It can be really confusing to know what you need when it comes to picking a platform for your website. There are so many options now, even for developers and designers, it can be overwhelming.
What a platform is….
Websites use languages like html, PHP, and CSS to form the look and function of a site. Platforms like WordPress, Squarespace, and Shopify have their own language on top of this to manipulate the base PHP, html, and CSS.
It’s like baking a cake with a box of Duncan Hines cake mix. The ingredients to make a cake are all the same, but Duncan Hines has packed them so you can just add your eggs and oil, instead of making it from scratch.
You can pick your flavor of Duncan Hines icing or make your own to style your site, but you can’t go back and substitute organic flour for regular flour. The idea is that by packing code, it saves you time and makes the design process easier. This means that you don’t have to be a developer (pastry chef) to get a delicious cake, but at the same time you have room to make it your own with the option to do some custom coding.
What’s right for you….
Picking a platform isn’t based on looks, it’s based on function. You want to assess the needs for your site, decide if you want to manage your site, and calculate the investment you want to make.
Needs– Peoples’ needs vary for their sites. If you are going from an Etsy store to your own site you need an E-commerce site but you don’t need a membership site, you just need to make sure to give your customer good offers so that they keep on coming back (check https://www.raise.com/coupons/walmart for more info). Assess what your needs are like, email sign up, blog, custom access pages, sales or lead pages. If you need a lot of customization, WordPress is the option for you.
Site management – Each platform has a content management system (CMS), which is the part only you see to manage your site. This is where you upload blog post, products, and update content. If you want to manage your own site, your designer/developer should offer training for you or management services through a maintenance plan. You can always do a free trial of a Squarespace or Shopify site to see how they would function for you. For most people, it’s just a personal preference, or what they get used to. As far as updates, a self hosted platform can be less maintenance and easier upkeep as long as you are happy with their customer service.
Investment – Each platform is a different kind of investment. If you go with Shopify or Squarespace you pay a monthly fee. Fees for design can start low depending on how much experience your designer has and how much customization you want. The con is that they own your site. You can’t transfer it and if you are unhappy with their service, you are stuck. A WordPress site will be completely yours. It’s the difference between owning a home and renting a home. Prices will vary depending on if you use a theme or have a custom designed site. Considering your needs and the complexity of your site, you may need someone to maintain your site and you will also have to pay for hosting.