I’ve used both Squarespace and WordPress for a few years and have developed both my own projects and client’s projects on both platforms. I’ve run into people who aren’t sure of which platform they should go with and what makes them different from each other. I dearly love both platforms, but each one has it’s strengths and weaknesses. This is my attempt at quickly showing you the differences of both and which you should pick.
Squarespace is a simple, no-nonsense website building system. When you sign up for it, everything is included and you can have a website built and online in minutes. Incredibly easy to update as well. Squarespace has more restrictions on design and customization, but allows you to build a beautiful, responsive website very quickly even if you’ve never done it before. If you’ve never built a website before and want an amazing site, get Squarespace now.
WordPress is the most popular website framework out there. You install it onto your server and you can upload a theme as the full design of the site. You can create your own theme, or choose from many, many custom themes out there. WordPress has a much larger learning curve than Squarespace, but is much, much more editable and everything about the system can be customized. If you are making websites for other people, or have a reasonable knowledge of web design, you’ll have a ton more control over your site with WordPress. If you need control and flexibility, get WordPress and you’ll never regret it.
Ease of Setup
Squarespace is as simple as entering your email address and choosing a domain name and then picking from the 25+ themes that Squarespace has to build your site. Adding pages in a piece of cake and there is a ton of work you can do as far as adding galleries, blogs, eCommerce storefront, and much more. If you want easy and beautiful, you want Squarespace.
WordPress is a bit more complicated to setup, you need a database and you need to upload WordPress to your server and connect it to your database via the WordPress wizard which is fairly simple. Once you have WordPress correctly installed, it is very easy to setup pages and blog posts. Every theme is different and some are easier to setup, but some are a nightmare. If you know what you’re doing you shouldn’t have a problem.
The edge here goes to Squarespace by a long shot. Squarespace is very, very easy to setup and start using. You will eventually run into limitations if you’re looking to have a huge and complex website, but it’s so easy, beautiful, and responsive that you can’t beat it.
Squarespace has about 25 themes for you to choose from, they are all beautifully designed and they are all responsive. Each theme has a style panel where you can change colors, sizes, fonts, and a ton more. Themes are generally editable, but there are some things that you can’t do much about. NOTE: Squarespace does have a Developer Mode which allows you to get to all the code and change literally anything you want, but you need to know how to write code and you also break the link to Squarespace’s update system.
WordPress has tens of thousands of themes, some of them are free [LINK to my latest article], but most of the really good ones you will need to pay for. WordPress themes are also a bit of hit-or-miss as far as how easy they are to edit. If you know how to write some HTML, CSS, and PHP, you should be able to edit most any theme. You also have the ability to create a fully custom theme and upload that to your WordPress.
Conclusion: WordPress gives you far greater choice and much more editability. Squarespace gives you a small, but always working, simple, responsive, and easy to work with themes. You are somewhat limited from a design standpoint with Squarespace. Edge here has to go to WordPress because there is such a massive number of themes for free and pay. Squarespace is beautiful, but limited.
Squarespace allows you to create pages, blogs, galleries, an online store, connect more social media accounts than I even knew existed, and a hundred other things. It also has an analytics system built right in so you can monitor the traffic on your site and lots and lots of features for customizing music players, video players, and full content calendars too. There are tons and tons of features. You can get a free seven day trial and check out the extent of what Squarespace has to offer.
WordPress has even more features than Squarespace. If you can name it, WordPress can do it. Some of the features are a little more complicated or difficult to get to, but unlike Squarespace, you have much more control over exactly how different features display and work on your website. For example, you can have a gallery with your WordPress site, but you can choose exactly what style of gallery, what kind of transitions happen between the slides in the gallery, and even have multiple different kinds of galleries within the same site. WordPress has more functionality and more features and is more expandable than virtually every part of Squarespace, it’s just a little more complex to setup and use.
Conclusion: Go with Squarespace if you need a “normal” website or want to start a simple online store. It’ll just work for you. No frills, no difficulty. Go with WordPress if you want absolute control over every bit of functionality on your site and want the option to change functionality and the way that functionality works (Just make sure you know how to write code.) Edge goes to Squarespace. Yes, it’s limited, but what it does it does beautifully and it just works. Some of the WordPress features can feel heavy and aren’t mobile-friendly/responsive.
Squarespace does not have their own plugins and doesn’t really allow you to build onto your Squarespace theme in any kind of substantial way, however, there are companies like Square Plugins [LINK HERE] which have some incredible plugins available for you at a price. (There is also a Developer Mode which really opens up the design-ability of this platform.)
WordPress has thousands of plugins and will allow you to add anything from the most high-end technical Search Engine Optimization system to your site to a new commenting system, or management tools, calendars, video games, or almost anything you could ever imagine.
Conclusion: Once more, WordPress is simply more robust and feature-filled than Squarespace. Remember, it is a bit more complex though. Simple and limited = Squarespace. Robust and unlimited = WordPress. The clear edge is with WordPress and it’s heaps of free plugins.
