WordPress vs Squarespace: The Ultimate Showdown

Comparing Squarespace with WordPress is a tough one. Both have the potential to help you create beautiful and functional sites, but which is better for you? It mostly boils down to needs and budget.

In this article, we will break things down for you, covering the pros and cons of WordPress and Squarespace so you can decide for yourself which is the right platform for you.

As with all platforms, each has its strengths and weaknesses so understanding how these weaknesses can affect you, in the long run, is critical in your decision-making process.

WordPress vs Squarespace – Simplicity

WordPress

A demonstration of WordPress' visual/text editor in the backend
A demonstration of WordPress’ visual/text editor in the backend

WordPress first came out in 2003, giving it enough time to become extremely popular. It would not have caught on if it weren’t simple enough to use in the first place. There are two versions: WordPress.com and WordPress.org.  The former is limited, tied to a hosting plan and with themes and extensions (plugins) only available to it. The latter allows you full control of your own instance of WordPress (self-hosted) with much more control over what you can do with it.

With the self-hosted version and the vast power that comes with it, it does command some of your time to deal with its learning curve. The curve is small enough for most people to keep them keen, at least a few hours to a few days. This is so you get your bearings understanding the terminologies, choosing themes that determine how your site looks and some plugins which give additional functionalities such as collecting emails for newsletters or adding contact forms. It’s enough to get a blog running but can overwhelm some people who’re looking for a straightforward solution.

To go fuller-fledged, and being able to customise the site to your hearts’ content can take a few weeks to months, enough time to upgrade your beginners’ blog into a revenue-making machine, which is good enough reason for people to give them an incentive to learn more. Most people or businesses hire freelancers or agencies to do this level of customisation for them.

Squarespace

A screenshot of Squarespace's visual editor editing the home page
A screenshot of Squarespace’s visual editor editing the homepage

Everything about Squarespace is visual, making it much more beginner-friendly. Although you can have that with WordPress, it does take time and skill to get adapted to it (see our article about WordPress page builders). With Squarespace, you can use its drag-and-drop editor to build pages from the get-go instantly.

Squarespace has much fewer features, which makes it less overwhelming, helping beginners to make faster decisions, without slowing down the learning process. This makes Squarespace an excellent choice for quickly creating simple informational websites, but if you decide to upgrade your blog or customise it further, you will find it restrictive.

WordPress vs Squarespace – Themes and plugins

WordPress and Squarespace Themes and Plugins image
Some well-known and popular plugins powering a WordPress website

To make your website appear the way you want it, users without technical skills will need to use themes and plugins to customise their blog/site. Let’s see how WordPress and Squarespace compare.

WordPress

If you tried to list all the free themes available from the WordPress.org repository the number comes to over 5,600 themes. If you count premium paid themes from the Envato Marketplace, there are over 11,400 themes. Adding the just the two most popular sources of themes you now have 17,000 themes! There are many more sources efficiently bringing the number to over 25,000 in existence!

If you thought 25,000 was a significant number, let’s try with the number of plugins! In the official WordPress repository, there are over 55,200 plugins! Best of all, the ones from the official repository you can use free of charge. On top of that, there are many markets selling premium plugins, easily bringing the number to over 70,000. For every problem, you’re trying to solve, or if there’s are functionalities you’re after, you can be sure that there’s probably a plugin that can solve it.

Installing WordPress themes and plugins is pretty straightforward, the only time-consuming task is to find the perfect combination to achieve what you want for your site.

Squarespace

If you want to extend a site running on Squarespace, you may find yourself adapting to it with the limited themes and plugins it has to offer. The limited number of themes or plugins may be ideally suited to some people looking for a simple set-up. However, most sites may quickly find itself stuck and unable to expand visually and functionally.

WordPress vs Squarespace – Content Management

Managing content on your chosen platform is vital, allowing you to move content around the site quickly and freely, between pages, its editors and image libraries. How do WordPress and Squarespace compare?

WordPress

WordPress was initially built as a blogging platform which went on to become a robust content management system over the years. It allows for switching between visual and text editors, meaning you’re able to format your blogs in a rich-text manner or in a coded approach enabling you to add custom HTML if needed.

