While WordPress is one of the most popular content management systems currently used to create websites, there are other options available for users with limited technical knowledge. Launched in 2004, Squarespace is one of those up-and-coming platforms, offering a drag-and-drop website builder to people looking for an easy option and complete package.
Even some of the web’s most respected heavyweights are using Squarespace to manage their online projects, including the likes of Seth Godin who has chosen the platform for one of his latest offerings, The Icarus Deception.
Like any platform, Squarespace has benefits, and limitations. Users already familiar with WordPress can sometimes take for granted how much we know about the web and building web sites, but the truth, is sometimes telling your non-tech family and friends to set up a WordPress site isn’t the answer. Particularly if you don’t want to be fielding CMS questions on an ongoing basis.
Squarespace vs WordPress
Comparing Squarespace and WordPress is a little like comparing apples and oranges, simply because the platforms are designed to do different things. Squarespace is aimed to release users with limited technical knowledge from the burden of code, while WordPress’ open source CMS is designed for ultimate control over functionality.
How Easy are They to Use, and What’s the Learning Curve Like?
Of course, if you are a beginner level user or a business owner who is not familiar with HTML, or other code related things, then you will be looking for a platform that can help you effortlessly create a website without having to hire a developer. Let’s take a look at how Squarespace in WordPress compare when it comes to ease of use.
WordPress is currently the top choice among users who want to begin a blog, or business owners who want to build their own website. It is fairly easy to use and intuitive, however there is a slight learning curve. As a beginner, you will need to familiarize yourself with WordPress terminology, and features including categories vs. tags and posts vs. pages. You will also need to understand plugins and themes.
In terms of the WordPress content editor, it is fairly easy to use. It offers custom blocks where you can add content elements to your pages, so that you can create beautiful layouts that aren’t going to take you long. This means that overall, we think that most users can quickly adapt to using WordPress.
When compared to WordPress, Squarespace does not come with a lot of choices. This means that it is incredibly easy to use and simple. Even if you have absolutely no experience building a website, you will quickly learn to do so.
Its block editor is very similar to WordPress’. We think that it is easier to add videos, images, and audio files, and Squarespace lets you customize those templates and pages through a visual editor. However, you are limited when it comes to their customizable options. This is because it is a more controlled environment.
Squarespace is a little bit easier than WordPress if you are a complete beginner. However, if you are trying to wow your audience as a business owner, it has very few features to offer.
On the other hand, WordPress offers its beginners a lot of choice which can be confusing initially that offers you more flexibility long-term. WordPress offers plugins that you can use to completely customize your website.
How Much Do They Cost?
Of course, one of the biggest factors in determining which platform to use is cost. Let’s take a look at how much WordPress will cost you vs. Squarespace.
The basic version of WordPress is free. It is free to download, use, and build using WordPress. However, in order to build a personalized website through WordPress, you will need to register a domain, and sign up for a web hosting account.
WordPress gives its users a choice between a shared hosting plan, managed WordPress hosting, or VPS hosting. Shared hosting plans are ideal for the majority of personal and business websites.
The cost of your domain name and web hosting is going to vary depending on which hosting platform you go with. With more than 6000 free templates and 54,000 free plugins, you can run your website for as little as $2.75 a month. This is perhaps one of the biggest reasons why WordPress is so popular, because the general cost of building a website is incredibly low.
As your site grows, you can adjust your hosting plan. This means that you will only pay for the features that you actually use, so that it is a lot easier to control how much you spend on your website.
Squarespace offers its users a personal plan that begins at $12.00 a month, or $16.00 a month. This is a little more than what a shared hosting plan for WordPress is going to cost you.
However, Squarespace’s personal plan comes with very limited features. You can’t sell products on your website, and you can only add two contributors. With WordPress, you can begin a new online store for less than this.
Squarespace has a plan for business websites that starts at $18.00 a month, or $26 a month. As you might be able to guess, this includes support for E-commerce and revenue, but they have a 3% transaction fee that they charge every time. With this plan you get unlimited pages, contributors, and other advanced features.
As you can see, WordPress beats Squarespace with their fixable pricing options. At the end of the day though, how much you spend on developing your website depends on how many resources you use, and with WordPress you can access to all of their customizable features right off the bat.
Templates and Design
Both Squarespace and WordPress offer their users ready-made templates as well as design features that make it easy for you to customize your website. Let’s see what the choices are and who did it better.
WordPress offers its users access to thousands of free and paid templates for building a website. Each of these templates is completely customizable, so that you can add your own colors, logo, and images.
Many WordPress themes come with drag and drop page builders, multiple layout choices, photo galleries, sliders, and other features. This means that no matter what website you are trying to develop, you will find hundreds of options to choose from.
However, having choice isn’t always a good thing. A lot of beginners find this overwhelming and wish that it were a little bit easier to choose a template.
Squarespace also offers its users ready-made website templates that they organize neatly into different categories. This means that there are themes for all kinds of different website categories, with professional designs that will look good on desktop and smartphone.
Interestingly, this is a big area where Squarespace falls behind. This is because their number of premade templates is extremely limited, which means that your design options are also limited.
Each theme comes with a limited choice of layout options, and you can still add your fonts, colors, logo and other things, but their templates are not as customizable as WordPress.
