Which website platform should you use to build your website?
This has to be one of the most common questions I get asked by clients and prospective clients. And here’s the thing – there is no one-size fits all answer.
That’s because everyone has different needs and budgets for their website.
Here is a list of the most common scenarios I come across, and a list of the main website providers I recommend for each scenario…
(PS Before I begin; some of the links in this post are ‘affiliate links.’ This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a small affiliate commission. I am recommending them because I know they are good and I use them in my own business (unless otherwise stated))
Scenario 1: Your needs for a website are simple.
You’re looking for a website that’s fast to set up, looks effective, and isn’t complicated to maintain.
Most recommended option: Rocketspark – www.rocketspark.com
This NZ originated company provides spectacularly designed, easy to use website templates that anyone could set up.
The pros are:
- The speed and ease at which you can set up your own website. Seriously, you could build a basic website in a morning if you have an idea of what content you want.
- Your updates are limited to changes you want to make yourself – Rocketspark will take care of all of the security and other updates that need to happen.
- The customer service is fantastic. You can get them on the phone way more easily than other companies. For those of use that like to talk to real people, this is a major plus in my book.
- The SEO is pretty great – I’ve built client websites before for clients with no pre-existing website, that have ranked on the first page on google after only a matter of days. That’s pretty amazing stuff.
- No developers required.
- They offer a 30-day free trial – plenty of time to build your website before you fully commit. You don’t even have to enter your credit card to give the trial a go!
- It’s not the cheapest option for a monthly template website (but, that doesn’t mean it’s not great value).
- Like all templates systems, the options for customising are reasonably fixed.
- Once you’ve built it on Rocketspark, you are limited to staying with Rocketspark
- If you want any significant customisation done, I believe you need to use the Rocketspark team to make the customisation (rather than use any developer you choose)
Try Rocketspark and get 10% off your first month by using my discount coupon HELPFULBRAND against your shopping cart.
Option 2: Squarespace – www.squarespace.com
The Pros are:
- This US-based provider is super easy and quick to use.
- It’s up there with the most affordable of the template providers (although you will pay in US dollars so factor in the exchange rate if you are not US based).
- The SEO is pretty reputable.
- There are some add-ons available, and lots of things integrate with Squarespace.
- As with Rocketspark, Squarespace deal with all of the security upgrades etc so there’s no ongoing maintenance.
- No developers required. You *can hire a developer. But chances are you won’t need to.
- Like all template systems, the options for customising are fixed.
Scenario 2: You are looking for something a bit more fancy/customisable.
OR you want something that you have full control over if you want to move hosts/providers later onOR you have plans for business domination and want a website platform that will grow as you grow
My most recommended provider is WordPress.org.
Firstly, let’s distinguish the difference between WordPress.org (recommended here) and WordPress.com. WordPress.com is where you sign up and the hosting is included. It’s quite similar to going with Rocketspark or Squarespace, except that it’s less intuitive to use and in my opinion, most people would be better off sticking with either Rocketspark or Squarespace.
WordPress.org is where you use the open source WordPress framework, but you choose your host, your theme and your plugins. If I already lost you, stick with me, I’ll explain what all of those things are, and why they might be better for you in the long run.
What is a host?
The host is where you store your website. On Rocketspark and Squarespace, they are also your host. But on WordPress.org you can choose one of a bajillion hosts out there to host your website.
- Their uptime is awesome
- Their speed is awesome.
- The customer service is outstanding.
- I can chat with them on instant chat 24/7.
- Siteground are reliable.
- They are secure.
- Your website gets backed up for you daily.
What is a theme?
The theme is what makes your website look pretty. It’s a very important decision because it decides how easy it is for you to change the colours, design and customise your website to your needs. It also weighs-in to how fast your website works. There are hundreds of thousands (probably millions) of themes available for WordPress, so it can be overwhelming to choose.
When it comes to themes you have two types to choose from: Free and paid.
Free – If you are a blogger or have a small business, there’s a good chance a free theme will be more than enough for you. Popular ones include Sydney, Shapely and Newspaper X.
But, the downsides of free themes is that they are not necessarily very easy to customise. You may struggle to customise the fonts or colours and layout without needing to hire a developer.
Paid – there are some really crappy paid themes out there, but there are also a lot of extremely great ones.
These are my top picks. I have used all of these extensively and have used them all for my own websites as well as for client websites.
Option 1 paid theme is Themify.me. Ultra theme.