WordPress has an autosaving and revisions function, giving you peace of mind that your content is safe in case something happens, causing you to lose work. You’re also able to go back to a certain point in history to grab a piece of information that you want to have again.

WordPress has a media library and management system which allows you to reuse images across pages and posts of various sizes, allowing you to populate your content with images quickly and efficiently.

Squarespace

Sadly, Squarespace isn’t as robust as WordPress with no autosave or revision feature. It does allow you to use code blocks, but will not let you run your own HTML or CSS from the pages, which can be restrictive for the more adept blogger.

If you like to reuse images across pages, Squarespace is limited where it’ll force you to re-upload the same pictures, which can be a hindrance if you find yourself reusing images often.

WordPress vs Squarespace – Support

For beginners or even experts, support is critical during the life of your chosen platform to give the best experience for yourself as well as your visitors. We will assess how support differs for WordPress and Squarespace.

WordPress

A screenshot of Mailchimp for WordPress support forum
A screenshot of Mailchimp for WordPress support forum

Since WordPress is effectively a self-hosted platform, you’re responsible for it. Sure, there might be some technical issues that the hosting provider that might help you solve, there will be some times where you’d find yourself needing to address them or hire professionals.

While hosting issues are usually handled by the provider, support can be limited for free themes and plugins. If something goes wrong with these, help can be found through the forums and other online resources. Thankfully, because of the vast WordPress community and popularity, there are countless millions of tutorials and how-to articles that would help you solve most problems. For the premium paid themes and plugins, you can safely expect help from the developers as long as you’re not asking for bespoke customisation help from out-of-the-box versions of the products. If you need in-depth customisation, you may want to consider hiring specialists or get a maintenance plan with freelancers/agencies that in taking care of WordPress websites.

Squarespace

Squarespace support centre showing a conversational form and a live chat window
Squarespace support centre showing a conversational form and a live chat window

With Squarespace, it’s very different in a positive way. You immediately get access to an entire team of professionals who will help you with your issues. On top of that, you have access to a knowledge base rich with articles, videos, tutorials, live chat and email support. There is also community support forums that you get with WordPress available.

Since the number of features and freedom of customisation is much less than WordPress, the probability of something malfunctioning is very low, negating you to require support often.

WordPress vs Squarespace – eCommerce

Indeed, if you intend to sell things through your own website, careful planning must come with choosing the right platform otherwise you may find you’re using the wrong platform when met with limitations halfway down the road building an online shop.

WordPress

While WordPress is a Content Management System in the strictest sense, it does not offer e-commerce functionality out-of-the-box. However, with the help of plugins and some beginner-friendly customisation you’d be able to set up a full-fledged e-commerce store in no time. Most WordPress themes are built, so it still looks great when you add e-commerce functionality to it such as Woocommerce. As with starting any e-commerce stores, there are some learning hurdles to go over such as shipping methods, taxes, product variations and so on.

It is possible to add e-commerce functionality to your WordPress site with different plugins such as WooCommerce, Easy Digital Downloads, PrestaShop, Jigashop and many more. Each comes with limitless payment gateways such as PayPal, Stripe, Skrill, WorldPay, Google Checkout and more to enable accepting any currency.

To add even more marketing power to your e-commerce store, you can quickly add an affiliate system, refer-a-friend functionality, cart abandonment recovery (which is extraordinarily effective), wishlists, great product filters, newsletter integration, coupons and advanced analytics to name a few.

Squarespace

Up against WordPress and its e-commerce extensibility, Squarespace does quite well with just enough features to get an online store up-and-running quickly. It offers unlimited products, no transaction fees, shipping and accounting integrations, abandoned cart recovery and gift cards. This is enough for people looking to set up a simple online store quickly without all the bell and whistles they don’t need. All these features are tied to the higher tier monthly plans.

WordPress vs Squarespace – Security

We are in an era where security and privacy are paramount, so some of the most important considerations to take is securing your website. This may seem daunting for beginners, but with good routine and awareness, it quickly becomes second nature.

