Squarespace vs WordPress (2019) - Which is the Best Website Builder?
In this Squarespace vs WordPress comparison, we look at two of the world's leading web building platforms in depth.
We provide an overview of what both tools do, explore their key features and outline the reasons why you might choose one over the other for a website design project.
By the end of the article, you should have a much clearer idea of which platform is best suited to your business.
What is Squarespace?
Squarespace is a ‘software as a service’ (‘SaaS’) website builder - you pay a monthly fee to use it, but everything you need to build and maintain your site is provided as part of that: templates, a content management system, hosting, e-commerce, support and (depending on your requirements) a domain.
There are two versions of Squarespace: first, there's the 'standard' version, which is designed to be used by people without web development skills. The vast majority of Squarespace customers use this version.
There is also a developer’s version which allows access to and manipulation of the source code. This permits the addition of greater functionality to Squarespace sites and the creation of bespoke templates. As the name suggests, it's really only suitable for experienced developers however.
Squarespace are a bit vague on user numbers, but their website states that there are 'millions' of paying Squarespace customers.
What is WordPress?
There are also two different versions of WordPress available:
Let's take a look at each.
Hosted Wordpress - available at wordpress.com — is, like Squarespace, a software as a service (SaaS) tool. As with Squarespace you pay a monthly fee and you get access to a broad range of features which enable you to build and maintain a website.
It’s slightly less of an ‘all in one’ solution than Squarespace however, as users need to use third party tools like Ecwid or Shopify to add e-commerce features, and using the most attractive themes involve an additional fee.
On the flip side, this makes it a more flexible tool than Squarespace, because you can integrate it with more apps, or buy more templates for it.
Self-hosted WordPress is a piece of software (downloadable from wordpress.org) that you install on your own web server. It’s open-source, meaning that the code behind it is freely available and may be modified easily.
In practice this means that sites built with WordPress can be customised to a very large degree — it’s an extremely flexible tool that, in the hands of the right developer, or through the installation of a suitable plugin, can be adapted to meet the requirements of nearly any website design project.
You can install WordPress on your server for free, but there are hosting costs, domain registration charges and occasionally plugin or development costs to consider. I’ll discuss all this in more depth later on in the review.
Recent stats on platform usage suggest that there are 75m sites built using WordPress, split roughly 50:50 between the self-hosted and the hosted version.
So which versions of Squarespace and WordPress is this review comparing?
The aim behind this is to allow readers to compare an ‘all-in-one’, pay-monthly hosted solution (Squarespace) to an open-source platform that requires more hands-on configuration (WordPress).
Who are Squarespace and WordPress aimed at?
It’s probably fair to say that Squarespace’s core audience is comprised of users without web development skills. The key idea behind Squarespace is that anyone can use the platform to make their own website, without needing to code at all.
This leads to a ‘walled garden’ approach, where everything is very tightly locked down in order to:
create a user-friendly interface
avoid scenarios where Squarespace users manage to ‘break’ an aspect of their site
preserve the quality of the templates.
Like Squarespace, WordPress can also cater for users without web development skills — it is certainly possible to create and maintain a WordPress site without resorting to coding.
I’d argue however that in many cases, more configuration of WordPress is needed before you can publish a website; and that setting up a WordPress site involves a steeper learning curve.
Due to its open-source nature, WordPress is also geared towards another audience: users who wish to use the platform to create an extensively-customised website with significantly more functionality that is available from Squarespace.
How much do Squarespace and WordPress cost to use?
It’s fairly easy to understand the costs involved with Squarespace — there are four monthly plans available:
Personal - $16 per month
Business - $26 per month
Commerce Basic - $30 per month
Commerce Advanced - $46 per month
These plans work out a bit cheaper if you pay on an annual basis ($12, $18, $26 and $40 per month respectively). Note that you may need to pay local taxes or VAT on top of these fees.
The main differences between the Squarespace plans involve the number of pages you can create; whether you can add custom CSS and scripts; transaction fees; integration with Xero; and e-commerce features.
The 'Personal' plan is quite restrictive and is not terribly well suited to business applications — this is because it doesn't facilitate e-commerce; restricts your ability to add custom CSS and other code to your site; and restricts the number of integrations with third-party apps you can use (notably Mailchimp).
This means that realistically, if you're interested in using Squarespace, and have aspirations to create something professional, you'll probably need to go for the $26 per month plan or higher.
As you might expect, the more expensive Squarespace plans come with more features, particularly where e-commerce is concerned. I'll highlight some key ones below, but for a more in-depth overview of the differences between each Squarespace pricing plan, please see our full Squarespace review.
If you pay annually for your Squarespace plan, you’ll get a free custom domain too — but you should note that not all domain extensions are catered for.
