Wordpress vs. Squarespace: How to choose the best platform for your business to grow on | Liza Wilde Co. - web design and development for creative entrepreneursIf I had to pick one question that I get asked more than any other, it would be: Which is better, Squarespace or WordPress?

Now, it’s no secret that I’m a WordPress babe through and through. But even I can admit that Squarespace has its merits.

So when a client comes to me and asks this question, I give them my best answer: It all depends on what you’re going to do with your website. But I understand that not everyone is ready to sign up for a website consultation (if you are, click here!) so I thought I’d put together my thoughts on both platforms so you can assess for yourself which platform might be best for you individual needs.

Before we start, here’s a few terms I’ll be using frequently that I wanted to define ahead of time:

  • Out-of-the-box – this means initial setup, no extra money spent other than the hosting price
  • Responsive – this means that your website looks good on any size screen or monitor, and scales down appropriately for tablet and mobile devices
  • CMS or content management system – this is just a fancy term for the software, or platform, behind your website

Let’s get to it, shall we?

1. Ease of use

Squarespace: Perhaps their biggest selling point, is the ease of use with a new Squarespace site. The platform comes programmed with dozens of helpful modules such as newsletter blocks, embedded images and videos, buttons, and so much more. It requires very little user programming or code, which is what makes it so appealing to people who aren’t tech savvy. It’s what we like to call “plug and play”. You can literally sign-up, pick one of their templates, and start building.

There’s some finesse to getting the modules and spacing setup, but if you’re willing to take the time to learn about spacers, and get your cursor positioned in just the right hover spot, pages come together pretty quickly.

WordPress: As someone who has been using WordPress for 13 years, I’m 100% biased in saying that WordPress is also easy to use. In fact, I think out-of-the-box, WordPress is easier! However, what WordPress lacks, is a beautiful designed template out-of-the-box that is also easy to use. Instead, it requires some navigation of theme catalogs to find what you’re looking for, and often times, you’re limited on what that theme provides you without some coding knowledge to go in and tweak.

Regardless of which platform you choose, there’s always going to be a bit of a learning curve when getting something setup. And if you’ve been on one platform, and are switching, you’re probably going to hate it for the first few weeks. That’s our human reaction to change.

2. Design

Squarespace: This is one area, where I think Squarespace totally wins over WordPress out-of-the-box. Squarespace has designers that build beautiful, minimalist templates, that are responsive and work on all devices. They look great without much help, and you’d allowed to change fonts and colors and images if you’d like.

I also think this is where Squarespace starts to fall short. While they do allow for some code injection and custom CSS, the customization capabilities of Squarespace are far smaller than that of WordPress. You have to use one of their templates, you can’t hire a developer to design something 100% unique to you.

WordPress: As much as I love WordPress, I think it lacks in beauty when it comes to the free themes that it offers. Granted, there are literally thousands of options as opposed to Squarespace’s 30 or so, but they’re still not nearly as elegant as one would hope. And they’re definitely not all responsive.

However, unlike Squarespace, if you’re unhappy with what you get in their basic templates, you’re free to use resources like Elegant Themes, Themeforest, Creative Market, or any of the other theme resources out there that you’d like to purchase a premium theme (usually around $25-$50) and use that instead. Often times these themes are packed full of great things like page builders, custom post types, and other great items you’ll use down the road.

And if you can’t find a premium theme you like, you can hire a developer like myself to build you something from scratch to fit your exact needs and vision.

3. Maintenance/Security

Squarespace: Another perk to being a proprietary piece of software, the Squarespace team is in charge of all of the security updates and code maintenance that happens on their platform. You’ll never have to worry about running monthly updates or anything like that, because they do it for you.

They also offer a free SSL certificate to all Squarespace domains, which is an important level of added security that Google loves (yay free “Google points”!) and e-commerce shops are required to have.

The downside to Squarespace being a private company with their own software – if that company ever goes out of business, your site goes with them. You can technically export your content, but it won’t always transfer over one-to-one to another provider.

WordPress: The best thing about WordPress is that it’s an open source software, which means it’s free. The downside to that, is that it means you’ll have to self-host it somewhere and you’re responsible for running any updates to the CMS, themes or plugins, as they pop up. Fortunately, this process isn’t super difficult, and as long as you stay on top of theme, there shouldn’t ever be serious complications.

Occasionally, you’ll get plugins or themes that have issues with an update, but if you’re using properly supported and vetted items (more on that in another post) it shouldn’t be long before there’s a fix pushed out.

And the best thing about your site being on WordPress is that it 100% yours. You own the content, the theme, and whatever else you’ve added to it. So as long as you pay your hosting bill, you’ll never have to worry about it going under.

