WordPress vs site-builders. Who comes out on top?

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Here at HdK Associates, we pride ourselves on being WordPress specialists. WordPress is the most widely used content management system in use today. It is so popular that the most recent research has shown that WordPress now powers 42% of the 10 million most popular websites; no other content management system even comes close.

But WordPress isn’t the only solution. Over the last few years, we have seen a big rise in the presence of ‘site-builders’ such as Wix.com, Squarespace and Shopify. These web based CMS systems offer easy-to-use, drag and drop editors, selling themselves on being a one-stop-shop for website making. 

We often find our clients come to us because they have outgrown these platforms. As organisations grow, their needs change. With the new Arts Council reporting requirements and CRF funding, suddenly the expectations of what an arts company website needs to be and do seems overly complex and unachievable with these systems. That being said, there is nothing inherently wrong with using a site-builder, but like everything, it really comes down to knowing what you need. Only by assessing your needs, goals and technical requirements can you begin to make an informed decision on the best content management system for your website. In the example below, we’ll demonstrate how site-builders are great for starting out, but perhaps not ideal for long term use.

Imagine you are the artistic director of a new theatre company. You use a site-builder to quickly create an appealing landing page for the company with a few images, a booking link to your first show and a simple contact form. Your needs are simple: you want people to find your website, see who you are, book tickets or contact you for more information. You’ll probably be enticed by a free trial or half price offer and be amazed at the ease of use. Why would you ever consider using something else?

Imagine your company has grown. You have created many pages on your site to share information about your many shows, share Q&A interviews with cast and crew, and host other digital content. You have found that the drag and drop interface has begun to slow down due to the volume of content, and your site is loading slowly. You might have noticed that your site is not inherently mobile responsive, so you spend double the time editing your site for desktop and then mobile.

Over the years, your company has now focussed on producing and you’re now thinking about selling  all your merchandise through your platform. You find out that this costs a lot more than your current plan and that you might have to migrate your current content as it operates on a separate system. You are also being charged more money as your induction offer has expired. 

Ultimately, you’ve found yourself with several problems and not many affordable options. Meeting your website needs would cost you more money in both the short and long term and you are not sure of the long term limitations or benefits due to your current predicament – it’s a risk and you feel distrustful of the service you have received. 

This is a slightly exaggerated scenario but the point remains. Site builders are a great, initially affordable service for websites which require basic functionality. They are getting much better at allowing advanced customisation and custom functionality, but for a comprehensive service and assurance that your platform will serve your needs both now and in the future, we feel WordPress is the way to go.

With WordPress, you have the knowledge and assurance that practically anything is possible. WordPress is behind some of the largest and most popular websites such as the New York Times and BBC America. WooCommerce (the native e-commerce solution for WordPress) is also completely free and customisable. We recently carried out an in depth comparison between WooCommerce and Shopify for a client based on their specific requirements which included complex features like integrating with an Epos system, the ability to work with barcode scanners for stock level management and the ability to host multiple tills which work offline. We found that Shopify would have cost them at least 3 times as much year on year.

We have used WordPress to create custom streaming platforms, a licensing platform for choreography, a beautiful e-commerce store for a gallery, a custom booking and favouriting system for events, several digital festivals and much more.

In conclusion, site-builders are perfect for small scale websites, individuals and visually led sites e.g. an artist’s portfolio. But if you need things like brand consistency, in-built SEO optimisation, advanced tracking, integrations with third party software or services and assured web accessibility – WordPress is our preferred way to go.

Site-builder pros and cons 


  • Very easy to use
  • Suitable for small businesses with simple needs
  • Perfect for visually led sites


  • They don’t always code in semantic HTML. This is bad for accessibility as screen-readers find computer generated (i.e. not written by a human) code hard to read. 
  • Due to the drag and drop editors, they don’t offer consistency of brand, sizing or image placement.
  • You pay a premium for using their easy to use editor service and hosting, on top of your domain cost. This is an unnecessary expense if you have no need to update your site regularly.
  • Site-builders are not inherently mobile responsive.
  • Plugins or add-ons usually come at an extra cost. A lot of core functionality in WordPress comes free e.g. it is already coded in semantic HTML, WooCommerce is free and so is Yoast SEO.
  • Limited control over all features. 


If you would like to talk to us about this article or find out more about how WordPress can help you, we’d be happy to help.

Ben - Project Manager