There are seemingly thousands of different ways to build a website now. Wix is one of the best known brands in the website builder product type. They’ve been around for quite a while (circa 2006), and have built a large word of mouth brand. I recently had a small project, and a reason to try out several drag and drop website builders. I gave Wix a try, along with several others. Here’s my 6 pros and 6 cons and full Wix review.
But first, a bit of an overview of general website builder considerations. There really are more than a thousand ways to get what you want in the end (aka someone to type in a website address and see your information in their browser). Technically to create a website, you just need a text editor to hand code an HTML file.
But most people choose a solution on a spectrum based on their skill, time and goals. The spectrum ranges from all-inclusive (ie, “we do everything for you, but also control everything) to 100% DIY (ie, “you do everything, but it’s quite complicated”).
Whether you are building a simple personal website or running a business, the way you build your site has a lot of consequences.
In the long-term, it affects your versatility, functionality, and, of course, your brand. In the short term it can certainly add/take away a lot of headaches. That said, just like choosing a physical house or office, there is no such thing as an absolute “best” or “top” choice. There’s only a such thing as the right choice relative to your goals, experience, and circumstances.
What Is Wix?
On the wide spectrum of website building solutions, Wix lives on the website builder end that is all-inclusive. You build your site on their software with their tools. Your website lives on their servers. You can only access your site via Wix admin panel. It’s in contrast to solutions where you buy, install, and manage all the “pieces” of your website separately.
Like other website builders, using Wix is sort of like leasing and customizing an apartment in a gated development instead buying and owning your own house. You’re still in control of decor, cleaning, and everything living-wise – but you leave the construction, plumbing, security, and infrastructure to the property owner. That point is key because there’s usually a direct tradeoff between convenience and control.
Those all-inclusive options as a group compete with options like self-hosted WordPress (which provides the free software to build a website that you own & control on your own hosting – see my WordPress setup guide) all the way to options like typing actual HTML code into a text file. Make sense? Awesome, let’s dive in to the Wix review.
One other quick aside – a disclosure – I receive referral fees from all the companies mentioned in this post. My opinions & research are based on my experiences as either a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.
Wix’s Company Pitch
Pros of Using Wix
Wix has historically been disliked by professionals while remaining the go to “easy” solution for DIY website owners. In the mid-2000s, they led the way with an easy intuitive drag and drop builder that was also built with Flash – a technology loathed by everyone from Steve Jobs to every professional marketer that I know.
They have since moved off Flash and significantly invested in their platform with a focus on marketing tools and specific needs of DIY small business owners. As we’ll see in the cons section, professional marketers will still have significant reservations about Wix. However – in some ways that misses the main pro about Wix – they are investing in being simple and easy for the DIY website owner who needs something that just works.
If Wix were a meal – they would not be a $30 brick oven pizza with custom ingredients. They would be a DiGiorno’s microwavable pizza. That’s not a good or bad thing. But it is something when figuring the best fit for your business.
Wix offers a free plan if you don’t mind having your site address structured http://yourwebsite.wix.com/yourwebsite. Their only caps are around file storage and features – not around pages or page types. Their paid plans aren’t outstanding (they are actually a disadvantage listed here shortly), but they are competitive enough for short-term projects.
Their plans allow you to get a site up quickly with no technical fuss and everything bundled and provided for you.
Site Configuration & Onboarding
Wix’s backend interface isn’t the most beautiful in the industry. But – it is simple and fairly intuitive. When they talk about drag and drop, they literally mean you drag and drop elements wherever you want them. They have tools, templates and guidelines to help you design a site that you not only build but also can look how you imagine it can look.
Figuring out design, pages, navigation – all the basic elements of a website are straightforward to configure. If you’re going the website builder route, that’s exactly what you’re looking for.
Wix’s onboarding is also pretty solid. They immediately start your account on an email training sequence, and guide you through design choices.
In the past year, Wix has done a good job upgrading their designs & theme selection. When I tried them last year, their themes were fine but very 2010-ish.
While not quite up to SquareSpace’s designs, Wix has a solid selection of modern themes.
