It’s no secret that when it comes to websites, it can get a bit overwhelming. There’s a lot to think about and, unless you’re familiar with websites, you might not know what to even look for.
So, how do you choose the right website platform for your business?
Thankfully, all you really need to know is what you want your website to do and what functions it will need.
I’ve put together a handy guide on the most popular website platforms on the market and their features so you can decide which one might be best suited to your needs.
Now, as I’m a WordPress Web Designer, I’m going to put that one first as I do think it’s the most versatile – but it’s not always the best fit for everyone.
One thing I need to clarify before we get into the platforms is to explain the terms managed platform and self-managed platform.
Managed Website Platform – is where your website lives on the platform’s servers and the service is managed for you. There’s no updates or technical aspects to worry about however you pay a monthly or yearly fee to house your site on their platform. You don’t own your website and you can’t move your site to another platform or host.
Self Managed Platform – This refers to platforms like WordPress that are open source and installable on third party hosting platforms of your choice. You pay for a hosting account and then WordPress is installed onto your hosting account. You pay a monthly or yearly fee for your hosting, but you manage the WordPress install yourself. Unlike with the managed platforms, you own your website and are free to move your site between hosts.
Let’s get stuck into finding you the right website platform for your business.
This platform is the most widely used and for good reason. It counts for over 40% of the worlds websites – that’s 455 million websites out of 1.3 billion total websites in the world are using WordPress! Now, that’s a lot of websites!
WordPress can handle pretty much any site you want to build. It can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. WordPress started out as a blogging platform, so it stands to reason that it’s a good blogging platform with good SEO backbones. As it’s an open software, it allows developers from anywhere to create plugins and features for the platform – hence why it can handle almost anything. WordPress is free to use and it’s installed on a third-party hosting (this is paid). As it’s a self-managed platform, you have full control and ownership over your site – something you may not have other managed platforms.
Sites you can build on WordPress:
- Simple service based websites
- Tradie websites
- eCommerce websites – online shop
- Membership or Subscription sites
- Blogging website
- Community site
- Not for profit website
Note: WordPress has two platforms that are not actually related. There is wordpress.com and wordpress.org. The platform I am referring to is .org which is the free self-managed platform, not to be confused with wordpress.com which is a managed platform and runs on paid plans.
Shopify, as the name suggests, is a platform built mainly for eCommerce. Shopify is a managed platform that is built for the purpose of setting up an online shop. It allows for shipping integration, multiple payment methods, marketing integration and much more. Shopify is the all-in-one solution for small to medium online shop businesses.
When you build on Shopify, you are using one of their predesigned themes and their builder. It is a fairly easy platform to learn with drag and drop builders and there is technical assistance and the option to have your site designed for you if you wish.
Shopify won’t allow your website to grow into memberships or anything complex as it is a shopfront first and foremost, however complex shipping (live rates etc.) is available in their higher plans. If you have a physical shop, Shopify has a POS system that can be integrated.
A basic Shopify plan starts from $29USD a month (or around $350 USD a year).
Sites you can build on Shopify:
- Online store
- Hobby shop
- Baby boutique
- Cosmetics store
- Online store and physical shop – POS
Wix is another platform popular with DIYers. It’s marketed as an easy to use, quick set up website option for people who need a website fast and cheap. Whilst it’s marketed for both eCommerce and service-based businesses, I would suggest you only look at Wix for a service-based business. Their eCommerce features are limited compared to the Shopify or WordPress options.
Like Shopify, you’re building your website on the Wix platform using one of their 500 templates. Whilst it is a managed platform, you don’t own the site or have the ability to move it somewhere else, or migrate to another platform.
Their plans start from $13.50 per month, so it’s an affordable option for a business who just needs an online presence. The business plans start from $26.50 per month. You’d be best to go with the plan that gives you the most features within your budget.
Sites you can build on Wix:
- eCommerce, although I’d look at the other options first
- Tradie websites
- Hairdresser not looking to add an online store
- Service based business
- A business looking to build a simple online presence
- Not for profit or community centre
Squarespace is really moving up the ranks as an option for both service-based and eCommerce based businesses. Their features include functionality for subscription-based businesses and service-based businesses looking for the ability for customers to book online.
Again, being a managed service, you are locked into their platform, so there’s no transferring your website across to another platform like WordPress. But with the features they’re adding, there’s every chance your business might be ok staying here.
Business plans start at $25p/m and eCommerce are $50p/m, so they’re right in the middle of the pricing scale.
Neto is another managed eCommerce platform. I have experience in this platform as I used it for my first eCommerce business. I was unaware of what I know now and if I had my time over again, I’d have started with WordPress. That’s not to say Neto isn’t a good platform – it is. But I know I can do everything and more with WordPress that Neto can do for a lot less dollars.
Neto has a lot of integrations and can integrate with eBay, Amazon, Australia Post etc. quite easily. Set up isn’t complex and you don’t need a degree to do it. As I said, I did it all with very little knowledge of the online world and had no problems in creating a very effective store.
Neto’s plans start at $109p/m which is on the high end of the managed platform spectrum. Their prices have also increased since I built my first store. As I said, if you’re looking to easily integrate with other online selling platforms without the need for a developer, then Neto could be for you, but long term you’re looking at a big investment that will continue to add up.
I hope this has helped decipher the minefield that is online website platforms. There are other options out there as well, but these are the most popular ones that business owners are needing to decide between.
Please feel free to drop me a line if you have a project you’d like advice on and we can decide what platform would be best suited to you.