Things to know about websites
There are tons of website comparison blogs on the web. They’re really helpful if you’ve already been through the process, made a few mistakes, and wasted a lot of time and money (that’s me!).
Why are these comparison blogs so useful once you’ve already made the mistakes? Because you know what they’re talking about, and so you’ll know which criteria apply to your specific situation.
So I’m not going to go into all the pros and cons of each website builder. I’m assuming you want to set up and maintain your website yourself. So I’ll use the two main players (Wix and WordPress) as illustrations of the single basic decision you have to make – are you going to buy a house or rent one? Both have pros and cons!
Before we start
First of all, whichever website provider you choose, get your domain name separately from somewhere like GoDaddy (see my previous blog for more advice on this).
Then, spend some time looking at other websites for inspiration – what do they have that you need? Find one that you love. How does it work? How’s it laid out? Is it easy to navigate and find what you’re looking for? Don’t be put off by how gorgeous they look – yours will too. You’re just on a different chapter of the same book.
Start with a really clear idea of what you want your website to do. Do you just need a simple ‘information’ style site so that people can find you easily like this one? Or a ‘brochure’ site with examples of what you do/sell? Or maybe you need a blog-style website that you can update quickly and regularly e.g. a running club that posts results, weekly round-ups, fixtures and photos like this one? (oooh and by the way, if it’s a WordPress website you can find out by putting the website address in this WPThemeDetector!).
You can always adapt your website, but it helps the process to start with a theme that is possibly tailored to your needs (more on that later). Just like when you’re deciding whether to buy or rent a flat/house you have to ask yourself similar questions. Do you want to live there long term? Will it be big enough to accommodate your growing family’s needs? Or are you busy, out partying most of the time and just want a place to kip?
So let’s go with the house metaphor. Imagine you’re moving to a new town on your own and you don’t know a soul and haven’t got a clue about the area. You rent a little unfurnished flat , and it’s lovely. The landlord says you can decorate it however you want as long as you pay for it yourself. So you do. In fact, you spend a lot of time and money making it look good. It takes a while for your friends to find you but as long as you give them the address, they get there eventually. Welcome to Wix! The flat looks great, it’s perfect for your needs, and now that everyone knows where you live, everything’s coming up roses.
Then imagine you meet the man/woman of your dreams. Suddenly the flat starts to feel small. You need an extra room and maybe a garden! And the landlord is thinking of selling. Or putting the rent up. And every time you have a leaky roof or burst pipe, they tell you to Google it.
No problem, you can move! But you can’t take anything with you. You’ll just have to start again from scratch.
So you and the man/woman of your dreams find a house for sale with a huge plot of land that you can build on. What’s more, it’s basically free. You just pay for gas and electricity. There’s work to do, and you might have to learn a few of plumbing skills. But you know a great builder (no, that’s not me!) who can help. This is WordPress.org (WordPress.com is more like Wix – confusing isn’t it? Forget WordPress.com for now).
Right, there endeth the metaphor, because obviously you can’t take your house with you, but basically it’s your house and you can do whatever you want with it, including changing it completely with the click of a mouse.
What all of this means
Wix is basically fine but limited, whereas WordPress is completely flexible. You can do whatever you want just by installing (mostly free) ‘plugins’ which are like apps – and there are 38,000 of them!
Wix is pretty easy to use, though there is still a learning curve. Wix is called a ‘drag and drop’ builder (or WYSIWYG – What You See Is What You Get) because you just click on things to drag them where you want them/change the colour etc, much like editing a Word document. WordPress is not as simple, but it has ‘builders’ like Divi (at an extra cost, though there’s a way of avoiding this as I’ll show you later), which are just as easy to use when you know how. There are hundreds of ready-made templates available too, so for example if you’re a dentist, you can just download a ‘dentist’ theme with all the pictures, booking systems etc set up for you and all you have to do is change the content.
Wix is free until you want to use your own domain name and other features. You pay a monthly ‘rent’ for these (£10 a month for an online store), which could go up at any point, whereas with WordPress you just pay for ‘hosting’ from somewhere like Siteground or Bluehost (starting at about £3 a month). Hosting companies also help you out with technical stuff, so you’re not left entirely to your own devices.
So why did I choose WordPress?
I started with WordPress.com and gave up. Wix came as a breath of fresh air. But when I joined a lot of small-business forums and asked questions, I got the same response:
‘Oh hun, just ditch Wix’
After about six months of Wix I started getting frustrated by its limitations. I ran into an issue and wasn’t impressed with the response (‘have a look on the forum’). The only time I ever heard back from Wix was when they wanted me to renew. Then I got almost daily reminders and still do.
So I moved to WordPress.org with not a clue of what to do. I learnt the hard way, with lots of pulling my hair out, lots of YouTube tutorials and lots of support from forums and WordPress support. It took about 6 months before I was finally happy with the result but it was definitely worth it. (I built a big Membership Site in the huge empty field that cam with the house – have a look here!)
If I could turn back time…
Although I learnt a lot about the ins and outs of web design, I wouldn’t want to go through all of that again. My solution came in the form of a WordPress ‘website in a box’. Everything is set up for you and all you need to do is customise it. There are others out there, but for me www.nohasslewebsite.com was the perfect solution.
Set up and run by a lady called Neta Talmor, this website costs just $99, which includes the Divi Builder and all the plugins you need. It also includes easy setup tutorials and she will jump in and help you fix anything if ever you have a problem. I’ve since found a UK-based version which also looks excellent though it is more expensive and you have to buy the Divi Builder yourself. By the way, you can try out the Divi Builder for free here.
What’s best for you?
So if you go and read all of those website comparison blogs now that you know what they’re talking about, you’ll see that they all come to the same conclusion in the end:
‘WordPress is far superior to Wix as a web publishing platform for any kind of website. While Wix offers an easy-to-use website builder, you can accomplish a lot more with WordPress over the long run.’
but (so that you can see I’m not totally biased):
‘So in conclusion, our opinion is that if you are a one person team or don’t have dedicated technical resources to help you build, maintain or troubleshoot a website, we recommend using Wix.’
Some people absolutely love Wix and there are still lots of niggly things about WordPress. But I would never go back.
If you would like to go it alone but need help getting started on Wix, WordPress or any of the other website builders (I’ll keep Squarespace for another time!) contact me for a consultation.
Since writing this I’ve discovered Elementor Pagebuilder for WordPress. It’s been a total game-changer for me and lets me create really fabulous pages really easily! It works well with the free Astra Pro theme, which again people are raving and raving about. I want to start my website all over again now!
Also I found this really excellent Podcast from the brilliant Membership Guys. It would have made things a lot easier a year ago:
Laura Robinson from Worditude has also written this fabulously clear blog: Web Designer vs Do It Yourself