In the early days of the internet, there were only a handful of website platforms to choose from.
These days, however, there are dozens of website platforms available, and new ones seem to be popping up every day. So, how to choose a website platform that’s right for your needs?
In this blog post, I’ll outline the pros and cons of the most popular website platforms so you can make an informed decision about which one is right for your business.
Keep in mind that these opinions are based on my own experience – your mileage may vary!
What is a website platform?
A website platform is the foundation on which your website is built. It provides the structure and support for your content, and it determines how your website looks and functions.
A website platform includes the coding language and content management system to host all your content.
Think of a website platform as a pre-built framework or structure that takes care of all the technical aspects of website construction, leaving you free to focus on content and design.
When you’re choosing a website platform, it’s important to consider your needs and objectives. If you’re a small business owner, you may want a simple platform that’s easy to use, offers a wide range of features, and doesn’t require any coding knowledge.
However, if your business has additional needs, you may also want a platform that’s flexible so you can customize your website the way you want.
Once you’ve chosen selected a website platform, you can begin building your website by adding content, designing your pages, and eventually launching your site.
How does a website platform work?
There are 3 aspects to a website: a website host, a website platform, and a website builder. All these work together to help you create and launch your business website.
A website host is a server that provides space on the internet for websites.
There are different types of website hosting depending on how much space you need for your website. The most common type of hosting for small businesses is shared hosting, where you share space on a server along with other small to medium-sized websites.
Some common hosts are Siteground, Bluehost, GoDaddy, etc.
A website platform is similar to a content management system, which is the structure within which your content is hosted.
Imagine your website platform to be like a kiosk in an exhibition space. The giant exhibition hall is your host, and many kiosks share space in the same hall.
Your kiosk is your website platform, which you can design and structure the way you want and the way it works for your business.
Some website platforms as mentioned above are WordPress, Wix, Shopify, Drupal, etc.
A website builder includes the tools to actually design your content in your kiosk. The website builder you use is dependent on your website platform.
Now, in some cases, the host, website platform, and builder, are all integrated, like in Shopify, Squarespace, or Wix. Simply go to any of the platforms, create an account, and get started with your website.
And sometimes they are all different. For example, if you choose a web host like Siteground or Bluehost (they are my favorite, by the way), you can choose different website platforms like WordPress or Drupal.
WordPress, in turn, has different builders to help you create your site design and content.
Some of the best WordPress builders are Elementor, Divi, and SiteOrigin.
Before you can build your website, you need to choose a website platform.
If you choose an integrated platform like Shopify or Squarespace, you can directly sign up there.
Whereas if you choose WordPress, you need to choose a good host, and simply install it.
Once you’ve selected a platform, you’ll be able to create your site using the platform’s tools and templates.
In most cases, you won’t need any coding knowledge to build a basic website.
However, if you want to add more advanced features and customizations, you may need to hire a specialist or learn how to code.
How to choose a website platform: 7 criteria to consider
So now that you know the fundamentals of how a website is created, you need to choose the platform for your small business website.
But given all the technicalities and options, it can definitely seem daunting, about which one to select.
That’s why the best way to start is to consider your needs, goals, and current situation. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- What do you want to achieve with your website?
- How much customization do you need for your website content?
- What is your skill level with designing websites?
- Do you plan to create your website yourself or hire a designer?
- What’s your budget?
Here are a few things to keep in mind when choosing a website platform in 2022:
1. Your needs
One of the first things you need to do is determine what kind of website you need. Are you looking for a simple site to showcase your products or services? Do you need a more complex site with ecommerce capabilities?
What features do you need for your website? If you’re not sure, start by creating a list of must-haves and nice-to-haves. Once you have a good understanding of your needs, you’ll be able to narrow down your options.
Once you know what kind of site you need, you can start researching which platform will best suit your needs.
2. Platform features
Once you’ve determined your website goals, it’s time to start comparing features.
Every website platform has its own strengths and it’s important to go through all the features to see which one works the best for the kind of website you need.
Make sure to compare apples to apples—for example, don’t compare the features of a free platform to those of an enterprise-level platform. Compare similar platforms.
You must have heard this a hundred times before, but here we go once again: whether you have a huge website or a simple 5-page website, your website HAS to be compatible with different devices, especially mobile screens.
