There are millions of WordPress fans out there. And little wonder: it boasts a great variety of themes and plugins, is flexible, and very easy to use.
However, the free Open Source platform WordPress.org is not for everyone as it also comes with some disadvantages. In this article I will take a look at situations where WordPress may not be the ideal solution, and suggest some alternative tools.
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When shouldn’t you use WordPress as your CMS?
Editing a website with WordPress’ platform is fairly straightforward, even for beginners. But what about the installation process? If you are not very technically minded, you may run into problems despite their Famous 5-Minute Installation claim. Not everyone knows or even wants to know how an FTP client works or how to set one up.
Of course, a lot of hosting companies offer a one-click WordPress installation. But let’s face it, it’s going to get technical at some point – one of your plugins or themes will most likely collide with a WordPress update.
However, and we can’t stress this enough, while it’s common among WP users to ignore updates, this is a dangerous practice: it increases the risk of hackers using an exploit to get access to your website. After all, once something is as popular among users as WordPress, it also becomes a popular target for criminals.
We, at WebsiteToolTester, use WordPress as well as our CMS (Content Management System), though we used to run a website builder. Consequently, we hired a WP developer to ensure proper technical maintenance and security checks for our website.
Now I don’t want to pretend as if there weren’t any cases where WordPress is the only real option – there definitely are. If, for example, you want to run a website with a searchable database for real estate offerings. It’s also a great choice if you need a complex member area. You can find some tips on WordPress solutions in our Beginner’s Guide to WordPress.
However, if you don’t want to get into these technical aspects and just want a simple website tool instead of a comprehensive blogging platform, we have a couple of alternatives for you.
The Principal Difference between WordPress and a Website Builder
Imagine just letting your website sit around for a year without ever editing its content. After a year, the WordPress CMS version is old and probably susceptible to hacking. Most website builders, on the other hand, are silently updated and maintained behind the scenes by the provider. As long as your password is secure, you have almost nothing to fear.
Which Website Builders Can Hold Their Own Against WordPress?
Among the many providers out there, we found the following four to be particularly useful WordPress alternatives. These website builders regularly update their software and are very easy to use:
Wix – The most flexible designs
While WordPress offers an unbelievably wide range of designs, we had to realize that customizing these designs to match our needs meant loads of tedious work and custom code. Building a Wix site is different. You move the elements around with a click of the mouse, dropping them right where you want them. All plans (even the free one!) come with the same design options.
Video backgrounds and animations are no problems whatsoever. This website builder gets SEO right, too. Portfolio pages, in particular, turn out really good, and most importantly, without being difficult to create. They have many business-focused apps (e.g. for hotels or restaurants) that can make your life easier if you are in one of these industries.
Unfortunately, you can’t change your template once you have selected one, and you won’t have access to the source files. By the way, we have an in-depth Wix vs. WordPress comparison here.
> Find our in-depth Wix review here
Weebly – As easy as it gets
Weebly is a very intuitive website builder that has been used to create around 40 million sites to date. Especially if you’re looking for something free of charge, Weebly is an excellent choice. The free plan places a small, gray Weebly banner in your website footer. Individual domains are included from the Starter plan upward ($8 per month).
The blog feature is the most flexible we’ve seen. You can create all sort of layouts and use all the available elements (e.g. galleries, contact forms, video integration, etc) and have blogging features (e.g. tags, categories, comments, etc), excellent for publishing posts. It also boasts an integrated video and audio player (Pro plan only).
> You can find our recent review here
Jimdo – The all included
Building a site with Jimdo is a good choice if you’re looking for an all-round carefree package. More than 20 million websites have been created on this platform, and there’s a free basic plan you can try out. The paid plan (Jimdo Pro) includes not only a standard website builder, but also a blog and online store.
However, you have to be aware that Jimdo is not as feature-packed as other website builders. However, it is a solid tool, and what it does, it does well.
If you’re a WordPress fan, you might be disappointed that the templates are much less flexible in Jimdo, and the blog is geared towards beginners more than experienced bloggers. Nevertheless, the Jimdo blog is a good module because it integrates into the website so nicely.
> Find our in-depth Jimdo review here
Squarespace – The pricey option
Squarespace is a website builder that’s popular among creative users. The designs are very stylish and responsive, meaning that they automatically adjust to the screen size of every visitor. Nevertheless, we feel that Wix is a bit better here due to the larger number of available designs.
You can import your WordPress blog to Squarespace, which we like a lot. Nevertheless, we don’t recommend using Squarespace for blogging unless you don’t particularly care about SEO because page titles and meta descriptions can’t be adjusted for individual blog posts – which is very important for ranking with search engines. However, be aware that Squarespace is more difficult to use than Wix or Weebly due to its convoluted interface.
Downsides are the limited depth of navigation (only two levels) and missing features for multilingual websites. The least expensive plan costs $12 per month – not exactly the greatest deal ever. You can find our full Squarespace review here.
Webnode: Multilingual Websites
This website builder is particularly interesting if you are looking for a multilingual website builder. A feature that not many providers offer.
Generally, WordPress was designed as a tool to publish in one language only, though you can add plugins that will enable you to add translations to your website. So if you already know that you’ll be publishing in more than one language, Webnode could be a great WordPress alternative for you.
Webnode’s blog is not comparable to WordPress unfortunately. It’s very basic and doesn’t have features such as categories or tags. Comments can only be displayed via the Facebook comments feature.
> Learn more in our Webnode review
Site123 – Great free builder?
