The world of content management systems (CMS) isn’t known for its rivalries – but they do exist. And although they aren’t quite at the same level of ferocity as Coke vs. Pepsi or Internet Explorer vs. Netscape – there is still plenty of tit-for-tat to spark interest.
And no two platforms are bigger rivals than WordPress and Wix. These polar opposites have butted heads in recent years while targeting the DIY website market.
The competition has ranged from quietly launching features to one-up each other, to less subtle methods. So far, nothing has topped the Wix strategy of sending high-end headphones to notable WordPress community members back in 2021 – in terms of publicity, at least.
It’s easy to see why each system has targeted the other. WordPress is by far the leader in market share. There’s no doubt that Wix would like to take a slice of that away. Meanwhile, Wix is known for its ease of use when it comes to building simple websites. That’s something WordPress has long aspired to achieve.
But for all of their rivalry and mutual appreciation, we’re still talking about platforms that reside in different worlds. Here’s why it’s likely to stay that way.
WordPress Must Account for a Wider Audience
The biggest difference between WordPress and Wix? WordPress is free and open-source. Wix is proprietary and closed. They’re the not-so-invisible elephants in the room.
In practice, this opens WordPress up to a wider range of potential use cases. Developers have built everything from single-page portfolios to massive enterprise applications with it. This has to be taken into account when developing new features and any changes that impact backward compatibility.
Wix has the luxury of focusing as narrowly or broadly as they like. And because they have complete control over the platform’s hosting and software, changes can be applied with a uniformity that WordPress is unlikely to match.
The WordPress ecosystem is large, and each change has a ripple effect. Therefore, major feature additions such as the block editor and Full Site Editing (FSE) must provide fallbacks and the ability for site owners to opt-out.
Community obligations are also a factor. WordPress isn’t a democracy per se, yet still must consider the sentiment of users to some degree. As a publicly-traded company, Wix has (arguably) more responsibility to shareholders than end users.
Marketing Muscle vs. Word of Mouth
Let’s face it: messaging has long been a challenge for WordPress. Official information can be hard to find. And so much rests on members of the community to spread the word about new features or other happenings.
This is an inherent disadvantage for free open-source projects – not just WordPress. Neither leadership nor contributors have a marketing budget to create awareness and excitement. Any viral moments must come organically.
On the other side of the coin, Wix does have a corporate-sized marketing budget. They can leverage these dollars to shape the narrative surrounding their product. For example, a slick video demonstration showing how flexible the platform is.
While a marketing campaign can’t guarantee satisfied customers, it can lead people to the brand. Wix, along with fellow proprietary providers Squarespace and Shopify, has a whole lot of money to spend on attracting new users.
WordPress has room for improvement in its messaging. But even with a boost, it’s still competing against cold hard cash. That’s a tough mountain to climb.
Two Very Different Organizational Structures
Creating and carrying out a vision for a CMS requires leadership. Both Wix and WordPress have it – but within very different structures.
The WordPress project is ostensibly led by co-founder Matt Mullenweg. But he’s not the only stakeholder. Contributors range from unpaid volunteers to corporately-sponsored professionals. While it’s assumed that Mullenweg has the ultimate say, the full decision-making process isn’t crystal clear.
This speaks to each system’s size, available human resources, and focus. It also points to the unique position WordPress finds itself. As open-source software that receives contributions from a variety of sources, it’s in stark contrast to a company that sells proprietary technology.
That isn’t to say one way is better than the other. However, these different organizational philosophies do have an impact on how (and how quickly) things get done.
For those who think WordPress hasn’t evolved quickly enough, this could be a factor. Along with the aforementioned variety of use cases to account for, WordPress may simply not have direct access to enough people to push changes through in short order.
Compare the Tools While Acknowledging the Differences
On one level, WordPress and Wix are competitors. Both aim to make website creation as easy as possible while also being powerful enough for larger applications. With that, their target markets overlap.
But they are also fundamentally different products. Open-source vs. proprietary, host anywhere you want vs. software-as-a-service (SaaS), massive ecosystem vs. controlled platform. Seriously, we could go on for hours.
And while it’s fine to compare and contrast their features, it’s also worth keeping these differences in mind. Each exists under a unique structure and circumstance. Thus, we’re not comparing apples to apples.
So, if we want WordPress to become more like Wix (or vice-versa), we must also acknowledge the difficulties in doing so. Neither is likely to change to that degree – and they shouldn’t have to.
WordPress can certainly become easier for beginners and non-coders. And Wix may well gain some market share. Together, their competition can push each other towards better things. But they will always live in different worlds.