WordPress vs Squarespace
A COMPREHENSIVE COMPARISON GUIDE
Can we just talk about the elephant in the room, please?
You have a dilemma and you don’t know who to turn to for a straight answer.
I bet I can help.
Let me guess…. You know you need some sort of website to be taken seriously in the online space, right?
You’re scouring the interwebs and Facebook groups.
You keep seeing the same phrases pop up over and over again.
You get confused, a little overwhelmed, and you realize you’re not making any progress.
You are spinning your wheels because you have absolutely no idea if you should choose…
Actually, it’s a loaded question, but I have the answer!
If you’re a creative entrepreneur with a message to share, but you’re all in your feelings or your head because you don’t know which freaking platform to choose – this is the post for you!
So grab a cup of coffee, shut the door, and get cozy.
I’m about to bust some myths and lay it on the line for you!
First off, too many people get caught up in the whole debate that Squarespace is better than WordPress, or vice versa.
The truth is that they are both great website builders.
They both get you a similar end result – which is an amazing, eye-catching website that attracts your dream customers.
Asking about WordPress vs Squarespace is like asking a web designer how much they charge for a website (that’s another juicy topic we’ll save for later!)
A. It depends!
B. I need more information about your website AND your business to give you an answer.
So without further ado, let’s dig into some of the information and questions you should consider before making your decision on WordPress or Squarespace
What's the main different between the two platforms?
WordPress has open source software – which means that the software is free to use AND developers can customize the software to their liking. This is why there is such a huge number of options for WordPress templates (or themes) and plugins (apps and additional software to extend functionality)
Squarespace is a closed platform, which means that only Squarespace hosts your site, and only Squarespace developers can create templates, plugins or integrations that would work with their websites. This limits your options – but Squarespace was built with the intent to simplify and not overwhelm.
What kind of business do you have?
- A blogger/online marketer/author/coach who wants to grow a major personal brand and will have a lot of high-end marketing needs like email marketing, sales pages, membership sites, online courses and other e-Commerce needs.
- A small to medium-sized business with plans to expand or attract venture capital in 2-5 years
- Non-profit organizations.
If your business or website needs fall into these categories, you should definitely consider WordPress. In these scenarios, you should be positioning your business for growth, and that is one of the many reasons WordPress is thriving. It has the flexibility and functionality to grow with your business. Squarespace has limited functionality and you may find that your business will eventually outgrow the platform, and switching platforms is zero fun!
- A solopreneur or local Mom & Pop shop that just needs a basic brochure-style and information website – you know, so you don’t have to keep referring people to your Facebook business page or Instagram (I see you..)
- One time use – for example, your wedding website, special event, memorial or family reunion website.
- Musician information websites
- Personal or a hobby blog (without the intent to profit)
In my humble opinion, if your website or business needs does fall into one of these categories – you could go either way. Squarespace is a great short term solution for those who don’t have a lot of time on their hands, don’t want to be overwhelmed, don’t have the time for a lot of website maintenance and just need to get something going that looks good.
Winner: Totally depends on your business model and website needs.
How important are flexibility and functionality to you?
WordPress is an open-source software, so you can flip it, drop it and spin it any which way your heart desires.
In other words (LOL) you have full control over your WordPress website.
No limit :).
Want to get down and dirty with the code? Be my guest!
Not techy and code gives you the shivers? No problem.
You can still build an awesome site with WordPress.
If you can dream it, then WordPress can do it.
WordPress has thousands – yes thousands of themes – for you to choose from.
Does that number kinda scare you a little bit? ( Don’t worry, I got you!)
I knoooow this can become overwhelming. I’ve played around with my fair share of themes over the years, and I can tell you that there are only a few theme developers that stand head and shoulders above the crowd. If you want to cut through the noise, here are a few recommendations worth checking out:
I worked with the StudioPress/Genesis themes for years – but really have fallen in love
with Divi because it’s easy for my clients and students to update their website, without having to spend 10 minutes figuring out where everything is.
Divi has recently been updated and now has a drag and drop front-end visual editor – which means you can edit your site on the front end, in real time. Check out the demo here.
If you want a visual drag and drop interface and the ability to move things around on your website AND have unlimited customization options for your site…well, it’s like Christmas 365 days a year!
Now, who wouldn’t want that?
Another great thing about WordPress are the plugins.
