Welcome to this updated Squarespace vs WordPress comparison guide. It’s for anyone interested in both platforms but is yet undecided. Yes, they’re both website builders, but they don’t feel or function the same way. You will know which one is right for you by the end of this page.
Both these giants are excellent tools for creating websites, blogs, and eCommerce. This review compares their similarities, but more importantly, what sets them apart.
What is Squarespace?
Release Date: 2003 | Price from: $12/Mo. | Includes hosting/domain: Yes | User base: 1.8 million
Squarespace is an all-in-one drag-and-drop website builder. Even those with no knowledge of site building can create stunning projects with ease. All you need to build and maintain websites, blogs, or online stores is at your fingertips. That includes a Content Management System (CMS), striking templates, hosting, and a domain. You don’t need to know anything about CSS or HTML.
What is WordPress (WP)?
WordPress.com free plan
There are two versions of WordPress. The 100% free version is available at WordPress.com. It includes a borrowed WordPress.com sub-domain, hosting, and a few themes. Some first-time users find this version ideal for basic blogging needs. However, you don’t have total control over the site, nor do you own it. WordPress.com can delete accounts without warning if they violate its TOS.
WordPress paid plans
Those who need extra features can opt for Personal, Premium, and Business paid plans. These versions are more like the Squarespace website builder. The difference is that you may need to use third-party tools while building your project. With Squarespace, you have everything you want in one handy package. That makes it a more convenient and straightforward choice for most users.
Release Date: May 27, 2003 | Cost: $0.00 | Includes hosting/domain: No | User base: 75 million
This guide is for WordPress.org vs. Squarespace, as that’s where the confusion is. WP.com is self-hosted, which means users must install it on a web host of their choice. The main attraction of WordPress is the flexibility and control it gives to the builder. It’s user-friendly at the basic level, but there’s a steeper learning curve if you want to be creative. But what does that mean, exactly?
Unrestricted user control
You can make some beautiful sites with Squarespace and Woredpress.com, that much is true. But there are limits as you’re stuck with the templates and tools offered by web builders. WordPress.org, though, is opensource and gives users ultimate control. That includes the look and functionality of the online blog, site, or store. Working with WP is more hands-on as it lets you get under the hood.
This guide uncovers all the significant advantages of WordPress.org.
About this Squarespace V WordPress guide
You may have already decided which website and page builder best suits your needs. Try not to let the opening paragraphs sway your choice. The website you create today is likely to look quite different from the one you end up with further down the road.
Think in the long-term
Try to think in the longer term. You don’t want to invest in Squarespace only to realize later that WP would have been a better choice. The opposite is also true. You’re more likely to make a well-informed decision after reading this page.
Below are the 7 Squarespace vs. WordPress comparisons covered in this guide.
- Totting up the costs
- Ease of use; novice-friendly appeal
- Templates, and plugin comparison
- Online store capability (eCommerce)
- Update and maintenance
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- The conclusion
#1 Totting up the costs
WordPress.org software is free, but there are several other costs to consider. That’s right; you need to set a budget even with the free platforms. Giveaways only stretch so far, as we can see in products like WordPress.com and blogger. It pays to invest a little money if you want your website, blog, or online store to stand out and attract visitors. Let’s start by looking at WordPress.org.
You can download, install, and use the WordPress.org software for free. There are also lots of themes and plugins available to build your custom website, blog, or store.
Paid versions of anything tend to offer something extra and more unique. That includes themes and plugins, bells, and whistles, and you may want to invest in some of these. Either that or get a developer or designer to create something original. The WordPress costs you can’t avoid are domain name and web hosting. A basic arrangement shouldn’t cost more than $50 per year.
Squarespace is not free, but you get everything you need for the plan you choose. Pricing is clear, and there are no hidden costs, and it’s one of the better value website builders out there. Squarespace offers four pricing plans, Personal, Business, Commerce Basic, and Commerce Advanced. The Personal Plan costs $16 per month, or just $12 per month if you pay annually.
Summing up: WordPress.org set up costs are cheaper as you only pay for domain and hosting.