Both Google and users don’t like pages that can’t display well on mobile, for example. So if you want people to spend time on your website and revisit it, make sure you choose a website platform that makes your site responsive.
Some website platforms offer responsiveness by default, while in some others you have to work on that a bit yourself.
3. Flexibility and customization
The website platform should allow you to easily add or remove content, as well as make changes to the design of your website.
Most website platforms do allow a lot of flexibility, but what you need to consider is your flexibility vs needs analysis. Which website platform will let you create the customizations you need?
You should ensure to choose a platform that is designed to help your website rank highly in search engine results.
While there are a number of factors that go into SEO-friendliness, and there are many you can implement manually, it is better to choose a website platform that offers integrated tools and features that can give your website an extra boost.
It makes your work of website optimization much easier, especially if you are new to SEO yourself.
5. Ease of use
The website platform you choose should be easy for you to use, even if you don’t have any prior experience with web design or development.
You may get a website designer or agency to create the website for you, but you shouldn’t have to run to them every time you need a change on your website. You need a website platform that you can manage yourself.
It should also be easy for your visitors to use.
The prices of website platforms can vary greatly, from less than $10 to more than $100.
The website platform should be affordable for you, especially if you’re on a tight budget. In fact, more than a simple cost review, you need to do a cost-benefit ratio, of comparing the pros and cons with the cost.
The platform should be able to accommodate your website as it grows and expands over time.
When you first launch your brand website, you may have lesser needs and only want to focus on showcasing your products/ services or selling them.
But as you grow, you might want to add in more customizations, invest in content marketing, and add more functionalities.
So when you’re deciding on how to choose your website platform, ensure that you keep both your short-term and long-term objectives in mind.
The website platform should be secure so that you can rest assured that your website and its data are safe from hackers.
Most website platforms and hosts offer an in-built free SSL certificate to give your site basic protection. Make sure to choose a platform that does offer that, or at least it’s possible to add security measures to it.
Different types of website platforms
There are many different types of website platforms that can address the needs of small businesses.
You’ve heard great things about WordPress, but you’re also interested in platforms like Shopify and Wix. So, which one should you choose?
Website platforms can be divided into two primary types:
1. A simple templated platform
The simple website platforms require minimal setup and maintenance. These platforms are typically easy to use and don’t require any coding knowledge.
However, they can be more limited in terms of customization and functionality.
Some examples of these website platforms are Wix and Shopify.
If you’re looking to create a simple personal website, a platform like WordPress.Com or Blogger might be a good fit.
2. A customizable platform
Customizable website platforms offer more features and flexibility, are more robust, and offer a wider range of customization options and plugins.
If you need to create a complex e-commerce site, you’ll need a more robust platform like Shopify or Magento.
Good examples of this would be content management systems (CMS) like WordPress.org, Squarespace, or Drupal.
What is the difference between a website platform and a website builder?
A website platform is a content management system that you can use to create, manage, and store your content. It includes all of the basic features and functionality that you need to get started, and you can add additional features as needed.
A website builder is a design tool that allows you to create a website without any prior experience or technical knowledge. It includes a drag-and-drop interface that makes it easy to add content, images, and other elements to your website.
In the case of simple templated platforms like Wix, Shopify, and Squarespace, your website platform and builder are all integrated within the same system.
You simply have to choose a theme/ template, edit your brand attributes, add your content, and you’re good to go!
In this post, all the website platforms mentioned are both website platforms/ content management systems and website builders except WordPress.
For small businesses who want to design their sites themselves, simple website platforms which are also website builders work best.
The maximum level of customizations are possible in WordPress which is only a content management system and you need a website builder to create your WordPress site.
Best website platforms for small businesses
It’s essential to choose a website platform that is professional, easy to navigate, and user-friendly.
Overall, here are 6 of the best website platforms for small businesses:
I will now break down the pros and cons of each platform so that you know better how to choose the best website platform for your small business.
Website Platform #1: WordPress
One of the most popular website platforms available is WordPress. It was one of the first website platforms, originally meant for bloggers, but it has grown to become the biggest website platform, used by over 40% of the websites in the world.