Speed & Security
All Wix websites are hosted on Wix’s servers. That means a few things. It means of course that the servers are optimized for Wix websites. It means that they should be fast (they are). Professionals at Wix are in charge of making sure your site stays fast. It also means that professionals are in charge of securing your site. Here’s my speed test:
With more users on mobile devices and more security risks, it’s a good advantage to have both services bundled and taken care of by Wix.
Customer Support & Knowledgebase
Like speed & security, Wix websites have an advantage of being an all-in-one solution. If there’s a problem, it’s on Wix. There’s no tracking down the root problem or figuring out who or what is at fault.
When something is wrong, or when you want to edit something, you can get in touch with customer support. Wix does support via Knowledge Base, Phone and via email tickets. Since they run a proprietary platform, they can actually solve any problem you have.
Wix is specific about their target markets and typical customers. They’ve done an excellent job “triaging” customer based on their business and building out custom templates and features for each market.
When you sign up for Wix, you have to choose whether you are a restaurant, band, real estate, etc, etc. After your choice, your settings are preset along with featured templates. It makes a fast sign up process even faster.
Cons of Using Wix
But of course, no Wix review would be complete without looking at the disadvantages. Wix has come a long ways since the days of their Flash-powered websites, but they still have some disadvantages.
The big tradeoff for their convenience is lack of total control and advanced features. But here’s some individual considerations I’d look at when deciding if Wix is a good fit for you.
Wix’s paid plans start at $4.08/mo, but even the starter plan doesn’t remove Wix ads from your site.
As their plans go up, they all remain more expensive than their main competitors – Weebly and Squarespace. And they remain much more expensive than setting up your own website with WordPress on your own hosting. At each stage, Wix doesn’t even allow unlimited bandwidth or file storage.
If you are using Wix for more than a few months, they are going to be a much pricier option than other site builders or buying your own shared hosting somewhere like HostGator or Web Hosting Hub (which has a drag and drop tool for WordPress called BoldGrid).
Editing & Design
The editing and page layout process also has a few intangibles missing. You can drag and drop anywhere…literally. This can be good from a control standpoint, but it can also be frustrating based on expectations.
There are parameters, rulers, etc to keep you on track to a degree. But building a site still takes a bit of work and thought. They have plenty of templates available that go a long ways towards solving this pain point – and Wix has done a good job in the past year investing in their builder. However, compared to their marketing material, I think some customers (like me) will be disappointed to see how much time and effort remains to get a project to being presentable.
Apps & Extensions
Like other platform solutions, there’s only so many features they can add natively to the platform. One solution to give customers the features they want is to open an App Store (aka Apple, Android or Shopify).
Wix has opened a Wix App Market to provide access to compatible 3rd party apps for Wix storeowners. It’s fine, but I found the apps to not be true apps. Instead, most all of them were just Iframes that were added to a new Wix page.
For example, adding the Etsy app doesn’t actually add Etsy functionality to your website. Instead, it adds an Iframe (ie, a window) for people to navigate your Etsy store while staying “on your website”.
Technically, it works. And technically, it is “easy” – you don’t have to grab an embed code from Etsy and paste it in. You don’t have to really do much to make installation happen. However, Wix’s solution is still not ideal. Ideally, you’d have an app that was easy to install and fully integrated on your site. You’d have apps that don’t mess with your website analytics and don’t present accessibility issues like they do via Wix’s iFrame solution.
This issue gets in the weeds so here’s some background.
To show up in Google search results, your website must be accessible to the Googlebot, Bingbot, and others to crawl around and “index” your content. Bots are much better than they were even just a year ago, but they are nowhere near perfect. To compensate for bots’ abilities, your website must be search engine friendly.
Wix builds and presents website content with a technology called AJAX. In some ways, it’s wonderful. It allows for smooth drag and drop – and easy edits. However, search engine bots usually have issues crawling it.
The method is technically sound since Google did announce that Googlebot can parse AJAX in 2015. However, Bingbot still cannot and Googlebot still has a long ways to go before it can yield AJAX as well as standard HTML/CSS. Here’s an example of a Wix page that you can see –
I fetched that page in Google’s cache to see what Googlebot sees –
The same…but not really. The essentials are there. And yes, technically Wix has a decent on-page SEO toolset.
