Thanks for Listening!

Hey there, thanks for joining me again this week. So it’s online marketing week here on the Small Farm Nation podcast. And this week we’re talking websites, or, more specifically, what website design tool you should use.

And we have plenty of options, right? There’s lots of website builders out there—you know, Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, GoDaddy, WordPress.com and open-source WordPress (wordpress.org).

I know you’re looking for what’s the best builder for you, so let’s get right to it by addressing what is the best website building tool. And in this episode, I’ll focus on Wix, Squarespace and WordPress.

Of course, there are other solutions, such as Weebly, GoDaddy and, if you need e-commerce, Shopify, Volusion and others. 

Oh…and there’s FarmPress, the FREE, hosted solution you get when you join the Small Farm Nation Academy.

But many farmers are concerned with one of these three—WordPress, Wix and Squarespace— and, honestly, I can’t think of many scenarios where one of these wouldn’t be the best choice for every farm business (other than FarmPress , of course).

Get updates from Small Farm Nation!

When there's new free content, podcasts or videos, I'll let you know!

So the question I often hear is, which is the best. And what do folks mean when they say the best…who decides that?

Well, of course, the market broadly decides the best solution, right? But it’s up to us…to you…to pick the solution that’s right for you.

So, what does the market have to say?

WordPress Market ShareWell, it’s no contest, is it. I mean, WordPress has about 60% market share of the CMS or content management systems out there, and pretty much all the big brands use WordPress to some degree.

That list includes the NY Times, CNN, Forbes—hell, even the Walking Dead website uses WordPress.

That said, Wix, Squarespace and Shopify have all made minor gains in the last year, owing to their huge ad spends on commercials and elsewhere. I mean, you can’t watch ANY youtube video these days without some celebrity telling you how great Wix is.

So they’re buying customers with huge ad spends, which is something WordPress can’t do, since it’s free open source software.

So, the market overwhelmingly says WordPress is the preferred choice. But that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily right for you. Let’s dive in and compare WordPress to Wix and Squarepace to help you decide what is right for you.

First, let’s start with what the fundamental differences are between WordPress, Wix and Squarespace, because, fundamentally, they can each be used to build an effective website.

The main difference is that Wix and Squarespace are online, fully-featured and self-contained tools. You don’t need a hosting account or even a domain. Just visit their sites, sign up for an account, and immediately start building your website using their visual design tools.

Of course, both Wix and Squarespace are for-profit companies, whereas the WordPress we commonly hear about is not a company at all.  It is a free, open source software package that needs to be installed on a web server before you can use it.

You’ll also need a domain, which you may get at GoDaddy or elsewhere. Then you’ll need to set up a hosting account at BlueHost, SiteGround, HostGator or elsewhere.

Once you’ve done that, you’ll have to install WordPress on their server before you can pick out a theme, install plugins and begin creating your site.

So there are definitely more steps involved and more moving pieces with a WordPress site than there are at Wix or Squarespace.

But let’s dive deeper and look at each in more detail.

And we’ll start with WordPress. Now, when I say WordPress, I’m referring to wordpress.org, the OPEN Source software you install at a hosting account.

I’m not referring to wordpress.com which is NOT the same thing. Basically, wordpress.com is a hosted solution similar to Wix, Weebly and Squarespace, so I’m not reviewing it in this episode.

Okay, WordPress is an all-in-one package of website software. Think of it this way; similarly to how MacOS or Windows runs your laptop, WordPress runs your website. It sits in the background and makes sure that you can easily configure your website, add plugins, edit and publish your content.

Now, WordPress can only be installed on a web server. The easiest way of getting access to a web server is buying web server space from a hosting company, such as Siteground or Bluehost. The prices for that start at around $5 a month.

Depending on the hosting company you choose, you might have to install WordPress on the server yourself, but most hosts, like Siteground, give you access to a simple 1-click WordPress install.

