Website Wars: WordPress vs Squarespace vs Wix vs Weebly

Guest blogger: Kim Bruce

After researching, comparing and gathering information on what you need to know to make a choice between WordPress, Squarespace, Wix or Weebly, I have come to the conclusion that there is no conclusion.

Each of these services has something to offer depending on your needs.

Website Wars: Choosing between WordPress, Wix, Weebly, and Squarespace

For example, if you’re a hobby artist, a free Weebly site, which includes their paid ads, may suffice.

An artist with little or no computer skills may want a simple drag-and-drop interface, which is available with all services (drag-and-drop themes are available for WordPress).

A professional artist may, and probably should, prefer the power that the WordPress platform offers.

In all honesty, I find it very difficult to compare Squarespace, Wix or Weebly with WordPress the self-hosted version (WordPress.org).

WordPress is different. It’s a robust, scalable, open source (free) application that can be whatever you need it to be.

Comparing WordPress to these other platforms is like comparing Michelangelo’s studio with all his apprentices to an artist that works alone in solitude. I use this analogy because WordPress and other open source content management systems (CMS) not only build community, but they also create small businesses.

There’s an entire cottage industry that has evolved because of WordPress. Entrepreneurs that design themes, developers that create free (by donation) plugins, so you can do whatever you want, and the worldwide phenomenon WordCamps, where you can learn from other WordPress users developers and exchange ideas.

You’ll see how hard it is to compare WordPress with the others in the table below. But first I think it’s important to understand how the other services work.

Backups and Accessing Data

Squarespace, Wix, Weebly and similar website platforms are proprietary, which means you don’t own your website. They own it. These companies can shut down tomorrow and your site goes with it.

All of those years creating content and attracting followers can go Poof!

As unlikely as this scenario is, it can happen. Remember when Apple shut down iWeb? Then there was Posterous that left 60,000 clients in the cold.

SquareSpace is the only one of these services that will let you export a XML backup of your content that could be imported into WordPress, but you don’t get everything. It’s not an easy import either as you have to save the export as Livejournal or Typepad, which may or may not work when brought into WordPress.

Wix allows you to duplicate your site but it stays on the Wix server, as that is the only place it will work.

Weebly allows you to download a zip backup of your site but has a disclaimer that your blog posts are not part of it because they are in the database, which can not be accessed. They go on to say that your site probably won’t work as expected unless it’s on the Weebly server.

If you’re an avid blogger or just have lots of content and don’t want to go through the hassle of recreating all that content elsewhere, you’re better off using WordPress.com (the hosted version) or Blogger. When you have outgrown these platforms or need extensibility you can easily import into the self-hosted version of WordPress (WordPress.org).

What about WordPress backups?, I hear you asking. No worries! You can export, migrate, save in the Cloud, or download a complete backup of your WordPress site. You can use this to migrate to another host provider should you ever need to do so.

A Fact-Based Comparison

Just conduct a simple Google search if you want opinions on how easy each platform is to use. These types of comparisons are subjective depending on the authors, their skill levels, and their biases.

You’ve probably figured out by now that I am pro WordPress (see my bio below), but even I have to say that all the proprietary services mentioned in this article are fairly easy to use. This makes them particularly seductive for artists who aren’t thinking about their future usefulness.

So just the facts based on the basic entry package of each. All these services provide upgrades such as more space and e-commerce options.

Yearly Plan $8.25 $8.25 $8.00 Varies $3.95 and up, depending on the hosting company
Monthly Plan $9.90 N/A $10.00 Varies
Bandwidth 2GB Unlimited 500GB Varies
Storage 3GB Unlimited 2GB Varies
Number of Websites 1 10 1 Varies
Number of Pages Unlimited Unlimited 20 Unlimited
Email Service Google Apps Google Apps Google Apps, Zoho Email Varies
Max UploadFile Size 15MB (audio)10MB (images) 100MB 120MB (audio)20MB (images) Varies
Hosting Grid Hosting Cloud Hosting Cloud Hosting Grid, Cloud, Shared, VPS, Dedicated
Domain Name FREE (1 Year Plan) Not Included FREE (1 Year Plan) Depends on provider. I recommend to keep them separate.
Drag n’ Drop Yes Yes Yes Yes, depends on theme
Free Themes 100+ 100+ 25 1945 + premium
Support Phone – 24/7 Email – 24/7 Forums
Knowledge Base
Email – 24/7 Chat – 11am – 9pm Forums
Webcasts
Knowledge Base
Email – 24/7 Chat – 11am – 7pm Forums
Workshops
Knowledge Base
Community Forums, WordCamps, free & paid resourcesaround the world
Analytics Google Analytics Weebly Analytics Google Analytics Squarespace Analytics Google Analytics Google Analytics plus many other plugins to chose from
SEO Optimized Yes Yes Yes Yes
Mobile Website Yes Yes Yes Yes, depends on theme
Social Sharing Yes Yes Yes Yes, plugin or theme supported
Image Editor Yes Yes Yes Yes
Form Builder Yes Yes Yes Yes – plugin
Custom HTML/CSS HTML Only HTML and CSS HTML and CSS Open source so all code is accessible
 

