Last updated on October 4th, 2022
WordPress vs Squarespace: Which is Better in 2022?
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WordPress and Squarespace remain popular choices to easily and quickly set up a website. While the two platforms can help you build your website fairly swiftly, the underlying approaches can be very different.
So what is the major difference between WordPress and Squarespace? WordPress is a free and open-source content management system that supports about 43% of all websites globally. It provides easy customisations through its plugin architecture and template system. Squarespace on the other hand, is a paid website builder that comes with a dedicated hosting service. It offers software as a service to allow users to build code-free websites through pre-built website templates and drag-and-drop elements.
In this article we will compare WordPress and Squarespace to help you decide which one is a better choice for your website. We will dive deep into the features and functionalities of each platform to help you make an informed choice.
A brief introduction…
Before we begin comparing the two, let’s first look at a brief introduction of each platform.
Squarespace was launched in 2004 as a blog hosting service and currently powers over 2.8 million websites worldwide. It is a software as a service (SaaS) platform that delivers cloud-based software to users over the internet, thus allowing them to focus entirely on building their website. With Squarespace, you needn’t worry about the nitty-gritty of hosting and domain registration. It bundles up these services into a single package that you can avail through a paid subscription.
Here are some popular websites that use Squarespace:
- Work in Progress Podcast: The Work In Progress podcast website is made using Squarespace. It provides listeners a home for all content, such as episodes, guest highlights, and e-commerce offerings.
- Welcome to Winona: Actress Winona Ryder has created this photo essay website about her birthplace, Winona, MN, using Squarespace.
- Bembien: Bembien is an accessories label that uses Squarespace’s elegantly designed store to sell their bags online.
- Sadie Williams: Fashion designer Sadie Williams’ website uses Squarespace to put forth her style of juxtaposing modern design with textile-driven craft.
- Craig Ward: Artist Craig Ward uses Squarespace to make all of his projects stand out, from client briefs to art for sale. Through his website he has managed to create an expertise in his field.
- Mission Chinese Food: Chef and restaurant owner Danny Bowien redefines traditional ingredients and cuisine, and he uses Squarespace to help his dishes stand out online
Launched in 2003, WordPress has become one the most widely used Content Management Systems (CMS), and currently supports nearly 35 million live websites. A CMS offers a user-friendly interface that allows users to create, manage, modify, and publish their own web content. They manage the basic infrastructure of the website so that users do not have to go through the hassle of writing code from scratch.
Initially launched to build websites that published blog posts, WordPress has rapidly grown its functionality to support various types of websites. It is a free and open-source CMS written in PHP and uses MySQL or MariaDB database management system with supported HTTPS. It is a popular choice for individuals, small businesses as well as large organizations.
Here are some popular websites that use WordPress:
- The official White House website: The website for the official residence and workplace of the US President runs on WordPress.
- Variety: The entertainment news website uses WordPress to power its website.
- Harvard University: The most prestigious university in the world uses WordPress on its public-facing website.
- Amnesty International: This human rights organization relies on WordPress to run its website.
- TechCrunch: The American online newspaper focuses on high tech and startup companies and uses WordPress to publish its articles.
- The Walt Disney Company: This American multinational mass media and entertainment conglomerate utilizes WordPress’ design and functionality for a great user experience on its website.
There are two versions of WordPress:
- WordPress.org: This free to use, open source version of WordPress can be installed on the web hosting of your choice.
- WordPress.com: This is the paid version of WordPress that works as a SaaS platform. With a paid monthly subscription, you can have access to web hosting, storage space and easy to use website building features.
Throughout this article, we will focus on the free WordPress.org version and hence the term WordPress has been used to refer to WordPress.org.
How are they different?
In this section, we will compare Squarespace and WordPress to break down their fundamentals and have a closer look at each platform. Each of the parameters we discuss will help answer important questions and draw a more vivid picture to help you make an informed decision.
1. Ease of use
Squarespace is an extremely beginner-friendly platform that comes with built-in features that you can use right out of the box. It has an inbuilt drag and drop website builder that can help you set up your website and make it live very swiftly. You would need to create a Squarespace account and subscribe to a plan before you can start building your website. Once that’s done, you can choose a theme and continue editing the website.
Even though at first WordPress may seem a little more intimidating than Squarespace, WordPress is a better option in the long run as it offers greater flexibility and customisations.
2. Pricing & Costs
Squarespace is a paid hosted solution that bundles its services for its customers. It offers users a 14-day free trial so that they can get acquainted with the platform. Thereafter, it offers 4 pricing plans that differ on the basis of marketing and eCommerce features, custom CSS and scripts, and integration of third-party apps.