After installing WordPress you also need to install a WordPress theme and some plugins – this is how you obtain a custom design for your website and some additional functionality. There are thousands of themes and plugins available on the web, both free and paid.

Now, to take full advantage of what WordPress offers, some website building skills are required – since the plugin and theme setup can get a bit complicated at times.

You may have already found that out if you use WordPress. But…that’s what a lot of the Small Farm Nation Academy is about…helping you navigate this stuff.

And besides, just because site skills are helpful doesn’t mean you have to do it. With WordPress’ popularity, it’s easy to find help for CSS and other customization on Fiverr.

Depending on how much you want to adjust, you might even have to write custom code or build custom design elements – this is where hiring a designer or developer might come into the picture. But, since WordPress is far and away the most popular platform, development help on Fiverr and elsewhere is easy to find.

WordPress itself is completely free and open source. Basically, software-wise, you can get all the components you need to build your website for free. What isn’t free, though, is your domain name and web hosting. The former is usually $10 a year, and the latter, as I mentioned above, usually starts at $5 a month. 

And WordPress is definitely state-of-the-art software. It has all the website management features you might need. It’s currently being used by nearly 30% of the entire internet. That’s why technical help isn’t hard to find, and there’s a virtually endless number of plugins to really customize the site the way you want.

Now, since WordPress isn’t a company, there’s no support per se. So while you do get access to a dedicated WordPress community, there’s no single entity that provides customer support by default. Though, as I’ve said it’s easy to find WordPress developers around the globe.

So, what about cost?

Well, WordPress itself will cost you zilch. Nada.

But, you need a domain name…a URL, and that may cost you up to $15 bucks a year. But that’s a wash, really, because you’re gonna want to buy a domain whether you use WordPress, Wix, Squarespace or any other solution. Trust me—you want to own your own domain name.

Then, you need a hosting account, which will set you back at least five bucks a month, or another $60 bucks a year. So the minimum you’ll be paying for a WordPress site is about $75 a year.

Now, there are tons of free themes for WordPress, but many people go for a premium theme. Those will set you back another $50-$200.

So this gives you a sense of the minimum cost you can pay for a WordPress site.

So, why would you NOT want to use wordpress?

  • Well, WordPress can be a challenge for novices to customize the theme they choose. It’s like learning any new skill…like how to butcher a chicken or prepare a seedbed. You gotta learn the skill.
  • And WordPress requires more learning and hands on, at least at first, then other CMS alternatives.
  • Another reason to avoid WordPress is if you’re “put off” by having to set-up a hosting account. If the thought of setting up an account at a hosting provider overwhelms you, then avoid WordPress, cause that’s what you’ll have to do.
  • Finally, if you need a “pretty” website up and running today…and I mean, TODAY, then WordPress isn’t the answer unless you know what you’re doing.

These are the main reasons I’d say someone may want to avoid WordPress.

Now, why SHOULD you consider choosing WordPress?

  • Well, it is hands down the most flexible tool on this list! Way more so than Wix and Squarespace. No question about it.
  • I mean, the sole fact of it being open source means that anyone can build a plugin or a theme that will extend the platform’s native functionality. And a lot of people do just that.
  • For example, the official directory of plugins at WordPress.org lists more than 52,000 plugins as of now. 
  • What this means is if you need any feature at all, there’s a high likelihood that someone has already built a plugin that makes it available. And what’s more, that plugin is probably free because most are.
  • Remember, WordPress is the most popular tool – with nearly 30% of all websites using WordPress – which is perhaps the main evidence of its versatility. 
  • Another reason to use WordPress is if you’re on a tight budget. Even though you have to pay for the domain name and hosting, a basic WordPress site is still the most affordable solution on this list.
  • You should also choose WordPress if you want to have full control of your website – this includes not having to deal with anyone limiting the way you manage your website, the designs you use, or the features you have on your website.
  • With Squarespace and Wix—or even those custom farm website solutions on the market—you have NO control over what features they add OR take away from you.
  • Use WordPress if not having access to a dedicated customer support isn’t a problem for you. Now, you’ll get customer support with your web host, and I can tell you that SiteGround’s support is fantastic. but they may not be able to help you outside of hosting-related issues. Then again, many members rely on the forum in Small Farm Nation Academy to get help with their sites, and we’re happy to provide it. So that’s another option.
  • Now, even if you don’t sell online today, you may want to in the future. WooCommerce is a free plugin that allows you to create an online store. If you need help customizing the look and functionality, there are lots of people on Fiverr and elsewhere who can do the work for you, pretty cheaply.
  • Finally, if you want to ever add online courses to teach your farm skills, you’ll want to be on WordPress.

