As a web designer for entrepreneurs who are just starting their businesses, the question I get a lot is – how do I know which platform to start on? It used to be my top 3 recommendations were Squarespace, WordPress, and Shopify, but since COVID-19, I’ve added a fourth to the mix. The answer comes down to three questions. What you are offering in your business? How much time do you have? Do you like to design?
This is an easy one so let’s get this out of the way. If your primary business is selling and shipping physical products, then hands-down use Shopify. There are many great out of the box templates that are available for around $180 and they are easy to get going with. If you sell physical products, but selling products will not be your primary source of revenue, then you might want to consider Squarespace. If you will be selling subscriptions, like subscription boxes, you will also need to add one of their many apps, which are usually available for about $20 a month,
With over 6% of the E-Commerce Market, Shopify is a robust solution for retail stores that now need to be focused on selling online. It’s also great for dropshipping, if that is part of your business model.
Easy to Design – Themes are highly dependent on your photos, so they can be easily designed to be very attractive with little coding or design knowledge.
Cost – Shopify can be expensive, particularly if you aren’t doing a large amount of sales.
Email Marketing – This is both a con and a pro in the long-term. Klaviyo is not widely used outside of Shopify sites, but I highly recommend them. You will have the initial drawback of switching your email list over, but the long term benefit of a highly powerful, highly customizable email marketing machine.
Templates – Choosing a template can be challenging. It’s important to remember that when choosing a template, the navigation layout and quick preview features are not easily changed. Spend some time exploring themes you like based on your inventory size, how the navigation flows, and how the quick preview feature works.
If you have a business that is primarily a service business or you sell a few digital products, then I recommend Squarespace.
For example, if you are a service-based business that will be primarily working with clients one on one or if you sell a few products (less than 5), Squarespace has many, many free themes which look awesome and are all drag and drop. As with Shopify, you will be pretty limited in your ability to change the location of your logo or the navigation, so make sure you choose accordingly.
Cost – Squarespace is the lowest priced of all these options, unless you start selling a high volume of products.
Uptime – Unlike with WordPress or Shopify, there are no updates that you will need to make. Your site will always work and won’t need tech support.
Email Marketing – Squarespace integrates easily and well with Mailchimp,Convertkit, and other common email marketing platforms.
SEO – Not as great for SEO, but they are getting better all the time. WordPress is still the best for this, but may not be worth the technical challenges.
Design – It is not super easy to change the look of your site. If down the road, you decide you want a different look, you may need to re-create your whole site with a new template and that can lead to a lot of pages with weird formatting issues. Squarespace is perfect for someone who wants to create a site once and not think of it again or for a minimalist look.
Drag + Drop – While this is a pro in so many ways, the Content Blocks can be difficult to position and sometimes the site just freezes and you lose your work. Save often and practice moving the blocks around.
While I personally use and love WordPress, it can be a challenging platform to work with. Here are some of the sites that use WordPress – https://techcrunch.com/, https://talkingshrimp.com/, https://thewaltdisneycompany.com/, https://www.beyonce.com/, https://www.bbcamerica.com/.
Because WordPress does have such broad uses and can literally do anything, sometimes it does nothing well. You can create a DIY website, but I would highly recommend hiring a web designer that creates WordPress websites for best results.
Versatility – There are plugins that can literally do ANYTHING with your WordPress site, from e-commerce, to memberships to subscriptions.
Design – It is not too hard to make a WordPress site look like anything you can imagine. For a professional designer, the possibilities for design are endless.
Cost – WordPress, even with all the plugins and themes, is the least expensive option. Even with the need to hire a professional designer and keep a maintenance contract, you are still ahead financially within two years. If you have the ability to do it all yourself, you are truly running the cheapest option around. Squarespace is closing the gap, though, so make sure you do your math before you decide.
SEO – WordPress has the best SEO capabilities of any of these options. You can get there with Squarespace, Shopify and Kajabi, but WordPress’ plugin Yoast SEO is the best around.
Control of your Content – WordPress is the best platform in terms of owning your data. You can easily download and export your content and user info quickly.
Hacking – Since WordPress has so many plugins and things that are made for it, it also has a lot of vulnerabilities. Making sure you build in counter measures and good anti-hacking plugins is key so that you don’t lose client data or access to your site.
Tech Support – You are going to either need support or monitor this yourself regularly. Plugins need regular updates and they don’t always interact well with each other afterward. Even if they all played nicely before, sometimes an update on one plugin will limit the functionality of another. If it sounds like a game of whack-a-mole, it can be, so a technical support person is key.
Are you a 1-1 service provider who is even considering a course or membership as an income stream in the future? If you are, Kajabi is the way to go. I have tested WordPress plugins and other course sites, but none makes it as easy and user-friendly to build a high-converting course sales page and website.
Templates – Drag and drop and pre-done high converting templates will get you going from zero to finished course in no time.
Sales funnel – Kajabi knows that user experience is super important in the course space. Their pre-built funnels help you succeed.
No downtime – This is another big plus in my book. No software or plugin updates are required to keep things running.
Cost – It can be a little pricey as you add more users.
Content – It is not easy to migrate from Kajabi.
Design – I don’t love the front end of Kajabi’s website builder, but it’s awesome for sales pages. Many coaches and others have WordPress or Squarespace sites so that they can have the exact look they are going for, which Kajabi as a back-end course platform.
That’s the round up! Hope it was helpful!
*Affiliate links are included in this post. I highly recommend products for included affiliate links and have tested and use or have used all of them for myself and clients.