WordPress is a popular website platform that enables users to create and manage their own websites. It is most frequently used by small businesses, bloggers, and freelancers who want an easy-to-use platform that is affordable and scalable.
In fact, I firmly believe it is the best balance of ease of use, flexibility, and customizability available at almost the same price as integrated platforms like Shopify or Wix which are more restrictive.
WordPress is an open-source platform, which means that it can be used for any purpose. The code can be added on to, which means that any developer can create extra code (plugins) to add extra features to your WordPress site.
There are two types of WordPress pricing: WordPress hosting and WordPress CMS.
When you use WordPress CMS, you choose a separate host as we talked about earlier, and you simply install WordPress on it. Sometimes with one click.
When you use WordPress hosting, it comes pre-installed with WordPress CMS, so you don’t have to do anything.
The prices of both WordPress hosting and website hosts on which you can install WordPress CMS are similar, starting at around $3-$5 per month.
See below the pricing for WordPress hosting with WordPress.com.
However, the advantages are different.
With WordPress CMS (WordPress.org) you have to maintain and secure yourself, but you can do unlimited customizations and monetizations.
With WordPress hosting (WordPress.com) the site maintenance is done for you, but you have limited flexibility.
1. Maximum flexibility and customizability
WordPress is an open-source platform that enables anyone to create a website or blog. WordPress is free to use, and there are no limits on what you can do with it. You can find WordPress themes and plugins to create any kind of website or blog you want. WordPress is used by millions of people around the world, and it is the most popular blogging platform in the world. WordPress is easy to use, and you can get started in minutes.
The benefit of WordPress being open-source is that you can get unlimited flexibility and customization options for your website.
The options you get are much more than any other website platform which you can use with limited web design skills.
With its WooCommerce addon, WordPress also becomes a fantastic option to host your online store.
It is next only to have a custom website design made by a professional developer.
2. Excellent for SEO
WordPress is the best website platform for SEO-friendliness.
Its themes are compatible with SEO, you can install specific plugins for improving your SEO, and you can easily customize your metadata to add the necessary SEO tags.
So if creating a search-engine-friendly site is important for your SEO, you should definitely consider WordPress as your website platform.
WordPress can automatically adjust the layout of your website to fit different screen sizes, which makes it an excellent choice for a website platform that is easy to use.
With page builders like Elementor, you can also ensure customization on different screens manually.
WordPress CMS is free to use, so you only have to consider the cost of your website host. For WordPress hosting, you pay the same as for another hosting.
So whichever option you choose, WordPress is very easy to afford, even with limited budgets.
If you buy premium themes and plugins of course the cost goes up. But you can still have a fantastic WordPress website with free plugins.
I would advise you to go with WordPress CMS because of its customization.
The maintenance and security are quite easily manageable.
5. Easy to use
Overall, WordPress is an easy website platform to use with drag-and-drop builders, even if you’re not a technical person.
You can create and edit pages without having to write code, and there are thousands of themes and plugins available to help you customize your site.
However, if you need extra customizations, you may need to get help from a WordPress expert. Some customizations, for example, need a little coding.
6. Extensive 24 x 7 support
There are lots of resources available to help you learn how to use WordPress. Besides, WordPress has big communities where people look for help.
If you get stuck, you can find answers to your questions in the WordPress support forums.
1. Occasional plugin incompatibility
Although there are many high-quality plugins available for WordPress, not all plugins are compatible with every version of WordPress.
In addition, some plugins are only compatible with certain themes or only work with specific types of websites.
As a result, it is important to check the compatibility of any plugins before installing them on a WordPress site. Otherwise, there is a risk that the plugin will not work properly or will cause errors on the website.
While plugin compatibility can be a problem, it is usually possible to find compatible plugins by doing a bit of research. In most cases, there are plenty of high-quality plugins that will work with the installed version of WordPress.
2. Might need professional help
One disadvantage of WordPress is that while the sky is the limit in terms of customization, because of the way its open-source coding is structured, you may not be able to do all the customizations yourself.
You might need professional help for setting up your website in exactly the way you want.
3. Limited one-on-one support
One of the biggest drawbacks of WordPress is that unlike a lot of simple integrated website platforms, you don’t get access to one-on-one premium support, to solve your problems.
