Squarespace vs WordPress – Who Wins in 2019?

Squarespace vs WordPress – Who Wins in 2019?

Anyone with a web design project needs to consider some of the major players in the web building arena.

We will take 2 of these in a comparison battle to see what the outcome of Squarespace vs WordPress is. While this comprehensive comparison will delve deeply, you may also wish to check out some of the other big hitters in this highly competitive space.

To avoid any confusion, it needs to be understood from the off that there are 2 versions of both the Squarespace, WordPress platforms and we have explained the differences in our overview below.

However, this Squarespace, WordPress comparison review will concentrate on the most popular versions of each. These are:

TheSquarespace standard version and the WordPress self-hosted version.

Assessment of Squarespace versus WordPress when it comes to ‘Pros and Cons’ can be found here:

  • Squarespace
  • WordPress

For further comparisons on sites like Squarespace and WordPress please feel free to access our growing list of other similar platforms.

Overview of both platforms:

Before we get down to our Squarespace vs WordPress side-by-side comparisons in various categories we feel it is important to give a high-level overview of both:

Squarespace:

Squarespace was initially launched in 2004 as a blog hosting service and has come a long way since those early days.

Known as a SaaS (‘Software as a service’) website builder it provides everything required to build and maintain a website. This is of course done for a fee (more about costs on our pricing detail and researched link below).

The platform provides such things as:

  • Templates
  • A CMS (content management system)
  • E-commerce capability
  • Support
  • A Domain (if one is required).

While there are 2 versions of this platform, the vast majority of users go for the ‘standard’ version. This has been designed and developed for those without any web development skills.

The lesser used version is the Developers Version. Those with web development experience can access the platforms source code to give greater functionality and create unique templates.

WordPress

There can be confusion when looking at WordPress. The reason for saying this is that there are also 2 versions:

  • Hosted WordPress
  • Self-hosted WordPress

The hosted version can be found at wordpress.com. Similar to Squarespace it is a SaaS tool. By paying a monthly fee you are given access to a wide-range of built-in features in order to build your website.

This could be viewed as a slightly less all-inclusive solution to Squarespace because 3rdparty tools may well need to be added. An example being for those looking at e-commerce features.

But there are advantages to the hosted version in that it is a far more flexible option than Squarespace, or indeed sites like Squarespace.

This is due to the fact you are able to integrate apps with it and there is the opportunity to purchase far more templates for the platform.

The Self-hosted WordPress platform is downloaded software available from wordpress.org. This freely available, open-source code means that once you have downloaded it to a web server it can easily be modified.

The huge popularity of this WordPress version is seen by the number of users who have taken to it. This is due in no small part to its potential for customisation and flexibility.

It really can meet requirements of just about any website design project you have in mind.

While this version is free to install on your server, you need to be aware that such costs as: Hosting, domain registration, possible costs for plugins and development costs need to be taken into account.

Who wins the popularity stakes?

There really is NO competition here! While Squarespace do not reveal the total number of subscribers, it is accepted that they have over 1 million paying subscribers.

The WordPress self-hosted version on the other hand has between 55-75 million sites built! (the variation in these figures depends on which information you read), but suffice to say: WordPress win hands down in the popularity stakes.

Side-by-Side comparisons:

To ensure you have clear insight into both platforms we offer a comprehensive ‘side-by-side’ comparison on major aspects of Squarespace vs WordPress. This should allow you to understand which platform best fits your needs.

If further comparisons on sites like Squarespace and WordPress are needed please click here to assess similar platforms.

 

SquarespaceWordPress
Ease Of Use: 
The ‘drag ‘n drop’ interface offered by Squarespace is reasonably intuitive.

Editing standard template design elements, heading sizes and such like is quite straightforward although there is one potential frustration to be aware of:

The extent at which you can change a template design really does depend upon the template you have chosen.

The Squarespace user interface is seen by some to be minimalistic and progression through the building of your site can take patience, but the learning curve is certainly ‘doable’ once stuck to.

Those with design and creative aspirations will particularly appreciate the appeal offered.

Some would argue that Squarespace is easier to use for those with no web-building experience, but as you become more acquainted with WordPress the ease of use will become second nature.

 

The only potential hurdle with a WordPress site is during set up.

The size of the hurdle will depend upon such things as how computer-literate you are and which hosting provider you go for.

