Wix is a website builder and WordPress is a CMS. Although both of them will result in a perfectly workable website, understanding the difference is important in deciding which to use. Where paid online site building services like Wix have their similarities, WordPress is a completely different kettle of fish with different potential – and potential challenges.
Wix is a managed, hosted, WYSIWIG website editor designed for users who have no idea about (or interest in) website code. Most of us who’ve designed stuff on computers are familiar with drag and drop interfaces, and that’s what Wix uses, letting you arrange pictures and text according to how they look visually and will therefore appear to your visitors.
WordPress emerged in the early 2000s as a blogging platform. The underlying code was mostly built, letting users make content updates without extra input. Nowadays it’s evolved into the world’s most popular Content Management System (CMS), a framework that manages all your digital content including the site design.
WordPress is designed to be usable by a range of skill sets. People who know little to no code can use theme templates to build the look of their site and the block editor to format pages and blog posts. Developers can make changes to the site’s code. Anyone can add plugins to extend the site’s functionality. Being open source it’s free, but there’s also a paid hosting service from WordPress.com.
Your monthly Wix fee includes hosting and all the benefits it offers like storage and security. With WordPress you’re on your own – sort of. It’s such a popular tool any host worth its salt will offer automated WordPress installation in just a few clicks.
WordPress also gives you freedom to move if you find a better deal – in theory you need only download your databases and site files and upload them to a new host.
Officially, Wix makes moving possible – there’s a ‘Transfer away from Wix’ link in your control panel. But it only transfers the domain. You’ll be responsible for moving site files and content to a new host, and that’s not unlike starting a new site from scratch – you can’t easily access the HTML from Wix, and you still have to deploy a new build on a platform at your new host.
Templates in Wix have been field tested and deployed to work. The only potential problem you’re going to run into is an ugly, unreadable site if you go too crazy.
Because you have full access to the WordPress code, you or your developer can customize it as much or little as you like. There are almost as many free or paid theme templates as there are websites online (at last count there were 12,000 templates on Themeforest.com), so the sky’s the limit.
But it’s a very ‘Wild West’ environment. Literally anyone can build and offer a design and there’s sometimes nobody to take responsibility for bad code. So while it might look and work great today, if it’s too singular and unique, it might all break next time there’s a global update to the WordPress codebase.
Somewhere, no matter what you want to do on a WordPress website, there’s a plug-in for it. Developers and hobbyists have been extending and experimenting with what it can do for a few decades and there are now over 55,000 of them.
But just like WordPress themes, you often have little idea how quality controlled they are depending on where they’ve come from. Updates to the WordPress code base and developer lack of attention to bugs can cause frustrating and expensive disruptions to your site.
Weighing Wix and WordPress up according to plug-in availability and quality is a bit of a fool’s errand. WordPress wins out on sheer numbers (there’s no built-in analytics in Wix, for instance, and thousands for WordPress), but decision paralysis may make Wix’s more curated options appealing for beginners.
WordPress’ unique selling point is simple – it’s free, and you can set up a new, bespoke website in minutes. But there are several caveats. It’s not for the faint of heart as some database engineering and information and communications technology knowledge is assumed. Without that knowledge or support, you might be up for either a steep learning curve or costs.
According to research, three million websites run on Wix (https://trends.builtwith.com/cms/Wix), and the reason is because it’s built from the ground up for SME operators who don’t have a lot of technical acumen or the time to learn it.
Sites and pages are built with a drag and drop editor, the code written on the fly in the background, so you can change a single font or color without a lot of hassle. Simple and one off changes are harder in WordPress because without knowing your way around HTML or CSS you could break or change something important. However, WordPress does power 40% of the world’s websites, which gives it a strong impetus to become ever-more user-friendly.
You’ll also enjoy professional tech support with Wix. Because WordPress is open source and nobody owns it in the commercial sense, your only resource for troubleshooting are often scattershot community forums, many of which are pretty unforgiving toward beginners.
If you’re not terribly comfortable with the technicalities of websites, choosing WordPress is pretty much the same as using a professional design and development service. They’re probably going to use WordPress anyway, and unless you want a perfectly stripped back site that appears exactly as the template looks with no extra trimmings, you’re going to have to figure out how to make changes or pay someone to do so.
If you have no budget and a penchant for design, Wix might be a better bet. It will cost around $20-30 a month for a website with almost all the functionality you could need – the amount you probably already spend on lunches at the food court in an average week – and all the code, security, hosting and device testing is done for you.
That’s even more the case if you’re building a site with pretty conventional features like a restaurant menu, a product or service page if you’re a plumber or butcher or a basic contact or booking form if you’re a hotel or tourism operator. For more specialized features WordPress might be more suited because there’ll already be a plug-in for it.
It should also be kept in mind that when you publish/launch your Wix website, it’s done. Server architecture, database formats, security protocols and everything else is kept constantly up to date as part of your purchase price.
WordPress is more powerful and flexible but you’ll spend a little longer on it over the life of the site because you’ll have to keep on top of all those updates yourself. Updates to the codebase can be installed with a single click but you have to retest plug-ins and changes to your template to make sure everything still works.
This article was originally published on June 11, 2021
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