You have to depend on the community or a professional WordPress expert.
Website Platform #2: Wix
Wix is a popular website builder that allows you to create and design a website without having to code.
It is the biggest competitor of WordPress in the aspect that it is not specifically meant for one kind of website.
You can create a brand website, a product website, a blog, and an e-Commerce site, all with the same ease in Wix.
Overall, Wix is a good choice for people who want a robust, easy-to-use platform that doesn’t require coding skills.
However, if you’re looking for a platform that will allow you to create a fast-loading website with good search engine optimization, you may want to consider another platform.
Wix has a free version with limited features and storage space. The free version does not let you create a custom domain. Your website will contain the subdomain wix.com.
Its premium plans start at $16 per month for non-eCommerce sites, but with storage of only 2GB.
Wix is very user-friendly. This is because it has an intuitive drag-and-drop interface that makes adding content and designing your website relatively easy.
It also has a built-in guide and website builder, which leads you through the setup process.
2. Customization with the Wix app store
Wiz does not allow the usage of external plugins.
But it provides a wide range of templates and features through various additional apps in its App store.
You can install additional apps to your website to extend its functionality. and create a unique website that reflects your brand identity.
3. Low risk of incompatibility
One of the great advantages of using Wix is that, unlike WordPress, there is no risk of compatibility issues between apps.
All of the apps in the Wix App Market are built specifically for use with Wix websites, so you can be confident that they will work seamlessly together.
You can add as many apps as you need to your website without having to worry about conflicts or compatibility issues.
1. Limited e-commerce functions
Wix can work for any kind of website, including online stores, but it is not the best for larger product catalogs.
Additionally, you can sell in only one currency, making it a bit limited.
2. Not great for content marketing
WordPress was launched as a platform for bloggers, and it still remains one of the best website platforms for content marketing and blogging.
You can create a blog on Wix and add posts, but the user interface is less intuitive than WordPress, and for some features, you need HTML knowledge, which can be difficult if you want to upload content regularly for your business.
3. Limited options for SEO
Wix websites are not as easily optimized for search engines as websites built on WordPress.
Even though Wix has been getting better at SEO, the option of adding unlimited plugins on WordPress means that you can multiple features to make your WordPress website more SEO-friendly.
Website Platform #3: Shopify
Shopify is primarily used by eCommerce businesses and is a good choice for small businesses and entrepreneurs who want an all-in-one solution for their online store.
You can use Shopify to create a website, an online store, and a POS (point of sale).
With Shopify, you’ll get all the tools you need to create a professional online store, including product listings, shopping cart functionality, and secure payment processing.
Shopify plans start at $29 per month, and for advanced websites can go up to $299 per month.
1. Supports all types of ecommerce
Shopify offers a ton of features for online stores, like inventory management and eCommerce analytics.
If you want to add features to your websites such as product reviews or customer testimonials, there is likely a Shopify app for that.
Shopify also has many integrations which make it easy to connect your Shopify account to other platforms such as accounting software or shipping software.
With Shopify, you can create a self-sufficient website for your business on which transactions can be processed on without any third-party assistance.
You don’t need to use third-party apps for your store, and the checkout process is as smooth and streamlined as possible.
Shopify also maintains your site with regular updates and backups.
The biggest advantage of Shopify is that it is an user-friendly eCommerce website platform, even for a large number of products. If you have never created a website store before, Shopify will make the process very easy for you.
Even if you are not technical, you will be able to create a professional-looking website with Shopify.
Shopify offers you 24 x 7 premium customer support to answer your questions and help you troubleshoot issues.
This is especially helpful if you are creating your first online store and need some help to guide you through.
1. Limited customization
Shopify offers a wide range of prebuilt templates on which to base your design on.
But extensive customizations can be difficult if you don’t have any web design experience. You may need to hire an external developer.
2. Limited SEO-friendliness and content marketing
Shopify has some SEO features built in. Page speed, responsiveness, and user experience are generally good.
But it does not let you customize URLs and the blogging feature is not advanced and intuitive. It also does not offer a rich snippet feature.
The basic plans of Shopify are quite premium, especially compared to WordPress and Wix.
Plus you may need to buy additional apps, even marketing automation. You also need to pay a transaction fee for each sale.
