Comparing website builders such as WordPress vs Squarespace is a tricky business. It's often tempting to try to boil it down to one definitive answer as to which is the absolute best.
However, as with many technologies, this debate is really about which website builder is the best for you. There are many factors to consider when choosing a platform, and no single tool will be ideal for every single user.
In this post, we'll discuss what to look for when selecting a website builder for your project. Then we'll compare WordPress vs Squarespace on five key points to help you determine which meets the needs of your situation. Let's get down to it!
In This Article 🔮
- An Introduction to WordPress
- An Introduction to Squarespace
- What to Look for in a Website Builder
- WordPress vs Squarespace (5 Key Factors to Consider)
- Wrapping Up
An Introduction to WordPress 🔨
Before we dive into comparing these two platforms, it's important that you have an idea of how each of them works. For starters, WordPress is the most popular Content Management System (CMS) on the web, powering about one-third of the internet:
It was initially launched as a blogging platform. Although it's now used to create all kinds of websites, it still has a few features that call back to its roots. For instance, most content created with WordPress is split into 'posts' and 'pages':
WordPress is what's called an 'open-source' platform. This means its source code is available to anyone who wants to view, use, or modify it, and is distributed under a General Public License (GPL). There are many pros and cons to this arrangement, which we'll discuss in detail later.
You'll also need to supplement your WordPress site with themes (which mostly affects your site's appearance) and plugins (i.e. add functionality the platform doesn't include out of the box.) Many of these extensions are also open-source.
It's important to note that there are two versions of WordPress: WordPress.com and self-hosted WordPress. This post will focus on the latter. 'Self-hosted' refers to the need to rent server space from a company to store (or 'host') your website and make it publicly available to visitors.
Finally, WordPress is backed by an extensive community. Many developers and other professionals provide support for it via forums. You can also find in-person events including meetups and conferences (called WordCamps) where you can connect with other users.
An Introduction to Squarespace 🔧
While WordPress places a heavy emphasis on content (especially posts), Squarespace is more of a 'complete' website builder:
Squarespace only powers about 1.5 percent of the web. Next to WordPress' 34 percent, this seems pretty small. However, this number puts Squarespace right behind Joomla! and Drupal, and ahead of more comparable platforms including Wix and Weebly.
Also, unlike WordPress, Squarespace is not open-source. Using this platform is more like purchasing a regular product or service, with certain Terms and Conditions you must follow and some restrictions. For instance, Squarespace can suspend or disable your account.
However, being backed by a company also has its perks. Squarespace provides users with access to a formal support team that's motivated to help you resolve any problems you encounter.
Squarespace is also what's called a 'hosted' website builder. This means instead of having to find a provider to supply a server, Squarespace automatically installs your website on its own servers. The company also handles the maintenance tasks that go along with managing a site, such as domain registration and security.
In addition to general website-building features, Squarespace has several marketing, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), e-commerce, and analytics tools built in. We'll examine them in more detail shortly. Across the board, it's fairly highly regarded as an all-in-one platform for launching your brand's online presence.
What to Look for in a Website Builder 👀
Every website builder is best for certain types of users. When choosing which one is right for you and your brand, you'll need to consider several aspects of your future website, as well as your technical abilities and budget.🤔 Choosing a website builder shouldn't be a quick decision. #WordPress Click To Tweet
Here are a few aspects you'll want to think through carefully:
- Ease of Use. A tool is no good to you if you aren't sure how to put it to work. Being able to jump right into creating your website is without having to spend a lot of time learning the platform is a plus.
- Customization. Every website requires some level of customization, such as adding your branding and titling your pages. You may also wish to add custom coding (or hire someone to do it for you) in order to achieve a certain look or functionality.
- Extensions. Most website builders offer extensions that enable you to add various features. Not only is it ideal for your platform to have a large extension library in case you need them, it's also important that they're of high quality.
- Flexibility. Websites come in all shapes and sizes. It's important your website builder can adapt to your needs and scale with your brand.
- Price. You likely have a budget for your website, and sticking to it is a necessity. Choosing the right platform will give you the most bang for your buck.
Rushing through this decision could cause serious problems down the line. Migrating to a new platform if you find out the one your initial choice is not a good fit isn't an easy process, so take the time to compare your options – including WordPress vs Squarespace – and make the right selection the first time.
