In every business group I’m in online I see the question regularly; “when it comes to Squarespace vs. WordPress, which is better?” If you’re asking this question because you’re thinking about building a new site, understand there are A LOT of options available and you’ll get A LOT of opinions about which is best. So, I’m putting in my two cents to help you make a decision that’s right for you. (Remember those underlined words!) Don’t care about the details? Skip right to my bottom line.
Squarespace vs. WordPress: Squarespace
What is Squarespace?
Squarespace is a drag and drop website building system that requires no coding. That means, the average Joe (or Joanne LOL) can create their own website from start to finish without having to write code, deal with files, databases or anything overly technical.
Ease of Use
Squarespace is an intuitive platform that’s easy to work with. If you’re not feeling overly creative, want a guide or just aren’t sure where to start, Squarespace comes pre-loaded with templates you can select and manipulate to fit your brand. Tutorials on how to use Squarespace are provided by the company AND you can find a lot of documentation on YouTube.
Here’s an example of a tutorial I found on their YouTube page:
Also, Squarespace has customer support, which in my opinion, is a big selling feature if you’re trying to build and/or maintain a website yourself.
Flexibility and Functionality
The biggest thing you should keep in mind when you’re deciding between working with Squarespace vs. WordPress or any other site builder, is functionality. Some developers shy away from Squarespace because they say clients outgrow the platform. If your needs evolve over time, a lot of developers will tell you that Squarespace doesn’t allow enough flexibility to change the site’s functionality without having to rebuild in a more robust system like WordPress. Squarespace doesn’t give you full access to the website’s back end, so you can’t add or change code to make the site do what you want it to do. Squarespace is improving in this area and now with the addition of what their calling “Extensions” I think this will be less of a concern very soon.
A lot of developers and SEO specialists also feel that Squarespace lacks when it comes to Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Because of some of the restrictions I mentioned above, providers that specialize in SEO may not be able to manipulate parts of the back end that they normally access to improve your site’s SEO. You’ll also hear that Google favors WordPress sites over Squarespace and other platforms. You can find data for and against this theory. In my opinion, if you know how to use all the SEO Squarespace provides, you use the right template in Squarespace and set up your pages properly, the difference between using Squarespace vs. WordPress when it comes to SEO should be minimal.
Another thing you’ll hear developers say is that Squarespace is a “rented” platform. It’s true, Squarespace is the equivalent of renting an apartment. The Landlord can change what they want and you only have minimal control over it. Honestly, I say, so what?
For most of my clients, this isn’t a big deal. If you’re building a site, adding a ton of content, building an online store and making your site the main revenue generator for your business, THEN you need to be cautious, but if you’re looking for an online presence with your service menu, that helps you get found online, a change to your site probably won’t make or break your business.
Squarespace packages range from $12/month up to $40/month for an advanced e-commerce site. These costs cover a domain name and your hosting. (Hosting is where your site lives on the internet.) Most of my clients use the $18/month option that gives them everything they need.
The way I look at it is, if your business changes and you need advanced functionality, chances are you’ve grown and have access to additional budget to invest in a site. If you’re hiring a developer to create your Squarespace site, they will range in price depending on what you need but in general, you can get a quality Squarespace site for $1,000 to $2,000. You may even find some developers charging $1,000 or less, just remember, you generally get what you pay for.
Squarespace vs. WordPress: WordPress
What is WordPress?
WordPress is the preferred website building platform by most web design professionals and for good reason. Like Squarespace, WordPress is a website building system that gives you TONS of options and flexibility. You can build a site in WordPress from scratch (which I wouldn’t recommend unless you’re an experienced developer), or you can start with a theme, add plugins and other tools to help you create a site.
Ease of Use
As someone who is self-taught in WordPress, I can tell you the platform is not as user friendly as many developers like to say it is. I remember doing my first site many years ago and uploading WordPress to my host. As soon as the upload was finished, I thought to myself, “ok now what, there’s just a blank page!”
For first time users, WordPress is not overly intuitive especially if you’re starting from scratch and trying to build a site yourself. Is it doable? Sure, hop on YouTube and search through thousands of tutorials. You’ll eventually find what you need.
If you use a theme, set up is a lot easier. You can pick a theme that comes with a similar esthetic to what you’re looking for, then manipulate it to fit your brand. Some themes come with page builders which make setting up your pages a lot easier then trying to do it from scratch. If your theme doesn’t come with a page builder, you can easily get a free one by using a plugin. Page builders are built-in to the Squarespace platform.
