By Steven Titchener
In this blog we are going to put the top platforms head to head, that’s right, it’s WordPress vs. Webflow vs. Wix vs. Squarespace vs. Shopify. It’s the ultimate showdown, which web building platform is going to be best for your business and your website needs?
Remember none of these platforms are inherently bad, it’s just they have different uses, pros and cons.
When we think about ease of use, we like to think about it from all angles, our clients, our developers and our SEO and content teams. They all have different things they are looking for when using a CMS tool like the ones we are looking at, so we need to consider all of them within this. After all, one platform might be amazing for the web design team, but horrible for the SEO team.
WordPress is a really hard one to gauge, with the recent editor X addition and varying other plugins you can use to make editing your website easier, it does still have some areas that aren’t ideal.
For instance, the initial setup and maintenance of WordPress is quite hard and can be frustrating. There is every functionality you could ever need through the use of plugins, but not all of these plugins are ‘good’ with some causing sites to be slow and crash. Then when you update WordPress itself some plugins just break entirely.
But once set up by people who know what they are doing, it’s an amazing tool and so easy to edit pages, text and images, add blogs and do pretty much anything you need to easily.
Webflow suffers from a similar problem to WordPress, it’s amazing to use once setup, but getting that in place can be hard.
Webflow doesn’t use plugins like WordPress, it is all built into the platform itself (or custom coded sometimes), which means that actually building that design can be hard. You can use templates the same way as WordPress, but actually making things look nice and moving parts around is much tougher to do.
Again, once setup it is so easy to edit, probably easier even than WordPress as you are editing on page, rather than in a background CMS. Which means you can see the changes as you are doing them and there are no plugins or updates to mess around with, so you can’t really break your website.
Wix is super easy to use, you just throw blocks onto a page and you’re done. You get to edit those on page as well, so when changing images and text it can be super easy.
This does come at a price as you’ll find out later, but in terms of usability of the whole platform it’s super easy.
Squarespace is again a really easy website builder to use, you choose your template and off you go adding text and images wherever you want.
There are some areas that Squarespace don’t get quite right with the usability though, sometimes the interface can be a little confusing in it’s minimalism.
Shopify is pretty much the eCommerce sibling of WordPress. They work in a very similar way by using a base template that you can edit and move around, then adding plugins for other features you might need.
This comes with the same issues as WordPress in the fact that some plugins aren’t great and your website can get bloated very quickly. The other problem with Shopify usability is that they use a very strange coding language, so good luck making any changes to the design unless you know that specific language.
When looking at different platforms you might just want a simple brochure website, in which a template based system would work well, but you might want something more unique, which is where you are going to have to look at the more flexible platforms.
Most WordPress websites use a template as their design, which isn’t a bad thing as WordPress probably has the biggest ecosystem around it. Which means there are thousands of templates to choose from, so you are sure to find something you like.
The other benefit to using templates is that they are mostly professionally designed and quite editable, meaning you can really make that website your own.
But you can create your own design from scratch on WordPress as well, so you don’t have to be confined to templates you find. However they do make a good starting point, after all a section with 3 icons in it is going to look similar on any website.
The problems with this system is that to make large design edits to a template or website you need to have a plugin, which could cost money or bloat your website, or you need to be able to edit code yourself. So while you have a lot of choice in design, there can be areas that stop you being able to actually make the design changes you want.
Webflow is built to design on. You can create anything you want in there, starting from a blank canvas and building up the design and animations as you go.
There is even a great template market for you to use if you want to. This can also speed up the process as you can choose a template, then completely take it apart and change the design to how you want it to be. All without touching a line of code.
The problem with Webflow is the learning curve. It can take a while to learn how to make things work well and have a good structure.
Wix is an interesting one, it has some great templates you can start with and you can really move parts around and change them. However it is a little basic in the changes you can make on a design level.
You can be very limited in the creativity you can put out on this builder. But equally if you are happy with just a basic website, then this won’t be a big issue for you.
Squarespace is heavily template based. While you can move parts around and it is very easy to do so, once you’ve chosen a template. That’s pretty much the design you have.
The thing with Squarespace is that there are some beautiful templates on there, so while it is restricting, you can still get a really nice website from it.
Shopify is again similar to WordPress, you use a template to start the design and get your base there. Then you can make changes to the design to make that template your own.
The only problem with Shopify is that their codebase is so odd, you really need to know what you are doing with Shopify specifically to be able to make large design changes. This could make those changes out of reach for a lot of people.
eCommerce is on every other website we build these days, and why not, everyone has access to tools that allow them to create products they want to sell, whether that’s a course or an event ticket or even a fridge. This means choosing a website builder that has sufficient eCommerce technology can make a big difference to your business, maybe not right away, but down the line.
WordPress can be an amazing eCommerce platform with the addition of WooCommerce or similar, you can easily integrate payments into your current website.
