7 considerations when choosing a CMS for your website

It’s awesome to manage your own web content, so I can say—without a doubt—that your website should be built using a Content Management System (CMS).

But which CMS is right for you? Let’s take a look.

Today I’m talking about five popular Content Management Systems—Wix, Weebly, SquareSpace, Shopify and WordPress—to help you gain clarity on which is best for you. Of course as a WordPress designer, you know I’m partial…but for the purposes of this post, I’m being as objective as possible. The truth is, WordPress isn’t right for everyone.

Wix, Weebly and SquareSpace

Wix, Weebly and SquareSpace . . . these Content Management Systems are all similar in that they’re hosted on their own servers. You’re paying them a monthly or annual fee to use their services (if you don’t want ads on your site). They all have beautiful templates to choose from, and it’s hard to say if one is better than the others. I think it comes down to what’s important for each person when it comes to available templates, price, customizability and comfort-level with using each platform.

Shopify

Shopify is very similar to the Content Management Systems above, except it’s more specifically designed as an ecommerce platform. I have done some limited work with Shopify and found that it can be edited and customized in a more friendly way than the others, using Shopify’s own editing language. If you want an ecommerce site, it may be a contender.

WordPress

WordPress is sort of the opposite of the others. As a free and open-source CMS, WordPress operates under a General Public License (GNU GPLv2+) which means when you create a site in WordPress, you own the site. Nobody else owns it…they can’t take it away. It’s yours and you can do whatever you want with it. There’s a reason it powers 32% of the internet (and rising).

7 considerations when choosing a CMS

To figure out which CMS is right for you, consider these things:

  1. Pricing. Weebly costs $5–$38 per month. Wix costs $11–$35 per month. SquareSpace costs $12–$40 per month. Shopify costs $29–$299 per month. (Some offer free options with ads, or free trials.) WordPress costs $0 to download the software. You will need to secure your own web hosting. Most of my clients pay about $6-$10 per month for WordPress web hosting.
  2. Your technical interest and capabilities. If you’re not interested in learning WordPress or hiring a professional and want to do it yourself, it may be easier to use Weebly, Wix, SquareSpace or Shopify. To determine how involved you want to get, read this: Do it yourself vs. Do it right?
  3. Your willingness to fit inside a template. Weebly, Wix, SquareSpace and Shopify templates may constrain you and force you to adapt to a pre-existing template. WordPress allows you to do anything you want…a completely custom design. My recommendation: Don’t design your website backwards.
  4. Security, software updates and maintenance. Who is going to handle this stuff? Weebly, Wix, SquareSpace and Shopify handle these things for you—whereas with WordPress, you’ll most likely need to hire someone to employ a maintenance plan or choose a web host with managed WordPress hosting.
  5. How much control you want in the future. Weebly, Wix, SquareSpace and Shopify could change their practices or prices. They could get bought out by somebody you don’t like. They could do anything they want, and you’ll be forced to deal with it or move on.
  6. How you plan to grow. As your business grows, your template-based site may not have the flexibility to grow with you. How much growth do you anticipate? Are you willing to potentially get stuck in the future and have to start over?
  7. Data-retrieval. I helped a client move from SquareSpace to WordPress, and getting their content out of SquareSpace wasn’t easy. It had to be done in a very piece-meal way and was time consuming. If you’re considering doing a short-term SquareSpace site and moving to WordPress in the future, I’d recommend just going straight to WordPress.

Victory no matter what!

As a WordPress designer and developer, I obviously love WordPress and choose it all the time, for everything,—yes, even WordPress and eCommerce are a perfect match! If you want a site that gives you full control, lets you do things in the ideal order, has an amazing community, and can absolutely grow with you, then I couldn’t recommend WordPress more enthusiastically.

But one of the others may be more appealing to you—and that’s cool too!

No matter which CMS you choose, you will have achieved a victory because they’re all Content Management Systems which means you’ll have the freedom to update your content yourself. Woot!

Want more clarity? See my FAQs for more information about pre-built themes vs. custom design.

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One thought on “7 considerations when choosing a CMS for your website

  1. I have seen good and bad come from all of the above, including my favorite, WordPress. Jill’s article says that Wix, Weebly, and SquareSpace might be quicker from a cold start but I find WordPress can also be very quick to get up and running with, almost like the difference in driving your car, taking a bus, a taxi, Uber or Lyft. But it’s worth noting that the outcome is important enough to offset minimal issues of convenience at the onset. If you are a DIYer, you might be successful as I’ve seen it happen. It may help to have a second set of eyes look at your project. A professional designer is likely to deliver more professional results when time or talent doesn’t produce what you would like.

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