Details about these plans are as follows:
a) Personal Plan ($16): This is the most basic plan and is the best option for someone who wants to build and manage a simple website on their own. It offers support for Squarespace template repository, unlimited storage and search engine optimization. This plan, however, does not offer any eCommerce support.
c) Basic Commerce Plan ($27): The Basic Commerce Plan is a good choice for online business websites that sell a lot of products. The transaction fee is waived off in this plan. It offers powerful eCommerce features like customer accounts, product wishlists and Instagram integration to share products on your social media accounts.
d) Advanced Commerce Plan ($49): This plan is for large business purposes and supports all the features of the Basic Commerce plan. In addition, it offers support for third-party API integrations, abandoned cart recovery, periodic subscription-based product purchases, and advanced shipping and discount calculation options.
WordPress on the other hand is free to use. However, it covers just one aspect of web development. To get your website up and running, you would need to spend money to register your domain, on a hosting service. In addition you might require premium themes and plugins which would cost you extra.
The following is a break-down of the additional services you might require for your WordPress website:
a) Domain Registration: Before you take your website live, you need to register the preferred domain name of your website with a domain registrar. The domain name is a string that will be used to uniquely identify your website on the internet. On registering, the domain name becomes reserved for a certain period. You need to keep renewing the registration to continue using the domain name. Registering and renewing can cost anywhere between $10-$15 per year. Some hosting providers also offer free domain names on subscription.
b) Hosting: Hosting refers to the server on which your website’s WordPress files are stored. The hosting provider is responsible for keeping your website server up and running, ensuring security measures are implemented properly, and for making your website data accessible to website visitors. Depending on your hosting provider and plan, you might also get some additional features like an SSL certificate, regular backups, business email account, etc. Even though free hosting plans do exist with some providers, they are not without their limitations. Free plans do have the additive features for improving website security or speed. Paid plans offer greater flexibility for customizations, have better processing power, and provide enhanced bandwidth and storage. Hosting can cost you upwards $3 per month depending on your plan and your provider. Some of the most popular hosting options include Kinsta, Bluehost, SiteGround, DreamHost. WPKnights uses Kinsta as the preferred hosting service.
c) Themes & Plugins: The WordPress repository offers several free themes and plugins. Paid themes often come with pre-designed templates that can be of great help if you’re a beginner. It also saves time and is a hassle-free process to build your WordPress site. Premium plugins can help you add several additional features to improve your website. These include plugins like WP Rocket (site optimisation), Gravity Forms and WPBakery (Page Builder). The costs of premium themes and plugins can vary greatly and you might want to draw out a list of all your requirements before you begin purchasing. This is especially important if you are on a limited budget. It’s very easy for beginners to fall into the “there’s a plugin for that” trap. Do look for alternatives. Be sure to check if you can achieve the functionality you want with a little coding and eliminate the need to use a plugin altogether. This is obviously not possible for all cases but wherever possible, I suggest you stick to this route.
3. Templates & Themes
Squarespace offers nearly 113 professionally designed templates to give you a head start in setting up your website. These templates can quickly help you build blogging websites, portfolios, online stores and local business websites. You can easily edit these templates to mold them the way you want. Squarespace’s drag and drop editor allows you to adjust the layout for all your webpages. You can easily change the font, colors, add galleries, slideshows, video backgrounds to liven up your website. These changes are visible in real-time via the drag and drop editor, making the process even quicker.
You can also buy premium templates from third-party providers, but the installation of these third-party templates may not be easy for beginners. Moreover, these templates are fully optimized for different screens and you don’t have to worry about adjusting the layout for different devices.
WordPress offers its users a rich collection of over 9,990 free and premium themes to browse and choose from. However, you might have to do quite a bit of research to find a suitable theme and template. The quality of themes isn’t guaranteed but most premium themes do come with robust architectures and a supportive customer service to help you resolve any issues.
Moreover, not all themes may be optimized. You might have to put in the extra effort of either adding relevant CSS code or installing a plugin to make your website look good and consistent across device screens. Once you become familiar with WordPress architecture, you can also create your own custom theme and template. This is recommended for advanced users with quite a bit of WordPress experience.
4. Security & Housekeeping
Since Squarespace bundles up almost all the backend services, for the users, it takes care of the website security and maintenance as well. New and tested security updates are automatically pushed to Squarespace websites. It also checks for malware, periodic back-ups, and provides users with a two-factor authentication (2FA) for added security. All Squarespace domains are protected through free Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificates which ensure that the data transmitted between the website and its visitors is encrypted for security.
In WordPress, website security and maintenance need to be done by you. With each update, you might have to check for compatibility between the WordPress core, the theme and the plugins. Most security vulnerabilities in WordPress arise due to third-party plugins. So, be careful while installing plugins. Do not take on too many plugins and do read reviews before installing. WordPress also doesn’t intrinsically have the SSL feature as it needs to be configured on the hosting server. Your hosting provider might be able to provide you with a free SSL certificate or you can use a plugin. Hosting services might also offer a paid regular backup feature for your website.
