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Look before you leap into picking a CMS   

Ready to take the plunge into building your dream website? Great—we’re thrilled for you. But before you get to work, you’ll need to pick a website builder platform—also known as a content management system (CMS). It can be a bit of a daunting decision to make—especially if you’re new to all of this. Each website platform has its own pros, cons, key features, quirks and price structures.  

So, you’ll want to take the time to weigh everything out before committing. That’s where we can help! Harnessing the combined brainpower of the entire CIRA team, we’ve created what we like to call a “speed dating” roundup of all the most popular website building platforms.  

This way, you can see what they’re all about…and if you like what you see, hop on over to our longer-form content as a second date. We’re hopeless romantics at heart, you know.  

Oh—and if you haven’t done so already, consider using our brainpower once again to search for and register your perfect .CA domain! What makes .CA all that and a packet of crackers? We may have a few compelling points to share…  

Okay—back to the task at hand! Your speed dating session begins… now! 
 

Meet your website builder platform options   

GoDaddy Website Builder  

Godaddy website builder webpage

 

Want to get a solid-looking website published in record time and with little muss, fuss or complexity? GoDaddy Website Builder might be your bag.  

GoDaddy’s Website Builder boasts an ultra-fast setup process, allowing you to get your site built and pushed live in under an hour. From the moment you sign up for an account, you’re guided through a detailed, step-by-step building tutorial. Plus, GoDaddy’s editing tools are intuitive and beginner-friendly, allowing you to customize some 300-plus pre-built templates to suit your content.  

E-commerce integration is fairly straightforward (if not very feature-rich) as well and features the ability to sell unlimited products without getting dinged for transaction fees per purchase. GoDaddy also boasts a full-featured mobile app that lets you make updates and edits to your site from a phone or tablet.  

Cost-wise, the “standard” plan will set you back $13.99 CAD/month, while the “e-commerce” tier costs $24.99/month if you decide to pay annually.  

Hosting, GoDaddy’s main bread and butter, is also reasonable, with the “economy” plan costing $5.99 CAD/month with a free custom domain and SSL certificate bundled in.  

And now, on to the drawbacks. First off —GoDaddy’s extreme ease-of-use comes at the cost of pure customization. If you’re one of those folks that wants to tweak every little, nitty-gritty aspect of their site’s look, feel and functionality—this may not be the platform for you.  

You also can’t switch between your chosen website theme or template without losing all your content. So, have your desired “look” in mind before fully committing.  

For a more in-depth look at the GoDaddy dos and don’ts, read our full breakdown.  

Squarespace  

Squarespace website

 

No doubt you’ve seen their slickly produced commercials while channel surfing! Squarespace’s claim to fame is offering a broad selection of slick, professional looking and fully customizable templates. Squarespace is also an “all-in-one” platform that provides website editing tools, content hosting, e-commerce functionality (if you plan to sell online)—and more.  

If you’re a creative—like an artist, clothing designer or blogger—Squarespace’s overall design aesthetic is more than likely going to tickle your fancy. And did we mention Squarespace sells .CA domains?  

So, what are the main drawbacks? Well, for one thing—unlike some of its competitors, there’s no “free,” entry level plan here. Just a 14-day trial that eventually prompts you to pick a month-to-month annual subscription. Depending on your desired website functionality, plans can get a little pricey compared to competitor web building platforms. For example, the most popular “business” plan lists out at $33 USD/month. And if you want a break on your subscription rate, you’ll have to commit to a full year.  

Another potential drawback is that Squarespace’s editing tools aren’t the most intuitive or self-explanatory for first time builders and can take some getting used to. Fortunately, Squarespace does feature a robust support section filled with resources and tutorials. Just don’t expect any voice-to-voice help…phone support is not offered.  

For an even more detailed breakdown to Squarespace’s main features and foibles—head over to our full guide.  

Wix

Wix website builder webpage

  

Like Squarespace, Wix is another “all-in-one” building platform that provides all the basic editing tools, templates, apps and more to build yourself a professional-looking website. Speaking of templates, Wix boasts over 500 of them! And they’re all completely customizable to your needs.  

Wix’s editor employs an intuitive, user-friendly “drag and drop” style tool that lets you place photos, copy and multimedia precisely where you want it within your chosen template.  

And if you want to get a taste of what life might be like if the robots take over, you can let Wix use its “Artificial Design Intelligence” AI to design your whole website in minutes. That’s beginner-friendliness to the max!  

