Squarespace vs WordPress – Which Platform is Better for Your Business?
Website building is no longer a tedious task. Tools like WordPress and Squarespace makes it very easy to build a website. 25 percent of the world’s entire website is built on WordPress which is an impressive number in itself. This 25% include around 1.2 billion websites in total. Squarespace has its fan following.
Although it does not have as many features as WordPress yet because of its simple interface and better marketing options, it is popular among many users. Though, not billion but still several million developers use Squarespace. Many surveys have been conducted to find which between two tools is the best regarding overall performance. Many of these surveys confuse the first time user instead of clarifying.
In this Squarespace vs. WordPress comparison, we look at two of the world’s leading web building platforms in depth. We provide an overview of what both tools do, explore their key features and outline the reasons why you might choose one over the other for a website design project.
By the end of the article, you should have a much clearer idea of which platform is best suited to your business. We hope that after reading our comparison, you can pick which one is better for you.
Squarespace is a ‘software as a service’ (‘SaaS’) website builder – you pay a monthly fee to use it, but everything you need to build and maintain your site is provided as part of that: templates, a content management system, hosting, e-commerce, support and (depending on your requirements) a domain.
There are two versions of Squarespace: first, there’s the ‘standard’ version, which is designed to be used by people without web development skills. The vast majority of Squarespace customers use this version.
There is also a developer’s version which allows access to and manipulation of the source code. This permits the addition of greater functionality to Squarespace sites and the creation of bespoke templates. As the name suggests, it’s suitable for experienced developers, however.
There are also two different versions of WordPress available:
Let’s take a look at each.
♦ Hosted WordPress
Hosted WordPress – available at wordpress.com – is, like Squarespace, software as a service (SaaS) tool. As with Squarespace, you pay a monthly fee, and you get access to a broad range of features which enable you to build and maintain a website.
It’s slightly less of an ‘all in one’ solution than Squarespace however, as users need to use third-party tools like Ecwid or Shopify to add e-commerce features, and using the most attractive themes involves an additional fee.
On the flip side, this arguably makes it a more flexible tool than Squarespace, because you can integrate it with more apps, or buy more templates for it.
♦ Self-Hosted WordPress
Self-hosted WordPress is a piece of software (downloadable from wordpress.org) that you install on your web server. It’s open-source, meaning that the code behind it is freely available and may be modified easily.
In practice this means that sites built with WordPress can be customized to the nth degree – it’s an incredibly flexible tool that, in the hands of the right developer, or through the installation of a suitable plugin, can be adapted to meet the requirements of nearly any website design project.
You can install WordPress on your server for free, but there are hosting costs, domain registration charges and occasionally plugin or development costs to consider. We’ll discuss all this in more depth later on in the review.
So which versions of Squarespace and WordPress is this review comparing?
Squarespace is a bit vague on user numbers, but their website states that there are ‘millions’ of paying Squarespace customers; and depending on who you believe on the internet, there are between 60m and 75m sites built using self-hosted WordPress.
Even if you’re not super savvy with technology, Squarespace is an excellent option for business owners wanting to maintain their sites. You don’t even have to write a single line of code (although you do have optional functionality for doing so if you want).
This is probably my favorite feature of Squarespace- the ability for my clients to take over after I’m finished designing their sites and have full control. I’m all about empowering business owners, and this platform allows for the control to be put entirely in their hands. You never have to go through a developer when you want to change anything on your site. Easy peasy.
The interface is something that can be a little trickier for some, so if you go with this option, you’ll want to spend some time getting to know your way around. WordPress utilizes a lot of plugins that can make things easier, but you’ll also want to have a basic understanding of code if you want to make changes on your own.
Usually, a developer will code your WordPress site, which means there is a lot of back-end stuff to know. HTML and CSS are their languages!
When you sign up for Squarespace, they’ll proudly tell you ‘Your Squarespace site is already optimized for search engines’ which sounds great, but what does that mean?
Let’s start out with the positives…
Squarespace claims that their websites use clean HTML markup so that pages can be indexed quickly by Google and other search engines. Other features include auto-generated sitemaps and the ability to customize page titles and descriptions. Squarespace themes are optimized for mobile devices which is another important ranking factor when it comes to search.
It’s true that Squarespace has made significant improvements to its SEO features in the last few years. So much so that Moz founder Rand Fishkin has made some statements praising the platform for its SEO features and functionality.
So what are the drawbacks? I hear you ask…
In Squarespace, it’s much harder to add rich snippets to your site. Rich snippets help to provide search engines with additional pieces of information including ratings, prices and online reviews to search results. There is a workaround, but it’s a bit tricky.
Some other SEO features that we’d like to see Squarespace adopt include having the ability to organize related content into content silos, the use of breadcrumbs and being able to make changes to link anchor text.
WordPress is recommended by digital marketers as the gold standard when it comes to optimizing your website for SEO.
With WordPress, many SEO features have already been built into the platform, however, you will still want to install a few plugins like the Yoast SEO plugin that will analyze your on-page SEO and suggest areas where you can improve.
