Wordpress vs Squarespace, From A Designer Who Builds on Both

I almost didn't write this post at all, since there are already several million articles out there that deal with this exact same topic. (no exaggeration, Google returns almost 4.5 million results when you search "wordpress vs squarespace"). But the thing is, a lot of those articles treat it like they are similar platforms vying for the same market – in which there can only be one winner. The reality is they are just two completely different platforms, with their own core advantages  and disadvantages.

So instead of giving another list of pros and cons, I'm going to talk about them in the context of us freelancers and small business owners, and why I think both have their merits.

The Differences Between Wordpress and Squarespace

First up, let’s simply look at the facts below:

Wordpress Squarespace
Launched in 2003 Launched in 2004
Free and open source content management system Premium SaaS (Software as a Service) based content management system
Self-hosted (you purchase hosting separately, and install Wordpress yourself) Fully hosted (hosting is managed for you by Squarespace)
Approx. 37 million users Approx. 42 thousand users
No support apart from the software documentation. 24/7 dedicated support team

So as you can already see, although they both launched over a decade ago, that’s pretty much where the similarities end. Wordpress is free, while Squarespace charges a monthly fee beginning at €11 per month. Wordpress is open source, meaning that anyone can use the software for whatever purpose they like. It also means that all the code used to create the platform is available to the public, so new features and functionality are being created and released all the time, by a global community of developers and designers.

Squarespace on the other hand is not open source, which means you are limited to the options they provide within their platform. This automatically makes it a much less flexible platform than Wordpress, so if you’re looking to create something fancy like a membership type website, Squarespace probably isn’t going to work for you.

This simple fact goes a long way in explaining the huge difference in user numbers. Squarespace most definitely isn’t the right platform for every site, whereas Wordpress can be adapted to almost any type of website.

I’ve already gone into to detail about the pros and cons of self vs. fully hosted websites here, so I’m not going to rehash all of that again; but simply put, Squarespace’s fully hosted setup also makes it less flexible than Wordpress. However for some users, the fact that you do not need to start messing about with anything technical is a massive plus point in Squarespace’s favour.

Another bonus for the less tech savvy among us is that Squarespace offers top-notch support for customers. One thing I always do when deciding whether or not to recommend a particular platform is to go and chat with the support team, and Squarespace really doesn’t let users down on this side – their support is excellent, throughout the whole process.

Since Wordpress is free, there is no support team. You simply download the software, and after that all you have to go on is the documentation. This by the way is fine for us web designers, in fact it’s very extensive and highly detailed. However it does mean that if you don’t have any coding knowledge, you will probably need to hire someone to assist with set up and customization.

Is Squarespace right for you?

Firstly, I would say Squarespace is perfect if you are just starting in business, and want to create a beautiful and professional looking website all by yourself. Squarespace templates truly are stunningly well designed, and all of the web pages are controlled by a drag and drop editor – you don’t have to go near a line of code to be able to create page layouts for your website.

The templates can be a double edged sword however – it can be hard to really stand out when you simply drop your content into the same layout as thousands of other websites. And while you do have the option of bringing in a developer to code a custom theme for you, you should be warned  that the support team are much less likely to help if you have a custom theme installed, as opposed to one of their own templates.

Overall, Squarespace is best for freelancers and entrepreneurs with relatively simple needs, such as a business information or portfolio based website. If you need anything more complex on your website, like a forum or an online shop, it’s probably not your best option.

Is Wordpress right for you?

Probably.

Ok, I’m being flippant, but seriously, Wordpress is so flexible that it’s almost always a safe bet for your website. Be warned though, it really isn’t ideal for you DIY entrepreneurs, unless you have the time to teach yourself to code.

It’s also worth noting that not all Wordpress websites are created equal. I think the biggest problem is that because the core software is free, it does tend to attract freelancers and entrepreneurs on a shoestring budget. After all, “free” is cheaper than Squarespace’s €11 per month, right?

Well, not exactly. Wordpress is just is the system you use to build your website; you’re also going to need hosting, and a theme to control the design of your site. And while both of those items can be acquired cheaply, or even for free, this is definitely one of those areas where you get what you pay for.

Cheaping out on hosting is likely to leave you with quite a slow site at best; and in the worst cases it can leave you with no website at all due to server overloads or other issues. If you’re looking for reliability and great support I can recommend Dreamhost, but there are many options out there.

Choosing a Wordpress theme offers even more traps and pitfalls for the unwary entrepreneur to fall into.

All it takes is a poorly coded theme (and there are many to choose from) and a couple of dodgy plugins, and you could wind up with a slow, glitchy website. Or even worse, one that leaves you exposed to hackers and other online mischief makers.

If you can afford the services of a web designer to help you with the more technically demanding aspects of setting up and running a website, then there’s really not much Wordpress can’t do.

To Sum Up

If you’re in the early stages of your business, or are trying to get set up on a shoestring budget, I recommend Squarespace – you’ll get more bang for your buck than with Wordpress, and it’s a much faster process to design and set up your website, even without a developer.

If you’re a little more established, or perhaps you’re just moving away from trying to do everything yourself, then I recommend finding a good developer who can do as much or as little as you need. Wordpress’s real advantage is its flexibility, which means you’ll have all the options you need to grow your business online.