Which Website Platform Is Best for You?

Justin Bleich
May 29, 2020
The internet is a rapidly shapeshifting place, with new technologies quickly emerging, pivoting, or falling out of favor all the time. With that comes a plethora of options to face when the time comes to build or revamp your web presence. It can be overwhelming.

The internet is a rapidly shapeshifting place, with new technologies quickly emerging, pivoting, or falling out of favor all the time. With that comes a plethora of options to face when the time comes to build or revamp your web presence. It can be overwhelming.

So, just how do you decide which platform is best for your needs? How do you wade through the new options that pop up seemingly everyday? And most importantly, how do you get off of your outdated and/or bloated platform and onto something that’s easy to manage and designed for performance? At G&G, we’ve honed our own primary toolbelt to focus on a few of our favorites that help us guarantee client success. The key, as with all website projects, is to carefully consider your goals, both long and short-term.

The Brand-Builder: Squarespace

Client Example: BurnCycle

Squarespace, notable sponsor of just about every other large-audience podcast you’ll listen to these days, prides itself on being two things: accessible and easy-to-use. That holds true, making it one of the major players in the small business and upstart e-commerce arena. It features a WYSIWYG editor with a wide range of content blocks that makes it relatively painless to pick up.

Couple that with an intuitive admin panel that also gives access to a few internal marketing tools (email campaigns, forms) or external add-ons, and you’ve got a strong out-of-the-box option. Even better, you can pop open the hood to take your style and function further with CSS customization or custom code blocks that allow for unique content types.

Best for: Branded websites that need to make an impact with marketing and with limited e-commerce function.

Why we love it:

  • Allows for rapid project turnaround
  • Seamless client handoff experience
  • Plentiful support documentation and 24/7 support
  • Built-in mobile styling
  • Native integrations with Typekit and Unsplash
  • Incredibly manageable without coding expertise

Drawbacks:

  • Narrow sandbox options
  • Not ideal for large e-commerce stores with lots of SKUs
  • Limited flexibility with animation, interactions, and extended coding

The E-Comm Powerhouse: Shopify

Client example: Oak & Oscar

Born in Canada, loved by 1.2 million people, there are few platforms on the block like Shopify. Known for its robust e-commerce experience that’s baked into the core codebase, it truly is a powerhouse that allows for efficient product/fulfillment management and a finely-tailored user experience. Think of it as your command center, where you have an overabundance of key product data at your fingertips that combines seamlessly with site development, and Shopify’s laboriously optimized checkout flow. Wholly customizable, clients have the ability to deliver a premium experience that reflects their brand—all while having a streamlined backend.

We also love that the details that can make e-commerce a real headache to manage—shipping, fulfillment, payment processing, discounts, point of sale—are all built into the platform, so that you have access to everything you need from your dashboard. And much like Squarespace, Shopify’s documentation of features, settings, and how-to’s is expansive, with robust live support to match.

Additionally, Shopify’s expansive app store puts limitless integrations and features at your fingertips. Referral programs, loyalty programs, shoppable Instagram galleries, product bundling...if you can imagine it, it’s likely in the app store.

Best for: Ambitious stores and brands that require deep functionality, fulfillment, and have a wide range of SKUs.

Why we love it:

  • Robust e-commerce experience
  • Powerful extensions
  • Streamlined e-commerce management
  • Shopify is constantly improving its features and tools
  • Empowers business owners with data and analytics

Drawbacks:

  • Lacks a native pagebuilder for easy template development
  • Replicating content templates can be time-consuming; geared for e-commerce over original content layouts

To the Future & Beyond: Welcome to JAMstack!

Attempting to look forward in the middle of a web revolution isn’t easy. As we mentioned up top, there is an endless flood of new tools, technologies, and product pivots (GoDaddy landing pages? Mailchimp postcards?) all vying for attention. Despite the analysis paralysis, there’s one new “platform” we’re confident in: None. JAMstack, a newly-coined term that stands for Javascript, APIs, and markup, is more of an approach to building sites than the previously standard all-in-one solution. Essentially, you choose what you like and what you need: a frontend framework like React, a server, different API functions, and a CDN (content delivery network); managed from a plethora of lean CMS options, then delivered to users.

It’s a fast and flexible approach that’s more future-proof as it doesn’t rely on one solution to handle the entirety of your site. Instead of one platform holding the key, you can pull from myriad places to create a bespoke solution. As things come and go, you can retool or pull in extended functions to help build the most efficiently served website. For clients, it means less reliance and management as well as more security. For users, it means speed. Win win!

Best for: ultimate flexibility and picking the right tools (both front- and back-end) for your specific project

Why we love it:

  • Fast and flexible
  • Choose what you like and what you need

Drawbacks:

  • While managing content is intended to be easy, building any site or app is entirely in the hands of a design and development team
  • Some inherent complexity with utilizing multiple APIs

The Others

Why don’t you see WordPress on this list? Webflow? Well…it’s complicated. These are platforms that we DO work with, and very well may be the best option for many businesses. But the benefits are a little more nuanced, and the use cases a little more narrow.

So...what’s best for you?

What’s best for you, of course, depends on what you need. We expend a lot of effort internally to make sure our aforementioned toolbelt is laser-focused on a wide range of platforms that help us deliver the right solutions and results for clients. No two projects are the same, and we take pride in helping everyone find the right fit for their business goals.

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