Yoast also enables you to create custom titles and meta descriptions, generate sitemaps and control how the site is crawled and indexed by search engines.
Another advantage of using WordPress is that it gives you greater control when it comes to Page Speed and website loading times.
With Squarespace users are reliant on shared hosting whereas with WordPress if you find that your website isn’t loading as fast as you’d like, you always have the option of upgrading to a faster hosting provider.
With WordPress, you can also make changes to your website’s coding so that it complies with Google’s PageSpeed Recommendations.
So while it isn’t impossible to rank your website with Squarespace, if you want the best possible results from your SEO efforts we always recommend our SEO clients use WordPress.
It’s reasonably easy to understand the costs involved with Squarespace: there are four monthly plans available:
- Websites Personal – $16 per month
- Websites Business – $26 per month
- Commerce Basic – $30 per month
- Commerce Advanced – $46 per month
These plans work out a bit cheaper if you pay on an annual basis ($12, $18, $26 and $40 per month respectively).
The main differences between the Squarespace plans involve the number of pages you can create; transaction fees; integration with Xero; and e-commerce features.
The ‘Personal’ plan is quite restrictive and is not suited to business applications at all – this is because it doesn’t facilitate e-commerce and restricts the number of integrations with third-party apps you can use.
It doesn’t even allow you to add custom code to your site, meaning you can’t even add a mailing list form to it. So, I generally advise my clients to avoid it.
As you might expect, the more expensive Squarespace plans come with more features, particularly where e-commerce is concerned. I’ll highlight key ones below, but for a more in-depth overview of the differences between each Squarespace pricing plan, please see our full Squarespace review.
If you pay annually for your Squarespace plan, you’ll get a free custom domain too – but you should note that not all domain extensions are catered for.
“Hey, WordPress is free,” I think you cry. Well no, not exactly, because to get it working correctly you need to pay for other stuff.
Five things will generally affect your costs:
- hosting (server space on which to install WordPress and store your site)
- themes (the design for your site)
- e-commerce integration (addition of tools that will let you sell products online)
- plugins (apps that can be added to your site to add more functionality)
- whether or not a developer is involved in your site build.
The one thing you’ll always have to pay for hosting: without it, you have nowhere to install WordPress. There are a wide range of options available on this front. But the key choice you’ll have to make is whether you’d like to use a ‘shared hosting’ company or a provider such as WP Engine.
WP Engine specializes exclusively in WordPress hosting (faster, more secure – but more expensive). For a small to the medium-sized project, you’re typically looking at costs of between $4 (shared hosting) and $30 (managed WP hosting) a month.
About the other factors, you can technically get away with using a free template, e-commerce integration, and plugins – but realistically, to get higher quality results, it’s usually worth investing in your site.
Below you’ll find some figures which demonstrate some costs you might expect if you were building your site yourself:
- Annual hosting, using managed WordPress hosting from WP Engine as an example: $348 (recurring cost)
- Premium theme: $175
- The annual cost of e-commerce integration (using Ecwid as an example): $180 (recurring cost)
- Four paid-for plugins: $100
If you were to use a developer to help you configure, build and maintain your site, you’d have significantly higher costs (but in all likelihood would be getting a better product).
Regarding how these sorts of costs compared to using Squarespace, depending on what sort of plan you’re on, you’re looking at an annual cost of between $144 and $480. This means that using Squarespace can work out cheaper than using WordPress, despite it being a paid-for option and WordPress being an open source one.
Squarespace sites don’t require any plugin maintenance, theme updates, or platform upgrades, etc. They take care of everything on the back end, and with all of their features built-in, there aren’t any plugins to worry about. This is also super helpful in maintaining your site’s security since those kinds of things are what some hackers use to break into websites. Yikes!
As mentioned above, Squarespace is a “closed” system, so they manage all the performance and security updates for you. You don’t have to click any update buttons or worry about any potential conflicts. All updates are tested by the Squarespace team and deployed to your website automatically.
Having all this managed for you frees up your time to focus on other things that are more important to you.
WordPress sites need to be maintained and updated at least once a week. Outdated or inactive plugins are a way for hackers to get their hands on your precious content. So keeping those updated is one of the best things you can do for your security. These updates need to be done regularly as well, and anytime WordPress updates their system, you’ll want to make sure you hop on to update your version too!
If you know you want a WordPress site, but this part makes you nervous, there’s always the option of a monthly maintenance package offered through your developer. I work with a great developer who offers this service for just $50 a month.
WordPress is continually updating its platform to fix bugs and improve security. When there are updates, your WordPress dashboard will alert you, and you have to click the update button to update your WordPress version.
That is the easy part. The challenging part is that when WordPress updates, your theme and plugins will also need to be updated. While a lot of theme and plugin creators will also update to ensure they adopt WordPress’ latest updates, a lot won’t (especially for free themes & plugins).
So this potentially exposes your website to user, performance or security issues. So the ongoing maintenance work, especially if you don’t have a person/team dedicated to managing your website, can be an additional burden to you.
