A blog article from ShivarWeb I thought I would share because it is a well structured comparison of the Drag'n'Drop template type route vs 'Developer Freedom' via self-hosted Wordpress. Nothing is straight forward when choice is involved so prioritising your needs is crucial - in simple terms if you're happy to pay £5-10/month for hosting and would like a simple way to edit a website yourself then a platform like Wix looks after you well. If you have more technical needs (or indeed are more technical yourself and can take on a more complicated dashboard for updates) and have a server on which to host the site (there-by cutting hosting costs) then Wordpress is perhaps for you .......... over to Nate's article:
October 2, 2017 By Nate Shivar
Wix and WordPress are two of the most well-known brands (and oldest) in the website building industry. They are both useful in their own ways. But if you are comparing Wix vs. WordPress – which is the best fit for your project?
Before we look at different tradeoffs between Wix and WordPress, we have to define exactly what Wix and WordPress are.
Already got the background? Skip to the Conclusion & Next Steps.
Wix is an all-in-one “hosted website platform.” A hosted website platform is where all the components needed for a website come in a single bundle with a single monthly price.
Wix provides the software to manage your website content; they provide the designs and functionality. They are most well-known for their drag and drop builder. They provide add-ons & extensions for unique functionality. And most importantly, they also provide the hosting (aka the server where your website files live) & security all in one price. See Wix plans here.
WordPress is technically free website software that you manage your website content, designs and functionality. But it’s used in two different ways.
First, there’s self-hosted WordPress (aka “WordPress.org). It’s free, open-source, community-supported software that anyone can install on any server that meets minimum requirements. You pay for hosting, install WordPress and run your website how you like. I wrote a setup guide here.
Second, there’s WordPress.com. It’s a hosted platform service sold by the main corporate supporter of WordPress. With WordPress.com, you can get any website running a hosted version of WordPress for free. You then pay for upgrades. See WordPress.com’s plans here.
Yes – it’s confusing. I wrote a bit more about the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org here if you want to dig deeper.
But here’s an analogy that works –
Imagine you are looking for a place to live.
Wix and WordPress.com are both like buying a condominium. You own everything inside your condo. You can do whatever you want inside. The condo association takes care of the water, electricity, security and structural issues. They even have furnished unit options. However, you also have to abide by condo association rules. You are limited by their structure and you have to pay extra HOA fees.
Self-hosted WordPress is like buying a house. You can do anything you want. There’s no rules or limitations. But you have to take care of everything (or hire someone to take care of it). It’s also as cheap or as expensive as you want it to be.
And FYI – this basic explanation is very similar to Squarespace vs. WordPress, Weebly vs. WordPress – or even hosted eCommerce platforms like Shopify.
Disclosure – I receive customer referral fees from companies mentioned on this website. All data and opinion are based on my experience as a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.
Hosted vs. Self-hosted Platforms
To look at Wix vs. WordPress directly – we’re going to look at what I think are the primary considerations for most new website owners. We’ll look at Wix, Self-hosted WordPress and WordPress.com in each section.
Remember that the primary tradeoff will be control/convenience. Wix & WordPress.com are both hosted platforms interested in providing the best, most convenient experience. But to get the convenient experience, there’s a tradeoff with control & features (since they have to control the environment to provide the best experience).
If either Wix or WordPress.com doesn’t have a feature you want, you can’t just add it. If you want to migrate to a new platform – you can’t just pick up, leave and start elsewhere with your exact same website.
When you self-host on your own server – you can do both those things. However, it’s also not as convenient as a hosted platform.
That’s the core tradeoff to remember. But like I’ve mentioned in other website builder reviews, my website setup guide and my eCommerce platform reviews – it’s not the only tradeoff (which is what we’re gonna talk about).
Wix has 5 paid plans in addition to their ad-supported free plan. You can check out their plans here – though most of their plans are mainly differentiated by storage space.
Keep in mind that with Wix – your plan includes hosting, customer support, designs, etc.
