In the worlds of web hosting and site building, there are few names bigger than WordPress and Squarespace. Both are popular choices that offer a lot of functionality. So how do you decide which to use?
Why Squarespace vs. WordPress Isn’t a Fair Fight
When comparing Squarespace and WordPress, it’s important to remember that the two have somewhat different purposes. As we’ll see, Squarespace offers highly packaged solutions for hosting sites on their own servers.
WordPress, on the other hand, is a content management system that can be used on WP’s servers or downloaded and used on your own (or your web host’s). That might not seem like a huge difference, but it makes the two tools part of slightly different niches.
You’ll see what I mean as we go through the differences.
To help you decide which one to use, we’ll outline the differences between Squarespace and WordPress, looking at customizability, ease of use, pricing, and a number of other factors.
This is a hands-down win for WordPress. While you can start running a site right out of the box, WordPress is best when it’s customized to fit your needs.
You can choose from thousands of themes (both free and paid), add tens of thousands of plugins, use a standard website or a blog format, and dig into the backend code of your site to change whatever you want.
It’s important to mention here that this is true of the software downloaded from WordPress.org, not a site hosted on WordPress.com. If you host with WordPress, your options are limited. If you download WordPress and host it on your own server, there are no limitations.
Squarespace, on the other hand, gives you fewer customization options. You can choose a theme from the options they give to you. You can add a store that will process payments. Tweak colors and fonts. Things like that.
If you want maximum control over your site, you want WordPress.
2. Ease of Use
Of course, that customizability comes with a cost. Unless you’re using a simple instance, WordPress can be difficult to use. And in the Squarespace vs. WordPress battle, that’s a major disadvantage.
Squarespace is made to be as easy as possible. You can get a professional-looking website up and running in a few minutes. You can do the same in WordPress, but your site might not have the same polish as it will in Squarespace.
Take setting up a new theme, for example. In WordPress, the best-case scenario is that you search for a theme in the marketplace, download it, and click Install. That’s not bad. But you very well may find a theme somewhere else, which means you’ll need to download it, possibly pay for it, upload it to your server, and then install it.
And there’s no guarantee that it will work how you want it to. “Troubleshoot WordPress theme” is a very commonly searched term on Google for a reason.
Squarespace, on the other hand, lets you browse their (admittedly smaller) selection of themes and switch over to a new one with a click.
Their formatting tools are also extremely easy to use, and the editing interface couldn’t be simpler. Click the item you want to edit, type, and click Save. That’s all there is to it.
WordPress has a lot of power, but you’ll spend some time getting used to it (our full guide to setting up a WordPress site). Squarespace is easy from the start.
Squarespace has a number of pricing options:
- $12/month for a personal site
- $18/month for a business site
- $26/month for a basic online store
- $40/month for an advanced online store
Each comes with different features. Most users will be fine with a personal site or basic online store.
Hosting your site on WordPress.com also gives you options:
- $0/month for a basic WordPress.com subdomain site
- $4/month for a personal site
- $8/month for a premium site
- $25/month for a business site
The only plan that allows you to install third-party themes and plugins in the business site.
All that being said, WordPress itself—the content management system—is free. If you have server space of your own or want to rent it cheaply from someone else, you can install WordPress on that server completely free of charge.
It’s tough to beat free.
WordPress can easily power an online store. There are a number of solutions that you can pair with your WordPress website to sell whatever you want.
But that’s the catch: you need to pair your WordPress site with something else to power your online store.
And Squarespace has that power built in from the beginning. Both can handle a wide variety of products, and with the thousands of plugins, there’s a good chance you can get better store customization with WordPress.
The default Squarespace store looks really nice, though:
But when you set up a Squarespace site, you automatically have access to an online store. You may, however, have to pay transaction fees, depending on the level of subscription you have.
5. Site Structure
Because of the flexibility built into WordPress, you can use it for huge sites that contain many levels of navigation, different types of organization, and complicated category and tag structures (MakeUseOf is built on WordPress, for example).
This site has tons of categories and tags that are all handled nicely by WordPress.
Squarespace, on the other hand, is best suited for smaller sites with only one or two levels of navigation. The interface looks better with a smaller number of pages, and trying to create a more complex site adds difficulty for creators and users.
WordPress powers some of the biggest websites in the world. Squarespace’s customer page focuses on smaller sites, like personal and professional sites of celebrities, restaurant pages, and the like. But there’s also a smaller site built by Nike hosted on Squarespace.
In general, if you want a big site, WordPress is best. It might also be more efficient to use WordPress for multiple sites, as you can manage them from the same installation without paying more (if you’re self-hosting). Squarespace requires additional subscriptions.
The flexibility of WordPress means you can find themes that match any aesthetic you want. Professional, artsy, avant-garde, modern, and traditional looks abound. It can be formatted like a blog, a more standard website, a portfolio… the possibilities are endless.
Squarespace, on the other hand, offers a smaller number of templates (92 at the time of this writing). Almost all of them are very stylish and require large, high-resolution images. If you want a great-looking, modern website, Squarespace has a template for you.
WordPress has a seemingly infinite number of themes, and Squarespace has less than 100. Are you willing to put in the time to find the perfect WordPress theme? Or do you want Squarespace to filter them for you?
7. Mobile Apps
While you’ll likely do most of your work on a website from your desktop or laptop, it’s nice to have some good apps at your disposal as well. Both services offer mobile apps, but their approaches are a bit different.
The WordPress app is an all-in-one mobile solution. You have basic blogging capabilities and you can check notifications, some analytics, and comments. It’s rather basic, but it’s everything you’re likely to need from a mobile app for your site.
Squarespace, in contrast, has five different apps: Analytics, Commerce, Blog, Portfolio, and Notes.
Each is tailored to a specific part of your Squarespace site, and all of them have the same attention to visual detail as the rest of Squarespace’s offerings. (That said, the apps aren’t rated very highly on the App Store).
Choose the Best Website Solution for You
Both Squarespace and WordPress have significant advantages and some drawbacks. In general, WordPress is best for large or complex sites, while Squarespace is best for smaller sites that have a great attention to physical detail.
WordPress is a great option for just about anyone, and is the best choice for anyone who wants to customize more than the surface of their site.
Squarespace is well suited for freelancers, small business owners, photographers, artists, and others who need simple sites, blog, or online portfolios that don’t have too many pages.