DESIGN & FEATURES
While Squarespace is known for offering clean and simple templates, this doesn’t mean your website has to look like a cookie cutter version of everyone else’s! I’ve noticed this is a common misconception, where people seem to think their site won’t look unique enough if it’s designed o the SS platform.
Don’t doubt the power of strong photography, custom illustrations, graphics, and copy. My site is created on Squarespace, and I utilize graphics and photographs to make this template my own. Templates are just a starting point!
While you can make a Squarespace site personalized and unique, one of the most significant drawbacks is that this platform isn’t as customizable if you’re one who likes to be able to change every. Single. Thing. Squarespace can’t match the unlimited amount of possibilities that come with WordPress design. But we have to remember that SS is simple for a reason, and with that simplicity comes a sacrifice in flexibility.
Some websites need to be completely customized from the ground up, with the additional functionality and flexibility that comes with having a WordPress site. When you work with a WordPress designer and developer, you get exactly what you want, without any of the design compromises.
The functionality of the site can be tailored to a T, so you’re able to optimize your website for any purpose, and you’ll never find yourself limited with placement, sizing, features, etc. This is the #1 selling point of WordPress for my clients- the ability to have any design and functionality you want.
eCommerce is limited to Squarespace. You can only use Stripe for payment processing which is only available in select few countries. There is no other payment system available which restricts your ability to accept payments from a larger global audience. For a growing business, starting with such limitations is not a great idea.
Apart from that, there is a limit on how many products you can sell on Personal and Professional plans. Let’s say you want to sell only 22 products, you will still have to pay for the Business plan.
And the yearly costs of hosting a site with just 22 products to sell will be way higher than a shared hosting plan or VPS for WordPress.
As for third-party services, there are very few external services that you can integrate with your Squarespace website. Even these integrations are controlled and very limited than the original features of the services you are adding.
WordPress allows you to integrate and use any payment processor or platform you want. Many WordPress plugins allow you to easily integrate PayPal, Google Checkout, Stripe, 2Checkout, Payoneer, Skrill, and even Bitcoin.
WordPress has plenty of eCommerce plugins that can turn your website into an online store within minutes. There are countless WordPress themes designed specifically for eCommerce websites. Apart from that, you will find some excellent tools to manage affiliate tracking and add affiliate links to your site.
There is no limit on how many products you add to your website. You can add as many products as you want.
One of my favorite parts about Squarespace is their fantastic customer service. I’ve only had great experiences with them, being accommodating and extra helpful. They have a database and forum that is continually growing, which is excellent and pretty useful. They usually respond to any problems or inquiries within an hour and have an online chat as well as email contact available.
Good luck finding help directly from the WordPress platform. Since WordPress.org is a free, open source content management system, they aren’t too concerned with helping out with your site. There are no direct contact numbers or emails to reach someone there, but they do have a ton of online resources that different WordPress experts have created.
Since WordPress is so extremely popular, there are thousands of people who have dedicated their time to creating extensive databases full of knowledge and help. Plus, if you join a Facebook group for your theme (Like Genesis WP), you’ll be pleasantly shocked at how quick to help the group members are!
Fear not if you want a WordPress site, you can usually sign up for a maintenance plan through your developer that allows any questions to be answered and any problems to be solved.
Most developers and webmasters would be comfortable in saying that WordPress is a vastly more powerful and flexible tool than Squarespace, and I’d agree with them. However, that’s not to say that WordPress is the right choice for all users.
I would explain that in many ways Squarespace meets the needs of individuals and small businesses better than WordPress, because
(1) it’s easier to set up a Squarespace site than a WordPress one and
(2) once your site is set up you don’t have to worry about maintenance or security issues – other than remembering to update your site with interesting content periodically. Using Squarespace is a sort of ‘set and forget’ scenario.
Squarespace is a great solution for the likes of photographers, bands, and small business owners, who just want a simple website quickly and with a minimum of fuss (and down the line, if your needs to become more sophisticated, you could consider hiring a Squarespace developer to enhance your site through custom coding).
However, if you have advanced e-commerce or blogging requirements, or envisage a scenario where you are operating a business in multiple locations. I’d be preferred to go with WordPress – for the simple reason that you can pretty much build anything with it and make use of a vast number of plugins and themes.
WordPress is also a much more scalable solution, thanks to the multilingual and multisite options that are available. A Squarespace site is excellent for a business that knows it’s only ever going to operate in one location and one language. But if you plan to grow that business and open premises in a variety of locations, then WordPress is an option that is much better suited for the long-term.
If you are going down the WordPress route, I would suggest that rather than try to use it on the cheap – by doing everything yourself. It makes more sense to work with an experienced developer or agency and to keep them involved in maintaining your site on an ongoing basis.
Not only will you get a more polished, bespoke website, you’ll also get more peace of mind. As you won’t have to worry about security or maintenance. You will need to budget appropriately for this. But if you work with the right individual or team, you’ll get a good product.
We hope this article helped you learn more about Squarespace vs. WordPress; their comparison helped you choose which one is better for your business.