through plugins. The CMS behemoth boasts over 48,000 of them, many of which are free to use, easy to install and fun to maintain. Business software applications like Salesforce or Constant Contact also integrate with WordPress websites like a charm, providing the ultimate in business continuity.
Squarespace, Wix and Weebly also offer some plugins but because they are not open source platforms, the integration capabilities Webmasters have here is limited to how advanced that specific CMS is. (And their repository is nowhere near 50,000 options!)
6. UPDATE THE SITE ON YOUR TIME, NOT THEIRS.
Content management systems, themes and plugins are all constantly evolving and regularly require updating to keep all of a website’s functionality performing correctly. WordPress will notify users of available updates and allow a user to update themes and plugins independently of content management system updates. Being open source, these events are not mutually exclusive. This allows the Webmaster greater flexibility in choosing the elements they want to reconfigure when. (A word to the wise: download a backup plugin like Updraft Plus that allows one to save the latest version of their website and quickly restore it should an update go wrong — and sometimes, it does.)
Although Squarespace and Wix automatically perform updates for the Webmaster, it is done on their own good time — not necessarily when it’s needed most.
7. CONSIDER WORDPRESS & SEO BEST FRIENDS.
All websites are ranked by Google and the other search engines based on a set of predetermined variables of how they determine a website is trustworthy and legitimate. Ideally, the more attributes a site hits, the higher it will rank in the search engine results pages. WordPress makes on-page SEO a breeze because they automatically handle several of these parameters automatically. (Examples include: site loading speed, XML sitemap submission, easy social media integration, high coding standards and mobile responsiveness.) Those looking to enhance and fine-tune campaigns will be pleased to know that there is a wide array of SEO plugins that will easily integrate with a WP site.
8. WP BOASTS AN ACTIVE SUPPORT COMMUNITY.
Getting a beautiful site built (even as a beginner) is much easier thanks to the massive international community of WordPress users and developers. Its support forum is superbly maintained, offering millions of questions and answers to assist Webmasters in troubleshooting problems. Those looking to ask a question will appreciate WP’s insanely fast response time, as well as the ability to search previously answered inquires for a faster solution.
And usually, an answer can also be found by simply performing a Google search. In addition to the internal WordPress support forum, there are many over websites dedicated to WordPress development where aspiring web designers can receive additional troubleshooting support.
9. IT’S SECURE ENOUGH FOR MOST SITES.
For most websites, WordPress offers plenty of effective measures of data security to protect your information. Internally, they employ an engineering team of over 25 experts whose sole job is to protect the WordPress core from DDoS attacks, injections or viruses.
Webmasters looking for extra layers of protection should download plugins like Wordfence Security or WP Security & Firewall. It’s also wise to only download recently updated plugins that have a high user rating and were updated recently by trusted, reputable sources.
10. JUST WHEN YOU THINK WP CAN’T GET ANY BETTER, IT DOES.
ManageWP.com reports that 26% of the world’s websites are managed in WordPress and that 1 million business owners rely on it as their primary content management system. To effectively support and satisfy such a robust user base, their system and interface is constantly being improved upon. WordPress makes updates often and with every evolution they dramatically improves its platform’s overall functionality and performance. With an estimated 50 million new WordPress sites created around the globe every day, it’s highly unlikely that they’ll slow down anytime soon, either.