In the world of web hosting and site building, the two biggest names are WordPress and Squarespace. Both are popular choices that offer lots of functionality for anyone who wants to run their own site. But how do you decide between the two?
Here’s everything you need to know about the differences between Squarespace and WordPress, and which one you should pick for your skill level and website needs.
Why Squarespace vs. WordPress Isn’t a Fair Fight
When comparing Squarespace and WordPress, it’s important to remember that the two serve different purposes.
WordPress is a content management system that’s freely downloadable from WordPress.org and can be hosted on any web server. On the other hand, Squarespace is a packaged hosting solution that’s only available on their own servers. In this sense, Squarespace is more like a managed WordPress hosting solution, except using their own platform and not WordPress.
The differences will become clearer as we go through this article. 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.
Squarespace vs. WordPress: Customizability
This is a hands-down win for WordPress. While anyone can start running a site right out of the box, the biggest selling point of WordPress is the massive selection of themes and plugins that let you customize your site with ease.
You can choose from thousands of themes (both free and paid), thousands of plugins (both free and paid), use a standard website or a blog format, and dig into the backend code of your site to change whatever you want (if you have PHP web development experience).
There is a developer version of Squarespace, but it’s significantly more technical than WordPress. If you want maximum control over your site, you want WordPress.
Squarespace vs. WordPress: Ease of Use
Of course, the customizability of WordPress comes at a cost: While WordPress isn’t exactly difficult to use, Squarespace is significantly easier to learn and use for anyone who doesn’t have extensive web hosting experience.
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 most likely won’t have the same level of polish as it would with 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. There’s a reason why “troubleshoot WordPress theme” is a commonly searched query on Google.
Squarespace lets you browse their (admittedly smaller) selection of themes and switch over to a new one with a click, and each theme is beautiful right out of the box. Their formatting tools are also 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 much easier right from the start.
Squarespace vs. WordPress: Pricing
Squarespace has a number of pricing options:
- $16/mo for a personal site
- $26/mo for a business site
- $30/mo for a basic online store
- $46/mo for an advanced online store
Each comes with different features. Most users will be fine with a personal site or basic online store.
WordPress isn’t as clear-cut. If you download WordPress yourself, all you need is a web server to put it on. There are a few acceptable free web hosts out there, as well as a number of cheap web hosts for beginners that won’t cost more than a few bucks per month.
You could also host your site on WordPress.com, which is WordPress’s own site hosting service that’s easier to use than regular WordPress, but slightly more limited in what it can do. The current pricing for WordPress.com is:
- $0/mo for a basic WordPress.com subdomain site
- $3/mo for a blogging site
- $5/mo for a personal site
- $8/mo for a premium site
- $25/mo for a business site
- $45/mo for an e-commerce site
Note: Only the business and e-commerce plans allow third-party themes and plugins.
What do we recommend? WordPress is great because it’s free, but can be a headache to set up if you don’t have much experience. That’s why we love WP Engine, which handles all the administrative nuances of running a WordPress site and allows you to focus on your content. We use WP Engine for our sister sites.
Squarespace vs. WordPress: E-Commerce
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, and 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.
Squarespace vs. WordPress: 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. Our site has tons of categories and tags that are all handled nicely by WordPress, and WordPress is flexible enough that you can create your own custom data types with a bit of coding.
Squarespace 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.
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 per site.
Squarespace vs. WordPress: Aesthetics
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 offers a smaller number of templates (fewer than 100 as 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?
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.
If you want the best of both worlds, consider managed WordPress hosting with WP Engine. You get all the power of WordPress without the headache of setting it up yourself, and its affordability is on par with Squarespace!