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A Complete Guide to Choosing the Right Platform for your Business Website

Websites are generally built on content management systems to enable non-technical users to edit their own web content. There are lots of platforms available, we look at the pros and cons of the most popular.

Web CMS comparison, pros and cons

Intro

Whether you’re launching a new business or considering a website upgrade, choosing the right platform or content management system (CMS) can make a world of difference to how easily and efficiently you can control and manage your own website. At Edge Studio, we create beautiful, effective websites for clients from our base in Sheffield, right across the UK. As a team of specialist designers and developers we won’t influence your choice of CMS if you have a preference. We’re happy to chat with you and discuss the positives and negatives of each, specifically for your requirements but we won’t pressurise you if you’re business desires to use a CMS of their own choice. It all comes down to the breath of skill of the development team; if a developer will only build you a site on a specific CMS it suggest they heavily rely on plugins and/or themes to build your site. This might be appropriate for a cheaper site but if you want a custom site that matches your brand and is built specifically for you then you need a developer that will write the code direct for your website. A senior developer like this won’t be restricted to a specific CMS and can build you a site whoever you want. This is what we offer at Edge studio; custom websites built to match your bespoke design. This means all our sites are different and unique.

We’ve worked with a wide range of site-building platforms and know how important it is to start with the right foundations. It’s not just about functionality – it’s about choosing a platform that allows your site to grow alongside your business needs.

In this article, we’ll share a rundown of the best website-building tools for businesses of all sizes, from WordPress to Shopify, Wix to Squarespace. We’ll keep it light on the jargon, so even if you don’t know a plug-in from PHP, you’ll still gain value from reading.

If you still have questions about the right platform for your business website after reading, get in touch. We’re always happy to offer advice.

Author

About The Author

I’m Andrew Newby, the owner and design lead behind Edge Studio. Starting my journey in Sheffield’s digital agencies, I quickly developed a passion for creating websites that not only stand out visually but are also intuitive and engaging.

Now, leading Edge Studio, I focus on bringing these qualities to clients’ websites, using design, SEO and content creation to captivate (and convert) your audience. I hope that by reading this article, you get some insight into the benefits and downfalls each platform brings to the table so that you can confidently choose the best direction for your website build.

Article author, Edge Studio owner Andrew Newby

Understanding Website Platforms

So, let’s start right at the beginning with the basics. What’s the difference between a website builder (such as Wix or Squarespace) and a content management system (CMS)? A fundamental difference between lies in the underlying foundation and the level of control you have over it. Here’s a breakdown:

Website Builder Website

Pre-built foundation
Imagine a pre-fabricated house. Website builders provide a set structure with pre-defined features and functionalities. You can arrange the furniture (content) and choose paint colours (design elements) within this structure, but the overall layout is fixed.

Limited customisation
Customisation options are like pre-approved renovations on your pre-built house. You can change layouts to an extent offered by the builder, but you can’t knock down walls or add entirely new rooms (features) unless the builder specifically allows it.

Sometimes easier to use
They’re user-friendly and require no coding knowledge. Drag-and-drop interfaces and pre-built templates make it easy to get a website up and running quickly.

Developer-built CMS Website

Which CMS should I choose?

Customisable foundation
Imagine building a house from scratch. A developer-built CMS site is like a custom-designed home. The developer creates the underlying structure (code in the CMS) to fit your specific needs and functionalities. You have complete control over the layout, features, and design. This requires a much more skilled developer to build.

Highly customisable
With a custom CMS site, it’s like building your dream home. You can design unique layouts, add specific features, and tailor every aspect to perfectly match your vision. There are virtually no limitations to what you can achieve.

Requires technical expertise
Building a custom CMS website requires a developer with expertise in the CMS platform and the various coding languages. This makes it more complex than using a website builder that most people could probably work out after watching YouTube videos.

Ultimately, the choice depends on your website goals and budget. For simple websites with basic needs, a website builder will often be our recommendation, but for complex functionalities, unique design, and future growth, a custom CMS website built by a developer is the superior option. To begin with you may just need a simple brochure website but consider how things may grow over time. It wouldn’t be cost effective to create a Six site to only employ a web design company to build a custom site further down the line.

If you’re hiring a website designer like Edge Studio, you’ll have very little interaction with the website platform during the build phase, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that the platform is only important at the start. Every time you need to make an update, whether it’s changing your listed staff members or uploading a blog, you’ll need to access the website platform, so it’s important you choose one that you’re comfortable using long-term.

Best Web Builders

New website builders come and go, but there are a handful that stick around, and for good reason. The platforms listed below have a strong reputation for doing what they do well. While they all have their own selling points, they also have flaws that may make them unsuitable for your project. Familiarising yourself with the various options is the best way to ensure you don’t regret your choices a year down the road.

Wix

Moving on to Wix, the friendly face of website platforms. Launched in 2006, Wix has made a name for itself with its drag-and-drop simplicity. Wix is known for its ease of use, making it particularly popular with beginners.

