Building a website is like building a house.
You can either be heavily involved with the building process, doing as much work as possible yourself, or you can take easier routes, freeing up your time and effort. Sometimes, you can even hire someone else to build the house for you. All you have to do is to haul your furniture inside your new home.
These same options are available with websites, too.
If you use the most intense route, you code the website by yourself.
If, however, you choose the less consuming way (by using a web host,) the groundwork is already done for you. Your job is then to install the platform and do the rest of the finishing tasks yourself.
The turnkey solution in website building is to use an online site builder, which puts everything into one neat package, with the least amount of work needed.
Since it’s unlikely that you will code the site yourself, I’ll focus on the two latter options in this post.
Building a website with an online site builder is often a very straightforward process. With just a couple of clicks, you can have a website up-and-running.
Naturally, you have more work to do than this (for instance, by adjusting the images and the copy to reflect your brand), but the actual phase of getting started is very fast.
So, what does this mean when an online site builder is concerned?
Well, you first register an account on your chosen platform, choose a theme for your site and finally, hook up a domain name to your website. Literally, you can sometimes have a website up and running in five minutes or less.
With WordPress, setting up a website may take hours, sometimes even more. In fact, before you can start installing WordPress, you need to have an active subscription to a web host first.
A web host for a website is like a solid foundation for a house; it needs to be there first, and then you can build on top of that.
Once the foundation is there, your job is then to install WordPress with the themes and necessary plugins. And like online site builders, you also need to fill the site with the content, until you can go live with it.
Which one to choose: An online site builder
When choosing a platform for a website, there is one factor that people often overlook: extendibility.
So, why is this important?
Well, let’s say that you just built your website, and you are happy with the results. But then, say one year later, you’d like to extend your website with a certain type of functionality.
If you have chosen the “wrong” platform from the get-go, you may not be able to do this. On the other hand, planning ahead will save you from a lot of trouble later on, as you are not forced to change the platform prematurely.
Wix, Weebly and Squarespace are currently the biggest site builders there are, and they are offering most of the extensions through their application marketplaces.
For instance, Wix and Weebly both offer over 300 apps to their customers, whereas Squarespace offers over 70 integrations to other systems through their platform. However, WordPress is superior with its selection of plugins (at the time of writing, over 54.000). These very plugins extend the functionality of your site in many ways. Therefore, WordPress is your go-to platform if extendibility matters to you.
Which one to choose: WordPress
When you set up a website with an online site builder, you only need to reach one customer support. Often, you get to choose between email and chat channels, but sometimes, some other ways of support are available as well. With WordPress, the situation is a bit trickier.
Naturally, you have the support that your web host offers you, but what if the question you have is not related to your web host?
For instance, maybe your recently installed plugin caused you issues. In that case, you should contact the customer support of that plugin vendor to solve the issue, not your web host.
Very often, the more plugins you have, the more points of contact you have, as these plugin vendors offer support channels of their own.
Which one to choose: An online site builder.
When I entered the online site builder arena, I was shocked to realize that running multiple websites was not possible on one account. If you wanted to do so, the monthly prices would skyrocket.
For instance, if you have three websites, and you want to run them on a particular site builder platform, you need three separate subscriptions to run these sites. So, when one website subscription costs 10 USD per month, you now start to realize how much three would cost!
This pricing model is, however, understandable.
With an online site builder, you get everything for a monthly fee. This includes customer support, maintenance and further development of the platform. It’s obvious that in order to provide these benefits, the money has to come from somewhere.
However, with WordPress, the pricing is way cheaper.
For instance, if the web host plan costs 10 USD per month, that’s the amount you end up paying, no matter if you have one or four websites running on that account.
Even though you might get a free domain for one year with any of the online site builders, the following years cost more than through a web host. Also, registering a new domain is often more expensive through an online site builder platform than through a web host.
Which one to choose: WordPress.
Choosing between WordPress and an online site builder depends on which factors matter to you the most.
For instance, if you like as “turnkey-like” solution as possible, an online site builder is definitely your preferred option.
However, if you are on a budget and like more or less a DIY approach to building a website, then WordPress is your choice.
Timo Kiander aka OnlineBuilderGuy is a web-enthusiast, helping people to choose the best platform for their websites. When he is not on his computer, he likes to spend time with his family, or by running.