WordPress is an open source content management system. To explain that to a novice, who may be considering WIX, Squarespace or Weebly to build a website, that means the code that is used to build your site is free and open to the public. The other three commercial sites used proprietary code to build the sites and manage the content. This means they lock you into their platform. Want to move your site- too bad.
Now, for your first site, you’re just trying to get something online quick. They all say “free” however each has conditions. Face it, there is no free lunch. Suppose you hit the big time and draw a ton of traffic- with WIX or Squarespace, you’ll be paying and paying as the resources are limited. With WordPress- moving your site to more robust hosting is not an issue- and you literally have unlimited options on where to host it.
The main draw of the commercial website builders is their promise of “drag and drop” site building. WordPress hasn’t got a true drag and drop or WYSIWYG editor out of the box- but some of the premium theme developers include tools that come real close. There are several “builder” plugins that will add this kind of functionality to WordPress themes as well. Most of them are premium plugins, but not outrageously expensive (under $100).
When it comes to extensibility- there are literally tens of thousands of plugins available for WordPress. Everything from managing team sports, to restaurant menus, to real estate listings, to ecommerce. Throw in the fact that over 20% of the Internet is now on WordPress, and you have to start wondering why you would look at anything else.
Granted, the closed ecosystem of the proprietary site builders guarantees to eliminate the headache of plugin conflicts or theme issues- but, if you are careful about selecting widely used plugins, pick a proven premium theme- you’ll end up ahead with WordPress. Also consider that WordPress is the preferred platform of most SEO companies due to it’s graceful framework for grouping your content via categories, tags, posts and pages. The proprietary site building companies may offer support, but their plumbing isn’t anywhere near as proven as WordPress when it comes to getting to the top of Google.
We’ve been using WordPress since 2004- and teaching it since 2005, which of course means we’re biased, but, considering the sheer numbers of people using and customizing the platform on a daily basis- it’s only bound to get better faster than any proprietary system. WIX, Weebly and SquareSpace don’t have a tens of thousands of developers working on improving their platform every day, WordPress does. There are also answers to any WordPress question just a quick google search away.