“Hey, WordPress is free” I hear you say. Well no, not exactly, because to get it working properly you need to pay for other stuff.
There are five things that will generally affect your costs:
hosting (server space on which to install WordPress and store your site)
themes (the design for your site)
e-commerce integration (addition of tools that will let you sell products online)
plugins (apps that can be added to your site to add more functionality)
whether or not a developer is involved in your site build.
The one thing you'll always have to pay for hosting: without it you have nowhere to install WordPress. There are a wide range of options available on this front, but the key choice you’ll have to make is whether you’d like to use a ‘shared hosting’ company (cheap but slower) or a provider such as WP Engine that specialises exclusively in WordPress hosting (faster, more secure — but more expensive).
Depending on what you opt for, you’re typically looking at costs of between $4 (shared hosting) and $30 (managed WP hosting) a month to cater for a small business website.
With regard to the other factors, you can technically get away with using a free template, e-commerce integration, and plugins - but realistically, to get higher quality results it’s usually worth investing in your site.
Below you’ll find some figures which demonstrate some costs you might expect if you were building your site yourself:
Annual hosting, using managed WordPress hosting from WP Engine as an example: $348 (recurring cost)
Premium theme: $175
Annual cost for e-commerce integration (using Ecwid as an example): $180 (recurring cost)
4 paid-for plugins: $100
If you were to use a developer to help you configure, build and maintain your site, you’d have significantly higher costs (but in all likelihood would be getting a better product).
In terms of how these sorts of costs compare to using Squarespace, depending on what sort of plan you’re on, and whether you pay annually or not, you’re looking at an annual cost of between $144 and $552.
This means that using Squarespace can actually work out cheaper than using WordPress, despite it being a paid-for option and WordPress being an open-source one. But there are a lot of variables involved, and it depends very much on the project in question.
Pricing, however, should not be the only thing you consider in a WordPress vs Squarespace decision.
Let's take look at features...
Interface / ease-of-use
The Squarespaceinterface is extremely intuitive; and its style editor makes it pretty straightforward to change basic template design elements - font colours, heading sizes and so on. You just point at the design elements you want to change, and click some controls to change them.
Frustratingly however, the extent to which you can tweak a template's design very much depends on the template you pick, however — some are considerably better than others on this front. When building Squarespace sites for clients, we often use templates from the Brine family as a starting point, as they tend to be a bit more flexible in nature.
Editing content is similarly straightforward in Squarespace: it’s simply a case of locating the content you want to change, clicking an ‘edit’ strip, and tweaking it accordingly. A drag-and-drop editor makes laying out your content a breeze — you can move text and image blocks around a page with ease, or drop content from other sections of your site into it too (for example images from galleries, or blog post summaries).
Once a WordPress site is set up, it's by no means difficult to maintain either. Depending on what hosting provider you plump for, setup and configuration can be a bit fiddly, but once you’re up and running you’ll find that the WordPress content management system (CMS) is easy-to-use and very responsive.
The main difference between the Squarespace and WordPress approaches to content management is, in my view, to do with on-page editing.
With Squarespace, you can just go to the page you’d like to tweak and click on a bit of content to edit it: you’ll then see your edits in context on the page, as you make them.
In WordPress — out of the box at least — you have to edit the page in the back end and preview / publish it before you see your changes.
But as with much else in WordPress, if you're prepared to put a little bit of time and research into configuration, it's possible to tweak things to suit your workflow: there are quite a lot of front end ‘visual editor’ plugins / tools available that you can make use of to add a more 'Squarespacey' approach to content management.
And with the recent introduction of Wordpress’ new ‘Gutenberg’ editor, which now makes use of content blocks and a drag-and-drop approach, content editing seems to be moving in a more Squarespace-style direction in WordPress anyway.
On balance I’d say that most website editing newbies will feel more at home more quickly with Squarespace, but the WordPress CMS is extremely usable too.
Quantity and quality
Squarespace templates are undeniably pretty, outclassing in my view those available from competing hosted website builded platforms like Wix or Jimdo. And Squarespace provides a reasonably large number to choose from — around 100.
Additionally, some Squarespace developers are now selling bespoke Squarespace themes which can be installed via the insertion of some code into your Squarespace site, further increasing the selection available. (The vast majority of Squarespace users still use the standard Squarespace selection of templates).
However, the number of Squarespace templates available pales in comparison to the vast number available for WordPress — although it’s hard to put a precise figure on the number of WordPress themes in existence, we can confidently talk about thousands, both free and paid-for. (You can buy templates from dedicated template stores like Template Monster or Theme Fuse).
It’s probably fair to say that Squarespace templates are a little bit easier to customise, due to the 'point, click and change' interface, but tweaking a well-constructed WordPress template shouldn't involve that much of a learning curve (particularly if you’re using a visual editor).