4. E-commerce

Squarespace: They make it easy to set up a store and start selling your product pretty painlessly. Because they offer free SSL certificates with domains, you’re pretty much ready to go as soon as you go live. The downside, is that you’re limited to the templates they provide you.

WordPress: Since WordPress is self-hosted, getting an SSL is on you. Some hosting providers include this in their hosting package, but most have it as an add-on. Usually, this will run you anywhere from $20-$80 a year. However, sites like Let’s Encrypt and Cloudflare provide free options which work just as well. And the up side, is that using Woocommerce on WordPress allows you (or your developer) to edit the templates to your heart’s desire. You’re not limited to any one appearance. It does require some coding skills.

5. SEO

This is a topic that gets super tricky no matter how you slice it. I don’t think either site can really claim to be SEO friendly out of the box. The one item that Squarespace has on WordPress, is that you have more immediate control over your page titles and descriptions without installing a plugin like Yoast SEO. However, this aspect of SEO only gets you so far. The biggest portion of it is going to rely on your content and inbound links, which is all on you no matter what platform you choose.

I suggest checking out a site like Moz if you’re looking for more resources on SEO. Or check out my friend, Claire Paniccia, who help with content strategy and SEO research.

6. Evolving Your Website

When starting out, a lot of us don’t need a big complicated site. We want a nice looking homepage, an about page, maybe a contact form, and sometimes a blog. And for a while, that’s enough. But what about a few years down the road, when your business is thriving and maybe you’ve grown your services or hired a team. Is one platform going to make growing your site easier?

Squarespace: In my experience, the best thing about Squarespace is how quick and easy it is to setup a site. You can basically go from zero to hero in only a few hours, especially if you’re not customizing much. But as you start to grow, the limited dashboard can be just that – limiting. What if you want to start a podcast, or create a membership site? There are definitely some people who have managed to make this work on their Squarespace site, but it gets clunky and disorganized fast.

WordPress: Since it’s an open-source CMS, WordPress has a solution to just about everything under the sun. Membership site? No problem. Podcast and syndication? No sweat. Do you want to have a network of sites (2+) that are all controlled from the same dashboard with the same login? Done.

Seriously, when it comes to customizability and the unforeseeable expansion of your kickass business, WordPress is going to be your friend. There’s almost nothing it can’t do. (Sorry, I still can’t get it to order and deliver a latte to my door… but that’s an app idea!) And if you can get it in the hands of a developer, it really can be the best platform for your business to grow upon.

9. Cost

The biggest hang up with starting any site is going to be the cost. I get it. We’re not made of money. I started off learning how to code on strung together Neopet’s pages! But as business owners, we need to invest in ourselves and our business, so be ready to shell out some money regardless of the platform you’re on.

Squarespace: At only $16 per month ($14 if you pay by the year) and $20 domain names, Squarespace is a bargain. It’s hard to beat it when it comes with an SSL and ready to go ecommerce system if you need it.

WordPress: Again, it’s free but it’s self-hosted, so that means you’ll need to find a hosting company you trust to work with. I personally love A2 Hosting. They’re local to me, so I love that I can support ‘em. I also love Pantheon, because it gives me a great staging platform if I have large changes that I don’t want to make on a live site.  But Host Monster and Blue Hosting are both companies I’ve had good experiences with. No hosting provider is perfect, it’s unrealistic for us to think they are.

Anyway, costs for a domain outside of Squarespace can be anywhere from $3-$50. Hosting also varies, but can usually range from $5 per month to $100 per month – with those ranges having various benefits and services with them.

WordPress is going to be the more expensive option in the long run, there’s no doubt about it. But it’s also going to give you the most room to grow, to evolve, to change and to own it 100%.

Summary

As I was writing this, I realize I sound more like a Squarespace advocate, but I swear I’m a WordPress girl.

What it comes down to, is that Squarespace is great from bloggers and entrepreneurs who are just starting out. It let’s you get something legit and beautiful up quickly, and it comes with a lot of perks.

But when you’re growing your business, there comes a time when you need to bring in the big guns and hire a professional. If that’s the case, and I sure hope it is, it makes total sense to set yourself up for long term success, by starting off on a platform that will allow you to grow no matter what that means. And that means WordPress, because it’s customizability and adaptability cannot be rivaled.

If you’re still unsure of what platform might be right for your business, I’d love to jump on a quick Skype call with you and talk it out. Seriously, zero cost, 100% pitch-free. I just want to make sure you’re making the best decision for your business and yourself.

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