Welcome to the third full length episode of Digital Skin. “What is the Best Website Platform?”.Today we’re talking about web site platforms, specifically WordPress Squarespace Wix or Shopify. Which of these platforms will suit you best?
We’ve talked about why you might want a web site in Digital Skin Episode 2, so the next step is to figure out what platform to use. All Web site platforms are not the same!
I’m not going to talk about customer built websites – there is no good reason in the SMB market to build a website from scratch these days.
Some of the links you’ll find in this article are to companies I am affiliated with. I only partner with companies whose products I use myself and whose business practices are a good fit with my own ethical standards. If you purchase a product, I get a nice warm feeling and a small reward, you get great software that has been tried and tested by me!
E-Commerce or Services?
The options are firstly – E-Commerce or Not. Are you selling things that can be posted or are you selling services? If you’re a photographer selling prints then you need some kind of e-commerce solution. If you’re selling services alone then you need a phone number and an email address. Interesting fact – more than 90% of our enquires come via e-mail.
Magento, Shopify, Big Commerce and Woo Commerce are the market leaders for independent companies. We favour Shopify and Big Commerce as platforms that enable you to build your web site around the e-commerce solution. We are Shopify Partners building and looking after e-commerce sites for a number of clients now.
Woo Commerce is a plugin for WordPress which gives you a lot more flexibility around the website.
Magento is a standalone e-commerce system that is fantastic if you are a high volume trader. You’ll need professional help to build and run a Magento system successfully.
WordPress, Squarespace and Wix are web site builders first. WordPress has an optional e-commerce plugin called WooCommerce that is very popular, easy to set up and widely used. Squarespace and Six have e-commerce modules as optional extras.
We go back a long way with WordPress, we’ve built dozens of sites with it, it currently powers all of the Helter Skelter sites and my own portfolio site Chris Wright Photography.
WordPress is the most popular web site platform on the planet for a reason – it is very good at providing a stable platform for a web site. It is easy to configure if you’re comfortable with IT, boasts a huge community of enthusiastic users and a massive ecosystem of support in the shape of themes and plugins.
Themes that leverage Gutenberg blocks are the future in WordPress, We use Kadence Theme with Gutenberg and Kadence Blocks on many of our websites, including this one. It’s faster than any other theme I’ve used, has a very positive and supportive community behind it and is relatively straightforward to use. I’m adopting it as our standard offering at Helter Skelter Digital. Check out my review here.
It used to be the case that themes provided the look and feel and plugins the functionality. No longer. With the advent of site builders like Elementor and Themes like Astra, there is a blurring of roles that can be confusing to say the least. Elementor is a plugin that provides building functionality. Astra is a lightweight theme build for high performance that extends Elementor.
As these products are so tightly integrated, the thinking is that the generated sites lack the bloat that is common on plugin heavy sites and perform better. Certainly the metrics around the Astra – Elementor combination are impressive and performance matters to Google these days.
Shopify is an excellent platform for e-commerce. It is easy to set a site up, you don’t need to write code though like WordPress, it can help if you understand it. It is a hosted solution so you don’t need to worry about back ups either.
Performance being so important to Google and your customers, if you go with a |Wordpress solution you need to choose a good host. We are affiliated with and choose Siteground for our smaller sites for a number of reasons.
- Excellent Support
- Reliable Back ups
- Geographically convenient Servers
- Reliable uptime
- WordPress specialists
- Great Performance
For larger sites where performance is all important, we use Brixly. Check out our review “How Good is Brixly?“
We have used other hosting companies and have been disappointed, we’ve been with Siteground for just over a year and host thirteen web sites with them. They have not let us down once.
In fact we moved one site, FunkyFrankwell.uk specifically because of performance issues with the previous hosts that had been attributed to a bloated theme. We’re now achieving sub second loading times on the site. Same theme, same content.
Conclusion – The Best Website Platform
The best website platform is in fact a combination of the hosting service and the software. We absolutely recommend WordPress with the single caveat that you need to be technically savvy to build and maintain it. We say WordPress is a solid 9/10
A real contender for the best website platform is Squarespace – we love the elegance of the interface, Squarespace web sites are very popular with photographers for that reason. It is straightforward to build a site, the e-commerce modules work well, the caveat is that you don’t own the site so you have no control over the performance or the terms under which you hire.
At the moment there is no way to migrate a Squarespace site away from Squarespace other than by copying it.
The second caveat is SEO. SEO support is better than it was, but is nowhere near as good as the support available in WordPress via a plugin. We think Squarespace is good value if you are averse to coding. An 8/10.
Wix has always been the poor relation in web builder sites. No longer, recent iterations of the product are just about on a par with Squarespace however, the same caveats apply. SEO support is average and you can’t migrate away from it. A 7/10
You thought we were going downwards? No, the reason we’ve left Shopify till last is because it is the only platform we’ve discussed that is built around e-commerce from the bottom up. We rate Shopify a solid 9/10.
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We are part of the Shopify partner program with extensive experience of building and managing Shopify web stores.
We are also WordPress specialists offering a full lifecycle service including Design, Build, Hosting, SEO and PPC.
If you have questions, feel free to contact us via Phone at 01743 244 095 or email.
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