These days there are so many website building tools in competition. It’s become a crowded space.
Has all these new options led to the death of WordPress? Not at all. WordPress still powers over one-third of all websites and two-third of sites that use a content management system (or CMS). However, there sure are new and exciting alternatives to WordPress out there.
I’m going to walk you through eight of the best WordPress alternatives in this article— each with its own unique differences and functionalities that could be a perfect fit for the right user.
Side note: Don’t confuse Wordpress.com and Wordpress.org. Wordpress.com is a hosted service, and Wordpress.org is an open source CMS. Wordpress.org is what most people mean when they say “WordPress.”
Squarespace is a visual, drag-and-drop website builder. Everything is included out of the box: themes, plugins, hosting, SEO tools, e-commerce, and more. You’ll never have to touch code with Squarespace.
It’s like the Apple of website builders. Editing pages is intuitive and thoughtful…
… And they have great taste. Squarespace is known for excellent templates. They often have a recognizable look and feel: bold typography, white space, and plenty of room to showcase photography.
They also have best-in-class features: outstanding blogging, photo galleries, podcast hosting, ecommerce, and more.
When paid annually:
- Personal: $12/month
- Business: $18/month
- Basic Commerce: $26/month
- Advanced Commerce: $40/month
Squarespace vs WordPress
- Everything works out of the box. With Squarespace you won’t have to spend hours looking for that perfect photo gallery plugin— it’s already included. Everything just works. The downside is that Squarespace doesn’t have a plugin ecosystem like WordPress with thousands of plugins.
- Hosting included. Squarespace providing hosted so you never have to set up or configure a host. Everything just works. The downside is that you can’t move your Squarespace website to a new host. Your website can only be hosted on Squarespace.
- No code. You won’t ever need to dive into code with Squarespace. With WordPress, you will likely need to. After all, WordPress is a CMS platform and not a website builder.
If I was still a freelance web designer I would move from WordPress to Webflow.
Here’s why: the Webflow Designer tool. It gives you the flexibility of front-end coding without requiring you to actually code.
Then you can also integrate a full CMS (and ecommerce) into the Webflow Designer. The CMS lets you create content types made up of fields— for example: plain text, images, dates, colors, and a WYSIWYG editor.
Webflow can also be white-labeled and let’s can manage multiple client projects within one dashboard. Plus you can bill clients through Webflow and even upcharge.
There’s also an Editor interface for teams and clients— so no more asking clients to navigate the messy WordPress backend.
When paid annually:
- Free : The free version comes with a "Made in Webflow" ad.
- Basic : $12/month
- CMS : $16/month
- Business : $36/month
- Enterprise : Custom
- Standard Ecommerce : $29/month
- Plus Ecommerce : $74/month
- Advanced Ecommerce : $212/month
Webflow vs WordPress
- A better client experience. Your clients and team will find the Editor interface much easier than Wordpress’s backend. Plus Webflow includes client billing services.
- Hosting included. Like Squarespace, Webflow provides hosting. The upside of this is that everything just works— you don’t have to think about hosting. Unlike Squarespace, Webflow actually has a WordPress There’s actually a WordPress plugin which lets you publish your Webflow projects on WordPress!
- Similar learning curve. Like WordPress, Webflow has a learning curve. You’ll want to spend a few hours in the Webflow University to get the hang of it.
This one’s more of a “Woocommerce alternative” than a “WordPress alternative”.
I highly recommend Shopify for e-commerce websites. It’s intuitive and flexible.
One key to Shopify is the Shopify App Store. While Shopify’s core covers typical ecommerce features (example: products, discounts, analytics, marketing etc.), the App Store covers everything that is more unusual (example: gift wrap upsells, back in stock notifications).
So many other ecommerce builders are confusing and overwhleming. Just look at Volusion:
Not Shopify. Because Shopify has an App Store, they keep their core editor clear and intuitive— notice how simple and clean it is by comparison?:
There’s a lot more to Shopify than just the App Store though. They’ve consistently pushed the ecommerce industry forward with innovative features. Shopify Capital for small business loans, Shopify Payments for payment processing, Shopify Fulfillment Network for shipping and much more. You can read more in my Shopify Review.
