Choosing the right website platform for your online business can be a confusing one. There is typically a trade-off between ease of use and flexibility of use and design. This article is designed to help you navigate the decision between two major players – WordPress vs Squarespace – so you can make an informed decision.
Disclaimer: We mainly use WordPress for the clients that we work with. We will go through our reasoning, but the basic premise for this is that we believe in providing our clients control, predictability and freedom to create the website they want and have autonomy and peace of mind over their data.
So let’s get into it….
Two well-known platforms for creating your website are WordPress and Squarespace.
Introduction to WordPress:
An easy way to think about it is that Squarespace is more like iOS (Apple’s proprietary software), whereas WordPress is more like Android (or Google’s software which is used by the majority of other phones). Android is revered for its flexibility and allows the user to play around with the functionality and design a lot more.
From a numbers perspective, WordPress is used by 450m sites – that’s 7.8% of all websites on the internet and 60% of content management systems. That’s a big chunk of the whole internet!
WordPress is an open-source system, which allows developers the freedom to make plugins that can give diversity & improved functionality for adopters of WordPress websites.
With a significant market share, however, comes a significant issue with a high volume of users. Meaning it attracts a high volume of negative users too – so there can be ongoing security issues because more people want to attack these types of sites.
Introduction to Squarespace
Squarespace is a relatively small player in comparison – utilised by 2 million websites – but attracts significant attention through significant marketing campaigns on TV and across the internet. Like Apple, they try to attract a design-sensitive audience – aiming to make beautiful websites, simply.
They lure people in because it can help them go live quickly, with no coding required and drag & drop functionality. Due to this niche – security issues are significantly reduced and actively monitored by Squarespace. However, this whole model can be very restrictive as soon as you want to move away from a “simple” website – and into more complex or design variations.
Importantly, they are not a Content Management System (CMS) but instead a Website Building Platform. This also makes any customisation difficult and costly – with a high level of limits placed on what a developer/designer can do.
The Build Process:
Squarespace is a drag & drop version of a website builder – it is a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get). No coding is required at all – and you can create a professional-looking website without any technical knowledge.
This means you can have your website modelled off an in-house design – however, this means you can also find millions of other sites that have an almost identical look and feel to your own.
In comparison, WordPress can allow similar levels of backend interface which allows easy use.
Both WordPress and Squarespace provide the option for working initially off a theme: think of a ready-made design that you tweak to your company’s needs.
WordPress, unlike Squarespace, allows full custom builds as well. This means:
- a designer can come up with any design you want, then
- a developer can turn that design into code
Whilst Squarespace themes make it easier to build from scratch and reduce the cost of hiring a designer, they inherently come with a lot of “bloat” or unnecessary sections/plugins or pages.
This can contribute to a range of issues none more important than page speed (where a page loading time is decreased) which can affect your rankings on Google.
Price to use and ongoing costs:
WordPress requires hosting additional to just owning a domain, which can add significant cost to a project.
There are already 59,000 free/unpaid WordPress plugins – with which that additional functionality can be added at little to no additional cost. What’s the catch, however? A lot of these plugins, if not updated regularly by the developer, can cause additional security issues to your website.
Squarespace has inbuilt e-commerce and offers a user-friendly interface, hosting, and domains. However, the choice is limited to their selection. I know from a range of clients this can be very limiting, and frustrating because there is often little choice around functionality or style, and even small things like moving buttons or look and feel options are very primitive.
Pricing & Payment for WordPress vs Squarespace:
One thing we like about Squarespace is the simplicity that it brings. For a single fixed cost (usually a monthly amount), you get all your design, hosting, functionality etc. all included. They even throw in a domain to get you started.
For those starting out this can provide some light relief and keep the “going online” experience easy.
Once you become serious about your online presence this “all in one experience” can be quite limiting or become an expensive way to do things. You are also restricted to where Squarespace chooses to host their (or your) site and the performance and uptime these providers then offer.
There have been issues and concerns about Squarespace websites being able to just turn off sites at their will, and so you are at the discretion of their servers and gatekeepers.
This then makes WordPress an obvious choice for clients who want control. Whilst a little more complicated – meaning you need to install multiple plugins for certain features – it provides the choice and opportunity to make choices which will maximise your site performance. And perhaps most importantly leave you in complete control.
Search Engine Optimisation:
This is a tricky one to get your head around, so let me explain:
Squarespace claims to have “best practices” already built into the site. However, best practice in the world of SEO is an evolving art because there are over 200 criteria that Google chooses (at their discretion) which determines the ranking of a site.
Whilst it is “inbuilt”, a user still needs to know which information to add. For example, adding image names to optimise for SEO is important. Yes, the functionality exists on Squarespace, but would most people know to add these in? Probably not.
With WordPress, SEO performance is unlimited with the addition of third-party plugins. You can add what you want and run a variety of tools and capabilities to help ensure that you can do what you want when it comes to this area.
How the two platforms handle security is interesting. There are ongoing security updates to both WordPress sites and Squarespace, however, due to the flexibility of WordPress, you will likely need to be more proactive on an individual basis than you would for Squarespace.
Given WordPress makes up about 30% of the internet – this attracts notable interest and potential hacking from a wide variety of sources. That said, it also attracts significant investment to ensure these sites are protected.
In a WordPress website, ongoing maintenance and security improvements are paramount. If something goes wrong you will need to fall back on your development team to ensure everything is backed up and you can resolve any issues. Auto-updates on commonly used plug-ins will ensure you are not left in the lurch. High-Security vulnerabilities should be checked a minimum of twice a month.
Squarespace on the other hand, because they restrict the functionality and coding so much, ensures they can take care of security more easily. This is included in a single fee, meaning you don’t need to worry about day to day security of your site. If anything goes wrong, you have the support.
Squarespace provides 24/7 access to their help team. Whilst they typically deal with small issues (like lost passwords, etc) – their support team can be accessed to jump in and lend a hand if/when needed.
Whilst many users choose to undertake their own WordPress updates, it is likely you would work with an agency or a developer who can jump in if needed to help make adjustments and figure out fixes/updates.
Squarespace makes getting up and running easy, simple and quick. The trade-off with the simplicity however is choice, flexibility and control which WordPress provides in abundance.
It is common for start-up businesses to start on Squarespace sites and migrate to WordPress down the track. This transition can be tricky however as users have been protected from all the moving parts which make up a website due to the simple processes Squarespace have created.
WordPress is the market leader and offers incredible choices around designs, functionality and security. Moving into this territory often requires more significant capital investment early on, but means you are not shackled by a 3rd party down the track when you change something or want to mix things up.
The Creative Collective can provide you with expert advice on your current website, or if you are interested in building a new website, we have a highly-experienced web development team who are ready to help you.