I often get asked about what to do about setting up a website by people that are just starting up their business. How much will a website cost and how do you find a good web developer are usually the first questions.
So I thought I would walk through the exercise of doing a price comparison of the most common platforms that people create their website with. The first is based on a Wordpress site where a web developer was needed to help with the tailoring and implementation and the second is with a hosted web builder services such as Squarespace.
The requirements for the experiment
For the exercise I used a simple site to hold my bio. I needed two pages, I wanted some custom styling of the content and had a clear design for what I wanted. I needed a basic contact form, lots of links and social icons and as basics it had to have good SEO structure and capability along with being mobile responsive from the get go. The final requirement is much more qualitative but I wanted it to look professional and slick.
I then set out to price and compare a Wordpress site versus a Squarespace website.
Wordpress is so popular that I thought it made sense to have this in the mix around the tailoring piece, as I knew that while I could get a site up and running on Wordpress by myself, I’m not a developer so some of the design things I wanted would be outside of my limited coding ability.
Squarespace on the other hand is a complete WYSIWYG approach and they put the emphasis on making it easy to do all of the key things such as image, template, content styling etc.
What did I expect?
My up front expectation was that I would be far more happy with the Wordpress site. Afterall it’s in territory I’m more familiar with, I get to say exactly what I want with no compromises because I just get to tell a developer exactly what I want.
The outcome wasn’t what I expected.
Domain name (free with the hosting)
Template (free but not what I needed so tailoring /custom development needed)
Hosting US$49.48 (Aus $70.22)
SEO pack (free or $99 for full functionality)
Developer fee US$270 (Aus $450) but this is a once off (using Upwork top rated developers) or Aus $1500 for a local Wordpress developer charging $100 per hour.
Domain name (free with the hosting)
Hosting US$96 (Aus $142.39)
Templates - customisable and included in the hosting fee
SEO included in fee but not as strong as Wordpress.
No developer - 14 day free account to see if I could get the look, feel and functionality that I was after.
Both were a given to be mobile responsive.
Based on the above comparison, up front development was the killer for the Wordpress site. I included two pricings for Wordpress as a lot of people are not comfortable working with someone that they can’t meet face to face, so there’s a price for using a top rated developer from Upwork and an alternative quote from a local web developer here in Melbourne.
Either way, Squarespace was far more economical than the Wordpress site. But was this better pricing worth the hassle of building the website myself?
Other considerations in assessing which website solution worked best for me was which gave me the most help and support. Squarespace provides a lot of technical support whenever I had a question via webchat. I also have the option of hiring a developer to do more with the site if I ever need more. With Wordpress I was on an hourly rate with the developer whenever I had a problem or question I wanted to ask. What’s more, Squarespace gave me certainty on the outcome. There’s a 14 day free trial so I figured that if I couldn’t get the look and feel and functionality on the website with Squarespace, I could then turn to the Wordpress solution. It was a low risk approach without losing money. You can’t say the same with a Wordpress site when you’re reliant on the web developer doing a good job.
The Wordpress site made me reliant on selecting a great web developer to do a good job. Based on previous experience, it was likely I would get the final result I was after but just preparing the brief and looking for the developer actually took longer than it took to create the Squarespace site and get it live (it was a simple website afterall).
In favour of the Wordpress site, I think that the plugins and tailoring that’s possible with a Wordpress site is great and I did have to compromise with some inline content styling that I had in mind to start with on the Squarespace site. But this ended up being the only compromise that I needed and the price difference made me feel ok with this.
So to my surprise, I found the Squarespace a far better up front and ongoing solution than the Wordpress site. For basic functionality with forms, email integration with Mailchimp and knowing that I can also easily include other functionality on the site like email capture popups, click to chat and appointment scheduling plugins and a shopping cart, it's actually great value with a very polished look.
Now to qualify this, if I had more complex needs this would be a different story, but if you’re just getting started and you want to just get a website up and running that gives you a place to promote and talk about your products and services (including a basic webcart) and allow customers to interact with you then do take the time to experiment with some of the off the shelf web builder solutions out there before you commit to a web developer.
Good luck and prosper my friends.