WordPress

The WordPress community, theme and plugin repository is so large that it’s practically impossible to police the quality of all the software. This means you will need to make the assessments yourselves, judging which plugins are good or bad, which developers are more likely to keep their software up-to-date and react to security issues with rapid deployment of patches.

Some of the factors that’ll help you make these decisions are by looking at how long the developers have been around, whether if their reviews are satisfactory, their software is maintained by an individual or a business et cetera.

It also means you need to be proactive on your part in maintaining updates to the WordPress core, theme and plugins to close up any known security issues that may have been discovered within them. This is done pretty quickly in the WordPress backend under the updates dashboard and authorising updates to everything. You should try and do this on a weekly basis, but if you don’t have the time, you can always hire freelancers or agencies to do this for you for a fee.

Squarespace

On the other hand, since Squarespace is a closed-source platform, it means their software is closed so only Squarespace’s in-house development team can produce high-quality and rigorously tested themes and plugins. When security issues arise, it is usually limited to the knowledge of the Squarespace development team who will patch them quickly without you having to act on anything.

WordPress vs Squarespace – SEO

WordPress vs Squarespace SEO image

Search Engine Optimisation is the practice of maintaining and improving the quality and quantity of traffic going to your site through search engine results. Which is more comfortable to implement – WordPress or Squarespace?

WordPress

If your goal is to build a highly customisable site with a willingness to accept the small learning curve that comes with it, you might want to add some more time learning how to optimise your WordPress site with SEO.

Because of the sheer flexibility that WordPress has, you’re able to choose from a wide range of well-built themes that have SEO best practices baked into its code as well as SEO plugins to enhance your site further.

Plugins like Yoast and SEOPress allow you to customise your post and page titles and descriptions, rich snippets, control which parts of your sites to be indexable by search engines, auto-generate site-maps, check for broken links, add 301 redirects and much more.

Squarespace

When Squarespace first came out, their websites weren’t SEO-friendly, but now they have come a long way and have decent features and customisation. Some of the highlights include auto-generated sitemaps, customisable page titles and descriptions. The only downside is not being able to control the SEO of blog page titles.

Squarespace claims that their drag-and-drop builder produces clean and semantic code, but many experts disagree because drag-and-drop features often add unnecessary HTML code in the markup. When testing Google’s Page Speed Tool on Squarespace’s themes, the results are quite poor especially with mobile usability which you do not have much control over.

WordPress vs Squarespace – The Costs

How much you plan to spend on your website is a crucial step to make as you’d want high returns on your investment. Many people assume that you can get a website online for free, while that can be true to an extent, everything does have a price.

WordPress

WordPress is Open Source under the GPL licensing terms, allowing you to freely download and modify it, which is only valid for the software itself. To get it running and become publicly accessible, you do need a few things that will cost which includes things like getting a domain name and a hosting service. You should be able to find a domain name thrown in for free when you sign up for hosting which can cost as little as £2 per month, more than enough to get a simple WordPress site online.

Spending does not always stop there if you want to extend WordPress to have more powerful features and customisation flexibility. You may opt to buy a premium theme for a better design, throw in some powerful plugins to add the functions you need or upgrade your hosting plan. Perhaps you’ll want a WordPress site that is original and your own, requiring the help of developers? Will you be happy to maintain the site yourself or hire someone to do it for you? It all boils down to needs and a budget. You may need to shop around a few days or grab a consultation with a freelancer or agency to work out the costs for your dream site.

Squarespace

Although considerably higher than WordPress’ lowest operating costs, Squarespace’s pricing plans are quite straightforward. They offer different monthly pricing tiers starting from £10 per month (if billed annually) or £13 per month going up to £30 per month (if billed annually) or £37 if opting for month-to-month.

Each tier comes with limited features so you would need to figure which one suits you the best and whether if you think you would never need to fight with its inherent limitations in the long run. Most people when they realise Squarespace is limited to their evolving needs (that they never expected) are able to migrate to WordPress quite easily!

 

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