Build a Website Part 3: Choose a Website Builder
Build a Website Part 3: Choose a Website Builder
One of the most common questions I hear from my clients is this: which website builder should I use? The fact is—there’s no simple answer. The best website builder for you depends on many factors:
- Do you want to build it yourself?
- What features do you want the website to support? (See blog post Part 2: Plan Your Website Functions)
- What type of maintenance do you want to deal with on your site?
- How much do you expect your website needs to change or expand over time?
In this post, we’re going to review two popular website builders on the market: WordPress and Squarespace.
Wordpress powers 33% of all websites on the internet. Whether or not you end up choosing to build your site on WordPress, that statistic should be enough to get you to at least consider it as an option. The website you’re looking at right now was built with WordPress, and it’s the builder I use when I design sites for clients.
To gain more insight into WordPress, I interviewed Sami Mulhern, owner of H&E Marketing Solutions and founder of The First Click. Sami builds and maintains websites on WordPress and will be launching a course in mid-July to teach you how to build your own WordPress site. Here’s what Sami had to say.
What's the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org?
WordPress.com is a simplified version that provides a website builder and hosting. It does not allow for plugins and is much more limited in its functionality. WordPress.org is the version you usually see people using. That's the one I recommend to my clients.
Why do you recommend WordPress over other website builders?
I have two words that sum up why I recommend WordPress: customization and functionality. The way that you customize a WordPress site is with plugins. There is pretty much a plugin for absolutely anything you could ever imagine needing. Want form submission on your site? There’s a plugin for that. Want to create an online course? There’s a plugin for that. Want Google reviews to show up instantly on your site? There’s a plugin for that.
Some people get overwhelmed by the sheer number of plugins available, but the plugins give WordPress an enormous advantage over other website builders. There is a way to integrate any feature, function, or app into a WordPress site. You just need to find the right plugin.
Aside from customization and functionality, the other thing I like about WordPress is that it’s open source. That means that it will never shut down, never disappear, and anybody can create solutions to make it better.
Another thing to consider is that your website needs could very well change over time. WordPress supports simple sites that have no more than a homepage, about page, and services page. Then when you want to add a blog, you can add it. If you want to start a membership area, you can add it. If you want to start an online store, no problem. WordPress will grow with you, and you will never outgrow it. WordPress allows your site to be as simple or as complex as you want.
How hard is it for somebody with no coding experience to build a site on WordPress?
WordPress has a few themes that rise to the top when it comes to ease of use: Elementor, Beaver Builder, and Divi. These three themes offer drag-and-drop editors that are simple to use once you learn how. If you want to start with a blank slate, you can use the drag-and-drop editor to build each section of your site. If you want to start with a premade layout, you can access a variety of layout packs inside each of these themes.
Like with all software, there is an initial learning curve when using the WordPress builder. But I do believe that anybody can build a website using one of the themes that I mentioned—if they take the time to learn.
How easily does WordPress integrate with other applications, like email service providers or online schedulers?
This goes right back to the plugins. You can find a plugin to integrate just about any application into a WordPress site. You also have the option to enter custom code. If you create a form in MailChimp, for example, you can enter the code from that form onto your site, and the form will appear. The options for integrating WordPress with other applications are virtually endless.
How hard is it for a person with no coding experience to learn how to make updates to their WordPress site?
I’m so glad you asked this question. A lot of website designers and developers will build websites and then require that their clients come back and pay them to make any changes or updates over time. We don’t do it that way. After we finish building a site for a client, we give them training on how to make updates and changes to their site. Updating a WordPress site is simple once the site is built. We are happy to make updates for clients any time, and we offer ongoing maintenance packages, but we think it’s really important for our clients to have control over their site once it is complete.
What kind of maintenance does a WordPress site require over time?
One thing to be aware of with a Wordpress.org site is that it does require separate hosting. Some hosting companies will do automatic backups of your site, but some don't. We recommend SiteGround as an excellent hosting platform.
In addition to regularly backing up your site (which your hosting company might do for you), the best practice is to go into your site once a month and update all plugins and make sure your software is updated. We give our clients a checklist for monthly website maintenance, but we also offer maintenance plans for those who don’t want to deal with it themselves.
One thing to consider is that sites do crash. At some point, it’s likely something will go wrong with your site. One benefit of paying a web developer or hosting company to maintain your site is that they will deal with any random tech issues that may come up.
How good is a WordPress site for search engine optimization (SEO)?
The Yoast plugin is an excellent plugin to guide you through optimizing your site for SEO. A lot of factors play into SEO, but if you use the Yoast plugin, create high-quality content, and generate backlinks to your site, a WordPress site can perform extremely well on search.
Tell me about the course you teach for people who want to build their site on WordPress.
