Website Builders and CMSs have merged in the past 3 years as backend + cloud services have melded the two small business web creation tools. Web Builders like Wix, Weebly and Shopify have emphasized their common hosting, performance, and advanced setup features. Likewise, CMSs have honed in on delivering easy website setup and maintenance with UI interfaces providing “no coding required’ easy page design and styling within responsive frameworks. Both sets of tools now sport cross-site templates and sharing of all design objects. As a result, effective website design and layout has become a competitive advantage for SMB versus Enterprise web systems.
Initially, each of the top Website Builders had some unique capabilities like Shopify’s shopping cart services, SquareSpace’s reusable and customizable design templates while both Wix and Weebly offered specialized UI interface features. Typically these tools offered simplified startup to help deliver user-customizable multipage websites. But the biggest change has seen Website Builders filling their gaps for backend operations, improved graphics supporting carousels, galleries, and sliders with animations plus sizing features. Perhaps, more importantly, the WebBuilders have shored up their backend backup, SEO, security, and cross-platform support.
Likewise, the CMS field has narrowed down substantially from scores of systems to WordPress with a 43% market share while Joomla and Drupal have less than 2% share but a substantial following in Enterprise CMS . The past five years have been fiercely competitive PageBuider origins, WordPress has evolved in a fiercely competitive environ where 6-8Themebuilders now dominate WebPage Design, styling and utilization. At the same time, these ThemeBuilders have absorbed many standalone plugin roles for graphics, SEO, media management, etc. But first it is vital to understand the major Web trends that have driven both CMS and Web Builder market positions.
Major Trends on the Web
Many of the biggest trends on the Web have primarily seen hockey stick growth over the past 10-20 years and only recently have levelled off. However, there have been steady state trends and a few notable outliers impacting Web Development particularly in the last 5 years:
Moore’s Law is not a law of physics, but rather an uncannily accurate prediction on transistor chipimprovements over time. Gordon Moore of Intel made a prediction in 1965 that the number of transistors on a computer chip would double every two years for the same cost while doubling the processors’ speed. This became known as Moore’s Law but actually is just a design projection that has proved to be stunningly accurate for nearly 60 years. The result has seen 1970s-era mini-computers costing a quarter of a million dollars evolve into today’s gaming laptops with roughly ten times the speed and disk capacity for $5000. And Moore’s law’ has extended to database systems as hard drives have converted over to SSD-Solid State Drives from existing spinning HDDs because of speed advantages of SSDs. SSDs have reached 12TB capacity for $280 while HDD is targeting 20-50TB in the near future.
But the Science Journal Nature is warning that Moore’s Law is under severe stress over the next 5 years. “the worldwide semiconductor industry will formally acknowledge what has become increasingly obvious to everyone involved: Moore’s law, the projection that has powered the information-technology revolution since the 1960s, is nearing its end”.
A whole spectrum of heat, die size, increasing chip manufacturing costs, and miniaturization obstacles are forcing looks at replacing silicon with other metals, using quantum computing coding and other process methods of high business risk. So do not expect computing devices to provide low-cost savings in the next 3-5 years.
The huge growth in Internet usage worldwide broke down the sway of massive, but comparatively isolated data centers that were used by governments and businesses throughout the world to manage operations. However two hockey stick growth patterns critically shaped how the Web has matured.
Driving Internet usage has been a menage a trois of exploding Smartphone Usage worldwide along with Social Media adoption.
One of the major components of Internet usage was the growing wave of Social Media.
Over the past two years the move to online shopping buoyed Internet usage and the shift to shopping via mobile devices beyond laptops. As the pandemic took off in 2020 , so also did the the shift to mobile phone and social media usage. Working and shopping remotely spurted in 2020 and 2021 with a modest downward correction in 2022-2023.
But the die was cast as mobile usage reflected a longer term trend to using mobile devices and social media software in both business and domestic settings. More importantly, software interfaces improved as users expected drag and drop convenience and UI ease of use. In Web Development, page design innovations in 2011 in Visual Composer and Site Origins Page Designer took off and by 2023 PageBuilders had become general Web ThemeBuilders expediting overall creation, editing, and design of Web apps.