Flexibility and Functionality
Flexibility and functionality are the two biggest things that make WordPress so attractive to many developers. With full access to all the files, code, etc. on the site, an experienced developer can make a WordPress site pretty much do what ever you need. Also, you heard me mention plugins in the last section. Plugins are like Squarespace’s Extensions, but there are literally thousands of WordPress plugins available. So, if your needs change, there’s a good chance you can find a plugin to easily tailor the functionality of your site.
WordPress is considered to be “the best” when it comes to SEO, BUT you still need to know what you’re doing in order to come up in search results. If your content and site in general is not set up properly, you aren’t going to rank well in the search results just because you have a WordPress site. If you’re working with a developer, they will know to leverage WordPress to improve your results. No matter what platform you’re using, you need to have a plan in place for SEO or you’ll likely find you aren’t coming up in searches.
WordPress sites have a database, files and code working in the background to run your site. If something breaks and you need to access those things to fix the site, you have two choices; dig in and figure it out yourself or hire someone. If you’re not comfortable with tech stuff or you just don’t have the time to “figure it out”, you’ve got to be comfortable with hiring someone or WordPress may not be for you. When it comes to the front-end of the site, most themes are pretty user friendly but they aren’t always as intuitive as they could be.
WordPress is not a “set it and forget it” [insert Ron Popiel’s voice talking about his chicken rotisserie LOL] platform. Themes and plugins come from third-party developers. When those developers change something within the theme or plugin, they’ll issue an update. They also issue updates if there is a known security hazard in their code. So, when you own a WordPress site, you have to login in to the back end and run your updates at least once a month, if not more, to make sure that your site is functioning and secure. If you neglect these updates, your site can end up in bad shape.
Which leads me to the topic of security. Any site is vulnerable to attack. The only thing you can do is build on a trusted platform and put the proper tools in place, to help protect the site. That said, because WordPress has SO many themes and plugins, there is a lot of opportunity for hackers to get into sites. If you’re not running your updates regularly, a hacker basically has an unlocked door into your site. With Squarespace, security is largely in the hands of the company.
The cost to run a WordPress site on a monthly basis is pretty comparable to Squarespace. With a WordPress site, you purchase a domain and hosting plan. The cost per month will vary depending on the host you work with but in general you can get a cheap plan for as little as $5/month up to $30-$50/month for some of the better hosting plans. The biggest cost difference comes in terms of the initial setup and maintenance.
Because the platform is so robust, it takes a while to set up. Also, because there is so much to learn, an experienced developer can charge a premium for their knowledge and time. WordPress sites generally start around $3,500 just for design! You’ll still need copy and photos. The price can go up significantly from there depending on the functionality that is being built in, the size of the site, the level of SEO that’s being implemented and the size of the agency building it. Of course there will always be someone offering sites for less, but again, be careful, you get what you pay for.
Maintenance or an issue with the site, is an area that may make the cost of WordPress site prohibitive to some people. If you aren’t comfortable using and figuring out WordPress, you’ll have to hire someone to run updates and take care of the site if anything should break. As I said, experienced developers usually charge a premium for their knowledge and service so your total can add up quickly here.
There is no company provided support with WordPress. Some themes, like Divi, and plugins offer their own support but if there is an issue with the site overall, you either need to figure it out yourself or hire someone to help.
The Bottom Line
Most agencies and developers will automatically tell you when it comes to Squarespace vs. WordPress, WordPress is the best. I however, disagree. I don’t think there is a one size fits all answer to this question. Remember earlier when I said I was weighing in on this topic to help you make a decision that’s right for you? I think you should select a website design platform based on your current needs, budget and future plans.
Be realistic about your own skill set and willingness to learn about the site. Bottom line, not everyone needs a WordPress site. Not everyone has a budget for a WordPress site. And, not everyone wants to deal with a WordPress site.
I would rather my clients have a professionally built Squarespace site they can afford, then push a WordPress site for the sake of it being a “WordPress site.” Yes, WordPress is the Cadillac of web design, but in my opinion, Squarespace is a Honda. Every Honda I’ve owned has had a modern appearance, while being reliable and efficient without the price tag of that fancy Caddy so I’m ok going with the Honda when we need to. If you talk to a developer that ONLY builds in a specific platform and isn’t giving you options, contact me. I’m happy to help you assess your needs and figure out what makes sense. Just remember, you have options! Pick the platform that’s the best fit for YOU not everyone else.
If you want to do some more research before choosing, here are a few other articles I found with good information:
- What’s True About the Myth About Squarespace SEO
- 10 Best Practices for Squarespace SEO
- Squarespace vs. WordPress – Which is the best website builder in 2022? – This is a VERY robust explanation. If you want the summary scroll to the bottom of the article where the author highlights reasons to pick each platform over the other.