Squarespace vs WordPress
If you’re thinking of starting up a website, whether it be an e-commerce store, a blog or some other type of internet presence, then one of the key decisions you’ll have to make is the platform you’ll use to power it. It’s important to get this correct from the start because it will affect not only the experience you have while composing your pages and posts but also the way your content appears to your users. When it comes time to monetize your website, you’ll undoubtedly be held back if you chose unwisely at the beginning of your endeavors.
Two of the most popular solutions these days are self-hosted WordPress and all-in-one Squarespace. I’ll go over them both in detail and then offer you my advice as to which one is superior.
About the Contestants
WordPress originally started as a blogging software package in 2003, but its functionality has expanded to the point where it’s capable of running almost any kind of website. Because it’s open source, people are free to create plugins and themes, and there are thousands of third-party add-ons for WordPress. Although there is a WordPress.com blogging and hosting service, what I’m going to be talking about today is the WordPress.org content management system for which you’ll have to obtain third-party hosting.
Squarespace is a private firm that launched in 2004. It uses a software-as-a-service model, and it bundles its web hosting, content management, e-commerce and other offerings together into a few packages that are priced at different tiers depending on how many features and limitations are included. Because Squarespace does its own hosting, it’s not possible to use Squarespace’s proprietary software on another web host.
Let’s take a look at how these competing products stack up against each other in several categories.
Ease of Use
There’s some legwork involved in finding a hosting partner for WordPress and customizing your installation. Options abound as far as themes and optional add-ons go. By contrast, Squarespace makes it a breeze to get started immediately even if you have no prior website experience. The number of decisions you’ll have to make is minimal.
Squarespace’s post editor is a lot easier to use than WordPress’ default one because Squarespace lets you drag and drop elements into place instead of using a text-based interface. However, there have been complaints by some users that, while the Squarespace editor is visually appealing, it’s laid out in a way that’s sometimes unintuitive.
WordPress does have drag-and-drop editors available too. In my opinion, the BoldGrid WYSIWYG site builder for WordPress trounces the Squarespace interface although it’s up to you to set it up and configure it as opposed to having Squarespace handle everything for you. If you just want to make a few blog posts, maybe with a couple of images embedded, then the normal WordPress editor should suffice.
Overall, I’d have to say that both systems are designed so that a beginner can jump right in, but Squarespace is a bit easier to use.
Features and Expandability
In terms of the extent to which you can build a powerful website with all the features you want, WordPress is excellent. There are countless plugins to handle such functions as comment boxes, social media integration and search optimization. You can mix and match them to achieve the best balance between appearance and performance. Anyone can create add-ons to the software, so if there’s a demand for something that’s missing from the WordPress default install, it’s highly likely that someone has already successfully addressed this lack. You can change how your site looks and feels through the thousands of themes that are available.
Squarespace, on the other hand, maintains a closed architecture. While it does a pretty good job of keeping its offering up to date, there’s only so much that one organization can do by itself. There are only a few plugins, and they’ve been hand-picked by the team at Squarespace. All the provided design templates are gorgeous, but there are fewer than 100 of them. It is possible to customize your site to a certain extent within the parameters established by the company.
WordPress is the hands-down winner when it comes to the sheer number of features that are available and your ability to adjust things as your site grows.
Both WordPress and Squarespace allow you to sell products from your site, but the way they do it is different. On WordPress, you’ll have to add any of the free or paid e-commerce plugins that you require. Squarespace, on the other hand, deploys its own proprietary online storefront offering, and it has only limited integration with other systems.
Within your WordPress e-store, you can accept PayPal, Stripe, Skrill, Bitcoin and many other payment processors. It might take a bit of labor to get everything set up the way you want it, but there’s really nothing holding you back aside from your own vision and creativity.
With Squarespace, you’re limited to transacting with PayPal and Stripe, and this can really hamper your ability to serve customers who want to pay via other means. Furthermore, the company takes a percentage of your transactions as a fee when you sign up for one of the lower two tiers of service although this is not the case at the more expensive service levels.
Though the Squarespace e-commerce solution works fine right out of the box, more advanced users will undoubtedly appreciate the greater power and flexibility delivered by WordPress.
The cost of using WordPress is free, but you will have to find hosting somewhere. For most new sites, shared web hosting is totally adequate, and you can obtain this type of service for well under $10 per month. For more information, take a look at my post on the leading shared hosting companies for WordPress sites.
Squarespace has four plans for you to choose from: Personal ($12/month), Business ($18/month), Basic ($26/month) and Advanced ($40/month). Even at the lowest Personal tier, you’ll be paying more than you would for WordPress and shared hosting, and you’re restricted to only two contributors on your site. As you move up the levels, the main change is that you can have unlimited users, and more sophisticated e-commerce tools are unlocked, like integrated accounting and abandoned cart recovery. All transaction fees are waived with the Basic and Advanced packages.
The only price point at which Squarespace is competitive with WordPress shared web hosting is the $12 Personal service. Even then, you may find the restrictions associated with your account bothersome. The higher tiers of service are way too costly to be worth it for most customers. WordPress wins in this category, and it’s not even close.
There’s a reason why WordPress is the most popular content management program on the web today. It’s amazingly feature-rich, affordable and stable. While Squarespace is no slouch itself, it can’t really compete in this space with WordPress. Only if you’re looking to make a site without investing much of your own time in it would I recommend Squarespace. Otherwise, WordPress is the way to go.
If you want to know how to start up your own WordPress blog, then I have written an instructional guide on the first steps to take when beginning your blog. When it’s time to choose your hosting company, I strongly recommend InMotion Hosting, and you can get a 56% discount by signing up for InMotion through my links. Read my Inmotion Hosting review for further details on why this is my number-one recommended WordPress host.