One of the common questions when building a website for a client is deciding whether to use WordPress (the self-hosted wordpress.org version, not wordpress.com) or Squarespace as a content management system. I have experience and like to work with both, so I will offer an unbiased comparison and opinion on both. Let’s look at several factors when comparing the two:
1. Ease of Use
Squarespace is definitely the better option for absolute beginners who want to have a website online quickly and without worrying about code. It is a paid “closed” content management system offering different plans that include domain, hosting and the website-building platform. Pages can be created easily and content (text, images, videos, buttons, lines, spaces) can be added in form of “blocks”, pretty much like a drag-and-drop style. Squarespace has an extensive knowledge base with video and text tutorials to get you up and running in a short time.
WordPress has a steeper learning curve and requires some more technical knowledge (or hiring a web designer) to get started. It is an “open-source” content management system, meaning that it’s free and anyone can contribute to its development, code custom themes and plugins and offer them to others for free or as paid versions. This can be confusing at first and create a “jungle” of notions and things to think about for the client. To use WordPress, you need to buy first your own domain name and hosting from a company, then install WordPress and decide which theme to use. There are many free themes and paid ones out there, and it can be challenging to choose the right one for your business. I chose to use a reputable company called StudioPress that created a paid framework for WordPress, called Genesis, as well as different paid premium themes.
2. Customization and Flexibility
Squarespace offers limited customization options compared to WordPress. In their Style Editor it’s possible to change the colors of the background, buttons and text, background images, navigation links colors (also in hover and active state). For more advanced customizations, they have a Custom CSS field where you can add your own code. One downside of Squarespace is that all the saved changes are already visible online, making it more difficult to correct mistakes. It also means it is not possible to develop the website locally and then upload it to Squarespace (unless you enable the “developer version”, which offers no support or tutorials). It is not possible to make a back-up of the website to keep it on your computer, which means you depend completely on Squarespace.
WordPress, on the other hand, is very flexible and offers many options to be in charge of the website’s content. You can install it on your computer, work on the website, then use a plugin to transfer the final version online. You can always make a back-up and keep it on your computer or send to a remote destination. Once online, you can edit the content via Dashboard or FTP, add your own code to the Editor or directly in the theme files. You can install plugins for almost every function, or write the code yourself.
3. Customer Support
Squarespace has a quick customer support by email or chat, however they don’t offer any support for custom code or when using the developer platform.
WordPress itself has community forums where you can post questions and it may take a while until someone replies. StudioPress (the company that I chose to buy the WordPress framework and premium themes) offers fast and high quality customer support via email for all of their themes and they also help with technical questions like custom code.
4. Price (& e-commerce integration)
Squarespace offers 2 plans, Personal and Business, billed monthly or annually, and 2 plans (basic and advanced) for online stores: https://www.squarespace.com/pricing#websites. They include a free domain, hosting and an SSL certificate.
WordPress is free to install, but the better themes and plugins are paid ones. Also, unless you know how to code or are willing to invest time in learning it, it is advisable to hire an expert to design and code the website.
While Squarespace is more cost-effective and easy to use for absolute beginners, WordPress is a much stronger platform that offers the most flexibility and freedom in the long term.
Ask me in the comments or contact me to schedule a free 30-minutes web design consultation.