WordPress vs. Squarespace
If I had a nickel every time someone asked me the question should I use Squarespace or WordPress… I would be rich! After building multiple sites in both platforms (heck we even ran a whole year exclusively on Squarespace) I can confidently answer that question.
Of course, there are loads of other content management systems out there like: Drupal, Joomla, The Grid, Wix, Weebly and the like. We’ve built sites on many of them, and my favorites are WordPress and Squarespace.
We’ll review what types of people will do best on each platform, the costs, time investments, learning curves, site maintenance and where to start.
Great for: Bloggers, Businesses, Custom Websites
Cost Range: The time it takes you to build the site, or to pay a team to do it for you $0-$6,000+
DIY Cost: Hosting ($3-$20/month + a Customizable WordPress Theme $39-$79)
Time Investment: 10-40 hours depending on your familiarity, design skills and tech understanding + site maintenance
WordPress is a content management system that you install on your website server. Essentially, at one point this was quite a process. Now, almost all places you host your website will have some sort of a “one-click-install” application that makes the process easy. Two hosting platforms that we suggest with this “one-click-install” are Bluehost and Media Temple.
Here’s an example of the Media Temple “one click install.” It really is just a click!
WordPress can be used for simple, one-page websites, or robust and complex sites. It’s an incredibly versatile platform, and that’s why we love it! Heck, 20% of all websites are WordPress sites. It can have a steep learning curve. If you’re thinking of DIY-ing the site, you can watch loads of tutorials on Youtube. It isn’t that hard once you get in there. It just takes some patience.
Honestly, Austin with no coding skills or graphic design skills has made some awesome websites. If he can do it, you sure as heck can too!
When you’re perusing the sea of themes, sort through by selecting “WordPress” > “Popular Items” in Themeforest. They sort the themes by popularity. This makes it a little easier to find a rockin’ theme because the most popular themes are usually the most versatile.
Go through the “live demo” and check out what the customizable settings are, and the look and feel for the site. If you dig it, installing it on your new WordPress platform is as easy as an upload.
Integrations & Plugins:
I love WordPress for the ease of switching themes and website designs. Yet another reason to love it, is that there are thousands of plugins that you can grab too. Plugins are ways to add additional functionality into your already robust WordPress site.
You can use a plugin for social icons, newsletter forms, share buttons, to filter spambots, increase your site speed and optimize images on your website. Just about anything you need done in WordPress, there is a plugin for it.
The right plugins will boost your site functionality. Just don’t download tons of them—because the plugins themselves can slow down your website. If you are looking for some great plugins to start with, check out our DIY guide to Being an SEO expert. There we cover some essential plugins.
WordPress is great for blogging and bloggers. There’s no doubt about it. I’ve built our site on many platforms, including WordPress and Squarespace, and then back to WordPress. The main reason we navigated back over to WordPress was for the blog.
It’s easy to schedule posts, invite contributors with new user accounts, and have a full functioning blog with an epic sidebar (not always the easiest in Squarespace.
The other piece of the web-puzzle, is that
Squarespace doesn’t rank on Alexa.
While this isn’t the most important “thing,” for a blog, we need to be able to show our rank as we continue to improve our traffic and content.
Editors note: Thanks to awesome Dan the Man at Transformation is real blog for updating us on this. This has not always been the case however, as updates needed to be made to both Alexa and the Squarespace platform to make them compatible. Now they are! Way to go Squarespace.
Okay, only a minor hiccup, but with WordPress you maintain the site yourself. This means running updates and making sure everything is going smoothly. We update our site easily and frequently—and host it on Mediatemple. I don’t mind running the updates, and Austin is great at keeping the site speed quick and kicking the spam bots to the curb.
That being said, there will be a sleepless night or two as you learn the ropes. Again, it depends on your priorities.
If you think you’ll want to shed the responsibility of keeping up your site, there are loads of combined hosting services that will do it for you.
WP Engine and Media Temple’s Wordpress hosting solution can take care of all your maintenance. We also happen to LOVE Media Temple’s 24/7 support. Anytime you have an issue you can jump on the phone or in a chat online anytime with their awesome American support team in California.
Mediatemple’s WordPress solution is $20/month and they include WordPress tutorials and walkthrough videos. You’ll get daily backups to your website and automated updates. Pretty easy if you don’t know what you’re doing!
If you are looking for a shop function, WordPress can get a little complicated.
Essentially you would need to install Woocommerce, and make sure you have a theme that supports e-commerce. Then you would need to get a merchant account (Stripe is great), an SSL certificate, and set up shop. Unless you’re a big online commerce shop, I would recommend checking out Shopify for running a store, or Squarespace for a small shop.
Is it possible, absolutely. But, honestly we don’t have as much experience in WordPress shop pages.
Where to Start:
I do love Mediatemple, but you can get a lot of the same functionality from Bluehost with a more desirable price point. Plus, Bluehost has a “one-click-install” for WordPress too! And they seamlessly integrate with Mojothemes so you can easily install your new WordPress theme right through the dashboard.
