WordPress or Wix. What’s the difference?

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Recently I was asked a question for an article that someone was writing. On the face of it, it seemed like a valid and simple question with a straightforward answer. The question was this:
“What exactly makes WordPress different than platforms like Wix, etc.? What are the advantages of learning to work with a CMS like WordPress? Why not just go the drag and drop route?”
The immediate response was that it was not just one question, but never mind. Comparing WordPress and Wix is like comparing a made to measure sofa with an Ikea sofa – so let us explain.

So what’s WordPress…

WordPress gives you a far greater – almost limitless – control over your content and functionality. As it is open-source, you can modify all aspects of the code should you wish. There are thousands of community-authored plugins that extend the core functionality of WordPress and the majority of these are free under the same licence as the WordPress core and as such can be modified and redistributed at will. You can also write your own plugins to create bespoke functionality.

…compared to web builder sites?

This is where it suddenly dawned on me that there is actually no advantage at all learning WordPress if all you want is a simple, heavily templated website built within the constraints of software such as Wix or Squarespace. I’m not knocking them; they offer a fantastic service and allow anyone (or at least anyone with a reasonable eye for design) to produce very effective websites relatively cheaply.
In fact, I would go as far as to say that if you want to design your own website without looking at a single line of code, then don’t even consider WordPress. To create a bespoke website of your own using WordPress, you would need to know a little about servers, databases, server-side coding, JavaScript and CSS not to mention the obligatory search engine optimisation. No, if you are not in any way interested in this, take the ‘builder’ road.
A good analogy would be this: You need a new sofa, so you go to Ikea; you pick your frame, cushions and covers; it gets delivered in kit-form and you put it together following the instructions. You end up with what you wanted – albeit with the inevitable left-over bolt or two – along with a vague sense of satisfaction that you (kind of) did it yourself.
Compare this to picking up pen and paper and drawing out a design for your sofa. You carefully choose the materials you want to use; you build the frame, cut the cloth, stuff the cushions, sew the covers and put it all together with skill and care. You then sit back and relax in the knowledge that it’s going to keep you comfy for years. (In truth you’ll probably hire someone to build it for you to your exact specification).
The fact is that the question, from an agency point of view, isn’t a very good one as no two clients want the same thing. This where WordPress comes into its own. It has a very accessible user experience for the client, allowing them to update content quickly and efficiently with minimum learning effort. From a developer’s point of view, we can customise the basic website platform to give each and every client exactly what they want with no compromise.
So the answer to the question. If you appreciate the difference between made to measure and Ikea, then you can expect the same from a website.