Fair warning, everything here is based on my opinion and experience. There are some strong opinions when it comes to the do’s and don’ts of website building (and you know what they say about opinions). Hands up, I’ve never used Wix to build a business website. For that reason, I don’t yet have a fully formed view. If you’re a fan of Wix, you might not like everything I have to say, but I’ll aim to be fair.
I’ve recently had increased exposure to Wix, for reasons I’ll explain below, so I’m going to have a proper look and share my insights on whether you should be using it for your business website.
A bit of history.
I’ve been involved in building websites since the early ’00s. In that time I’ve seen huge changes in how websites are built, but more significantly, who is responsible for building them. In the beginning, building a website was a job for a coder, which is why they looked terrible (no offence). As more visual design software became available, producing a website became the responsibility of a graphic designer … so we had fantastic looking websites, but often without much consideration for branding or compelling copy.
These days, websites are recognised as part of the marketing stack. There’s much more to a website than how it looks and how it functions, from initial brand positioning to copy that converts, SEO and ongoing content strategies – successful websites need to be built with input from your marketing team. This is pretty much where we are now, marketing dictates the website project with designers and developers in supporting roles.
But there’s another option out there now. Website builders give anyone the ability to create their own website, in a matter of hours that function well and look good without needing any technical or design expertise.
Wix is one such website builder.
Wix is an Israeli tech company whose primary product is a “drag and drop” website builder. This enables people with little to no technical knowledge or design skills to create their own website using a range of templates. People who use Wix.com don’t have to worry about learning any new skills and can have a website up and running in a matter of hours.
There are a ton of free website builders out there, but it’s fair to say that Wix is one of the most popular. Established in 2006, there are around 4.5 million websites currently on the Wix platform (according to builtwith.com).
But despite its obvious popularity, not everyone thinks it’s great.
It’s fair to say that Wix has a fairly poor reputation in both the web developer and SEO communities. The counter to the bad press it usually gets is the standard “web developers don’t like it when people do it themselves because it hurts their business”.
A fair claim, a baseless one in my opinion – I’ve never lost a client to Wix, or any other DIY website solution. It’s one-way traffic in the opposite direction in my experience. But, that said, it’s a fair explanation for anyone justifying their decision to build their own website.
So, why do people hate Wix?
Hate might be a strong word, but historically, there’s been a good reason to criticise Wix and their approach to selling websites. But is that still fair?
Ownership on the web is a huge topic. With people taking their content offline, or private and reading terms and conditions for the first time in their lives, never since the inception of the world wide web have we been so aware of what we share online and who it belongs to.
You only have to look at the mass exodus from Facebook to private networks and Youtube to professional video streaming platforms to see how our habits and awareness is changing.
So the idea, as a business owner, that you don’t own your own website is huge. A few years ago there was a lot of noise around the fine print in the Wix terms and conditions stating that any website built with the platform belonged to the Israeli tech giant.
However, this was soon changed after a bunch of bad press and is no longer the case, now if you build your website with Wix it belongs to you, sort of (more on that later). And while this does still leave a blot on their record for me, and makes me question the ethics of the company, it does seem like it’s now been rectified.
The main criticism of Wix from SEO experts and digital marketers, in general, has been that it’s dumbed down to such a level that users can’t access even the most basic level of HTML. In the case of SEO, this means you couldn’t set meta tags – not even the title and description of a given page.
It didn’t end there, Wix had a terrible URL structure, you couldn’t set alt tags and long long ago, Wix was built on flash – which is really bad for SEO.
From what I understand, Wix has made huge improvements in this area in recent years. While it’s still not covering all it’s bases and is slow to adapt to new things it seems fine unless you’re in a competitive space for search.
Huge caveat – I’d still not recommended using Wix if SEO is a significant part of your digital marketing strategy. But on the whole…
Wix, like most website builders, uses templates. This is what makes it so quick and easy to knock up a website in a matter of hours or less. Wix has something like 800 different website templates to choose from, which seems a lot.
However, the problem with website builders like Wix is that they have severely limited options when it comes to customising their templates. So if you consider that earlier figure of 4.5 million websites and through in some very basic, questionable maths … as a generalisation you could safely assume that if you have a Wix website, it will look the same as at least 5625 other websites.
And this isn’t just me fudging the numbers to prove a point, most website professionals can identify a Wix website by eye because even though there are many templates out there, they’re all a bit similar.
So, sidestepping the hyperbole of Wix websites all looking the same. I can say that no single Wix website is unique in design.
This is a tricky one, and difficult to generalise. Firstly, if you’re a Wix user and you don’t know why a slow website would be bad, let me explain. Aside from the obvious impact on usability for your website visitors, speed is now one of the most important factors for Google when they decide where to place your website in the search results. Basically, slow websites get penalised.
If you’re unsure of what constitutes a “slow” website and how it’s measured, check out the link above and run some tests on your own website.