WordPress vs Squarespace (5 Key Factors to Consider) 🥊
Now you know what to have your eyes peeled for when contemplating any website building platform, let's compare WordPress vs Squarespace on the five factors we mentioned earlier.
We'll begin with arguably the biggest factor to consider, other than price.
1. Ease of Use
As we mentioned, how easy your website builder is to use is pretty high on the list of key considerations. After all, it doesn't matter how inexpensive a platform is or what features it provides if you can't figure out how to get started.
There are many different areas we could consider when assessing the ease of use of WordPress vs Squarespace. To keep things simple, we're going to focus on two that every website owner will have to deal with – the setup process and content editing.
WordPress has what's known as its 'famous five-minute install'. This makes it sound fairly simple, but the truth is there are several steps to the process that can be confusing for beginners. Specifically, you'll need some basic knowledge of File Transfer Protocol (FTP) and phpMyAdmin.
However, before pressing on, you'll need to choose a hosting provider and register a domain name. A smart move is to invest in what's called 'Managed WordPress hosting'. This type of plan comes with WordPress already installed on your server so you don't have to worry about the more technical steps we mentioned earlier.
By comparison, Squarespace's setup is laughably easy. All you have to do is create an account:
Input your name, email address, and a password – or sign up with Facebook, Twitter, or Google. That's it!
WordPress has two different content editing interfaces: the 'Classic Editor' and the 'Block Editor'. The latter is the default post and page creator. It works by enabling you to add and customize 'blocks' that contain different types of content, such as text or images:
The Classic Editor is the old content creation system. You can still access it via a plugin (more on those later). It looks and works a lot like a word processor with a built-in HTML editor:
WordPress' Block Editor was designed to be easier for beginners to use, and to compete with website builders such as Squarespace. As you may imagine, the second platform we're looking at also uses a block system for creating and editing content:
Squarespace's content editor and the WordPress Block Editor work in very similar ways. You can click on a block to access additional options such as alignment and style, and move elements around the page.
One major difference you may have already noticed in the images above is that Squarespace provides a 'front end' view while you're editing. What you see is exactly how your site will look to visitors. Some feel this feature makes for an easier content creation experience.
Overall, the WordPress Block Editor is still a little behind Squarespace's editing interface. While the Classic Editor is nice for those who want to be able to easily incorporate custom code, it has a much steeper learning curve and formatting limitations for those without technical experience.
WordPress and Squarespace both enable you to customize your website with or without coding knowledge. We'll take a look at both processes.
In WordPress, users can make changes to their website's theme without code using the Customizer:
The options available will depend on your theme's developer. However, most enable you to add your logo and title, make some cosmetic adjustments, and set up your site's navigation.
This is WordPress' open-source nature coming into play. Since themes are creating by many people throughout the community, every site is slightly different.
Squarespace's Design tab offers a very similar experience:
Here you can change your logo and title, modify your template's color scheme and navigation, and more.
If you happen to know some code or decide to hire someone who does, customization becomes a different story. As an open-source platform, WordPress offers absolute freedom to any developer who wishes to adapt it.
Adding code to Squarespace is trickier. Anyone can incorporate custom CSS and HTML, but updates may override your modifications. If you purchase a Business or Commerce plan, you can access the Squarespace Developer Platform.
However, you still won't be able to modify blocks. You also can't use FTP or Git to manage files or run server-side code. Plus, Squarespace support doesn't cover custom code and won't help you if you run into trouble.
As we said in our introduction to the platform, WordPress has two different types of extensions: themes and plugins. At this time, there are over 10,000 WordPress themes and more than 54,000 plugins – and those are just the free ones in the official Directories. There are also commercial extensions to choose from.
You can use the near-infinite combinations of themes and plugins available to do just about anything on your website. A few examples include adding image sliders, creating data tables, sending push notifications, setting up staging sites, and more.