WordPress.com has a free plan limited to a subdomain (e.g., [yourwebsite].wordpress.com). The WordPress.com Personal Plan runs $2.99/mo when billed annually. You can have a custom domain, but it’s limited by designs and storage space. The Premium Plan run $8.25/mo when billed annually. It adds more space and some more feature upgrades (though no Google Analytics support).
The Business Plan runs $24.92/mo when billed annually. It adds Google Analytics, more design options and unlimited storage.
Keep in mind that both these companies only allow a single site on these plans.
Self-hosted WordPress is 100% free software that you can install on any server. If you are real geek, you can technically run it for free off a home server. But realistically, your main cost will be paying for shared Linux hosting. You can get good hosting for less than $3/mo when billed annually – that renews at only $8/mo when billed annually.
There are plenty of great hosts with one-click WordPress setups. Bluehost (who many of my clients use) has very affordable plans (review).
InMotion Hosting is a bit pricier overall but has excellent support and a website builder-esque drag and drop tool for WordPress called BoldGrid if that’s your thing.
Either way, self-hosted WordPress will have much cheaper pricing both relatively and absolutely no matter what host you use.
With self-hosted WordPress, you’re not only getting a cheaper price month to month, you are also getting the ability to have unlimited features, unlimited design options and *unlimited websites.*
If you have two, three or more website ideas, you can put all of them on the same self-hosted account without paying more. With Wix (and direct competitors like Squarespaceand Weebly) & WordPress.com – each new site is a new monthly cost.
The big pricing asterisk with self-hosted WordPress is that there are a lot of things you aren’t paying for – but are still responsible for.
For pricing with Wix vs. WordPress – WordPress.com will generally be better for most users. But a lot of that depends on the exact features you’re looking for. However, self-hosted WordPress represents a much better deal based on pricing alone.
But let’s move to the next asterisk/considerations.
Onboarding & User Experience
“Onboarding” describes the process of moving a brand new customer from signup to active user.
In other words it’s helping new customer figure out your software. Nobody likes to purchase something and immediately hate it simply because they can’t figure it out.
Like I mentioned in my Wix review, Wix not only has solid onboarding, they also have a fairly intuitive interface with a simple drag and drop setup.
Wix has a range of pre-loaded designs for different website types (ie, music, business lead-gen, portfolio, etc). To improve and customize the site, it still takes a bit of experimentation. But they have customer support on call to answer any questions.
WordPress.com also has an excellent onboarding process. Their backend requires new users to pick up on some vocabulary (ie, “widgets” or “themes”). WordPress.com also has a heavy focus on publishing content, especially in blog form. If your goal is to publish posts as soon as you sign up – WordPress.com wins hands down.
However, WordPress.com requires a bit more experimentation to get a “normal” website configured. On the flip side, WordPress.com does an excellent job explaining and guiding users within the builder. Everything is minimalist with little pop-ups and an obvious path to publishing.
Onboarding with self-hosted WordPress varies among hosting companies. This is technically because it’s your software that you are installing. It’s like Apple customer service being responsible for a new piece of software you bought.
In fact, I created a simple WordPress setup guide here along with WordPress tutorials since some hosting companiestend to provide your account information and leave you to it.
Some hosts like InMotion will ask some signup questions and send you helpful starter resources. They’ll also offer a WordPress builder app to help. But for setup and onboarding, you’re still pretty much on your own.
You can email support for specific questions, but there’s no obvious “do this, then that” process after you install WordPress.
If terms like “FTP” or “Security Patch” or Googling for answers are not daunting to you, then you may appreciate self-hosted WordPress’ minimalist onboarding. It’s not complicated once you get past the learning curve – and you are in complete control.
However, for onboarding & user experience – WordPress.com is much better than Wix for bloggers. For a more typical website, Wix might be a better fit if you use one of their templates. Self-hosted WordPress is fine if you’d rather have control over guided tours.
A common myth in website building is that a “WordPress website” or “Wix website” or “Shopify site” is a specific web design or look. Too many customers choose or rule out a platform because they “don’t like the look.”
Here’s the thing – just because a software uses “themes” or “templates” as a base does not mean that you can’t have whatever design you want.