But back to Wix…
My problem here is again with the generalisation. Not all Wix websites can be slow in the same way that all non-Wix websites are not fast. But here’s the thing, no website of any substance scores well out of the box. To get a website performing well not only in terms of speed but in terms of Google’s other Lighthouse ranking factors (many of which have no impact on actual usability) takes a fair amount of optimisation. When your website is built in an environment that gives you the right level of control (like WordPress) you can tinker away until you get to an acceptable level.
And this is where I see the potential for issues with Wix. From what I’ve seen on the Wix forums, when their users ask about speed issues they’re told to stop using such large images – so, basically blaming the users not the all-in-one platform. This is a common complaint too.
So the issue with speed on Wix is twofold. Firstly, that Wix does not give users the ability to optimise for speed. But also, that I suspect the average Wix user (you’re not a web developer, remember) wouldn’t fully understand the importance of or how to go about optimising their website for speed.
And this is why, while I can’t generalise, I can say with some certainty that a Wix website is more likely to be slow and poorly optimised than a bespoke website built by a professional.
An interesting one. And one that, to be honest – I had to look up. So Wix has been around for some time as we’ve established. Imagine you were an early adopter, I’d guess that those early templates didn’t look as good as the ones they produce now. In fact, I know they don’t, I recently met someone with an 8-year-old Wix website and it was in need of a redesign (I’ll discuss this in full further on).
But here’s the problem. You can’t change templates on a Wix website. See below from their support pages.
So, basically what they’re saying here is that you can’t change a Wix template and keep your content. Instead, they tell you to just start again.
Imagine if you have a large website with multiple pages of content built up over years, or worse – a blog or catalogue. If you were using WordPress then the design can be updated independently from the actual page content. Considering that websites should have a quick design refresh every 3-4 years to keep them current this provides a huge issue for me.
This is one I already knew the answer to. Wix is a closed platform, and they don’t make it easy for users to make the move away from their services (another thing that should set off alarm bells).
There are ways to transfer your Wix website to WordPress, for example – but it’d probably make your head spin. In short, you need to create a WordPress website, then transfer any blog posts using RSS, any images you want to move then require another system to auto-upload them and associate with the right post. For your pages, you’d need to manually copy and paste the content one page at a time. Keep in mind that at this point, yes your content has been moved, but this is a blank install – so you now have no design.
As you can see, Wix hasn’t made it easy at all to move your website away from them. There are a few services out there masquerading as products that can do all that for you, but there’s a significant cost and you still end up with a vanilla website.
This is typical of the types of conversations I have with Wix customers that have hit their limit on the features offered by Wix. They start asking for some added functionality or a slight design change to their website and when I tell them it’s not that simple because they’re on Wix they more often than not end up going for a complete rebuild on WordPress.
At least it says it does. As I’ve hinted at, my experience of using Wix is limited and mostly based on businesses moving away from it because of the things that it can’t do – so there are some shortcomings that I’ll get onto later. But on the face of it, Wix has a solution for nearly every type of website.
Wix offers options for the following website features:
Seems pretty good, until you start using it. From what I can tell, these core features offered by Wix are fine if you’re willing to bend your internal processes to fit their mould. As soon as your requirements step outside of their framework you’ll hit a snag. I’ve got some examples of this further on, so keep reading.
Yes! And No.
So, the huge thing that pulls people into using Wix is that it’s free. Except it isn’t. Sure, you can create a free website but it’s plastered with ads all over it and the options are severely limited.
Remember: if something on the Internet is offered for free, then more often than not, you’re the product.
So, much in the same way that YouTube offers free video hosting in exchange for monetising your content, Wix does the same for your website. If you’re a business owner, I’d hope you don’t need me to point out why this is not an option.
So for a business, no, Wix is not free.
They have various plans available, with their top plan coming in at £22/mo (it’s 2021) – which, to be fair, isn’t that expensive if it has everything you need. But if you add it up, that’s £264/year and if you keep your website there for five years (quite likely considering you can’t move it) that’s £1320 for something you built yourself.
And all of a sudden their business model makes sense. Wix is a completely scalable business. More users do not mean more work for them, as it’s not a service – which is why it’s so cheap compared to a professional web developer – which is why it’s so appealing.
A quick Google for “is Wix free?” will uncover a bunch of partisan articles stating that due to the limitations it may cost you more than you think in lost revenue. It’s a bit of an ambiguous statement to be fair, and one I’m not going to propagate.
However, I will say that if any aspect of your business has to bend to the will of the tools you’re using to make it fit then you’re probably not doing things as well as you could be. If something is important to the success of your business, whether it’s your CRM, your delivery partner or your website then you need to be able to customise it to reach peak efficiencies.
I’ve said it a couple of times now – I don’t build business websites using Wix. So why should you give my opinion any credence, maybe you shouldn’t. But the following accounts are based on conversations I’ve had with new clients in the last month alone. You’ll see why I felt compelled to explore this topic a little further.
