Whether you’re looking to start a business or are already up and running, one of the most important decisions a business will face in regards to establishing their online presence is choosing a proper web platform to build upon.
Fortunately, with the amount of options available to pick from, there is undoubtedly a perfect fit for every type of business model and niche. That being said, the decision making process for finding which platform to use can be rather tedious.
There are several variables to consider based on your personal needs, and each platform you discover will have different functionalities than the last.
Consider this article as a guide for helping you derive an answer to the question: which platform is best for my business?
If hiring a team of web developers and designers to build a website from scratch seems too daunting of a task, do not worry. There are several do-it-yourself platforms which provide customizable interfaces capable of creating professional, visually appealing websites.
If your coding and graphic design skills are non-existent, the following platforms can still be used to build beautiful, clean websites in a stress-free and efficient manner without any external help. These options are very cost efficient, and are designed to be user friendly.
Considering the major businesses that utilize this platform for their websites (including Sony Music, Disney, and BBC America), WordPress’s professional legitimacy is undeniable. With that in mind, WordPress is not designed solely for large-scale companies. It is intended to be a creation tool which anyone can use for their own individual needs, whether you are a smaller business, a fortune 500, or anything in between.
Functionality: WordPress is designed with your ideas in mind, providing unlimited options via the use of pre-made themes and third party plugins. It excels as a content-based platform due to the fact that its general layout is geared towards blogging, but it also allows for e-commerce stores, informational websites, and personal webpages.
Customizability: Visually and functionally speaking, WordPress’s customization options are endless. Pre-made themes are perfect starting points, and with thousands of unique templates to use, it is not difficult to find one that is suitable for you. Themes can be even further customized with basic CSS/HTML coding and color scheme options or you can hire a student for a completely custom design. Plug-ins add another layer of depth to the “behind the scenes” functionalities to your website.
Usability: WordPress’s difficulty will vary based on how technical you would like your website to be. A minimalistic personal blog can be set up effortlessly, whereas a deeply customized e-commerce store will require quite a bit of tech savviness. There is, however, a very large community of WordPress users who are available to answer any questions you may have, which can easily simplify the process.
Pricing: WordPress itself is entirely free, but if you want your own domain and web hosting, there will be costs involved. Some of WordPress’s themes and plugins are pay-to-use, but are entirely optional.
Functionality: If simplicity is what you desire, then this may be the perfect platform for you. Squarespace takes the minimalistic approach when it comes to the work required on your end, making setting up a website easier than ever. The templates provided through Squarespace can be used to create blogs, informative websites, and e-commerce stores which look beautiful on both computers and mobile devices.
Customizability: Due to Squarespace’s simplistic nature, customization is somewhat limited compared to other platforms. You can change the design elements to make your template better reflect your business, but aside from visual changes, there is little to be seen in regards to customization.
Usability: Squarespace is easily manageable, regardless of your technical background. There is no need to understand coding (even basic CSS), and the template you choose will translate seamlessly when your website is viewed on a mobile device. No extra work is required. If you find yourself needing assistance, Squarespace has several tutorial videos and articles available to help you solve any problems that may arise.
Pricing: Squarespace provides several different packages depending on your needs. Personal and business plans start at $16 and $18 per month respectively. If you plan on running an online store (e-commerce), then a basic package will run $26 monthly. An advanced package is available for e-commerce stores, which provides a few extra options such as real-time shipping information. This package runs for $40 monthly. These prices reflect annual billing, and will be slightly higher if paid one month at a time.
Functionality: Weebly is very similar to WordPress in regards to functionality, however, it does not provide any third party plugins or themes. This can be beneficial in terms of website stability, but it does slightly limit function. Still, Weebly is able to be utilized for any kind of website you require.
Customizability: Weebly operates through a “drag and drop” layout which provides easy design options and organization for your website. Like WordPress, themes and apps are also available, as well as CSS and HTML coding for more precise, tedious customizability.
Usability: Aside from the optional use of coding, Weebly is extremely easy to use for beginners. Since their themes and apps are all proprietary, they will integrate easily without the need to tweak anything, or change formatting to make them work properly.
Pricing: Weebly offers four different packages ranging from $5 to $46 per month: Weebly Starter, Weebly Pro, Weebly Business, and Weebly Performance. The “Starter” and “Pro” packages are geared toward personal websites and blogs, whereas “Business” and “Performance” include features for e-commerce stores.
Functionality: Wix is capable of creating a wide array of websites, including e-commerce stores, and most people consider it the easiest website builder available (even when compared to Squarespace and Weebly).
Customizability: Although simple to use, Wix does lack customizability to some degree. Like Weebly, Wix operates on a “drag and drop” basis making the design aspects very comprehensive, but the templates available are somewhat limiting. There is currently no option to change minor details through CSS or HTML coding. It should also be mentioned that content does not transfer at all if you decide to change your template.
Usability: As previously mentioned, Wix is one of the most straightforward and convenient platforms to utilize. If simplicity and ease of use is more of a priority than customizability, then Wix is definitely a more favorable option for building a website.
Pricing: Wix is very inexpensive, offering all-inclusive packages starting at only $4 per month. If additional features are needed, such as e-mail campaigning, storage, or higher bandwidths, then there are more expensive packages available (up to $30 per month for the VIP package).
Functionality: As the name suggests, Shopify is a web platform available for building e-commerce-based stores. If you are not selling a product, then this platform will not offer anything pertinent or useable for your business. That being said, Shopify is one of the best platforms for e-commerce, and offers all of the features necessary for an online store.
Customizability: There are several themes to choose from, which can be further edited with HTML and CSS coding. Shopify offers quite a bit when it comes to ensuring that your online store looks sleek, and represents the aesthetics of your business.
Usability: If you are not familiar with the basic features of e-commerce, then Shopify may prove to have a bit of a learning curve, although, this would be true for any platform. As far as comprehensibility goes, Shopify has the upper hand seeing as their niche is strictly e-commerce.
Pricing: The basic package for a Shopify site is $29 per month. The next tier is $79 per month, and the most advanced package will cost $299 per month. It should also be mentioned that Shopify does charge commission/transaction fees of 2.9% to 2.4% as well.
Time to Get Started
Millions of websites have been created for thousands of different uses through the aforementioned platforms. No matter what your business is, or what your requirements are, you can be sure that at least one of them will be accommodating to your personal needs.
If you are still uncertain about creating a website on your own, or you feel that you may need additional help to make your website stand out from the masses, then there is always the option of hiring help. This may not be the most beneficial option for some businesses, monetarily speaking, but web designers, graphic designers, and writers have the ability to make your ideas come to fruition.
In any case, it is important not to procrastinate when it comes to bringing your business into the online world. It is imperative to understand the intricacies of establishing a definite, professional online presence.
The internet has become an indispensable tool for both new and existing businesses, offering the opportunity for unlimited growth and instantaneous connectivity. Hopefully this article has been a comprehensive stepping stone for narrowing down which platforms to utilize, and bringing you one step closer to establishing a website for your business that follows the web design trends of today.