For me, WordPress is ultimately the winner in a template shoot-out: the sheer quantity of themes available ensures most users will have plenty of high quality options to choose from.
However, you should always aim to get your WordPress template from a reputable source — some themes can contain malicious code which can compromise the security of your site. (The same increasingly goes for Squarespace).
Performance on mobile
All Squarespace templates are responsive, meaning that they will all adjust themselves automatically so that they are sized correctly for any device. In this day and age, it isn't at all hard to locate a responsive WordPress template, but you will need to double check its suitability across devices before installing it.
One thing I really like about Squarespace's presentation of content on mobile devices is that it's easy to show your blog content in AMP ('Accelerated Mobile Pages') format.
AMP is a Google-backed project which drastically speeds up the loading of your pages on mobile devices by stripping out certain bits of code; using it means
more people will access your content (web users routinely abandon slow loading pages on mobile)
you may experience a slight bump in search results (Google sometimes puts AMP content in a carousel above other search results).
Turning on AMP in Squarespace is simply a matter of ticking a box in your site settings; currently you can only present blog posts in AMP format, but it's a good start.
It's perfectly possible to use AMP on WordPress too — and, importantly, you can use it across all page types, not just blog posts (which is technically better than the Squarespace AMP offering).
Again, it involves more configuration and installation of plugins, but the AMP functionality you get in WordPress can be better than what’s available in Squarespace.
Content management and blogging
When it comes to content management, I’d argue that WordPress beats Squarespace fairly comprehensively. There are four main reasons for this.
First, and most importantly in my view, WordPress comes with content versioning — every single version of a page or post can be stored on the system and you can roll back to any of them at any point. Squarespace, presumably in a bid to save on hosting costs and resources, does not permit you to do this. It doesn't even facilitate an autosave feature, which is another serious omission.
Second, in WordPress, you can toggle between HTML and WYSIWYG when editing your content; although you can add ‘code blocks’ in Squarespace, you are not given direct access to the main HTML behind your pages and posts.
Third, WordPress gives you a proper media library that you can use to store, access and edit your images and documents. Although Squarespace is making some improvements in this area (with the release of its new ‘image re-use’ feature), it doesn’t yet offer a similar tool for managing and updating files.
Finally, Wordpress allows you to use categories and tags more flexibly than Squarespace (you can also create your own custom content types in Wordpress). This allows you to present your site content in more relevant ways to users, who can also filter it more easily to meet their requirements.
An example of this in action might be as follows. Say you run a car review website. With Wordpress, you could use parent categories, categories, tags and custom content types to offer readers the option to browse reviews by car make, model, trim and rating. With Squarespace you’d be limited to offering reviews by category and tag — meaning users could only browse by make and model.
One area where Squarespace has an edge over Wordpress in the content management department however involves something called ‘summary blocks.’ In Squarespace, you can create a summary block containing thumbnail images and extracts from your blog, and drop them into any section of your site. Or add a slideshow of pictures which have been tagged in a certain way. This is fantastic for anyone wishing to create a magazine-style layout for their site.
The whole 'summary block' approach is possible in Wordpress too, of course, but as with much else, it requires some configuration first.
Flexibility is where WordPress really kicks Squarespace’s ass.
Although Squarespace does come with a lot of useful features out of the box, it is a fairly ‘locked-down’, walled-garden system.
By contrast, you can use WordPress to pretty much create any sort of site you like. This can be done either by installing some plugins to your site or commissioning a developer to code something for you.
With regard to Wordpress plugins, there are thousands of plugins available which can be used to add functionality to your site. Whether you’d like to add e-commerce, display a sophisticated photo gallery, capture data or show customer reviews, you’ll find that there is an enormous range of plugins available to help you. They are usually fairly easily installed and updated.
If you can’t find a plugin that meets your requirements, or wish to create a truly bespoke website, then you can always commission a WordPress developer to help you (given the popularity of WordPress as a platform, there are plenty of them about).
A WordPress developer can help you craft a truly unique site that involves your own template and functionality rather than those of a third party.
WordPress-style plugins — where you can install a third-party app with a few clicks — don’t exist for Squarespace per se, but there are certain built-in integrations you can use (for quite a few well-known services including Xero, Mailchimp, Dropbox and G Suite). You can use these as long as you are not on the cheapest Squarespace plan.
And, as the Squarespace userbase has grown, developers have started to sell snippets of third-party code which enhance the functionality of Squarespace sites. These are increasingly referred to as Squarespace plugins — and although they’re not quite as simple to install as WordPress plugins, they’re reasonably easy to work with and can add some brilliant features to your site. We’ve recently made some of these available for sale in our new Squarespace plugins store.