It also has some great integrations with other external eCommerce apps that you might need to run your business, things like cart abandonment emails and stock taking software can all be put right into your WordPress site. Giving you an almost one-stop shop for it all.
The problem is of course, having to actually set all this up. Unlike Shopify, you have to have extra plugins to get started offering eCommerce capabilities, that also means you have to look at different templates that are compatible with eCommerce. Meaning it is a little bit of extra setup.
Webflow has eCommerce capabilities, but they are fairly limited. Within the native Webflow app you can sell physical and digital items, take different payment methods like card, Apple Pay, Google Pay and PayPal.
It does all of the basic stuff you would want to get a store running, and is fine if you are a new business looking to sell one or two items and you don’t need any speciality software. But as soon as you start to grow, it starts to have problems.
You can of course use a different eCommerce platform and integrate it with Webflow, but it’s not easy and if you are doing that, you may as well use another platform.
Wix is in a similar position to Webflow, it has all of the basic eCommerce functionality that you’d want to start a new business, but as soon as you start to grow you will need to change platform for something more robust.
Again with Squarespace they are a great starting point, but can’t scaleup as well with you and lack some of the finer features that can contribute to a better eCommerce store.
They have some really pretty templates and some great analytics, but that is about as far as it goes with them.
Shopify is the crown jewel of eCommerce capabilities, that’s what it was built for after all. They have some of the best integrations with stock management and shipping businesses and all the websites come eCommerce ready.
They have every app you’d need to run a highly successful ecommerce business, including things like cart abandonment metrics and even allowing crypto-currency payments.
Why only 9/10 then if it has such high praise? Well it can be quite expensive to run and a little tricky to set up the finer details of your site. As well as enforcing some payment charges for different payments methods which can start to take a toll on your profits.
CMS or Content Management System is the backbone of all of these tools. It’s how you upload and edit content and keep everything working smoothly. This being the case, it’s important to know if they have a robust and flexible CMS system behind them that can do everything you need them to.
WordPress is the original CMS web builder and it’s the reason most of the websites out there right now are built using it.
The CMS is robust and can scale infinitely with some great control over the content you are producing and managing. It’s only downfall is that it can be a little confusing sometimes working out how to edit certain pieces of content.
Webflow has a hybrid CMS system. Where in WordPress you use a dashboard to change all of the content on your website from, Webflow you can change static page content right on the page. Then dynamic content, like blogs, can be changed through a dashboard system similar to WordPress.
Webflow have handled the user experience of this perfectly, making it really easy to add and update content. The problem though is that it isn’t that scalable.
There are quite a few restrictions on how many CMS fields you can have on blogs and how many actual blogs you can upload. Don’t get me wrong, it is a few thousand, but for large businesses this can go quickly if you have multiple CMS collections (team, blog, products, filters).
Wix has a solid CMS system, with a similar way of working as Webflow with on page changes being made directly on the page so you can see exactly what you are changing, then a secondary CMS system to run a blog from.
The problem with Wix is that while easy to use and pretty solid, it can be hard to get to and lacks some features and options that the other CMS systems have. But overall it’s on par with the others.
Squarespace have a great CMS system behind them that allows a lot of customisation and everything is edited on page. So you don’t have to go into any other system to make a blog and then preview it before going live.
It has all the features you would want, but is limited to the template you choose. Unlike the other systems there isn’t much customisation there.
Shopify has a brilliant CMS system because it was built for eCommerce, so it has a lot of features for tagging and filtering blogs, you can even add more customisation options to it through custom code or plugins, overall great CMS.
The only problem is that it’s built for eCommerce. So setting up and running a blog on here can be more complicated than the other systems, it’s not it’s intended use after all.
SEO is one of the most important aspects of a successful website, after all it can be the best designed site around, but without people getting there then it is a little bit pointless. So having great tools to work on SEO on your website is just as important.
With WordPress you can do all the SEO things you want, there are many different SEO plugins that can help you get top quality rankings, there are also some great integrations with other tools outside of WordPress.
The best bit about WordPress SEO is that if you use a good SEO plugin, it can really help speed up and simplify the basic SEO set up and maintenance. Obviously you need more than good meta descriptions, but having optimised ones doesn’t hurt.
Webflow has very simple to use SEO tools built into the system, with some more advanced features like accessibility reviews and prompts to let you know if you’ve forgotten an alt tag or have weird title structures.
It’s also very easy to integrate with most tools like Google Analytics and Hotjar. It’s one drawback though is that it doesn’t have the plugins available that make SEO that little bit easier and give you some direction, you really have to do it yourself on Webflow.
It’s not the biggest drawback, but can mean you aren’t quite as optimised as you thought.
