Squarespace vs WordPress
What Is The Best Business Web Design Solution For You?
First of all, though this site is built on the WordPress platform don’t assume this article is biased in any way. Sadly many of these types of articles end up sounding more like a glorified sales pitch than an honest breakdown of the pros and cons of these sites. I use both of these solutions in both my personal web design needs and for my web design clients. They have different strengths.
While many may dream of a stunning hand-coded site many business owners do not have the option to invest $15-$20k for a completely custom web design solution. And while it can be a great source of pride and accomplishment to have, these days it is not necessary.
For this reason, WordPress and Squarespace are the leading platforms for website design and development for small and large businesses. They both have a blog and E-commerce implementation without the much higher cost of a hand-coded website built from scratch. They are leaders for good reason, as they are both stable and powerful platforms. I am going to compare these two platforms using a few different criteria: Responsiveness, SEO, Initial and Ongoing Costs, Maintenance, Flexibility.
Responsive aka Mobile Web Design
More and more it is crucial for your website to respond to different devices. Have you tried viewing a non-responsive website on a tablet or phone? Well, it usually does not look very good, is hard to navigate, and sometimes it does not work at all.
So which of these platforms handles mobile best? All Squarespace templates auto-generate a very nice responsive layout. There is no need for tweaking at all, which bodes well for the designer. WordPress has premium templates that are non-responsive as well as ones that are fully responsive. The look and functionality of these mobile web designs range from beautiful to “meh”. On WordPress, it is much easier to design for the different breakpoints (device screen sizes). One thing that we do here at Radiant Elephant when designing in WordPress is design for each breakpoint to have the best and most beautiful user experience. This is not as easily done on Squarespace.
Search Engine Optimization
Search Engine Optimization is one of the major factors when considering a web design platform. Some of the lesser web building options do little in the way of SEO, hence why I don’t even consider them viable options. A site needs to be seen. And if you use a platform with bad SEO options and boated code you may never rank high no matter how much SEO work you do.
So how do WordPress and SquareSpace compare when it comes to SEO? There has been much debate as to which site creates a better-optimized site. Squarespace has very basic SEO options. Better than something terrible like Wix, but nowhere near what can be achieved on WordPress. One of the biggest downsides of this topic is site speed. With WordPress, there are many things you can do to increase the speed of your site, on Squarespace, as it is self-hosted, you’re out of luck.
Building a WordPress site requires the addition of plugins to handle SEO. These plugins handle the same elements as SquareSpace does out of the box, but these require more setup time and require updating to stay relevant as well as slowing down your site the more plugins you add. While WordPress is the winner, we have ranked sites very well on SquareSpace. Both are great and it really depends on how well your site is optimized.
Initial & Ongoing Costs
Now to compare the costs, both upfront and long term of these platforms. First, the cost of hiring a designer ranges wildly. I have seen agencies building on Squarespace charging from $5,000 and up, and cheap WordPress designers. Radiant Elephant tends to offer Squarespace as an option for smaller budget-conscious projects when it is the best option as it is less time-intensive a site on it.
Squarespace has streamlined the cost factor with 4 plans that you can either pay annually.
Basic Commerce- $288/year
Advanced Commerce- $480/year
WordPress incurs some different costs. A domain name, hosting, premium plugins, and functions to the site depending on needs as well as maintenance.
WordPress– WordPress updates frequently, both the WordPress platform as well as plugins. A quick personal story. Years ago, before I learned web design I hired a WordPress designer to build a website for my band. Besides the fact that I was unhappy with the overall look of it, within 3 years the site “broke”. The designer told me not to update anything because the site was “kind of hacked together”. The lack of updating is what led it to break. WP offers core updates and plugin updates regularly. So for WordPress sites, there is the added cost of updating which s charged as a monthly fee. While the client can do the updates, it is better left in the hands of the designer in case there is some kind of issue with the theme or plugins.
Squarespace– Maintenance, and updates on SquareSpace are performed behind the scenes by Squarespace, so there is no worry of a site breaking and no need for back-end updates. So the only maintenance cost besides the yearly fee is the cost of content updates. Even this can be taken care of by a client willing to learn as the interface is much more intuitive than WP is. The win goes to SquareSpace.
If you are working within specific, but common site needs SquareSpace offers a fair amount of flexibility. If you are a restaurant, service business, e-commerce or portfolio-based business Squarespace may be a good option. There is plenty of diversity in the templates to satisfy most style needs. If you are in the market for a more uncommon type of site, WP is a much better solution. Within WordPress, anything can be done with the use of WordPress plugins. It is much broader and more flexible than Squarespace.
WordPress is the winner. There is just so much more that can be done with it. Squarespace is a good solution if you are a small business that wants a beautiful site that is cheaper to build and maintenance-free. But know that some design things may not be possible. When we originally write this article it was much more in favor of Squarespace. But over time and having to tell clients that there are limitations in SquareSpace we have moved in favor of WordPress for 90% of our projects.