Finally on the subject of flexibility, and to be fair to Squarespace, you could argue that the visual aspects of the sites you create with it are more immediately flexible than is the case in WordPress. You can tweak site visuals in Squarespace very easily in most templates, and edit the layout of pages easily. Depending on how you’ve configured your WordPress site, and whether or not some sort of visual editor is being used, you may find it more tricky to adjust the layout of your template on the fly.
Suitability for large or complex sites
If you're planning to build a very large or complex website, then Squarespace is usually best avoided. This is because it doesn't really facilitate deep website hierarchies — the platform limits you to two levels of navigation.
In fact, you could argue that Squarespace only permits one level of navigation. This is because if you create a section on your site containing sub-pages (for, example a section called 'Our Services' containing two sub-pages, 'Gardening' and 'Tree Surgery'), Squarespace will not allow users to visit the parent page - i.e., your visitors will not be able to access the 'Our Services' page...just one of the sub pages below the heading.
So basically with Squarespace you can only create extremely 'flat' websites.
Now in some ways, a flat structure for your site is a good idea, because in many ways it makes the site a lot easier to use and its content considerably more discoverable.
But for some businesses, particularly large organisations, or those offering a very wide variety of services and resources, a deep hierarchy does become a key requirement for a website build. Because this is a difficult thing to achieve in Squarespace, I'd usually recommend using WordPress over it for any website requiring several layers of navigation.
In this scenario, however, you would need to ensure that you select a WordPress template that facilitates multiple levels of navigation (or find a WordPress developer who can create one for you).
Squarespace comes with a very nifty e-commerce system built in. It’s great for a lot of applications, but it does have its limitations: the number of payment gateways you can use is limited to Stripe (which is not usable by merchants in certain countries) and Paypal, and it doesn’t come with a much advanced online retailing functionality that you’d get with dedicated e-commerce solutions like Shopify or Bigcommerce.
A key thing to be very aware of with Squarespace’s e-commerce functionality is that it doesn’t allow you to export digital products (and places limits on the number of products and variants you can export to 2000 and 3 respectively).
So if you build an online store in Squarespace and, a couple of years later, have a need to migrate a large number of products (especially digital products) to a different platform, you may have a bit of a problem on your hands.
But that said, for a lot of users, the Squarespace e-commerce functionality is undeniably good. And, if it doesn’t quite meet your requirements, you can always use code blocks to integrate other e-commerce services. For example, Ecwid or Shopify Buy Button solutions are often added by Squarespace users who want to avail of certain types of e-commerce functionality not provided by the built-in option.
WordPress doesn’t have an e-commerce tool built in, but thanks to the wide range of plugins available for it, it’s very straightforward to add comprehensive online retailing functionality to a WordPress site. Popular choices include Ecwid, Woocommerce and Shopp; and well-known e-commerce platform Bigcommerce now offers WordPress plugin too.
Ultimately I'd argue that with WordPress, you'll be able to integrate third-party e-commerce apps more tightly or seamlessly. This will take a bit of effort of course — so Squarespace's out-of-the box approach will suit a lot of users wishing to get a simple online store off the ground quickly.
Data capture and forms
On the surface, Squarespace is great at allowing you to capture data - it allows you to add very attractive forms to your site very easily.
These allow you to capture a wide range of information, but it's important to note that Squarespace forms do not currently facilitate file uploads, which is a shame.
The data captured by Squarespace forms can be emailed to an address you specify, added to a Google Sheet, sent to Mailchimp or connected to Zapier for integration with other apps. If you are capturing email address data — with a view to creating and sending e-newsletters to subscribers — you can keep the data within Squarespace and use it to send emails using Squarespaces new ‘Email Campaigns’ feature (more on this in a moment).
The Google Sheet and Mailchimp integrations unquestionably useful, given the popularity of these two tools‚ but it would be nice if direct integrations were available with other apps. Thousands of potential Squarespace users make use of the likes of Getresponse, Aweber, Campaign Monitor and so on — and although you can use Zapier or Squarespace’s code blocks to integrate those services, it's just not as straightforward as the Mailchimp / Google Sheets integration.
Additionally, if you're adding forms to a Squarespace site via code blocks, you'll need to mess about with CSS to make the resulting forms look as pretty as the standard Squarespace forms.
WordPress, by contrast, allows you to integrate all of these services easily — you’ll need a plugin like the fabulous Gravity Forms to help you but once you’ve set it up, you’ll benefit from a rock solid integration with all the major e-marketing solutions and additional functionality (confirmation emails, file uploads, entry limits, hidden fields) that you won’t be able to avail of using the built-in Squarespace form builder. Gravity Forms also allows you to make use of conditional logic in your forms (i.e., based on how users populate a certain field, hide or show others), making for much more flexible and sophisticated data capture.