Wix is similar to Webflow in that it has all of the SEO tools you need built in and great integrations with Google Analytics. So the basics of SEO are pretty easy to handle for you on Wix.
But if you want to do anything fancier or more technical you are going to struggle vs. Webflow or WordPress.
Squarespace handle there SEO in a strange manner, it’s kind of like Wix in the fact it’s all built in. The only issue is that it is a little more complicated to use and you will most likely have to dip into custom code to really get the best out of your SEO here.
Shopify SEO is very much like WordPress, there are some minor differences in plugins and tools used as expected, but the majority is the same. It’s a great platform for SEO beginners and experts a like.
This sounds like an odd thing to rank website builders by, but I assure you that from experience designing and building hundreds of websites, it is something you will want to think about.
That’s the freedom to do what you want with your website.
Now I am going to be ranking this again based on a mix of how easy it is to do yourself and with a developer.
Okay, with WordPress you can do whatever you want. As long as you have a developer who knows what they are doing and choose the right plugins.
WordPress is great for freedom, you can start with a template but that doesn’t mean you have to be limited by that template, if you have a great developer you can make any design you want.
You also have the option to host your website wherever you want, so if you are on a budget you can go for cheaper servers, but if you want amazing performance you can go for some higher quality servers, the choice is yours!
The only thing that lets it down is that if you don’t have a developer, it can be hard to make significant changes to templates, and it’s hard to tell if a plugin is trustworthy or not.
Webflow is the ultimate in web design tools for freedom. You can design anything you want and make any kind of animations or layouts you can imagine.
So why only 7/10? Well, it has the big issue of learning curve. It isn’t simple to build great designs and animations, until you know what you are doing. While you don’t have to touch a line of code so don’t need a developer to do it, it does also mean you have to spend time learning the ins and outs of how Webflow works and how to structure elements so they work together. If you know how to code already, it should be a breeze, just a visual version of coding.
The other issue that let’s Webflow down (depending on your view) is that you are forced to host your website with them. It does mean you are being hosted on super fast and quality AWS servers, but it does also come with a cost.
Now depending on your WordPress setup that doesn’t mean it will cost more or less than WordPress, it’s just a restriction that would be nice to be avoided.
Wix has a lot of freedom to design what you want, but it doesn’t have all of the features you will want if you want some cool design with crazy animations. In that respect you are a little restricted.
Wix also suffers the same problem as Webflow in that you have to host with them for your website to work properly.
Squarespace is easily the most restrictive site on this list. It’s a great web builder and you can build some really nice looking websites on it, but you have to use a template, and once you do you are pretty much locked into that design.
As with most of these categories, Shopify is basically the same as WordPress. It has great freedom and you can change designs and make some really funky websites with it, as long as you have a developer.
If you don’t have a Shopify developer you are going to struggle to make any big changes outside of the template you choose.
An important consideration, when you are looking at the progress of your business, how big is your website going to get? Are you going to be adding a lot of blogs or products? Are you going to need a lot of team members to be able to edit the website? What’s the sign off like on this?
These are all questions you need to think about when choosing a website builder. You don’t want to have to rebuild your website in another tool later down the line.
WordPress is the most scalable platform out there right now. It has no limits because of the plugins you can add, because you can change the website’s hosting at any time and because it can be built anyway you need it to.
This being the case you can add more team members to edit the site, you can have thousands of logged in users all at the same time, as long as you build the infrastructure around it. It’s perfect.
Webflow on the other hand is amazing for brochure style websites that are going to have a little blog running in the background. But when you start wanting more users working on it at one time or start adding a lot of CMS items, it can struggle to keep up.
Webflow itself has limitations on how many CMS items you can add, so you already have a hard limit there.
Wix is a great starting point for websites, but because of it’s code base and the way you build websites in it, it isn’t geared towards large websites that need to scale.
Again fine for brochure websites, just your standard business site, but anything more than that and you will find later down the line you will need to swap to another tool.
Strangely enough, this is the area that Squarespace really excel in. You get unlimited bandwidth and storage on the cheapest plan, so you know your website is always going to be up and running fast however much traffic you get or however many products you have.
Shopify is the perfect scalable option because of it’s ties to eCommerce websites. It was built with hosting large online shops in mind, meaning that they had to make it be able to scale for thousands of products and crazy amounts of traffic.
Much like WordPress, Shopify is a very scalable website builder.
Now we have come to the end of this blog, so what are the overall scores and which is the best option for your business?
As you can see there are two winners here, WordPress and Shopify. There isn’t much in it, but these platforms just have the edge over most of their competitors in their categories. This being said, you need to consider which is best for your uses, because it’s a tie for top, don’t use Shopify if you are going to build just a blogging site, that doesn’t make sense. Use WordPress instead.
As with all of these scores, WordPress and Shopify are much better when partnered with a development team that know how to get the most out of them and set up your website for success.
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