Some identifiable information has been changed to preserve the anonymity of these businesses. Cue the Tarantino-style intro…
A newly minted business creating handmade sweet treats has had great success promoting in their local area through social media. They had a basic website set up with Wix and had started setting up an online shop to take their products national. I’ve sampled them, they’re amazing.
As they got into the nitty-gritty of setting up their online store they hit a few roadblocks, mostly surrounding shipping options and subscriptions – but I won’t list every technical hurdle. The point is, they went to Wix support to find a way to implement what they wanted, and after some back and forth came away wanting.
Wix doesn’t have a good reputation when it comes to technical support, it’s well-documented that they have a tendency to put the blame back onto the user for trying to do something the “wrong way”. It’s your business, and your website – there is no wrong way. It’s understandable that their support is sub-par, after all, it’s a mass scale platform, not a service, so they offer support on the features that exist, not the ones you wish existed.
Suffice to say, The Sweet Shop is moving their business website to WordPress, we’ll build it on WooCommerce – and if there’s still something they need that it doesn’t do, well that’s what developers are for.
This one actually came through my other company, streaming platform Zidivo.com, but has still resulted in a new website.
The Yogi (a practitioner of Yoga for the uninitiated) was looking to add paid live-streaming classes to their website using the Zidivo streaming platform. What’s interesting about this case is that they actually didn’t build or maintain their own website, a web designer did.
While the website looked good, this didn’t sound right to me. But, I know that even though Wix is pretty simple in my eyes, there are still some people who have mild heart palpitations at the thought of doing anything “technical”. So, we went about our usual process of supporting the streaming customer and made sure they had everything they needed to pass to their web designer.
All that was needed was a simple iframe for the live video – a snippet of code that you copy and paste into a website, sometimes called an embed code. Website builders usually have some sort of code block option to put these into. It’s all very simple – we have a couple of customers in their 80s doing this on a weekly basis.
However, the feedback was that the web designer couldn’t make it work. We offered to support the customer’s web designer directly but they were unwilling to even speak to us – rude. So, we were in a situation where the customer didn’t have access to their own website and seemingly a designer who wouldn’t play ball. I understood there was some personal connection there, so The Yogi was reluctant to call them out – but that’s not our place to get involved. The clock was ticking for the first live class.
In the end, we decided the best course of action was to build The Yogi their own microsite on a subdomain where they could place their videos behind a paywall – I have a feeling they will want to move their entire website setup over at some point.
This is another tale that’s less damning for Wix itself and more to do with the people using it (a pattern emerges). I was first introduced to The Painter as they were having issues with their Google My Business profile and I offered to help them fix it. But that’s a saga for another time – spoiler, Google support is also terrible.
After going to bat for them against the monster that is Google bureaucracy they were suitably impressed and decided to enquire about moving their website over to us.
As they explained it, the same guy had been looking after the website for 8 years and it was time for a freshen up. It seems they had been paying someone several hundred a year to look after their Wix website – once again, fair enough I thought, not everyone can manage their own website, even on Wix.
Upon examining The Painter’s website, here’s what I saw. It was very very basic. Perhaps three pages in total, a simple header, some images of example work and some contact details. It was clearly one of those early Wix templates. And remember, as Wix templates can’t be changed it probably hadn’t been touched in those 8 years.
But it gets worse. The Painter’s website also had Wix ads on it, which if you were paying attention earlier means it’s on the free plan.
So here’s the situation – The Painter has, in total, paid around £2.5k for a website that has zero costs other than the hour or so it took someone to set it up 8 years ago. If you’re anything like me, that’s enough to make your stomach turn.
So, following a few weird encounters, my goal was to form a more complete view on Wix, and whether it should be used for business websites. And I think I have. I appreciate that apps like Wix are updating and evolving all the time, so forgive me if some of the details around available features aren’t entirely up to date.
But here’s my conclusion, Wix is fine, not great, but perfectly fine. I wouldn’t get on with it, way too restrictive for the types of website projects I work on. I’m not into the cookie-cutter approach, and neither are my clients. There’s so much more that goes into a professional website under the hood than simply dragging different elements within an app.
However, if you’re a small business that doesn’t rely on your website to bring in sales, if you’re just after some sort of online presence, it’ll never be anything more – and, if you simply don’t have the budget to bring in a professional. Then I think Wix is for you. It’ll probably give you what you want without blowing your mind, or your wallet.
If you’re calling yourself a web designer or developer and selling Wix websites at a premium to business owners who don’t know any better, stop it. And shame on you *finger wag*. Not only are you devaluing a skills-based profession, but your ethics also suck.
I started out thinking Wix was the problem, it’s not – it has its place. My issue is with the people piggybacking on Wix to exploit other businesses for profit. And that’s why it’s an unpopular opinion.
So, to balance out what I think is a severely crappy thing to do – anyone who reads this and decides to move away from their “web designer” who uses Wix – I’ll take 20% off when I quote you for a new, professional website.
If you’re looking for a professional website, built to your specification with all the support, bells and whistles you can handle – get in touch.