So it all adds up, making Shopify an expensive website platform.
However, remember that Shopify is meant for businesses that generate enough sales from their online stores, so this cost should be easy to recover.
If you just want to display your products and services online but not generate revenue, then Shopify might turn out to be an expensive website platform for you.
4. No email hosting
Most website platforms include email hosting. In other words, you get an email address connected to your domain name, to make it more professional.
For example, if your website is example.com, your email could be firstname.lastname@example.org.
This feature is not included in Shopify, which means you need to pay for a professional email service. This further adds to your cost.
5. Difficult to switch
It can be difficult to switch from another platform to Shopify if you have an existing website.
It is possible to do this, but it requires some technical knowledge. If you are not comfortable with technology, it may be better to choose a different platform.
Website Platform #4: Squarespace
Like Wix, Squarespace is another drag-and-drop website builder that lets you create a professionally designed website without any coding knowledge.
The platform is also easy to use, which makes it a good choice for businesses that want to create a website with minimal input from a web developer.
However, Squarespace can be more expensive than other website builders, and it doesn’t offer as much flexibility when it comes to design and functionality.
Squarespace plans start at $16 per month and goes up to $49 per month for advanced online stores. You can have a basic eCommerce site for $27 a month, which is also reasonably expensive.
1. Excellent design templates
The design templates of Squarespace are stunning, and they offer a wide range of customization options to help you create a truly unique site.
They are similar to the premium themes of WordPress, except that in Squarespace they are included in the cost and on WordPress you need to pay for them.
Squarespace is extremely user-friendly, so you can create a professional-looking website without any prior experience.
3. Easy eCommerce setup
eCommerce on Squarespace is simple to set up and even easier to manage. With just a few clicks, you can add your products, set up payments, and start selling online.
And because Squarespace is built for businesses of all sizes, you can scale your store as your business grows.
Squarespace is one of the more expensive web hosting options out there.
The cheapest plan starts at $16 per month, and the most expensive plan is $49 per month.
And if you want to use Squarespace to sell on different channels like Amazon, you’ll need the Trunk extension which starts at $35 per month.
So, while Squarespace is a great platform, it’s important to be aware of the costs before you commit to using it for your website.
2. Best for visual websites
One disadvantage of Squarespace is that the templates is more suitable for visual websites which have great high-quality images. So it is best suited for websites like photography portfolios.
If you want to build a website or online store with Squarespace, spend some time taking good pictures of your products.
3. May need professional help for customization
It can be pretty easy to design a website on Squarespace with the templates provided, but if you need to do specific customizations, you may need to get help from a professional designer.
4. Limited payment options
The automatic tax calculations in Squarespace are currently limited to the US, and payment gateway options are quite limited to Stripe and Paypal.
Besides, you can only do single-currency transactions, so it’s not as versatile.
5. Limited GDPR compliance
While Squarespace is GDPR compliant in the way that it lets visitors know cookies are being used and the how’s and why’s of it, it does not let visitors have an option to consent to non-essential cookies.
Website Platform #5: GoDaddy
GoDaddy is a website platform that combines a website builder and marketing features like email marketing and social media posting.
It does not have a drag-and-drop editor or many themes. Instead, it has 20 templates with sections and blocks, and automatically creates a website for you based on the kind of business you have and the content you would like to add.
You can then customize all the content and design as per your brand.
Note: Besides being a self-sufficient website platform, GoDaddy also works as a host for WordPress websites.
GoDaddy starts at $9.99 for a basic website and $16.99 for an eCommerce website, both for annual payments.
1. Quick websites with ADI
GoDaddy uses its Artificial Design Intelligence (ADI) technology to let you create websites for your category very quickly.
In fact, the website is created for you, you just have to customize your content.
If you don’t want to edit too much, you can have a fully functional website within hours.
2. Integrated marketing communication
GoDaddy lets you combine social media, email, content marketing, and SEO tools seamlessly, making it an easy website platform to use for your marketing.
For example, you can post to social media directly from your GoDaddy dashboard.
3. 24 x 7 support
Even if it is a simple builder, GoDaddy still offers around-the-clock support to help you troubleshoot.
This is helpful especially if it’s your first time building a website and you’re not sure of what you’re doing.
