Should I build my website using WIX? This question was posed to me recently by a friend. So, I told her I would turn it into a blog post!
There are many easy to use hosted web platform builders out there – WIX, SquareSpace, Web.com, Weebly and even Blogger.com, if you want to go the straight blogging route, to name a few. The goal of these companies is to make it easy for a “newbie” to design, build and maintain their own personal or company website with ease. Some even offer a “free” option, albeit with some downsides, such as ads on your site, which don’t exactly make you look professional. However, I’m not here to say any of them are bad choices. They all certainly do have some advantages, the big one being ease of use for someone who isn’t familiar with creating a website on their own.
My main concern is, while they offer pretty layouts and are easy to work with, they may not be scalable in the future, which would be a real bummer after putting a lot of time and effort into building a website. Many cannot be easily moved from their respective hosting platforms to a different platform, and they would have to be rebuilt all over again should someone decide to grow their site. And, even worse, you would lose a lot of SEO that you may have built up over the years, should you ever decide to move your site elsewhere.
Of course, I recommended my friend consider having a look at a self hosted WordPress site instead. By self hosted I mean a WordPress that is installed on your own hosting site, which you would pay a small monthly fee for, not a WordPress.com hosted site. There is a difference, but I will save that for a future post. However, I am going to tell you a few reasons why I would recommend anyone thinking of creating their own website to consider WordPress as a viable option – remember it’s not just for blogging anymore.
Flexibility in Layout and Design
I think this is the biggest deterrent when someone is trying to pick a platform to build their new website. WIX makes them look so pretty and a stock WordPress installed theme looks kind of “blah.” WIX, and the other web builders like it, make it easier on the design end of things, because they offer tons of great pre-designed templates to use to get you started. They aren’t very customizable, however, so you run the risk of your site looking like someone else’s in your industry, and to get a lot of the extra features, or customize them any further, their “free website” offering suddenly becomes a paid subscription. That’s their hook and what they hope you do!
However, don’t forget that there are thousands of great paid and free themes available to WordPress users. You could literally spend weeks browsing them all. I would suggest finding a WordPress theme that works well with your type of business and installing it (or spending a few bucks and hiring a developer to help install it for you, if you don’t know how). You can use it as is, with minimal customization, to get started. And while free themes are great, being free at all, you are going to get a lot of extra neat features by going with a paid theme. There are themes that start as low as a few dollars, but you could expect to pay about $50 for a really nice theme with a lot of easy customization options. This is a one time charge, however, not a monthly subscription, and many themes are licensed to you, with free updates, for life.
The great thing about going with a stock theme is, should you ever decide to learn more about customizing your WordPress theme, or hiring a developer to customize one for you, you don’t have to rebuild the whole entire website from scratch. A new theme can be installed right on top of your existing WordPress content.
Ease of Use
Website building sites do have easy to use tools for adding content. But, once you have your initial install of your theme on WordPress, the tools it offers you to use are pretty darn easy too! Most people, even if they end up hiring a developer to get their theme up and running, are able to easily handle adding content and updating their site from the WordPress control panel. WordPress sites also allow you to assign multiple users, each with their own log in credentials, and specify access levels for them. This means you can let someone come in and modify content, without having to worry about them messing up your design work, by granting them limited access privileges.
WordPress is an open source platform, which means the codes for it are open to everybody to use and modify. Therefore there are a lot of programmers out there creating themes and plugins that others can use for free or a small fee on their own sites. The WordPress community was over 65 million strong by the end of 2011, and continues to grow. So, you have a never-ending flow of great features that can be “plugged in” to your existing site as time goes by. Currently there are over 26,000 plugs-ins available to users of WordPress. Of course, you don’t want to bog your site down with too many plug-ins, but the point is, there is likely something already out there for a feature or two you may want to have on your website, so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel or hire your own programmer to make it happen.
Wix is not open source, so only their private development team does modifications to it. While they have expanded their WIX App Market, you still won’t find quite the plethora of plug-ins available in it as there are for WordPress. The upside to this is, WIX has tight control of their add-ons so you will run into less conflicts and “buggy-ness” that you might find with open source plug-ins for WordPress.
Search Engine Optimization
In the past WIX was a terrible choice as a platform when it came to SEO, because many of their layouts were based on Flash technology. However, they have moved away from that technology and embraced HTML5 for many of their newer designs, so they have gotten much better in that area. However, WordPress is just a dream when it comes to SEO.
There are more than 77 million WordPress sites on the web now, versus about 43 million WIX sites. WordPress is extremely popular among developers and business owners and one reason is because Google loves WordPress sites. They tend to rank very well. Because of this, large companies like TED, CNN and TechCrunch have chosen WordPress as their blogging platform of choice.
WIX likes to advertise that you can get a free site from them. While this is true, there are some caveats you don’t find out about until you review their pricing structure. For instance, in order to connect your own domain (i.e. www.yourdomain.com), instead of a domain that contains WIX in the name, it will cost you $4.08 a month. And, they will still display WIX brand ads on your site at this price.
To get rid of the ads your cost goes up to $9.25 per month, but that only gives you 3 GB of storage and 2 GB of bandwidth per month. This may be enough if you don’t plan on many people visiting your site, and nobody builds a site in hopes of no one visiting it, but to even get a reasonable amount of storage (10 GB) and bandwidth you would need to jump to their $12.42 per month plan. See what they did there? Free isn’t really free after all, at least not for a company that wants to display any type of professional image to their website visitors. While $12.42 per month isn’t a bad price for hosting and website building tools, their advertising is a bit misleading, to say the least. Should you need extra nifty features, such as e-commerce capabilities, that are available as plug-ins on WordPress, the price for monthly hosting goes up from there.
Don’t get me wrong, you are going to have monthly hosting fees on your WordPress site as well, and they may even be slightly more than WIX’s costs, but you have to weigh in the ability to easily update your site in the future, the ability to fairly easily move your entire site to a different host should you want to, without having to totally rebuilt it from scratch, and other factors against the prices as well.
What I am mostly addressing here is the costs you didn’t anticipate when you were sold a “free” site from WIX.
One Final Thought – And This Is Important!
Just a final thought here, as well. If you are purchasing a domain name (www.yourdomain.com), I suggest you purchase that separately from any website building platform. They will be able to tell you where to “point” your domain to have it hook your domain up with your site, but you always want to maintain control of your own domain and not have to rely on them releasing it to you, should you decide to leave their service.