 

As you can see it is very difficult to compare WordPress with the other services. All these services can provide you with a basic portfolio site, a blog or e-commerce, including WordPress.

But only one is unlimited in its functions and can be as small or as BIG as required.

About Our Guest BloggerKim Bruce of Artbiz

Design is Kim Bruce’s background; art, her passion; digital technologies, her tools. Kim is a visual problem solver who helps fellow artists with their online presence using WordPress.

Kim has presented WordPress for fine art at WordCamp, as well as professional development seminars for artists on setting up functional websites and blogs.

When Kim isn’t at the computer, you’ll find her in the studio creating art with her own unique visual voice. View her sculpture at KimBruce.ca.

Find Kim on Facebook at Kim Bruce at Artbiz and Twitter @ArtbizKimBruce.

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27 comments to Website Wars: WordPress vs Squarespace vs Wix vs Weebly

  • Thanks, Kim. Well thought out, researched and written, as always. Thanks for the guest post exception, Alyson.

  • I see more and more designers recommending Squarespace, but I still prefer the open source solution like WordPress. Yes there are concerns about security, but if you keep your installation and plug-ins updated, you’re fine.

    Another reason why I prefer WordPress is that there’s virtually no limit to how your website can look because you have full control over the theme, and I get a feeling that all Squarespace sites look about the same.

    One note regarding the table, maybe it’s understood in the US that the price in the “Yearly plan” is per month, but I think it would be clearer if there was a note in the brackets that it’s a price per month, not what you pay for the entire year 🙂

    • You’re absolutely right, Nela, there’s virtually nothing you can’t do with WordPress.

      Thanks for the “Yearly Plan” clarification. Yes those prices are in US dollars and monthly price if you sign up for a year.

      Designers will set up clients on Squarespace and you are suppose to be able to get a developers license in order to customize themes. Unfortunately it’s not as simple as it sounds. Case in point can be read here > http://caitlynmayers.com/ill-never-use-squarespace-again/

  • I’ve been writing to write a post like this for some time. However since I was searching for a real answer to a real problem I’m too busy transferring/revising and updating content to write it!

    I went with Weebly in the end (you can see an example of one of my new websites here http://www.botanicalartandartists.com).

    I avoided WordPress simply because I don’t have the time to spend on technical updates and worrying about hosting issues. My priority is to spend my time on content NOT technical issues which I’d rather somebody else looked after. I just want a site that works first time and every time I log on. I’ve also seen rather too many people on WordPress get hung out to dry one way or another.

    For me the issue was whether I was going to go with Weebly or Squarespace. In the end Weebly came up with a better fit for my requirements.

    I’ve heard people come up with these ‘you don’t own it’ notions before. However unless a site literally disappears overnight you’ve always got a chance to remove your content by doing a “save page as” in html – for all relevant pages.

    I use webware for everything I do and am not in the least bit bothered that I don’t own the software for how my email/photos/videos/blogs/websites actually operate!

    I’ve also been blogging for nearly 10 years on Blogger and 8 million pageviews later Blogger is still going strong! Plus if you just want your own domain name – you can have it on Blogger!

    The trick is in picking your supplier – I’d always recommend choosing a supplier who’s been around for a long time, keeps things simple and keeps them up to date as well. Being a big name with big resources also helps…….

    Avoid one man bands like the plague!

    • Sounds like you’re a happy camper, Katherine.

