These days it’s very easy to build a website on your own. But if you are not a web developer or at least know a little HTML, you are limited to using the tools and templates that others provide. In this post, I compare two methods for creating a website: WordPress and Weebly. I confess this is a little like comparing oranges and onions: they are both web publishing tools, but they have very different intended uses. Weebly is for quickly generating pages using a simple drag-and-drop interface. WordPress is primarily a template-based blogging tool, but it also has features to allow you to create web pages.
When asked how to choose among these two tools, I broke it down to four main things to consider: Ease of use, Flexibility, Outcome, and Resources. Of course there are other things, like cost, but I’ll leave that alone. Suffice it to say that you can land a site for free with either of these tools, but spending your money on fancy templates or custom development would yield nicer results.
Full disclosure: I am not an expert in either of these tools, although I’ve done a lot with them. Of the two, I have more experience with WordPress. On to the comparison!
Ease of use is subjective, because what I with web development experience consider easy might not be easy for someone without that experience. So I’m thinking about this as if I had none of that experience. Weebly is wonderful in that it makes it easy for people with absolutely no experience in web development or with HTML to make a website. On a 1-10 scale of how easy it is (larger numbers are better), I give Weebly an 8-9 (average = 8.5). It is remarkably easy. WordPress is also very easy, although it’s not as drag-and-drop easy as Weebly. I’ll give it a 6-7 (average = 6.5) on our scale.
In order to provide ease of use, the programmers who create these tools must balance ease of use with complexity, so in general–with exceptions–the easier the tool is to use a tool, the less flexible it is. Weebly doesn’t give you much flexibility. If you spend a lot of time in the tool and learn ways to fudge and to work around it, then you can push its limitations. But you’ll need to learn some HTML to succeed at that, and if you’re willing to invest that kind of time and effort, you might as well invest that in a more robust tool. WordPress is extremely flexible, but the more you want to do with it, the more HTML you have to learn. In either case–but more so with WordPress, you can make it easier on yourself by starting with a good template. There are many good free templates to choose from, but you might have better luck if you buy one. On our 1-10 scale I’ll put Weebly’s flexibility at 2-4 (avg = 3) and WordPress at 7-9 (avg = 8). Big difference.
The result of the ease of use and the tradeoff between that and flexibility is what sort of resulting webpage you get. Pushing Weebly as hard as you possibly can may result in a professional-looking page, but I feel that it takes going to that extreme to there. In the right hands a Weebly page can be a clean web page and a successful sales tool, but it’s hard to get away from a distinct “Now what would you Pay?… But wait there’s more… As seen on TV” vibe. It’s not unprofessional, but there is a tacky-factor. With WordPress you cannot expect to get a free template and mess around with the basics for just one day and come up with a site that doesn’t look a bit like a typical WordPress site, but if you invest some time and effort, then you can get a very polished, professional result. Back to our scale, I’d generally give Weebly a 3-6 (avg = 4.5)and WordPress an 6-9 (avg = 7.5). This of course must consider other factors, like the quality of graphics, web copy, organization, etc.
Unless you develop sites for a living, you probably have better things to do than to master Weebly, WordPress, or anther tool. Whatever tool you use, it’s good to consider how ubiquitous it is so that there are forums, books, and professional experts available to you. Go to Google and search for “Weebly developer” (I get 122 hits) then do the same for WordPress (>3.5 million). Then go to Amazon in the books catregory and search for WordPress and then Weebly. An impressive difference in the number of hits!
WordPress has been used for at least a few years now as an actual web development platform, so there are lots of resources for you to draw on, or experts to hire. This is definitely not the case for Weebly. On our scale, I’d give Weebly a 1 in the Resources category, and WordPress a 10.
Making a choice
The results of my rating is shown in the table below, with WordPress ranking as the best choice. However, each of the factors we compared–Ease, Flexibility, Outcome, and Resources–matter differently to different people. This is called “weighting.” If you cannot spend any budget on a premier template or take the time to invest in learning a more complex tool, then you will need to weight Ease pretty heavily and make your choice based on that as it balances with Flexibility. But if you have the time or budget to invest, then Outcome and Resources are more important and should carry a greater weight.
The moral of the story
There are many tools available to help you quickly get a site online. If you want to do the work yourself, then regardless of the tool you choose you will need to invest some time to learn it–so make that investment of your time in a tool that seems to have the most to offer. Also I suggest that you should learn introductory HTML to make the best use of whatever tool you decide to use. Even if you work with a developer to create something wonderful for you, it will be easier for you to make edits and updates yourself if you know the basics.