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How to Choose the Right Website Platform

Are you looking to build your own website? Not sure where to start? There are a lot of factors to weigh when going to choose the right website platform to build your site on. Whether you have an existing brick & mortar location or focusing on a web based company, an online presence is an essential and critical component for any business. But where do you begin?

Answering these questions about your business should give you an idea of what you’ll require:

  • Will you be selling any products on your website?
  • How web savvy are you? (or a member on your team)
  • What is your budget?
  • What features do you want?
  • Is there additional functionality required?

Throughout our comparison, we’ll refer back to these questions to provide answers in real world situations. By better understanding your own business, selecting a platform on which to build your website becomes a lot easier. Let’s get to it.

Shopify vs Magento – WordPress vs Squarespace

With so many options, it can help to see some detailed comparisons of various website platforms. We’ll take a look at four of the more commonly used platforms, all of which Celador Media has years of experience with using. But before we start, it’s worth noting that just because something is popular doesn’t mean it will be the right option for you, or that it’s even the best available.

We’ve broken up the examples into two direct comparisons of platforms we often find are brought up in the same discussion. For the first two, we’ll address the question about selling products and match up Shopify versus Magento. Both are rather robust, yet also quite unique to themselves. After that, we’ll look into options for lead generation or company websites by pitting WordPress and Squarespace against one another to see how user-friendly “drag and drop” platforms compare. Ultimately, we’ll help you get a clearer picture of what all four offer to make it easier to choose a web platform that’s right for you and your business.

Shopify vs Magento

Right off the bat, you’ll notice there are some pretty obvious differences when researching Shopify and Magento platforms. The former has a monthly fee, whereas the latter is free to use (Magento also offers an Enterprise edition that costs $$$). At this point, it’s a great opportunity to think about our budget question above. So, how can two similar options have such different pricing? One major factor is that Shopify includes website hosting, which is a service that “houses” your website and publishes it to the internet. Without a host, there is no way for the website to even exist. By requiring that the website be self-hosted, Magento does not have to charge for this aspect. So while the idea of “free” is incredibly appealing, there are additional elements to consider that cost money and make Magento less cost effective than initially perceived. Typical hosting costs range anywhere from $30 – $300 per month, depending on the amount of traffic your website receives and the resources required to handle the workload.

Shopify

Shopify logo

If that cost is something that you can live with, what does it actually get you? As mentioned before, the dedicated hosting that Shopify provides is certainly convenient. Along with checking that box off the list, you get access to an extensive app store. This supplies you with a virtually endless amount of add-ons that will increase performance while making the site unique to your vision. However, these apps are generally not entirely free and feature a paid option that greatly increases functionality which makes it difficult not to pay more for the upgrade.

When you want to choose an ecommerce platform that is easy for almost anyone to use and can handle first-time beginner’s all the way up to highly trafficked enterprises, take a look at Shopify. If you have over 10 or so products, you’ll find pretty much everything you need with this platform. It’s a nice option for novices who can take an already developed mobile optimized theme and build from there. However, one downside is that only 11 of the themes offered by Shopify are free to use, so if they don’t catch your eye, you’ll have to open your wallet. And with that additional cost, there is also a monthly fee just for using Shopify ($30 to $3,000 – depending on your plan), along with a transaction fee on every order. That transaction fee varies from 2.4-2.9% based on the plan you’ve signed up for, oh and a $0.30 fee no matter your pricing tier.

Another big selling point for using Shopify is the level of security they provide for your visitors and customers. Since the website is hosted on Shopify’s own servers, they can ensure a very secure and reliable environment that protects your customers information and servers that almost never go down (99.9% uptime). That’s hard to find with any hosting company. Lastly, they provide an extra layer of security for payment info by not allowing any code changes to checkout pages. Why is this important? Being able to edit the code on a check out page, where payment info is input, is by far the most targeted page by hackers. So by eliminating the possibility to even edit the page, hackers don’t stand a chance.

Shopify checkout page with locked code for secure environment.

You’re also supported by a 24/7 development team. The outside assistance is nice, but the level of service can really depend on the specific rep you get at the time. As with anything, if you are not getting the help you want, try again to get someone else. If they’re unable to answer on the spot, the response time is often quite reasonable. While having a little bit of knowledge can help, this is where hiring a website management team such as Celador Media (shameless plug) will alleviate a lot of progress delays and stress.

