For small business marketers and owners, one of your most important assets is your website. However, one of the most difficult assets to acquire is… your website.
Thankfully, there are three very good solutions you can leverage to build a great looking website in as short a time as a few hours: Wix, Squarespace, and Weebly. These three website building tools are very popular, according to Google:
While WordPress is by far the most powerful website building platform, it requires significant tech chops to get a good WordPress site off and running. For the purpose of this martech head-to-head deep dive I’ve focused only on solutions that are super easy to use.
I enjoying using each of these web builder tools and have no personal stake in any of these companies. To ensure I treat them in a fair, non-biased fashion, I will be using the following criteria to judge each solution:
- Time to get going. How hard is it to get started with the tool? Do they have training, tool tips, or videos to help you learn what you’re doing?
- Overall ease-of-use. How good is their user interface? How easy is it to use?
- Feature richness. Does the solution have features that make it stand out from the competitors?
- Design Aesthetic. How many templates do they have? Are the templates easy to customize? Are they beautiful?
- Price. How much does it cost?
At the end of the article, you can see the grading rubric with the specific criteria weighting that I’ve used. I’ll also assign an “overall winner” to one of these three solutions. Please note that any mentioned features or prices are accurate as of the time of writing this article, and are subject to change.
Wix is one of the easiest website builders on the market. Even though their drag-and-drop website builder is hands-down one of the easiest to use, they continue to improve their product with more functionality and a lot of additional templates.
- Wix and Weebly both have email marketing solutions that you can buy as add-ons to their website-builder platform. While both are similar in functionality, Wix ShoutOut is the more affordable of the two. ShoutOut starts at $8.60/month when paid for annually.
- Getting started building websites with any one of these three web-builder solutions is not difficult. However, Wix ensures you won’t run into any problems with a robust “Wix Academy” where you can go to learn about building your website, choosing a good domain name, doing SEO, creating landing pages, blogging effectively, and more!
- With over 400 well-designed templates, Wix has the widest variety of options for small businesses that want to build a new website.
- Wix is the only one of these three website-builder solutions that have a change log. While it isn’t clear who is developing and improving their tool the fastest, with Wix they actually show you all the updates they are making from month to month, which makes one tend to think that it is Wix. Neither Weebly or Squarespace have such a function. I really appreciate this feature improvement transparency from Wix, and think you will too.
- While Wix has a wide variety of templates available for use, one area that the Wix platform falls short is in transitioning to new templates. Because the content layout between templates is so different, and because Wix hasn’t created content cross-functionality in the templates, each time you want to move your site to a new template you’ll be copying/pasting content into the new content positions on your new website. An onerous task indeed.
- One area where Wix has a lot of potential to shine but doesn’t fully pull it off is with their app marketplace. Like each of these web-builder solutions, Wix has a robust market for third-party apps. However, for many of these apps, they are simply wrapping the other parties content in an iframe, which creates usability problems, especially on mobile devices where the content might not resize as it is supposed to. In addition to the iframe problem, they’ve got many apps that just don’t work well. Wix has a responsibility to make sure the entire user experience is a joyous one, and when working with some of these third-party implementations it is anything but joyous.
Starts at $7/month when paid annually (pricing page)
A (4.05 out of 5 possible points)
Squarespace prides itself on beautiful design, every time. While the Squarespace feature set is robust, and the design options are outstanding, they have done a great job at keeping it simple. If you’re looking for a high-class website, then look no further than Squarespace.
- With an ever-increasing number of website page views occurring on mobile devices, having a website that is mobile responsive (meaning it dynamically changes appearance for the best mobile viewing experience) is something you should peg as being one of the most important aspects to take into consideration when choosing a website-building solution. This is an area that Squarespace truly shines. All of their templates are mobile responsive and look beautiful on a full monitor or a five-inch phone screen. The below graphic, compliments of Squarespace, illustrates the mobile viewer option you have when building your website:
- Beautiful simplicity is one of the first elements you’ll come to appreciate when using Squarespace. While the other website builders have tried to check all the boxes of functionality, Squarespace has purposefully kept it simple in an outstanding effort to make it beautiful. For example, while Wix and Weebly both have rather robust third-party app marketplaces, Squarespace only supports the bare minimum necessary to build a good site. While some see this as a major con, I tend to see this as a positive differentiation point for Squarespace. They are very Apple-esque in this approach. This design approach also tends to make websites built on the Squarespace platform look more regal and higher-end.
