Choosing a Content Management System: What Website Platform is Right for you

When starting the journey of creating a new website an organization can be easily overwhelmed by the number of options for online website building software. Below are some of the web builders I’ve used in the past, their pros and cons, and my recommended uses.


Squarespace

My current portfolio website (the one you’re on right now) is built in Squarespace. I chose to switch over to squarespace after building a few client websites in it because I discovered that the sites were easy to set up, and very easy to maintain. As a designer with a full time job on top of my “side hustle” of freelance work, it was important for me to have a website that I could update easily and quickly. I have not regretted the switch, and would recommend Squarespace to almost any business, although it is more expensive than hand coding and Wordpress.

Pros:

The easiest to maintain and update

Has many purchasing levels to fit your needs

Cons:

Can be expensive, depending on your plan ($18 - $40 USD a month)

Recommended for:

Small businesses

Blogs

Small online stores (less than 20 products)

Portfolio websites

Not Recommended for:

Mid to large online stores

Those on a very tight budget


Wix

Wix is along the same lines as Squarespace, with free templates and easy customization for non-designers. Personally I find Wix harder to update, however it is still much easier to update than other platforms and is slightly cheaper than Squarespace. It also has a free option, but I would not recommend it for businesses as it includes Wix ads and no custom URL.

Pros:

Relatively easy to maintain and update

Has many purchasing levels to fit your needs

Has a free option that includes Wix ads on site

Cons:

Can be expensive, depending on your plan ($13 - $39 USD a month)

Updating an existing site can be finickie

Recommended for:

Small businesses

Blogs

Portfolio websites

Not Recommended for:

Online stores

Websites that need a lot of video content


Shopify

I maintain the Shopify website ephemerapaper.com, so I have spent quite a bit of time in the backend of Shopify. Overall site maintenance on Shopify for online stores works well, however it can be a bit of a learning curve, as can any content management system. However, Shopify was built exclusively to create online stores. This makes it great for online retailers, but terrible for any other website. Shopify can also be expensive, but the online store price is comparable to Squarespace’s online store level.

Pros:

Best for online stores

Easy to connect to other online selling platforms (Amazon, Ebay, ect.)

Has a lot of online-selling features

Cons:

Can be expensive, depending on your plan ($29 - $299 USD a month)

Doesn’t work for any non-store websites

Limited “free” templates

Paid templates can be expensive (I recommend checking for templates outside of the Shopify template store for cheaper options)

Recommended for:

Online Stores

Not Recommended for:

Anything else


Wordpress

The second iteration of this website was built in Wordpress, which at the time was almost the only online website content management system. Moving from a hand-coded website to Wordpress is definitely and upgrade, but wordpress sites can be difficult to maintain. The ease of maintenance in wordpress depends almost completely on what plugins you use, and what template you are set up in. Paid templates often come with many features that make maintenance simpler, but it can still be a very slow platform to learn.

However, for large companies Wordpress can often allow the most options due to the many plugins it offers. You can get Wordpress plugins for almost anything, including online stores through WooCommerce, SEO tracking, and plugins to make the site building itself easier.

Pros:

Cheap (often only have to pay for domain and hosting)

Very customizable

Cons:

Slow learning curve

User-added plugins can slow down the site quickly

Recommended for:

Those with existing web experience

Blogs

Not Recommended for:

Those with little to no tech savvy


Hand Coding

Hand-coded websites are by far the hardest to maintain long term. My original portfolio website was built 100% in hand code, with no back end management software so I can tell you from experience: the harder to update your website is, the less likely you are to keep it up to date. A hand coded website can be very cheap to produce, provided that you know how to do the coding yourself and aren’t factoring in man hours, but keep in mind that with the more expensive versions you are paying for convenience. It is also very easy to break a hand-coded website, as one missing semicolon (;) can make all the code following it stop working.

Pros:

Very Cheap, only pay for domain and basic hosting (around $15 USD a year)

Allows for the most customization of any website

Cons:

Difficult to update

Can break easily

Recommended for:

Sites that require no/minimal updates

Someone who knows how to code or has a web designer on retainer

Not Recommended for:

Sites with a lot of information

Sites that are updated regularly

Someone with no coding experience


Have more questions about what website builder is best for you?