Quiz: Should you build your website with WordPress or Squarespace?
You want to build websites, but you're not sure how to build them. Should you choose WordPress or Squarespace? This…
A few years ago, I began building websites for small businesses with WordPress, and now, I teach people how to make WordPress websites and then market them.
I think everyone who wants to work online should learn how to build a website because it teaches you how to do a lot of different things, which in turn allows you to test a lot of different skills in real life.
Not to mention, nearly half of small businesses do not have a website, which means the market is there for people who want to make money building sites.
“It’s cheap. It’s easy to do. And it can take less than 20 minutes to set up. Yet more than half of all small businesses still don’t have a website.” — Inc article
Perhaps you’ve thought about making your own website. Or maybe you thought about building websites for a living, but you’re just so not into coding.
You’ve probably heard of WordPress and Squarespace. Maybe you’ve researched them only to feel overwhelmed and unable to pull the trigger on learning either.
I know this is the case for a lot of you because I get the following question daily:
What’s the difference between WordPress and Squarespace? Is Squarespace easier and more efficient than WordPress?
In this post, I’ll explain what each — Squarespace and WordPress — is then you’ll learn the differences between the two.
By the end of this post, you should know whether you should build websites with Squarespace or WordPress.
What’s WordPress? What’s Squarespace?
I had trouble answering this question at first because Squarespace and WordPress aren’t the same things.
WordPress is a content management system (CMS) that you install after you purchase hosting for your domain name. A CMS looks similar to a website builder, which is what Squarespace is.
A CMS is a dashboard that looks similar to a site builder’s dashboard.
Both utilize WSIWYG (What you see is what you get) editors. Adding content in a WSIWYG editor is similar to writing and adding images in a Word or Google Doc.
To build or edit your site, both — CMS’ and site builders — require you to log in to an online dashboard through your browser.
When you use a CMS (WordPress), you can choose whatever hosting provider your little heart desires, which means you can transfer your site to another provider down the road, if needed.
With most site builders (including Squarespace), you’ll never be able to transfer your website to another hosting provider because the site templates will only work on their own servers. (More on this soon)
So which should you choose — Squarespace or WordPress?
The short answer: It depends. It depends on a few things.
It depends on the purpose of the website.
Sometimes Squarespace may be a better option than WordPress. In order to know if it is or not, you need to understand the purpose of the site now and in the foreseeable future.
Here’s three questions you need to get the answers to.
1. What functionality is required?
What type of website are you building? What will the site do? What does it need to do in the future?
If you need more than just a simple static website with a basic form integration, Squarespace isn’t the right choice.
I asked my brilliant developer friend Tony why. Here’s what he said:
“You can only make HTML-based sites using Squarespace templates. You can’t add anything like plugins or PHP or change anything really core about it. It’s just a drag-and-drop site.
In other words, it’s for dumb sites — sites that don’t have to think and just serve content as is.
It’s perfect for something like a portfolio or restaurant menu, but you can’t turn it into anything social.”
WordPress is just the opposite. You can modify anything in WordPress. And if you need additional functionality, you’re only a plugin away.
2. How much flexibility do you want/need?
Since WordPress is open-source, you can build the exact website you want and use any provider(s) you want.
Note: Open-source software (OSS) is computer software with its source code made available with a license in which the copyright holder provides the rights to study, change, and distribute the software to anyone and for any purpose. (Source)
Squarespace is a private company that isn’t open-source, which means you must use their providers.
As for Squarespace, which is not an open source website builder, means that their platform is gated off so only their own in-house development team can produce tools for users. (Source)
“For me, it’s mostly about functionality — I can do zero percent of what I want a site to do on Squarespace because they are set in their ways; whereas, WordPress is an open book. Anything I dream up I can make happen with a WordPress site.”
“For example, with Squarespace’s Mailchimp integration— you can’t push variables to a list from a Squarespace site (which is so needed to set up your list right); whereas, with WordPress it’s easy as shit to do that.”
But if you do choose the providers Squarespace recommends, your setup will be incredibly simple.
3. How scalable does the site need to be?
Websites aren’t typically static. They need to be updated and maintained — especially if you’re driving traffic to it. This means that it’s vital you consider the scalability of each platform.
If you begin building websites for people, you’ll quickly learn that people like short timeframes and small price tags, which means it’s likely people will hire you on a project-basis to make iterations to their site as they grow.
This is why I prefer WordPress. WordPress gives you the ability to grow your website over time. Want a new design? Get a new theme. Need additional functionality? Install a plugin.
My friend Tony makes another good point I’d like to touch on in this section.
“There’s a YouTube channel I watch with a few million subscribers. They do live shows once per week that get an upward of 16,000 live viewers. Sometimes they share their company website to test Squarespace, and like 10,000 viewers will all visit the site at the same time, and there’s not a single hiccup of loading. A WordPress site with that many hits might crash… depending on the hosting provider.”