However, once set up, the CMS (Customer Management System) is extremely responsive and very easy to use.

In the Squarespace, WordPress comparison we should point out that on-page editing differs between the 2 platforms.

With Squarespace you simply go to the page to be edited, change the content and these changes show up as completed.

With WordPress (out-of-the-box) these changes need to be made in the ‘back-end’, previewed and then published.

Of course, as you gain experience you will discover a good choice of ‘visual editor’ tools to take advantage of.

Through the utilisation of such tools you will then achieve the same ‘feel’ as the on-page Squarespace option mentioned.

In the Squarespace vs WordPress ‘ease of use’ comparison we deem it a draw.

Templates & Flexibility: 
In the Squarespace, WordPress template comparison there is no denying that the Squarespace templates are beautifully designed and of extremely high quality.

There are 22 ‘families’ of templates with the majority containing variants that bring the total number up to 60+.

As an aside, you can now find some developers of this platform selling bespoke Squarespace themes.

To install these, you need to insert coding, but by doing so you are further increasing template choice.

It must be said that the majority of users are still content with the standard template selections on offer.

You are also at liberty to change your template whenever you wish without losing any content.

This obviously provides flexibility in template design changes.

You should note that sites like Squarespace such as Wix (insert link to wix review or comparison review – Wix vs Squarespace?) are not so flexible.

As can be imagined, with the huge WordPress following there are countless templates for you to choose from (both free and paid-for).

They surely number the thousands and are constantly being added to.

This gives massive choice when considering which template suits your style and the flexibility in the event of template changing is also excellent.

One important point to bear in mind:

Always take your template from a respected source. This is because some themes can contain malicious code.

It should be noted that this comment stands regardless of the website builder platform you go for. (insert link to website builder homepage?)

While Squarespace certainly offers excellent template quality, we have to give the winners medal in this category to WordPress due to the vast quantity of high-quality themes available.

In the Squarespace vs WordPress ‘Templates & Flexibility comparison – WordPress wins.

Mobile Responsiveness: 
You should not need advising on the importance of having an efficient, highly mobile responsive website.

This factor is crucial in today’s ever connected mobile device world.

In this respect it is positive to note that all Squarespace templates are designed with mobile responsiveness in mind.

This means they will adjust size automatically for any viewing device.

An excellent Squarespace feature in this respect is that your blog content is shown in AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages).

Note: You must activate this by ticking a box in ‘site settings’.

Although this is a very positive start from Squarespace you will see in the WordPress comparison it goes much further.

You will have no issue whatsoever choosing a fully mobile responsive AMP template and content feature when using WordPress

Having said this, please choose carefully from the wide choice available. This is to ensure that your chosen template is fully responsive to all mobile devices.

AMP is backed by Google and dramatically speeds up loading of pages to mobile devices.

Its implementation means that more visitors will stay on your site rather than abandoning due to slow loading pages.

An added benefit is the real possibility of seeing a rise in your Google rankings when AMP is employed.

The big plus here is that WordPress mobile responsive AMP plugins are valid across all pages not just blog posts.

In the Squarespace, WordPress mobile responsive comparison – WordPress wins.

Features & Tools: 
All of the features and tools offered from Squarespace are designed in-house and come as pre-built-in to allow access via the platform’s editor.

For some users this may appear potentially restrictive but there are some useful integrations already available. Examples being:

Mailchimp, Dropbox, G-Suite and Xero.

(note: All integrations mentioned can be used as long as you aren’t on the cheapest Squarespace price plan).

It should also be said that as the platforms user base grows there are some developers offering third-party code to enhance functionality.

You may well hear these referred to as Squarespace plugins.

While they are available, they are certainly not as simple to install as the huge array of WordPress plugins you can choose from.

When it comes to availability and choice of features and tools in the Squarespace, WordPress comparison this is a no-contest. WordPress wins hands down.

The massive choice of plugins available means you can create just about any site you wish.

This will be achieved by installing one of the many thousands of plugins yourself or through the commissioning of a WordPress developer to code whatever you require.

Features to take full advantage of are many and varied but a few examples include: Presentation of an ultra-stylish photo gallery, adding e-commerce capability or displaying customer reviews.

In the Squarespace vs WordPress ‘Features & Tools category – WordPress is the outright, downright winner!