One thing I particularly don’t like about forms in Squarespace is that you can't just create one form and insert it on any page you like — generally speaking, you have to create a new form each time (I say 'generally speaking' because some Squarespace templates facilitate basic sidebars, which you can configure to include a particular form).
As with much else in Squarespace and WordPress, it's easier to get going with data capture in Squarespace, but the data capture options available to you are more extensive in WordPress.
Let’s look at a related issue — sending email campaigns.
Sending email campaigns with Squarespace
Squarespace recently introduced a new feature for which there isn’t really a WordPress equivalent: email campaign sending.
It’s (appropriately!) called ‘Email Campaigns’ and allows you to use Squarespace to design and send HTML e-newsletters — something you would traditionally have done with a dedicated email marketing solution like Getresponse or Mailchimp.
As things stand, you’ll get far more functionality from a dedicated email marketing solution than with Squarespace’s Email Campaigns feature — advanced autoresponders, split testing, analytics and so on — but some potential users of Squarespace will enjoy this ‘all in one’ approach to email marketing, and the consistency between the Squarespace website templates and their email ones is commendable and helpful for businesses who want to maintain brand values easily across all communication types.
The pricing structure for the feature is confusing however, and ultimately quite expensive for the functionality you get (e-newsletters and basic drip campaigns).
And there’s an aspect of Squarespace’s Email Campaigns feature that would definitely make me steer clear of it: mandatory double opt-in. Email Campaigns forces anyone who enters their details into your sign up form to then check their email, open a confirmation message and click on a link before they can subscribe to your list.
Whilst this rather convoluted process can technically improve the quality of a mailing list (by reducing the number of fake signups), it has also been shown to drastically reduce the number of people subscribing to a list (so much so that Mailchimp, a company that used to be one of the double opt-in process’ most ardent supporters, ultimately dropped the requirement).
So until the feature is developed a bit, and a single opt-in option introduced, I’d definitely recommend integrating a dedicated email marketing solution with Squarespace rather than going with Email Campaigns.
[Tip: if you are wondering which email marketing platform is a good fit for your business, do check out our Getresponse review and our Aweber vs Getresponse and Mailchimp vs Getresponse comparison for some ideas. You might also want to check out our full email marketing reviews section].
WordPress users will need to use a standalone product to send e-newsletters but, particularly if using Gravity Forms or a similar product, will enjoy more advanced functionality, both in terms of data capture and email broadcasts, that what is available with Email Campaigns.
SEO in WordPress vs Squarespace
Wordpress is the hands-down winner in the search engine optimisation department: it blows Squarespace out of the SEO water in quite a few ways.
First, in WordPress, alt tags and meta data are referred to by their proper names — this is not always the case with Squarespace, where you’re dealing with ‘captions’, ‘descriptions’ and ‘extracts’ which, depending on the template and context, may actually end up visible on the page (a very strange scenario which probably encourages people to make use of alt tags and meta data with visual impact rather than SEO in mind).
Second, WordPress allows you to make use of a wide range of sophisticated SEO plugins — for example, Yoast — which assess the quality of your on-page SEO efforts and automatically suggest improvements. There’s no equivalent functionality in Squarespace.
Third, you can't add rich snippets easily in Squarespace. Rich snippets are bits of data which enhance your search results by (1) displaying contextual information such as ratings, pricing and reviewer to search results (see example below) and (2) by letting search engines get a more detailed idea of what your page or post is about. There is a workaround you can use to add these to Squarespace sites - using Google's Data Highlighter tool - but it's a bit messy.
By contrast adding rich snippets in WordPress is a very straightforward affair — there are many plugins available which allow you to simply add the relevant data to your web pages with a minimum of fuss.
Finally, there's page speed to consider: Google looks at how quickly your page loads when deciding where to put it in search. Using WordPress gives you greater control over this, because you can choose your hosting (the faster the better!) and tweak your code so that it meets the recommendations laid out by Google via their 'PageSpeed' tools.
If you're on Squarespace, you're stuck with their shared hosting and there is less you can do from a code tweaking point of view too.
All that said, it's not by any means awful picture with regard to Squarespace and SEO.
Squarespace sites do quite a lot of things that Google definitely likes: they generate a sitemap.xml file; use clean HTML markup; and are mobile friendly. You can definitely optimise a Squarespace site for search — it’s just a bit harder to do than with WordPress, it's an odd process and you’ll have less tools available to help you.
One thing Squarespace users don’t really have to worry about is site maintenance. All the key technical aspects of running a website (software updates, hosting, server configuration etc.) are taken care of by the company.
With WordPress, it’s a totally different scenario: you are in charge of ensuring that you’re using the most up-to-date version of WordPress, that your server’s been configured correctly, that your plugins and themes are all up to date etc.