But like their apps – there’s a difference between “it works and it’s easy” and “it’s the right solution and it’s easy” – Wix is not up to the ideal.
From a professional standpoint, I would not use Wix because of their technical SEO implementation. From a DIY user’s standpoint, I would look at their pros and weigh factors like this again other good alternatives.
Update from November 2016. Wix recently created a huge “SEO Hero” contest. They are trying to show that their “SEO is best” by ranking #1 for a specific keyword. I’d really love to give them the benefit of the doubt, but the entire contest concept illustrates that, as a company, they still do not fully understand what it means to do SEO in 2016 and beyond (rather than 2002).
Aside from the fact that keyword rank does not matter as a key performance metric or that keyword targeting has to take a grouped or themed approach – the contest & their messaging misleads small business owners into what it means to actually do SEO (or hire someone to do it), hence the revision to this post. You can read more about the SEO Hero contest & industry reactions here.
Again – SEO is not the end all of any platform. Most website owners only need the bare basics (which Wix does provide), and really need more design help than anything (which Wix does provide).
This point was emphasized by John Mueller of Google in a Google Webmaster Help Thread. He says that “Wix websites work fine in search” and that website owners should “look at the bigger picture.”
In my analogy – if you need your car to be fuel efficient and comfortable above all else, then you should not worry whether it’s the “best at hauling bricks.” You’ll be able to haul them away from the hardware store just fine. But if you work in construction and hauling bricks is your thing – then you need a truck or maybe an SUV to haul bricks more efficiently.
But if SEO is essential to your long-term marketing strategy, then Wix will be an impediment. It simply does not have the technical
Technical Limitations & Advanced Marketing Tools
Related to their technical SEO issues, but separate is Wix’s technical limitations and advanced marketing tools.
Since again – Wix provides total convenience in return for total control over the platform, this disadvantage is built-in but worth calling out.
Wix has many built-in tools for small business owners – everything from CRM software to contact forms to appointment software to ecommerce and much, much more.
However, if you want anything that they don’t have – adding any additional code to the site is difficult. There are advanced marketing features like Schema for events, music, business info and reviews that they are adding at some point – but have not yet. Adding pixels, retargeting tools, custom share buttons, custom email collection tools – all are either difficult or unavailable.
While Wix’s tools are easy and useful for most customers – keep in mind that any advanced tools may be out of reach if you grow into them.
Related to growing is what happens if you do need to move platforms. What happens to your data, designs and content?
With Wix – there is no way to export your data. It’s a bit like having all your furniture bolted to your house. If you move – you can’t bring anything with you.
In the worst case scenario, you’d have to scrape and/or manually copy paste your data to your new site. But either way, Wix does not make it easy to leave. It is a feature that they are working on – but is not currently available.
Wix Ecommerce Addendum
At Wix’s top tier – the VIP plan – they offer online store functionality. Ecommerce is a nice to have if you are already on Wix and want to start selling, but I’d hate to call it full-fledged ecommerce like online store platforms such as Shopify or Bigcommerce have. It’s more like Wix has shopping cart and accepting payments functionality.
It’s great for websites that are primarily lead-generation, informational, etc but also want to sell a few products – think restaurant owner who wants to sell a few shirts or mugs.
It’s not so great for websites that are ecommerce-first. The functionality is there. It’s fine. But I would not choose Wix to start an online store. I’d either build an online store you own with WordPress + WooCommerce or go with a specialty ecommerce platform like Shopify (review) or Bigcommerce (review).
Video Overview & Tour
Wix Review Conclusion
Wix has a well-known brand in the website building space. In 2006, it was one of the first to offer end to end website building with no coding skills.
Wix focuses on 100% convenience with built-in tools for DIY website owners. If they sound like a good fit for you – check out Wix’s plans here.
If you are trying to figure out good alternatives, you can also check out my Buzzfeed-esque quiz to find the best website builder for you here.
If you think building your own website on your own hosting is a better route, be sure to check out my step by step guide to setting a website with WordPress from scratch here.