WordPress is a popular and powerful content management system. Weebly is an easy to use drop and drag website builder. Squarespace is a website builder with attractive templates and useful features.
WordPress can be used to create anything from a simple blog to a full website. It has a dashboard to enable you to add new posts and pages to your site, and to change the content of existing pages, without having to write computer code.
You can alter the layout and appearance of your website by changing its theme, which will display the content in a different way. There are thousands of themes, both free and paid, many of which have options allowing you to personalise your site. You can customise your website’s appearance further using CSS code.
The WordPress software is free, but you will have to find and pay for a web host and register a domain name. Many hosts have one-click installation of WordPress to make it easy to get started. WordPress that you have installed this way, is often known as self-hosted WordPress, to distinguish it from sites hosted by WordPress.com.
If you are considering using self-hosted WordPress for your website, then it’s important to make sure that your site is backed up. See my blog post: A Note About WordPress Backups for more information.
If you don’t want the responsibility of updating and backing up your site yourself, you can choose to build it at WordPress.com who will host and maintain it for you. There are various restrictions on a WordPress.com site compared with one that is self-hosted. These include the facts that, except on the most expensive Business plan, there is only a limited number of themes and you cannot install plugins. Whereas, with self-hosted WordPress, you can use plugins to add functionality to your website.
Another option, if your budget will stretch to it, is to go down the self-hosted route, but with managed hosting so that security and backups are taken care of and you don’t need to worry about managing them yourself.
Weebly is a drag and drop website builder that has been designed to be very easy to use. It’s not as sophisticated as WordPress and you don’t have as much control over the way your site looks and works. However, you can still choose from a variety of themes which can be personalised by changing the fonts, colour scheme and images. And if you know CSS code, then you can customise your site even further.
Your website will be hosted and maintained by Weebly. There is a free version or you can pay for such features as a custom domain name and the ability to add more pages.
Squarespace is another website builder that comes with hosting and maintenance. It’s more powerful than Weebly, and hence has a slightly bigger learning curve. But it is still not difficult to use.
You choose a template to use as a starting point, and there are settings which give you a lot of control over your website’s appearance. There is no free version of Squarespace, but there is a free trial. As with the other platforms, you can also add custom CSS code.
It may seem that Squarespace is the perfectly balanced choice; not too complicated, not too simple, not too difficult, a reasonable amount of features, fairly customisable …
But, of course, it all depends on your individual requirements for your website.
As with most areas of life, if you have a limited budget then it’s unlikely that you will be able to get absolutely everything you want without some compromises.
Here are some of the things I came across which may mean that a particular platform is not the best fit for your needs:
- Need to purchase domain & hosting and install WordPress
- Need to keep up-to-date & backed up
- No ‘drag and drop’ page builder – but you could do this with a plugin. [UPDATE: From 2019 onwards, the block editor is closer to “drag and drop” than the old classic editor]
- Need to add plugins (or write code) for functionality – but there are plugins available to do a vast range of things.
- No built in tracking – need to link to google analytics.
- If you want an SSL certificate then you may need to buy one and ask your host to install it – although it’s free now with many hosts.
- Need to use a plugin such as woocommerce for selling.
- No ‘drag and drop’ page builder [UPDATE: the block editor is now the WordPress default.]
- Can’t add plugins (except a with the most expensive Business plan). Built in slideshow, galleries etc. don’t have as many features as some plugins.
- Limited number of themes unless you have a Business plan.
- Need to pay to prevent adverts being shown to visitors and to use your own domain name.
- Can remove link to WordPress.com from the footer only with the more expensive Business plan. Visitors who have their own WordPress.com account, will see an admin bar at the top of the page if they are logged in to their account.
- Have to pay to customise with CSS code. Some free fonts are now available. Not all Google fonts can be used.
- Can’t add your own custom post types (some themes use them e.g. for projects).
- It is not possible to sell products through your site, except on the Business plan.
- Free version limited to 10 pages
- No plugins – so limited to the elements that are included. Slideshow, galleries etc. are easy to drag onto a page and do have some options but not as many as WP plugins.
- Limited number of themes
- Need to pay to remove link to Weebly from the footer
- Just one navigation menu which does not have all the options that WordPress has
- No sidebars (except for blog) but paid accounts have a footer where you can drag elements.
- No custom post types
- No media library to easily re-use images already uploaded
- Blog is basic with fewer options than WordPress – no tags or featured images. Posts can only appear on the blog page. May be adequate if a blog is not a main feature of your site.
- Need to pay to add a search box
- Weebly charges 3% transaction fee except for Business accounts.
- No free option but 14 day free trial
- Bigger learning curve than Weebly but more options & control
- Cheapest account limited to 20 pages
- No plugins so not as many functions as WP. Some good built in blocks e.g. gallery block can be a slideshow with more options than Weebly but fewer than some WP plugins.
- Limited number of templates but they look good & are responsive.
- Need to use folders to create drop down menus and only one drop down level is possible.
- Most templates don’t have sidebars except for blog pages.
- No custom post types – although you can have more than one blog. Also blog posts can be displayed using summary blocks, which can make it easier than WP to display posts on several different pages.
- No media library. Can make a gallery and use this existing gallery on different pages – but that’s not the same thing.
- Can only use Stripe for accepting payments. Need to upgrade to a Business account to sell unlimited products.