What's your opinion of sites like Wix, Square Space and BigCommerce?
I've noticed these sites promoting strongly these days.
For cash-strapped individuals aiming to establish a startup, would they be better off using a template from one of those website builders like Wix, or should they invest in a professional developer and have a custom website built?
This is a great question William. For cash-strapped individuals looking to start up I recommend WordPress.org for many reasons.
Wordpress.org is a free open source platform - you only pay for your domain name and monthly hosting. You don't need to hire a web designer as there are thousands of website themes to suit any business.
Large well know companies are now turning to the WP platform as they have total control over their website and are not locked-in by a single developer. With more businesses now employing and or training their own online marketing people WP is a viable proposition for smart businesses looking for an affordable option.
With plugins to suite most applications your website can and will look just as you want it to... from an e-commerce store to a membership site WordPress has it covered.
Using a WordPress.org hosted website means you own it and the content in it. If we can re-educate people so that they don't look at WordPress simply as a content marketing system and blogging platform, but a versatile marketing system to suit the many needs of the small or large online business owner.
The WordPress Development community has thousands of members continually working on the development of the platform. From an SEO point of view there are many plugins available to help you optimise your content and give you continuous page one rankings.
I will add I'm not that familiar with Shopify or Big Commerce as I have been very happy with the e-commerce options and plugins offered by the WordPress Platform.
Good question. I only have experience with Shopify.com (very similar to BigCommerce) but I found the fees more interesting. The interface, including the product inventory management was also extremely easy to use. Design wise, you can download free or paid templates and then customise them at your own will, or you can get a developer to do it for you (or start a new design from scratch which will cost you more). Satisfied overall, I would recommend this service.
I've seen 'Wix' come up in my Facebook feed about 4 times a day for a month or two now. They really are putting a heavy push on marketing.
My first ever website in 2007 was built using 'Weebly' which is similar to Wix. And in about 2008 I used 'Carbonmade' for a more professional look.
The thing is, I've never seen a site made with one of those tools that looks amazing. I'm pretty fussy, though.
For me, the templates of sites like these seem a little restrictive. I notice the inflexibility of having elements dragged and dropped to the spots on the page that the template allowed.
For the cost of the fees, I woud recommend to anyone that they either find a free Wordpress theme that they like, and play around with that, as they're often more customisable. Or find a developer that can work within their budget.
That being said, I totally recommend using existing e-commerce sites like Shopify, Big Cartel, etc - you can customise the URL to be branched from your own personal domain, so that they fit in as part of your site. But they help minimise the fuss of having your own e-commerce platform set up in your site, and messing around with the payments process etc. It's all done for you. Handy.
These services are not just for the cash-strapped. Even if you're a developer you'd need a good reason not to consider one of the many platforms out there. http://www.squarespace.com http://www.virb.com http://www.wordpress.com http://www.basekit.com http://www.weebly.com http://www.webs.com http://www.jimdo.com http://www.yola.com http://www.moonfruit.com http://www.lightcms.com E-commerce http://www.shopify.com http://www.bigcartel.com http://www.storenvy.com http://www.volusion.com http://www.bigcommerce.com Also there are now marketplaces developing if you need help to customise your websites once they are on these platforms, one such company in Melbourne is http://www.tweaky.com
These are great responses guys!
Thanks heaps, I really appreciate your invaluable expertise on this subject matter :)
I would add businesscatalyst.com in there as it has many integrated systems the others do not, like email marketing, ecommerce, socail integration, members areas, document mangent, integrated reporting and website stats, email hosting, dns and domain settings.
I think these hosted platforms are the way of the future for small business websites.
I can only specifically comment on Squarespace. I manage several sites there for client's from my old business, a few have been there over 12 months ... no maintenance, no upgrades, no hacks ... average cost is $8 per month (if paid annually).
All these sites have full CMS capability, social media integration, SEO optimization, plus they are on responsive design frameworks, so they work across all viewing devices. To date it's been bullet proof.
I moved these sites to Squarespace after a couple of years of other options, including shared hosting (a very poor experience) and running my own VPS server at Linode.
Repeated hacking of Wordpress sites ( they were maintained using best practise, it was the security of the web server that was compromised in all cases) on shared hosting, moved me to using a VPS, but security and maintenance are very boring and time consuming.
In my opinion, any interaction with a hosting server is to be avoided unless you have the time and very specific skills ... leave maintenance and security to full time pro's.
Hosted platforms are rapidly becoming the norm for Ecommerce sites. Small business sites are probably next in line.
I've used shopify in the past and you can get some really great templates for $150 or so. The most important thing is if the platform is easy to use and for you to update and change.
Surprisingly there are some really great custom templates on Etsy as well - not really a place you'll normally thinking of looking but their logo, design and template auctions are really high quality and not that expensive, but majority may be of a certain style - very Etsy like.