You pick a template you like, drag in elements like text boxes and images, and voilà, you’re set. Wix makes sense for small DIY projects, portfolios, or businesses that need a simple web presence fast and with minimal effort.

Key Features:

  • User-Friendly
    Great for getting a site live quickly and without hassle.
  • Designs
    Lots of templates to start with, all of them pretty sleek.
  • Wix App Market
    Adds extra functions to your site, though not as extensive as WordPress plugins.

It’s worth noting that while Wix is user-friendly, it has its limitations. Customisation is not as deep as WordPress, and if your site grows, you might find those initial conveniences become constraints. Due to its limited range, it’s usually used by sole traders, freelancers or artists who want to save money by designing their own websites.

Wix is the instant coffee of website platforms. Quick, easy, and gets the job done. But if you’re looking to brew something a little more complex, it’s probably not the right platform for you.

Wix CMS

Shopify

Launched in 2006, Shopify has been built from the ground up with selling in mind. It’s a one-stop shop for e-commerce businesses. You can set up an online store relatively quickly, and it handles everything from products to payments to shipping. It shines for businesses focused solely on e-commerce, offering features that streamline the selling process online.

Key Features:

  • E-commerce Specialisation
    Includes tailored tools for managing an online store.
  • Integrated Payments
    Comes with built-in payment processing.
  • Themes and Apps
    While not as varied as WordPress plugins, there’s still a decent selection for e-commerce needs.

Shopify does a great job at what it’s designed for—helping businesses sell online. But keep in mind that while Shopify is generally a great website platform for e-commerce businesses, it involves transaction fees and monthly costs that can add up. Plus, if you want to venture beyond e-commerce, you might find it less flexible. If you’re looking for a platform that’s more versatile and allows for broader customisation, you may also want to consider WordPress.

Shopify CMS

Squarespace

Squarespace is all about creating sleek, professional looking websites with minimal effort. Started in 2003, it has carved out a niche for itself with design templates and intuitive drag-and-drop interface.

Squarespace is a hit with creatives, small business owners, and anyone looking to create a visually impressive website themselves quickly.

Key Features:

  • Design-First Templates
    Offers a range of polished designs that adapt well to different types of content.
  • All-In-One Platform
    Includes hosting, domains, and a decent range of integrations within its packages.
  • E-commerce Capabilities
    While not as comprehensive as Shopify, it offers enough for small to medium-sized online stores.

Squarespace is perfect for straightforward sites with a strong visual component. But it doesn’t offer the same level of flexibility or the extensive plugin library you get with WordPress. If your site’s needs grow or become more complex, you might feel limited by Squarespace’s options.

Squarespace CMS

What’s the downside to using a website builder?

Need a simple shed for basic storage?
While simple website builders offer design flexibility within its framework, you can’t achieve the same level of unique design and user experience possible with custom development.

Scalability Limitations
Simple site from builders might struggle with complex content with large amounts of data or growing needs. Custom CMS sites can be scaled more easily to accommodate future growth.

Loading speeds
The code produced by self-build projects can often be bloated and heavy to load. This gives low quality feel to a business site and can frustrate users. Google also heavily penalises slow sites so if you’re trying to complete for competitive keywords you’ll probably need something more favoured by search engine bots.

Vendor Lock-in
Your website is locked into the vendor platform. Moving to a different platform in the future could be complex and will require rebuilding the website.

Not as cheap as you think
Platform such as these often sound very affordable to begin with but the reoccurring monthly payments add over the lifetime of the site.

Best Web CMS

WordPress

WordPress is a bit of a legend in the website world. It started back in 2003 as a simple blogging tool. Today, it’s one of the most powerful platforms out there, running everything from small blogs to big-name websites. It’s certainly my favourite platform to use, and I’d go so far as to say that 90% of website designers prefer WordPress.

Why is it so popular within the industry? It’s flexible. You can make your website look and do just about anything with plugins and themes. It’s perfect if you want control over your site’s look and functionality and don’t mind a bit of a learning curve along the way. Great for blogs, business websites, and even e-commerce (with the right plugins).

Key Features:

  • Customisable
    There’s a theme for that, whether you’re setting up a cafe site or a tech blog.
  • Plugins Galore
    Need to add a contact form or improve SEO? There’s a plugin for almost everything.
  • Community Support
    Got a question? There’s a massive community of users and developers ready to help.

WordPress is the Swiss Army knife of website platforms, versatile but best in the hands of someone who knows how to use it. It definitely helps to know what you’re doing, particularly in terms of building the website and performing updates, but there are plenty of resources to help you learn as you go if you’d like to take a DIY approach.