The network effect is a phenomenon whereby increased numbers of people improve the value of a good or service. The internet is an example of the network effect, where more users produce more content, information, and services, leading to a network effect that can profoundly impact a product’s success. Investopedia describe how divergent and changeable Net Effects can be. Facebook thrived while mySpace succumbed because Mark Zuckerberg bought out potential Net Effects competitors What’s App and Instagram while encouraging FaceBook’s users to add their own images and stories, send them to colleagues, and form groups for exchanging data, images, and online impressions. Oh and got US Congress to limit its liability for any mis-information subscribers published under the promise that Facebook would work to control and eliminate such misinformation but only after 1st Amendment Free Speech Rights were protected. Twitter, Google and a host of other social media sites followed suit. Finally
Hacking stretches as far back as the early 1800s when telegraphs systems were attacked for information or financial gain. More recently cybersecurity has seen three cycles of increasing consequence. The1950-1970 era saw a transition from “fun” experiments in externally manipulating computer operations to sophisticated extraction of research secrets or financial data for criminal purpose. The 1970-1980 saw the emergence of serious viruses directed at personal computers/control devices as first instances of concerted criminal attacks. By the 1980-2000 era hacking had become lucrative operations with commercial hacker “revenues in billions.
But 2017 marked a turning point as the the Dark Web inside the Deep Web became a hidden hacker domain
Now highly profitable hacker tool businesses helped automate attacks as the Dark Web to supply and support a rapidly growing hacker community. Currently the hacking fraternity has been “endowed” with for-sale automated engines and AI empowered misinformation and deception tools of new levels of sophistication and threat. Read one of the telling CyberSecurity 2023 reports.
All of the major Web Trends are are subject to large changes – some predictable, others unexpected yet substantial For example, both the mobile phone and social media markets already evolving got major boosts during the switch to remote computing during the pandemic. Likewise, CMS users have had to observe stricter controls on codes and updates for keeping their many apps safe from downtime and/or hackers. Running IT systems well has become an ongoing task for businesses as well individuals.
How WebBuilders and CMSs Cope with Web Change
For many developers, current Web trends have changed their calculus of what is a better solution for their Web apps. It is often a case of choosing between WebBuilders like Shopify, SquareSpace, Weebly and Wix or WordPress as the leading CMS candidate with a small percentage of Enterprise projects calling upon Drupal, Joomla or specialized LowCode systems from Oracle, IBM, Progress, OutSystems, etc.
Let us look at 6 major differences in WebBuilders versus WordPress CMS in meeting current website building requirements. The emphasis will be on 2019 or later technologies. The topics will be considered in this order:
1 – Website startup: effort, costs and support
2 – Website design, layout and styling tools
3 – Ongoing operations, promotion, and security
4 – Messaging, notifications, and integration
5 – Performance tuning and troubleshooting
6 – Advanced operational features
Forewarning to readers, many of these section reviews will start out with the declaration that WordPress and CMS programs lead both the pioneering of the technology and still hold a partial advantage in the current implementation. But rest assured the WebBuilders have played an astute game of catchup, pricing and promotion making them more than viable choices for users’ basic as well as specialized needs.
Website startup: effort, costs and support
WordPress has been the pioneer in creating multi-post and page blog sites with a simple practical layout
By 2005 WordPress 2.0 releases the basic system and shortly thereafter WordPress offers two choices for getting started;:Other CMS like Drupal and Joomla followed suite as did Website Builders like Wix and Square Space. Each had setup/startup offerings designed to win users.
WordPress Strartup is complicated by the fact that a)hosting services are moving from datacenter to Cloud services and b)therefore their costs are very much in the air. So many vendors offer 1,2 or,3 year low price deals that jump to substantially higher fulltime costs. In addition what services and costs are are currently on offer hanges by quater. So be sure to look for the WPBeginner Report or check out their Guide.
WordPress.org – offers free code + choice of theme [now 5000], and100s of plugis[now over 55,000]. But users are responsible for the website domain name, hosting service, and all installation steps. This takes about 10-15 minutes to get a basics website with one post and page operating. Next see here a free video guide for setting-up a WordPress.org website with many pages, posts and features. Now there are dozens of hosting companies cna be seen . here l. Hosting with 1 year domain name
performance, and he
WordPress.com – offers immediately usable website with a partly assigned domain name – YourChoiceName.wordpress.com, 1GB of disk space, fast Cloud based performance including bare bones security protection. The free system also has WordPress ads in the header or sidebar. Starting at $60CAD/year users get to choose their domain,name, now have 6GB of space to run their posts and pages and no WordPress ads. The startup help gets users creating posts, pages with images and menu links in 1-3 hours But the pricing is complex ranging from $120/year to $25,000US/year. WordPress.com is expensive in contrast to most features at WordPress.org are low cost if not free.