I asked Tony how Squarespace pulls this off. Here’s Tony:
Squarespace has huge load balancing servers that keep your site stored at many locations and point people to the closest server (Similar to Cloudflare). The only thing is you can’t really do this with a lot of WordPress sites because they need to talk to a database. Squarespace doesn’t do databases so they can easily have copies of your site all over the world.
Tony is right, but I wouldn’t let this be a reason to scare you away from WordPress. Like he mentioned, you can use something like Cloudflare, for free, to do the use the same trick Squarespace does to load pages faster.
It depends on the type of client.
Who are you building the site for? Are they tech savvy? Is it a big company that needs a landing page or a business that needs a fully functional website? What’s their budget?
If you visit the Squarespace website, it’s clear as day that they serve a different audience than WordPress. Squarespace serves artists while WordPress serves everyone.
You may say, but look at Squarespace’s client list. There’s lots of big brands on there.
And I’ll say, yes, there is. In fact, I visited a few of these websites, which confirmed my suspicion that the brands using Squarespace are using it for secondary — tertiary… — projects.
For example, yes, Fast Company did use Squarespace to create a site for an event its hosting in November.
The design is nice. It looks on-brand. And it looks like they’re using Squarespace’s form integration for its “Influencer Application.”
That’s all good, but then they’re redirecting people to pay for this really expensive event to another site. It doesn’t seem like a great checkout experience.
Another big company using Squarespace is Lyft — for its blog.
I’ll admit the Lyft blog looks nice. I love hot pink. It also gets a lot of traffic and still loads quickly, as Tony mentioned a site with a lot traction using Squarespace will.
According to trafficestimate.com, Lyft’s blog received an estimated 1,773,400 visits over the past 30 days.
The one thing I am leary of is how easy it is to write blog posts in Squarespace — not to mention, manage an editorial team. But I’ll come back to ease of use later.
Another thing I noticed is that Squarespace sponsors content on The Muse. This is important to note because it shows you the type of people Squarespace is spending lots of money marketing to — young professionals, who need to build personal brand websites.
I believe Squarespace is targeting the right market. Squarespace sites are best for young professionals, who don’t need to learn WordPress, photographers, events, artists or companies that need static landing pages.
It depends if you care about Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
Another big name’s site I checked out via Squarespace’s customer list is Sophia Amoruso’s website for her book, #GIRLBOSS.
I was impressed by this name, until I had the idea to Google “Sophia Amoruso books” to see where her Squarespace website ranked in Search Engine Results Page (SERPs).
I was inspired to do this because I read that Squarespace has very limited SEO capabilities, making it harder for websites to rank in SERPs.
Here’s a screenshot of what I found:
Amoruso’s own site ranked eighth in organic search results.
So what happens when I Google the same query with a different author’s name — an author whose site is built on WordPress?
Here’s what happened when I Googled “Cal Newport Books.”
Newport’s own domain appears in the first three spots. This makes me believe there’s truth to the rumor that Squarespace hurts website’s SEO due to its lack of capabilities.
Note: Yes, OF COURSE, SEO depends on a bunch of other factors. I know this. I was just trying to find a quick example to make you consider there may be truth to this SEO problem with Squarespace.
So is SEO important for your website?
I’d argue SEO is important for everyone building a website.
If you’re a personal brand, you probably want your website to appear in the top results as opposed to your Facebook and Instagram, where you have a million photos of you blacked out with a red cup in your hand.
And if you’re a business, you probably want people to find your site — not your competitors’ — when Internet users are searching queries related to your business/industry.
It depends on your budget.
And if you do care about SEO, which you should, then Squarespace is going to cost you. Why?
Because Squarespace charges based on the number of web pages your website has. Blog posts are considered pages so if you were considering blogging on your site, which you should be, then you’re going to need Squarespace’s premium plan.
WordPress is free.
WordPress hosting is as cheap as $1/month (if you’re a student in my class).
And there’s only the one-time fee of purchasing a premium theme, IF you decide to not use one of WordPress’ free themes. Premium themes cost between $30 and $60, typically. There are exceptions.
It depends if you want to rely on one-provider for everything.
One thing I’ll say about building a WordPress website is it can certainly be frustrating at times.
For instance, if I have a problem with my website, I must figure out who I need to call.
Is it a server/hosting problem?
If it’s a server problem then I need to call my hosting provider.
Is it a WordPress problem — plugin or theme related?
If it’s theme or plugin related, I need to reach out to the creator of the theme or plugin, which likely has a support center, where you create tickets for bugs.
If you use Squarespace, you always call the same person when you have a problem — unless you’re having problems with third-party integrations that they don’t support.
