Last week we put WordPress up against the drag-and-drop, no-coding-required website builder, Wix. Now it’s time to look at how WordPress stacks up against another WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) builder, Squarespace. Remember, all website builders have their advantages and disadvantages, depending on what kind of business you have and the goals you have in mind for the website. So it’s important to look at all factors when making a decision.
Ease of Use
As much as we love WordPress, we can’t deny that it takes some time to learn the controls before you’re ready to jump behind the wheel. You’ve got to get used to the Dashboard layout and figure out how to create a theme, post content, add media, handle forms, install plugins, etc. Also you need to adapt to the fact that your post looks differently in the editor than it will look when published on the site. Of course at SGD we’re always on hand to assist our clients in using their new WordPress site and even take over content management and maintenance tasks for them.
We realise that not everyone has the desire to learn WordPress or the funds to pay an agency like us to manage the site for them. If that’s the case, we suggest turning to Squarespace, which is more intuitive and lets you preview the site while editing, instead of having to click on a button to see a preview. All you have to do is click on a tab in the Style Editor to insert a map, form, image, or video into the page. Squarespace thus eliminates the developer’s role in the website building process, so that the site owner can customise the site without any coding or web development knowledge.
Where Squarespace outstrips WordPress in terms of ease of use, it falls flat when it comes to flexibility. Since Squarespace is a proprietary platform, their in-house developers limit the templates that you can use (about 30 right now). While these templates do look amazing right out of the box (if a bit cookie-cutter), their offering pales in comparison to the nearly 3,000 themes in the WordPress inventory. You also have 35,000+ WordPress plugins available for additional functionality.
If you want to sell products online, Squarespace doesn’t hold a candle to WordPress. Although Squarespace’s eCommerce functionality is built-in (compared to WordPress where you have to purchase and set up a plugin like WooCommerce), you have to pay to sell more than one product, and you can only accept payments via Stripe. We have nothing against Stripe; in fact we think it’s preferable as a first payment option, but we think you’ll agree that it’s best to offer customers more than one payment method. WordPress (equipped with WooCommerce) offers a much more complete shopping experience.
In short, you can do almost anything you want in WordPress because of its open-source nature, which has garnered the creativity and expertise of thousands of developers around the world. This gives you incredible flexibility if your business has unique requirements. In addition, WordPress gives you the ability to create a custom theme from scratch (at SGD we always build sites from the ground up, based on your new or current brand).
On the other hand, the sheer multitude of WordPress themes and plugins can be overwhelming. While many developers do care about the quality of their work and do their best to fix bugs, make updates and answer user questions, there are even more who put out faulty products. Anyone can be a “developer” nowadays and it’s difficult for many business owners to separate the good from the bad. That’s why it pays to do your research on every product you download. Look at customer reviews, the number of downloads and updates, as well as the quality of customer service. That’s what we do at SGD with every site we build, to ensure that all the parts work together in harmony and don’t cause issues for the client during an important sale or campaign.
Whenever we have questions or problems, we greatly appreciate the large community of WordPress users and developers who have traveled the same road and can give us advice. At the same time, some site owners don’t have time to go searching for the answer on WordPress forums. Also, contacting the developer of an individual plugin or theme can be hit-or-miss. Not all are available or even helpful. Then there are others who are always on call and provide quick, patient responses to the technical and non-technical alike.
Squarespace has a smaller group of in-house developers whose job it is to not only create solid products, but answer customer questions (in 1 hour by email). So here you’re sacrificing flexibility (not a lot of options) for more reliable user support. We recommend this trade-off if you have a simple site that doesn’t require a wide range of functionality, but you value being able to quickly get in touch with a support team. Of course we act as a WordPress support team for our clients, so they have flexibility and reliable support.
You also need to consider what kind of content you want to post. We already mentioned that WordPress suits online businesses better than Squarespace, but what about text and images? Judging by the templates Squarespace offers, the platform works well for image galleries and portfolios, so photographers and designers would benefit here. If you want to blog, you can do so quite easily with Squarespace’s visual editor. However, you will find it difficult to manage a large number of posts because there is no search function, filter function, or any other post management option. By contrast, WordPress originated as a blogging platform and gives you numerous options to edit and organise hundreds of blog posts.
As for SEO, neither WordPress nor Squarespace will guarantee you a high ranking. You need to post original, high-quality content for that. But currently Google favors WordPress sites, so you’re more likely to be recognised by the Google Index if you have a WordPress site. In addition, WordPress offers more SEO functionality than Squarespace; you can browse through numerous WP plugins devoted to SEO.
There’s no way around it: you’re going to have to maintain your WordPress site for it to be secure and successful. Unlike Squarespace, you can’t just leave it and forget it. Then again, if you’re already spending time with your WordPress site to update your content, it’s only a few extra seconds to click “Update Now” on your plugins and theme. If you don’t want to deal with the constant updates from WordPress, you can sign up for one of our monthly maintenance plans and we can take care of them for you. If you’re a small or self-run business and would rather not pay extra for maintenance, you can use Squarespace, where all updates are automatic and don’t require any action on your part.
Ah, now we’re getting to one of the most important factors in your decision: how much does it cost?
Well, first off there’s the domain name and hosting. That’s essential no matter which platform you have. WordPress does not require that you host your website on their platform. You can use any hosting provider you like (generally costs about $7 per month, or $84 per year). However, you will need to purchase a custom domain name when you are using WordPress, which will cost about $10 to $12 per year. Squarespace lets you have a domain name for free.
Squarespace offers 3 premium plans. Here is a basic breakdown of the pricing:
Personal – $8 per month for an annual plan (or $10 if you are paying month-to-month)
Professional – $16 per month for an annual plan (or $20 if you are paying month-to-month)
Business – $24 per month for an annual plan (or $30 if you are paying month-to-month)
WordPress doesn’t have plans, but offers differently priced plugins and themes. Pre-made WordPress themes cost $30 to $80 each. Reputable developers price their themes higher. If you want to add more functionality to your WordPress site (such as slideshows, contact forms, eCommerce, etc), you can install some free or paid plugins. Premium plugin licenses can cost anywhere from $15 to $99 for a single site.
Thus WordPress is not necessarily more expensive than Squarespace; they simply have different pricing models. In some cases, Squarespace and WordPress will cost you about the same for setup and development.
If you want more customisation or don’t have the time or skills to build a site yourself, you can hire a WordPress developer or agency such as SGD to create a custom website tailored to your business and provide other services like site maintenance. Drop us a line for an estimate.
What’s Right for Your Business?
It’s ultimately up to you do decide which website builder will best meet the needs of your business, but we hope that the above pros and cons of WordPress and Squarespace will help you in that decision. While Squarespace works well for some businesses, we at SGD prefer WordPress due to its power, flexibility and developer-friendly (not to mention Google-friendly) framework because we believe it gives us the best opportunity to build eye-catching and profitable websites for our business clients. Most of our clients want to post dynamic content, enjoy a wide selection of options and need a robust eCommerce platform to power their online stores. They didn’t shy away from WordPress because of the cost; they were attracted by the control over design, functionality and content that WordPress provides. As a result they saw a positive return on their investment in the form of more sales, bookings and enquiries. You can check out the websites of our happy clients in our Portfolio.
Next week we’ll compare WordPress to an eCommerce-oriented website builder: Jimdo. Also check out our comparison of WordPress vs. Wix.