You do get what you pay for, that is why we go with the more expensive Mediatemple. We need it though!
Great for: DIY, New Businesses, New Serviced Based Businesses, Small Online Shops,
Cost Range: $8-$20/month + the time it takes you to build the site yourself
DIY Cost: Hosting, $8-$30/month
Time Investment: 10-20 hours depending on your familiarity, design skills and how quickly you learn (it has a faster learning curve than WordPress and is less complex)
Squarespace is a great place to start if you’re new to business and looking to get a modern, attractive website up fast. The sites aren’t nearly as versatile as WordPress, but if you’re attracted to Squarespace it’s probably for the ease and simplicity.
There is a learning curve to the platform, but I feel like it was not nearly as steep as WordPress. Though if you’re creating a site in Squarespace, give yourself the room and time to learn it (like anything else new).
If you’re new to business with low capital or trying to test the market I recommend starting here. Squarespace is just plain economical in the short term. Unless you have a designer or developer in your back pocket that can get a WordPress site up and running for you.
For example, if you’re a 24-year-old yoga instructor just starting your practice—this is the place to be. As a new instructor, you want to focus more on building your practice, making a name for yourself and getting all the logistics in order.
Another example, is if you’re a new business launching a Kickstarter campaign, and you need a quick web presence—this is the place to be.
SIMPLE is the name of the game here.
Squarespace has about a dozen pre-designed themes to choose from. They’re all in the same modern, flat-design aesthetic, and make it easy to have a beautiful site that looks like you spent $5k having someone design (as long as you lay it out well and use bombin’ images).
The themes are super easy to install and get running. You just swap out your own images, text and content.
Plus, it’s wicked easy to brand your website with custom colors and fonts. It’s also based on a “drag and drop” system that’s a little more intuitive to edit than other platforms like WordPress.
Even though it is easy to set up, there are challenges I came across in Squarespace. The themes come pretty much as is. You can customize your images and some minor layout adjustments—but that’s pretty much it. There isn’t really the ability to customize your entire site, or mix functionalities from different themes if you’re not a developer.
This can get really frustrating because no theme is absolutely perfect. One might have the sidebar you want, while the other has the opt-in form above the fold. When I was looking for themes it really came down to “what is the lesser of two evils?”
The themes are also very challenging to change over in the future if you want a new look to your site. It’s not as easy as just changing themes. If you change themes you’re pretty much starting from scratch, and there’s no way to save the work you did before you switch themes. That was a hassle for me.
However, if you’re looking to avoid paying thousands of dollars to a web designer, and get a site up PRONTO, this is a good route. Sorry to all our developer friends out there when I say this. Not trying to take the work from you. But if you are a new business just starting out, you really don’t need to be dropping 5k on your web presence right off the bat.
Integrations & Plugins:
Squarespace has done a decent job of integrating with loads of other services a new business would need. Looking to build your email list? Mailchimp is already installed and waiting for your account information. Looking for in-depth analytics? Google Analytics is integrated already for you with Squarespace.
Squarespace also has a built-in global CDN network.
Essentially, this means that they store your website on servers all over the world that update a couple times every day. This makes your site load fast for anyone checking out your shiny new site. Usually, a service like this will run $20-$50/month, so it’s great that Squarespace included it in the site hosting.
Those features are pretty awesome. It’s great when you login to the dashboard and find that integrating your other software programs are easy. However, if you’re using anything for email other than Mailchimp, it’s not going to work—or anything other than what Squarespace suggest.
It’s incredibly easy to pull up the plugins in Squarespace. You just add an element and the array of options pops up.
Again, this is great for a startup business. If you already have a big list (not on Mailchimp) you may want to peruse elsewhere 😉
Blogging is pretty easy on Squarespace too. They allow for multiple drafts, and scheduling articles. If you’re blogging more than once a week though, I would head over to WordPress.
Site maintenance is a breeze with Squarespace. They just take care of everything for you—and you NEVER have to worry about it 😉
Squarespace has their own built-in shop functionality complete with Stripe payments! This is super easy if you have a small shop, and are looking to get something up FAST to start bringing in the dough! There are different levels of hosting that include certain amounts of products that you can post, etc.
The bonus with Squarespace is that you can avoid all the complications of getting an SSL certificate, installing an e-commerce theme and finding a merchant account. The e-commerce side of Squarespace is pretty user-friendly (considering what you’d have to do otherwise).
Where to Start:
Squarespace has a 14-day free trial. Jump in, create an account and see if it’s the right fit for you! There’s going to be some trial and error in any platform that you choose. Make sure you just prep with some mental headspace, and give yourself the time and patience to work with the platform. Squarespace is an easy content management system (compared to others), but there still is a learning curve.
I love both platforms (WordPress and Squarespace)! Choosing which one to use, really just depends on what you’re looking to achieve with your website, and how much time you’re willing to invest in it. I hope this clears some things up and makes the decision easier!
Did this help you figure out where to host your website? Let us know in the comments!