I don’t like the idea of an all-in-one provider like Squarespace because I don’t have a lot of faith in the quality of support provided. THIS IS TOTALLY SUBJECTIVE-BASED. I HAVE NOT TESTED SQUARESPACE’S SUPPORT.
When I pick a hosting provider I care first and foremost about support — their reliability and ability to nicely help me.
Once you begin building websites, you’ll quickly learn you need good support. Shit happens all the time.
One major problem with Squarespace’s technical support is that if the problem you are having is an issue with Squarespace itself, then it is up to them to fix this bug with the platform on their schedule.
There are glitches in some of the Squarespace themes, and unfortunately if you run into one there is nothing you can do about it other than to change your website design or wait for Squarespace to fix the problem.
SO if Squarespace can’t solve my site problem, I’m basically screwed.
I’m either stuck with a provider, who can’t fix my bug, or I’m forced to start all over again somewhere else since I cant transfer my incompatible site.
Just like everything else, the export feature on Squarespace is also very limited. You can only export certain parts of your content in a XML file. This includes your pages, galleries, and one blog page with all its posts. Your product pages, album pages, text, audio, and video blocks will not be exported. (Source)
WordPress makes me more comfortable because I’m in good company. A whopping 25 percent of ALL websites are running on WordPress. WordPress has long been the CMS of choice — comprising 70 percent of the CMS market.
The same platform used by most of your small business colleagues, most large blogs (like Techcrunch) and a bunch of large organisations (like the New York Times). WordPress isn’t going anywhere soon. On top of that, it’s backed by a company that is worth over $1b and has had $300m in funding. (Source)
You have the stability of the platform but you also have the flexibility of being able to modify your site yourself. This means you can respond to any situation and you won’t be relying on the one provider.
For example if WordPress doesn’t release a fix for a new browser as quickly as you’d like, you can simply make the change yourself or hire a developer (or make friends with a developer and barter skills). Or if you aren’t happy with the uptime, you can switch hosts.
It depends on how risky you are.
If you’ve ever worked on a WordPress website, you know you have the peace of mind that you won’t lose site edits if your wifi goes out or something because it auto-saves in your “Revision History.”
Another glaring omission in Squarespace: Revision history. In fact, no “go back” when you are dealing with moving content around with the builder. Both of these can cause you to lose tons of time and work. (Source)
It depends how much time you have.
How quickly does the site need to be built… HONESTLY?
Do you really need a site within an hour? No. You don’t.
But if you did, Squarespace would probably be the answer, although, I do find there to be a learning curve. And that’s coming from a digital native, who lives on her Mac and iPhone.
I’ll admit, though, there is definitely a steeper learning curve with WordPress due to all of its options.
Here’s what a basic WordPress dashboard looks like:
Here’s what a Squarespace website dashboard looks like:
I personally find Squarespace’s dashboard annoying because it forces me to click, click, click, click through, click through again…. #annoying
The hardest part about building websites is writing good copy, and finding/creating good designs/images; therefore, I’d argue that Squarespace would take you just as long to build as a WordPress site would when it comes to content development.
Setup will just be easier.
There’s more I could say in this section, but I won’t dive deeper into it in this post.
It depends how important speed is to you.
Page speed should be important to you because 55 percent of visitors spend fewer than 15 seconds on your website. You don’t want the majority of that time spent on your site loading.
According to WP Curve, speed is a problem that seems to come and go with Squarespace, and it’s a problem that you have absolutely no control over.
The only control you have over for the speed of your site is limiting the amount of content per page and compressing images as possible. Even when you take these precautions, your site speed is still out of your control.
What about WordPress?
With WordPress, you have much more control over the speed of your website. WordPress to start with is a great, lightweight CMS that runs quickly. However the main benefit is all of the other options you have for making it lightning fast including:
- An entire industry who have built and test the world’s fastest themes.
- Hosting services like WP Engine which have inbuilt caching and features that make WordPress even faster.
- A bunch of plugins and support services that all work with WordPress to make it quicker.
- A giant community of developers (like WP Curve), who know how to use the platform and can optimize your site or simply keep things running smoothly.
It also depends on you.
I created this quick quiz to tell you if you should build a website using WordPress or Squarespace. I hope it helps.
WordPress v. Squarespace
You want to build websites, but you're not sure how to build them. Should you choose WordPress or Squarespace? This…
People swear by site builders like Squarespace, preaching how easy they are to implement, but in my experience, site builders are anything but easy to use.
Other articles on this subject have focused on choosing one or the other based on factors that should be secondary, such as budget, learning curve or the reliability of plugins, but honestly, these hurdles are easy to overcome.
If you decide to opt for WordPress, I obviously recommend enrolling in my Full Stack Marketing self-paced course, which teaches motivated individuals how to build a WordPress website and then market that website.