Having worked with WordPress for 3 years – and spent much of that trying to sell people on WordPress – I get asked a lot, “Why should I use WordPress? Why not Wix or Weebly or Squarespace?” There are a ton of answers to that question. Some are simple and some aren’t. The easiest way to explain is to determine what WordPress actually is, what it isn’t, and why it matters.
WordPress isn’t WordPress.com (it’s WordPress.org)
There are two different versions of WordPress and they are very, very different. WordPress.com is a builder that provides you with a domain (something like businessname.wordpress.com) and hosting. Hosting is the service through which your website can be displayed on the internet. With WordPress.com, all the pieces of your website are all wrapped up in one account, including your host, domain, and email. And within that package, you are limited in what you can do with your website. With a WordPress.com website, you can’t upload plugins, custom themes, and you can’t edit certain pieces of code. It’s easier to work with since everything is in one place, but you’re very limited.
The Benefit? WordPress.com is the only builder where you can bring in plugins and custom themes. This means you have almost an infinity of possibilities to choose from to customize and strengthen your website. Because other builders also include hosting and domain services, if that company goes down, everything will be lost.
WordPress isn’t a website template or theme
Downloading WordPress doesn’t mean you’ll have a website right away. The visual aspects that make up your site, the layout, and colors, and shapes, all come in when you download a theme. There are thousands of paid and free themes to choose from that connect to WordPress in order to make your website come to life. WordPress offers you themes (which provide you with the tools to build very versatile and customizable themes) or templates (which allow you to pop in your content, tweak a few settings, and be ready to go.)
The Benefit? Many comparable website builders, like Squarespace or Wix, allow you to pick from a few premade templates. You don’t have very many options as far as how your site looks and feels. Many of those sites end up looking similar because of the lack of customization. WordPress let’s you build something totally unique.
WordPress isn’t a hosting, email, or domain provider
As I stated above, WordPress(.org) is a stand-alone thing. WordPress itself, the builder, is free to download as many times as you like. But in order to make it all work and show your website to the world, you need to purchase hosting from a third party company. You should also purchase your domain name from that company, or you can purchase it somewhere else. WordPress is just the builder where all these things come together.
The Benefit? If you decide you don’t like your host or if you realize you’re paying too much for your domain name, you can switch to another company fairly easily. If you’ve locked into a Squarespace or WordPress.com membership, you’ll probably be stuck with what you’ve got until your plan is up. And on top of that, you may be charged for moving.
Now that we’ve broken down what WordPress isn’t, let’s discuss what it is.
WordPress is a series of files
Even if you’re the most anti-tech person in the world, you should know the very basics of what a website is: a series of files. That’s it! Just like the files inside folders that you have on your computer Desktop or Documents folder, the site is just a series of specifically named files and folders. Just like your personal files “live” on your computer hard drive, your website files “live” on a hard drive called a server, which is owned by your hosting company. So it stands to reason that if you download the files that make up WordPress, but you don’t have a host, you can’t use them! Just like your files on your Desktop can’t be used if your computer is off or destroyed.
WordPress is a tool
WordPress does not build your site for you and does not inherently provide value. It is a tool that allows you to organize your content, categorize it, use plugins to add extra features and use themes to add layout and structure. You don’t have to be a designer or developer to use it and because it’s a free tool that you partner with other paid services of your choosing, you have a large amount of financial flexibility and freedom.
WordPress is a hub of different resources
If you need a site that needs to be powerful in any sense of the word, WordPress is for you. WordPress is what’s called “open-source” which means that people all over the world work (paid and volunteering) to add to and improve WordPress over time. New, better plugins are constantly being added. Old plugins are constantly being improved. New themes are constantly being released. Old themes are constantly being updated. A website should be flexible and customizable enough to change over time and adapt to your needs. You have the power of SEO and analytics integrations, translation tools, e-commerce tools, all at your fingertips with little to no extra charge. WordPress is unique in this regard. Other builders have the features they have and that’s the end of it.
The Investment for a Business Site
Many people believe WordPress is too expensive for them and that the initial investment is too much. I took a look at the plans recommended for Businesses offered by WordPress competitors. They all require you to pay annually or pay more to pay monthly. If you choose the lower investment, you are locked into that contract. WordPress.org does not include any contracts.
WordPress.com (Business Plan): $300 for a year, billed annually
Wix (Business Plan): $240 for a year, billed annually
Squarespace (Business Plan): $216 for a year, billed annually
WordPress.org (Plus basic hosting, a domain name, and premium theme): $153.40 for a year, hosting cost can be billed monthly depending on what host you find
Building with WordPress.org may cost a little more in terms of planning, time, or effort – that’s true. And it’s in your best interest to hire someone to help you put the site together and make sure everything is running smoothly. I say this, as both a designer and an avid consumer of online messaging: having a bad website is worse than having no site at all.
If you’re in a position where you can’t invest what it takes to launch a strong and branded site, it would be in your best interest to put up a Facebook Page instead. But if you’re serious about the business or brand you want to launch and want it to be as strong and as scalable as possible, WordPress is really your best option.
Still unsure? Have questions?
I provide free 30-minute consultations to anyone who has questions about websites. My promise to you is that I will not, ever, try to sell you my services on this call. I offer them to create more informed and powerful business owners. My aim with these calls is not only to answer your questions but give you a few actionable items you can take with you in order to help you achieve your goals.
(featured image credit: https://beautifulthemes.com)