Wix, Squarespace, Weebly, even WordPress.com. The list goes on and on. The democratization of Web design is upon us… or so these companies want us to think.
Now before I get started I feel the need to disclose that I run a digital agency that builds websites with WordPress (the self-hosted, free, open source, version). Does this sway my opinion a bit, yes, but only because I know what a site that you have FULL control over can do. Also, when I refer to WordPress below, I’m not referring to the hosted, managed, WordPress.com that is run by Automattic. I’m referring to the self-hosted, open source version found at WordPress.org.
Okay, that’s out of the way… onward.
Great For A Decent Looking Site, But Not Going To Get Found
Wix, Squarespace, Weebly and site builders of that ilk are great from people who want a decent site, don’t want to worry about the upkeep, and most of all don’t want to get found.
Now let’s get something out of the way, I’m not saying you can’t optimize these sites and have them show up in the search engines. It’s just a lot harder to do than doing a custom site or using a content management system the likes of WordPress, Joomla and other self-hosted and/or enterprise level CMS systems. WordPress especially, “out of the box,” is coded in such a way that it is easy for Google to index and position.
Yes, Wix and Squarespace have some great looking templates to get you started. But they also limit you in a couple of ways:
- If they have a plugin/extension structure, it’s not nearly as robust as what you get with a CMS like WordPress. The code behind the sites by nature needs to be a lot bulkier to anticipate what the user is going to design and how they want the site to look. When you code your own site, even if you are starting from a WordPress theme or framework, you can streamline the code to do only what you want it to do and nothing else.
Wow WordPress Is Widespread
WordPress, currently powers ~32% of all sites on the Web. This impressive number means a few things:
- The community surrounding WordPress is immense and quite impressive.
- There are tons of designer and developers who can work with it.
- The amount of optimizations and customization that can be done is endless.
- If something breaks, finding someone to help fix it isn’t hard.
Though, to be totally transparent, being such a large chunk of CMS market on the Internet makes WordPress sites more susceptible to attack from hackers. But with proper precautions this can be mitigated easily.
Coming Along, But Still Not There… Yet
Sites like Wix have come a long way and now boast that they are able to be optimized for Google and the search engines. This might be true, but it is certainly a lot harder due to the nature of their systems. They are tightly controlled by their respective companies to keep them secure and easy to use. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But it makes optimizations to a Wix site that much harder to do.
A good example of where Wix and other builders are lacking is with the friendly URLs (Website.com/friendy-url vs Website.com/1234a34@234af#133). With Search Engine Optimization (SEO) you want easily understandable URLs and not weird long strings. Wix for example WAS notorious for using a hashbang (#!) in their URLs until recently. They have since remedied that. But many of their plugins have not.
One such plugin is their recipe plugin, the recipe builder, leaves users with long strings of characters instead of nice clean URLs that tell both the search engine spiders and users what they are looking at. Because of the limited plugin directory, or complete lack of one, there aren’t alternatives.
An Expansive Directory of Plugins
With WordPress’ expansive plugin directory, users can find a plugin that works both for their needs and those of the search engines and users. Often these are free with community support, have a tier of paid support above them, or are premium altogether. Regardless of the price point, this directory of plugins, which work with WordPress, allows for a flexibility that other platforms like Wix and Squarespace can’t provide.
So What To Do?
Look, there is nothing wrong with using services like Squarespace, Wix, or Weebly, but be educated and choose wisely. Sometimes investing some hard earned cash into a site vs. doing it yourself is the best decision.