1. Limited customization
GoDaddy is a great platform for those who are just getting started with website creation.
However, GoDaddy has very limited customization options.
The templates that are available are basic and there is not much that you can do in terms of changing the layout or design of your site.
2. Limited eCommerce functionalities
The checkout process, tax system setup, and even general eCommerce functionalities are not the best in GoDaddy. These limited eCommerce features make GoDaddy an expensive eCommerce platform, especially compared to website platforms like Squarespace or Wix.
3. No third-party apps
With GoDaddy, what you see is what you get. You can’t add functionalities with third-party apps and integrations.
This makes the design even more limited and difficult to scale.
Website Platform #6: Weebly
Weebly is a drag-and-drop website builder that makes it easy to create a professional-looking website, even for beginners.
It combines seamlessly a website builder with eCommerce functionalities.
Weebly offers a basic plan for free, but it is very limited in its features and frankly, not worth considering if you make any money through your website and want to look professional.
The minimum plan starts at $6 per month if billed annually, making it one of the most affordable website platforms, and goes up to $26 a month for a plan with maximum features.
One of the biggest advantages of using Weebly is its low-price options. If you want to be really limited with your budget and just need a business card website you can consider Weebly.
Even if you want to upgrade and want a simple, easy, website, you can get a personal website with just a few dollars per month.
Weebly is very user-friendly, and even if you’ve never created a website before, you’ll be able to build a beautiful site on Weebly with ease, and very quickly.
Additionally, Weebly offers a wide range of templates and designs, so you can find a style that fits your brand imagery.
1. Not great for complex eCommerce
Weebly isn’t the best choice if you’re looking for an eCommerce site. While you can sell products on Weebly, it doesn’t have as robust of an eCommerce platform as other options such as Shopify.
2. Limited customization
Because Weebly is such an easy platform to use, it’s also relatively limited in terms of customization options. If you want to really make your site stand out from the crowd, Weebly is not the best option for you.
3. Not the best for blogging and content marketing/ SEO
Weebly is best for personal and freelancer/ portfolio websites if you want to set them up easily and quickly. It does have some blogging and SEO features built in, but it’s more of an afterthought.
If you want to grow your website traffic with content marketing, you should consider a different platform like WordPress.
How to choose the best website platform for your small business – Recommendation
After comparing all the pros and cons of website platforms, this is my recommendation on how to choose a website platform that’s best for your small business.
» If you want a quick, easy, website builder simply to get started with your small business brand website, with zero or minimum eCommerce, consider choosing between GoDaddy, Weebly, or Wix. Squarespace if you have lovely images.
They are quick and easy, and if you don’t care too much about content marketing, these websites which offer basic features in content marketing can be perfect for you.
» If you’re primarily focused on selling products online, and are confident of generating enough sales, Shopify is the better choice.
It’s a dedicated ecommerce platform that you can create yourself. Shopify is designed to help businesses succeed with online sales, so for eCommerce it doesn’t get better than that.
But remember, it’s not the best for content marketing. It’s sales-focused.
» If you want a website that can almost be like a custom-made website by a professional developer but you can do it yourself, that includes maximum features and flexibility, WordPress is the best option.
It especially works best if you want the following criteria:
- Combine content marketing and eCommerce smoothly
- The option of maximum customization and flexibility for your website
- Start with a simple website now, and as you grow, add customized features and functionalities
If you are not sure about your long-term objectives, and you think you want to focus on e-commerce now but might want to include a blog later in the future, stick to WordPress and build your online store with WooCommerce.
WordPress is the best website platform for small businesses in terms of flexibility.
How to choose a website platform – Concluding notes
Overall, it is essential to do your research when you are wondering how to choose a website platform best for your small business:
- Educate yourself: Read reviews and compare features
- Consider your resources: Review the budget, skills, and time you have to put into building and maintaining a website
- Think about the future: Choose a platform that will be able to grow along with your business
If you’re still not sure which platform is right for you, seek out the advice of an expert. A website design or digital marketing agency can help you choose the best platform for your specific needs. You can connect with me for a free consultation as well if you want to discuss it.
Which is the best website platform for you? Which one do you use currently, and what do you think of it? Share your thoughts!