They extend the capacity of your website and give you flexibility and functionality to grow with your business. There are thousands of both free and paid WordPress themes for you to choose from so you’re not restricted to just a few options. There are over 40K plugins in the WordPress.org repository.
Which means that you can find a plugin for almost ANYTHING – donations, multiple payment gateways, email pop-ups, SEO, analytics, security, spam prevention – you name it, there’s a plugin for it.
So yeah, flexibility and functionality? WordPress has got you covered!
With Squarespace, everything is tightly monitored, which means that you have a lot less control over how you want to customize your website. Any plugins, themes, apps or 3rd party integrations are limited to the Squarespace developers.
Squarespace is designed for simplicity.
The reason that Squarespace has so much appeal is that their website templates are visually appealing and Squarespace also has a visual drag and drop builder. You can build your website and format your web content without having to mess around with code. It’s a great starting point for beginners. However – You are only limited to the templates that Squarespace has to offer – so after a while, if you want to really customize the look of your site, you’ll hit a wall.
What is your budget?
The WordPress software itself is free to download. To get things set-up, you will need to purchase a domain name, web hosting and a decent premium WordPress theme (optional, but highly recommended)
- $12/year – To purchase a domain name ( mywebsite.com). I recommend Namecheap.com
- $50/ year or $3.95/month – To Purchase a BEGINNER web hosting plan. I recommend Siteground.
- $89/year for the Divi WordPress theme.
If you complain that WordPress is hard because of the code, the Divi theme will go Myth-Busters on you and smash those complaints to smithereens.
Total Cost: $150+/year
As of this writing, current plans are as follows:
- $144/year for the Personal plan or $16/month to month
- $216/year for the Business plan or $26/month to month
- $312/year for Basic eCommerce store or $30/month to month
- $480/year for Advanced eCommerce store or $46/month to month
If you purchase an annual plan, you get a free website domain name.Otherwise, you’ll need to purchase your domain name separately.
Squarespace charges $20-$70 per year for domains (ouch!). To avoid that fee – I strongly recommend buying your domain through Namecheap and then connecting it with your Squarespace account.
How much support do you need for troubleshooting tech issues?
WordPress.org has a free support forum where you can ask questions about themes, plugins and all things WordPress. However, there isn’t a dedicated support staff and your questions may go unanswered.
Fear not, the free support forum is not the only place to go!
The WordPress community is HUGE and wonderful. There are TONS of Facebook groups for WordPress – ranging from the beginner to the advanced WordPress user, specific WordPress plugins, and specific WordPress themes.
The Elegant Themes blog has a really great in-depth post about the best WordPress Facebook groups. I highly recommend checking it out and bookmarking it for future reference.
If you decide to go with #teamWordPress – it is worth investing in a premium theme and some premium plugins to get additional support and a guaranteed response. For example, you can download and use a free WordPress theme, but if you have questions or need additional help – you may get limited support.
If you go with a paid theme like Divi and have questions – you can use their support forum that comes with a membership – which saves me hours of time scouring Youtube. The developers have skin in the game, so they have more incentive to support their paying customers.
One of my favorite plugins that I use for website backups and migration – Backup Buddy – comes with email support. So if I run into any issues I can submit a request on their website and get a response within 24 hours.
Squarespace has an entire site dedicated to supporting and answering questions. The great thing is that you can get your questions answered by their support staff relatively quickly. There is also a Facebook group for those who want to get feedback from other Squarespace users. If you’re short on time and don’t have the patience to search for the answer yourself, SquareSpace is definitely the more appealing option.
Winner: Squarespace, because of convenience and a guaranteed response
What level of security do you need for your website?
When it comes to WordPress + security, there are 3 things we want to talk about – updates, spamming and backups. I’ll address all three below:
Updates – WordPress gets a bad rep for hacking and security issues because of poor plugins and shittily-coded themes that can break your site. It is also true that if you don’t update your site (read: update your themes and plugins) on a regular basis, your site security is vulnerable and you can get hacked (this actually happened to me personally, more on that another time.)
How to take care of your WordPress website so you don’t get hacked:
1. Schedule maintenance time for your site to perform updates. Just like a car, a house, your body, or anything else – it needs to be maintained on a regular basis. I think most website owners forget this because our websites are “intangible” and it’s not as obvious as first. As your business grows, delegate that task to a virtual assistant to take it off your plate.
2. Don’t choose a shitty web host. I’ve been through my fair share of them and am currently in love with Siteground. They are specifically built for WordPress sites AND they have tons of security measures in place.