Apps Availability: 
As just mentioned, when looking at the Squarespace versus WordPress apps availability, Squarespace does not have an apps store (all apps are pre-built-in). However, as also noted, there is an emerging market of 3rd party plugin providers that can come to your aid as required.

Although more expensive, another option is to avail of the services of a Squarespace developer to custom install applications you wish to utilise.

Smartphone apps to manage your website:

Due to the growing importance of users who prefer to use smartphone apps in order to manage their websites ‘on the go’ we will spend a little time explaining the differences of the two platforms:

With Squarespace you will find 5 apps available to manage different aspects of your site. (available for iOS and Android).

These are for:

·      Analytics

·      Blog

·      Commerce

·      Portfolio

·      Squarespace

Each app performs a different function.

For those interested in managing their web presence on the fly it will quickly become apparent which of these mobile apps are relevant to your style of business administration.

The number of apps available to WordPress users can be quite bewildering – Not in terms of difficulty in implementation, simply due to the vast choice out there!

As long as you choose from a reputable source you should have no problem whatsoever in finding an app to meet your exact requirements.

In terms of smartphone apps that can be used to manage your website on the fly WordPress differs from Squarespace, but is no less useable.

It is really a case of using 1 mobile app as opposed to 5.

You simply install the ‘WordPress’ app on your smartphone (again, available in both iOS and Android versions) and from there you can perform major site management tasks. Examples being:

·      The creation/editing of pages & posts

·      Media uploads

·      Comment moderation

·      Viewing of statistical analysis

Deciding whether the Squarespace or WordPress approach is best for you will be a personal decision and must be based on whether you prefer to use one ‘all-in’ app or several dedicated ones.

The winner in this Squarespace vs WordPress category: It’s a Draw.

 

SEO Features: 
When it comes to Squarespace SEO features there is a reasonably comprehensive ‘SEO Checklist’ to follow.

The platform definitely has a few ‘Google positives’ which include:

sitemap.xml file generation, clean HTML markup and its ‘mobile-friendliness’.

It is possible to optimise your Squarespace site in terms of search capabilities, it is just harder to achieve than using WordPress and you have fewer tools with which to do it.

However, challenges can be seen when dealing with such things as; captions, descriptions and extracts.

We say this because dependent upon the context and template used these may actually appear as visible on your page.

There are no sophisticated SEO plugins available (these plugins are particularly important for assessing your SEO efforts and just as importantly, suggesting improvements) and rich snippets (data that enhances your search results) cannot easily be added on this platform.

While there is a workaround, it is not easy to achieve and reasonable development knowledge is required to make the most of it.

The final negative is: Page speed:

This is because Google assesses how quickly your page loads are.

Using Squarespace gives less control of this than with WordPress. We will explain why in the WordPress SEO section.

WordPress certainly has the upper-hand in the Squarespace versus WordPress comparison.

All alt tags as well as meta data are correctly referred to and thus makes manipulation far more straightforward.

There is a solid range of established SEO plugins available for use that will greatly aid your assessment when it comes to assessing on-page efforts (‘Yoast’ being a prime example).

‘rich snippets’ can be also be added to enhance search results through:

·      Displaying contextual information – e.g. Pricing, ratings and review options to any search results.

·      Allowing search engines to obtain a more detailed and informed idea of what your pages and posts are actually about.

As for page speed, using WordPress gives far greater control.

Because you choose your hosting provider (the faster the better!), code can also be tweaked in order to meet Google recommendations.

Those on Squarespace are beholding to shared hosting speeds and have less ability in terms of any code tweaking capabilities.

When looking at Squarespace, WordPress comparisons in the SEO department the hands-down winner is WordPress.

It really does blow Squarespace away.

Back Up & Restore: 
When it comes to Squarespace versus WordPress in the back-up and restore comparison you will be aware that Squarespace is a hosted offering.

As such we would have expected far more scope in terms of back-up and restore from the platform.

While the Squarespace platform is responsible for all maintenance and security of your site, the problem comes with backing up or restoring your CMS and other site elements.

The platform clearly states this is your responsibility.

It should also be noted that if Squarespace deem that any content you are posting conflicts with their ‘acceptable use’ policy they are at liberty to remove such content without any discussion.

If this scenario ever did affect you it is important to understand that you are limited through exportation to an XML file and that only certain types of your content can be exported.

On the positive side, and as already mentioned, security of your site is the responsibility of the platform.