On monthly plans:
- Basic Shopify : $29/month
- Shopify : $79/month
- Advanced Shopify: $299/month
You can get a 10% discount on annual plans and 20% on biennial plans.
Shopify vs Wordpress / WooCommerce
- WooCommerce. Shopify vs Wordpress is really Shopify vs WooCommerce— Wordpress’s ecommerce plugin.
- Hosting included. Shopify provides hosting— which means you don’t have to worry about security and infrastructure. This also means you can’t move your store off of Shopify’s servers.
- Customization. There are some things that you can’t customize on Shopify— whereas you can customize just about everything with Wordpress. On the other hand things tend to just work with Shopify— for example installing a Facebook Pixel can be frustrating on WooCommerce but is really quick with Shopify.
Ghost is an open source platform like WordPress but unlike WordPress, Ghost is explicitly focused on doing one thing really well: publishing.
WordPress started as a platform for blogs— but it took on more and more over the years and eventually became a huge CMS. That’s not what Ghost wants to become. Ghost wants to just focus on publishing.
I haven’t built any live sites with Ghost yet but I keep returning to it because it’s got a lot to like for publishers like myself:
- A great writing interface
- The ability to send newsletters
- Membership system to generate revenue for your publication (plus Ghost takes 0% of your sales)
- A growing selection of integrations and themes
- Podcast integration
But more than anything I just like that Ghost is intuitive. Try Ghost if you’re sick of wading through menus and complex options in WordPress.
When billed annually:
- Starter: $9/month
- Basic: $29/month
- Standard : $79/month
- Business : $199/month
Ghost vs WordPress
- Host Anywhere. Like WordPress, Ghost is open source and can be installed on any host— that being said, Ghost Pro Hosting is offered by Ghost and is probably your best option.
- Ghost Isn’t A CMS Ghost is completely focused on publishing. If you’re looking for a CMS, Ghost isn’t a replacement for WordPress.
- Ghost Is Clean WordPress comes with a lot of bloat and extra stuff. Ghost is clean and minimal. It’s a lot like Medium (feel-wise), but it’s open source and there’s no community from the get-go.
5. The Jamstack
The Jamstack isn’t a tool. It’s a whole category of tools. And this is more for developers— the Jamstack requires coding.
Basically the Jamstack is a new way of building websites that don’t use server-side rendering. This leads to better performance, security, and developer experience.
That sounds really abstract but in practice it’s actually really exciting. For example, I recently rewrote this website with the Jamstack and my Google Pagespeed score went from the 30s to the 90s. Plus I was easily able to integrate with a great CMS (Netlify CMS).
And there is an explosion of new tools within the Jamstack that you can fit together.
For example, there are tons of static site generators:
These static site generators can be combined with all kinds of new CMS’s:
According to Wes Bros, there are like 16,000+ combinations— so too many for me to cover here— but you should recognize the Jamstack as a legitimate alternative to WordPress!
Jamstack is free. However, you’ll need to pay for the platforms that are a part of Jamstack. For example, Netlify CMS’s Pro plan costs $19/month and the Business plan costs $99/month.
Wix is very much like Squarespace, in the sense that both are all-in-one site builders.
Anyone can use Wix templates + its drag-and-drop editor to create a website, blog, or online store without writing a line of HTML, CSS, JS, or PHP.
Websites made on Wix are more customizable than those on Squarespace. That’s because of its unstructured editor and the overwhelming number of options on the editor – it’s a double-edged sword though: if you don’t understand design or uncarefully place elements, you will likely ruin your website. [Read more on Wix vs Squarespace]
Still, compared to WordPress, Wix is a lot easier to use. You can read more in my WordPress vs Wix comparison.