Ok, so that’s WordPress.

Now, let’s look at Wix.

Wix is a one-stop, fully-featured and self-contained website building tool. It lets you build a fully-operational website or e-commerce store from scratch. It not only acts as the operating system of your website – like WordPress – but also as the web server that houses the software.

Wix hosts your website, so you don’t have to set up your own hosting account. You get it all in one place – from Wix.com. If you don’t want to pay for a custom domain name, you also get a free subdomain that you can use. This is going to be something like your-username.wix.com.

Wix works out of the box and lets you start building your website right after you sign up for a Wix.com account. Though I’ve fooled around with Wix and I’m not sure it’s quite as easy and intuitive as everyone thinks. Because no matter how intuitive and simple a piece of technology is, there’s always that moment of “what am I looking at and what do I do now?”

You’ll have that reaction with Wix just as you will with Squarespace, Shopify, and WordPress. Personally, I find WordPress builders like Divi and Thrive to be FAR more intuitive and easier than those on Wix, but that’s just me.

Wix Gives you access to more than 500 website designs. That’s probably too many, but there are some really good designs.

And there are no coding or website development skills required to use Wix.

Wix does offer a plan that’s free, but it has limitations. There are also paid plans, spanning from $5 to $25 a month.

But, Wix does offer a pretty complete package needed to launch a functional website or online store. And there’s nothing that you need to get or install on top of what you get at wix.com.

Since it’s a business, they offer solid 24/7 support. This means that whatever problem you might have, the Wix.com guys are there to solve it for you.

Now, can you get Wix for free? Yes…but don’t do it, because you’ll have a wix branded URL and Wix branding on your web pages.

If you think that’s okay you may want to watch some of the lessons in the branding module of Small Farm Nation Academy. Because growing your farm is about building YOUR brand, not Wix’s.

So you’ll want a premium plan. I recommend you go for the Unlimited plan at 14 bucks a month, unless you need the ecommerce plan. So, all in, you’re looking at about $168 a year. More than WordPress, but you may find the convenience worth it.

So, why would you want to avoid Wix?

  • Well, here’s a big one—a huge one. If you change your theme design in Wix, you lose ALL your content. I mean—what? Imagine that? Here’s what Wix says right on their support site as of November 2018: Currently, it is not possible to apply a different template to a Wix site that you already created. That is, once you create a site and add content, you cannot then apply a different template to that site.“ I mean come on! That is so 1999. But it’s the way it is…so you better get your design right the first time. Moving on.
  • Also, the online store cost is pricey compared to doing it in WordPress. But, it’s not when compared to Squarespace or Shopify, because they both cost money too. It’s just that the WordPress e-commerce solution, WooCommerce, is free. Just something to be aware of.
  • And, even though Wix gives you lots of templates to start with and makes it easy to get going quickly, that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to create a good design.
  • I’ve talked about this problem before, where the DIY site builders make it easy to throw content and images up, but not necessarily create a website that’s effective. I mean, just because you have a hammer doesn’t mean you can build a house. Wix gives you the hammer, but you’ll need discipline to not get seduced by all the dragging and dropping, and instead start with a clear plan, and stick to it. 
  • Finally, what happens if you do decide to move platforms. Maybe you want to move to Squarespace or WordPress. What happens to your data, designs and content?
  • With Wix – there is no way to export your data.  It’s a bit like having all your furniture bolted to your house. If you move – you can’t bring anything with you.
  • In the worst case scenario, you’d have to scrape and/or manually copy paste your data to your new site. But either way, Wix does not make it easy to leave.