      Not everyone is comfortable with the internet & technology, especially those that haven’t grown up with it and need a bit more hand holding. Small companies and some “one man bands” can provide one on one service that most large companies with offshore support can not. Sometimes help can’t be read out of a manual.

    • Have to agree with the technical and time-consuming aspect of WordPress. A couple of years ago I tried to learn it, and every time I’d start to learn about one aspect, I’d have to go a level deeper and learn the supporting aspect and I was buried before I could even give it a start. I know it has a lot of capabilities and love all the plug ins, but if you cannot make everything work as smoothly as visitors need it to, it’s a waste.

    • I also have struggled with how to make my website. I recently went with Weebly for the same reasons: I hate struggling to learn technology for a website.

      I tried hiring someone to make my website. That was expensive and a huge failure.

      You write “…This makes them particularly seductive for artists who aren’t thinking about their future usefulness [when not choosing WordPress].”

      I am very disturbed by this comment. I am constantly thinking about my future as an artist: studio time, inspiration time, social media time. This comment feels as if by choosing something other than WordPress (described as Michaelangelo’s studio), that the artist is NOT thinking about their art as a business.

      I don’t want Michaelango’s studio because it is not MY studio. I have limits in my studio because those limits help me make art. So I don’t use WP. I can live within the limits
      of my chosen website builder because I’d Rather Be in the Studio than trying to learn code to build a website (building websites is not my business – my business is making art!).

      At least I have a website! That I manage! All by myself! The quality and ease of visitor to go to it and the ease of my management makes it totally worth the time investment. I love the simple designs available to me. The limitations help me and they are easy to workaround when they might hinder me.

      All of these platforms have pros and cons…and for me the biggest concern is I have limited time in my studio and the website has to be easy and fast to maintain (or I just won’t…and I haven’t…I go paint!).

      The website has to work FOR me, NOT me for the website.

      Excellent comparison of sites. Thank you for the thinking and sharing. I am bookmarking it just because it might help when I think I might make a change.

      • A-M: I have to confess that I added that comment before running it by Kim and publishing it. Blame me! I certainly didn’t mean to imply that you aren’t thinking about your future. Just the future usefulness of the software. And, I agree, that it might be one in the same thing now that I read it as you have.

        As I said to Lisa here, I have just had so many clients come up against limitations when they want to expand.

        I agree: at least you have a website that you manage. And I’m happy that the limitations are helpful to you.

        You have to pick what is best for you. I love that you know what’s best.

  • Very confused because I found WordPress far more expensive. I was only offered upgrading with 2 prices and chose the £85/year option for Premium so I could use my own domain. After endless battles with it someone asked if I had the self-hosted version. Having no idea what they were talking about (WordPress didn’t show me this option when upgrading) I googled it only to find out I’d have to use that to even have basic things like a shopping cart buttons. (It won’t even show paypal buttons if you manually create them.) Editing and the interface is complicated and unintuitive, and I say that as someone who’s been designing websites since the mid-90s. You might have control over everything but first you have to figure out how. I certainly haven’t been able to do it.

    So to get what I apparently need, on top of the £85 I’m expected to pay for hosting as well. I can’t see what that would give me from WordPress – I could *just* pay for hosting and actually have a properly functioning html/css website. Or I could pay the same price for a properly made template based site that is easy to use. (like I do for my artist site) I feel ripped off by WordPress and will be moving my gallery website from it soon – either to Blogger for free (where I get everything I need from custom domain to adding purchase buttons to be able to edit the html/css template fairly easily if you’re techie enough) or to my current artist site host. And I can get domain email through my GoDaddy account where the domain is registered anyway.

  • Just to add, I might sound like I’m being cheap there. 😉 I’m not. I have no problem with editing, formatting and tweaking code on any other site or platform other than WordPress. Hence the frustration which leads me to conclude it’s a WordPress problem.

    • It sounds like you’re at WordPress.com? It’s unfortunate that happened to you, Tina.

      It can be confusing. I find the free version at WordPress.com can end up costing more by the time you add on extras, like your domain name. That’s why I also recommend the self hosted version where you have more control.

  • I have to chime in here…I am a squares pace developer and have adopted Webydo as an alternate platform for my business. I work with small businesses and nonprofits, many of which want to take over the maintenance of a site once it’s designed and live…Wordpress is the worst option to offer any client that has limited tech experience…period.

