How to choose the best website hosting platform for your business
As a business owner, choosing the right website platform for your business is a huge decision. Before you make a decision on what platform you wish to go with, you should make a list of the goals you are wanting to achieve with your website.
For example, an eCommerce brand selling shoes wants its customers to make a purchase and perhaps sign up for their newsletter. Whereas, a catering company wants users to make a booking or get in contact. It’s important to remember that a well-functioning website is well organised, follows a logical structure, and is designed to feel intuitive and easy for your target audience to achieve the goals you have set for the website.
Understanding your goals will help you choose a platform that will support you in achieving them, so look out for specific features and benefits that align with your goals. An informed decision will provide you with a website platform that will grow with your business, avoiding costly rebuilds later down the track.
Let’s compare and look at what we call – the big 5 website platforms out today to better understand which platform is right for your business.
Which website platform is right for your business?
Did you know that WordPress/Woocommerce is the oldest and most popular website building platform out today? Over 41% of websites on the internet are powered by WordPress, and for good reason! WordPress is open source – meaning it’s easy for developers and designers to customise. It has over 52’000 plugins available to use and is cheaper to host than most website platforms. If you are DIY’ing a WordPress website, you will need a hosting service to create an installation, so it does require a bit of knowledge in the space before creating your own.
- Tens of thousands of plugins are available to use, many of which are free for the lite version which gives your website additional features and functionality.
- Highly customisable with thousands of themes to choose from. This also means pages on your website can be more unique as WordPress has an open-source code function.
- Large support network on online forums and blogs meaning you can get answers to your questions a lot quicker.
- WordPress itself is completely free, meaning you only pay for the hosting platform instead of the WordPress application.
- Installing WordPress on a hosting platform can be quite tricky if you do it yourself. You will need to seek out a developer who can create a fresh website installation for you if you are creating it yourself. The bright side – most developers can do this install for quite cheap!
- You will have to keep up with WordPress and plugin updates yourself, as well as ensuring your site is secure with the right security plugins. This is why we always encourage you to go with an agency that does this for you as it can be quite manual.
Wix is an easy-to-use website builder that has become very popular in the last few years. They’ve invested a lot into creating a platform that is accessible to those with minimal website building experience. The most important thing to understand is that Wix is a drag and drop website builder meaning you can drag and drop elements wherever you want to create a web page.
- Wix has more than 900 website templates that you can use, and growing! If you want to build from scratch, Wix allows you to build without being constrained by a grid. This allows you to have more flexibility with design.
- Wix comes with many apps to integrate with your website. The back-end of Wix is user-friendly and offers assistance with setting up integrations such as Google Analytics and Facebook Pixels.
- Flexible monthly payment options to suit a range of budgets, which can be upgraded at any time.
- All updates are handled by Wix, meaning you don’t need to worry about updating your site, apps or security.
- Impressive CMS in the back end to keep all of your marketing, sales information, and customer relations in one place.
- Templates can’t be easily changed. If you decide to change your template, you will need to input all of your content manually.
- You cannot export your site if you decide to switch website hosting providers. You will lose your design when you decide to leave Wix.
- A free plan is Wix branded and does not come with many options for functionality or integrations such as analytics.
When you think eCommerce, you automatically think Shopify. Shopify has established itself as one of the biggest website eCommerce platforms in the world, currently used by more than 1 million people worldwide. Shopify is an eCommerce giant with a streamlined back-end to help make eCommerce businesses run smoothly, with little hands-on effort.
- Simple to use. Shopify’s backend is extremely user-friendly and allows businesses to manage their business and product inventory without getting bogged down by tech.
- Shopify is perfect for less tech-savvy people as it has easy to install themes, an integrated payment platform, and easy to install apps.
- Built for eCommerce, Shopify has an easy-to-use product inventory that allows you to manage your products easily and customise marketing such as coupons, free shipping, and discount codes.
- Shopify has a 24/7 support desk and a large online community.
