Website platform comparisons
With so many options how do you choose the best website platform for your business? We compare the most popular ones to help you decide.
Before we dive in, here’s a quick glossary of terms that pop up from time to time:
CMS – Content management system: the software used to manage your website content and allow you to create, edit, and publish.
SEO – Search engine optimisation: how you get found on search engines (i.e. Google)
eCommerce – Adding the functionality of people being bale to make purchases through your website
Design – how the website looks
Functionality – the features used on the website (online forms, sliders, etc.)
Apps & plugins – software that extends the functionality of the platform, e.g. a plugin to create contact forms
Website maintenance – all CMS platforms require ongoing maintenance, just like you would for a car to keep them running well. Maintenance is taken care of as part of the price of some platforms, others you have to manage it yourself (by doing it, or outsourcing to someone who can)
Reading time: about 5-6 minutes
As a business owner, you know that a website is one of your most important marketing tools. 75% of consumers admit to making a judgement on a company’s credibility based on their website design. As such, careful consideration needs to be made to ensure it is created to best suit your needs and appeal to your audience.
With so many website platforms to choose from though how do you decide which one is right for your business?
In this two-part article, I’ll provide an overview of the most popular platforms to help you determine which one is right for you covering Customisability, Cost, Site Speed, Security, Support, SEO, and Ease of Use.
Based on usage statistics and current trends, I’ll be comparing the following website platforms:
To begin with, we’ll start with the most popular CMS (Content Management System) platforms; WordPress, Joomla and Drupal.
WordPress is the most popular website platform powering 32% of all websites on the internet and holds a massive 59.5% of the known CMS market. It’s popularity and continual growth can be attributed to a number of factors. Most notably; the vast amount of design and functionality options and its usability.
- Customisability – There are around 5,000+ free themes and 54,000+ free plugins available from the WordPress.org directories, plus thousands of premium themes & plugins across various sites, all of which can be customised. WordPress can be molded into any type of website you want and provide pretty much any functionality you can think of.
- Cost – Depending on the complexity of your site, the majority of people will need to hire a developer to build your website for you. Afterward, it will require regular ongoing maintenance and updates which (with education) you can do yourself or outsource to a professional if you prefer. Other costs (hosting, paid plugins) are very affordable to run for the majority of websites. Some bigger, more complicated sites may require larger hosting plans to accommodate as WordPress tends to be resource-heavy.
- Site Speed – Performance is often cited as a weak spot of WordPress but with the right tools in place and regular maintenance, it can be manageable.
- Security – Due to its popularity WordPress is a bigger target for hackers. However, more often than not it is the user that creates vulnerabilities. As long as best practices are met, security is not a major issue. Furthermore, with automatic security updates to WordPress’ core, risks are minimised.
- Support – Some on-going support (depending on your skill level) is usually required from time to time but can be obtained for free via the large online WordPress communities available. When necessary there is also an abundance of developers proficient with WordPress who are also available.
- SEO – Search engine optimisation is pretty good out of the box and can be extended further with plugins like Yoast SEO.
- Ease of Use – Writing blog posts and making minor content changes is fairly simple for most but there is still a learning curve. Page builders are available and have been designed with being “user-friendly” in mind. For more complex changes, a designer is often required.
Types of websites you can build with WordPress:
Any! Originally created as a blogging platform it does this best, but over the years has expanded to offer functionalities to run any type of website; a blog, information website, directory, online shop, membership site, a combination of all of the above, you name it. There really isn’t any limit to the kind of site you can build with WordPress and it will suit the majority of businesses. The only exception where it might not be ideal (being resource-heavy) is large scale websites (1000’s of pages + very heavy traffic).
WordPress offers users a lot of choices right from the beginning which might be confusing at first but is very flexible in the long run. It’s a platform that you can constantly build on as your business grows which makes it continually adaptable. If you are looking for full customisation, easy access to support, an abundance of features, and unrestricted growth potential, WordPress is a great choice. Initial investment is required to develop your site and you will need to invest either your time or money to continue running it, but it is still a very affordable platform.
Joomla is the second most popular CMS on the web with a 6.7%% market share. The technology behind Joomla is similar to that of WordPress
- Customisability – Joomla has around 8,000 extensions listed at the official Joomla library. As there’s no official template library though numbers are hard to come by. As a guide, there are just under 1000 premium themes available on one of the most popular theme websites: Theme Forest. Customisation of both is possible but can be a little more complicated compared to other platforms.
