So. Weebly vs. WordPress.com: a comparison I could have used (but couldn’t really find) several months ago.
While many reading this probably are WordPress fans (especially those reading it through WordPress Reader), you may also have seen alluring ads for Weebly on facebook or other social media sites that make it seem awfully tempting. A convenient drag-and-drop interface? Customization without having to buy an upgrade? Even for those with established websites elsewhere, that can sound pretty enticing.
So is Weebly better than WordPress?
Those who noticed that I recently migrated twytte from Weebly to WordPress might assume that I would answer with a resounding “No!” But it’s not that simple. The more honest answer is that it depends on what you want to do.
Here’s a quick guide to the pros and cons from the perspective of a beginner, so if something is a pro, good quality is possible without a lot of confusion or money. If something is a con, it’s either missing, requires additional knowledge/technical ability, or costs extra.
Weebly: Pros & Cons
I have to admit, the ads for Weebly are pretty accurate. At the same time, it’s also fairly new to the game, and while it’s ahead of WordPress in some areas, in other areas it has quite a bit of catching up to do.
The Interface: Weebly’s drag-and-drop interface is very visual and has a short learning curve. If you want to add something, you drag the box for it to the area where you want to add it. This visual style is pretty common now, so most people familiar with computers or smart phones will probably pick it up easily and with minimal fuss. Plus, there are very few bars and tabs, so finding something requires very little searching (and there isn’t a lot of jargon to interpret).
Free Customization: For the code ignorant (like me), Weebly allows a broad range of customization without paying for an upgrade. You can set the font styles for each part of the site, add or replace background images, and adjust colors. In any space of the site, you can change the font size. You can make your own menus by dragging a text box to the side menu and writing in it. Within each theme’s active areas, you can drag and drop in whatever is available, and you can even give each page of your site a distinct look.
If you want to see the difference, check out the pages for Deathwalker, Wind Town, and Bloodletting on Weebly versus how they look now (I only gave one example for now because they all look the same).
Free Store: Weebly does allow a store with the free site. Setting it up is easy. I do not have stores with multiple webhosts (I haven’t actually used that one yet), so I can’t say whether the percentage taken off your sales is good compared to other sites. But you can have a store without purchasing an upgrade.
Site Support: One thing Weebly does very well is site support. Even free sites can get direct email support, and the reps have been excellent about getting back with me quickly and helping fix whatever bug I come across (Remember: they’re smaller, so it’s more important for them to keep your business).
Site Stats: I have to admit, they did just upgrade their site stats to improve viewing and ease of access; however, with the free site, you can only see the page views and the unique visitors for the month. You cannot access any previous data, and top pages, search terms, and referring sites are only available with the starter upgrade, which still only has access to 1 month of data.
Community: Weebly is new, so it does not have a big community built up around it. While it does have links to tweet posts or like them on facebook, there is no “like” or “follow” option in general (or none that I could find). The rss feed is there, but that does not have the same kind of feedback for the author.
Search: Like most webhosts, some options for the theme are only available with an upgrade. The only one I really missed was the search option.
Once these options grow and develop, Weebly could become a perfect webhost for bloggers with minimal tech skills. As it is, I would highly recommend Weebly for someone who needs a business site but doesn’t need to see traffic and feedback the way a blogger needs to. Pay for the starter to host your own domain, and it’s still cheaper than paying for a year of WordPress Premium to get a similar level of customization (actually, I feel like Weebly still gives more customization than WordPress Premium if you don’t know code).
WordPress Pros & Cons
As one of the giants in the webhosting business, WordPress certainly has a lead in many areas. At the same time, it has some decent downsides for beginning users.
Community: One of the best parts of WordPress is the way it helps you network with other bloggers. The Reader, the integration of follows and likes, and even the help forums all combine to give a ton of feedback to a blogger. Having likes, comments, and follows definitely helps a writer keep going as opposed to posting onto a site and wondering if anyone bothered to read it.
Site Stats: You get a lot of statistics with a free site. Visitors, views, likes, countries, referrers, and more are displayed cleanly and in detail. Even better, the data is available for all dates the blog existed so that you can compare past stats with current ones.
Customization: With WordPress.com, a finer and more detailed level of customization is possible because of the sheer volume of users who have made themes and plugins. If you know enough or can pay enough (or both), you can do a great deal.
Free Store: Stores are possible through WordPress.com through a free or cheap plugin. With enough research, you can find the plugin that does exactly what you need, which can be pretty useful for those selling unique services.
The Interface: WordPress has a pretty steep learning curve, and it can be fairly intimidating for complete beginners. With so many options on the dashboard menu, simply finding the area you need to be in to make a change can be an adventure. Once learned, it becomes almost second nature. To get to that point, however, a blogger has to be decently determined and patient. It is definitely not ideal for the technically challenged.
Site Support: If you want interactive support, you have to pay for it. Otherwise, you will have to search the forums and hope that 1. someone has had the same problem and 2. that someone else actually posted a solution. This can be hit or miss. If you run into a situation where you can’t find anyone with the same problem, you can get stuck, especially if you don’t have time to join a forum and wait for a response. For people who aren’t good at troubleshooting and following directions, this is a pretty big negative.
Customization: The downside to customization on WordPress is that actually making use of the options may cost money or require knowledge of code. With the free site and no knowledge of code, very little customization is possible.
Free Store: I consider this a con only because having a store requires a good amount of individual research to find out what plugin to use or what free themes support ecommerce. For the beginner, that’s pretty intimidating, and without any background knowledge, it can be hard to tell what information is reliable. That ups the difficulty level and makes the work required to have a free store through WordPress a definite con.
As it is, I would suggest that bloggers or people with website building experience go with WordPress.com if they have the time to do all the tweaking they need. Once you have the knowledge to navigate the dashboard, the code, the plugins, and the forums, the options with WordPress are staggering. For bloggers without that knowledge (points at herself and coughs), I can only say that the stats and feedback are worth figuring out the basics of the dashboard.
To be perfectly honest about how much I like Weebly’s interface and WordPress.com’s feedback, if it weren’t for the stats and community, twytte would still be on Weebly.