It seems that a lot of entrepreneurs are spending WAAAAY too much time figuring out which platform is going to work best for them.
So here are my thoughts, and although I’m WordPress all the way, I’m going to be as unbiased as I possibly can.
Squarespace vs WordPress – which is best for you?
I have seen lots of beautiful websites built with both WordPress and Squarespace, so let’s figure out which is going to be the best for you.
But first of all, we need to understand what each one actually is.
What is Squarespace?
In their own words,
“Squarespace is a way to build websites. For an annual or monthly subscription, we provide access to a set of templates and tools you can use to design your own site – no coding or web development experience required.”
Basically, you pay a fee to use the service, and everything you need to create, build and maintain your site is provided. You can choose one of their templates, use their hosting, register a domain through them if you need to, and you can sell your products through the website that you build with them. Everything is in one place.
The great things about it is that you can sign up to the 14-day free trial to see if you like how it works.
Sounding good so far, right?
So what about WordPress?
What is WordPress?
Firstly, it’s important to understand that there are two different versions of WordPress.
We’ll take a brief look at each of these so we’re clear on the difference. For a more in depth overview you can read WordPress.com vs WordPress.org which goes into more detail.
Hosted WordPress (WordPress.com) is what I like to think of as ‘out of the box’. In a similar way as with Squarespace, you pay a monthly fee and everything is in one place for you to build and maintain a website – hosting included.
The main difference between this version of WordPress and Squarespace is that you don’t get the ecommerce features included, and you would need to use a third party took to add an online shopping facility to your site.
Self-hosted WordPress takes a little more effort to set up, as it’s not just a case of creating an account and being ready to go. You need to purchase a hosting plan, and install WordPress. It used to be a bit of a faff, but is now almost a one-click installation process with most hosting providers. The code for WordPress is open-source, meaning that it’s available to anyone, and may be modified easily.
The upside of that is that there are literally no limitations on how much you can customise it, and the community around WordPress is phenomenal. But it does also mean that with endless possibilities, it can seem like an overwhelming environment.
WordPress itself is free to install on your server but you will need to pay for your own hosting and domain name. I’ll cover that in more detail further on in the article.
Comparing WordPress and Squarespace?
Let’s be honest, this is a little like comparing apples with oranges.
They are both very different platforms, and to my mind, serve very different purpose.
Skip to the summary (you were probably going to anyway, right?) if you want to avoid all the details and just want my opinion of which you should use.
For the purpose of this post, I’m going to focus on the self-hosted version of WordPress, as it’s the one that most people will want to use if they’re creating a business website.
What’s it going to cost?
Squarespace costs may be different by the time you read this, but at the time of posting, you can create a 20-page website for £10/month (if paid annually). There are other plans available, but I’m assuming that 20 pages is going to be sufficient for you.
WordPress is free, but there are costs associated with it, as you need to purchase a domain name, and hosting. There are LOTS of providers for both of these services, I recommend NameCheap for a domain name and SiteGround for hosting. A domain name is likely to cost you around £6/ year and hosting is £6/month.
There are thousands of free themes to choose from, but many people choose to purchase a premium theme.
The one that I love is Divi and it has a drag and drop builder which you can try out by following this link. Divi costs $89/year, so this is another cost to factor in, if this is the route that you’re going to take.
Speed to get up and running
This is a really big deal for most entrepreneurs. We’re naturally impatient beings, and when we decide we want to move ahead with something, it’s usually on full throttle.
There’s no doubt that WordPress is a steeper learning curve than Squarespace. Any new interface is going to take a little time to find your way around, but you’re likely to be up and running faster with Squarespace. There are less options, less choices and therefore it’s a more straightforward process.
When it comes to running a successful website content management is paramount, so let’s have a look at how they compare.
- Customisations. You can switch between the HTML editors and the WYSIWYG editors in WordPress which is useful for stripping out unwanted styling, or ironing out tweaks. Many people reading this won’t find that appealing, but if you need to include code from a third party such as LeadPages, emails, or even Word documents, it can be really helpful.
- Content Versioning. WordPress comes with the ability to roll back to a previous version which can be a huge timesaver if you make mistakes. Squarespace doesn’t have this feature, and in fact, doesn’t offer an autosave feature, which means you’d best be on your best ‘saving’ game when you’re creating content.
- Adding imagery. WordPress offers you a media library so you can easily access images and documents which you have uploaded previously. The facility that Squarespace offers is very basic in comparison as there is no library as such. If you want to include an image on a page which you have used previously, you need to upload it again.
