Website Builder Platforms – What’s the Difference?

Let’s take a look at some of the top website builder platforms and find out what sets each of them apart.

Please note that while any of these building platforms can be used by a novice to a certain degree, if you are serious about the goals and success of your website for your business, it is best to hire a professional web designer and use what they suggest. This way you can get a custom website that is specifically designed for your business needs that is using the right strategies, platform, and tools for the project.

While our website builds here at eSilverStrike Consulting are mostly WordPress, we do not recommend WordPress to all clients if we think another platform would suit a project better.

The market share percentage statistics for these platforms used in the summaries below is from W3Techs and is based on data from 2011 to 2022. At this point there is an estimated 1.8 billion websites with 200 million being considered active (they receive regular software and content updates).

WordPress

WordPress by far is the worlds most popular website software. It is used by all types of businesses (both small and large) and institutions including fortune 500 companies and government agencies. It is a Content Management System (CMS) that runs 64.2% of all websites. Because of this popularity, WordPress has an extremely robust community of experts and many plugins (over 55,000) and themes that help extend the design and functionality of the core software. In the hands of talented developer WordPress is very customizable. Many types of websites can be built using WordPress including simple brochure type sites, to membership, and ecommerce sites.

WordPress itself is open source and can be downloaded for free at WordPress.org, This is also where you will find many WordPress plugins and themes. Some plugins and themes are free, some may need to be purchased (onetime payment or subscription based), while others may use a hybrid pricing model.

Most WordPress websites are installed on a businesses own web server which are usually “rented” from web hosting providers for a monthly fee. Many web hosting companies also offer hosting packages with WordPress already installed at very competitive prices. This type of setup is designed more for the hobbyist or someone who wants just a basic starter WordPress website. Automattic is one such company and runs WordPress.com (a cloud WordPress solution). Its founder Matt Mullenweg helped create WordPress (which is why they are able to use this particular domain name).

Since 2016 WordPress has seen a large influx of plugins called page or theme builders. These plugins allow designers and developers to use a What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) interface and allows for much quicker designs, layouts, and page builds than before with traditional themes. WordPress itself even has its own built in solution which is called the Full Site Editor. This is used in conjunction with the Gutenberg Editor. While on the surface all these page builders seem easy to use, there is much more to designing a website than dragging and dropping elements and widgets. There is a lot of behind the scene marketing, design and development knowhow needed to ensure a successful build that can meet the goals of the website itself. These page builders also have different priorities. Those that are geared more for ease of use from a designers point of view end up creating slower websites overall, as much more code is generated. Other things like coding best practices, SEO, and accessibility also become almost an after thought. This makes the page visually interesting, but has it suffer in all other important areas like marketing, maintenance, user experience, and scalability.

Just like all products there are some drawbacks to using WordPress for your website platform. Poorly designed and coded plugins and themes are one of the biggest problems. For those new to owning and/or building a website these can be very hard to spot, as on the surface they can look like exactly what you want. Unfortunately hidden in all the code are inefficiencies, bugs and security flaws that can provide backdoors for hackers to access or just create issues that makes managing your website difficult. That’s why it’s important to pick the right plugins to use and have security and backup systems in place.

Another drawback to WordPress can be hosting. Not only do you need to understand how to use WordPress itself, but you also need to understand how web hosting works. You need to know how to setup the web server and the software it uses (and there is a lot) so that the website runs optimally for your visitors.

There are also a lot of companies online selling cheap hosting. While it may be cheap in price, it is also cheap on resources available to your website making it slow and unresponsive especially if you have more than a few visitors.

For a deeper examination on this topic, check out our article about the benefits to using WordPress for small and large businesses a like.

Examples

Examples of websites that use WordPress include The White House, the University of Washington, and of course this website, eSilverStrike Consulting. The majority of businesses and institutions from around the world use WordPress so many examples can be found.

Our Take

WordPress is our go to for website builds. In the right hands you can’t go wrong with it’s flexibility, scalability, and features available. While it is definitely not perfect and has lots of things to improve, it is in our opinion the best of all the current options available.

Shopify

Shopify is the next most popular website platform on this list at 6.3% (this is still millions of websites). It is exclusively an ecommerce solution that targets both small and larger businesses. On the surface it may seem easy to start an online store for you business but it quickly can become very complex and require someone with experience when you want to customize the design and start to add features like advanced inventory control and a Point of Sale (POS) system. This is not just a Shopify issue though as an online store on any platform can become very complex.