    Everyone considering WordPress must consider the following:
    1. Plugins are not all equal…most are are not tested nor vetted. Meaning if you choose the wrong plugin your site will be riddled with issues.
    2. There is no customer support, other than the forum of supposed power users. What I have found here is that there is a lot of contradicting information.
    3. Updates are not automated…meaning if you do not constantly monitor your site for plugin updates your site will encounter issues.
    4. Building a site, even with the premium drag and drop themes is not as simple for the DIYer as the developers of these themes make it seem.
    5. It’s not cheap. After spending hundreds on premium plugins and a theme you will have far exceeded the cost of developing a site on any of the other aforementioned platforms.

    Bottom line…if you want to constantly monitor your site, test each plugin and put in an ungodly amount of research to accomplish even the most remedial customization….then WordPress is for you.

  • It’s nice you found a niche and software that doesn’t require coding ability. With Webydo, anyone can be a designer, good for you.

    I would like to say, however, that WordPress changed the internet. It put website management into the user’s hands where people technically inclined or not, don’t need a developer or know how to code to use it.

    Basically not one of these platforms require a developer or a designer, including WordPress. For a basic portfolio site all these platforms can be used out of the box, without plugins, without theme customization. All these platforms require time to learn where things are and how they work.

    WordPress is actually the least expensive since it is free, with just the needed cost of hosting and a domain name.

    Just so you know automatic core updates have been included with WordPress since 2013 with version 3.7.

  • Debbie Eckmier

    I had a hard time figuring out how to use wordpress.org
    Weebly is much easier! I’m in the process of building my site now. The only thing I wish was different is that there aren’t as many pretty backgrounds etc. but Alyson says our backgrounds should be plain anyway!!!
    It’s easy to import your blogspot blog into your website.
    I have the paid version – the first paid level and it is adequate for now – a small webstore. When I start making money with my site I will upgrade – definitely!
    Thanks for the heads up. I will backup the written part of my blog regularly but I don’t think Weebly will be going anywhere. It works well and I’m seeing more and more people using it.

  • Hi, I am a big Weebly fan. In the past I have tried many website builders, software and for a while even wrote my own in old-fashioned html. But why spend ages building when there are wysiwyg editors out there. Weebly is incredibly easy to use while you can amend the css/html if you are up for that. Within the (responsive) templates there is a lot of freedom to change backgrounds, fonts, and layouts .
    I hear mixed stories about WordPress. I tried it many years ago but found it unnecessarily complicated. An artists’ website does not require complex websites. Our needs are modest compared to big sales companies out there.
    In the olden days we could get website builders for free. Alas those days are gone but the prices are still hugely varied. As far as I can see a WordPress site would cost me £85 per year, Weebly £21 and Wix £97 (sorry for the British pounds – don’t know in dollars but you see the difference). I think Weebly is just over $3 per month and Wix $12 per month. Massive difference! Weebly offers everything I need, including forms, decent image galleries and the option to change templates without losing content! I do not worry about ‘losing’ my website, as the author of this article suggests. In the many, many years I have had websites, I have never lost one. I do not understand why professional artists (I count myself as one) would need things that only WordPress (the ‘Michelangelo’ under the website builders? c’mon!) can offer. But since I am not with WordPress I will never know I suppose….

  • I know this post is about choosing the best website platform to suit your specific needs. By the sounds of it seems we are equally divided. In the end you just need a website in order to have a presence online in this ever changing art market. Pick the one that works for you! WordPress absolutely works for me.

    As a footnote, I would like to add that what is really important is the take away after people visit your website. It’s the impression they leave with, of you and your art. Will they remember you? Will they come back? Could they find your images? Did they load fast? Did you give them something of yourself, so they know you even just a little?

    Quality content is the most important thing on any website, no matter which platform it is built on.

    Cheers!

  • Kim – as a former software engineer about 4-5 years ago I agreed with you. Today – not so much.

    WordPress did indeed change the Internet. And now these new drag and drop website builders are doing it.

    What lessons from Kodak can hard core WordPress.org designers learn? The world is changing. People are tired of the hassle of WordPress. It’s simply too hard for most people. and its no longer necessary.

    Telling artists they aren’t professionals if they don’t use WordPress sounds to me a bit like clinging to selling film as the world around you is going digital.

    —Lisa

    • Excellent points, Lisa. Would you use one of them?

