This is part of our ongoing series comparing Content Management Systems (CMS) to help you identify which is the right fit for you.
WordPress vs. Squarespace
It’s hard to compete with WordPress’s customization and usability. Even still, Squarespace puts up a good fight. It offers the chance to make the most of stunning visuals and a user interface that’s accessible to anyone – even users without any web design knowledge or experience.
But does WordPress still win out? How do these two platforms compare? Let’s take a look into the nitty-gritty, so you can make the best choice for your website.
Getting to Know Squarespace
Branded as a site builder and web hosting provider, Squarespace came online in 2003 and was founded by Anthony Casalena. Like WordPress, it provides online users with greater ease in creating their own websites and hosting their own content – even without knowledge of HTML or CSS. Squarespace has taken off as a home for blogs, ecommerce marketplaces, portfolios, and websites of every kind – thanks to its many helpful features and unlimited resources.
Generally speaking, Squarespace capitalizes on simplicity. However, there are some limitations placed on users that could lead to disappointment. Before exploring those, let’s take an overview of the resources and processes Squarespace makes available to users of its platform.
One of the first obvious drawbacks of Squarespace, is that you can only host your website through their platform. You cannot find an alternative hosting solution. At the moment, Squarespace offers four different monthly plans to choose from. These include:
- Personal: $16/month.
- Business: $26/month.
- Commerce Basic: $30/month.
- Commerce Advanced: $46/month.
Based on this arrangement, you can also determine what kind of sites Squarespace can host. If you’re a blogger looking to find a home for your personal opinions or content, Squarespace will happily host you. Alternatively, if you’re stepping into eCommerce for the first time and aim to host your storefront on a platform that’s easy to use, Squarespace can provide a space for you.
That plan set-up also leads to one of Squarespace’s overarching selling points: its ease of use. Squarespace is an exceptionally effortless platform to create a website on. You need no experience whatsoever in web development to create a gorgeous platform for yourself or your business. You’re also provided with several templates to choose from, which allow you to more effectively structure your content when you first register with the site.
That said, Squarespace does not allow you to port themes or templates from third-party sources. You’ll have to work with the ones available on the platform. And beyond the templates, there is not much you can do to customize the look and feel of your website. Meaning, most Squarespace websites look exactly the same, have standard layouts, and really the only difference ends up being the color schemes and images.
For example, take a look at the Brooklyn Forest and Cafe Milk & Honey websites. The colors are different, the images are different, but they are essentially the same website. The layouts are nearly identical, and there is nothing custom or interesting about the designs.
Updating your website text and swapping out images is very simple in Squarespace. It’s designed to be easy. However, in terms of customization, the templates provided are about where Squarespace’s changes end. You can tweak your website pages, of course, and correct mistakes in text content or images. However, beyond changing the color of your theme or altering the fonts that you use in your content body, you won’t be able to alter much about the templates provided.
Squarespace Pros and Cons
With all of that in mind, how does Squarespace stack up as a hosting provider and as a site-creation platform?
- Squarespace is an exceptionally accessible platform. You don’t need any web design experience to use it, and you’ll come away from your experience in Squarespace with a site that looks professionally-made.
- Whether you just want a space to blog or want to host your eCommerce storefront, you can do so with Squarespace.
- On-page editing of your content is made simple with Squarespace. The pages you have active online will change as you edit your content, so you don’t have to wait for your updates to register with the platform’s servers.
- While Squarespace’s fees aren’t unreasonable, they do add a black mark to the site’s name when comparing it to other free site-creation platforms.
- If you’re using Squarespace to host an eCommerce storefront, you’ll be limited to a total of 20 products. Scaling your storefront is doable, but doing so will cost you more per month of use.
So, Squarespace has some excellent qualities, while others are a little less glowing. How does it compare to WordPress?
Getting to Know WordPress
Squarespace is, in fact, older than WordPress by about three years. Even still, its recent rise in popularity only mirrors the kind WordPress found upon its release. WordPress was founded in 2007 by Mike Little and Matt Mullenweg. It is an open-source content management system that is free to use and which currently houses up to 70 percent of independent web content online. The community around WordPress has had opportunities to fiddle with the platform’s structure, leading to the platform’s extensive plugin library and user-friendly interface.
With that said, how does WordPress differ from other CMS options? It comes with a number of user-accessible features that require no background knowledge of web design or coding to use.
As we noted in Squarespace’s description, Squarespace makes it easy for you to create visually stunning sites – but it completely lacks in customization. WordPress handles its themes a little differently, though it still relies on them as primary templates for users to build off of.
When you first install WordPress, you’re prompted to choose a platform theme. This theme usually doesn’t impact the functionality of your site (although some premium themes come with plugins and additional functionality by default), but rather establishes its initial aesthetic or visual design. Though WordPress requires you to choose an initial theme in order to progress through the creation of your site, you can easily change your theme after moving forward on the platform at any time.
Your WordPress theme will consist of four basic elements (although this is rapidly evolving with the advent of Gutenberg Blocks): a header, content area, sidebar, and footer. While these features are staples on every WordPress site, you’ll be able to modify them as you please, coming away from the creation process with a website that looks entirely unique.
