Comparing WordPress to Other Free Websites

When talking to potential clients, they usually ask if they really need a website and if so, can they just use one of those free sites or site builders. Here’s a quick overview on the options besides WordPress (.org to be specific) in case you’re interested, along with a link to another article at the bottom getting more in-depth into the comparisons.

The Big CMS 3

There are 3 big open source (meaning the code is open for anyone to use and edit) CMS options (content management systems, aka you can edit the text and images easily using WYSIWYG editors VS using all HTML and code with programs such as Dreamweaver). These will require that you pay for your hosting, but are technically free to use the software. Themes, plugins, and advanced tech support are all optional, but the better ones will typically have additional costs.

  • WordPress (with 60% of the market share between the 3)
  • Drupal
  • Joomla

My take: WordPress (self-hosted / WordPress.org version) is best for most small businesses, which is who I work with. The other two tend to be more robust and complex both in website scope and ease of use.

Website Builders and “Free” Sites

Then there are a few “popular” (or well promoted) “FREE/low cost” website builders. I see these as offering less control than WordPress. Which does mean using less code (html, php, etc.). They can make it easy for people who don’t know anything about creating a website to do their own, but I think they also miss out on many ways to optimize a website and often have hidden fees. These services also retain control. With WordPress (.org) for example, you truly own your site and the content and are free to edit it as you wish. Most of the “cool stuff” with these sites still cost money with these options. Examples are:

  • Wix
  • Squarespace
  • Weebly
  • Blogger
  • WordPress.com (this is different than WordPress.org which I use)

Here’s a great article that outlines the pros and cons of these options (and a few more) in case you’d like to learn more about the differences. http://winningwp.com/alternatives-to-wordpress-compared

Kassy’s Opinion

Here are additional notes and comments from MY experience or observations in researching options for clients.

Squarespace: While the $8/month plan sounds pretty reasonable, the key concern I see is getting an email address with your domain (name@website.com) isn’t even an option at that price point. Plus after the first year, it says the domain name renews at $20/year. That’s high. For $18/month you get a professional email address, but after the first year you have to pay $50 for a Google Business account to access it. This brings the annual website maintenance cost to $286 [($18*12)+20+50]. Compared to a low cost shared hosting plan (approx $6/month) and domain registration ($14.99 on the high end) for only $86/year if you do your own updates. If you have me update WordPress files for you, add another $10/month* for $206 with a self-hosted WordPress site.

Wix: This was a customer service nightmare to deal with. Gory details available upon request, but my feeling is they are out to sneak in extra money assuming people don’t pay close attention and making it difficult to get customer service to explain or fix things. So be prepared for costs to go up and hidden fees to occur.

Webs.com: Let’s just say someone asked for feedback on her site she’s building with webs.com and it wasn’t even mobile friendly and she didn’t know it. Not saying other site builders don’t have old themes or templates that aren’t mobile responsive, but that’s a huge red flag to me.

Web.com: I jumped in to help a client format her web.com website. This one did have a fee she was paying too. I’m pretty tech-savvy and it was a nightmare with crazy template restrictions. So much weird formatting that I couldn’t undo even using their tech support. But it gets better, er worse, to switch to a different template (or whatever they called it) you had to start from scratch. NONE of the content would move over.