Wordpress CMS

Joomla

Joomla holds its own among Content Management Systems (CMS) with several strengths that make it a sound choice for specific website projects. Here’s a breakdown of its advantages compared to other options:

Key Features:

  • Open-Source and Free
    Just like WordPress, Joomla! is open-source software. There’s no licensing fee to use the core software, making it a cost-effective option for budget-conscious clients.
  • Security Focus
    Joomla prioritises security and regularly releases updates to address vulnerabilities. This is crucial for websites that handle sensitive data.
  • Scalability
    Joomla! is scalable and can handle large websites with growing content needs. This makes it suitable for websites that anticipate significant traffic or data growth.
  • Multilingual Capabilities
    Joomla has built-in multilingual capabilities, making it a strong choice for websites targeting international audiences. You can easily create and manage content in different languages.
Joomla CMS

Drupal

Drupal has carved a niche as a robust CMS adept at handling complex websites with demanding requirements. Here’s what sets Drupal apart:

Key Features:

  • Unmatched Scalability
    Drupal is built to scale with ease. It can handle massive websites with millions of visitors and gigabytes of data, making it ideal for large organizations or websites expecting exponential growth.
  • Highly Customizable
    For developers, Drupal offers unparalleled customization options. You can build entirely bespoke websites with unique features and functionalities tailored to specific client needs. This extends to content types, user roles, and intricate workflows.
  • Flourishing Open-Source Community
    Drupal is backed by a large and active open-source community of developers and enthusiasts. This translates to a wealth of extensions, modules, and themes that further enhance Drupal’s capabilities. There’s also extensive documentation and readily available support should you encounter any challenges.
  • Content Management Finesse
    Drupal excels at content management for complex websites. It offers granular control over user permissions, content workflows, and version control. This ensures a smooth and secure content creation and management experience for large teams working on websites with intricate content structures.
Drupal CMS

Considerations

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Platform

Choosing the right platform for your business website isn’t just about picking the most popular option. It’s about finding the best fit for your unique needs. Here’s what you should keep in mind:

  • Business Needs
    Your business isn’t static, and your website shouldn’t be either. Consider how easy it is to add features or scale up with each platform. WordPress, for instance, offers vast plugins and themes that can grow with your business.
  • Scalability
    Includes hosting, domains, and a decent range of integrations within its packages.
  • Technical Skills
    Your comfort level with technology should play a part in your decision if you’re not outsourcing the build to a professional. Platforms like Wix and Squarespace are more user-friendly for beginners, whereas WordPress, while still accessible, offers deeper customisation for those willing to dive a bit deeper.
  • Budget
    Understand the full cost, not just the upfront fees. Some platforms might seem cheap at first but can become costly as you add features or scale. WordPress offers a lot of flexibility here, with many free or low-cost options.
  • Ongoing Maintenance
    Consider how much time and effort you can dedicate to maintaining your site. WordPress sites might require regular updates and security checks, but this also means they can stay fresh and secure with a bit of attention.

As you can see, I heavily lean toward WordPress over other platforms (except in the case of simple e-commerce sites where Shopify reigns supreme). While Squarespace and Wix have their place for DIY websites, WordPress offers superior functionality that allows you the freedom to adapt or expand your site in the future, without the headache of digging up your digital “foundations”.

Transitioning

Transitioning Between Platforms

There may come a time when your current platform doesn’t fit your business needs anymore. Maybe you started as a basic brochure site but now need e-commerce functionality, or you love the way your site looks but need better performance. Transitioning your website to a new platform is a big step, but it doesn’t have to be daunting. Here’s what to keep in mind:

  • Planning is Key
    Understand what you need from the new platform and plan your move carefully. Inventory your website’s content, features, and anything that needs to be migrated.
  • Technical Considerations
    Moving a site can get technical, from transferring domain names to moving content without losing SEO rankings. Platforms like WordPress have large communities and plenty of tools to help make this process smoother.
  • Downtime
    Minimising downtime is important if you want to maintain your online presence and SEO ranking. Choose a quiet time for your business to make the switch, and use the right tools and services to ensure a swift transition.
  • Support and Resources
    Look for platforms that offer strong support and resources. WordPress, for instance, has an extensive community and numerous guides on moving to WordPress from various platforms.
  • Test Before You Launch
    Once you’ve moved your site, test everything before going live. Check that all pages load correctly, forms work, and no data was lost in the transition. It’s like doing a final walkthrough before settling into your new digital home.

Transitioning to a new platform might seem like a big step, but with the right preparation and support, it can set your business up for its next phase of growth. Whether it’s expanding your capabilities, refreshing your site’s look, or improving performance, sometimes all it takes is a change of platform.

I highly recommend using a professional web design company to manage the process for you. Not only will it ultimately save you time and money by minimising downtime and improving your online presence, but it also saves a lot of headaches, leaving you and your team free to concentrate on what you do best.

Summary

Future-Proof Your Business Website with Edge Studio

Picking the right platform for your business is a big decision. But the main thing I’d like you to take away from this article is there’s no right or wrong, only what works for you and your business.

At Edge Studio, we know you just want to make the best choice without getting tied down in tech jargon or sales pitches. We’re here to help you sift through the options and find the perfect fit.

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