Look, this is going to be a rant, so fair warning.
Website builders like Wix, SquareSpace, and Webflow have their place to help small business owners get their first websites off the ground.
But web developers and even designers shouldn’t be using them.
Why Platforms Like SquareSpace Exist
I am going to be honest – I know that cost has a lot to do with why people use SquareSpace, Wix, and Webflow. They’re truly meant for those business owners who have no idea how to build a website to be able to use templates and drag and drop functionality to get a website they like.
The whole purpose of SquareSpace and its competitors is to make creating websites an accessible, easy thing for anyone.
All three come with advanced features and add-ons that you can utilize to power-up your website quickly, just with added costs depending on the plugins. All 3 purport to offer mobile versions of your websites (Wix appears to be more adaptive than responsive, which is a huge negative in my book) and have some kind of SEO built in.
The Problem with Platform Builders
Did you know that there was a time when you built on Wix that they actually owned your copyrights, according to their terms and conditions???
That’s not true anymore, but here’s the big problem with platform website builders like these – your website is stuck with that one service.
I want you to imagine how annoying customer service can be with some of the bigger hosting companies. Do you really want to have to talk to GoDaddy customer support for the rest of your life??? If you’re me – hell no. I don’t need to sit on a live chat for 45+ minutes (with a 13 minute wait time) to get no help.
The beauty of hosting is that you can move when you’re unhappy. The downside of a platform website builder is that you’re stuck. You can’t take a backup of that Wix website and put it anywhere else. You can take the raw code that SquareSpace and Webflow creates and move it, but then you lose the CMS and the builder that made it so easy for your clients to mess up your design.
I barely let my customers host with GoDaddy anymore (everyone gets recommended to WP Engine actually) because I don’t want them to have a frustrating customer service experience when something goes wrong. Why would I stick them with a company that I can’t even migrate away from if I found they weren’t helping my clients anymore?
Their SEO Sucks
I’m just gonna say it. The on-page SEO of Wix and SquareSpace sucks. I just did an audit of a SquareSpace website a few weeks ago. Yes, I was able to add the things I wanted to add, but did you know how hard it was for me to do so? (Actually, I couldn’t add literally everything, but the important pieces of meta titles and descriptions and ALT tags were possible.)
The biggest problem with their setup is the way they seem to bury the information you need to edit. The site I audited was a beautiful website and had a lot of the technical things that make it good (hitting on pain points in the copy, for instance), but had meta titles like General 4 that SquareSpace automatically added. At least WordPress is nice enough to grab the page title to make that the meta title!
And don’t get me started about their lack of digital accessibility best practices….
The work that went in to making that website and other platform websites I’ve worked on to have good on-page SEO, it’s no wonder that a non-technical person would never see it. And thus you get the reputation that their SEO sucks.
Cause if it’s too hard for the normal person to add, it does.
Website is the Foundation to Your Marketing
The main reason that you shouldn’t be building websites on a platform builder? A business has so little control over their own marketing these days. Think about it – we’re always competing for attention with Facebook ads, bidding for clicks on Google, trying to not get marked as spam or get another unsubscribe in an email, and budget constrains all of it. But the website is literally the only piece a brand can have 100% control over. It can look exactly as the CEO and board wants. It can use just the right language, have all the information you want.
When you use a platform builder, you’re surrendering a lot of that control. As many customizations as they offer, with Wix and SquareSpace at least you can’t directly edit the code. I can’t tell you how frustrated I’ve been because I just wanted to add an H5 to a website, but SquareSpace wouldn’t let me. I couldn’t even add a span and adjust the font size for one headline. Or I wanted to fix how something displayed on mobile in Wix, but they only gave me so much control.
Without being able to control the code, you’re losing out on having a website that’s really built to the aspirational standards of a brand. But more than that, you’re stuck with these platforms. If Wix went out of business tomorrow, your client would lose their website and years of rankings and hard work.
Yes, you have to host a website somewhere, but you should never have it live on a platform that limits you to what you can do or where it can move to.
How is WordPress Different?
I get this question a lot. How is WordPress different than these other solutions?
Well first, you’ll want to use the WordPress.org, not .com, version. WordPress.org is an open-source code base, not a platform. As you can probably guess, it can live anywhere that gives you enough file space, allows PHP code, and access to a MySql database. Given that WordPress powers 41% of the internet these days, that’s pretty much any hosting company anymore.
Don’t have a good experience with one you’ve chosen? Move your website usually within just a few minutes thanks to a ton of migration plugin options.
WordPress is also completely flexible thanks to thousands of plugins. You can use a drag and drop theme builder like Elementor or Divi or custom code your own theme. Even if you use a drag and drop option, you can still create a child theme and customize the code to do what you want (because you can actually edit the code!).
Thanks to the free version of the Yoast SEO plugin, you can also easily add everything you need for great on-page SEO. WordPress already does a lot natively for good SEO, but Yoast just super powers that and makes it incredibly easy to edit and have control over.
But most importantly, you’re not handing over control of a brand’s number one marketing asset to a third party. WordPress powers the websites you build, but even if WordPress as a company fell apart tomorrow, those WordPress websites you’ve built would live on for years until you were able to build a new solution.
Stop Doing a Disservice to Your Clients
Frankly, if you’re charging your clients a ton of money for a SquareSpace website, you’re doing them a disservice. The main point for a business to hire you to build their website is to create them something better than they could do on their own. If this isn’t their very first website and they have any kind of budget, I highly recommend you at the least start learning how to build sites using Elementor and WordPress (which I prefer over Divi) and give them a website they have complete flexibility and control over.
Stop tying your customers to a business you can’t even pick up the phone and call and get some kind of support (I’m looking at you Wix) or they can’t migrate away from.