For annual plans:
- Combo : $14/month
- Unlimited : $18/month
- Pro : $23/month
- VIP : $39/month
- Business Basic : $23/month
- Business Unlimited : $27/month
- Business VIP : $49/month
- Enterprise : $500+/month
Wix vs WordPress
- Ease of use: The learning curve for WordPress far exceeds Wix. With Wix, you can use templates and the visual, drag-and-drop editor to create make your own website.
- Hosting included: Wix has its own closed ecosystem. Which means sites on Wix are hosted on Wix’s servers. The downside is you can’t download a Wix site and move it to your choice of web hosting. The upside is you can use Wix’s free plan and test the platform/make a website without paying a dime – you’ll at least need a hosting plan to see your live WordPress site.
- Customer support: Because WordPress is free and open source, they don’t include customer support like Wix.
Joomla is an open source CMS just like WordPress. It ranks #2 by market share as a CMS platform if we don’t consider website builders like Squarespace and e-commerce platforms like Shopify into the equation.
Though its popularity is decreasing year over year, it’s a legitimate WordPress alternative.
- It offers more advanced user management than WordPress.
- It has some advanced features (like SEO capabilities and multilingual support out of the box). Plus, it lets you implement a lot of small customizations without relying on third-party plugins.
- You can use multiple templates for different pages on the same website. With WordPress, this simply isn’t an option (unless you use plugin-based page editors like Elementor or Beaver).
And of course, Joomla has templates and extensions like WordPress themes and plugins.
WordPress shines as a blogging platform and easier to use competitor, in comparison.
Joomla is free. However, you’ll need to pay for web hosting, templates, extensions, Joomla developer(s), and more.
Joomla vs WordPress
- Joomla is complex : If you are looking for WordPress alternatives because of its steep learning curve, Joomla is not for you. It offers advanced customizations at the cost of being non-user-friendly.
- Plugins: You can find many premium extensions for Joomla and get almost everything you need for your website, but WordPress’s larger ecosystem gives it an upper hand.
- Host Anywhere: Both are open source CMS platforms. Get your custom domain name and host it on your own server or third-party hosting service.
Just below Joomla in CMS popularity contest will rank Drupal. And just like Joomla , Drupal is more complex than WordPress – developers developed it for developers.
In Drupal’s defense, it has more advanced features. For example, Drupal includes a taxonomy system, custom content types, better user permission control, and multilingual functionality out of the box. Thanks to modules and themes, it’s flexible too.
One of the USPs of Drupal is it’s more secure than any other content management system, including WordPress. Hence, it’s a popular CMS for government sites like NASA.gov.
Drupal is free, yet perhaps the most expensive. It either demands your time, or you have to pay for the developer’s time and expertise.
Drupal vs WordPress
- Advanced features: Drupal's features like taxonomy, custom content types, and user control makes it a better option for big content sites with 1000s of pages.
- Secure: WordPress’s over-reliance on a third-party ecosystem makes it vulnerable to security threats. On the other hand, Drupal employs enterprise-grade security, making it a great alternative for websites that prioritize security above anything.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is there anything better than WordPress?
WordPress is super-popular, but it doesn't mean it's the best at everything. For example, a website builder like Squarespace is way more user-friendly and practical than WordPress. Similarly, Shopify is more intuitive than Woocommerce.
Is WordPress dead in 2021?
Far from it. It's the most popular CMS out there, and it powers over one-third of the websites on the internet.
Is Wix or WordPress better?
For most people, Wix is better than WordPress because there's a steep learning curve to use WordPress. However, if you need flexibility, WordPress is undoubtedly better.
Is WordPress the best for SEO?
It's a common misconception that WordPress websites perform better on search engines. It indeed is SEO-friendly, but in 2021, almost all website platforms (like Squarespace) are good at search engine optimization.
Why you should not use WordPress?
There are quite a few reasons: - All functionalities need third-party plugins, which makes WordPress websites susceptible to security and speed issues. - You need to update themes, plugins, and WordPress itself frequently. - There's no professional support team for WordPress. - Your site depends on third parties entirely (i.e., hosting companies, theme developers, plugin developers.)