It is often believed that Squarespace is more secure than WordPress. It should be noted that the WordPress core is very secure and is at par with Squarespace. It’s the third-party plugins that you need to be careful about. Not all plugins are bad. You just need to exercise care and caution while installing them. That said, the regular upkeep of Squarespace is far simpler than WordPress.
Blogs can be an excellent way to engage audiences and promote your products and services. Since both WordPress and Squarespace started as blogging platforms, they offer exceptional assistance to bloggers through their unique features.
Squarespace provides a beginner-friendly blogging interface that makes it easy to create and publish blogs quickly on the website. Free templates are available for use that allow you to display posts however you like. You can use a grid layout or display your blogs in chronological order like a list. Depending on the plan you subscribe to, you can allow multiple users to collaborate and edit blogs on the website. You can also restrict editing access by setting permissions for each user to decide what level of access they have.
Squarespace also allows you to group similar posts using categories and tags, which can come in handy while displaying certain types of articles on the website or showing related posts. Moreover, social media feeds can be easily linked to your Squarespace site to share your article on your social platforms as well.
WordPress also supports free templates for blogging and allows multiple users to work together on blog posts. To prevent any misuse, you can also restrict access for these collaborators through its in-built user roles. WordPress is a more robust platform that offers greater flexibility to users as it allows them to build custom templates and gives them access to edit the HTML. It also offers a better categorization of posts through its custom post types. There is ample plugin support for social media integration to allow post sharing.
6. Search Engine Optimization
Search Engine Optimization refers to the process of improving your website’s to increase its visibility on the internet. A website’s visibility is determined by its ranking on the search engine results page. A well optimized website will appear higher in the search results and will therefore attract more business. It is absolutely essential to optimize your website to ensure better traffic to your website.
Since Squarespace bundles all its services, it comprises integrated features and useful guides for simple websites as well as for large eCommerce businesses. It integrates the Google Search Console directly into its interface. This makes it easy to look up the keywords customers and visitors are using to find your website. Squarespace also allows you to edit page titles and descriptions that will appear in search results, add descriptive text for images and customize URLs to include important keywords. It also automatically adds redirects to pages that can no longer be found on the website.
WordPress has robust built-in SEO features that are suitable for all websites. It allows you to create static URLs and permalinks and edit post meta titles and descriptions. However, unlike Squarespace, optimizing your website for mobiles and tablets is largely dependent on your theme and you may even have to do it yourself. You might have to check third-party templates for clean code and its performance on different screens.
A very popular plugin used for advanced SEO functionality is Yoast SEO. It offers options for automatic site maps, Google search result snippet previews, and can overall prove very helpful to you in your SEO strategy. The Yoast plugin comes in two versions. The basic version of the plugin that will serve your basic SEO optimization needs adequately. The premium version of Yoast allows you to set up redirects, use multiple focus keywords, and offers video tutorials to help you strategize your content better.
7. eCommerce Functionality
As a website builder, Squarespace all services are in-built in its paid plans. You can set up a basic shopping website using the Business Plan we discussed earlier. For large businesses however, the Basic and Advanced Commerce Plans are recommended as the 3% transaction fee of the Business Plan is waived off.
WordPress lacks eCommerce support out of the box. However, it is supported by its hugely popular plugin WooCommerce that allows you to easily set up your online store and sell your products. It is a free, open-source plugin that allows you to set up your storefront easily and also gives you the option to scale it up.
Here are some of the highlights and comparison of the eCommerce functionalities that Squarespace & WordPress offer:
a) Product & Inventory Management
Squarespace has a user-friendly product creation module that allows you to create product pages, update and manage your product stock and edit unlimited SKUs. You can also sync products from other shopping platforms like Etsy or Shopify or import products manually or through a CSV file.
WooCommerce has a simple product interface that will help you set up your product pages easily and swiftly. With WooCommerce, you can sell digital and physical products, and even market your services. Product variants (like different colors, sizes, etc) and add-ons can be easily added. Tracking and updating inventory can be easily handled. You can add products to any WordPress page or post, and can also display related or best-selling products to further promote your business. While Squarespace has a 100 SKU limit on product variants, no such limitations exist in WooCommerce. WooCommerce is particularly a better choice for large businesses as it offers better scalability and flexibility.
b) Shipping & Tax
Squarespace has built-in tax tools and shipping methods to give you a kickstart. You can create region-specific tax rules that will apply to customers, based on their locations. Further you can also adjust shipping rates based on the orders. Well-designed eCommerce shipping policies are very helpful and effective in helping you expand your business. Squarespace allows you to offer customers 3 types of shipping rates: pickup, flat-rate, weight-based, and real-time.