The look of a webpage is created with HTML/CSS. Any software that allows you to edit CSS is software that can generate nearly any design you can imagine.
WordPress.com and Self-hosted WordPress all allow CSS editing.
However, Wix does not allow HTML/CSS editing. You have to make all changes with their software.
This difference puts WordPress.com and self-hosted WordPress ahead. That said, WordPress.com still has plenty of limitations. So let’s look at the three questions that I usually ask with hosted platform’s designs.
The main three questions are –
How accessible are their “plug & play” designs?
What is the variety of their premium “plug & play” designs?
How far can a professional developer/designer go with the design?
On question #1 – all three have great, accessible plug & play designs. Wix has a variety of pre-loaded designs based on website type (real estate, music, portfolio, etc). Some are a bit dated, but others are pretty good.
For self-hosted WordPress, there are thousands of free designs that you simply select in the Appearance menu.
For WordPress.com – there is a wide selection, but you aren’t allowed to grab just any custom theme and install it. Like Wix, you are limited to their approved themes to edit or customize.
On question #2 – all three have a pretty great variety of designs with self-hosted WordPress providing the most options. For years now, professional designers/developers have created premium “off the shelf” themes for WordPress.
There is no 3rd party marketplace for Wix or WordPress.com. Both do have premium 3rd party themes on their internal marketplaces.
For question #3 – all three allow for designers (not developers) to do their thing with self-hosted WordPress offering the greatest freedom (for better and for worse).
Wix is not designer/developer friendly (see HTML/CSS). There are plenty of professionals who work with Wix, but (even though they might be HTML/CSS ninjas) they are more experts with Wix than HTML/CSS when working with Wix. In other words, if you have an amazing web designer, he/she might not be as good when building a website for Wix – since Wix requires Wix-specific design knowledge.
WordPress.com has more limits than either Wix or self-hosted WordPress simply because they don’t allow scripts, FTP access or custom themes – except on their new Business Plan.
For design options, all three have good options with different “flavors.”
WordPress.com has a wide choice of click and go themes. Wix has freedom within their own design setup. If you like their system, then that’s where it starts and ends.
Self-hosted WordPress offers unlimited choice & control, which is great, but can create problems of its own with quality control, security and/or code conflicts.
Technical & Customization Features
The technical feature set illustrates the control/convenience tradeoff spectrum better than anything with these three options.
WordPress.com holds the highest amount of control (no scripts and no FTP access) but also has the most convenient setup. It has built-in features that simply work. And the features that most users need/want are there.
Wix holds the same or more control than WordPress.com. You can make changes and tweak many technical settings – but only those approved by Wix.
That said, the Wix / WordPress.com system ensures that the features that they do have work – and they work well; no crashing or conflicts.
Self-hosted WordPress allows unlimited technical & customization features. It’s also fairly convenient for beginners to add new functionality. Self-hosted WordPress allows “plugins” which are little mini-apps that you can add to your WordPress install with the click of a button.
Whether it’s for better SEO functionality, setting up an ecommerce site, adding appointments, bulk uploading information, adding a social network or really anything you can think of – you can do it with self-hosted WordPress.
On the downside, it’s also possible to create a code conflict in WordPress and crash your website. It’s not common if you stick to well-supported plugins, but it is something that can happen.
It’s just like owning a house – you can build a deck or add shutters if you want to. Things will probably be fine, but if you accidentally damage your house – it’s on you to fix.
On this consideration – there’s no real overall winner. It’s all about what’s best for you.
Marketing & SEO Features
Marketing & SEO considerations are very similar to the technical considerations.
Both WordPress and self-hosted are “good” for marketing & SEO in that they generate well-coded, crawlable, HTML & CSS.
In fact, there are plenty of other caveats.
WordPress.com only allows Google Analytics with their Business plan. Additionally, they do not allow tracking or conversion pixels (ie from Google or Facebook). They also do not allow specific technical SEO additions such as Schema, category page edits or other technical fixes.
That said – they do have plenty of built-in “apps” or “plugins” – especially on the Business Plans.