3. Consider a premium service like Sucuri to monitor your site for you, so you can sleep better at night.
4. Choose a good, premium theme. Cannot recommend Divi enough here.
Spam – This used to be a HUGE problem in the infant stages of WordPress, but nowadays most WordPress installs come with a plugin called Akismet, which basically cuts back on the spam comments on your website. Get that activated and you’re good to go! WordPress also has the ability to turn off comments if you don’t want to mess with that.
Backups – This is where WordPress takes the prize. Guess what – you have the power to backup your website! There are several free and paid plugins that you can use to take a complete backup of your website. My personal favorite that I use like is BackupBuddy. I use this little gem to backup my site, client sites, migrate sites and duplicate sites. It is the best!
Need a free plugin to get you going? UpdraftPlus has you covered!
Squarespace is very secure because it is a closed ecosystem.
However, there is no way to do a full backup of your website. A friend of mine, who is a kick-ass web developer, told me one day she was coding a Squarespace site and – for whatever reason – the entire system crashed. When she rebooted, all her custom changes were gone – zip, zilch, nada.
When she reached out to Squarespace for support, they really weren’t much help in terms of recovering the data. She spent 14 hours recoding and rebuilding everything. Yikes – no thanks👎🏾!
Squarespace does take backups on their server, but for the individual website owner, there is no automatic backup in place.
According to their support site – You have to do a manual backup of everything. As in, copy and paste your text, make sure all your images are saved on your hard drive, and save a copy of your custom code. Hmmmmm?? The other option would be to export your XML file ( files of your site) and download it to your hard drive. By the way, you can use that XML file to move over to WordPress…:) #justsayin’
Winner: WordPress, because of multiple security options and the ability to backup your website at your leisure
How often do you plan to update your website's information?
As the website owner, you are responsible for updating your WordPress website theme and plugins.
That being said, if you’re going the WordPress route, Here are my tips for maintaining your WordPress site:
1. Choose a good web host that takes care of your WordPress updates for you – Favorite options include Siteground, and if you want managed hosting options that are similar to Squarespace, consider WP Engine.
2. Just like any asset in your business, your website should be a well-oiled machine and updated from time to time. Schedule some admin time to do things like update your websites, check for broken links, check your analytics and make website updates & tweaks as needed.
Squarespace manages hosting, security and tech updates for you. This is essentially managed hosting, where your web host takes care of everything so you don’t have to lose sleep over your website.
Going back to the local Mom & Pop business owner example, again this is where Squarespace would probably be the best option. I’ve built quite a few local business sites using WordPress, and my clients have chosen to pay me a retainer to take care of their websites for them. If you’re not a position to pay for maintenance, you don’t have the time to do it yourself AND you’re not planning on updating your site frequently, definitely consider Squarespace.
How important is search engine traffic (SEO) to your business?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization – aka how well your website ranks in Google. SEO is AND SHOULD be important to every website and business owner.
In a crowded internet space, being ranked on the first page of Google is free, organic traffic, which is gold in the internet streets!
So how does WordPress show up?
One word: Yoast. (Huh? Keep reading, boo…)
The Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress is hands down the best plugin in the world (yes, the world) for SEO. It walks you through everything you need to do in order to optimize your site for the search engines and social media. I’ve personally used the Yoast SEO plugin many times over the years on client sites and personal sites to help increase search engine ranking. Yoast has a free version, but the premium versions take it to a whole ‘nother level. We’re talking:
- More options for your WordPress SEO site
- Local SEO
- Video SEO
- News SEO
- eCommerce SEO
- Local SEO for eCommerce
So if you really want to knock your website’s search ranking out of the ballpark, consider WordPress.
I give major props to Squarespace for being the only contender that comes close to having any decent SEO in place for their websites. All of the other website builders – Wix, Weebly – have a lot of work to do in the SEO department, and that’s putting it nicely.
As I was poking around on their website, they have really great documentation on how to optimize your site for SEO. Even further, they have really in-depth tutorials on how to optimize your blog posts and pages to be share-worthy on social media. I spent some time reading through their support articles – and I was really impressed with all the information.
This article in particular caught my eye as it has had really god info on SEO for beginners.
Still going with #TeamWordPress on this one, just because there are so many different ways to optimize your site for SEO.
How important is email marketing in your business?