The Nature of WordPress Content
As was mentioned, you can use your WordPress platform either as a business blog, corporate website, personal website or as your actual storefront (when used in conjunction with the WooCommerce plugin). WordPress and Squarespace both offer you the opportunity to integrate eCommerce features into your website – though their methods differ.
In WordPress, you’ll need to install the WooCommerce plugin to host products on your site and to best leverage WordPress’s business analytics. Without WooCommerce or an equivalent eCommerce plugin, you won’t be able to accept payments for any goods or services through WordPress.
Comparatively, there is a variation of Squarespace known as Squarespace Commerce. This set of features enables you to integrate a payment processor into your Squarespace platform – which, in turn, allows you accept payments for a limited number of goods from all major brands of credit and debit card, as well as PayPal.
Both CRMs, as you can see, offer you a diversity of content options and eCommerce possibility. WordPress, in particular, allows for greater platform customization, and a lot more flexibility. Squarespace’s eCommerce system will limit you to a small number of payment processor and shipping options. WooCommerce has no such limitations.
Speaking of customization: how forgiving is WordPress if you want to modify the content you’ve upload or the template you’ve chosen? Generally speaking, you’ll be able to change your content effortlessly by navigating WordPress’s editorial process.
Because WordPress operates mainly through plugins, you can also constantly modify the structure of your website. At the moment, WordPress Developers have made over 50,000 plugins available to its users, most free of charge.
Examples of WordPress’s most popular plugins include:
- Akismet, a comment-checking plugin.
- bbPress, a forum management plugin.
- Jetpack, providing more design tools.
- BuddyPress, which adds community features like direct messaging.
- Theme Check, which verifies that self-created themes comply with WordPress’s standards.
- WP Super Cache, a caching engine that produces static HTML files.
You can also buy premium plugins on third-party websites. However, with such a vast library available for free, you may not need to. WordPress goes to great lengths to ensure you have all the tools necessary to make your site look and function exactly as you please.
In this way, WordPress outstrips Squarespace completely in terms of customization. Where Squarespace’s visuals may be stunning, your ability to modify their arrangement is limited. WordPress, on the other hand, prides itself in a vast plugin library and the subsequent freedom that provides.
WordPress Pros and Cons
With all of that data on the floor, how well does WordPress stack up as a CMS platform?
- Almost every non-business-related feature you can imagine on WordPress is free to use.
- WordPress is beginner friendly, which means you won’t need to hire a web designer to make your site look good if you are on a budget.
- WordPress, unlike Squarespace, offers you plenty of opportunities for website customization, courtesy of its extensive plugin library.
- While WordPress makes eCommerce available through its WooCommerce plugin, you may have to pay a fee to turn your website into a platform for your business depending on the plugins you need to achieve the exact functionality your business and products require.
- Though there are many amazing plugins available, thanks to WordPress being open source software, not all plugins are tested against one another, and they will often cause conflicts. This can be quite frustrating, and may require professional assistance to help resolve the issues.
Squarespace vs. WordPress: The Line-Up
With those distinctions in mind, how do Squarespace and WordPress compare overall?
Once again, it entirely depends on your budget, willingness to learn, and need for customization.
Squarespace allows users with no experience in web design to create perfectly passable webpages in little to no time. The aesthetic of these sites can certainly be nice, even if the platform’s customization process is somewhat limited, and your site will have a generic feel to it.
Squarespace also keeps its on-page editing simple and ensures that any changes you make, as a user, are instantly available on your active webpages. Compared to WordPress’s slightly more complicated, back-to-front editing process, you have to admire Squarespace’s speed and reflexivity.
WordPress, comparatively, is the most popular, free-to-use website creation platforms on the Internet today. Like Squarespace, it’s an easy site for users with no web design experience to leverage. It can also serve as a platform for eCommerce newcomers, even if it’s for a price.
However, WordPress’s customization vastly outshines Squarespace’s. You can alter nearly any element of your website when you operate through WordPress, mostly thanks to its 50,000+ plugins. That kind of versatility in aesthetic and function is very hard to compete with – especially since most of WordPress’s resources are free to use.
And the Winner is… WordPress
Here’s the thing. Squarespace makes it very easy to create a very simple website, very quickly. That’s their single greatest advantage over their competition, the perception that it’s incredibly easy to make a website.
But do you know who else does that? WordPress!
You don’t have to customize WordPress! It’s nice that it’s an available option, but there are literally tens of thousands of themes you can choose from, that come predesigned and are beautiful. That’s contrasted with the 20 or so options with Squarespace.
And once your theme is installed, you can literally just change the colors, images, and text exactly like you would with Squarespace, just as easily, and viola, you’re done. Any perceived advantage Squarespace has is simply a misperception. WordPress is just as easy to use as Squarespace, just as easy to get up and running, but has the additional advantage of being completely customize-able should you wish to create something more robust now, or in the future when you have time and/or funds to do so.
There really is no reason to choose Squarespace over WordPress.
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