So then, why choose Wix?

  • Well, go with Wix if you want to build a website for free. Because it’s the only option for that.
  • Or, use Wix if you want to build an e-commerce store easily, without having to deal with external plugins or difficult setups. Wix has an e-commerce module integrated right out the gate.
  • Use Wix if you’re not very website-savvy and you’d prefer not have to deal with servers, hosting, and domain names. It’ll save you a lot of headaches.
  • Consider using Wix if you don’t mind not being in full control of your website. You’ll be limited to whatever features Wix allows you to have, which may be enough for you. But if they’re not, you won’t be able to customize the site as you can with WordPress.
  • Finally, use Wix if you want to access to customer support that will be able to help you out in case of anything. You can even speak with someone on the phone!

Now, let’s turn our attention to Squarespace.

Similar to Wix, Squarespace is a one-stop website building tool. It’s all available online and lets you create your own functional website or e-commerce store from scratch.

No third-party web servers are needed. Everything you need you get after signing up at squarespace.com.

And no technical setup or software installation is required. Right after opening an account at Squarespace.com you can get started working on your website.

Of course, Squarespace offers you dozens of very nicely designed templates to choose from. Even though that’s a lot less than what Wix gives you, the designs at Squarespace are very attractive, and they are also all optimized for mobile and tablet viewing.

Of course, when you replace the images in the templates with your images, the template will immediately NOT look so good, unless you have access to top-notch photography and really know what you’re doing. I’ve seen lots of farmers butcher their Squarespace designs with out-of-focus, poor photography.

If you’re a technophobe, the good news is you don’t need to know how to deal with php, CSS or html to simply use Squarespace. Just like Wix, Squarespace gives you the complete package needed to launch a fully operational website with. You don’t need anything else than what’s already given to you at Squarespace.com.

You get access to 24/7 support, but that doesn’t mean the can help you with design. They’ll just help with how to use Squarespace or anything not working properly.

In terms of cost, Squarespace offers plans from $12 to $40 a month, but the personal plan is limited in number of pages, so you’ll probably opt for the Business plan at $18.

For online stores, you’ll want the $40 a month plan, unless you want your customers to check out on Squarespace’s branded site rather than yours. I think that’s a ridiculous thing they’re doing, charging you an extra $14 a month just so folks can check out on YOUR site, but…whatever.

Anyway, when you add it all up you’re looking at anywhere from $216 to $480 a year on Squarespace.

So, why would you not use Squarespace?

  • Well, for starters, it’s the most expensive of the three options we’re covering in this episode. Granted, it’s not a ton of money for a “real” business, but is it worth the extra money? Not to me. 
  • With Squarespace you can export your data…but you’ll lose the design, of course, since it’s a Squarespace theme you were renting. And that theme is only available on Squarespace hosted sites.
  • Now there are many reasons you may want to move a site. For instance, perhaps you grow displeased with Squarespace’s hosting speed. The only way to move to another host is to leave Squarespace.
  • On the other hand, if you had a WordPress site on Bluehost or HostGator and were unhappy with their hosting speed, you could easily move your entire site—data AND design—to another host, such as Siteground.
  • Another problem with Squarespace is actually the same as their main selling benefit—their beautiful designs. You see, the Squarespace template are gorgeous, but as I’ve said before, it’s really hard for most people to create a site that looks remotely as good as their templates do.
  • And while Squarespace certainly has excellent online support, you’re not gonna get someone on the phone. And, let me tell you, sometimes it really helps to talk to someone, as I’ve had to do countless times with hosting providers. It’s a relatively minor issue until you have an urgent site problem…then you’ll see how important it is to be able to reach someone. I can always get someone on the phone quickly at Siteground if I have a hosting or WordPress problem.
  • Another big problem is this. At least Wix has an app marketplace that has some free add-ons.  And WordPress….well, there’s over 50,000 plugins, almost all free.
  • But you won’t find one free plugin you can use with Squarespace, so you’re stuck with the limitations of the box they stick you in.