Although some of this can be handled automatically, it’s still something you need to keep an eye on — if you end up with an out of date version of WordPress or a plugin, your site is much more vulnerable to being hacked.
Which brings us neatly on to…
Because Squarespace is a hosted solution, the bulk of the responsibility for security lies with the company who make it: it’s chiefly their responsibility to ensure that their system doesn’t get compromised, your site doesn't get hacked and that backups of your content are made.
However, because Squarespace now hosts over a million websites on its servers, it has in recent years become a target for distributed denial of service (DoS) attacks — bringing down Squarespace brings down a very large number of sites. As a result, there have been outages and downtime for Squarespace users for precisely this reason in the past. You might find your WordPress site less vulnerable to this sort of thing, depending on who you host it with (some of the the larger hosting companies are also targets for DoS attacks).
But despite this, I’d say that Squarespace is usually the safer bet from a security perspective.
This is because with WordPress, if you’re not commissioning a developer or agency to maintain your site, then the ultimate responsibility for security belongs to the end user: you! It’s your responsibility to ensure that your version of WordPress is up to date, along with any plugins or themes you might be using. Failure to keep on top of this aspect of site maintenance can make a WordPress site very vulnerable to being hacked.
You’ve also got to be aware that some WordPress themes and plugins can contain malicious code which can compromise the security of the site, so you need to be very careful about which ones you install. And finally, you've got to ensure that you're regularly backing up your site (various plugins are available to help automate this process for you).
In short, I think it’s fair to say that Squarespace sites are ultimately less vulnerable than WordPress ones, simply because there’s much less scope for users to neglect security on their site or add dodgy code to it. And if something does go wrong, then Squarespace's team have a responsibility to help resolve the problem (and will be highly experienced at doing so).
Finally, a quick note about SSL: a free SSL certificate is provided with all Squarespace sites, meaning that your visitors are browsing your site on a secure connection. Using this to create a secure website is a simple case of ticking a checkbox in your Squarespace settings.
You can of course install SSL certificates on WordPress sites too — but again, it's your responsibility to sort that out, and it's going to be more fiddly.
Control of your content
Something which is often overlooked in WordPress vs Squarespace comparisons is control of content.
If you use WordPress, what you put on your site is, generally speaking, entirely up to you. If you use Squarespace, you’ll need to be aware that Squarespace can remove it if it conflicts with their acceptable use policies.
Admittedly, a company that you've paid to host your WordPress site could similarly take your site down if it didn’t like what you were publishing — but in that scenario, you would have more options: you could move to a more liberal hosting provider, for example.
Crucially, it’s much easier to get content out of WordPress than it is using Squarespace. There are a lot of tools available to WordPress users to help them export and back up every single piece of content. In Squarespace, you are limited to exporting your site to an XML file, and only certain types of content can be exported.
WordPress ultimately gives users far more control over their content than Squarespace, and depending on the nature and size of your site, this factor should not be overlooked.
Many businesses require multiple versions of their website - in different languages, or for different territories (or both).
WordPress is a much better solution than Squarespace for this sort of thing - you can use either the WordPress Multilingual plugin or the WordPress Multisite option to create multiple versions of a website in multiple languages.
There are a couple of workarounds you can use to get Squarespace sites to display in multiple languages, but they are clunky and don’t come remotely close to providing the multilingual / multisite functionality you can achieve with WordPress.
If you're a fan of using smartphone apps to manage your website on the go, then you'll appreciate the fact that Squarespace offers quite a few options in this regard.
There are four apps available to manage aspects of your Squarespace site:
Analytics (iOS, Android)
Blog (iOS, Android)
Commerce (iOS, Android)
Squarespace (iOS only)
In terms of what they do:
'Analytics' provides you with access to the Squarespace reporting interface (which whilst not as comprehensive as Google Analytics is well-laid out and easy to use).
'Blog', as you'd expect, allows you to publish content to your blog from your smartphone (and manage existing posts).
'Commerce' allows you to manage certain aspects of your online store from your smartphone.
'Squarespace’ is an app which combines some of the above apps’ functionality — it allows you to allows you to update content, add new blog posts and access stats. My hunch is that it will eventually become the sole Squarespace app which users install to manage all aspects of their site on the go.
With WordPress, it's more a case of using one mobile app rather than 5 — you can install the suitably titled 'WordPress' app on your phone (both iOS and Android versions are available) and perform key site management tasks on it. These include:
creating and editing pages / posts
Which approach is best — i.e., several dedicated apps versus one — will probably boil down to personal preference.
GDPR in Squarespace vs WordPress
Disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer — although this section of our Squarespace vs WordPress comparison is based on research and discussions with legal professionals, you should not treat it as formal legal advice.
