WordPress has been a name synonymous with website building basically since it was started in 2003. It currently supports a whopping 60 million+ websites. Squarespace was launched only a year later, and currently supports at least a few million websites of its own. (The website does not disclose the exact number.)
So, what’s the difference between these two website building giants? Quite a lot, as it turns out.
For starters, WordPress is an open source solution, which means its source code is open to the public and anyone can make changes, or create extensions for the product. Squarespace is a hosted solution, which means only the team at Squarespace can create changes and extensions for the product. This is a major difference that shapes the experience of each platform.
How do they compare in cost?
Since WordPress is an open source solution, it’s actually free to download. Of course, you will still have to pay for your site hosting and domain name at the very least. This comes to an astronomical $2.95/month with certain servers, though, so WordPress is still incredibly cheap. This $2.95/month will cover quite a lot since the basic WordPress code is so flexible. However, if you need more than just the basics, like eCommerce functionality, you will have to add plug-ins, some of which are not free.
Squarespace, on the other hand, costs $12/month when paid yearly to run a very basic website. For these $12 you get 20 website pages (including blog pages), and 2 users. To get unlimited pages and users, you have to upgrade to $18/month when billed annually. (If you’re paying monthly, this plan is $26/month!)
In terms of price, it’s pretty clear that Squarespace can’t beat WordPress. So let’s continue with our comparison to see if Squarespace is worth the price.
How do they compare in set-up?
For an experienced web designer, WordPress is not difficult to set up. It’s very straight forward for an open source solution. However, beginners may have some problems with set up. WordPress, because of its open source nature, is very flexible – which can offer too many choices to a person who’s never built a site before. Additionally, WordPress does require some knowledge of at least HTML in order to take full advantage of the platform’s capabilities.
Squarespace, on the other hand, intends to make it as easy as possible for a novice website builder to create a beautiful website. They have hundreds of templates, some of which are the best looking templates in the whole business. All you do is pick your favorite and starting putting in your own text and graphics. It’s incredibly simple.
However, being this focused on simplicity does have its drawbacks: Squarespace can be very limiting for an experienced website builder. With a lack of choices and access to the code, an experienced site builder is left unable to execute on their own creativity.
How do their eCommerce functionalities compare?
Squarespace very recently launched their eCommerce capabilities. If you’re looking to run an online store, you will have to upgrade your plans. The basic store is $26/month when billed annually; the advanced store is $40/month when billed annually.
Because of how new Squarespace’s eCommerce abilities are, it lacks much of the required functionality. For instance, Squarespace offers no reviews platform so stores must choose between offering a Disqus comment section beneath products or Rating Widget, which allows anyone on your site to leave an anonymous star rating of your products. Both are inadequate in terms of product reviews.
In contrast, WordPress has their long-standing open-source plug-in WooCommerce, which powers 39% of all online stores. Because it’s also open-source, WooCommerce offers a myriad of plug-ins so your store can have any and all functionality needed. Once again, though, if you’re a beginner, WooCommerce will be a bit difficult to set up perfectly. WooCommerce does partner with companies who can help you get your store off the ground and provide hosting and maintenance. One such company is Pressable, who can offer you this service for $25/month.
Ultimately, WooCommerce is a great solution for a more experienced person, but it’s not necessarily the best option for a beginner. And while Squarespace is easy to set up for a beginner, it’s not a viable option currently for a store owner. I would recommend any beginners looking to incorporate eCommerce as a central part of their website to look into a solution like Shopify, which is reasonably priced and can give any functionality you can think of through their add-ons.
How do their blogging capabilities compare?
WordPress is a popular option for those looking just to run a blog – 48% of Technorati’s Top 100 Blogs are run on WordPress. As a blogging platform, WordPress out of the box works quite well – just slap a template on it and get going. It was actually the platform I used for a college class at one point when I knew next to nothing about blogging or website building. The fact that I could get a blog together on my own says a lot. WordPress’s dashboard is easy to use and makes popping in a post a breeze.
Additionally, WordPress on its own has decent SEO optimization, but if you’re looking to improve on that, WordPress has plugins (of course). Some are free, like the popular Yoast.
Squarespace is also popular for bloggers. Many of the photography blogs I follow are built on Squarespace. Again, for blogging, you just pick a template and get writing more or less. The dashboard is similarly intuitive to navigate and put posts in. Personally, I find the dashboard a bit annoying because you have to keep making text and photo boxes to put things into your post, but this is something that many people no doubt even notice.
It is fair to mention, again, that for someone with the abilities, WordPress blogs are very customizable, while Squarespace blogs are more limiting. However, overall, both blogging systems are similar enough that I would recommend picking the one that suits your personal preference.
The Final Verdict
But enough build-up! (Pun intended.) Who’s the winner?
Ultimately, Squarespace and WordPress are different enough that I can’t pick a winner. Overall, I would recommend Squarespace to a beginner at website building, particularly if that beginner is not looking to become well-versed enough in website building to get an itch to customize everything eventually. WordPress is an excellent option for those with the knowledge and desire to customize everything.
What about you? Who do you think wins the WordPress vs Squarespace battle and why?