- Shopify uses a WYSIWYG editor for page editing rather than a drag and drop builder like Wix. This means pages are harder to customise unless you engage a Shopify developer. This can result in shops looking quite similar as many people use Shopify themes.
- Shopify is quite expensive. Many customers often complain about the monthly pricing and transaction fees they must pay. As well as the monthly cost and transaction fees, many of the apps that require a premium subscription are quite pricey.
- Shopify themes are very restrictive when it comes to design. If you need to add a CTA button or want to change something on the layout, you will more than likely need to engage a Shopify developer which will cost you their hourly price.
- The quality of templates varies depending on who has developed them (anyone can develop themes for Shopify)
- If you are looking for more flexible functionality at a cheaper cost, Shopify may not be suitable for your business.
- Editing non-e-commerce content can be quite difficult. Things like blogs, faqs, or video pages can be quite difficult to design, especially if you are doing it yourself.
Squarespace is known for its unique, responsive templates and it’s easy-to-use website builder. Many people choose Squarespace over the competition because of how fresh and modern the website templates are.
- Over 100 unique themes of varying layouts to choose from, even allowing you to use more than one theme at once.
- Squarespace has a drag and drop interface making design enjoyable and easy. This feature ensures SS websites are mobile-friendly and give you a high level of control when customising your website (unlike Shopify!).
- Squarespace has a well-developed blogging section with a rich commenting feature, multi-author functionality and the ability to schedule posts! For those wanting to put blogs at the centre of their strategy for growing their business, this is a really great feature.
- Updating and adding content to Squarespace is very easy as you can simply click anywhere on the screen and start typing.
- Limited integrations with third-party applications can be a huge roadblock for businesses looking to future-proof their online presence.
- Not the ideal platform for large-scale eCommerce businesses due to the lack of third-party application capabilities (eg. subscriptions, memberships).
- Their templates have much slower page speeds than other website platforms which could hinder your Google Search Results.
- If you need a large menu navigation hierarchy, Squarespace is not for you as it only allows one sub-level navigation.
Gaining popularity is the drag and drop website builder Webflow. Many web designers choose Webflow due to the high degree of customisation and intuitive design you can achieve with this platform.
- Through the use of a drag and drop builder, Webflow gives you the ability to create gorgeous websites without the use of code and also has many templates available to install.
- Advanced features such as animations without the need to use any coding.
- If you decide to switch website platforms you are able to export your website code and take it with you! You aren’t locked into anything!
- Very supportive customer service team and a wide range of support materials to get your answer quickly.
- Extremely responsive time resulting in quick page load times.
- Webflow is not ideal for beginners as there is quite a steep learning curve to the system. If you are time-poor but are wanting to go with Webflow, we encourage you to seek out a web developer or an agency.
- Pricing is confusing as there are many different plans and options and the pricing plans are on the more expensive side.
- Webflow is missing some key integrations such as user login and multilingual websites.
DIY website vs. Engaging an agency
One of the biggest questions we often hear from business owners is: “should I DIY my website or engage an agency?”. It’s not news that building your website yourself will result in lower upfront costs, but cheaper doesn’t always mean better in the long run. Although a DIY website may match your circumstances at the beginning of your business journey, engaging an agency to build your website is something you should consider when you have the funds to do so.
Agencies don’t just build a website, they work with you to create a digital strategy for your business, which gives you a clear direction of where you are taking your brand. All agencies should begin with a workshop that explores your audience, the key goals that your website is going to achieve, and a clear plan on how to achieve this.
Once the strategy is in place, agencies are experts at providing unique design assets (think creative designs that match your brand – check out Mariel’s website for inspiration), a website designed with specific users’ experience in mind, SEO-optimised content, mobile optimisation, and continued support for the growth of your online presence.
The bottom line
Choosing what platform fits your business is a daunting decision, especially with so many options out there. Get clear on the goals for your website, and base your decision on this and the available resources you have (ie. time, experience).
If all else fails and you’ve given up, we work across all platforms and help you decide on which one better aligns with your business objectives. If you’d like to chat with us, send us an email at [email protected] and we’ll be happy to help!