Ease of use; novice-friendly appeal
Most website owners no little or nothing about HTML and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). Ten years ago, anyone who wanted a custom-built website had to hire a professional. That’s no longer the case. Now anyone can build a professional-looking website, blog, or store with zero experience. Still, website platforms vary a lot, and some are easier to use than others.
Squarespace ease of use
Anyone can build a Squarespace website as it uses a foolproof drag-and-drop editor. Users don’t have to leave its beginner-friendly environment for anything. The real-time What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) editor is precisely that.
Putting a Squarespace site together is no harder than doing a jigsaw and much quicker. Its block system lets you pick, switch, and change page elements in seconds. The downside to drag-and-drop editors is that you’re limited to the options on offer. These limitations apply to all code-free website builders, not only Squarespace.
WordPress ease of use
WP is beginner-friendly to a degree. A raw novice may need help installing WordPress and setting it up, though. You must also learn how hosting services work and how to use cPanel. None of this is difficult, but it’s not intuitive either. And, you may have to point (connect) your domain to your WordPress host. That only applies if you didn’t buy it from your hosting company.
WordPress is ideal for people who understand code or are happy to hire someone who is. There are few limits on ways to customize WordPress websites. It’s the best option for those who demand flexibility and total control. It’s not too hard to learn, and there are countless how-to guides and video tutorials.
WordPress Gutenberg editor
WordPress has a new editor called Gutenberg. It makes building a website so much easier for novice users. Gutenberg exploits blocks to customize content without touching code. It’s a massive update that brings the platform more in line with other web builders.
You can learn more about the Gutenberg Editor here.
Summing up: Squarespace is a typical easy-to-use web builder. WordPress is not overly challenging with a little guidance, though. And with the new Gutenberg Editor, it’s just gotten a whole lot easier.
Templates and plugin comparison
Templates and plugins are also known as themes, apps, snippets, and gadgets. Whatever the name, their use is to enhance the look of a site and add to the visitor experience. Apps can also work in the background to perform various functions like backups and SEO.
Squarespace templates and plugins
Squarespace has around 100 templates organized in categories. That’s not many compared to WordPress, but the focus is on quality. These are pro-looking themes with striking designs, and they all work right out of the box. Squarespace templates are clean, uncluttered, and very easy on the visitor’s eyes. As with everything in the Squarespace editor, its templates are simple to customize.
The high-quality templates are a huge plus, but the restricted choice is a frustration. There are also customization limits when compared to flexible WordPress themes.
A Squarespace extension is the company’s name for a plugin, app, or add-on. These are third-party tools, but Squarespace doesn’t charge members for using them. You can find extensions for free or those that charge a nominal fee. Squarespace isn’t responsible for any issues that may relate to these products. You can read more about Squarespace Extensions here.
WordPress themes and plugins
WordPress comes with three demo themes, Twenty Nineteen, Twenty Seventeen, and Twenty Sixteen. There are around 11,000 available themes on Themeforest and more on other places. You can find many free options as well if you search for them. Consider buying one if you want a more responsive, unique look to your site. Some users even prefer to design their own website templates.
Template choices and WordPress plugin options are endless. There are over 55,000 plugins as of 2020 and growing. They present users with an easy way to customize blog posts and pages. Always check that new plugins or templates are compatible with your version of WP before use.
Summing Up: WordPress easily triumphs this category with its endless supply of themes & plugins. Squarespace templates and extensions are impressive, but they’re limited in choice.
Online store capability (eCommerce)
E-commerce is the buying and selling of digital or physical goods and services online. Amazon is a prime example of how these commercial transactions work. But you don’t have to be Jeff Bezos to run an online store and sell products or services. Both Squarespace and WordPress have E-commerce capabilities but with different appeals.
eCommerce with Squarespace
Squarespace is perfect for those who want to run a small to a medium-sized online store. It comes with in-house tools that make setting up, tracking, and maintenance effortless. The available store templates are striking. Their designs help products to shine and draw in visitors. However, you can’t run a store with a Personal plan, so you need to sign up for either Business or Commerce.
