This blog post is reposted with permission, from a small business entrepreneur named Chase Reeves. He is part of The Fizzle Show. The Fizzle Show is a podcast for people looking to start their own small business or needing guidance in running one they’ve already started. They offer classes in all sorts of aspects, but this particular post is about making the decision in using Sqaurespace or WordPress for hosting your website, or blog. This is very detailed and I hope you can make an educated decision on which will serve you best. If you’d like to listen to the podcast which references this blog post, click here. And if you’d like to follow Chase, he’s on Twitter. Read on for the goods!
If you’re trying to decide between Squarespace vs WordPress, you’re in the right place. We’re going to cover every important decision factor here, so you can make a decision and move on to the next step.
Most of us feel like the right website can go a long way to helping us get discovered. But most of us also don’t have a large chunk of money lying around to pay for a beautiful custom website.
So, we have to do it ourselves. That usually means choosing between Squarespace and WordPress.
Putting together a great website can be a nightmare, and there’s a lot riding on the decisions we make. So, here’s what we will get into in this article:
- First I’m going to tell you the concise summary.
- Then I’m going to walk you through every important feature and question, one by one.
- Then we’re going to talk about the most important piece of this whole process and connect you to some resources for the next step.
But first: who the hell am I to teach you anything about this? My name is Chase Reeves and I’ve designed some of the largest blogs on the web.
I’ve designed and built websites professionally for a little under a decade, designing and consulting on huge sites along the way.
But over the past 4 years, through Fizzle’s membership community, I’ve been involved in hundreds of new business and website launches, and I’ve seen first hand how transformative it is for non-technical, non-design trained people to get their own site up and running.
So, I’m a designer and developer who’s worked with hundreds of people to get their idea out into the world and I’m here to help you decide which of these two incredible tools to go with for you project. Deal?
Let’s get into it.
Which platform? The concise summary:
Caveat 1: If you stick to a theme you like, making only minor customizations, you will likely be really happy with BOTH of these options. If you want to make a ton of customizations you’re likely to get frustrated with either.
Caveat 2: If you want to switch later on, , so you’re never stuck. It might take time and effort to do, but import/export functionality on both of these means you can always change your mind later.
1. Squarespace: beautiful, functional, managed for you.
- Beautiful free templates that are easy to customize without any coding skills.
- Loads of features built-in like blogging, image galleries, podcasting, mobile friendliness, etc.
- All the technology is managed for you so you don’t have to worry about hosting, backups, updates, etc.
- 24/7 support via email and chat with phone support during business hours.
- Commerce tools built in for selling digital or physical products.
- Not as much control as WordPress. You have to play within the bounds of what Squarespace allows, but those boundaries are big enough for most of us.
- Compared to all the updates you need to buy for WordPress (backup and security plugins, professional themes, hosting that won’t break), Squarespace will likely end up being more affordable for you.
“I switched from WordPress to Squarespace because I wasted so much time tinkering with WordPress themes, plugins, and more instead of working on actual content. When I first switched to SS I felt limited because doing custom CSS and code is harder, but once you figure out how to add them deep in the menus you can build almost anything you want. Unless you want to build and code a site from scratch there is no faster option for building a website than Squarespace.” ~ Caleb Wojcik, Squarespace User
2. WordPress: anything you want is possible, but you’re responsible.
- It’s free and, as an open source tool, it’s powered by the goodwill of the internet!
- You’ll have to choose and pay for a hosting provider, that’s your responsibility.
- Thousands of beautiful themes exist made by people all over the web, but picking one that won’t break over time is your responsibility. Also, the best ones cost money.
- Thousands of plugins available to customize your site and add features, but finding the right one that won’t break your site or make it susceptible to hackers is your responsibility. Also, many cost money.
- Completely customizable, but the proper coding can take a good deal of time/effort/money.
- All of the updates, backups and technicalities are your responsibility. Updates are normally easy, but occasionally plugins can cause your site to break. recommend purchasing a professional backup and security plugin for WordPress.
“We built our entire website and business on WordPress. This includes our blog, our course software, our membership area and more. WordPress is extremely powerful, however, you need someone who knows how to code to make significant customizations. It’s also nice to have someone to help with the occasional hiccup or error that can cause your site to go down.” ~ Corbett Barr, Founder of Fizzle.co
NOTE: Just to complicate things a little more, WordPress comes in 2 flavors. We think business builders should go with the “self-hosted” option (WordPress.org). Find out more: what’s the difference between wordpress.org and wordpress.com?
Is that enough to make your decision? If so, skip the next part and head to the most important part.
