WordPress and Squarespace are, without a doubt, the two most popular web platforms I work with most frequently—this is by a combination of both client request and familiarity on my part. And while Squarespace has always been a runner-up in my eyes, I’ve recently begun to really appreciate the simplicity and ease of the platform for certain projects.
Which brings me to the big question of this post: how do you know if you should build your site on WordPress or Squarespace? Which one will truly be the best for your project?
I’ve walked many clients through this question and—while I don’t believe there’s a perfect answer—I’m outlining where each platform shines below. Going through each of these points with clients has always helped us land on a final decision about which platform they should ultimately choose, so I hope you find this useful as you navigate your own decision-making!
Beauty out of the box: Squarespace
Squarespace templates are no doubt well designed right out of the box. If you’re going to DIY your site and you have very limited (if any!) website experience, you can go into the project knowing that you’ll be able to literally plug in your photos and text and you’ll end up with a lovely website. Customizing every facet to make your dream website is, of course, more complicated than a little plug and play, but if you’re into keeping it simple, you can rest assured that you’ll have a beautiful looking site right away with Squarespace.
WordPress can be a little bit trickier: most of the robust premium themes have demos that you can install and then customize to fit your business, but the options for easy tweaking can change on a theme-by-theme basis. These theme options can sometimes be cumbersome to navigate and they aren’t always the most intuitive.
Easy to use page builder: Squarespace
I won’t lie: Squarespace’s page builder CAN have a bit of a learning curve, but it really is a good WYSIWG (what you see is what you get) editor once you learn how to work around its quirks. This allows even the most beginner web designers to create visually interesting page layouts without any coding knowledge required.
WordPress, depending on the theme you’re using or if you’re using their new Gutenberg editor, can be a total roll of the dice as far as page building is concerned. I’ve worked with some themes that have fantastic page builders, and others that are a bit of a nightmare. This variability can make it tough for novice users to build interesting page layouts.
While I don’t recommend it, you can pretty much ignore your Squarespace website for years and it’ll be just fine: no plugin updates, no theme updates, and no software updates required. Since Squarespace handles the domain registration and website hosting, you can rest assured when it comes to site security and regular software maintenance. You simply make sure that your account is all paid up, and you’re a-okay.
With WordPress, you DO have to worry about managing your own maintenance: this includes things like WordPress core updates, theme updates, and plugin updates. Ignoring these things is a bad idea, as you risk security issues (read: your site being compromised) or compatibility problems if you’re not updating everything regularly. If you go the WordPress route, you’re also responsible for managing your own hosting, which can be particularly bothersome when something goes down or when you notice a problem with your site.
With some of the more robust themes out there, the sky is really the limit in what you can accomplish without touching any bit of code. If you have a particular vision for your site, and especially if you’re a little more tech-savvy, you’ll probably feel like a kid in a candy store when it comes to figuring out what’s possible with your WordPress website.
Squarespace templates are generally more limited with what can be changed and customized without digging into the code. If this is your first website-making adventure, this can be a good thing (too many options can be super overwhelming), but if you’re an experienced web creator, you might find the lack of options on Squarespace a bit frustrating.
There’s truly a plugin for anything and everything you can imagine in WordPress. Whether you want to add ecommerce functionality, event registration capabilities, or a robust directory to your website, you can surely find a WordPress plugin or integration that makes it possible.
With Squarespace, you’re a little more limited to the core functionality of the platform. Mind you, it does include all the major things you’d likely want on a site: ecommerce, calendar, etc. However, if you’re looking for a particular functionality, you might find that it’s not possible with Squarespace—at least not easily.
Larger websites: WordPress
The content management on WordPress is, in my experience, far superior to Squarespace. Everything from managing your posts, pages, menus, shop items, and more is just a little more robust and easy to batch edit items. This is especially important when you’re working with a large website with lots of pages, posts, and other content types.
Squarespace makes it rather cumbersome to manage content. Each page, because of the drag and drop builder, acts independently (so you’re not easily able to batch edit layouts). This isn’t ideal for large websites where you’re managing many pages, but you don’t run into much of an issue on smaller websites that have, say, less than 15 pages.
I hope this helps you as you navigate your decision between WordPress and Squarespace. Still not sure which to pick? Shoot me an email here. I’d be more than happy to help if you’d like my opinion on which platform might work best for your project!