Ahhh, websites! They drive many a business owner or marketing manager quite nuts! So many decisions, so little time to get the website project done. Whether you’re totally revamping an existing site or starting fresh from the ground up, let us help you make your first big decision: which website platform do you want to work with, Squarespace or WordPress?
Why these two? They are two of the most popular website platforms (and quite honestly, we wouldn’t consider any others). Both Squarespace and WordPress are great, and have their pros and cons. So, in this blog, we’ve provided some insight into what each platform has to offer in order for you to make the best choice for your new fabulous, beautiful, functional website!
Side note: When we say “WordPress,” we are referring to WordPress.org (self-hosted platform with any URL of your choosing), not WordPress.com (no custom domains).
Determine if Squarespace or WordPress is Best for You:
Before weighing the two platforms, take a moment to have a little brainstorming sesh. We recommend writing out:
- What is the purpose of this website?
- Who is your target audience?
- What do you want this site to look like?
- What are two or three examples of other websites that you like, and what do you like about them?
- Do you plan to update the website often, say with new blogs or other types of content?
- Who will be updating the blog—you, a copywriter, a website developer or someone else?
- What pages do you want on this site, for example, a gallery page, an about page, a portfolio page, contact us page, etc.? List them out and what would potentially go on each one.
- What kind of functionality do you need? Do you need e-commerce, for instance?
- What is your budget? Contact creative folks to price out the costs of a graphic designer, website developer and copywriter.
If there is one BIG piece of advice we can give you, it is: unless you are a professional graphic designer-slash-website developer, DO NOT build your own website, and unless you are a natural wordsmith or professional writer, DO NOT write the content on your own website.
Armed with the above answers, now you can determine whether Squarespace or WordPress is the right website platform for your new site.
The Differences Between Squarespace and WordPress:
Building Your Website
Squarespace is a highly templated and high-quality platform. You choose from around just 30 themes (good for those who get overwhelmed with choices) and roll with it with very little or no extra coding involved. That is not to say that the site can’t be customized (just take a look at Message Sprout Founder’s Badass + Healthy editorial site, which was customized for her by a web developer), but it has limitations to what you can and can’t do. This is because it is not an open-source platform, meaning only Squarespace’s in-house development team can create tools for its users. That said, the templates are stunning and might work perfectly for you without full customization. And by customization, we don’t mean fonts, colors and logos, etc., which is always changeable no matter the template. Also, if you plan to build your website yourself (again, we don’t recommend that!), Squarespace is a much easier platform to do that on. It’s more “plug and play” … more on that below.
WordPress is the most popular and largest website platform (something like 60+ million websites were built on it as of 2012). It has templates that your web developer can work from, but it also enables them to fully customize and build your site from the ground up. It is an open-source platform, which means its codes are open for anyone to use and customize. This flexibility is one of the main things people love about WordPress—you can do anything on it. However, if you’re trying to code and build it yourself, you’ll have a huge learning curve ahead of you! There are endless amounts of plugins to use for your website—some are free; others you have to pay for. The downside is that some, frankly, stink, and the quality of these tools vary greatly. Faulty tools can lead to security issues … more on that below.
Usability in Updating Your Site Content:
Squarespace is user-friendly and easy to use. The platform offers a drag-and-drop content-editing tool that allows users to go through a simple editing process. This process involves adding content “blocks” such as images, videos, formatted headers and more to Squarespace’s already design-heavy templates in order to customize your site. Whenever you are moving a block, a guideline will pop up to notify you of what exactly the block can do and where it can go. If you’re used to working in the content management system (CMS) of WordPress, it will feel a little like learning a foreign language at first before you get your bearings of where things are on Squarespace, but it’s actually all very simple.
Though it may be more difficult to navigate the backend CMS for users who aren’t experienced in doing so, the amount of options on WordPress gives way to a lot of flexibility in the long run. If you’re working with a web developer and plan to update content yourself, let them know that this is important so you’re not stuck when it comes time to make your own updates. Some developers will happily give you a little tutorial (ours did!) to show you where and how to update each page, too. It’s also pretty straightforward once you know where everything is located and means.
What to Know About E-commerce:
Squarespace recognizes commerce as being an extension of your brand. That’s why it does all of the coding for you, so that you can focus on selling your products. Many of the templates that Squarespace offers have e-commerce options already built in! This can all be done on a budget, with templates such as these going from $8-$24 a month. Squarespace e-commerce can be organized through the use of product blocks. This is a blessing to those of us who do not have coding experience, as there is no messing around with third-party plugins! However, Squarespace e-commerce only allows you to use Stripe (which is integrated with both ApplePay and PayPal) for your checkout pages, which can feel restrictive. Though this does not give you as much creative freedom, this allows you to get your e-commerce pages up and running in no time by saving you the time of searching for a payment option. Another beneficial tool that Squarespace offers is the mobile-optimized checkout page. You can customize it by adding discounts, free shipping, brand colors and more.
Though e-commerce is not built into WordPress templates, there are several plugins that are used for such purposes. The tools that these plugins offer allow you to integrate e-commerce into your own site so that you can sell your products online. These plugins allow you to utilize any type of payment option, including PayPal, Google Checkout and Stripe. The most popular plugin to date that is used to sell products on WordPress is WooCommerce. This plugin allows you to sell both digital and physical goods, giving your product list some variety. Like many of the features of WordPress, e-commerce plugins can require some coding skills to set up. The upside to this is that once “plugged in,” your product pages will be highly customized and easy to access for your audience.
The Deal about Customer Support and Security:
The Squarespace support team is centralized as well as speedy. As a user, you have access to live chat and a 24/7 email support. This is included with any type of account that you have purchased with Squarespace. We find that this type of customer support is perfect for quickly addressing any issues and moving on. For security, Squarespace has your back. As this platform lives in the cloud, it automatically backs up your content. This does come with limits, though, as your content will be the only thing that can be backed up. This means that your image galleries, pages and your blog content can be exported. Your product pages, albums, and your blocks (text, audio, video) will not be backed up.
Due to the sheer size of the WordPress community, it can sometimes be hard to find help. You do have the options of countless forums, tutorial videos and email support to choose from… depending on the type of domain you have. As a user who is utilizing the free beginner plan, you may only have access to community support, whereas a more advanced domain (for example, the $24 per month Business Plan) gives you the perk of working with the WordPress team. Basically, the more you pay, the more support you get! It may still take a while for someone to get back to you through email or live chat. WordPress also comes with plugin options that allow you to backup your entire database (not just your content and your images). The most popular plugin being used at the moment is Backup Buddy. This plugin allows you to export 100 percent of your content into Dropbox, Stash or Amazon S3, or even to your email.
Our Final Thoughts on Squarespace or WordPress:
We have worked with both WordPress (hello, Message Sprout’s website is a WordPress site!) and Squarespace websites, and we have to say that we love both for different reasons. Our parting thoughts…
Squarespace rocks if you need a smaller site without a ton of customization and the person who is updating it isn’t tech-savvy.
WordPress is perfect for skilled developers and if you need a larger site with customization and/or more complex layouts. You can still update content yourself, but changing the layouts around will require coding knowledge.
If you’re looking for an experience brand copywriter and SEO content expert to help tell your story, optimize your website and consult on your new website project, we’ve got you covered. Contact us.