In this post, we have worked with Squarespace expert Jake Jorgovan, to provide a comparison between Squarespace and WordPress.
Here is a high level summary. All of the details can be found below.
Squarespace vs WordPress comparison chart – CLICK TO TWEET THIS
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Squarespace vs WordPress – 9 criteria
While I specialize in building websites on Squarespace, I recognize that every project has it’s own special needs and in many cases, Squarespace isn’t the right choice.
Whenever I start a new project with any client, this is always the first question that comes to mind.
What platform should I build my website on?
After answering this question time and time again, I thought it would be best to share my thoughts on each platform.
I have compared the two platforms on the following areas:
- Ease of use
- Ability to customize
Ease of Use
This is the number one reason for someone to use Squarespace. While there are many cons about the Squarespace platform that will be discussed throughout this guide, this ease of use factor is the main reason for choosing Squarespace.
The Squarespace interface is incredibly easy to use. The platform is great for both experienced web professionals and those who are new to the world of running a website.
Even for people who would not consider themselves computer savvy, Squarespace will come naturally.
The actual setup and design of the site takes a bit of time, but maintaining a site, changing content or adding new blog posts is easier than using Microsoft Word.
The visual layout editor in Squarespace makes changes to the site incredibly simple. You can arrange and setup your posts without needing to know a single line of HTML or CSS.
To add any sort of text, images, embeds, or social media it is a simple as hitting a button and selecting your option.
With Squarespace, you can build a robust and incredible website without ever writing a single line of code.
WordPress has a bit more of a learning curve than Squarespace. Chances are you will need someone to help you set up your site, and from time to time you will need people to help you fix it as well.
The visual editor in WordPress is still easy to use, but at times it can be clunky or more difficult for beginners to use. In addition, it often requires custom CSS code to achieve your desired results.
On top of that, changing out options on the look or feel of your site can be much more difficult as every WordPress theme functions differently. While this can be frustrating for someone who is not a web designer, it does mean that you have much more freedom to customize the design exactly to your specific needs.
While WordPress is not unmanageable to an average user, it does take a bit more time to learn the ins and outs of the interface.
Squarespace’s platform is limited to a handful of templates. 25 templates as of the publishing of this guide.
While there are limited templates to choose from, those that are available are extremely sharp and professional looking, and include lots of room for customization.
Just take a look at some of the portfolio sites listed on Squarespace’s site and you will see that it is possible to create an incredibly clean and modern design with the platform.
The limitations with design on Squarespace are in the nature of how the platform is built. Squarespace is a framework for building websites and it offers limited customization. Even with custom CSS code, there is only so much you can change. This means that during your design process you will hit a point where you cannot customize any further or achieve the result you are looking for.
This is a fundamental difference between WordPress and Squarespace. With WordPress, there is no limit to the customization that can be achieved, while with Squarespace you will hit brick walls in the design process.
WordPress on the other hand has a virtually unlimited number of designs to choose from.
With WordPress, you don’t have to worry about a specific design or option not being offered in your design. Everything can be modified or changed with a bit of custom code.
The open source element of WordPress allows you to build the exact website you want. While it may take hiring a web designer to achieve your desired result, anything is possible.
This becomes a major consideration for businesses that are serious about their website and plan to scale it over time. With Squarespace, businesses can quickly become frustrated by the limitations or lack of advanced functionality in their sites. With WordPress, the platform can scale along with the growth of the business.
Ability to customize
This is the single largest drawback of the Squarespace platform. With Squarespace you are limited to the themes, plugins and functionalities provided. At times you are going to hit major brick walls in the customization of your Squarespace site, which can be a huge problem for some.
If you desire advanced functionality that Squarespace doesn’t offer, then you simply can’t have that functionality. If you desire to break out of Squarespace’s existing designs, then you are out of luck.
Squarespace is not open source, which means they control the platform, not you. You can’t simply open up the code and change things like you can with WordPress.
Squarespace does have a ‘Developer’ option available where individuals can customize and completely open up the Squarespace code. While this is available it is not recommended as the support community for Developer mode is extremely limited and the framework is rapidly changing. This is creating huge problems for developers trying to keep their sites up to date.
With WordPress, you have an endless ability to customize and scale your site. It doesn’t matter if your site is a simple blog, informational site or a massive online publication. WordPress is the right fit for you regardless of the size and scale of your site.
You have the ability to completely open up the WordPress code and change whatever you would like in order to make it work for your needs. In addition there is a massive support community of thousands of developers around the world who specialize specifically in WordPress and can help you build the exact site you desire.
With WordPress, there are no walls you will hit in customization. If you can dream it (and pay for it), you can build it.
eCommerce is one of the biggest gaps in the Squarespace platform. Over the past year they have been rolling out many new features with eCommerce, although it still has some major problems with it.
First off, you will only be able to use Stripe as your payment processor. You have no ability to connect to Paypal or any other payment processor. This can be a huge drawback for some.