As we’ve seen throughout this comparison review, Squarespace is designed to be a code-free solution for the majority of its users; it’s targeted at a non-technical audience and the company doesn’t really encourage (or facilitate!) too much tinkering.
However, when it comes to GDPR (the new regulations around privacy for and capturing data from EU website visitors) the product fails in its mission to be a code-free website builder. It effectively forces its users to engage in some fairly challenging technical work involving obtaining cookie consent in a way that is consistent with GDPR.
To expand on this, one of the biggest implications of GDPR for website owners is that no non-essential cookies should be run without your site visitors providing explicit consent for this to happen. In addition to requiring you to give your your site visitors a means to give this prior consent, GDPR also requires you to log that consent and provide users with a means to revoke it.
Although a cookie banner is provided by Squarespace which informs users that cookies are used on your site, and allows visitors to opt-out of the non-essential cookies used by Squarespace Analytics (the built-in analytics tool), it doesn’t:
provide a means of revoking that consent
work with third-party scripts
So in essence, to avoid breaking GDPR rules whilst using a Squarespace site, you will either need to code your own cookie consent solution or integrate a paid-for cookie consent tool that works with Squarespace.
We use the latter approach, installing Cookie Pro on our clients’ websites. It’s quite a complicated process however, involving addition of scripts to your Squarespace site and extensive configuration of Google Tag Manager; it would be good if Squarespace could look at providing a solution which makes creating a GDPR compliant cookie banner more straightforward.
For more information on GDPR and Squarespace, do check out our Squarespace GDPR checklist and our guide to creating a GDPR compliant banner for Squarespace).
With WordPress, you will also have to spend some time configuring technical settings to ensure full GDPR compliance and you can expect some technical work.
However, there are a lot more plugins designed to help you do this, and, given the larger WordPress user base, considerably more online resources providing advice on this topic.
Support is an area where Squarespace usually beats WordPress, particularly if you are building your site yourself and not involving a developer or agency.
This is simply because when you buy a Squarespace account, you get support included with it (live chat or email). So, if something serious goes wrong with your site, there is somebody to turn to.
(This is a particularly important thing to bear in mind if you're building a site for somebody else — when you hand a Squarespace site over to a client, so long as you've set things up correctly, you shouldn't have to worry about providing ongoing support to your client. That's Squarespace's job).
It’s a different scenario with WordPress: if you’re building your website yourself with the platform and run into difficulties, it's not obvious where to turn to. You may find yourself sourcing help from a variety of locations: for example, the WordPress forums, a hosting company, a plugin provider, a mate who knows a thing or two about WordPress…
To get around this problem properly, you'll ideally need to work with a developer or agency specialising in WordPress development and take out a support contract with them.
On the plus side, this this can give you a personal level of support that you are unlikely to ever receive from Squarespace (face-to-face meetings, phone calls etc). The flip side is that it can be costly.
On balance I would say that if you are building a site for yourself or a client, then there is usually an advantage in using Squarespace as far as support goes (at least from a costs perspective).
In terms of the quality of Squarespace support, based on my own experience, it can vary from being brilliant (I was really impressed with how they handled my queries around SSL) to awful (they didn’t want to help at all with any GDPR-related enquiries). And, as with most helpdesks, the quality of support can depend very much on who you get on the day...
Squarespace vs WordPress: the conclusions
Most developers and webmasters would be comfortable in saying that WordPress is a considerably more powerful and flexible tool than Squarespace, and I’d agree with them.
However, that’s not to say that Wordpress is the right choice for all users.
I would argue that in many ways Squarespace meets the needs of individuals and small businesses better than WordPress, because
(1) it’s easier to set up a Squarespace site than a WordPress one and
(2) once your site is set up you don’t have to worry about maintenance or security issues — other than remembering to update your site with interesting content periodically, and staying on top of basic SEO techniques, using Squarespace is a sort of ‘set and forget’ scenario.
Squarespace is a great solution for the likes of photographers, bands and small business owners, who just want a simple website quickly and with a minimum of fuss (and down the line, if your needs do become more sophisticated, you could consider hiring a Squarespace developer to enhance your site through custom coding).
However, if you have advanced e-commerce or blogging requirements, or envisage a scenario where you are operating a business in multiple locations, I’d be inclined to go with WordPress - for the simple reason that you can pretty much build anything with it and make use of a vast number of plugins and themes.
WordPress is also a much more scalable solution, thanks to the multilingual and multisite options that are available. A Squarespace site is fine for a business that knows it's only ever going to operate in one location and in one language — but if your plan is to grow that business and open premises in a variety of locations, then WordPress is an option that is much better suited for the long-term.