If you want to setup a quick eCommerce store with no prior experience, Squarespace is absolutely the way to go. It’s incredibly easy to setup a store and start selling right away (and make your store look incredible too!) Squarespace does require you to use a payment gateway called Stripe which is beautiful and easy to use, but you don’t have the option of something like using your own Paypal or other payment gateways. This is a pretty annoying limitation and a dealbreaker for lots of merchants. Personally, I wish they would expand the payment options. Check it out and see if you like Stripe and what they have to offer, maybe you’ll find that it’s perfect for you.
WordPress has many different eCommerce plugins that are pretty easy to use and allow quite a bit more flexibility as well. They do require a little more setup, but it’s all fairly easy on WordPress, but not nearly as easy as Sqaurespace. WordPress gives much more power and functionality while requiring some more setup than Squarespace.
Conclusion: Squarespace once more is simple and easy, but limited. WordPress here is also pretty simple, but affords much more potential. If you have the ability to code or hire a designer/coder to work with WordPress and your eCommerce site, WordPress might be the best option, but of course sometimes the most important thing is getting the store online and working; in that case, Squarespace rules the day. Edge here goes to Squarespace because eCommerce can be intimidating and Squarespace takes that fear away. (Just have to make it work with Stripe.)
Squarespace is built to be search-engine friendly and automatically ensure that your posts are search engine friendly, however you are still the one in control of what your page titles are, you have full control over your page URLs, and of course content is still king which you have complete control over. Squarespace has pretty decent SEO for such a hands off, user-friendly system. It has a beautiful built-in metric system for checking on your website traffic.
WordPress is even better when it comes to SEO. WordPress has been tweaked and adjusted by thousands of brilliant developers and has a ton of amazing SEO plugins for you to use as well. Just like with Squarespace, it’s still up to you to input good content and use keywords that make sense and are targeted at your audience so they can find your content.
Conclusion: WordPress is much more powerful and affords more flexibility when it comes to SEO than Squarespace. Edge: WordPress.
Maintenance & Security
Squarespace updates their themes, servers, and provides all the security built right in. If you aren’t in Developer mode, you’re connected to Squarespace and they’ll pretty much always take care of you.
WordPress has lots of updates too, but you have control over when you want to backup and update your site. Often you will also have to check on your plugins and see if they need to be updated. Because WordPress is open-source software, security bugs are typically taken care of very quickly by the incredible WordPress community.
Conclusion: Squarespace takes care of everything, but you do have to trust them. WordPress has a huge community behind it and they keep up maintenance and security very well. I have to give the edge here to WordPress. Crowd-maintained is a great thing.
Community & Support
Squarespace has a massive user base and very helpful and well illustrated help articles all over the web. It’s not uncommon that even a seemingly obscure problem has already been covered in the help forums on Squarespace’s website. They’re customer support is also pretty good.
WordPress runs most of the websites on the web today and has a much, much larger base of community to provide support. There are loads of tutorials and even more issues and bugs that can be found all over the millions of pages of WordPress help. WordPress has what may be the best community of people online today. Millions of helpful people who are good at what they do.
Conclusion: WordPress has a much deeper and far-reaching base of support, but it is also a much larger website framework with much, much more that can go wrong, so typically it is easier to sort out problems with Squarespace. Squarespace has their system covered very, very well and there has never been an issue I’ve run into that I haven’t been able to get tech support or find an article/tutorial about online. I’ve got to give the edge to WordPress because WordPress IS community. Squarespace is no slouch in this department though.
Squarespace currently has options from $5 per month to $70 per month for the full-fledged eCommerce website with no limitations. The prices include all of your hosting needs, as well as a free domain name, and everything you need to get your website up and running in minutes. It’s simple and easy and inexpensive.
WordPress is free, but you will need to have a domain name and a hosting plan. The prices on these can vary, but you do have control over picking a great host to ensure your website speed is blazing fast (Squarespace speed occasionally slows down and you kind of just have to wait until their support corrects things on their end) and nothing ever gets interrupted. Expect to pay $12 a year for a domain and somewhere between $100-$300+ a year for hosting. You will also have to pay $30-$90 for a high end WordPress theme as well to get a design for your site.
Conclusion: Squarespace is inexpensive and all-inclusive. You pay it and forget it. WordPress requires you to get the domain and point it at hosting that you’re also paying for. More control, but potential to save some money or spend a little more and get a faster setup. Edge here goes to Squarespace. Easy, inexpensive, all-inclusive website system.
Making the case for Squarespace: Squarespace takes control out of your hands, but keeps things simple which allows you to focus on the content and gives you a fast, responsive website that just works.
Making the case for WordPress: WordPress is more complex and requires a little more TLC from you, but it’s rock solid and can be customized and expanded to exactly what you need right now, or what you would ever need in the future.
If I had to choose just one to start a website today I’d pick Squarespace. It’s easy, cheap, and it just works.
I love them both! I’d love to see what you think in the comments below!