Second, you are extremely limited in the options surrounding the checkout process. Squarespace has a process built in for how your customers will check out. If you want to customize it, you’re out of luck.
Time and time again, the clients who come to me with eCommerce sites looking for help, find themselves frustrated by the limited options in the Squarespace eCommerce platform.
Squarespace’s eCommerce platform can be a great solution for a blogger or website that has a few products for sale as a secondary goal of the website.
For sites with a core focus of eCommerce, I would highly recommend looking into WordPress, Shopify or another eCommerce solution.
Ecwid: This is a third party eCommerce plugin that has gone above and beyond to integrate well with Squarespace. Their simple embed code works phenomenally and integrates perfectly into Squarespace’s responsive themes. For those who may be frustrated with the limitations of Squarespace’s eCommerce platform, this can be an alternative solution. While I still wouldn’t recommend building a large eCommerce store on this platform, it can be a great alternative to Squarespace’s eCommerce.
With WordPress, you have unlimited options surrounding your eCommece solutions. Plugins like WooCommerce, GetShopped & Cart66 offer you a variety of options to choose from for your eCommerce experience.
You aren’t limited to a single payment processor and you have the ability to customize the checkout experience to your liking.
With WordPress, you can build your shopping experience into exactly what you desire.
With that flexibility comes a higher support overhead. As your site grows there’s a good chance you’ll run into issues that you’ll need a developer to solve. Even things as simple as having so many orders it begins slowing your database down or requiring better hosting. This is the price you pay for having a fully customizable platform.
For small ecommerce implementations it’s often better to start out with something hosted like Shopify.com.
Pricing on Squarespace is tiered based on three levels.
For a basic website of 20 pages / blog posts or less – $10 per month.
For a professional website with unlimited pages – $20 per month.
For an eCommerce website – $24 per month.
WordPress is completely free. You pay absolutely nothing for the backend since the whole platform is open source.
You will just need to purchase a hosting account from a provider such as BlueHost or Godaddy which costs just under $5 per month. As your business grows you might want to invest in managed WordPress hosting like WP Engine.
And if you want a site that is well supported, you will have to pay for WordPress support as well.
It’s hard to make a comparison on costs. You could technically get WordPress up and running for less, but you would need some level of technical expertise to run a WordPress site yourself for less than you would have to pay for a Squarespace plan.
This is another major drawback of Squarespace. Squarespace is not an open source platform. That means you are limited to only using the plugins and tools that Squarespace provides you with.
This forces you to use tools like Mailchimp, Stripe and ShipStation. While this can be annoying, if you choose to use the tools they recommend, your experience is incredibly simple. You also have the peace of mind of knowing that any plugin that Squarespace offers will work flawlessly and won’t create problems with your site like some WordPress plugins.
With that being said, these plugin limitations can be a huge problem for some. There are many features that are common on a WordPress site that simply aren’t possible in Squarespace.
If you are wanting to incorporate advanced functionalities or specific plugins into your website, then I highly recommend that you choose WordPress over Squarespace.
One of the biggest feature requests that steers people away from Squarespace is the inability to create membership sites, customer log-ins or internal databases. These options are simply not available on the Squarespace platform.
Just like with WordPress themes, there is an unlimited supply of WordPress plugins as well. At the time of writing, the official WordPress plugin directory houses 31,000 plugins. And there is more than that that are simply not listed in the directory.
If you can dream up a function for your website, chances are there is a plugin available to accomplish it. You aren’t limited to a handful of plugins, instead you have access to tens of thousands of plugins from developers all over the world. If you can’t find the one you are looking for then you can build your own, have it developed or customize an existing one.
The problem with WordPress plugins is that at times a plugin can conflict with a specific theme or another plugin installed on your site. This can require the support of a developer to fix up.
For many businesses, websites are not a static page. Instead they are a constantly changing asset that grows over time along with the business. This means that the scalability of the platform becomes a large consideration as well.
As said before, with Squarespace, you will hit walls with your platform. There will simply be features, or functions that you desire that are not achievable through their platform.
While those missing features may be OK at the start of your websites life, they can be problematic over time.
Fortunately Squarespace does include the functionality to export your website to a variety of formats including for WordPress. While the exporting feature still doesn’t make the changing process easy, it is a handy feature to have if you ever do need to migrate from Squarespace in the future as your website grows.
And for certain businesses, the ability to scale into a large site may not be an important feature.
Utilizing the WordPress platform gives you the ability to scale your website over time. You have the ability to install new themes, plugins and functionality as your website grows. With WordPress, there are far fewer issues that you will hit with the scalability of your website.
As your site grows, it may require additional support to handle the growing traffic, amount of content or feature requests, but with the aid of a talented WordPress developer, you site should be scalable to fit your needs for years to come. The scalability of WordPress is large enough that even the New York Time’s uses WordPress for their website.
SEO (Seach Engine Optimization)
Squarespace’s websites are optimized for SEO as part of the theme and the platform. Page titles and meta descriptions can be customized to help your SEO results.
