Gone are the days when only web developers and savvy tech nerds can whip up a website. Nowadays, there are countless options for anyone to create their own web presence. Beyond the boutique-style websites, more and more people are also getting into e-commerce. Just like static websites, it has become easier to set-up an online shop.
However, with options such as Squarespace and Shopify, is the WordPress era finally at its end? Where does WordPress fit in amidst the point-and-click and drag-and-drop options out there?
If you’ve been anywhere near YouTube, you probably heard of Squarespace at least once as a sponsor of a vlogger. For most, it sounds like the hippest way to create your own websites with just a few clicks. In some ways, yes.
Why use Squarespace?
Unlike traditional web development, you are not starting from scratch. There are various templates available for the most common types of websites that you want to build. Templates are available from boutique-style websites to art portfolios. You can even create your own online store right at Squarespace. The ease of set-up is undeniable including purchasing a domain.
Creating the actual website is just a matter of editing the template you chose. Furthermore, the WYSYWIG (hint: what you see is what you get) approach to creating a website appeals to most people. Much similar to creating a Powerpoint presentation.
Lastly, the e-commerce functionality of Squarespace is perfect for those with a simple online shop. It is straightforward and set-up is as easy as creating the website itself. There is a security that the “backend” including the payment gateway works right out of the box.
Why not Squarespace?
Current pricing starts at USD$12 a month with personal websites (USD$16 if billed monthly) which is actually affordable. However, setting up an online store in Squarespace can set you back between USD$26 to USD$40 which is quite expensive compared to options in Shopify or WordPress.
Moreover, Squarespace cannot handle larger websites with deep menu hierarchy. It seems that is was set-up to handle the everyday website creator and online seller. For medium to large businesses, Squarespace will not be able to handle the number of pages, customizations, and menu depth offered by other options.
Finally, Squarespace seems to be lagging behind the other two options in terms of SEO. It does not offer customization which allows SEO optimization as much as WordPress does. A Squarespace website is best matched with a robust online marketing efforts to gain a large number of visitors.
Shopify targets enterprising individuals focusing on building their businesses online. Since 2009, it has provided an all-in-one e-commerce service for businesses. Quite similar to solutions like Squarespace but with e-commerce at the forefront.
Why use Shopify?
Shopify offers hundreds of professionally-made templates. These are easy to customize and personalize. The point-and-click method along with the sections makes Shopify theme straightforward to edit. Due to its popularity, there are themes available outside the Shopify marketplace itself. There are free and premium themes available in shops live Theme Forest and Envato.
Because Shopify focuses on e-commerce, it runs a robust backend function for the business processes. It includes all the necessary modules to run an online shop even at its Basic plan at USD$13 a month. You can sell an unlimited number of products as well.
Also, Shopify is extensible using apps. Shopify Apps are reminiscent of WordPress plugins. The e-commerce website can be further improved by adding various apps from marketing to customer service.
Why not Shopify?
While the Basic Shopify plan is affordable, the mid-tier and advanced plans are quite pricey at USD$54 and USD$104 monthly. Moreover, there are transactions fees on all plans from 0.5% to 2.0%. On top of the monthly fee and transaction fee, you also have to pay for the apps that you integrate into your website. Most apps in Shopify are paid which can add to your monthly overhead cost fast.
Moreover, code-level customization in Shopify is not as easy as editing a few HTML and CSS codes. Shopify was developed using proprietary technology. The team developed their own programming language called Liquid. You may need to hire a Shopify expert, which is relatively more expensive than a typical web developer, to develop or edit the theme.
So where does WordPress stand amidst the website creator popping up almost every year? Is it finally time to move on from it?
The simple answer is “Not yet.”
True to its nature upon its launch back in 2003, WordPress is continuously growing along with the associated themes, plugins, and even its core functionalities. It started as a simple content management system (CMS) aiming to power the Internet’s blogs. Now, WordPress powers 28% of the entire web. Its CMS market share is at 59.9%, way ahead of the second most popular CMS Joomla (6% share).
Why use WordPress?
The versatility of WordPress makes it an all-in-one management system for different kinds of websites. Even static website benefit from running WordPress at its backend. Big time e-commerce shops can be set-up with the help of plugins such as WooCommerce. It welcomes both beginner and advanced users, coder and non-coder alike.
WordPress can also be extended using its flexible themes and plugins which are customizable down to the code-level. Moreover, WordPress allows fine-grain control of the websites SEO. Not to mention plugins which can help optimize content such as Yoast.
Automattic, the team behind WordPress, is also aware of the latest trends in web management and development. They are beginning to open WordPress to the headless CMS paradigm. Additionally, the arrival of Gutenberg finally addresses the WYSIWYG demand from the WP community.
The WordPress community is one of the most welcoming communities of both enthusiasts and developers. Despite its progress throughout the years, WordPress maintains its open-source status which means it is still free!
Why not WordPress?
Most industry veterans would warn of WordPress’ vulnerabilities. While issues in the core platform are continuously updated especially when weakness is discovered, the countless plugins and themes may still put the website at risk. One has to be careful when installing a plugin or using a theme which requires a bit of research.
Additionally, the amount of customization available both in the core platform and related plugins and themes can be a double-edged sword. It can be quite intimidating especially if you need to set-up a website right away. Countless guides are available online which can be confusing at times as well.
Lastly, for medium to large businesses, it becomes necessary to hire a web developer or at least the willingness to do the research to manage the quirks of WordPress. Issues may arise from core updates, plugin and theme upgrades, and even web hosting. Some changes may render an entire website unusable if left without management.
So, which of the options above is perfect for you?
Begin by assessing your needs and envision your website. If you need a quick, no-fuss solution, opt for Squarespace. If you are looking into setting up an online shop with robust backend functions, choose Shopify. If you need a more flexible solution, WordPress can handle whatever you throw at it as long as you are patient enough to do the legwork.