However, you have to consider quality as well as quantity when assessing extensions. Anyone can access the WordPress source code and build extensions for it, but not everyone should. There are plugins and themes available that are poorly coded or abandoned, which can lead to plugin conflicts, security breaches, and other issues.📖 WordPress' open-source nature creates a lot of pros and cons for the platform as a website builder. #WordPress Click To Tweet
Squarespace offers the complete opposite experience in terms of extensions. There are 14 third-party add-ons for advanced functionality. The template selection is a little better, with ten 'families' each including several variations:
Where Squarespace makes up for its lack of options is with the quality of the extensions it provides. You don't have to worry about plugin conflicts or outdated code because everything is created in-house.
Even so, WordPress really takes the cake here. It's not difficult to make sure you're choosing tried and true extensions by checking ratings and reviews before you download them, and you can't beat the vast pool of options.
Your brand is unique, which means you need a website builder that's flexible enough to meet your specific needs. Customization options and the availability of extensions play significant roles in this aspect of both WordPress and Squarespace.
You can use either platform to create a wide variety of websites, such as:
- Small business sites
- Online portfolios
- E-commerce stores
- Non-profit sites
However, you can accomplish some less-conventional goals for your website with WordPress plugins. For example, there are several tools you can use to turn your site into a social network with thousands of users:
You can also create 'custom post types'. These are essentially special templates for different kinds of content that have unique elements you want to include, such as reviews or recipes:
WordPress also has a Multisite feature, which enables you to create several websites all connected in a single network.
Another element that is somewhat tied to flexibility is scalability, or how much your website can grow. Since WordPress is self-hosted, you can always upgrade to a dedicated server to support more visitors and content.
Squarespace promises it can accommodate high traffic levels. However, there's no guarantee other than having complete control. Using WordPress means that if you ever need to, you can support thousands of pages and millions of visitors.
Last but not least, it's important to consider your budget when choosing a website builder. Pricing for WordPress can get a little complicated, but some costs you'll need to account for include:
- WordPress itself. The core CMS is always free, so this shouldn't be a concern.
- Web hosting. There are technically companies offering 'free' hosting, but we don't recommend using them. Your site will likely be slow and suffer other complications. Instead, budget at least $4 per month for hosting.
- Domain name registration. Your domain name registration will also be an ongoing cost. A .com site can expect to pay around $10 per year.
- Themes. There are many high-quality free themes available. However, premium ones tend to offer more advanced features. They cost anywhere from $2 to hundreds of dollars.
- Plugins. Again, there are many free plugins you can use to meet most of your needs. Premium tools are usually available for monthly subscription fees of between $5 and $100.
These elements could amount to as little as $58 per year, or soar sky high. That's the thing with WordPress pricing – in many ways, it's what you make it.
The other factor you'll need to consider is your site's maintenance. Time is money, so the work you put into updating, securing, optimizing, and backing up your site is another kind of 'cost'. Alternatively, you can hire professionals to do this work, but this will be another associated expense.
Squarespace pricing is more straightforward. Plans start at $12 per month and go up from there:
This puts your starting price at $144 per year. However, the lowest tier plan is rather restricted when it comes to features. You can only add two contributors and can't access the analytics or e-commerce features. Count on paying at least $18 per month.
Wrapping Up 🌯
Deciding how to create your website isn't a process you want to rush through. Comparing platforms such as WordPress vs Squarespace is important for making an informed choice and launching a successful site.
To help you in your quest to find the best website builder, we've compared WordPress vs Squarespace on five key aspects:
- Ease of use. For absolute beginners, Squarespace has the gentlest learning curve.
- Customization. Both platforms offer comparable features for non-coders, but adding custom code is much easier in WordPress.
- Extensions. Although Squarespace's extensions are guaranteed to be of high quality, WordPress offers far more options.
- Flexibility. Through plugins, WordPress offers some less-conventional features. It's also more scalable and can grow with your brand over time.
- Price. Expenses vary for both platforms, but WordPress ultimately has a lower startup cost.
If you think WordPress may be the website builder for you, consider letting us help you maintain your new website. At WP Buffs, our expert team will handle updates, backups, and more so that you can focus on growing your brand. Check out our plans today!
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Featured Image Credit: CloudVisual.
GIF Credit: GIPHY.
Will Morris is a staff writer at WordCandy.co. When he’s not writing about WordPress, he likes to gig his stand-up comedy routine on the local circuit. If you want some freebies, check out our free speed and security ebooks, webinars for WordPress professionals, WordPress blog or WordPress podcast all about building monthly recurring revenue.