      • Alyson – yep – I would use them for a basic artist website. I’m past that with 400+ pieces of art on my website.

        My opinion…

        But for a beginning website they are definitely the way to start.

        And so what that it’s not portable. It so easy to recreate the website it doesn’t need to be. Just save your text somewhere, the images, along with a few screen shots and that’s all you need to start again.

        If at some stage these easy sites don’t provide what is needed then you move on to something bigger. But to start bigger is a waste of time and money for most artists.

        I would never blog with a site that doesn’t provide standard export functionality. But a simple website with fewer than a dozen or so static pages – no big deal. Static content is crazy easy to build fast these days.

        I think there is a huge business oppty here to build artist websites on one of these platforms for a couple hundred dollars. Then hand it over to the artist and let them go to town. Just need to get the template in place with headers and menus and then they can upload content to their hearts content. Super simple. I hear setting up a store front is now super easy on these also.

        Artists should be making art – but paying big money for someone else to do your website is also no longer necessary. The world is changing.

        —lisa

    • I ask because I’ve had a bunch of clients frustrated with the limitations of these sites – after they get to a point where they want more flexibility.

    • I totally agree, Lisa! I can use code and count myself professional but why cook when you can get ready-made-and-easy-to-tweak?
      If you disregard WordPress for a minute the comparison chart shows the others as being very similar, but they are actually not. Pricing and features are quite different and worth exploring before anyone decides.

  • Thanks for your research Kim. I’m using Squarespace. Check out my site here: http://www.matthewleestudio.com
    I thought I would share my experience with these:
    I originally tried creating the same website design with both Weebly and Squarespace in free demo mode to see which I liked best. I eventually ran into several road blocks with Weebly in customizing the site. For example, I had trouble with making the gallery/portfolio page with a background color, only white was available at the time. I wanted to use a brown color that is on my logo. In Weebly there was a dark area around my logo, which I couldn’t get rid of even with customer support. I didn’t have these issues in Squarespace. Squarespace is a little more customizable than Weebly in my experience. Response time on questions was quicker too with Squarespace, usually within a few hours on business days. Whereas Weebly responses to questions took 12+ hours.

    But the main thing I wanted to mention is that Squarespace has a great Portfolio App for mobile devices. It syncs with your portfolio, and updates every time you have data or wifi access. But if you are somewhere without data access, all the images are still there. I found this really helpful as I don’t have a data plan for my iPad, but I could still show people my portfolio on it. Here’s more info about it: http://www.squarespace.com/apps/#portfolio Not sure if this is only for iOS devices.

  • Thank you for this very well-written and researched article. I wish this had been available when I was figuring out how to make my first website! I started with Wix, and after a hellish two months, bit the bullet and jumped into WordPress. I have no development background and started straight off with the Genesis Framework and coding; steep learning curve but so, so worth it.

    I’d like to chime in with regards to Wix.

    1. SEO loading times.
    Both are huge issues with their websites, which is why I only recommend it to clients who are not search-based (say, the local hairdresser or vet) and have information-only websites. Wix’s loading times are quite horrid, and their links are long; both with really lower SEO.

    2. Multi-lingual websites.
    Please, please, please don’t make the same mistake I did and make a multi-lingual website on Wix! The automatic menu bars that appear on each page no longer work, so you have to add each menu button AND corresponding page link on EVERY page, in EVERY language. That’s a lot of buttons! Now imagine that the client decides to change font size, a page name or anything else mid-way through the process. Start again!

    I’ve heard great things about Squarespace and might give them a try. While I’m still a fan of the Genesis Framework for WordPress (very well-coded, great for SEO, plenty of tutorials for customisations), it would be nice to take a break from coding once in a while. Thank you for these tips, and for your hard work putting this together!

  • Thank you Alyson and Kim for this insightful and for me timely information!

    I am in the process of having to rebuild my website and start over since I originally did mine with Front Page and my server doesn’t support it anymore. It is still up, but I can’t update it. I had already decided to go with WordPress based on several recommendations and since I want a site with my domain that I control.

    I taught myself Front Page, but WordPress is proving to be challenging as far as a theme that has thumbnails for works that aren’t cropped and options to go to a detail page like my current site.

    I would love to hear suggestions from anyone here using WordPress about specific themes that work well for artists. Also are the costs of a premium site annual or one time only? Any info would be helpful.