- Cost – Since Joomla is a little more complex than WordPress, the likelihood that you will need professional help with regard to both building the site and its ongoing maintenance is higher. Other costs (hosting, paid plugins) are very affordable to run.
- Site Speed – Joomla has a good reputation concerning performance, primarily as it has performance-boosting functionality already built-in.
- Security – Much of the responsibility on keeping your site secure falls on the user and with best practices met, security isn’t a major issue. However, there are no automatic updates which do increase vulnerability a little so you have to remain vigilant with your updates.
- Support – As the second-largest open source CMS on the web, Joomla also has a good free support community in place and developers are usually easy to come by
- SEO – Joomla has some standard features out of the box but further extension is a bit complicated to implement.
- Ease of Use – In terms of complexity, Joomla is somewhere between WordPress and Drupal so if you’re reasonably tech-savvy you should be able to get a handle on it but beginners might find it too complicated unless they have sufficient time to learn. Joomla offers page builders also to help users with design and content.
Types of websites you can build with Joomla:
Similar to WordPress, Joomla is very adaptable with the types of websites you can create with it, from simple information websites to complex e-commerce sites. If anything its a little more flexible than WordPress in that you can make a lot of customisations without relying on as many extensions/plugins. However it’s worth noting that, Joomla’s market share is declining due to factors including ease of use, price, availability of developers/support, and so on.
If you are looking for a middle ground between out-of-the-box power and user-friendliness or a good option for social networking and e-commerce, Joomla might be the one for you. It has a steeper learning curve, a smaller ecosystem (of templates, extensions, and support) and is less SEO friendly. It’s still a very solid option though used by big brands.
Drupal has been around longer than the above platforms but has slowly been declining in popularity due to various reasons; it currently has a market share of around 2.2%. It too has similar technology to WordPress and Joomla but of the three is the most technically advanced CMS.
- Customisability – Drupal is all about building custom websites and there is very little that you can not customise with it. The admin area offers a lot of customisation options from the get-go giving you much control over your site. It is part of a healthy ecosystem offering 40,000+ modules and more than 2,600 themes to add functionality and design options to your site. Due to enforced coding standards, they are also basically guaranteed to work together.
- Cost – Drupal was made with fast performance a key component. Consequently, it is less resource-heavy than its competitors which is good news for hosting costs. On the other hand, being a very complicated CMS all but guarantees you will need a competent developer to both build and maintain it, and being more complicated usually requires a larger investment.
- Site Speed – Drupal is known for producing the fastest-loading websites being less resource-intensive. Keep in mind though that just like the other CMS, it can be slowed down if best practices aren’t met.
- Security – Security is one of Drupal’s strong suits and the CMS is very safe out of the box. Should a vulnerability be discovered, you will hear about it on the official website.
- Support – If you have technical difficulties or questions, you can rely on the free community support that is available. Developers are less abundant than other platforms but still readily available.
- SEO – SEO best practices are also very much built into Drupal. For example, there is a built-in caching for fast page loading times (search engines care about that) and meta tags. The platform also has extensions to further improve your SEO.
- Ease of Use – Drupal is the most technically advanced CMS. As such, a working knowledge of PHP, HTML, and other programming languages to make any meaningful changes is required; this includes updating your site. Consequently, Drupal comes with a steep learning curve and requires the most knowledge.
Types of websites you can build with Drupal:
Drupal can be used for any type of website and is incredibly versatile. If you’re planning on building a huge site with extensive features it would be an ideal choice. However, for most businesses (who don’t require large scale sites), a simpler CMS is more than sufficient and wins out on factors such as budget and ease of use.
Drupal is great for technically complex and large scale websites as it can handle thousands of pages and high volume traffic. Being more complicated than other website platforms to set-up it tends to be more expensive but does also come with unlimited customisation options. It offers a lot out of the box, is built for speed and performance, and has great security and SEO features. At the same time, it is absolutely not suitable for beginners and requires a developer both for the build and ongoing work.
Continue reading Part Two where I will discuss Squarespace, Shopify, and Wix and provide an overall conclusion.