If you were to open a ecommerce store though, and you are not that farmiliar with biuldign websites I'd go wiht a service liek shopify or e-commerce simply because you know that they will keep their platform updated - you also don't need to pay for updates or maintenance. And sometimes having an e- commerce site developed in a proprietary platform that the web design agency uses, means a huge fee later if you want to switch or redesign in a way those platforms can't handle.
Even if you use open source like Magento or open-cart etc sometimes updates can break your existing website.
I would only recommend doing a custom build if you startup business IS a website - like ours :)
I have used Wix.com to set up a couple of sites. I find its interface very slow, and the blogging aspect of it (currently anyway) not easy or responsive, nor particularly intuitive. I don't have experience with a commercial/etail site on there, so possibly it's great for that. It also seems to be pushing video/the use of video on sites quite heavily.
I've since set up a site on Wordpress using a default template, and I also help manage another (externally hosted) Wordpress site for a small business. Based on my experience, what I would recommend is:
Go with Wix.com if:
- you want to get a smart looking site up quickly
- you have zero html skills
- you want a lot of video on your site
- your site will be quite "static", more of a portfolio or showcase
Go with Wordpress if:
- you want full power and control
- you want to do a lot of blogging
- you want access to a very wide skills and user community
- you have some html skills (I find Wordpress's WYSISWYG interface very poor and inconsistent: with Wix.com you literally get what you see)
The answer is not obvious, however, I have used Shopify and big cartel and I would say I like them both. If you ask me Big cartel vs Shopify, I'd say - both (depends on what is your target).
I had a Weebly info site but the links from that were not rated well by Google back to my home Wordpress (domain name) site. Got rid of it. My own domain site, which never had a related keyword in its URL, kept hitting high rankings (1,2,3) on Google for self publishing help and I believe it was down to a number of factors:
_ Speed optimisation and hosting (not shared with others)
_ Continual blog posting and adding content over three years
_ Focussed content written for the audience on my topic, somewhat sought after and niche
_ With a modern theme you can make it look however you want. I wanted it streamlined.
_ I got some social media and traffic action through partnering with bigger fish in the sea.
I have recently finished redesigning 2 websites for clients who were using Squarespace and weren't happy with it. Both of them chose the platform because of the low entry cost and ability to DIY. But they quickly found the lack of flexibility in the framework and the constant "add on" costs whenever they wanted something simple integrated into their site very frustrating. If your budget is incredibly low and you're happy with a basic template, then by all means these DIY sites might be right for you. But the fact of the matter is, they look like a template and this can reflect on how your business is perceived. Your website is one of the biggest marketing tools you have and often the first place a person will be introduced to your brand. So if you are serious about running a successful business, how can you not set aside $3000-5000 to get a custom website built that resonates with your target market?
from a seo perspective, out of the majors:
shopify and bigcommerce are the winners here.
Be careful with ecommerce sites, as they come innately with duplicate title tags etc
I moved from a self hosted osCommerce site to Shopify about a year ago and love it. Good to see Shopify mentioned above a few times. Agree also, not just for cash strapped but for more cash savvy businesses. Software/sites as a service is where we are heading and I like it :-)
Just one tip is to do plenty of research, get three or four solutions you like and then compare everything: cost, services, features and then make your own decision based on your criteria and gut feel, not from one or two reviews you may read.
I would be aware of the "bait and shift" mentality that could hold your business content hostage. Although these are great options for the low budget enterprise getting the show on the road, one does need to thing of the user experience over time.
eCommerce business is increasing with the passage of time because it has many advantages People earned handsome amount in form of commission by this. But in the other hand, there is some drawback is also exists like e-commerce is characterized by some technological constraints, which limit the inherent number of people using this revolutionary system. eCommerce sites are developed by agencies and they highly charged i.e Cashback site developers ileaddigital.com/services/web-design/affiliate-cms-development One of the major drawbacks of e-commerce is that the Internet has not yet touched the lives of many people, either because of lack of knowledge or confidence. A huge number of people still do not use the Internet for any financial transactions. Some people simply refuse to believe the authenticity of a completely impersonal business operations, as in the case of e-commerce. Many people fear the disclosure requirements of personal and private information from security considerations, as well as many, again the legitimacy and credibility of the various e-commerce sites were questioned. Anyways, thanks for sharing the interesting information with us.
Great question the short answer is no.
That is because your website is too valuable a business asset for you not to own and control fully. That's why in most cases I'd recommended Wordpress on your own decent quality web hosting.
There are tons of themes and visual builders you can access that make creating a nice looking site pretty easy for anyone with decent computer skills.
I've used Squarespace for a while now, and it's far more powerful and integrated than WordPress, which is what I'm used to. The e-commerce functionality baked in is a massive plus for me.
With my experience Wix is the best all-around website builder:
However, they all have many advantages and disadvantages.