If you are going down the WordPress route, I would suggest that rather than try to use it on the cheap — by doing everything yourself - it makes more sense to work with an experienced developer or agency, and to keep them involved in maintaining your site on an ongoing basis.
Not only will this give you a more polished, bespoke website, you’ll also get more peace of mind, as you won’t have to worry about security or maintenance. You will need to budget properly for this, but if you work with the right individual or team you’ll get a good product.
One way of deciding on Squarespace vs WordPress for a website build is by asking yourself 3 questions:
(1) "Do I have a large budget?"
(2) "Do I have time?"
(3) "Do I have complex requirements for my site?"
If your budget is tight, you could consider building a Squarespace site yourself, or — do forgive a plug here — getting in touch with us (we offer competitively-priced Squarespace design services). By contrast, if you are not particularly limited by budget, I'd be inclined to go with WordPress, but hiring a developer to build and support your site. (Again, forgive a plug, but you'll find information about our WordPress development services here.)
If you are short on time and technical skills, and absolutely intent on building your website yourself, I'd be inclined to plump for Squarespace over WordPress.
And finally if you have complex requirements for your site you will probably need to use WordPress, as it's a significantly more flexible platform from a functionality point of view.
Below you'll find a summary of some of the key reasons why you might use either Squarespace or WordPress over the other.
Reasons to use Squarespace over WordPress
Squarespace is easier to set up and use than WordPress — you shouldn’t face much of a learning curve.
A lot of features which you have to source separately in WordPress using plugins are available ‘out of the box’ if you’re using Squarespace — e-commerce, data capture forms, themes etc.
Hosting and domain names are included with the product (note that domain names are available on annual plans only); with WordPress, you have to sort these out separately.
With Squarespace you don’t have to worry about the technical aspects of maintaining your site; if you use WordPress, you need to keep on top of this or your site will become vulnerable to being hacked.
Squarespace is largely responsible for the security of your website — if you use WordPress, security depends on how diligent you are in updating your software and theme.
24/7 support is available for Squarespace (email and live chat). By contrast, whether or not you can avail of support for a WordPress site depends largely on whether you have commissioned a developer or agency to provide it.
Squarespace is arguably a better option than WordPress for users who require an elegant but simple website delivered quickly.
The new email campaigns functionality, which allows you to create and send e-newsletters from within the Squarespace environment, may appeal to some users (although as discussed above, I would personally avoid it until the mandatory double-opt in process is removed).
If you need help with a Squarespace project, do get in touch. We have built a large number of Squarespace sites in the past, and can help you get a professional Squarespace site off the ground quickly and professionally. You might also want to check out our new Squarespace plugins store, which can beef up the functionality of an existing Squarespace site.
Reasons to use WordPress over Squarespace
You can build any type of site with WordPress; it’s a much more flexible platform than Squarespace.
A significantly wider range of templates is available in WordPress than in Squarespace.
WordPress comes with a more sophisticated content management system which, unlike Squarespace, facilitates content versioning.
You can use WordPress to create sites with deep levels of navigation — this is not really the case with Squarespace (without custom coding anyway),
A vast range of plugins — paid-for and free — is available to help you add functionality to your WordPress website. Although you can add functionality to Squarespace sites via widgets and custom code blocks, you can’t use ‘click-to-install’ plugins.
You have a much broader range of options when it comes to e-commerce in Squarespace than in WordPress.
Data capture options are more extensive in WordPress than in Squarespace (so long as the correct forms plugin is used).
WordPress sites can be optimised for search engines much more easily and comprehensively than Squarespace ones.
You can add rich snippets much more easily to WordPress sites.
On a WordPress site, you have more control over your content — with Squarespace, you’ll have to adhere to an ‘acceptable use’ policy and you may have trouble exporting some of your site content (especially where e-commerce-related content is concerned).
WordPress is a much better option than Squarespace for creating multilingual or ‘multisite’ projects.
Alternatives to Squarespace and WordPress
Of course, Squarespace and WordPress are not the only options when it comes to building a website: there are a large number of alternative solutions available.
With regard to hosted web builders, you might want to check out Wix, Jimdo or Weebly (or indeed hosted WordPress). For more information on the first two of these three products, you can read our Wix review and our Jimdo review. You may also find our WordPress vs Wix comparison helpful.
These hosted web-builded options are generally more geared towards ‘general use' websites rather than e-commerce sites; so if you’re interested in building an online store then it’s worth investigating Bigcommerce or Shopify — two very-well known hosted solutions that don’t have a terribly steep learning curve.
Got any thoughts on Squarespace vs WordPress?
Have you any thoughts on Squarespace vs WordPress? Do let us know in the comments section below (note: if you're reading this on a mobile device, you may be viewing a faster-loading 'AMP' version which doesn't include the comments section — if so, you can view the full version of this post here).
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