Wix has plenty of in-house marketing “apps” that are easy to install and sync with other business tools. But even with Wix’s apps, you can’t do all the SEO or technical marketing work. On the upside, for many beginner / small websites, implementing tags & technical fixes are not (and should not) be high priority.
The best thing you can do is publish quality content that gets linked to and shared by lots of people (and will not crash under sudden massive popularity). In that case, WordPress.com and Wix both allow you to do that.
If you want to do all the marketing things – a self-hosted WordPress website will allow even beginners to implement highly advanced tactics ranging from implementing tags, tracking data to advanced SEO changes to running email opt-ins, schema, a/b tests and anything you could possibly want to do.
So again, with marketing features the “winner” really depends on your priority. If your priority is straightforward, user-friendly publishing then WordPress.com and Wix do that well.
If you want/need a complete technical marketing toolset – then you’ll need a self-hosted WordPress website.
Customer Support & Service
No matter who you are or what you’re building – you’ll likely need customer support.
WordPress.com approaches customer support differently. They do everything to make customer support “scale” (aka they aren’t answering the same question over and over).
WordPress.com structures their backend to try to eliminate questions & problems. But if you do have an issue, you have to post it in a public forum.
The contact form automatically searches old posts as you type to get your question answered from an old post. When you submit, WordPress.com’s “Happiness Engineers” quickly and concisely answer your question – either publicly or via private email.
It’s all virtual, interesting, and efficient – but it’s not necessarily for everyone.
Wix offers more traditional customer support via support tickets. They also offer phone, email, chat and knowledge base support.
When you have a self-hosted WordPress website, you go to your hosting company for technical issues and Google/forums for other issues. I’ve reviewed a bunch of hosting companies and service levels/approaches vary wildly.
Some companies like InMotion (review), Web Hosting Hub(review), SiteGround (review), and DreamHost (review) are independent companies that actively invest in customer service – and will help with more WordPress-specific issues than others.
Other companies like HostGator (review), Bluehost (review) and others have good hosting support but encourage an upgrade to “WordPress hosting” to have WordPress-specific help.
That said, even if you have excellent hosting support, your self-hosted WordPress website is inherently unique.
Since WordPress.com and Wix operate hosted platforms – their customer service has fewer variables to work with. They know that you can only customize your site so much, thus potential problems are limited.
If you have a highly customized self-hosted WordPress website with lots of plugins and theme edits, you will have to go through a troubleshooting process no matter how good your hosting company’s support is.
If you are comfortable problem-solving and troubleshooting, a self-hosted WordPress site with a good hosting company will be the best fit. Otherwise, Wix/WordPress.com will have a better setup.
Speed, Backups, Security & Maintenance
Related to customer support are the issues of speed, security, and maintenance.
If you are using WordPress.com or Wix – these are not your problems. They take care of all three as part of the bundled deal.
If you are self-hosting, you’ll need to regularly update your WordPress install and plugins. Additionally, you’ll need to install a basic security plugin and understand what makes your site fast/slow.
None of these topics require a developer or deep technical knowledge, but they are topics that you need to be aware of.
Going back to the house analogy – it’s like changing the air filter monthly and setting a security system. They aren’t complicated, but they are your responsibility. My post on essential plugins for WordPress is a good resource.
Wix vs. WordPress Conclusion
Wix and WordPress are well-known brands for good reasons. They have both made getting a website so much easier than it used to be.
They are both good choices for certain projects. If you value control over convenience – then go with a self-hosted WordPress site. Use my website setup guide here (but pair it with InMotion’s BoldGrid setup for WordPress for drag & drop functionality).
If you value more convenience, have more budget and want a focus on publishing & ease of use – then I’d go with WordPress.com.
If you value convenience and want a more general purpose website with traditional support and drag/drop design – then I’d go with Wix – or look at their direct competitors – Weebly is especially a better choice in my experience.
About Nate Shivar
I'm Nate Shivar - a marketing educator, consultant, and formerly Senior SEO Specialist at a marketing agency in Atlanta, GA. I try to help people who run their own websites...run them a little better. I like to geek out on Marketing, SEO, Analytics, and Better Websites.