A storm has been brewing for long enough in web design: WordPress, the perennial CMS kingpin used by 23% of the top 10 million websites as of 2015, against an army of WYSIWYG (What You See is What You Get) website builders, who are cumulatively quickly changing the face of DIY internet – and of web design – with beautifully simple websites and features-rich drag-and-drop editing interfaces.
But really, what are the differences between WordPress and WYSIWYG website builders? And how do you choose which service is right for you when both options fulfill essentially the same purpose (to help you build and publish a beautiful website without any real expertise in programming).
To find out, let’s compare some of the main features and caveats of both:
WordPress is an open-source platform, meaning that any user is essentially able to create new themes or plugins. As a result, there are 26,000 plugins on WordPress that have been downloaded over 490 million times. Impressive, but appearances can be deceiving: we would not be the first to point out that of these 26,000 plugins, only a relative few gems really shine.
In comparison to WordPress’ behemoth plugin page, most WYSIWYG platforms can seem a little thin. But don’t be deceived: what many lack in dizzying variety, they make up in functionality. Take Wix’s excellently curated App Marketplace, with many standard plugins such as Shopify and Live Chat, as well as a few unexpected ones, such as Lumifish Timeline, which lets users create gorgeous timelines of their milestones.
Squarespace meanwhile, never shy of bold partnerships, maintain a pared down features list that still offers a few surprises, such as their free Typekit fonts and Getty Images integration, which lets users access 40 million images for fair price.
Finally, IM Creator have gone one step further, creating IM Free, an entire image bank of thousands of 100% free (and totally beautiful) open-source images, sourced from the depths of Creative Commons. Young businesses in need of more visual material could hardly ask for a better tool.
The world of WYSIWYG website builders grew out of a desire to be able to build a website without any programming knowledge, which has since revolutionized the way that websites are designed and built. No longer does a website have to take months of work to string together, website builder platforms allow for content to simply be dragged and dropped into place.
While WordPress functions in essentially the same way, it’s important to note that it is far more flexible than most WYSIWYG website builders, especially for those with some programming knowledge; in order to get the most out of its services, it helps to have a bit of HTML knowledge under your belt. IM Creator published a very informative article on precisely this, which is full of useful links to tips and tutorials on WordPress HTML
Themes and What Looks Best
The internet is awash with second-rate DIY website builders offering terrible themes (ahem, the inexplicably bad Google Sites). WordPress too, with nearly 10,000 themes to choose from, has plenty of positively ugly interfaces alongside expertly designed, beautiful ones. In general, website builders like Wix, IM Creator, Squarespace, and others have concentrated on building nicely optimized, modernly designed website themes that offer good backing for custom content.
What really sets most website builders apart from WordPress in this regard, though, is the searchability of themes. While WordPress users often find themselves plowing through dizzying numbers of themes to find one that fits their business’ look and feel, WYSIWYG website builders offer thematic categories to browse through, usually aligned to what the website will be used for. Musicians can search through music-friendly themes, while lawyers and accountants can search through themes that offer the functionality and professional look their websites will require.
Most web users with know to be a bit wary of the little guy: younger and less established platforms tend to have more cracks for problems to seep through – or so common logic goes.
WYSIWYG platforms might not always be perfect, but they live or die by their customer support, and at the end of the day, their business models rely on happy customers whose websites don’t crash as their business grows and traffic increases. Take Weebly’s excellent Support page, which offers answers to common FAQs, as well as training WebCasts, and lightning fast email support for all paying customers.
WordPress, in its hugeness, has amassed a positively mammoth customer support network, including thousands upon thousands of support forums and customer service portals. Sure, WordPress crashes…a lot…but because its inner workings are spread out for all to see, it’s often easier to approach problem solving. Just Google “WordPress Crashes” and see the plethora of blogs on how to create a crash-free site, how to troubleshoot your WordPress site, and more often than not, how to deal with rotten WP plugins.
At the end of the day, what most website owners really want is for their site to be found easily on search engines. SEO is, without a doubt, among the most important deciding factors when choosing a WYSIWYG or WordPress platform. This has also made for a very competitive atmosphere between website building platforms, which is ultimately good news for the customer.
Needless to say, WordPress has worked very hard to improve the SEO features for its sites through plugins, including Premium SEO Plugin and Lindex Page Analysis, which scan websites for search-related improvements to be made. These kinds of features matter, as at the end of the day, it’s the website’s content that affects its page ranking.
Other DIY website builders tend to take a more straightforward, less plugin reliant route toward optimizing SEO. IM Creator, for example, offers a straightforward system for adding SEO keywords and meta descriptions to sections of the website, while Wix offers a set up advanced SEO settings for site builders, including 301 redirects.