Last Updated March 22 2019
Wordpress and Wix are both tools for building a website— but they have completely different approaches: Wix is a website builder and Wordpress is a CMS (or Content Management System). Understanding this difference is critical in deciding which to choose.
To generalize, website builders like Wix are easier to use but less customizable. They also include hosting— so you don't have to set up a web host— but that means you can't ever move your website off of Wix and on to a new web host.
A CMS like Wordpress has a steeper learning curve but is highly customizable. You need to setup Wordpress on a web host— though that's less intimidating than it sounds (there are plenty of hosts offering 1-click Wordpress installation). Wordpress is open-source, which means it's free for anyone to use and modify (though hosting, themes and plugins can all cost money).
But here's the thing— I'm just scratching the surface of the ways in which Wordpress and Wix's different approaches are expressed. As you'll see in the rest of this article, the difference between Wix and Wordpress manifests itself in templates, hosting, features, customer support and much more.
Just remember: Wix vs Wordpress is not an ideological debate— there is no right or wrong answer. Instead, the tool should match the need— let what you are building guide your decision.
One of the most obvious differences between Wix and Wordpress is the editor.
Wix has a visual, drag-and-drop editor. It's similar to Powerpoint or Keynote in that it allows you to move any element to any place on a page:
Wix's editor lets you move elements anywhere on a page.
Wordpress recently relaunched their editor as a block-based editor known as Gutenberg. I think the new editor is an improvement but the Wordpress community has been pretty critical so far.
Wordpress uses a block-based editor known as Gutenberg.
Wordpress's block-based editor is abstracted from the page— it doesn't show the full page within the editor (for example, you don't see the header, sidebar and footer). Because of this, you'll still find yourself switching between the editor and the published website to check how everything "looks".
You may find yourself swapping between the editor and the published website to see how everything is looking.
Most things on Wordpress are abstracted away from the page. For example, forms created with plugins such as WPForms are created in a separate interface and then embedded into pages using a "short code".
By contrast, most things in Wix are edited visually. If you see something, you click it and can change it. The website stays within view and changes happen live on the website as you make them. For example, creating a form is done within the page editor:
Everything with Wix is done visually— with the website still in view.
Overall, Wordpress's interface is often more cluttered than Wix— but this comes at no surprise. Wordpress is more sophisticated than Wix and more sophisticated software needs to be more utilitarian and abstract.
Wordpress is an open-source CMS— which means anyone can contribute to it. This is both a strength and a weakness.
For example, Wordpress has a huge amount of plugins and themes that were created by the open-source community (plugins extend the Wordpress core by adding specific features). At the time of writing, there were 50,000+ plugins on Wordpress.org and 11,000+ themes on Themeforest. That's way, way more than any website builder has.
But the breadth of Wordpress is also what can make it a hairy, hot mess. Wordpress backends can get notoriously confusing. There can be long, technical settings pages and the language can get abstract and techy (Wordpress beginners will struggle to understand what Jetpack is).
Plus taking advantage of Wordpress's many themes and plugins never quite works perfectly. Incompatibilities often arise between themes, plugins and certain versions of Worpress— and getting the fix can require users to make tweaks to code— something not every user is comfortable doing. All you have to do is browse plugin reviews to get a sense of the frustration:
Wix is completely different. They offer an App Market that seems similar to Wordpress's plugins— but is really not. It's a small, curated collection of 300ish apps— not even close to matching the huge library of Wordpress plugins. But unlike Wordpress, Wix checks all apps for compatibility— so you can be confident they'll integrate perfectly (there are rarely any compatibility issues or need to tweak code).
The same thing is true with Wix's themes. Wix offers far less themes (500ish) than Wordpress but all the themes work perfectly— there's no need to touch code, things just work. (Plus Wix's visual theme editor is so customizable that you could design your own theme from scratch right from the start.)
With Wix, you shouldn't need to hire outside help unless you're doing something really unusual— it's designed to be amateur-friendly. With Wordpress, you may end up hiring a Wordpress professionals to help you build your website if you get frustrated trying to integrate themes and plugins.
Overall, Wix is designed to be user-friendly while Wordpress is designed to be customizable. It's not that Wordpress doesn't care about being user-friendly— actually the Wordpress team works hard to make Wordpress user-friendly. Equally, it's not that Wix doesn't care about being customizable— the Wix team actually really cares about making a customizable website builder.
Instead, these differences are just fundamental to the nature of website builders and CMS's. That's why you should think hard about what your website needs and use that to guide your decision. There is no universally right or wrong decision.
If you're building a website with conventional features, you'll probably find Wix offers everything you need.
If you need unconventional features, you'll probably be able to find a Wordpress theme or plugin that supports it.
What's a conventional feature and what's unconventional? Well, a photo gallery is a conventional feature. Wix has plenty of photo gallery options. But if you want a photo gallery that scrolls horizontally (left to right) then you wouldn't be able to do it on Wix. It's too unconventional. But you could probably find a Wordpress plugin to do it.
The strength of Wordpress is the diversity of it's ecosystem: 50,000+ plugins and 11,000+ themes. This means that if you have a specific feature or look in mind, Wordpress can probably accommodate it. Here are a few examples:
My point is that you can find Wordpress plugins for all sorts of features. Wix will never be able to support as many features.
But if you just need conventional features, I'd recommend Wix.
Conventional websites aren't trying to re-invent the wheel. They're the typical websites for restaurants, non-profits, photographers or any small business. They need photo galleries, contact forms, Google Maps— but not nothing too unusual.
Wix covers all these features— and they often make it easier than Wordpress. For example, if you search for "photo gallery plugins", Wordpress literally has hundreds of results. How are you supposed to know which one is right? With Wix, there's none of that searching. Wix includes one excellent photo gallery, so you can just get up and running quickly.
And even though Wix doesn't offer as many features as Wordpress, the features they do offer just work. You won't lose afternoons to trying different plugins to see which one is compatible with your theme.
Wix offers 500+ themes— a good amount for a website builder, but no where near Wordpress which has over 11,000+ themes.
Like plugins, Wordpress has a wider selection, but you'll occasionally run into compatibility issues that will require you to debug with code. Wix has a smaller selection but you'll never run find a theme that requires to mess with code to be compatible with Wix features.
Theme customization in Wordpress is done through Customizer a nice tool that lets you click elements to reveal style options or browse along and make style customizations.
Editing themes using the Customerizer tool.
Wix has a completely different approach. Wix elements can be grabbed and moved. Elements can be selected and you can make customizations on the fly.
Wix elements can be customized within the context of the website.
It's hard to compare Wix and Wordpress pricing because they are priced completely differently.
Wix includes everything in one package: hosting, ecommerce, themes, apps, customer support— these are all included in every Wix package. (Some apps on the Wix App Store do cost money— but almost all are free.)
Wordpress is different in that the Wordpress core is free. But you could end up paying for themes, plugins and hosting.
For example, BlueHost charges $7.99 / month for Wordpress hosting. A premium theme from ThemeForest could cost $39 (though you get it for life, and there are also free Wordpress themes available).
Then there are premium Wordpress plugins. WooCommerce is a ecommerce plugin but it sells extensions (costing between $0 - $299) that add specific features (for example, a UPS Shipping Method extension costs $79 and lets you get UPS shipping rates). WPForms is a drag-and-drop Wordpress form builder that starts at $40 / year.
Wix includes phone, chat and email customer support in all of their packages— and in the more expensive plans you can get VIP Support which lets you skip the line.
Because Wordpress is free and open source, they don't include customer support— though oftentimes if you pay for a theme or plugin, the creators will include support as part of the cost (support is limited to their theme or plugin of course).