How do I choose the right platform (CMS) for my small business' website?

Looking to build your own website or have a professional web team bring your website vision to life? Choosing the right website platform can seem daunting, so to save you the work our team has put together a breakdown of the top website platforms to help make the process easier. The platforms are not listed in any particular order or ranking as each platform has it’s own unique set of features that may make it a good or bad fit based on the type of site you’re building.


Some terms you’ll see in this blog post:

Hosting: This is a service that makes your website available on the web. Think of it as your site’s home, and your domain is it’s address

Plugins: These are apps either created by the website building platform or by a third party that adds additional functions to your site

Themes/Templates: This is the overall look and feel of a site, developers create themes or templates to help put you in the right direction so that you don’t have to build your site from scratch!

CMS: Content management system


In this blog post:

Wordpress

Squarespace

Shopify

Wix


1. Wordpress

Note: There are two versions of Wordpress, Wordpress.com (Wordpress hosted sites with less customization options and freedom) and Wordpress.org (self hosted Wordpress sites), in this blog post we’ll be discussing wordpress.org. Here is a link to ThemeIsle’s blog post about the difference between the two.


We’ll start off with Wordpress, one of the world’s most popular site building platforms (over 41% of websites online are built with Wordpress!) Wordpress started out as a blog platform but has grown into much more, it can be used for a wide range of website types including e-commerce, blogs, service based websites among others. Wordpress allows for the most customization options because you have complete control over your website’s function and where it lives. This includes:


Themes: being able to install your own Themes allows for complete customization of your site without code (our favourites are Elementor and Avada to build custom sites from scratch, but there are 1000s of others to choose from),


Plugins: Install your own plugins to add additional functions to your site. There is a plugin for almost any feature you can think of, built by developers around the web and offered for free or premium rates.


Hosting: Choose from a variety of hosting providers like GoDaddy, Bluehost or UNSGND


Pricing (CAD): So what does this mean for the bottom line?

The freedom to choose from a wide range of options for Wordpress themes, plugins and hosting can mean you can save a lot of money, or go crazy and blow the budget with fancy upgrades. Generally speaking, Wordpress sites are the most cost effective longterm, with hosting ranging from $5-$10 a month, a wide range of free or low cost plugins available, and a good quality theme costing around $50-100 (Most are one time fees, though platforms like Elementor work on a subscription basis. When working with most web design agencies, the cost of your theme will be built into your website design price already.)

PROS

CONS

Unlimited customization opportunity with themes and plugins

Steep learning curve as each Theme works differently

Low Cost

Requires a more hands on approach to maintaining your site once it is built, as plugins and themes are built by third parties, updates to Wordpress itself may cause issues (plugins no longer working/requiring manual update)

You can install page builders that make it easy to edit your site

Analysis paralysis from too many options or requiring research time in choosing the right plugins

2. Squarespace



I’m talkin’ Squarespace to ya baby! (That was a Teena Marie reference)

Squarespace is a newer website builder platform but it is taking the web by storm. Like Wordpress, you can build a multitude of website types, though Squarespace manages their own themes, plugins and hosting. Squarespace allows you to build beautiful websites on your own (our website is built on Squarespace!) Though there are some limits to customization as there are few interactive options built into the platform (for example, hover effects or interactive banners) . You can push the limits of Squarespace with some nifty code. Squarespace has some great features and add ons like Scheduling and Memberships allow you to take bookings directly on your site, or add a private membership portal, as well as a robust e-commerce and marketing platform.


Pricing (USD): Squarespace works on a subscription basis, with plans ranging from $16-$54 USD/mo. Each plan offers different features, we recommend Business for sites that are service based or sell a few products and Commerce for sites that are e-commerce focused to take advantage of 0% transaction fees. As Squarespace partners, UNSGND clients can take advantage of a %20 discount on annual plans.


For a full breakdown of Squarespace plans click here.


PROS

CONS