- Squarespace is the most design conscientious of the three solutions. As such, Squarespace includes the most robust set of styling options. When scrolling down the list of options under just their “Style” menu item, even on my super high-resolution screen there are still six scrollable pages/sections of options to choose from! This can be nice, but I’ve seen it create problems with clients, where they are often overwhelmed by the variety of options available to them. I often have to tell my clients to dial it back, and not worry about customizing too much.
- I’m always surprised when I pull up a new Squarespace instance to build a website for a client and I see how few template options there are. Squarespace prides itself on having the most robust creative design experience, and yet they have fewer than 75 templates. They also don’t allow for outside templates to be installed, so you’re really stuck with the options they give you off the bat. That said, the configuration of those templates is most robust on Squarespace.
Starts at $12/month when paid annually (pricing page)
A- (3.6 out of 5 possible points)
Weebly is an extremely easy to use product, and they have recently redone their interface and cleaned up their theme library to bring it up-to-date. While they were once growing very quickly as a company it appears their popularity has waned the last year or so… and they’ve taken note. The improvements they have made to their product bring them back as a top three contender.
- Like Wix, Weebly has an email marketing solution, called Weebly Promote, built into their website builder package. Though it is a paid add-on, and it is somewhat pricey compared to the pricing of your website builder package, it’s nice that they have it here. For a smaller business who doesn’t want to have to open up multiple tools and learn new platforms, it can be considered a strength. It isn’t as powerful as MailChimp or similar email sending platforms, but it is very easy to use and should fulfill the needs of most small businesses.
- Weebly has one considerable advantage over the competitors, and that is easy-to-use page layouts. These pre-designed page layouts make building a new website on Weebly a much more delightful activity, especially if this is your first time building a website and you’re not entirely sure where you should put your content.
- When designing a site in Weebly for the first time, you are presented with a “Guided Help” dialog that helps walk you through each step of the way. Because it is in the app (sitting there as you build), it is extremely easy to get to. The content is helpful enough that someone with absolutely no website-building experience should be able to put together a beautiful website.
- While Weebly has a beautiful and easy-to-use website builder, their selection of pre-built themes is lacking. With less than 75 themes available to you, there isn’t as great of a creative option as there is with the other two solutions. That said, a big part of why there aren’t many themes is due to a major cleanup Weebly went through recently. They had a lot of themes that were old and out-of-date. And they’ve recently removed those so that the remaining theme options are ones you’ll generally be pleased with.
- Many web designers and web developers geek out on editing HTML and CSS to customize website themes. If you’re reading this article though, you’re likely not one of those individuals. Your priorities are more focused around marketing or running a business. While Squarespace and Wix both allow you to make template customizations with the drag and drop editor, Weebly falls a little short here. Yes, they’ll allow you to edit colors, fonts, etc… but any real customizations with Weebly require that you open up the code editor.
Starts at $8/month when paid annually (pricing page)
A- (3.5 out of 5 possible points)
The grading criteria and rubric
These products are all fabulous to use, and I honestly don’t think you’ll go wrong with any of them. While I love the Squarespace interface and design aesthetic, each different website-building platform offers its own unique value.
I independently weighed each aspect of each tool, and then put the numbers together to see how they all stacked up against one another. The results, which I agree with wholeheartedly, give Wix the win. Wix is the best, all around website-builder for those that need a drag-and-drop, easy-to-use solution.
Who should use Wix?
I would recommend Wix more for beginner to intermediate users who want a lot of theme options, a beautiful site, and a little more customization of their website but are okay with SEO that is good (not great).
Who should use Squarespace?
If you are a design connoisseur, or if your business needs demand a high-class visual aesthetic, then Squarespace is for you. Classy all the way.
Who should use Weebly?
Weebly is a great tool for absolute beginners, someone who isn’t looking for a ton of customization and is pleased with the themes already available to them. I rank it as the easiest to use. So if you have no experience building websites, then this may be the best solution for you.