I'll be opening a course in mid-July that's called Your Starter Site. The course is comprehensive. It starts with teaching you how to set up your hosting service, connect your domain, and get set up with the Divi theme in WordPress. We go through every step of design and development. You finish the course with a completely finished website and empowered with the skills to make ongoing changes as your business grows over time. There are 8 modules in the course, and I estimate you can complete everything in 8-10 weeks.
Learn more about Your Starter Site here.
Squarespace is an internally contained software that offers website hosting and design in one. Squarespace features a drag-and-drop editor as well as all kinds of templates to choose from. Squarespace is designed to be accessible for anybody to build a website—regardless of their technical abilities.
To gain more insight into Squarespace, I interviewed Louise Henry, founder of Solopreneur Sidekick. Louise also teaches an online course called Website that Wows, to hold your hand through the process of building your Squarespace website.
Why do you recommend Squarespace over other website builders?
I want small business owners and solopreneurs to be able to take control of their online presence. The number one benefit of Squarespace is that you can edit and update it yourself. Small businesses are always changing or adding new offers. With Squarespace, you can jump on anytime and make the changes right away. You don’t have to rely on a designer or a developer or wait around for the work to be done.
Another reason I recommend SquareSpace is that is has a really modern and professional look. There are all kinds of templates to choose from, or you can use the drag-and-drop builder to create your website section by section. And of course, because you can do the website design yourself, SquareSpace is a really cost-effective option for new entrepreneurs.
How hard is it for somebody with no coding experience to build a site on Squarespace?
There is a learning curve, but anybody can learn to build a Squarespace site. Squarespace is specifically designed so that people with no coding experience can use it, so you avoid a lot of the technical hassles you might face with other website builders.
One thing to understand about the drag-and-drop builder is that there are different modes. You can enter a mode for customization and another mode to change the aesthetics. That can be confusing if you have never used the builder before.
One nice thing about Squarespace is that you can easily change your template at any time. Some of the templates allow for more customization than others, so I recommend choosing a template from the Brine Family.
How much customization does Squarespace allow for?
You can use a template, but I teach my students to start with a blank slate and learn to use the various elements of the drag-and-drop editor. A lot of it is intuitive, but there are some tricks and hacks that make the process a lot easier and smoother. There is a code block where you can enter custom code, there is a custom CSS panel, and you can even go into developer mode if you really want to get specific with customization.
How easily does Squarespace integrate with other applications, like email service providers or online schedulers?
Squarespace is a contained software system, so it offers a lot of built-in applications. If you want to open a store, for example, you can build a Squarespace store. If you want to include scheduling on your website, Squarespace has a block to insert Acuity scheduling. If you want to integrate an external application, you can use the code block to insert almost anything. If you build an email opt-in form in ConvertKit, for example, you can grab that code from ConvertKit and drop it into the code block on SquareSpace.
What kind of maintenance does a Squarespace site require over time?
This is actually another really big benefit of Squarespace. It is all self-contained, so Squarespace does the hosting and any necessary updates for you. If you want an SSL security certificate, it’s as simple as switching a toggle on your website. The site is mobile responsive, and it will generate a site map that you can submit to Google Console.
Squarespace does backup the sites, but they also recommend you keep a Google doc of your site as a backup. But aside from that, you don’t have to worry about any of the technical or maintenance issues that you might have to deal with on other website builders.
How good is a Squarespace site for search engine optimization (SEO)?
It’s a complete myth that Squarespace is bad for SEO. People complain that it doesn’t support the Yoast plugin, but I teach my students how to use a real-time SEO tool where you can paste your blog post to check for keywords etc. The keys to showing up on search are producing regular content and getting backlinks to your site. You can absolutely rank a Squarespace site on search.
Tell me about the course you teach for people who want to build their site on Squarespace.
I teach a course called Website that Wows for anyone who wants step-by-step support in building their Squarespace site. I've found there are some features that can be confusing without help, and I've learned lots of hacks and tricks over the years. I teach my students how to use their website as part of their overall business and marketing strategy and have them include an email optin and sales funnel with their site. Students can complete the course and have their website finished in as little as one week, but 30 days is more typical.
Other Popular Builders: Wix, Weebly, and Shopify
Wix is an extremely popular drag-and-drop website builder. It’s similar to Squarespace in that it is a self-contained software. Whereas plugins are the way to add features to a WordPress site, the Wix app store is the way to add features to a Wix site. The only thing to consider is these features are limited by what Wix has to offer. If you want to integrate a lot of external applications with your website, you could quickly become frustrated by Wix’s limitations. Here’s a helpful review of Wix.
Weebly is another drag-and-drop website builder that's an option for online stores who use Square. I have no experience with this builder, so I’ll leave the review up to somebody else: read a review of Weebly.
Lastly, Shopify. Shopify is an e-commerce tool that is another good option for an online store. If the focus of your business model is online sales, you might consider building your site directly with Shopify.
This article is part 3 of 7 in a series on Building a Website to Grow Your Medical Practice. We covered the basics of some popular website builders. Up next is Part 4: Questions to Ask When Hiring a Web Designer