Shopify is a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solution which means your website is hosted by Shopify and the software it uses is managed and maintained by Shopify support. This frees you up from dealing with technical issues and allows you to scale your hosting needs easier as your traffic grows. This also locks you into Shopify’s subscription model which initial may seem inexpensive but can add up quickly when you add additional features and their transaction fees. This also means you don’t really own your website (unlike for example if you use WordPress and their WooCommerce plugin). If you violate Shopify’s terms of service they can lock your account which can be difficult to get reactivated (mind you this rarely happens). If you are not satisfied with Shopify you also can’t just move your website to a new host. It is on a proprietary platform so a new ecommerce website somewhere else would require a website rebuild.

Shopify has an a large library of themes, and over 3,000 apps and third-party extensions (both free and paid) which can be used to help elevate your store to the next level. They also support over 100 payment options (which cost an additional transaction fee) as well as providing their own payment gateway.

Some users may find that the Shopify editor is not as intuitive as it could be but most business owners prefer their inventory control over other options like WordPress’s WooCommerce (an ecommerce plugin).

If you have an existing website that you are satisfied with on another platform and are looking to add just an online store, then Shopify could fit your needs and just run that aspect of your website. This is what Shopify does best, other website features like blogging not so much.

Examples

Example of websites that use Shopify for their online store include Kraft Heinz, Holland Cooper, and the BBC Shop. For an ecommerce solution, many businesses that end up not going with WordPress for one reason or another, choose Shopify instead.

Our Take

For our ecommerce builds it comes down to either WordPress or Shopify. We find they have the right mix of features most small and medium size businesses look for.

Wix

Wix is a general website builder platform that is a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solution. They have 3.4% of the market. Wix takes care of everything from the hosting side of things and all you need to do is design your website using their intuitive drag and drop interface, no coding required. The visual builder supports features that allow you to create a blogging website, online store, offer booking services, events, and more. Just like any other SaaS solution though, once you build the website you are stuck with Wix and cannot migrate to another service unless you rebuild the entire website.

Wix offers a lot of features for the price but those features are rather rigidly defined. This means the features do not have a lot of customizations when compared to some other website platforms. This is the same problem the Wix design editor has. The only way around these restrictions is if you learn to code using Velo, Wix’s development platform.

The no code marketing of Wix leads many to believe it is perfect for novice website designers. Unfortunately having a simplified builder means the website will suffer in other areas like SEO and Accessibility.

Examples

Examples of websites that use Wix include Match Media Group, MonetaGo, and Catrike. Most Wix websites are made up of small locally owned businesses but a few national corporations have chosen to use the platform as well.

Our Take

Wix is an average website platform. It is missing enough features and prevents certain strategies that most professionals will bypass it.

Squarespace

Squarespace is a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) builder that has 3% of the market and has been around longer than most. It advertises itself as being a simple all-in-one website solution. It relies mainly on the use of templates to help users layout the pages on their website. This means users pick from prebuilt sections of a web page and then modify the style, colors, and content of the section, but not necessarily the location of the individual elements or widgets within the section. This means websites using Squarespace share similar design aspects making them look and feel some what the same.

Similar to other website builder platforms like Wix, Squarespace offers additional features like blogging and portfolios that are accessible by Squarespace Extensions. Ecommerce is available as well through Squarespace and offers a number of additional features like gift cards, donations and product reviews.

Examples

Examples of websites that use Squarespace include Architecture In Formation, KeyNest, and Bathhouse. Mainly small and some medium size businesses use this tool to build websites.

Our Take

Squarespace targets do-it-yourself business owners. Those that use Squarespace for their business website on the surface they may think they are getting what they want, but in reality their business is being hurt by poor SEO and other limitations.

Joomla

Joomla is a free opensource Content Management System (CMS) that has similar features to WordPress and share many of the pros and cons of that platform. Unfortunately between 2011 and 2022 Joomla saw it’s market share drop from a respectable 10.9% to just 2.5%. This is still a lot of websites but the downward trend is troubling and means more and more plugin and theme developers are switching their products over to WordPress where more potential clients exist. This creates a continued downward cycle as existing Joomla websites have access to less extendable features from plugins which results in businesses deciding to change platforms when it is time for a rebuild.

