So I've been meaning to write this for a While... I've been designing websites since...idk 2015. Since that time I've worked with 6 different web builders:
(Order reflects the order in which I've interacted with each platform.)
I'd like to break down (from my perspective/experiences) what works best based on business type and my general perspective on how best to position your small business on line to grow and scale and ultimately lead to more sales, partnerships and business opportunities.
#1-Wordpress: is NOT user-friendly. I feel like it's best for Bloggers with somewhat of a coding background.
I should preface this by saying (one- I do not have a coding background), (two:) when I first got online I wanted to be EVERYWHERE. My first business was "shopconsignmentcouture.com," an online buy, sell, trade boutique. It was fun but it was almost impossible to manage ALL of the sites (Wordpress, Blogger, etc.) at the same time.
With that being said, I don't have much to say about Wordpress because, I didn't interact with it very long because it wasn't user friendly at all.
Also not the most user friendly. Blogger is 100% all in the name. It's for bloggers. However, from my limited experience with the platform, it is hard to customize and make your blog stand out among the million + Blogger users. In short- it's hard to Brand your blog using this platform.
#3- Shopify: has a special place in my heart okay. I really learned the little I do know about coding because of my experience with shopify. It is the most affordable, user-friendly, customizable, online storefront builder on the web with LOADS of resources to get you online and selling quickly. I feel like I'm a shopify "day-one," because I started using the platform before it started gaining popularity. A lot of others were still using "Magento, BigCommerce, and Go-Daddy." All of which I did 14-day trials with and could not figure out.
Shopify is great for brands with physical products ranging from clothing, to digital products. Over the years it has grown in friendliness. Not to mention their entrepreneurship blog that encourages entrepreneurs internationally and provides loads of resources.
In addition to Shopify's user-friendliness- Shopify is AFFORDABLE. The most basic package is about $25.00/month, there's a Point of Sale (POS) system built in, allowing small brands to take payment's and do Pop-Ups from almost anywhere.
Their mobile app is amazing as well. You can literally make changes to your website at a moments notice FROM YOUR PHONE. Once of my most recent favorite features is the dormant shop option. I had to set my shop to dormant when moving cross country a couple times- dormant feature is only $14.00/mo. When I'm ready I'll re-open my shop and pick up right where I left off.
In terms of SEO- Shopify starts getting to work in that department right away. Through my blog (on shopify) I was able to reach SO many customers searching the web on the topics I had wrote about. It's just an A++ experience for most brands.
There's tons of templates to choose from for free and some, more fancy designs that are also not too expensive. Once you buy them they're yours for life. I've changed my website like 8 times since I launched and it's always been easy + if I don't like it and want to revert to a previous version, it saves the history of ALL the past designs. It syncs to mailchimp so that brands can grow their email list and send emails Also syncs to google shopping, facebook, and Amazon. 100% worth that $25/month.
Clearly I could go on and on about how great Shopify is, but I'll do that in another blog.
So Etsy is great but not for all brands. Etsy has limitations in terms of the type of business allowed to open up shop on the platform (Handmade or Vintage Only). Initially, their was no way for brand identity in Etsy. Now, brands can customize their pages (to an extent) and add things like their logo, cover photo, etc.
I believe the lack of ability for brands to showcase their brand identity is STILL a challenge considering people still say things like I got it off "Etsy," instead of I got it from a particular Etsy store.
Because I believe in welcoming (and scaling) ALL available sales streams- I think it's important for brands to be in as many places as possible especially Etsy if you are in the handmade or vintage space.
Etsy has a million + loyal customer following. These customers are looking for handmade and vintage products and are accustomed to paying higher end rates. If your listings are clear, descriptive, and the pictures are great quality, you'll likely sell something at least once a month.
Etsy has no "monthly," fee. They charge you for listing products, plus the processing fees for the products sold. The listing fee is about $0.20 cents and products stay published for 120 days (I believe). If they don't sell you can re-list them for another 120 days. Clearly the more products you list the more that $0.20cents adds up to a whopping ($10.00 if that).
There's also plenty of built-ins on this platform, including people "liking you shop," and liking specific "listings."
This grows your clientele and allows you to target those customers who like your products. In addition there's new ways to promote your store and product listings through their "promoted listings," feature which is partnered with "Google." Not that you always need it- If brands are very detailed in their listings and use ALL 13 available product tags, variants, color, material etc. your products should be easily found and sold.
I've sold more on Etsy than I ever have on my website. However I've maintained both.
My website allows for my brand to have an identity of its own and provides an opportunity to scale in all the ways Etsy won't while Etsy makes me some dough. We welcome all revenue streams. Etsy also has a POS system allowing brands to sell anywhere.
5. Wix- Using it as we speak. Wix is by far the most user-friendly site ever in terms of web-building. It's literally drag and drop. They have 100s of templates and beautiful stock photos at your disposal. It's perfect for any business type. As a matter of fact they base their templates off of the type of business you have. For example, Band, Blog, or Restaurant, storefront, personal trainer, gym, etc making it easy to narrow your search for the perfect template.
The Customer Relations Management (CRM) is incorporated into the platform saving brands the headache of using extensions like Mailchimp. There's an invoicing system that syncs to PayPal and Square, and there's a mobile app that allows entrepreneurs to keep up with their site from anywhere.
However, there is just one catch- Wix's business model is 100% based on up selling to its customers. It starts out at like $10/month but if you want to remove all the wix promotional features that'll be another $4.00. If you do want to include email marketing into your marketing plan it's free at first. But if you want to send more than 5 emails a- month that's another $8.00. If you want to do a pop up screen to capture emails that'll also be another $5.00.
TBH I don't know what our total package costs anymore. Overall, I would say the experience is great but I wish it were more "inclusive."
#6- Squarespace- Last but not least. I only recently started my experience with this platform (March 2018). I launched Squarespace for my personal blog Taylar's Novella.
Unfortunately, I have to be honest and share that Squarespace is my least favorite due to it lack of user-friendliness. While their templates are beautiful and editorial-like when you go to customize the template everything that you love about it just dissolves. It's so unfriendly, I find it hard to articulate the issues I have with it. My lack of understanding of navigating the site has translated in my site visitors also becoming frustrated with getting to the blogs I worked so hard to write.
Their user manuals are no help either :(. I even tried to look up YouTube videos for tutorials but didn't find much. I'm still learning this platform and so are MANY millions of others- I am hoping that it is worth the $16/month I pay.
In terms of other features, there's just not much to report. For example, the email subscription feature is basically non-existent. It doesn't seem to store email subscribers internally. Alternatively, you have to back them up to some external source like Google Drive. Which isn't horrible but it makes the process even more complicated for a full time, working mother and wife like me. Thereby making me less likely to write, let alone grow my blog. I am seriously considering switching my blog to Wix at this point. I just have to figure out how to transfer my URL.
I'll give it some time... I think. The only good thing I've found about the platform is the analytics feature. Which is the only "built-in."
Not sure about the accuracy. With that being said:
- In terms of analytics. It is important that all brands on the web sync their websites to Google Analytics ASAP. It is by far the most accurate and it's free and easy to sync. Whichever platform you go with do that from the start.
Happy Hunting! LMK your thoughts or questions!