Drupal is now at version 10 It has simple setup as shown in this free video. Like WordPress.org, Drupal can call on many hosting services with varied pricings and service offerings. One of the better offerings at $110US/year is Hostinger at $2000GB NVme disk, 100 websites, free 100 emails, daily backup, 3 levels of Websecurity, free domain name for one year, Drupal has local language packs for 60 dialects etc
Joomla is now at version 4.2 and faces the same problems that both WordPress versions and Drupal versions 7 to 10 – there are plugins/extensions that have not been updated to the latest data security release and runtime standards. See here for details.Joomla has local language packs for 60 dialects,
Shopify has a 10000 inventoryitem shopping cart app for $51CAD/month and ranging up to $517CAD/month. Follow the link to get all the many pricing details.. In the past 5 years, Shopify has Cloud based services for better cart creation and runtime speed, better SEO promtotion features and enhanced data and runtime security including CDN network foreign market reach..Finally Shopify has a Website Strategy Guide that helps users choose the best display, design and styling of their shops and websites including using Shopify and Social media channels to boost sales.including an a.
SquaesSpace start up is a bit more challenging because the vendor takes prospective users right away to its chief attributes – a strong template system with dozens of well crafted complete websites or pages or pagesections and then leaves the user in its robust PageDesigner for a 14day free trial:Okay to lead with your Website layout and Design strengths, but the operating details are important too. Here is what we found.
Hosting Pricing $16/mo basic or $27/mo ecommerce enabled both hae full templates, 1yr domain, SSL.
Security is provided by using Cloud provider services for active MalScans. 2FA and Encryption apps.
Backup and staging are basic services for individual pages no comprehensive backups/staging services
Migration services are part of page import/export ops. Most links are to migrating from SquareSpace to WordPress.
Wix has a setup like SquareSpace that gets the prospective clients using Wix’s strengths – its templates and Web Editor right awaya A short strategy survey determines the general website type and purpose followed by a live tour of immediately usable site or page templates which can be customized in the Wix Web editor:
Editor X is currently NOT READY FOR PrimeTime use. Response time averaged 20-25sec on Windows 10 with 16GB RAM, 480GB of SSD disk with 400GB free and Web speed of 130Mbps download, 30Mbps upload. So defer to using the standard Wix Web Editor for much better editing response time.
Cost of Basic Wix is free with 500mb but limited editngi, $27/month with 50GB disk, unlimited video hrs, and Bandwidth, free SSL, top SEO app, free Logo creat0r, 1yr free domain, basic analytics and eCommerece.
Website Security uses Cloud Server apps for backups, WAF, and 2 step verify. Check with Wix Security officer.
Website performance can be measured for editing operations and page/post runtimes. Given the very poor Editor X editing scores it is vital to get the latest Wix edit results.
Runtime performance for Wix follows the Squarespace and Weebly formula – use Cloud Hosting to provide the bulk of runtime speed performance. There is a Site Performance Guide with general optimizing tips rather than specific cacing or CDN tools`But clearly Wix and Duda have lead the charge in CWV improvements in the past 3-5 years.`see here for CWVdetials.
Weebly is consistently ranked among the top 12 WebBulders, offers shopping cart facilities, has much improved runtime performance, and a free but limite capability version useful for trying the Weebly out. Also like the other other Web Builders, Weebly first setup goes through a marketing guide and quickly gets user sampling its templates and using its full screen editor. So Weebly offers solid set of Web Builder features:
Weebly pricing free limited feature, $7/month basic with 1 year domain, free SSL, code APi. Pro addsunlimited storage, no Weebly ads, site analytics, email marketing, SEO Guide, 3 level of support.
Weebly key strength is shopping cart/ecommerce features providde by free to Pro plans. This includes shopping carts with unlimited items and badges,mutiple item options, quick shop, instore pickup, inventory mgmt, coupons, gift cardstax and shipping calculators. Pro adds digital goods,pay by Paypal, abandoned car emails, item reviews, and shipping labels.
In Web Builder spped tests Weebly has a positive message as seen below:In Web Core Vitals Weebly is behind Wix but ahead of SquareSpace. And in average Page size Weebly delivers lighter pages than either Wix or SqureSpace.