Another very cool key feature is Wix’s robust, built-in app ecosystem that offers an easy way to add additional functionality, like payment processing, email marketing tools and more to your site.  

Price-wise, Wix offers solid bang for your hard-earned buck by bundling in a generous number of features without anxiety inducing monthly fees. For entrepreneurs and freelancers looking to launch a site, the “unlimited” plan gets you up and running for $17.50 CAD/ month.  

In terms of core audience, Wix typically caters its templates and designs to small businesses and service providers, restaurants, artists and musicians.  

So, what are the drawbacks? Probably the biggest is that there’s no way to transfer your Wix website to another platform if you ever change your mind or outgrow Wix. Once you sign on, you’re basically there for life—so to speak! 

As well—while Wix’s “drag and drop” editing is great for beginners and those pressed for time…seasoned web builders might find Wix a little too limited on the customization front. You also can’t add in any other third-party plugins or apps beyond what’s provided in the Wix app store.  

For the full deets on building your website with Wix, check out our guide!  

WordPress.org  

Wordpress.org Webpage

 

Compared to the “all-in-one” Squarespace and Wix platforms of the world, WordPress.org is a very different animal. Where most popular web builders offer you a good amount of customization within the user-friendly confines of pre-designed templates, WordPress.org is kind of like a choose-your-own-adventure book. Of course, that hasn’t stopped WordPress from being used by about 30 per cent of all websites on the web!  

To say, “the possibilities are endless” when it comes to building and customizing your site on WordPress isn’t an exaggeration. You get access and the ability to customize all your back-end code. Plus, you can upload all your own custom themes, plugins and apps. But know you’re on your own when it comes to sourcing web hosting.  

Cost-wise, WordPress is open source and free! But depending on the level of detail or functionality you put into your site, the cost to build can add up fast—especially if you hire someone to create a WordPress website for you.  

So, what are the biggest drawbacks to keep in mind? If you’re going to go full throttle into creating a WordPress site, it’s going to help having at least a basic knowledge of HTML and CSS coding. You might also want to consider hiring out the design/development work if you get stumped.  

Fortunately, though, WordPress has a massive developer community that has created a how-to resource for virtually any issue you might encounter. While you can learn to build a WordPress site from scratch, it can be incredibly time-consuming.  

Sound intriguing so far? Get the full story on building with WordPress.  

Weebly  

Weebly Website Builder Webpage

 

Weebly’s biggest selling points are its ease-of use, simple and clean-looking website building interface and powerful editing tools. So, what else makes it the platform of choice for more than 40 million websites out there?  

For one, Weebly’s templates and themes are modern looking, attractive and have mobile-responsiveness built-in. Better yet—if you want to switch themes, you can without losing your existing content.  

Similar to Wix, Weebly offers a “drag and drop” editor that involves simply placing different elements, like pictures, text and videos, onto your pages.  

Price-wise—selecting the $15 CAD/month plan gets you an impressive level of functionality and customization. You also don’t run into limits on storage or the number of web pages. Weebly even throws in hosting as part of the package.  

As for drawbacks? For one, Weebly doesn’t allow you to bring in any outside software or plugins beyond what’s available through its in-house App Centre.  

As well, there aren’t automatic backups of your site—even on higher-priced plans. Luckily, backing up your site content is a fairly simple process, but it’s up to you to initiate those backups manually.  

Bloggers may also want to look elsewhere, as the Weebly blog experience leaves much to be desired. Weebly makes it nearly impossible to migrate blog content, there is a very rudimentary default layout.  

For the full scoop on whether Weebly’s right for you, read our full write-up.  

Shopify  

Shopify website builder webpage

 

If you’re looking for a platform that’s solely dedicated to e-commerce, then Shopify is a great option. But if you’re looking for a blogging or portfolio site, you should head somewhere else.  

Shopify is all about offering a solid balance of user-friendliness along with deep customization thanks to an array of built-in features, apps and marketing tools. Whether you’re super small-scale or looking to move thousands of products per month, Shopify makes it possible to build an easily scalable online store without being a coding ninja.  

Other key advantages? Well, Shopify gives you the freedom to sell products through a host of different channels—e.g., Amazon, Pinterest. Shopify also works well with over 100 different payment gateways worldwide.  

As we mentioned, Shopify serves up an array of useful apps (over 1,200) that help boost your online store’s functionality—from inventory management tools to slick email marketing solutions.  

The low-end, “basic” subscription plan at $29 USD/month scores you all the fundamental tools for getting your online store up and running. For more advanced features, you’ll pay $79 USD/month.  

