There are several website builders out there that allow you to build your own website without the support of a professional web designer or web developer. Let me first make it clear that it in no way means that you will definitely be able to create a fully functional website that is both suitable for your digital strategy and aesthetically beautiful. Without experience or knowledge in web design, the use of a website builder just means that you are able to get a website online relatively quickly.
Different website builders have different features, and may even be free, depending on the plan you go with. Some domain registrars and web hosting packages you sign up for may even provide their own website builders.
With the introduction of a vast theme base for website builders, more and more websites on the internet are being built on one website builder or another. These days, even if you hire a web designer or web developer, the website that is built for you by these professionals may even be on a website builder. According to w3techs.com, 59.2% of website builders’ built sites are by WordPress, which amounts to 28.4% of all sites on the internet. Based on these numbers, about 48% of all sites on the internet are built using a website builder.
WordPress is used by 59.2% of all the websites whose content management system we know. This is 28.4% of all websites.
There is a long list of website builders available on the internet, with WordPress obviously being the market leader. Today, I’m doing a comparison between WordPress and one of the newer players in this market – Strikingly. This comes after I’ve had to go through requirements with a client whom was rather happy with his current Strikingly installation. (This client is now on WordPress).
WordPress was first launched in 2003, well over 10 years ago, and has been rapidly growing ever since. Strikingly, on the other hand, launched its first beta version in late 2012. Strikingly was the first Chinese company to ever graduate from the Y Combinator seed accelerator. Even amidst competition from content management systems with longer histories, investors thought that Strikingly had lots to offer.
Both WordPress and Strikingly have free and paid plans. Let’s first look at the pricing plans for both of them as shown on their websites.
As you can see, both of them have a free option that forces you to create your site on their subdomain. What this means is that you can’t have a domain name that is totally yours, so to speak. For example, if your preferred website domain name is “best-website-ever.com”, then you’ll be forced to use “best-website-ever.wordpress.com” or “best-website-ever.strikingly.com” if you choose to go with the free option. This is extremely bad for SEO, and even worse for branding of your company.
There is, however another use case for the free version of WordPress. If you have a hosting package with a hosting company, you can install the WordPress package directly on the server. This can be achieved by downloading the WordPress package from WordPress.org and installing it on the server, or by using a software installer such as Softaculous. By installing WordPress this way, you can designate your own domain (purchased separately) to be used.
A quick comparison between the two pricing plans and their respective feature-sets will show that Strikingly is more pricey, and arguably gives you less than WordPress.
Ease Of Use
The interface of Strikingly is relatively similar to that of Wix, which means that there is a handy drag-and-drop tool for you to layout your website elements. This makes it extremely easy for you to create a website quickly without getting down and dirty with any programming or deal with alignment issues. However, level of ease of use is usually directly opposite from the level of functionality, and once again proven so. The reason why Strikingly is so simple is because it only allows you to create one-page websites. One-page websites are extremely limiting as opposed to full websites with links and sub links.
The interface of WordPress is as straight forward as it can get. Settings, posts for a blog, pages for a proper site, are all clearly separated and linkable. With a software installer such as Softaculous, it can be as simple as a one-click install with default settings. Themes can be chosen for design, and plugins for functionality.
Plugins / Extensions
As WordPress is one of the longest standing leader in the CMS industry, you can imagine how extensive the plugin library is. This library is accessible with any version of WordPress, free or not. You can find plugins for a wide variety of functionalities to add to your website, from a dynamic enquiry submission form, to a complex event management tool that allows guest registration and ticket sales. As most of these plugins are created and managed by third-parties (not WordPress staff or company), it is important to note the versions of WordPress that the plugin is tested and proven compatible on, as well as whether or not the plugin is still being maintained. These information are clearly stated in the plugin library.
On the other hand, for Strikingly, their app store is understandably small, given its young age. The Strikingly app store is only available for the pro version, and the available apps are arguably too simple as they provide basic functionalities one would expect to be available on websites anyway.
As explained earlier, Strikingly only allows you to create one-page websites. One-page websites are hardly suitable for a corporate website. The main use case of a one-page website is a landing page to promote a new product launch, or to build hype for an upcoming event. Perhaps a more commonly used term is a Microsite, which just means an individual web page that acts as a separate entity for a brand. A good example is a website for a movie – its sole purpose to build hype.
As you can see, the site is used to promote the movie coming out next year, but its copyright is to Universal Studios, a separate entity.
WordPress, due to its vast capabilities, is meant to create full-fledged websites. For many years, WordPress has been a popular CMS to create blogs and professional corporate websites. Of course, there’s nothing to stop you from using WordPress to create a one-page microsite as well!
Themes / Design
Both Strikingly and WordPress are similar in that you can select a theme from a theme library to use as your website design. However, the number of themes you can choose from is extremely limited on Strikingly. Again, a big contributing factor is that Strikingly is for one-page websites, so when you think about it, how many different ways can you design a one-page website? The real issue with Strikingly’s theme and design system is that it doesn’t allow you to make the content persistent through different designs. That means that if I create content for my first chosen theme and I wish to change the theme at some point to another, all my content will be erased and I will have to start afresh.
WordPress is far stronger in these areas. WordPress has a huge community and even companies that are just focused on building and managing design themes for WordPress. Furthermore, your content created through WordPress persists through any and all WordPress themes you install (and you can install A LOT).
SEO – Search Engine Optimisation
A lot of high ranking sites on Google and other major search engines are built on WordPress. This is because WordPress already caters for most of the tags and meta data that helps in SEO. To go a step further, there are useful (even free) SEO plugins in the plugin library that are available.
Strikingly, unfortunately, is not built with SEO in mind. While a one-page website loads faster than multi-page websites and one-page websites are better suited to be viewed on mobile devices, it is tough to achieve a great SEO ranking for a one-page website across a wide range of keywords, and a one-page website simply is not meant for detailed content. These characteristics make it hard for search engines to decide if a one-page website is relevant or not. If you even decide to go with the free version and find that you are stuck with a Strikingly sub domain (let it be clear that I strongly suggest not to go with this option), then you can forget about SEO completely.
There are many factors to consider when dealing with SEO, and these factors change from time to time by the search engines themselves. I will be publishing a separate article on the pros and cons of one-page websites with regards to SEO.
The most obvious limitation for Strikingly is the big difference between the free and paid versions. On the free version, you are forced to use the Strikingly sub domain, and there is a sticky “Powered by Strikingly” footer on the bottom of the page that users cannot dismiss. This is extremely bad for branding. As there is the option to self-host WordPress, you essentially have full access to the system and its settings. This means you can ensure that no unprofessional looking elements are forced onto your website.
While both Strikingly and WordPress are easy to pick up and use, it’s only natural that issues may arise and you may need help in addressing these issues.
Strikingly has a decent support team that can answer your questions in a respectable amount of time, and they have guides to help you along when you first get started.
Support on WordPress is generally from its community of developers and users. A large community across many forums and websites will likely be able to answer any question you have on WordPress, anytime.
So now that I’ve covered the main points of comparison, it’s not just about who comes out as the winner, but as I’ve always said, it is about making sure you pick the one that is more suitable for your needs!