Disclaimer: coBranding Studio is a Wix partner, however, this article is the honest and objective opinion of our web designer Becca!
When first starting a business, the most important thing to remember is that online presence is everything. In this age of technology, the first stop for many people before making any kind of purchase for goods or services is a Google search. Ideally, your website will be the first thing they see! However, with the vast array of web hosting services currently available, how do you decide where to build and host your site? Today we’re going to examine a few of the most popular web building/hosting platforms and share which ones are our faves and which ones get a pass.
Some things to keep in mind: most monthly prices are based on the annual plans rather than month to month billing. Domain hosting is not included either, unless a provider specifically offers it with one of their paid plans.
Wix is our go-to platform for building brand new websites for our clients. If you don’t have an existing site or are looking for more features, you can’t go wrong with the near-infinite options for integrations and customization that Wix has to offer.
From a design perspective, Wix has one of the most flexible and customizable interfaces. This is important for you because it allows us to build you something completely new. No more worrying about using the same old stale template as every other start-up in your area! They also allow you to upload your own fonts, so if your logo uses a special font that they don’t already offer, you can upload it yourself to use on all of your web and email marketing materials.
Functionally, Wix offers practically every integration you can think of and supports most third-party apps if you have a specific need for something they don’t already offer. They offer built-in scheduling that sends automatic appointment reminders to your clients, social media streams, Google Drive integration, and more. Wix’s free plan does not allow for custom domain names and leaves a somewhat invasive banner ad across the top of your site, but their lowest-priced plan is just $14 a month and includes a free domain for your first year!
100% customizable layout and design for a high impact website
Endless integrations for scheduling, analytics, blogging, forums, and more
Send 3 free email campaigns a month to up to 5,000 subscribers with all basic plans
Powerful blogging tools for additional contributors and scheduling posts
Gorgeous mobile site customization to make sure you look great on any device
Includes a free domain for your first year
Slightly more expensive than most website builders
Lots of options can be intimidating for new web owners
There can be a learning curve to editing and updating your site
Squarespace is our runner up for the best small business website builder. While Squarespace does require you to begin building a site based on a template, they have a vast library of options and styles with lots of room to customize layout, fonts, colors, and more. Their lowest-priced plan is just $12 a month and includes a free domain for your first year and access for two contributors. For just $18 a month though, you can upgrade to their business plan which also includes unlimited contributors, advanced analytics, and full e-commerce ordering, inventory, and purchasing.
In terms of integrations, Squarespace is pretty comprehensive, although some ‘premium integrations’ like promotional pop-ups, Amazon embed, and Mailchimp are only available for business plan subscribers. Member areas and password protection are available for an additional monthly fee. One of our favorite little things about Squarespace is their map embed feature which displays the street map for your location with a number of customization options such as black and white, which looks very chic and classy.
However, one of the main reasons we like Squarespace is that the interface is super intuitive and straightforward. This means that once we’ve set up your website, it will be very easy for you to update and maintain should you need to add or change contact information, photos, or content.
Easy to update and maintain on your own once it’s set up
Slightly cheaper than many other services with comparable features
Free domain for your first year
Not quite as customizable as other providers like Wix
Some integrations are restricted to higher-cost plans
Only two contributors included with basic plan which can make it tricky for multiple employees or owners to update or blog
Although a major player in the world of domains and hosting, GoDaddy’s website builder is slightly less impressive. Like Squarespace, you are restricted to their selection of templates, but they’re not quite as customizable as the other options on this list. You can add blocks of your preferred content (text, images, video, etc), but you’re somewhat limited in where they can go on the page. The interface is not as intuitive for new users and can be difficult to customize in terms of theme colors and fonts.
In spite of those shortcomings, however, GoDaddy has a great e-commerce set up. You can set up inventory and products really quickly and easily, sort them into categories, and even select specific featured products to highlight on your home page. However, the available integrations are a little lacking, so you may be limited in terms of what outside apps you can include.
If you’re looking for the cheapest and most basic way to establish yourself online, GoDaddy might be a really great place for you to start. Their lowest-priced plan is $9.99 a month but does not include many of the perks and add-ons of other companies. If you’re looking to sell things right from your own website, you’ll need their e-commerce plan for $25 a month.
Most budget-friendly option for basic functionality
Website editor works on mobile devices, so you can edit your site on the go from your phone or tablet
They update their web builder often which leaves older sites incompatible
Wordpress can be a great website builder for very specific enterprises, but in our opinion, it is entirely too complicated to manage. To start with, WordPress.com and WordPress.org are two separate websites. WordPress is essentially a piece of software that gives you certain tools to build a website. If you go with the .com then they have tools to set up your domain and hosting but .org just gives you the software and you have to find somewhere to build it and manage the domain and hosting by yourself. However, the software itself works very similarly regardless of which one you choose.
WordPress.org allows for a much wider range of apps, plug-ins, and integrations, but they do require regular maintenance. If you don’t stay on top of your plug-ins and update them when a new version is released, parts of your site may break and disappear or display jumbled code to visitors.
WordPress does not have a very intuitive user interface and the actual process of setting up your pages and themes is very different from the other providers we’ve talked about so far. They also require you to start with a theme but offer decent customization, similarly to Squarespace. The more expensive your plan is, the more customization and themes are available to you.
On that note, the pricing for WordPress is a little wonky. With WordPress.com, the most basic plan is only $4 a month plus your domain and hosting, which is free the first year, but you only get a limited number of themes and restrictions on customization. With WordPress.org, you only have to pay for the domain and hosting, but of course you have to manage it yourself so it’s much more work.
Great for blogging or heavily text-based sites
One of the cheapest options out there
More complicated to set up and maintain
Very steep learning curve for basic web edits and content changes
In conclusion, Wix is our favorite all-around website builder, but Squarespace is a close second. GoDaddy isn’t nearly as customizable but has a nice e-commerce set up. Wordpress isn’t our recommendation for service or product-based businesses, but writers and bloggers might be very happy there.
We know the world of web hosting and building can be incredibly overwhelming given the number of companies offering those services. However, we hope that this brief overview of some of the major website builders has helped clear up some of the confusion! If you’re interested in building a website for your business, updating your current site, or changing hosts/providers, reach out today to see how we can help!