November 9, 2016

7 WordPress Alternatives for Any Skill Level

If you’re planning on starting a blog or a new website, chances are you’ve thought about using WordPress. This household name in blogging powered one quarter of all websites in 2015. The nearest content management software (CMS) competitors, Joomla and Drupal, didn’t even come close, with only 5 percent of the market share between them. The TechnologyAdvice blog, in fact, runs on WordPress, as do many other sites you frequent.

ALSO READ: 6 Standout MailChimp Alternatives for Email Marketing

Because of its popularity, WordPress has long been a common language for bloggers, website developers, and content marketers. This is despite the growing popularity of visual editing and hosted sites from long-standing competitors, many of which are decidedly easier to learn and use than WordPress. So why don’t people use WordPress alternatives?

  1. Lack of knowledge: When you look up “build a website” or “free website builder,” WordPress is likely to be listed on page 1, and because its strong brand recognition, you may not ever look at other options.
  2. Referrals: Because so many content writers and developers use WordPress, those same users suggest the platform to new clients. It’s easy for a fluent user to forget their own on-boarding troubles.
  3. Fear: Let’s face it, trying a new products is scary. When someone wants to start a new website, they’re more likely to go with a tried and true platform, no matter how cumbersome.

There are a number of WordPress alternatives that can work for anyone who needs to build a site, with all levels of coding knowledge. Options range from blog-only to e-commerce and enterprise-ready. Let’s take a look. 

No-Code WordPress Alternatives

Wix

Wix visual website builder

Wix features a visual dashboard with click-to-build capabilities. Their internal AI helps even non-designer types choose design elements that work with the rest of their. Build your site using available templates, or code from scratch, if you want. A variety of app plugins strengthen and integrate your other marketing initiatives like SEO, email, and social.

Wix offers a free version, but you’ll have to put up with ads. Premium plans hosted on your own domain get analytics standard, plus cool extras like ad vouchers for Google and Bing. All Wix sites receive hosting on the Wix servers, so you don’t have to think about server downtimes or connection issues.

Weebly

Weebly website builder dashboard

Weebly’s model is very similar to that of Wix, with a visual dashboard for design elements and  themes. This platform also provides access to e-commerce tools and blogs. The modular design makes moving elements and building forms easy. Like Wix, all Weebly plans include site hosting. An analytics dashboard provides updates on site usage in real time. SEO features come standard as well, but because of the no-code modular design, some more nuanced SEO tagging and schema aren’t available.

Download the mobile app to manage and build sites on the go. Although e-commerce and marketing are available to paid plans, you’ll need to connect third-party apps for extras like email and shipping. 

Squarespace

Squarespace visual website designer

Squarespace built their visual website construction platform specifically with e-commerce sites in mind. Payment options and buy buttons are built into the software, so you don’t have to connect any outside apps. Same thing with social integrations to market your site. Squarespace puts a lot of effort into development so you don’t have to: the design templates are easy to configure, and so are the SEO tools.

In the back end, you’ll get analytics for site data and keywords, and if you run your business with Google Apps, you can connect those as well. If you need to customize further than the templates, add custom CSS right from the dashboard. To give you even more control, you can connect to lots of outside apps like ShipStation, Xero, Shopify, and MailChimp. 

Medium

Medium content editorThis blogging-only platform gives writers a place to compose or upload great content and images without worrying about all the other stuff. Like WordPress.com, it includes a network of other writers to connect with and read, so community management is (sort of) built-in.

Medium doesn’t provide e-commerce support, but does allow branding and domain uploads for individuals and businesses on a customized homepage. Without all the extras, you get a stripped down reading experience, where content and photos are on display instead of fancy themes that distract from your ideas. Medium is beta testing a revenue-based model for subscription access to content.

Low-Code WordPress Alternatives

Shopify

Shopify ecommerce dashboard

Shopify’s platform is built specifically for e-commerce sites (or to covert your site into a store), but it also offers blogging features and appealing design templates. Shopify provides several ways to enjoy their features without moving your whole store to the platform:

  • Add a “buy” button to any site
  • POS for brick-and-mortar or pop-up stores
  • Pinterest and Twitter “buy now” buttons
  • Facebook chat bots with AI to help your customers find the right product

The enterprise version includes selling capabilities for any web platform, including Amazon and eBay. It also integrates with accounting apps and email marketing programs. You may require coding knowledge for some implementations and customizations, but most users won’t find that necessary.

Ghost

Ghost markdown editor

This open-source blogging platform gives developers a chance to improve on the basics and comes free to try or with premium plans for more advanced support. Content writers familiar with markdown love this software, as the HTML editor runs parallel to the content editor, which brings switching views to a minimum. A little HTML or CSS knowledge is helpful with Ghost to reduce confusion, but not necessarily required.

If Ghost hosts your site, they take on lots of the monitoring dutie and will set up your site for you, but this is restricted to paid plans. You can always self-host through a different service and use Ghost’s CMS for free. The free desktop app is great for team collaboration, since you can set access controls for each user and easily search your content.

Blogger

Blogger blog analytics dashboard

Google’s free blogging platform, Blogger, gives you the freedom to work from Google Apps and integrate all of your Google tools. Choose from a few design templates to set up a blog, or code your design yourself. Hosted sites use the .blogspot.com domain, but you can also bring your own domain.

Blogger doesn’t have a lot of customization and really works best for content-only sites, but it does have perks. For example, you can add Google AdSense right to your pages for some extra cash, and track basic analytics in-app or connect to Google Analytics for more in-depth analysis. Blogger uses Google apps to store your ideas, documents, and photos. If you’re a blogging newbie and don’t have coding knowledge, you may find the scant documentation and even more rare support from Google frustrating.

Closing Thoughts

There are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of low and no-code CMS and website builders on the market, but these seven represent some of the most popular commercial solutions for content or product-heavy websites. For most companies, the customization and hosting options that come standard with all of these options will work just fine. 

We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Joomla and Drupal, two open-source website builders that share the WordPress alternatives marketplace. But since these alternatives require developer expertise for even the most basic customizations and add-ons, they are much less congruent comparisons.

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