Building your own small business website can save you cash, but with so many website builders for small business and CMS platforms to choose from, how to decide? Get the inside scoop from a professional web developer, to help you choose between four of the most popular platforms that will get your website up and running in no time.
Picking a website builder for small business.
Site builders vs. content management systems (CMS)
Squarespace, Wix Editor and Wix ADI are all hosting-integrated site builders. That means you pay a monthly or yearly fee for your site to live on their servers, in exchange for them doing all the technical work to keep it running. They also provide you with a simple visual interface, where you can see exactly how your site looks in real time as you edit, without knowing any code.
WordPress is a free, standalone content management system (CMS). That means there are no upfront OR ongoing fees for the software, but you do have to pay separately for a company to host your site. A CMS lets you quickly update the text and images of your website without looking at the source code. It also gives you a filing structure to organize your files, which is essential for very large and complex sites. And while technically you don’t have to know any code, it’s not 100% drag-and-drop. You also must remember to update the software yourself, regularly.
So, which is right for you? It depends. Do you want to “rent” or “own” your site? How big is it? Do you prioritize saving time or money? How much customization do you need? Let’s get into it.
Rent or own & why size matters
When you use a hosted site builder, you are paying an ongoing fee to essentially “rent” your site. If you stop paying, not only will your site go down, but you can’t save it to your computer. In fact, you can’t even pay to bring your site somewhere else. It can only live on that company’s servers, and if you want to take it elsewhere, you will have to re-build it. Also, without a robust CMS, site builders are best for small, simple sites.
If you use a standalone CMS for small business, you own your site. In fact, you can download a copy of it to your computer, and if you choose to switch to a different hosting service, you can bring it anywhere that supports the software. Further, a CMS provides you with the organizing structure to support large, complex sites. In fact, even the White House website runs on WordPress. So, if you think you’ll keep this site for decades, if you have a LOT of content and dozens of pages, and if you want full control of where your site is hosted, then WordPress might be for you.
Ease of use
The easiest and fastest site builder I’ve seen so far is Wix ADI. It utilizes artificial intelligence to create your site’s design, and speaking as a web designer, I’m actually impressed! You simply pop in your basic business information, answer a few questions, and add desired images and text. No dragging, no dropping, no tough design decisions. However, there are limitations. You can’t do much to customize the resulting design, unless you want to switch to Wix’s other tool, Wix Editor (and once you switch, you can’t switch back).
Next, I would rank Wix Editor and Squarespace equally when it comes to ease of use. Both are drag-and-drop, require no coding, and both offer plenty of templates, which are categorized based on business type/industry.
WordPress is a bit harder to use than the paid website platforms for small business. In many cases, you must install it on your hosting server yourself, unless you use a company like Bluehost, which has a WordPress-specific package that comes with it already set up.
In addition, the WordPress interface is not as intuitive as Squarespace or Wix. It’s often beneficial to know at least a few HTML or CSS tags to get it to look just right, the sheer volume of templates (called “Themes”) can be overwhelming, and you have to install “plugins” to add extra functionalities, like mailing list forms. So, there’s a learning curve, and it takes more time to set up and maintain.
WordPress itself is free, so even with a separate paid hosting package, it will likely be less expensive than a hosted site builder. Bluehost, for example, offers WordPress hosting as low as $3/month.
Squarespace has a free two-week trial, but you must pick a paid plan after that, which starts at $14/month.
Wix offers always-free packages that are very limited, because they don’t let you use your own domain name and require running their ads on your site. This is not a professional look for your business, so I’m only comparing the paid packages when it comes to Wix, which start at $16/month.
WordPress is hands down the customization winner. With tens of thousands of free themes, and even more low-cost themes available for purchase, there’s sure to be one you love. Not to mention the hundreds of thousands of free and low-cost plugins on WordPress.org that let you add virtually any functionality. Plus, since WordPress lets you easily access your site’s code, a little HTML and CSS go a long way. So, if you’re picky about design and want your site just so, WordPress is the way to go.
Coming in a distant second is Wix Editor. With about 800 templates, Wix Editor has Squarespace beat, and the interface allows for pixel-by-pixel edits: you can move anything, anywhere. Plus, remember that Wix also offers that neat Wix ADI tool. So, if you want to let AI choose your initial look and feel, and then switch to Editor to refine it, that might be easier than sifting through templates. You can also add custom CSS.
Squarespace has only around 100 templates in its website builder for small business, but to be honest, they do look better out of the box than Wix’s, so it’s quality over quantity. And although Squarespace doesn’t let you move elements just anywhere, the limitations ensure you are less likely to ruin your site’s professional look. You can even tweak some of the CSS.
Wix ADI comes in last as a website platform for small business for customization, but that doesn’t mean you’re getting a cookie-cutter site. The AI-powered design tool has seemingly unlimited possibilities. As long as you don’t have a specific vision in mind but are more concerned with just having a site that looks great and works well, Wix ADI can have your site up in literal minutes.
So, what’s the verdict? If you need a simple site, you don’t want to spend a lot of time on it and are willing to pay a bit more per month to keep it up, then use a website builder for small business-like Squarespace or Wix Editor. If you really want to simplify things and want to get your site up TODAY, then go with Wix ADI. And if you know you have a lot of files, you know you need dozens of pages, or even if you are just really picky and have a specific vision that you cannot compromise on, then roll up your sleeves and spend the next few weeks exploring and setting up WordPress.