The answer depends on your budget and your needs. But to avoid some common pitfalls, consider these questions.
What does your budget look like?
Any modern website platform can be configured to be fast, secure, and SEO savvy. However, some are more expensive than others. Much of the cost will depend on the configuration you require. WordPress, for instance, comes in two flavours: WordPress.com (hosted WordPress) is inexpensive but comes with fewer options for customization. WordPress.org, or self-hosted, can be hosted on any server and modified to your exact specification but can be costly to set up. Wix and Squarespace are other budget options.
You should be aware, however, that “free” websites from WordPress.com, Wix and other similar platforms will often require you to display ads from third parties on your website, with no benefit to you. You also have less control over where the site is hosted, which may be important if your organization requires that your files remain in Canada.
Budget options: WordPress.com, Wix, Squarespace
Does your business have a strong brand image?
Is your brand “look” maintained across different media, with your signage and printed matter, say, all having a similar appearance? If so, you will certainly want to keep that brand image on your website. You should choose a platform that allows a lot of flexibility in template appearance. Otherwise, customers whose first contact with your business is online won’t recognize you in person.
Recommendation: WordPress.org, Drupal, Joomla.
Does your business plan include a lot of online textual or multimedia content?
Such content can be useful for SEM campaigning and just keeping customers informed about your products or services. If so, you will want a platform that has effective and flexible ways of storing, categorizing, and presenting content.
Recommendation: WordPress.org, Blogger.
Will you sell products online?
A small business website can easily be configured to sell either physical or digital goods. Ecommerce solutions such as Woocommerce (a WordPress plugin) or Shopify can provide everything from tax calculation to figuring out shipping costs for the customer to managing stock. Some businesses pair their ecommerce platform with a point of sale system such as Square to unify their systems and lower overall costs.
Recommendation: WordPress.org, Shopify.
Will you maintain your website yourself?
If so, ask yourself what kind of computer user you are. If you have used drag and drop page builders in the past and find them frustrating and difficult to get your head around, maybe a form-style interface would work better for you. A form style interface is exactly what it sounds like: to build a page, you would simply fill a form with your text and images. WordPress now comes with a drag and drop builder by default, but can be configured to use a form style interface instead. Platforms such as Squarespace and Wix come with preconfigured templates that can be populated using drag and drop builders.
Recommendation: Drag and drop – WordPress.com, Squarespace, Wix.
Form – WordPress.org, Drupal
Do you work with a web developer?
If you need to hire help with setting up your site, you should go with a platform that enjoys a healthy share of the CMS market. The less common your platform, the more difficult it will be to find people who can help you. Some platforms, such as WordPress.com and Shopify, have people on staff who can help you out.
At the time this article was published, website platform market share was broken down as follows (source):
- WordPress 61.2% (up from 59.9% a year before)
- Joomla 4.9% (down from 5.9% a year before)
- Drupal 3.2% (down from 3.9% a year before)
- Shopify 3.0% (up from 2.3% a year before)
- Squarespace 2.8% (up from 2.4% a year before)
- Wix 2.1% (up from 1.6% a year before)
What are your future needs?
Perhaps today you only need your website to include your business hours and to list a few products. But in a few years, you might want to add ecommerce capability or a membership system with protected content. WordPress’ large market share and long history mean that many thousands of extensions, called ‘plugins’, are available to extend its capability. As a result, self-hosted WordPress.org sites offer unparalleled flexibility.