Given the initial lead of WordPress over the Web Builders through to 2o17 with thousands of themes and plugins, allowing for precision customization plus the much better Backend tools, a wide lead in SEO, and Website Design and editing, it is not a surprise to see WordPress is the market share leader among Website Builders with 43% market share.
But in the last 5 years Web Builders have staged a strong resurgence.Wix has 120 million users and $1.4billion in annual revenues in 2022. while SquareSpace has annual revenue of $887million and is acquiring Google Domains in searly September 2023. Many Web Builders have seen 8-16% annual sales growth accelerated by migration to online transactions during the pandemic. Nonetheless, reviews of WebSiteBuilders including WordPres, have seen the latter fall to 5th or lower in the rankings.
Three factors have lead to the resurgence of Web builders vis-a-visr CMS/WordPress. First, Moore’s Law has helped make Cloud Hosting Services very half price specs every two years offering very fast performance, better Security provisions and much improved backup operations. And because many WordPress users have not made the transition to the Cloud they are forgoing speed and security improvements.
Second, WebBuilders have improved the templates offering more of them [800 in the case of Wix], allowing for more choices in complete site templates and associated pages and sections. Just as important their Web editing tools have improved for ease of use and automated responsiveness so customizing templates can be easily done. And we have seen WebBuilder like Wix, SquareSpace, Weebly take advanatge of their templates nd Web Editors at start up.. New users go thru a simple startup with a quick survey of their Website needs and category followed by a immediate use of templates matched to the new user expressed need. nd then there are smart getting started apps to get users to edit and customize their newly ready sample website – all in 5-8 minutes in our tests. Better users get the basic free version or step up to a 14day free trial of thebasic edition. In stark contrast the only WordPress vendors offering a similar smaoot start-up appear to be Divi and Elementor.
Third, SquareSpace acknowleges that its Web Security, Backend Operations, Web Performance are derived primarily from its Cloud Hosting. However, this appears to have incurred a tradeoff because SquaresSpace has the poorest Web Core Vitals and heaviest page size among the Web Builders. As we shall see below, Website performance tips in favor of CMS/WordPress tools.
For a number of startup factors like Domain Name suppor [1yr free is the norm]t, SSL implementation, foreign language support for system commands and admin dashboard – Web Builders and CMS/Wordpress have roughly equal offerings. But in the case of annual hosting costs, WordPress [but not Drupal nor Joomla] has a cost advantage. But Caveat emptor because both Web Builders and CMS/WordPress hosting have an utter bizarre of “special deals” and hidden costs – so be sure to do a thorough examination of costs and terms of services with hosting support/billing staff before you commit to a vendor.
Finally, in the case of post-installation help and support, a lot depends on the Hosting service.andtheWebSite Builders approach to in-house support services. Web Builders argue that unlike CMS/WordPress where users with problems mst sort out among different theme, plugin, integration and hosting suppliers as to who is going to provide any help/support. “We take care of all your support problems” is the claim of Web Builders because their Cloud Hosting base provides one point for addressing support questions. However,this situation has changed in the past 3 years in two ways. First, WebBuilder now have their own mult-vendor extensions and [see Wix, Shopify, SquareSpace etc] so now Web Builders have multiple suuport problems too. Second, WordPress ThemeBuilders are taking now havee complete theme support tasks under their preview and their widgets and components now eleiminate many third party plugins. So the key is what help channels are provided – online chat, email support, email contacts, and comprehensive yet easy to navigate online knowldge bases. As a user of both Web Builders and CMS/Developer tools I can say Post start-up is a rubber-meets-the-road moment and there is no clear cut best tools/vendor to recommend.
Summary for Best Web Site Builder Start-up Recommendation
Since 2005 WordPress had been the leader of all WebSite Builders for ease of startup costs & effort, performance and features. But in 2014-2015 time frame many Web Builders closed thsartup gap by offering Cloud Hosting for better performance, upping their backend operations including SEO and Security. Finally, with improvements in their editing interfaces and use of online templates – Web Builders have 1hour website startups which help explain Wix and SquareSpace current $1billion in annual revenues. In short, providing tough competition for WordPress using as Web Builders are a reality for literally thousands of newby users .As a saving grace, with better startup costs, customization choices, and SEO/promotional opportunities, WordPress defends its 43% market share with renewed vigor..
It turns out Migration may provide the answer. If you nede to switch out of a Elementor or Gutenberg Builder site how does that compattre with moving between Shopify, SquareSpace, Wix or Weebly