Most small business owners start out by building their own websites with tools that handle all of the infrastructure needs and don’t require much coding knowledge. There are tons of platforms that can help you do this, but WordPress and Squarespace are two of the most popular. To find the best option for your business, check out this comparison of features, templates, and hosting options for Squarespace vs. WordPress.
Overview of WordPress
From its humble origins in 2003 as a blogging platform, WordPress has grown so much that today over 75 million sites online were built with it. In April this year, it was reported that the most recent stable build was downloaded eight million times in the first month of release. WordPress evolved into the web development tool of choice because it spoke the language of websites. Developers didn’t need to code site pages from scratch, and the resulting innovation (to say nothing of time saved) greatly increased what websites could do.
Overview of Squarespace
Capitalising partly on the revolution WordPress started for building and launching a site yourself, Squarespace took things a step further by having smart and attractive designs ready to select and apply to the underlying codebase. All users really have to do is pick a template, upload content and click ‘publish’. Unlike with WordPress, there’s no free plan, but the ease of use and professional templates make up for it.
Self-hosting in WordPress vs. Squarespace
In simple terms, your Squarespace subscription includes hosting and WordPress doesn’t. The commercial arm of WordPress (WordPress.com), actually offers a similar service to Squarespace that includes hosting. While there are free and very cheap personal plans, the business plan containing the basics of an SME site with a shopfront, ecommerce engine, and blog or news tool is $33 per month. Squarespace’s monthly rate for a comparable plan is around $25-35.
But you can download, edit and host the WordPress codebase anywhere. Reputable hosts will have WordPress-ready server architecture. Additionally, many will have one-click installation, so you don’t even have to source the files yourself, letting you choose hosting based on the best price alone.
Of course, your host’s tech support won’t cover WordPress itself, so if you break something during editing, you’re on your own. If you don’t have time for a crash course in HTML and CSS, a professional developer will check and finesse your code, the costs from which might eat up any savings you make on hosting anyway.
But if you’re too busy landscaping gardens, brewing coffee, or cleaning offices and houses, the time saving of Squarespace being a one-stop shop is very attractive.
Website templates in WordPress vs. Squarespace
There are literally tens of thousands of WordPress templates, all of them with fully accessible code to let you make any change you could possibly desire. Some are gorgeous and elegant, some hideous and unusable. Some are completely free from hobbyists, others cost money from professional studios – anything from a few dollars to a few hundred dollars.
If you’re artistic enough, you can design your site in a graphic application and give it to a developer to program. Countless designers online offer custom WordPress design services. You’ll get exactly the look and functionality you want, but it will add to your costs.
Squarespace only has one kind of template – beautiful. If you’re a florist or grocer specialising in exotic foodstuffs and gorgeous imagery of your wares sell themselves, Squarespace sites tend to highlight media like pictures or video content.
There are dozens rather than tens of thousands of templates, but they’re all constructed according to robust user interface principles. Plus, your subscription contains all the pre-made design and development, hosting and security certificates (which can incur a further cost at other hosts) in one price.
Integrations and plugins in WordPress vs. Squarespace
WordPress is so popular there are plenty of well appointed plug-in vendors around. Even though it’s a highly unregulated environment, there’s really no need to expose yourself to anything sub-par to get the functionality you want.
What’s more, if you stick to a basic template without changing too much, most popular plug-ins for marketing, analytics, ecommerce engines, and blogging will integrate into your site fairly seamlessly.
But just like with hosting, there isn’t a lot of official help around if they don’t. There are countless community forums available, but discussion tends to be a bit more advanced than what you may need as a self-starter. You might get advice, but actual work adjusting code will incur a cost.
Squarespace has a much smaller number of native apps and plug-ins, and like their site designs, you know they wouldn’t be there unless they worked beautifully. Plus your subscription buys you access to dedicated email and chat support if anything goes wrong.
Unique features of WordPress
WordPress’s most unique feature is that it gives you the ability to build a website the ‘old’ way. With full access to the HTML and CSS, you can make endless tweaks until everything’s how you want it.
If you know design or programming or have access to cost-effective pros who do, it means you can customise your site to behave and do what you want to an unprecedented degree. Just keep in mind you’re still constrained by the browser technology at your visitors’ end, which might make the costs for way-out features a bit of a waste of money if most people can’t access them.
Unique features of Squarespace
Squarespace is a far more controlled environment. You don’t need to buy or source designs, extensions, hosting, or any other services from elsewhere. You simply sign up, start building pages, and deploy your site when you’re satisfied with the result.
You have no direct access to code, and while that sounds like a downside, it means the Squarespace interface is intuitive. You employ the same elegant, user-friendly tools to do everything from picking a template and creating pages to populating the site with content and selecting/installing plug-ins. Digging right into the code using WordPress – or any other HTML editor – can be a bit chaotic by comparison, so if you’re very new to the area, Squarespace holds your hand a lot more.
Choosing between WordPress and Squarespace
Back at the height of the desktop PC era, the Mac ecosystem was known to be far more curated and higher quality, while Windows was a lot more tinker-friendly because of the volume of tools you could apply to it.
Choosing between WordPress and Squarespace is actually similar. In this analogy Squarespace is the Mac – much simpler to use, cleaner, more reliant on arresting visuals, a little more restrictive but delivering a website you know is going to look fantastic and work across devices and browsers.
WordPress is the Windows of website development. It’s extremely customizable, offering a more personalized experience. However, there’s also a lot in there you’ll probably never even be exposed to, let alone use. You can edit, tweak, and alter the code endlessly and the sheer number of templates and add-ons to make further changes or add further functionality is staggering.
But just because you can change anything down at a very granular level, doesn’t mean you should. If you don’t know what you’re doing it’s very easy to break things and end up with bloated, inefficient code. Plug-ins that do different things aren’t guaranteed to play nice together (or even with the WordPress platform itself, so varied are their pedigrees) and a lot can go wrong.
If you need only the basics like ecommerce or email and social marketing, Squarespace contains everything you’ll need, and it’ll be visually striking in the bargain.
A basic WordPress build will serve your needs just as adequately if you don’t need a host of unusual or special features, but the difference is that any design or programming changes are done at the code level, so it’s less forgiving if you’re completely new to web design.