Among the drawbacks to keep in mind, Shopify will ding you for transaction fees unless you use their Shopify Payments platform. And while it’s not a horrible system by any stretch, it does lock you further into their ecosystem.  

As well, your monthly costs can quickly add up if you’re not paying attention. Many of the paid apps in Shopify’s store come with their own monthly subscription fees that aren’t part of your overall Shopify plan.  

Finally—once you’re locked into the Shopify ecosystem, it can be difficult, if not impossible to move all your content to a different platform.  

Think Shopify might be worth choosing for your burgeoning e-commerce empire? Read our full breakdown now.  

LiteSite  

LiteSite Website Builder Webpage

 

Ever wish you could accomplish everything with a single, simple webpage? Well, that happens to be LiteSite’s speciality!  

LiteSite offers five, mobile-friendly one-page website templates that can be easily customized to create anything—from attractive digital resumes and portfolio pages to personal branding sites, or online restaurant menus. 

For as little as $2.95 USD/month, LiteSite serves up its web builder, a free .CA domain and a branded email account. This is definitely easy to swallow from a cost perspective!  

If all you’re after is a low-cost, straightforward and easy-to-build-and-maintain site, LiteSite could be a compelling option.  

That said, LiteSite doesn’t offer any e-commerce functionality, nor can you install any custom plugins or apps. You’re also limited to just 5MB of storage space, so any photos, videos or other multimedia content would need to be hosted elsewhere.  

If you think you can live with these limitations, read on and see why else LiteSite may fit your web building needs!  
 

Web building platforms compared: visually!  

We hope this “speed dating” overview of web builders helped provide some valuable insight on each of your options. Lastly—if you’re more visually-inclined, we’ve distilled everything down to this handy-dandy chart to help you choose! From all of us here at CIRA, we wish you a productive and frustration-free web-building experience.

 

Platform   

Ease-of-use  

Monthly plan cost range  

Pros  

Cons  

Wix  

Easy  

 $6 – $44 CAD  

  • Over 500 templates to choose from  

  • Easy-to-use drag and drop editing  

  • Wix AI can design a site for you or build custom logos  

  • Limited template customization, no third-party app integration 

  • Site isn’t transferable  

  • Templates aren’t interchangeable  

Squarespace  

Easy to medium 

$19 – $65 USD 

  • Great selection of gorgeous, professional templates  

  • Fairly high degree of customization 

  • Specifically geared towards creatives  

  • Monthly costs can be pricier compared to Wix and Weebly  

  • Editing tools not the most self-explanatory or intuitive  

Weebly 

Easy  

$0 – $30 CAD  

  • Solid template design and powerful editing tools  

  • Great value for money 

  • App Centre provides additional functionality for your site  

  • User-friendly drag and drop editing  

  • No automatic backups of your site  

  • Can’t bring in any third-party software or plugins  

  • Blogging experience is extremely limited and rudimentary  

WordPress.org  

Medium to hard 

$0 – $20 

  • Can be extremely cost effective  

  • Open source and supported by a massive community  

  • Nearly limitless customization with thousands of custom plugins and apps  

  • True freedom to design how you want  

  • Learning curve can be steep  

  • Very much a “do-it-yourself” environment with minimal handholding  

  • Can be overwhelming and time-consuming to first time/inexperienced web builders  

GoDaddy  

Very easy  

$10 – $25 CAD  

  • Possible to get a website live within an hour  

  • Extremely easy to use and cost effective  

  • Good selection of well-designed templates  

  • Good mobile app for website edits and updates  

  • Strong, highly responsive customer service  

  • Ease of use comes at expense of customization  

  • Template selection can be a little repetitive  

  • Could potentially “outgrow” limitations of GoDaddy 

  • E-commerce tools are easy to use but very basic  

Shopify  

Easy  

$29 – $299 USD  

  • E-commerce specialist  

  • Attractive, professional-looking templates  

  • Strong selection of e-commerce apps  

  • Easy to customize and build scalable online stores  

  • Difficult to export and move site content to another platform  

  • Unless you’re doing serious transactions, hard to justify upper-tier subscription plans  

  • Must use Shopify payments, or pay transaction fees 

LiteSite  

Easy  

$2.95 USD 

  • Easily create attractive one-page websites  

  • Intuitive editing tool  

  • Competitive pricing  

  • Uncluttered, attractive templates  

  • Any multimedia needs to be embedded and hosted elsewhere  

  • One-page means one page