OK, if the concise summary above doesn’t answer your questions, let’s compare the important features of each. We’ll start with this one:
1. CAN I SWITCH TO A DIFFERENT OPTION LATER?
Yes, with both you can export your posts and pages for import into another platform. Remember this and trust yourself enough to make a decision because you’ll be able to make a change if you want to later on.
2. WHAT’S THE COST?
WordPress itself is free but you have to pay for hosting (and probably a good theme and backup/security plugin). Basic WP hosting can cost anywhere from $4–40/mo depending on how much reliability and support you want. Here are some WordPress hosting recommendations. With WP you may also need to pay for a theme, which can add another $20-$200 to your initial cost. We also recommend you pay for a professional backup and security plugin because with WP you’re responsible for everything on your website — errors and mistakes happen and you can lose years of work in a single moment.
In WP’s favor here is the fact that many hosting providers allow you to host multiple websites under the same account. So, if you’ve got one site hosted somewhere like BlueHost (see our hosting guide for current recommendations) you can configure another website at no additional charge.
Squarespace at the time of writing is $12/mo if you bill annually. Here’s their current pricing. All their themes and features are included for this price, though you can upgrade to add more contributors, e-commerce features, etc. Backup, security, etc., are all taken care of.
|What’s the cost?||WP is free, hosting is $4-$40/mo depending, theme is $0-$200 depending, backup and/or security plugins can be $20–200||Starts at $12/mo|
3. WHICH IS EASIER TO SETUP?
Squarespace is easier to setup. Everything happens in the same place, there’s an easy step by step process with 24/7 support if you get stuck.
WordPress is not terribly difficult to setup especially if you go with a host provider (like those here) which offers push-button WP installation for you. That said, it’s still true that with WP you’re going to need to be in charge of everything, so you’ll need to understand hosting, installing a theme, etc.
|Which is easier to setup?||Pretty easy but you will need to understand hosting, installing themes, etc.||Easy peasy|
4. WHICH WILL MAKE MY SITE LOOK BETTER?
Quick answer: both. They both have great themes.
WordPress has a huge ecosystem of theme developers. You can find loads of themes here, here and here, and a Google search will make your eyes bleed with several thousand more options. The challenge here is finding something you like out of the box when there are so many options. Another challenge is finding a theme that is not going to break on you in the future, something from a respectable theme creator. Each of the links above are from, in my opinion, respectable theme creators. Even so, WordPress changes over time, and you’ll want your theme creator to stay up to date with those changes.
Squarespace has extremely robust and customizable “templates.” There are only about 30 templates at the time of writing, but each is profoundly customizable with the drag and drop page builder, built in Typekit fonts, google fonts, custom CSS, etc. Here’s a helpful little tool to help you pick your SS Template. Squarespace themes, since they are totally owned and operated by Squarespace (not built by third parties like WP) will continue to work and be updated without any effort from you.
I have to say, the longer answer here is that with Squarespace you don’t have to do a bunch of research on theme makers, checking to see if they’re reliable or not, because Squarespace controls the quality of all their own themes. That’s kind of a big deal if you plan on building a site you can count on. NOT a deal breaker for WP for me, just another thing you want to be intelligent about. Unless you’re just starting a blog because in that case please just pick something and start blogging already! 🙂
|Can it look pretty?||Yes it can||Yes it can|
|Theme Options||TONS in the WP community||About 20–40 templates at the time of writing|
|Theme Reliability||A reliable theme maker can be expensive, but it’s worth it because the web and WordPress are always changing and you need a theme maker to stay responsive with updates.||Each template is owned and controlled by SS so you can trust the reliability over time|
|Design Perks||TONS of designers and developers make themes and plugins for WordPress because it’s very popular||Free Typekit fonts, Google fonts, Forms, Mailchimp integration, built-in mobile websites|
|Can I work with a designer/developer?||Yes, there are so many people who earn their living by customizing your WP website||Yes, there is a growing number of people who you can hire to help you.|
|Is it very customizable?||WP is profoundly customizable, and some themes can be customized heavily without any coding. A skilled professional can do anything you want, but it won’t be free.||SS is very customizable by a person with no design or code skills, but you may need a professional to make more drastic changes. Also, there are some things you just can’t do in SS which you could in WP (like create a robust application like Fizzle’s membership area, courses, forum, etc.)|
5. CAN I MAKE DESIGN CUSTOMIZATIONS MYSELF IF I DON’T KNOW HOW TO CODE?
Squarespace: yes. SS allows you to add and remove and drag and drop and push and pull and grow and shrink all sorts of things as you create your site. It can take a little while to learn (you’ll need to watch their instructional videos), but once you understand how things work you’ll be very capable on your own (and support is there when you need it).