While Squarespace offers great functionality, WooCommerce allows you a greater deal of flexibility and control over taxes and shipping, and settings are easy to configure. Tax settings can be adjusted to calculate it based on shipping address, billing address, or the store location. WooCommerce has a user-friendly shipping dashboard, and offers 3 shipping methods: Flat Rate, Free Shipping and Local Pickup.
Squarespace supports several payment gateways such as Paypal, Stripe and Apple Pay. WordPress is a clear winner in this category with WooCommerce offering flexible and secure payments through 140 gateways, including Stripe, PayPal, Square, AmazonPay, Apple Pay and Google Pay. Moreover, WooCommerce also supports multi-currency payments, a feature Squarespace currently lacks. WooCommerce also has a dedicated payment processor designed specifically for its stores. It is a free plugin and has no setup or monthly fees.
Email marketing campaigns can be an effective tool to increase user-engagement and boost your sales. In Squarespace, Mailchimp integration is offered in its Basic and Advanced Commerce Plans. Through this integration you can effectively plan your campaign and track the analytics to make necessary tweaks.
WordPress’s WooCommerce allows you to send automatic emails if the visitor expresses an intent to buy your products. You can send abandoned cart emails to encourage customers, target inactive customers and send reminders for wish listed products. You can also create automations for transactional emails and follow this up with coupons, points, rewards, and gift cards.
8. Plugins, Integrations and Extensions
Even though a platform may market itself as an all-in-one solution, it’s not possible to include all functionality under one roof. Third-party add-ons help you add these missing additional functionalities to your website.
Squarespace offers out of the box solutions to users through its own framework. It doesn’t really offer much in terms of third-party integrations. So, if you want to integrate functionality that the framework doesn’t currently support, there’s very little chance of finding a third-party solution. It does however, offer about 27 extensions which include social media platforms, payment and shipping providers and marketing and accounting apps. All these extensions are checked for quality and compatibility.
WordPress on the other hand has a vast repository of over 60,000 plugins that cover almost every functionality you can think of. This large offering of add-ons can be attributed to WordPress’ open-source nature that allows developers quite a bit of creative freedom to develop plugins.
However, you should vet your options before installing them as there is no strict Squarespace-like quality control. Given the vast number of plugins available, it’s quite easy to take the “there’s a plugin for that” route but adding too many plugins can slow down your website. Moreover, plugins can also introduce security vulnerabilities. Well-designed and coded plugins, on the other hand, can be extremely useful for your website’s performance. Always read reviews and do thorough research before installing plugins.
Squarespace is known for its ever-ready customer service that can be reached 24/7 through their website, email and social media channels, which makes sense given it’s a paid service. Squarespace’s customer service has often been praised by experts for their quick responses.
WordPress on the other hand, doesn’t have dedicated customer support. Being an open source CMS, it has a large active community of developers that are always willing to lend a helping hand. WordPress forums are a rich resource where you can look up solutions to troubleshoot your problems. The rich collection of articles are bound to be helpful in some way. You can also contact your hosting provider for maintenance, security, and website update issues.
Both platforms offer ample documentation, tutorials, self-help materials and videos that can help you get started.
Squarespace vs WordPress
In the preceding sections we looked at a thorough analysis of the features of two popular website building platforms: WordPress and Squarespace.
Having looked at the fundamental characteristics of each platform we can now take a better decision for our web development journey. In this section, I will put together everything we learned in the previous sections and make a few recommendations to help you in your decision making process.
Remember, these recommendations are made considering ideal situations. Since you are best acquainted with your needs and expectations, I urge you to follow your gut. Also, it’s important to remember that the purpose here is not to find the better of the two options we’ve discussed. It’s simply to arrive at a solution better suited to our needs.
For Absolute Beginners
To absolute beginners who want to quickly set up their website with clean, optimized templates, we would recommend Squarespace. Since it offers everything under one roof, Squarespace will also do away with the hassle of having to decide on hosting, domain registration and choosing a theme.
For eCommerce Players
To set up an eCommerce website, scalability is an important consideration. If you want to set up an individual business website, Squarespace’s business plan might be a good place to start. However, as your business grows, you might find yourself paying a hefty 3% transaction fee too burdensome.
Switching to either the Basic or Advanced Commerce Plan might be a good idea in that case. But none of these would offer you the flexibility that WordPress offers through WooCommerce. We strongly recommend WordPress for eCommerce websites, irrespective of the size. However, for absolute beginners who want to set up everything quickly with out-of-the-box functionalities, Squarespace is a good choice.
For Advanced Users Who Require Greater Flexibility
With WordPress, you can set up custom themes and templates and tailor them to the needs of your website. This offers you greater control over the website. That said, the learning curve is definitely steeper with WordPress and it might take an absolute beginner quite a while (compared to Squarespace) before to build a fully functional website based on a custom theme.
I hope this article gave you the necessary insights to help you make an informed choice. So, go ahead and build that website of your dreams. Good luck!