When it comes to email marketing, there are both free and paid plugins that will work with any email marketing provider – whether you’re #teamConvertkit or #teamMailchimp or #teamOntraport – there is a plugin that will work with your WordPress website to capture leads for your email list.
And most email service providers have developed their own plugins so that their customers have an easier time setting up their email opt-ins.
WordPress also plays nicely with more advanced email marketing services like Ontraport or Infusionsoft. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. If you dive into Premium plugin options such as OptinMonster or the Bloom plugin from Elegant Themes, you have even more functionality and customizations available at your fingertips.
If you were to solely rely on Squarespace’s website, you would think the only email marketing service you could use was Mailchimp.
You can use almost any email service provider with Squarespace, but you have to grab the form code from your email marketing service and integrate it manually with a few steps.
Another option for both WordPress and Squarespace users is to use a service like LeadPages which integrates easily with both platforms.
Does your long-term growth strategy include sales pages, digital products, and courses, e-commerce or membership sites?
Digital courses & Membership sites – I’m blending membership sites and digital courses together, because the assumption is that if you’re building an online course, you need some kind of a paywall to store your premium content, right 😊?
Ready to launch a digital course? WordPress has you covered. There are several options for membership integration with your site. Some of the more popular plugins include:
You’re not limited in any way – in terms of design AND functionality – and can pick and choose the one that best suits your needs – whether it tiered plans, e-commerce, drip, a specific payment gateway – whatever you need, you’ll find a solution with WordPress
With most of the membership plugin options, you pay an annual fee (between $199-$299/year) – but it’s definitely cheaper that using a 3rd party course platform that starts at around $39/month. Course Cats is a little more expensive with an annual fee of $497, but from what I’ve heard it’s fantastic and definitely competes with platforms such as Teachable and Thinkific.
eCommerce – Again, here is where WordPress shines in flexibility and functionality. There are several eCommerce options with WordPress and you can literally use any payment processor and integrate it with your website.
Whether you’re a beginner with a few products, intermediate or need a high-level e-commerce site with hundreds of products – you don’t have to worry about WordPress outgrowing your business – they’ve got it handled.
If e-commerce is a future need of yours and you’re not quite sure which way to go, I highly recommend starting out with the WooCommerce plugin.
It’s free, and easily allows to you add your products, payment options, and pre-populate a lot of the information that you need ( check out pages, add to cart pages, etc.)
WooCommerce is a robust plugin and one of the most popular eCommerce plugins in the WordPress circles. If you have more robust needs than a basic eCommerce site, WooCommerce has you covered with extensions to help you customize your online store.
Digital Courses and Membership sites – With Squarespace, you can use a service called MemberSpace to create a membership site. This is kind of a big deal because previously the only other option was to password-protect pages on your Squarespace site
Lauren from Elle & Co has a great, in-depth tutorial on how to set-up your Squarespace membership site.
The other option for membership sites if you have a Squarespace blog is to use a Course platform like Teachable, Thinkific or Kajabi. A great alternative but more expensive on the pocket (*note – several WordPress peeps also use 3rd party course platforms too, but it’s another option amongst our choices with WordPress!)
eCommerce – According to their website, the only eCommerce gateways they offer are PayPal and Stripe. Once you get Stripe going, there is also an option for Apple Pay.
You can build a beautiful e-commerce store using Squarespace. However, if you have another payment processor or want some robust features ( think cart abandonment, upsells, instant refunds, etc.) you may need to look into another option like Samcart to sell your products online.
Conclusion: Both are great website builders, and both serve their purpose. But I’m #TeamWordPress.
Squarespace is made for simplicity, convenience, and ease of use. It’s a great solution for beginners who need something without a huge learning curve but is limited for long-term growth strategy. It’s a great solution for mom and pop business owners who are DIYers and just need to get something out there to have some type of credible online presence.
If you use Squarespace for an online business to sell courses or a membership site, eventually you’re going to hit a wall with some of your options and may need to start using other services to support ( LeadPages, Samcart, Teachable, etc.) – which is fine – but hurts the pockets a little and it’s one more login and one more integration.
WordPress has a much higher learning curve and can initially seem overwhelming. I hope that I’ve dispelled and busted some the myths in the answers to your questions. Part of the confusion is that there are so many options to choose from, and I’ve narrowed it down to a few, simple choices – specifically when it comes to web hosting, themes and even a few plugins.
But ultimately, whenever someone asks WordPress or Squarespace, my answer is always #TeamWordPress.