WordPress: that depends on your theme. Many themes include some kind of easy customization for typography, color, blog layout, etc. Some modern themes come with drag and drop “page building” features, which make WP work a lot like SS.
|Can I customize my site without coding?||Depends on the theme||Yes you can|
6. HOW CAN I GET HELP WHEN I NEED IT?
Squarespace wins on this one with 24/7 email support as well as live chat support during business hours and forum help center.
WordPress has a ton of answers in their support forum and on blogs across the web, so searching in Google can yield helpful answers. However, for every great answer there’s about 10 wrong ones and 10 more you don’t understand.
|How do I get support?||Search and sort through the answers, ask in the forums and hope for the best, hire an expert||Email, chat and talk with SS directly, search through their help center|
7. CAN I USE IT FOR BLOGGING / PODCASTING / SELLING PRODUCTS?
Squarespace: Yes. Out of the box SS supports blogging, website pages, podcasting, portfolio websites, restaurant websites, e-commerce websites, etc.
WordPress: Yes, with plugins. Out of the box WP supports blogging and website pages. With plugins WP can do just about anything. There are great themes built for portfolio websites, restaurant websites, etc., and excellent plugins built for commerce, podcasting and more.
|Can I use it for blogging / podcasting / selling products?||Yes, some plugins may be necessary||Yes|
8. IS SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION THE SAME WITH EACH?
The search engine optimization capabilities of these platforms are effectively the same. We agree with SEO industry guru Rand Fishkin on Squarespaces’ SEO features:
I think they’ve done a solid job with SEO features and functionality. I actually consulted a bit (informally – not paid, just helping out because I want folks to provide good SEO, especially popular CMS’) with the Squarespace team, and reviewed some of their implementations. It’s good stuff, and Squarespace is a good company (good customer service, honorable folks, good about refunds, excellent with uptime, etc).
That said, you can certainly get more flexibility by hosting your own system. WordPress enables a lot of this, especially if you have a good developer making changes to it. Out of the box, Squarespace is friendlier on many aspects of SEO than WordPress, but with customizations, the latter can exceed the former. ∞
(You’ll find more info on SS’s SEO features here.)
Since both these tools code up your site in searchbot-friendly ways, and since your search rankings are largely determined by the number of inbound links (as well as social shares, page load time, etc.), and since that is typically determined by the quality of content you make, and since you can make excellent content on either one of these platforms, we rank their features exactly the same.
(If you want to learn more about our take on SEO, listen to this podcast episode: 5 Ways to Increase Traffic to Your Site (Plus SEO Insights, FS057).)
|How solid are the SEO features?||Solid||Solid|
|Possible to make great content?||Yes||Yes|
|Possible to get inbound links?||Yes||Yes|
|Custom titles, meta description?||Yes||Yes|
|Custom URL slugs?||Yes||Yes|
|Alt text for images?||Yes||Yes|
|Sitemaps, robots.txt?||Yes, with plugins||Yes|
|301 redirects?||Yes, with plugins||Yes|
9. WHICH ONE IS MOST POPULAR AND WHICH ONE DO REAL BUSINESSES USE?
WordPress is enormously popular with bloggers and online small businesses because for a while there it was the only intelligent option. Squarespace seems to be rapidly gaining popularity. But, as high school taught us, popularity isn’t necessarily a worthwhile metric.
A lot of businesses rely on WP and SS for their essential businesses activities. Personally I’ve only ever worked on WP websites because it’s been the industry standard for the past decade or so (though Moveable Type was also widely used).
So, when it comes to popularity and real business use, I’d say WP has the historical advantage and that SS is fast on the rise for business use.
|Can you make a website that looks real good?||Yes||Yes|
|Can you make marketing webpages?||Yes||Yes|
|Do real businesses use this tool?||Yes||Yes|
|Can you make landing pages?||Yes, depending on theme or plugins/code||Yes|
|Can you sell products?||Yes, with plugins||Yes|
10. ARE THEY SAFE FROM HACKERS/VIRUSES?
Squarespace: Yes, your site is always safe. I can’t find any stories of Squarespace sites being hacked. This is due, of course, to the fact that Squarespace is a controlled, proprietary technology.