For the standard blogger or business who isn’t making SEO a key component of their marketing strategy, these tools will be sufficient.
For those who are serious about SEO and have ranking at the top of Google as a priority, they may become frustrated by the limitations that come with Squarespace’s SEO functionality. There simply isn’t much you can do outside of the basic framework that Squarespace has laid to increase your SEO results.
With WordPress, you have a large number of plugins specifically dedicated to SEO. Plugins like Yoast and Scribe Content not only help you optimize your post, but they remind of you what keywords you are targeting and ensure that your posts are optimized for these specific keywords.
This advanced SEO functionality helps ensure your pages are properly set up to rank for your target keywords.
If you are serious about SEO and this is a priority to your business, then WordPress is the way to go.
Squarespace is not just a web platform, it is a company that manages the platform on an ongoing basis. Therefore they are constantly on top of making sure their servers are working and their themes are up to date with the latest web standards.
After building sites on their platform for many years, I have never had an outage, crash or responsive problem with their platform. This peace of mind goes a long way.
It’s also worth considering that you are tied to the one provider. If something was to happen with Squarespace there wouldn’t be a lot you, or your developer could do about it. You lose a bit of flexibility with that convenience. However Squarespace has raised over $78M in funding for their venture and they have been around since 2004. With those kind of numbers and surviving ten years already, Squarespace is looking as if they will be here to stay.
With WordPress, you are using a platform that has 70% of the CMS market. The same platform used by most of your small business colleagues, most large blogs (like Techcrunch) and a bunch of large organisations (like the New York Times). WordPress isn’t going anywhere soon.
With that kind of market share comes a huge industry of supporting services and a community that continues to drive the platform forward. On top of that, it’s backed by a company that is worth over $1b and has had $300m in funding.
You have the stability of the platform but you also have the flexibility of being able to modify your site yourself. This means you can respond to any situation and you won’t be relying on the one provider. For example if WordPress doesn’t release a fix for a new browser as quickly as you’d like, you can simply get your developer to make the change. Or if you aren’t happy with the uptime, you can switch hosts.
This is a problem that seems to come and go with Squarespace, yet it is a problem that as a user you have absolutely no control over.
At times, Squarespace’s platform functions at a very fast speed and works phenomenally. At other times the platform will seem to slow down and site load times skyrocket.
The only control you have over for the speed of your site is limiting the amount of content per page and compressing images as possible. Even when you take these precautions, your site speed is still out of your control.
With WordPress, you have much more control over the speed of your website. WordPress to start with is a great, lightweight CMS that runs quickly. However the main benefit is all of the other options you have for making it lightning fast including:
- An entire industry who have built and test the world’s fastest themes.
- Hosting services like WP Engine which have inbuilt caching and features that make WordPress even faster.
- Full control over the site so you can make a bunch of changes yourself that will speed it up. In this post on WordPress speed, Dan talks about how he got wpcurve.com to load in under half a second.
- A bunch of plugins and support services that all work with WordPress to make it quicker.
- A giant community of developers (like WP Curve), who know how to use the platform and can optimize your site or simply keep things running smoothly.
Again this comes down to convenience vs control. If you really want full control over aspects like speed, then WordPress is the best option. If you would prefer to not worry about it, then Squarespace wins.
Squarespace has an award winning tech support team. If you have a question or problem, you can simply submit a ticket through their help desk and you are guaranteed a response within 24 hours.
While they are helpful with problems or bugs in your account, they aren’t going to help you make small tweaks or fixes to your website. They may point you to the proper resources, but they aren’t going to make those changes for you.
One major problem with Squarespace’s technical support is that if the problem you are having is an issue with Squarespace itself, then it is up to them to fix this bug with the platform on their schedule.
There are glitches in some of the Squarespace themes, and unfortunately if you run into one there is nothing you can do about it other than to change your website design or wait for Squarespace to fix the problem.
WordPress is open source, so there is no official WordPress tech support available for all of your fixes and problems.
As a result you may need to contact WordPress for an issue related specifically to WordPress, or your hosting provider for an issue related to your hosting, or your theme provider for an issue related to your theme.
Alternatively you can use a support service like WP Curve, which increases the monthly cost of upkeep on your site but gives you peace of mind.
WordPress also has a massive general support community. The platform has been around for years so nearly any web design agency will be familiar with it and most developers will know how to use it.
Which platform to choose?
At the end of the day, you are left with a decision to make. To help summarize this article, below is a list of the Pros and Cons of each platform. We’ve done this as an image in case you want to save it or share it on Facebook or Twitter.
Squarespace vs WordPress comparison chart – CLICK TO TWEET THIS
Squarespace vs WordPress comparison chart – SHARE ON FACEBOOK
If you are after WordPress support, please chat with Dan and Alex at WP Curve.
If you want help with Squarespace, hit me up at http://jake-jorgovan.com/squarespace.
If you have questions or thoughts, please provide a comment below.