The clear winner here is WordPress, with a huge array of customization options, flexibility, and design choices. Squarespace does have some great looking templates to choose from, but they are extremely limited.
Integrations and Extensions
Every website builder out there comes with a collection of built-in features. However, as your website gets bigger, you will want to include more features so that you can connect your website to work with third-party services and tools. Let’s see how Squarespace and WordPress fare in this category.
This is where WordPress is at its most powerful, as it is known for having a huge array of plugins. You can think of a plugin as an app for your WordPress site where you can install new features or change how your website behaves.
As we mentioned above, there are currently more than 54,000 free WordPress plugins and there are thousands more that you can get from third-party sites out there as well. This means that if you can think of a feature you want on your website, there is a good chance that it is already supported through a WordPress plugin.
WordPress plugins are so well established that a lot of them have their own platforms and a large community that has been developed around them.
As you might have already been able to guess, Squarespace comes up short when compared to WordPress and all of its plugins. You can add third party integrations and customizations with Squarespace, but unlike WordPress, it doesn’t come with powerful APIs that you can build on as a developer.
They do have some official third-party integrations, but even these are limited and not all popular services out there are supported. This means that Squarespace lacks the functionality to help you customize your website.
It’s obvious at this point that WordPress is the winner here, with an incredible list of plugins for you to choose from.
Are you developing a website in the hopes of being able to turn it into an online store at some point? Then let’s take a look at the e-Commerce abilities of Squarespace and WordPress.
WordPress helps its users integrate and use any payment processor or platform that you want. This means that you can use anything from PayPal, Bitcoin, Google Checkout, Skrill, and even Stripe.
On top of this, WordPress has a lot of e-Commerce plugins that can transform your website into an online store very easily. In fact, one of the most popular e-Commerce platforms out there, WooCommerce, is a WordPress plugin.
WordPress doesn’t limit how many products you can add to your website, how you display them, or how you want to sell them. You can run your very own affiliate program and increase your revenue without any restrictions.
When it comes to e-Commerce on Squarespace, it is relatively limited. You can only use PayPal and Stripe to process payments, and these are only available in limited countries.
They don’t offer any other payment system, which of course restricts your ability to accept payment from people around the world. Of course, if your business is growing and you’re trying to get off the ground, limiting it like this is not the best of ideas.
Additionally, you are only able to sell products if you sign up for a Commerce or business plan.
As you can see, WordPress is miles ahead of Squarespace when it comes to developing and running a successful e-Commerce website. If you’re trying to sell your products online through your website, then the limitations of Squarespace aren’t going to help you.
When signing a contractual business agreement, you always have to include safety clauses. This means that if you are not happy with the results, you can leave without any issue. This idea extends to online business as well, and it is called data portability. This means that if you are not happy with the platform you’re using, then you should be able to take your work and move it to another one.
Let’s talk about data portability in relation to WordPress and Squarespace.
WordPress offers its users built-in tools so you can easily export all of your data. This means that you can not only export images and content, but plugins, themes, and an entire database of information.
You can then easily move this content to another platform out there.
Just like the rest of their features, the export feature on Squarespace is pretty limited. They only let you export certain parts of your content, which means that you can’t export things like text, audio, or album pages.
Remember, if you create any content on your website, then it is yours. This means that you should be allowed to move it from that platform to another in the future if you wish. WordPress of course beats out Squarespace when it comes to easily letting its users do so.
Internationalization and Languages
The world is pretty globalized at this point, which means that a lot of businesses cater to audiences in different countries. Let’s take a look at how WordPress and Squarespace handle things like geographical locations and languages.
WordPress has been translated and can be read in dozens of languages. When you first visit the WordPress website, you can choose your own language in the profile settings. Additionally, most WordPress themes can easily be translated, as well as most popular WordPress plugins.
This means that you can build a WordPress website in any language that you like.
Squarespace offers its platform in six different languages, Portuguese, Italian, Spanish, German, French, and English. They also let their users change the site language and choose a different time zone. However, when it comes to e-Commerce, you can only use currencies supported by PayPal and Stripe.
You can duplicate your pages to create multilingual web pages, but you will need to manually create a site structure.
WordPress is pretty far advanced when it comes to localization and language options. Again, Squarespace offers a very limited choice of language, which is going to make it pretty difficult to develop a website in any other language other than English.
Pros and Cons of WordPress and SquareSpace
What do the experts say?
It all depends what you want to do, I think. Squarespace is basically hosting and CMS all rolled up into one. There’s nothing to install or anything and the CMS is pretty flexible and intuitive, with modules for forums and galleries etc etc. They even enable ecommerce now.
Still, there is loads it doesn’t do, and probably never will because it needs to remain simple and accessible to the audience on non-tech types they serve. Self hosted WordPress is definitely still a better option for anyone who wants more advance capabilities, flexibility or to take advantage of the huge market for third party plugins which enable pretty much anything you can imagine.
Charles Coxhead of WPDevShed
Those two sites mentioned were migrated away to WordPress installs on their own hosting, primarily because they needed more event focused activity / crm. So yeah… Squarespace has its place, but it depends what you’re after.
Stephen Price of WebMAD