Small business owners who are looking to get a Web presence online might consider two solutions: Wix and WordPress. I’ll review both and offer pros and cons.
Wix offers an online drag-and-drop website builder that offers easy customization, numerous attractive templates, and a DIY solution for folks who need to get an attractive website online quickly. Wix overhauled their platform in 2012 to support HTML5 (moving away from Flash) and streamlined their interface and builder tools.
According to their marketing, over 40 million users currently use Wix. That’s a pretty big number and compares favorably to WordPress, the world’s most popular CMS and blogging platform. WordPress boasts 73+ million sites between wordpress.com (their hosted platform) and self-hosted WordPress. If you’re deciding Wix vs WordPress, let’s look at the pros and cons of each platform:
One of the nice things about Wix is how quickly you can get started. Go to wix.com, create an account in a few seconds, and pick a template as the base for your new site. Start customizing by using the drag-and-drop editor to edit text/colors/fonts, move elements around, and trick out your site. Load some pictures, click save, and you’re basically done. You could have a fully functional, nice looking site published in an hour or so.
You can launch a site with the ad-supported free version or opt for one of the premium packages for a nominal monthly fee. The free version is basically unusable for anyone who’s serious about running an online business, so you’ll want to consider at least the Combo package for $10.95 per month.
For the most part, Wix’s editor is easy to use. You click on an element and a small editor window will open with a couple of options. If it’s a text element, one of the options will be to edit text. If you double click the text element, the text editor automatically launches and you can revise your text immediately.
You can also move elements around and add new elements instantly, thus changing the layout without needing to mess with code. Want a callout box with some text? Draw the box, place it, and type in the text in a few seconds. Wix handles all the coding on the backend to create the layout. That’s pretty nice because it gives you a lot of creative flexibility.
There are a couple of minor gripes I have with the editor. When clicking elements and launching windows, sometimes the editor will load in annoying positions, such as directly above the element I was trying to edit, which required me to move the window out of the way. I also experienced slow load times on several occasions when launching the editor. Nothing too horrible, but these small details took away from the experience. Since the new Wix platform is in its infancy, it’ll continue to get better and more effective in the future.
Another potential issue with the editor is it’s not immediately intuitive to someone who is familiar with the “traditional” layout of CMS platforms such as WordPress or Drupal. There is no admin area or backend where you control the site. Everything is contained in widgets and floating windows on top of the site itself. So there’s a learning curve to be aware of. Fortunately, Wix has a wealth of help screens and videos to guide you through the building process. The support resources are one of the strong points of the platform.
There are a wide range of templates and most of the templates are attractive and well designed. Most of them depend on high quality photography, so be aware you’ll need images to really get a site going. You’ll need to replace the default photos contained on the templates.
I found most of the templates to be elegant but simple, lacking a lot of the features that the latest premium WordPress themes have that create wow factor. There’s also a huge negative with Wix templates…once you build a site, you cannot change the template. One of the beauties of WordPress is you can load a new template, activate it, and have a totally refreshed look in minutes. That’s something to consider if you plan on refreshing the look of your website every so often.
On the plus side, Wix includes an impressive library of apps to extend it’s functionality. Apps include various social media integrations, ecommerce, Google Maps, contact forms, email marketing integration, and many others, with most having free versions. Wix apps are equivalent to plugins for WordPress.
Perhaps the biggest drawback to small business owners is that with Wix you don’t own your website. Instead, it’s like renting it from them. Additionally, if you have special requirements for functionality, such as creating featured listings for real estate agents and brokerages, then you’ll end up hitting a ceiling with Wix.
- Fast startup time
- Lots of attractive themes
- Terrific help and support resources
- Includes a mobile version out-of-the-box
- You don’t own your website
- Wix editor might be off-putting to folks used to traditional CMS
- Themes are limiting compared to high level WordPress themes
- SEO and ecommerce options are lacking
- You can’t ever change the theme!
WordPress is a free, open source content management system, and as mentioned above, it’s the most popular CMS platform on the Web. As of the writing of this article, WordPress is up to version 3.7. The 29Doors website is built on WordPress.
WordPress has been adapted for a wide range of website uses and can be found as the platform of choice for everything from standard websites to personal blogs to photo galleries to ecommerce. WordPress ecommerce has come a long way in the last year or so and it’s light years ahead of the ecommerce offered on Wix. If you’re building an online store and have to choose between the two, go with WordPress.
The startup time for WordPress can be much higher than Wix and is something to consider if you’re a non-techie. With WordPress, you’ll have to install the software on a Web hosting account, configure it, and load a theme and plugins. Because of it’s sophistication and range of options, the installation can be overwhelming. 29doors makes launching and maintaining a wordpress website hassle-free, but this is something to keep in mind if you’re going to do it yourself.
WordPress has a massive variety of free and premium themes, with some of the higher end premium themes having killer bells and whistles. Need image sliders with beautiful transitions, project portfolios, social media widgets, responsive-ness, and SEO options? No problem, all of that is available. Pre-canned premium themes are affordable, usually in the $50 – $100 range for a one-time download.
One issue with WordPress themes is the vast majority of them aren’t responsive, and thus not mobile friendly. You can find plenty of high quality responsive themes as premium versions, so consider investing the $70 or so to get one of these. This is also something that we can help you with.
A critical factor with WordPress is that fully custom themes can be made from scratch by almost any digital marketing agency or developer. If you need a kickass website that functions exactly how you want it, there are tons of WordPress developers out there that can make it happen. Wix is limited in how far you can go with customizations, integrations, and design. It’s really geared for entry level websites and individuals. If you’re a small business and you anticipate growing significantly on the Web, WordPress is the more appropriate choice.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention it, but because of it’s nature as an open source solution, WordPress is susceptible to hackers and malware. I’ve worked with several clients who had their WordPress sites hacked and nearly destroyed. You have to be diligent about maintaining it and plugging any security holes, to the point where having a webmaster is basically a must. For all of our clients at 29doors, we completely handle this as a part of our done-for-you hosting plan.
- You fully own your website.
- Flexible, fully customizable platform
- Top notch SEO options
- Strong ecommerce options
- Affordable premium themes with all the bells and whistles
- Huge user community
- Potential longer startup time
- Steep learning curve, can be overwhelming for non-techie types
- Requires regular maintenance
- Security issues due to open source nature
With it’s new HTML5 version, Wix is an okay choice for an entry level, personal website, especially if you’re not tech savvy and want to get something up cheaply and quickly. However, keep in mind that with wix you are renting your website, not owning. Also, as your small business grows and your website needs change, you will be very limited with Wix. In particular, from a marketing standpoint its SEO options are limited and should give you pause if you’re serious about marketing on the Web.
WordPress is a more fully featured and fully customizable CMS and can be used for anything from personal blogs to full blown online stores. It has a longer launch time and steeper learning curve, but ultimately offers more power and flexibility. WordPress sites require regular maintenance and more tech skills to keep up with. For an affordable, hassle-free WordPress service that overcomes these challenges, check out 29doors.