Having said this, when it comes to back-up and restore, you should, at the very least, ensure that regularly pasting of content into a Google Doc is completed.

This is certainly a start but is not the most satisfactory solution.

For those using Squarespace we would strongly recommend that other back-up and restore options should also be pursued.

 

It is not all plain sailing in terms of back-up and restore with the WordPress platform.

If you are not paying an agency or developer to maintain your WordPress site then the responsibility of security, restore and back-up is yours.

You will need to ensure that the version of WordPress being used is continually up to date. The same goes with any themes or plugins you are using.

If you do not keep this maintenance aspect up-to-date then vulnerabilities will be seen.

Another issue already touched on is the importance of choosing themes and plugins from a reputable source.

We reiterate this due to the fact that those from other sources could contain malicious code that can (and do!) compromise site security.

It is highly important to get into the habit of regular site back up. This is made easier through the use of a variety of plugins that work to automate the process.

The final thing to mention on this point relates to moving your content to another host – This is far easier to achieve using WordPress.

There are a host of tools available which can assist in the exportation and back-up of all content.

Verdict: This can be a tough one to call and is dependent upon the complexity and style of your site.

It should be said that we would class WordPress as giving greater scope. This is particularly the case if you employ an agency or developer to look after your site. For these reasons we deem WordPress the winner in this comparison.

Help & Support: 
While Squarespace does not currently offer telephone support, they do have an extremely useful and proactive live chat function available.

There is also a 24/7 email response team with an impressive policy of responding to all emails received within 1 hour.

You can avail of the platform’s extensive knowledge centre and the user forum can provide a mine of information when it comes to helping address those issues you are likely to encounter.

In the Squarespace versus WordPress ‘Help & Support’ category: Squarespace wins.

 

Bear in mind that we are talking about a self-hosted platform here.

This means that unless you take out a support contract with a qualified WordPress contractor or a qualified agency, you will need to search around for help and support.

While taking out a support contract will add to your expense it is something that is strongly recommended unless you are very comfortable in hunting around for support and assistance on any issues encountered.

Of course, there are plenty of forums, tutorials and resources available online thanks to the vast number of WordPress users out there, but resolution times are sure to vary.

Pricing:
It is difficult to equate like for like when it comes to Squarespace, WordPress pricing.

You can find comprehensive detail on Squarespace price plans here.

To give you an overview, there are 4 easy to understand monthly plans available. (figures in brackets are what you will pay on an annual installment basis):

·      Personal - $16 ($12)

·      Business - $26 ($18)

·      Basic Commerce – $30 ($26)

·      Advanced Commerce - $46 ($40)

In reality the personal plan should be seen as fairly restrictive and is not suitable for those looking to use the platform as a business website.

As should be expected, the higher up the price plan scale you go, the more you get for your money.

For further in-depth analysis of costs please click here.

Verdict: We need to class the pricing comparison section of Squarespace vs WordPress as a Draw. This is due to the many variables involved.

Ah! We hear you say; WordPress is free! Sadly, this is not the reality.

In order to get your site working correctly you need to pay for a variety of things.

We have gone into comprehensive pricing here.

But, to give you a flavour of potential costs involved and maintain a realistic approach to actual costs you will need to factor in prices for such things as:

·      Hosting (server space)

·      Themes (design of your site)

·      Plugins (apps to add functionality)

·      E-commerce integration

·      Potential site development costs using a professional developer/agency

The only one of the above mentioned factors you will always have to pay for is ‘hosting’, however, to achieve a site that does you justice you will very likely incur other costs that have been explained in our in-depth analysis of WordPress costs here.

 

Conclusion:

In the Squarespace, WordPress comparison discussion there is little doubt that most web professionals and designers would agree that WordPress is far more powerful and flexible than Squarespace. In this respect we are firmly in that camp.

However, to give Squarespace its due there is certainly a niche for this platform. Those individuals and small businesses who do not want any concerns or obligation in terms of site maintenance or security can leave this to the platform (or consider sites like Squarespace).

Their templates offer an excellent high-quality choice that makes the platform ideal for the likes of photographers, solo artists/bands and small business owners with quality rather than complexity as their main focus.

Having said that, it is highly likely that the majority of people will find in any Squarespace vs WordPress comparison the latter to be a far more scalable option.

It should also be noted that the decision to include a professional designer or agency in your initial development and ongoing maintenance as well as continual site improvement will reap rewards in the long-term.

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