Magento

Magento logo

Taking the question about how web savvy or technically advanced you are, Magento can be incredibly versatile. But this requires you to have a knowledgeable web-developer (in-house preferred). It’s an open-source platform (which means you can edit all the code) that offers a user supported forum of people excited to help. But since it is a more involved format, there is generally a longer timeline from start to finish when building a site. Obviously that varies depending on the developer’s skill level. But for those seeking a highly flexible ecommerce platform, Magento could be the powerhouse you need.

If you are worried that Magento is self-hosted, it’s good to know that there are options ranging from just a few dollars monthly up to nearly $1000. We’ll dive deeper into web-hosting another time, but a quick Google search should give you some insight. Once you’ve got the hosting figured out and your developer on the pay-roll, what is Magento capable of? With how customizable it is, you can pretty much bring any concept to life. If you aren’t in a rush to get online and have the available development resources, then Magento is worth considering and may be the right choice.

WordPress vs Squarespace

Moving on to our next two platform choices, we’ll break down the differences between WordPress and Squarespace, which are viable options for those seeking a site to brand their company and/or a method for gathering leads. Both of these platforms are a bit more user-friendly than the platforms listed in the first comparison. The “drag and drop” functionality makes it so that complicated and comprehensive coding tasks are reduced to simply clicking and moving a section of the website to where you want it. It truly cannot get any easier than that. For those people without any sort of development skills nor a budget for outside help, consider these two platforms.

WordPress

WordPress logo

Similar to Magento in that it’s free, WordPress is a more user-friendly option for building a website. Although WordPress is free to download and use, it doesn’t come with free hosting (hosting costs $$$). So if you use the free version, your website domain will look something like this: yourwebsite.wordpress.com. Having said that, the pricing for hosting and additional features on WordPress is very reasonable. It ranges from $8 (basic plan) to $45 (e-commerce plan) per month.

The big advantage you get with using WordPress is you’ll get an open-source platform that is community driven. This means anyone can develop an app or extension and offer it up to anybody operating on WordPress. You also have access to edit the code (HTML, CSS, PHP, etc.). This is a great option when considering the question about additional functionality, making it a great platform for a small online store of 10 products or less. And the possibilities for improving the customer experience on your website are virtually endless.

WordPress dashboard with stats of website and drop-and-drag editor.

WordPresss is unique from Magento and Shopify in that it features a “drag and drop” method to website building. This makes it extremely easy to build a website that looks and functions exactly the way you visioned. There are also a plethora, literally thousands, of free themes available for you to download and install on your website, saving you time and money from using a website designer.

Squarespace

Squarespace logo

The last platform on our list is Squarespace. This is a solid choice when asking the question about what features you want and if the vision in your mind is a simple one. Similar to WordPress, the “drag and drop” format within Squarespace is seamless and what you see in the editor is exactly how it will look on the frontend. A pitfall for this platform is the amount of flexibility you’re limited to. The amount of themes fails in comparison to WordPress and the code is more difficult to edit or adjust. So although your website will be basic, you can go from nothing to a fully functional website in little to no time with Squarespace.

Squarespace only works with a limited network of 60 developer partners, so you lose out on the open-source offerings that WordPress provides. But if simplicity is your focus, that shouldn’t be a deal breaker. Odds are that you’ll still find the basic features necessary to create a website for your company. At least something that can give you an online presence with little effort. If you’re limited on funds or don’t have much development knowledge, then Squarespace could be your breakthrough into the online world.

How Do You Choose the Right Website Platform for Your Business?

Let’s summarize with the Pros and Cons for each platform:

Shopify

PROS

  • User Friendly
  • Secure Hosting
  • Lots of Apps

CONS

  • Expensive
  • Limited Flexibility

Magento

PROS

  • Open-Source Code
  • Free to Use
  • Most Flexibility

CONS

  • Hidden Costs
  • May be too Technical for Some

WordPress

PROS

  • Easy to Use
  • Drag-and-Drop Editor
  • Plenty of Free Themes
  • Quick Setup
  • Great Support

CONS

  • None

Squarespace

PROS

  • Quick Setup
  • Drag-and-Drop Editor

CONS

  • Limited Flexibility
  • Limited Themes

Final Verdict

As might have been expected, the best website platform is truly a matter of personal preference and website requirements.

Shopify is a great option to start out on and scale up with. Magento is a robust choice with open-source capabilities.

WordPress can be a very reliable option for those seeking user-friendly flexibility. While Squarespace is the easiest to operate without any sort of development knowledge.

At the end of the day, consider what functionality your business will require when you choose a platform to build your website on.

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