Okay, then, so when is Squarespace the right choice?

  • Well, mainly, the reasons to use Squarespace are exactly the same as the reasons to use Wix:
  • Use Squarespace if you want to build an e-commerce store with ease. You don’t need to deal with the technical aspects of the setup, though, if you’re main objective is an online store you should compare against Shopify.
  • Use Squarespace if you don’t have any coding or website building skills but still want to create a great-looking website on your own.
  • Turn to Squarespace if you don’t care for anything hosting- or server-related. You just want a website to work.
  • Use Squarespace if you’re not worried that you’re not in full control of your website.
  • You’re content with the design features that you’re given by Squarespace.
  • Finally, consider Squarespace if you value 24/7 access to customer support.

So, what’s the bottom line with all this? Ask yourself these questions.

Do you want to be in full control of your website and be able to add whatever you wish to it (be it themes, plugins, custom code, anything at all)? If the answer is “yes,” or “perhaps” then go with WordPress. That’s what I do and that’s what the large majority of people do.

However, if you prefer a solution that doesn’t require any coding or website building skills and simply lets you create your own website in an easy-to-grasp and beginner-friendly way, then go with either Wix or Squarespace.

As for me, I’ve created sites on Squarespace, Wix, Shopify, BigCommerce and Volusion and on WordPress. Today, every site I develop is on WordPress. I wouldn’t consider another platform for these 10 reasons:

  1. If I move from Wix, Weebly, Squarespace or Shopify, I’d lose my design, but if I moved my WordPress to another host, I wouldn’t lose anything.
  2. My copyrighted content can be used for free on SquareSpace. You heard that right, Squarespace’s license says, and I quote, “we may use in perpetuity, free of charge, any version of your site or any portion thereof, for the purpose of Squarespace marketing and promotion activities.” No thanks.
  3. Squarespace, Wix & Weebly can pull features at any time, without notice. So you build your site using certain features and they take them away. Ouch.
  4. I control the page builder on WordPress. I can use any drag and drop tool I want—Divi, Thrive Themes, Beaver Builder, whatever. With Squarespace, Wix, Weebly and GoDaddy, I have no choice other than the tools they give me.
  5. It’s challenging to be unique in a closed system like SquareSpace. All the sites look the same.
  6. WordPress is just much more SEO friendly than the other options, and has helpful plugins such as Yoast SEO to help with search engine optimization.
  7. WordPress has a superior blogging platform, and content marketing is hugely important if you want to drive traffic to your site without paying for advertising.
  8. WordPress allows for easy ecommerce and easy CSA sign-up and management with the help of plugins such as WooCommerce and Gravity Forms.
  9. WordPress offers an easy ability to add online courses and more if you want to add that. Who knows—you might.
  10. Finally, WordPress is an open source vs the isolationist platforms of Wix, Weebly and Squarespace. This means there are FAR more ideas, innovation and support going in the direction of WordPress.

Currently, WordPress has about 60% of the market. By comparison, neither Wix, Weebly or Squarespace has even 2%. Hands down, WordPress is the preferred platform.

But, as I’ve said, that doesn’t mean it’s right for you. So here are my final recommendations for you.

  1. If your site will be very basic, go with Wix
  2. If you just must have that Squarespace template you like so much & have access to VERY high-resolution images, go ahead with SquareSpace
  3. If you’re serious about building your farm brand and business, go with WordPress and have it properly designed. You’ll have way more flexibility.

To share your thoughts:

To help the show:

Thanks for listening. Until next time!

OTHER WAYS TO ENJOY THIS EPISODE

Download on iTunes