CMS Showdown part 2: Wix and SquareSpace

About 13 years ago a small startup company from Israel called Wix decided to optimize website builders and make them as user friendly as possible.

If you were scouting for website builders back in the day, you probably know how clunky and awkward website builders were. Especially native builders that some hosting services had in store. Problematic ineffective UIs plagued those systems with extra fees and they were rarely taken seriously. They were mostly experimented with by clueless customers that didn’t know better, and by professional devs as nothing more than a curious gimmick.

Enter Wix. From the get-go they aimed to make their UI as slick and beginner friendly as possible and implemented a visual drag-and-drop mechanic to their website builder that required no markup knowledge. This website builder was cloud-based and provided an all-inclusive service to get people started from scratch, to having all their website building needs in one comfy place.

And because of that, their main target audience was small businesses, independent freelancers, and artists that wanted to take a swing at building their own website without hiring any professional web developers. If you fit this category than this solution might be great for you for various reasons we will soon list.

But Wix was not the first to attempt this concept. About 2 years prior, a New York company started almost the exact same concept. This company was SquareSpace. The two rivals rose to prominence and equaled each other’s strengths and abilities almost pound for pound.

SquareSpace and Wix are now a formidable force in the CMS market, accounting for 2.8% and 2.1% of the total CMS market, respectively (w3techs)

 

Wix stats & facts

 

The concept of an all-inclusive CMS/hosting, with a beginner friendly UI has made the platform very appealing and it currently has more than 154 million registered users, with more than 45k new users registering every day. These users have built more than 30 million websites combined.

Don’t be misled by this seemingly impressive figure though, since the majority of those users are free users, that might just be experimenting. Paid users are “only” 4.2 million, while live active websites are at 3.3 million.

Users that use Wix for eCommerce are at 332k (2017)

Wix isn’t exclusive to English speaking countries and is currently used in 190 countries.

There aren’t many huge businesses and famous brands that currently use Wix, but here are some random websites that use it nonetheless for you to check out:

https://www.light-bulbs-unlimited.net/

https://www.tsche.ac.in/

https://www.winfield.in.gov/

https://www.brite.uw.edu/

https://www.tripathi.engin.brown.edu/

https://www.newsharon.maine.gov/

 

SquareSpace stats and facts

 

SquareSpace is the equivalent of Wix, having almost the same proof of concept and targeting about the same audience.

SquareSpace are keeping a tight lid on stats for the most part, so we couldn’t gather much usage data.

SquareSpace users have created more than 2 million live websites, 100k of those websites are eCommerce (2017).

These numbers might seem smaller than Wix, but SquareSpace have some well-known names among their users, such as Joe Rogan, Idris Elba, Keanu Reeves and John Malkovich, just to name a few. You can check out their website to see who else they feature.

 

Pros

 

The pros and cons will address both platforms because they are relatively alike. Both are known alternatives to one another, and both compete for the exact same market of users.

Ease of use – technical difficulty is considered easy and for the most part entry-level and doesn’t require any deep understanding of code. Just some basic markup lore (if that). Effectively you can build a website all by yourself with zero previous knowledge in web development (which is the main idea here).

Expert knowledge base – You place your trust in a tech support team that specializes in their own product. In this case you will also have a small community of devout users to learn from and the respective official channels, focused in one location. Both are regarded as having high quality tech and customer support by their users.

Security – These are two huge companies covered by insurance and they have a reputation to look after. You can be sure they will try their hardest to keep up with the most advanced security standards. And if you get somehow hacked they have established experts and protocols to help out. Basically, you just need to watch out for any phishing schemes, like in any sound approach to handling the internet, and you should feel fairly safe.

Price – this one can be swayed either way depending on your budget, but most will consider the price more affordable than developing and keeping your own website or WP site.

The free Wix version unfortunately cannot be considered by any serious SEO and marketing standards, so it’s irrelevant. To have your own domain name on Wix for example, you need at least their basic plan, and to get the full scope of features you will pay at least USD $300 a year.

As for SquareSpace, it will cost you about USD $200 annually for a regular business website, and if you want an eCommerce website with all the premium features on, you will have to pay at least USD $480 annually.

Slick visually appealing templates – most templates look good and professional for the most part and are also customizable to better suit your brand and business.

Mobile friendly – both platforms can create websites that are mobile friendly which is one of the major ranking requirements for SEO, a must for reducing bounce rates, and an overall usage standard in 2019, as more than 60% of web access is via mobile devices.