There’s a 3% transaction fee with the Business plan, but no charge for Commerce packages. The tools include order taking, inventory, coupons, and tax management. There’s a valuable Abandoned Cart Recovery feature too. You also get to print labels, list products on Instagram and offer gift cards.
The downsides are the limits with payment and shipping options, and there’s no mobile apps store.
eCommerce with WordPress
You need to install plugins to sell on WordPress, but it’s a painless process. WooCommerce is a free, open-source plugin and one of the most popular. Being opensource also means it’s customizable. There are others, so be sure to check those out too. WooCommerce lets you sell anything to anyone wherever they are in the world. That includes both physical and digital products.
This powerful plugin offers a full eCommerce tool kit. It lets you set up various payments and configurable shipping options. You also get inventory management and access to key metrics. Another advantage is that the plugin works with hundreds of customizable WP themes. There is a learning curve, though, that may challenge less experienced users.
Summing up: Both platforms are excellent for running an eCommerce business. Squarespace is the simpler choice with a faster set up time, but the cost of that is restrictions (see above). WP is better if you need a more robust store with flexible payment plans and added security.
Updates and maintenance
Technology changes and people get bored with products or services that don’t change with it. Updates can alter the look, feel, and online experience for visitors. Software updates serve two purposes, i.e., to enhance and protect. Malicious actors like to take advantage of vulnerable, outdated software. Maintenance is another consideration. No one ever complains that their site is too easy to manage.
Squarespace updates and upkeep
Squarespace users don’t have to worry about updates as the platform takes care of them. Squarespace may contact you if there’s a major update, but most happen behind the scenes. Site maintenance is also hassle-free once your project is up and running. The downside is that updates are infrequent. That means software upgrades and template enhancements don’t occur very often.
WordPress updates and upkeep
WordPress updates often to fix bugs, improve security, and to enhance user experience. You can set WP updates to run automatically. Some plugins and themes may also auto-update to avoid compatibility issues. Many other plugins and custom themes will need updating manually. Older or discontinued software can even stop working or break parts of your site after an update.
Summing up: Squarespace has in-house updates and minimal maintenance. WP needs more attention and testing by its users, especially after major updates. However, WP regular updates keep the site’s software enhancements current and secure. Squarespace tends to look and feel the same for extended periods. That’s due to infrequent updates with its features, tools, and templates, etc.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Websites need Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to show up on Google. Sites, blogs, and stores that ignore good SEO practices are invisible to web searchers. The good news is that SEO is no longer the stuff of technical experts. Most website builders and CMS systems offer tools that make light work of on-site SEO. Off-page optimization is also vital, but that’s something for another guide.
Squarespace has built-in SEO tools, so there’s nothing to download or install. The downside to all basic SEO is that users still need to optimize their site and pages manually. It’s procedural, box-checking stuff, but it does require your input. Squarespace has a handy checklist for members to use. It includes Before Launch, At Launch, and After Launch SEO procedures.
New Squarespace members appreciate the helpful SEO guides and video tutorials. As a web builder, it has lots of SEO automation going on in the background too. There’s clean HTML markup, auto-tagging, auto-redirects, built-in meta tags, and more besides.
WordPress sites are SEO-friendly straight out of the box, but you can do much more with plugins. Yoast SEO, SEMRush, and All in One SEO Pack are three of the favorites, though there are others. All these programs enhance on-page and site-wide SEO. Setting things up within a plugin’s interface is a simple mouse-checking exercise. Plus, there are lots of video tutorials to support first-time users.
Final thoughts: Squarespace’s built-in SEO tools and tutorials are great but limited. WordPress’s SEO potential offers more in-depth control using plugins. Thus, WordPress secures the SEO category.
Squarespace v WordPress – the conclusion
Squarespace is a natural choice if it offers all that you need. It doesn’t have any hidden or unforeseen costs, though it does have limitations. Remember too; you only get to borrow the site, not own it.
WordPress is an easy decision for anyone who wants to own and control their website, blog, or online store. That means unlimited customization and zero restrictions. With WordPress.org, you keep the designs, control the functions, and expand the site as and when you need to. Plus, the initial WP setup is cheaper than Squarespace after hosting and domain costs.