Still, the core Joomla team is still strong and has a healthy roadmap and release schedule for the continued improvement of Joomla. Currently about 6,000 extensions (these are what plugins are to WordPress) are available on the official Joomla extension directory.

Examples

Examples of websites that use Joomla include the pro tennis player Roger Federer, the United Nations Regional Information Centre, and iTWire. A number of large businesses still use Joomla but every year less and less are found as these sites get rebuilt on another platform.

Our Take

Businesses who are serious about the potential of selling their services online tend to gravitate towards self hosted solutions like CMSs as customizations are much easier. 10 years ago we recommended Joomla, but not any more due to their dropping market share and the extreme growth of WordPress.

Drupal

Drupal is a free opensource Content Management System (CMS) that has similar features to WordPress, and just like Joomla, share many of the pros and cons. Drupal (also like Joomla) is unfortunately seeing its market share decline. In 2011 they had a market share of 6.1%, now it is 1.8%.

Drupal does differentiate itself somewhat from the other CMSs. It is more developer-centered making customizations potentially easer, and is known for it’s security framework.

Examples

Examples of website that use Drupal include NASA, Harvard University, and Tesla. There are still many diehard fans of Drupal thanks to their developer focus and is the reason you see it still being used today by institutions and tech companies.

Our Take

Like with Joomla, we can’t recommend a platform to our clients in good conscience that has seen its market share shrinking for the last 10 years.

Webflow

Webflow got its start in 2019 and in a few short years has seen its market share rise to 0.9%. Like Wix, Webflow is a general website builder platform that is a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solution and comes with all the pros and cons that is associated with this.

Unlike Wix though (and more like some WordPress page builder plugins), Webflow is considered a proper tool for professional web designers and developers. This is because Webflow’s builder gives you the flexibility of front-end coding without requiring you to actually code. If you are familiar with coding it’s great as well since you can edit the raw HTML and CSS as you wish. This allows for much more customizations visually in the hands of an experienced developer and allows for easier maintenance later on.

One of the disadvantages of Webflow being a closed platform that is only a few years old, is its feature set has yet to completely mature. Features commonly found with WordPress like logic based workflows and curated gated content have yet (as of 2022) to come to Webflow.

Examples

Examples of websites that use Webflow include Rakuten, NCR, and TED. Larger businesses that have a better understanding of technology and only need certain features find Webflow is an ideal choice.

Our Take

While we don’t use Webflow as our specialty is WordPress, we recognize it is a good platform as long as it has the features a business needs to meet the goals of their website.

Weebly

Weebly was one of the first Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) no code website builders. For the last few years they have been stuck at 0.6% of the market and seen zero growth. It shares many similarities to other general website builder platforms like Wix but has an even more limited design flexibility. Where Weebly does shine when compared to similar general website builders is with their ecommerce features.

Weebly pricing includes a free tier and lower than average prices for their other packages. It is geared towards the amateur market so the hosting resources for these packages are not as high.

Weebly is owned by a company called Square (which has no relation to Squarespace). Square acquired Weebly in 2019 and since then, the Weebly builder has seen less updates as Square has prioritized development on their other services.

Examples

Examples of websites that use Weebly include Dashbon, Argyle Yarn Shop, and Threshold:Whispers of Fukushima. Most Weebly websites are small business owners.

Our Take

Weebly is just an average website builder platform. There are much better options on this list.

Godaddy Website Builder

GoDaddy Website Builder is the most basic of all the website platforms on this list and relies almost completely on using prebuilt templates. They own 0.6% of the market which is the largest of any of the more traditional web hosting providers. GoDaddy is also know for selling domain names, web hosting, and other related services to small businesses.

Features this builder has include appointments, online store, blogging, analytics, and marketing (including connecting with social media accounts). Most of the features offered are more basic than the other platforms provide listed above.

Examples

Examples of websites that use Godaddy Website Builder include San Gabriel Valley Humane Society, Women Working in Technology, and Home Brokers Realty, LLC. Godaddy marketing targets the masses who have no real website development skills. You will only find hobbyist and small business websites here.

Our Take

Don’t use this website builder platform. From almost every perspective, all the other platforms on this list is many times better than this one.

About the Author

Tom Homer

Building custom dynamic websites is our specialty. With over 25 years experience in software design and development I have been helping  small businesses invest in their future.

Article Author Tom