 

Cons

 

Dependency – websites are built on their platform and are fully hosted on their servers. Not much potential for migration. By the end of the day, it’s not much different than leasing an apartment. You can design the interior and place your furniture, but the space doesn’t belong to you ultimately. The good side: infrastructure and technical concerns such as plumbing are taken care of.

The most obvious downside here is that you are dependent on the whims of these companies. They can change their conditions and your website’s future is entirely linked to their success.

On the one hand it saves you the trouble of hiring a programmer, but on the other you are dependent entirely on their performance. As we mentioned earlier speed is also up to them and as it currently looks, it’s below expectations.

While we placed price as a pro point because you might save on development, don’t forget that you will still pay a continuous fee which might or might not become expansive at the whims of Wix/SquareSpace. And if they decide to raise prices significantly, and all your content can’t be migrated easily, then they can have you “trapped”.

Design caveat – Don’t be misled by the ability to drag and drop and the ready-to-use themes, since it will not guarantee that you will convey the right message for your business, no matter how easy they are to use and mold.

Proper visual language is a huge part of marketing and brand building so you might want to hire a designer to tweak your website if you’re not savvy at those skills. Just check out our two logo articles to see just how meaningful visual appeal can be for your business, just from the logo side of things!

Understanding aesthetics and visual language is key in creating captivating designs for your users to enjoy, and most importantly take seriously.

 

Neutral

If you’re asking yourself, what does a mouse on two wheat stalks has to do with anything? Well, for some reason this is what came up for the search term ‘neutral’ on a stock photo website. Enjoy!

SEO – the main part you were waiting for – are they good for SEO? Well, opinions are not very supportive here. But we decided to place this at ‘neutral’ because some favorable case studies and anecdotes do surface occasionally in support of ranking Wix/SquareSpace websites. Most still frown upon the potential though, claiming it is limited.

The two companies obviously make the bold claim that they are good for SEO. But despite their best intentions to make their platforms SEO friendly, it is still widely believed to be a lesser platform by the SEO community, especially with some experiencing difficulty in reaching ideal loading speed benchmarks. The lack of backstage control means you are effectively at the mercy of their team and servers.

Many complain they have difficulties ranking Wix/SS sites but theoretically it shouldn’t be impossible to rank, even if you have to adjust your strategy. Let’s not forget that SEO at its core depends on basic principles such as solid content, a good keyword strategy, and a strong backlink game.

Luckily, both platforms support Schema markups that you can use to your advantage, plus they offer some basic SEO tools and guides which might help.

These two solutions are not an SEO pro’s 1st choice and are mostly used by independent businesses that want to cut costs and complexity when designing their own websites.

We will give Wix and SquareSpace the benefit of the doubt, and maybe as they evolve they will also improve. But as the results on the ground currently show – not many Wix powered websites dominate any SERPs, and the SquareSpace ones that do, are by famous people with a very strong social media clout to begin with and by already established brands.

 

Differences between Wix and SquareSpace

 

Learning curve – If we really want to zoom in on the minutia and various other differences between the two platforms, we can tell you that most consider Wix slightly easier to use.

The Wix UI is visual drag-and-drop, from an array of ready to use templates, that can be molded to suit your needs. The SquareSpace UI isn’t visual drag-and-drop and more technical and ‘square’ in its approach, less intuitive but is still considered entry-level, and doesn’t require any previous knowledge.

So, both are easy to use but Wix has a faster and simpler learning curve.

Design – Wix is winning on the templates side, having more than 500 different templates to choose from, while SquareSpace has less than 100 to go with.

On the other hand, SquareSpace offers better flexibility. Changing an existing Wix template might also affect content, while you can change templates on SquareSpace without impacting content, by simply migrating it to the new design.

SquareSpace is also considered higher quality design-wise, losing in quantity but having better looking themes.

 

Conclusion

 

These solutions are good for small businesses and independent artists of all industries that want to save money and time on hiring web developers. Also, if you will not be relying on SEO and will stick to direct advertising and promotion through social media, then it might be worth looking into as it might save you money you can instead put into ads.

Ultimately, if you don’t want to limit your SEO potential, it’s probably best to choose WordPress as your CMS.

But also consider this: even if you don’t develop your website with either of them, chances are you might encounter a client who did, and will end up optimizing a Wix/SquareSpace website at some point anyway. The wisest approach is to know the two platforms and explore the SEO potential they hold, regardless.

If you enjoyed this article, be sure to check out Part 1 where we analyze WordPress as a CMS. While you’re at it subscribe to our blog so you won’t miss out on Part 3 and 4 which will deal with Joomla and Drupal, and the eCommerce-designated CMS – Shopify.

 

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