WordPress: No, you need to be careful not to leave your site open to vulnerabilities. WordPress sites get hacked frequently because the plugins and themes users install can be coded poorly and leave your site open to vulnerabilities. Luckily there are yet more plugins you can install to help you keep your site secure. The best plugins and services for keeping WP sites safe cost money.
|Will my site be safe from hackers?||Some plugins/themes can leave your site open to vulnerabilities. Be careful and use a plugin or service to keep your site safe||Yes|
11. IF MY SITE GETS REALLY POPULAR WILL THE SERVERS CRASH?
Squarespace will likely not crash. They run on big technology. As they put it:
Although no platform can guarantee 100% uptime, we have a stellar reputation for serving high-traffic sites. For example, our own website is a Squarespace site, and it’s served from the exact same infrastructure we provide to our customers. The massive traffic spike we’ve handled successfully following our Super Bowl ads is a good example of what your site is equipped to handle. ∞
WordPress: it depends on your host. This is yet another situation with WP where it totally depends on the host you use. Use that $4/mo Bluehost plan? You won’t survive a huge spike in traffic very gracefully. But, lucky for you, these kind of traffic spikes don’t happen very often… rather, they don’t happen at all for most of us 🙂
|Will my servers crash or my site be inaccessible?||Depends on your hosting provider||No|
12. WHAT ABOUT ONGOING MAINTENANCE OF THE SITE?
WordPress: you must update and maintain your site yourself. WP is growing and updating all the time, fixing problems, adding features, increasing security. That’s one of the great things about WP: it gets better with the help of thousands of people on the internet. However, you are responsible for updating and maintaining your own site. This is almost always a really easy “one-click” process. However, sometimes a plugin or customization can cause a snag which can leave you in a tight spot. Also, you’re on your own to regularly backup your WordPress website.
Squarespace: updates are rolled out for you. SS manages, updates and runs all the technology of your website for you, so there’s no regular maintenance. They also keep a backup of your site for you (though less robust than some WP backup plugins). Occasionally SS updates their entire system. In that situation there’s a larger process to updating your website to their latest version. (Here’s an example.)
The steps necessary to keep your WP site running are not difficult, but this is another place where a managed platform like Squarespace wins.
|Who’s responsible for platform updates?||You are. It’s normally easy to do though.||Taken care of for you|
|Who’s responsible for keeping a backup?||You are, there’s some great plugins out there||Taken care of for you|
13. WHICH WORKS BEST FOR PEOPLE BROWSING ON MOBILE DEVICES?
Squarespace: all of the templates are mobile friendly, even with the customizations you make. Not much more to say on that one.
WordPress: depends on your theme. There are tons of responsive themes out there for WP. Many of them cost money, but they’re a hell of a lot cheaper than hiring a designer/developer like me.
|Does it work for mobile browsers?||Depends on the theme you choose||Yes, always|
14. CAN I UPDATE MY SITE VIA A MOBILE APP?
|Can I update my site via a mobile app?||Yes||Yes|
15. WHAT ABOUT MIGRATING IF I HAVE A SITE ALREADY?
Both: Yes, you can import data from a different website (depending on the platform your current website runs on). WP and SS both allow you to import your site content from another site. It should be said importing from another platform can be cumbersome, but it’s doable. I’ve had to do it many times myself, even between these two platforms.
|Can I migrate from another platform?||Yes||Yes|
“Wow, that was a s#$t ton of detail about WordPress vs Squarespace!”
Squarespace vs WordPress is only the beginning. Here’s the most important part.
I don’t know which stage of your business or project you are currently in. (We’ve identified 9 stages in our small business roadmap.)
But you’re here, on this article, so chances are you’re doing some research, possibly a lot of research.
Now, research is important… up to a point.
Did you hear that? At some point we all have to stop planning and start doing.
Now, the comparison above won’t give you 100% certainty about which platform you should choose. There’s no article out there that can do that for you.
But, I want you to stop right now and explore this thought for just a second: Maybe I already have as much information as I’m ever going to get and I’m ready to take the plunge and pick one. After all, I can switch to another platform at any time.
Your website is just one of many important parts of your business.Remember what I said in the beginning about how your website can help you get discovered? The painful truth is that your website alone will almost never get you discovered.
If you’re a blogger or podcaster your content will get you discovered.
If you’re a designer, illustrator, freelancer, it’s your work that will get you discovered.
Your website will help. It can help enormously. But it can’t do what you’re asking it to do on its own.
The article above is probably the most comprehensive on the internet. You should have enough to feel confident picking one.
If you don’t feel comfortable, that’s kind of a red flag. It might be something about this project or idea, or something you’re a little afraid to commit to maybe. Whatever it is, take it seriously ask it why it’s not letting you feel comfortable. (Our roadmap training is exceedingly good at identifying issues like these.)
The big thing here is to make a decision and move on completely to the next stage of your business or project.
If you do make a decision, let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear what convinced you. Ask any questions you have as well.
Good luck and thanks for reading.