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It’s so common—and necessary—for practically every business to have a website these days that it can be tough to make that first decision: “What website platform should my site be built on?”

If you’ve seen website platforms ads claiming that their service will build your site for free, it can be tempting to just dive right in—and can also make you wonder why people every pay for a website! But free sites never end up totally free (there are tradeoffs, reduced features, and often advertising involved), and comparing paid plans can be complicated. Then, no matter how you build your site, simply having one doesn’t guarantee people will find it and give you their business. So here’s what you need to know to make an informed decision.

Website Platform

Which platform to choose may seem like the first decision, but it’s important to back up and outline your business goals, both overall and for what you want your site to accomplish for you. While there are some platforms you probably can’t go wrong with, you don’t want to choose one based solely on a coupon code or because someone down the street uses it. Will your business goals and needs be met?

After that, you may think of any number of website platforms advertised on TV or online, such as Wix, Squarespace, Weebly, Shopify, etc. These are often pitted against large open-source platforms like WordPress (which currently powers 34% of the internet), Joomla!, and Drupal, citing the cost of development versus a subscription service.

But note these website platform costs:

  • ebsite platform Subscriptions services like Wix, Weebly, Squarespace can cost you between $5 and $50 per month just for the subscription. Shopify is roughly between $30 and $300 per month. Many of these services also cost per user for email services, often partnering with Google for third party service. You’ll also pay annually to renew your domain name (often at a premium cost, unless you already purchased it elsewhere).
  • For an average business plan, that could easily work out to $400/year, or more.
  • The ability to extend your site is limited to your subscription plan and the capabilities of the platform.
  • You can not move your site to another server—it would have to be recreated.
  • WordPress, Joomla!, and Drupal are free platforms that can be installed on a variety of hosting plans and then extended with free and paid plugins and themes. Hosting cost often includes email and other services, and an average business shared plan could run $200-300/year (with frequent discounts for the first term).
  • You are free to move your site to any server at any time.

Developer Support

None of these include development costs, so no matter what platform you’re on, you take on the responsibility of building the site or you pay a developer to do the work. So as you can see, the “inexpensive” subscriptions really aren’t cheaper, unless you do the work. But you’re also building your site on someone else’s property. WordPress is the most popular open-source (free) platform for a reason—while a WordPress site most likely requires paid features and professional development fees, it is highly flexible and well-supported (especially if you ever need to find a new developer or someone to do work on your site after it’s completed).

Marketing and SEO

Subscription services regularly partner with other companies to offer you a buffet of add-on services, and sometimes promises like “we’ll make you #1 on Google!” But the reality is that there is no substitute for user-friendly site architecture, proper application of technical SEO, high quality content, and a customized marketing plan that is crafted with your business goals in mind. No matter your platform, there is no one-size-fits-all marketing package.

Where are you in the journey of building a website? Whether you’re planning a new or updated build, or are recognizing your current site doesn’t meet your needs, give us a call or contact us to learn more about getting your custom digital marketing plan.

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