I seriously love Themify. I now use it for 4/6 of my own websites and will most likely use it for all future websites I build. It’s seriously easy to use, and SO customisable. I have probably only scraped the surface of what this theme is capable of.
The main thing I like about Themify is that you can build pages from the front end and design them as you go. That means that unlike traditional WordPress themes you don’t have to keep saving your work in the back editor and previewing to see what the page looks like (which is what everyone tends not to like about them). Instead, you can see what it looks like as you build it. It’s so visual.
I would say for most businesses, this would be my most highly recommended theme.
Option 2 Newspaper theme
I use Newspaper theme for my blog and it is a really great blog theme. If you have a website with a ton of articles, I highly recommend Newspaper as an option. There are just so many versatile ways to display your content.
If that’s not the case for you then I’d suggest Themify or my next option
Option 3 Avada theme
Avada theme is one of (if not the) most popular paid WordPress theme. It’s super easy to customise, and very versatile. It’s a really great corporate theme. I used it for this Helpful Academy website for the first year, but have since changed to Themify for the fact that having all my websites on the same theme is easier for me admin/design wise. Otherwise, I’d have no reason whatsoever to move because Avada is great too.
You can see Avada theme in action on the Manawatu Chamber of Commerce website (which one of my friends built and I consulted on).
Option 4 Divi theme
Ok, so honestly, I have not personally used Divi theme for any of my own websites. But, I have seen demos of it, and know a ton of knowledgeable people that use it, so it is well worth checking out. Like Themify, you build the website from the “front end” – live, so you can see what you’re building and how it looks as you go. The reason I chose Themify over Divi, is because it was recommended to me by a website developer who I trusted. So I went with her recommendation. But, if I was to go again, I’d give Divi a try first. Because I LOVE the fact that you can try Divi for free. That’s definitely a huge selling point!
What are plugins:
Plugins are what add functionality, customisation and personality to a website. They allow you to pretty much add anything you want and are the main reason that WordPress websites are so customisable and why I choose to use WordPress over all the template options out there. There are plugins for just about anything:
Taking bookings, having a shopping cart, offering courses, creating membership sites, etc etc. There are paid plugins and free plugins. If you have a unique need, chances are it can be solved with a plugin.
Plugins are gold.
Read about my 12 favourite plugins I wouldn’t be without here
But beware, there is a dark side to plugins. Plugins can create conflicts between each other, and between your theme, and they rely on the designer of the plugin to keep it updated. If the designer of the plugin doesn’t keep it updated (or you don’t update your version of it) it opens you up to two problems;
- The plugin may eventually stop working with your version of WordPress
- The plugin might open you up to security vulnerabilities and allow someone to hack your website.
Bottom line is, when installing plugins, make sure that
- They have great reviews
- They are updated by the developer regularly
- If is is a paid plugin – where possible check that they are compatible with your theme and shopping cart etc… (usually this information can be found on your theme’s sales page)
So, to finish, the pros of using WordPress.org are numerous.
Namely the versatility, customisation and ownership that you have on your website.
- If you decide you don’t like your host, you can move to another one overnight and your website will stay largely unaffected.
- You can change your theme if you don’t like it
- If you decide you need it to do something else, you can add another plugin.
There are downsides too.
A WordPress website does require regular updating of your WordPress version, theme and plugins. That is something that has to happen manually and with caution. Because sometimes updating plugins can break your site. If that sounds all too hard then one solution is to go with a managed host. WP-engine is the top-rated option
You are responsible for the security of your website. Which is not something to be taken lightly. Earlier this year one of my own websites was hacked and infected with malware. I’m not ashamed to say that it made me cry because at the time I didn’t know what to do to fix it. Luckily, this story has a happy ending – I paid Securi to fix it for me. They were lovely to deal with and they fixed it for me overnight. Now I have their plan where if it gets hacked again they’ll fix it again. Ahhhh peace of mind.
The costs can creep up
Unlike a template system which most likely has a monthly or annual reliable fee, WordPress websites are more bespoke in their price.
By the time you add up
- The host
- The theme
- The plugins
- Potentially the designer and/or developer (if you are not building it yourself)
- And potentially the security monitoring
It can get expensive.
But, all that aside, WordPress is great and I hope I haven’t put you off. Because with a little effort and understanding it is a highly customisable, versatile platform that will grow with your business.
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About the author:
Kat Soper is the Founder and Head Trainer of The Helpful Academy Online Business School.
Kat is passionate about helping start-ups and small businesses succeed and achieve their business goals so that they can achieve the lifestyle they desire (and deserve).