There are hundreds of ways to build a website from scratch. But it is more efficient to make use of existing website platforms. By not having to reinvent the wheel, website platforms help to speed up the development of a website. This means a business can get a functioning website up and get customers as soon as possible.
This guide will go through three popular kinds of website platforms and their pros and cons. I hope this helps entrepreneurs like you to make an informed decision for your websites.
1. Web Builders like Shopify, Squarespace, and Wix
What is it?
Shopify, Squarespace, and Wix are among the top web builders. They each have their proprietary technologies but their premises are similar. You pay a monthly fee to them and they give you easy-to-use tools to create a website yourself. They will also provide you with a server and support you when you need any help.
Web builders are the easiest way to build a website. They have user-friendly interfaces that don't need any coding skills. You start by selecting one of their pre-made templates. Then, you can change some colours, text, and images to suit your business. Web builders are often all-in-one solutions so you likely won't need any other web services.
A major downside for web builders is they are limited when it comes to customisation. This is true for both visual and functional customisations.
Another concern is that you will be locked-in with the web builder company. They ultimately own your website - not you. This means you'll always have to play by their rules and pricing.
Web builders are intended for business owners to put up a basic website themselves. It saves cost as you won't necessarily need to hire a web developer. Web builders are a great way to get a starter website up and running at a low upfront cost. Be sure you are comfortable with their limitations.
What is it?
WordPress is the most popular website platform out there. WordPress.org (not to be confused with WordPress.com) is open source. This means you are not tied to any company and you get complete ownership over your website. The WordPress software itself is free but you'll have to look for your own server provider. A WordPress website can be cheaper or more expensive than web builder platforms. The cost depends on your required features and traffic.
The main advantage of a WordPress website is that it is simple to add many kinds of features. You can create a marketing website, online store, membership site, business listing, job boards, and almost any kind of website. Unlike web builders, you are free to select a server suited to your requirements and budget.
WordPress has a very large community so it is easy to look for support. There is also a wide market of WordPress developers who can work on your website.
WordPress is not as user-friendly as the popular web builders. It is possible to build a basic website yourself but you will need to spend a few hours on tutorials. However, building a WordPress website that surpasses what can be achieved by web builders takes a lot of experience and code. If not done right, WordPress websites can fall victim to malicious hackers.
This is why hiring a competent WordPress developer is usually the smarter approach. This adds an upfront cost to your website. WordPress also needs more maintenance (I wrote an article on this) than web builders and JAMstack.
To build a great website yourself, WordPress takes more effort than web builders. Therefore, it might make more business sense to hire a developer to build a website for you. This way, you'll get a better quality website and free up your time to focus on other things to run your business. Your website may cost more than web builders but you'll get more value for your money and true ownership.
3. JAMstack like Gatsby, Hugo, and Jekyll
What is it?
JAMstack is a rather new movement in the web development world. It has been gaining popularity fast. Gatsby, Hugo, and Jekyll are among the popular platforms but they work similarly. The unique feature is they do not need a traditional server like web builders and WordPress do.
The operating cost of a JAMstack site is affordable or even free. This is because you don't have to pay for a traditional server. As there is no server to hack into, a JAMstack website is safer as well.
The technology behind JAMstack makes very fast websites. This translates into a much better browsing experience to help drive conversions.
Being newer, JAMstack does not yet enjoy a wide ecosystem as WordPress. Integrations with third-party services are still limited.
JAMstack is also the least user-friendly. One could not create even a simple website without rich web development experience. Developers who are capable in JAMstack are somewhat rare talents. This means you can expect a slight premium to the upfront development costs of your website.
JAMstack is highly recommended to optimize operating costs and better drive conversions. The upfront cost might be higher because you will need to hire an experienced web developer. But the operating costs range from affordable to absolute zero. While JAMstack currently lacks in third-party integration, it features the best in speed and security. For example, Nadzim.com is a JAMstack website built using the Gatsby platform. You can click around my menu and see how fast my pages load.
Which web platform is the best for your business?
Entrepreneurs and business owners should carefully choose a web platform. The decision has to suit their business requirements and budget.
- Don't have a lot of capital or cash? I recommend web builders like Shopify, Squarespace, and Wix. There will only be a flat monthly cost. You will be able to design a basic website yourself by using their user-friendly tools.
- Need a website deeply customised for your business? I recommend WordPress because of its vast ecosystem and developer availability. While the total cost (upfront plus operating) can be higher, you get a lot more value for money than web builders.
- Expecting high traffic growth or prefer to invest upfront and save later? I recommend a JAMstack website. They are very secure and blazingly fast even when handling many visitors at once. It might cost more upfront but the operating cost is very affordable or even free.
Need more help to choose a web platform?
No worries! I understand a website can demand significant investment. Businesses must make a well-informed decision. Feel free to contact me if you need help. Thank you for reading!