- Layout. Out of the box, the Squarespace editor is far more user-friendly for moving elements around. WordPress counters this by using page-builders, but many of them are premium ones. Divi, the theme which I mentioned earlier has a really powerful page builder which you can try out, and this rivals the simplicity of the Squarespace builder, but it comes at a cost, as it’s a premium plugin.
To be honest, this is chalk and cheese. Plugins are the extenders in the world of WordPress. There are hundreds of thousands of them – many free, and many premium.
Depending on what you’re wanting to achieve on your site will depend on which WordPress plugins you want to use. Rest assured, if there’s something that you want to create, there’s likely to be a plugin available for it – an elaborate photo gallery, a fantastic opt in pop up, a membership area. Usually they’re straightforward to install and maintain, but for advanced functionality, you may need help setting it up.
Squarespace comes with many features, but there are limitations in how much you can extend the functionality of a page or the site. There are code blocks which can help, but they’re not straightforward to include.
By contrast, you can create pretty much anything with WordPress.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
Squarespace doesn’t shame itself in this area, and it has some SEO features out of the box which endear it to search engines. They’re mobile-friendly, generate their own xml sitemap (which search engines like) and have good code. So the very basics are covered.
But it doesn’t really compare with the amount of work that you can do on a WordPress website in terms of increasing page load speeds, adding search engine friendly page titles and descriptions, including the right kind of tags on your images, and much much more. All too geeky to go into, but if gaining traffic from search engines is going to be high on your list of priorities, WordPress should be your main contender.
If you decide to work with WordPress, you need to accept that you should be logging in on a regular basis to check that everything is updated. WordPress releases updates from time to time, and plugins and themes are also updated regularly. Often these are feature enhancements, but sometimes they are security patches, and it’s really important to keep on top of them. If you can’t manage that, you may be leaving your site vulnerable to hackers, and so it’s best to take on a service which would do those updates regularly for you.
Squarespace doesn’t require that kind of maintenance, as they roll everything out to their accounts at any one time. They’re not immune from the attacks, and when they fall victim, it can often bring down large swathes of sites at any one time, but I would hazard that Squarespace sites are less likely to fall victim to security attacks.
There is a huge community supporting WordPress, but if you have questions, it can be difficult to know exactly where to turn. This is why I set up the WordPress Happy Community which is a free Facebook group for coaches and therapists who use WordPress. If you’re using a premium WordPress theme, most of these come with good support, and if you’re thinking of purchasing a premium theme, it’s one of the things that I would look out for.
Squarespace on the other hand has a dedicated support function, and so this gives more peace of mind as there’s a definite place to turn if you run into difficulties.
So I’m going to cut to the chase and tell you exactly what I think you want to hear, which is a frank interpretation of whether you should use it or not.
Who should use Squarespace?
You won’t see many medium-sized businesses using Squarespace for the simple reason that they cater to people who want to create an elementary website without any website create skills, and without the budget to hire a web designer/developer.
So the strength of Squarespace appealing to that audience, means that the platform is straightforward to use. But that simplicity means that they lock down a lot of functionality in order to maintain the style of the templates that they provide and to avoid anyone ‘breaking’ anything.
That leads to limitations in what you’re able to do, so if you have a particular style in mind for your website which goes beyond those of the Squarespace templates, you may be disappointed by your lack of ability to customise things.
Case study: I was working with someone on a coaching call the other day who has a Squarespace website. It looks lovely, but he was wanting advice about increasing the opt-ins to his free resource. I suggested changing the colour of his main call to action so that it stands out more, and he was unable to do that within the limitation of the template.
My opinion: ideal for anyone wanting to get up and running really fast with minimal financial outlay, and who doesn’t mind being restricted by certain layout or styling issues.
If you want to be up and running really fast, don’t have the budget for a web designer, and are literally building a really straightforward brochure website, with no complex functionality, and you’re not envisaging growing your business any time soon, I would go with Squarespace.
In doing so, you’re pulling together a website fast, for £120/year, and you’re going to be able to be confident in managing it yourself. What’s the downside? You’ll need to accept the limitations in design and functionality, as well as accept that you’re going to need to shell out if you want additional features.
Who should use WordPress?
WordPress can also cater for users without website skills. I have students in my Rock That Website program who have never touched a line of code, and who have never maintained a website, and they create their own wildly profitable website within 8 weeks, so it’s definitely possible.
I would certainly say that it’s a steeper learning curve however, and you would be well advised to work with a website mentor to keep you on track at the beginning of your WordPress journey.
My opinion: ideal for anyone who wants to build a business website with complete flexibility and wants the website to be able to grow as they scale their business.
If you don’t mind putting in a little extra time at the outset, and you want a website without limitations that can grow with your business WordPress is the one for you.
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