This website builder throws quite a few interesting features into the ring. And plenty of them are even free! You have the option to create a One-Pager website (which are quite popular for smaller sites) or a classic multi-page site. You have full access to their SEO features and support is there to help you if get stuck.
Site123’s premium version starts at $10.80 per month and includes an ad-free website with your own domain name (which is free for the 1st year). In the Advanced (and higher) plans you are also able to build multilingual sites, add ecommerce and send out mass emailings.
Webflow – The alternative for designers
If your problem with WordPress isn’t that it’s too complicated but rather that you feel too limited, then Webflow should be on your radar. The editor feels a bit like Photoshop and offers a tonne of options. They are just a bit difficult to use for beginners (like myself).
It definitely helps to understand something about the underlying code that Webflow’s visual editor generates. Their templates are brilliant and once you do get the hang of it you can create amazing things with it. Next to the free plan, which allows two projects, there are paid plans starting at $12 per month.
Medium.com, Facebook (or any other service that won’t let you use your own domain name)
Every couple of years there is usually a new platform that gets hyped. Medium is a good example. They provide a really smooth editing experience through their editor.
Many companies moved or started their blog on the Medium platform. The lucky ones among them could still publish on their own sub-domain name. But that suddenly changed a while back: now you have to publish on the Medium.com domain, which is a terrible idea if SEO is important to you.
Just imagine Medium shuts down as did Posterous back in the days (which was a similar service). You will not necessarily lose all your content but all the SEO rankings you ever created. To get it right you need to publish on your own domain name and preferably on your root domain (www.yoursite.com/blog) and not a sub-domain (blog.yoursite.com). This has numerous SEO advantages.
As you can imagine, publishing on Facebook is just as SEO-unfriendly.
What about ecommerce? – Best WooCommerce alternatives
WooCommerce is the most popular ecommerce plugin for WordPress. It converts your website (and CMS) in a fully-fledged online store. But as you can imagine, creating, maintaining and updating your online store will require technical knowledge.
It is true that all the previously mentioned tools (e.g. Weebly or Wix) will let you create an online store easily. However, they are not the best solutions for bigger ecommerce projects.
If you are looking for a more advanced solution that can really compare to WooCommerce, we bring you two good options. And as you can see below Shopify is incredibly popular.
Source: Google Trends
Shopify – The hassle-free store builder
If you are looking for an easy-to-use alternative to WooCommerce, stop looking. Shopify is, in our experience, the easiest store builder out there for big projects. On top of it, they offer neat, responsive designs that will make your store look good on any device. They also have a big community of users, partners and developers.
This ecommerce builder isn’t short of features. You will be able to create product variants, manage taxes & shipping effectively and even expand Shopify’s capabilities via their App Store.
Although it is a really good solution, it has a couple of drawbacks. Working with multiple currencies isn’t as straightforward as it should be. Unless you use their Shopify Payment as your default payment processor, Shopify will charge a small transaction fee (0.5% – 2%) for each sale (online or offline) that you process.
BigCommerce – Without transaction fees
This Australian store builder is also a good option to build medium to big online stores with. Especially if you are looking to create a multi-currency ecommerce projects or you need all the SEO features you can get.
Another cool thing is that BigCommerce won’t charge you a transaction fee for each sale that you process. However, they do have a yearly sales threshold that will force you to upgrade your plan if exceeded. Check all their prices and plans here to make sure you understand their conditions.
But if you do go with BigCommerce, you have to know that they come with some pitfalls. Easily creating (not google-translated) multilingual online stores isn’t possible, not even with external apps or premium templates. Their designs could be a bit more modern-looking and there are easier to use alternatives (e.g. Shopify or Weebly).
But how does a website builder work exactly?
Website builders have become powerful tools over the past few years. They mainly focus on classic websites, both with or without a blog. But that’s not all: most of them also let you create an online store in an intuitive and visual way. One of the advantages is the one-stop-shop concept – hosting, domain, and website editor all from the same provider. They are also easy-to-use tools that will let you create your online store in an intuitive and visual way.
Creating a website with a website builder usually entails the following steps:
- Sign up for either a free or a trial account
- Choose a design you like
- Customize the content on your site
In other words: You don’t need to install any software on your computer (let alone on a web server) and you don’t need to set up an FTP client either. You can register your domain name through the same provider that offers the website builder. And the fact that website builders offer individual support is particularly good for beginners. This means that you don’t need to go and sift through web forums to find solutions to any potential problems.
In addition, the tools themselves are very easy to use. You basically see the result immediately because you’re working on the site itself. This is different from WordPress, where you use an abstract editor – website builders show you what you get right away.
WordPress Alternatives: Conclusion
WordPress (or WooCommerce) are definitely good platforms and will be the exact right choice for many users: Scalability is excellent and the number of extensions is impressive. On the other hand, beginners will have a hard time getting everything set up without running into problems – unless, of course, they get outside help to setup this popular CMS.
But even if you’re not that into technology, you don’t have to go without a website of your own. Website builders such as Wix or Weebly offer a wide range of advantages, but it’s important to choose the right provider! Switching providers is difficult once your website is up and running because every platform uses its own system, and these systems are usually not compatible with other website builders.
Once you’ve found the right provider, you can start concentrating on generating content. Any technical issues will be handled by your provider. And isn’t that the way it should be?
06 Aug 2018: Site123 and Webflow added as well as some general updates.
04 Jul 2018: Webnode added.