Starting a website has never been easier. With so many options out there, it’s rather more difficult to choose which platform to start on.
There are many reputable platforms out there. Two of the leading platforms recommended regularly are WordPress and Squarespace. Both platforms contain many functionalities and approach things differently enough, so we thought to compare the two to see if there’s a clear winner.
- Ease of use (learning curve)
- Website functionality/flexibility
- Content control/data ownership
- Website maintenance
- ECommerce functionality
Before we dig in into the specifics of what makes each platform better than the other, let’s take a surface level look at what each platform represents in terms of their overall designs.
Here’s the gist of the matter at hand: Both platforms are trying to balance two main concepts – making the platform as accessible as possible to beginners and providing enough functionality to allow the users to customize their site to their liking. Naturally, balancing these two concepts is not easy, since each can only be taken so far without affecting the other.
Simply put, while WordPress is still beginner-friendly it does have a slightly steeper learning curve, in turn providing you with much greater control, flexibility, and website customization. On the other hand, Squarespace aims at providing a platform that is as simple as it gets while sacrificing some of the functionalities WordPress provides.
Ease of use/Learning curve
If I were to sum up this entire section in a sentence, it would be “Squarespace is easier to get started with.” But the story doesn’t end there. WordPress has also taken considerable steps toward providing a beginner-friendly platform.
With Squarespace, you’ll find yourself designing your website minutes after signing up for an account. The process is quite simplified: You just pick a template that works best for you and then by answering a few questions, tweaking the design, adding images and text, website-building is pretty much done.
WordPress, on the other hand, takes a couple more steps such as securing a host and a domain before you really start swinging. Some hosting services which we’ll talk about later, automatically provide you with a domain, so you can effectively skip that whole initial preparation step and immediately start building your WordPress website.
With that first step taken care of, there isn’t much difference between the two. On WordPress, you pick yourself a theme instead of a template and go about building your website just like you would on Squarespace.
While Squarespace is simpler and faster for immediately starting to design your website, WordPress, especially with a convenient host, does in fact come as close as possible to Squarespace’s simplicity. The question you have to answer is whether these first two steps of simplicity are worth letting go of the functionality that WordPress provides in the long run.
Squarespace offers limited functionality since you are tied to using whatever functionality Squarespace has integrated into its interface. Squarespace sticks to its simple-to-use approach. It provides all of its functionalities, such as changing content, adding your own CSS and HTML code, basic SEO settings, etc. through a single interface. You can also create your own designs with an easy-to-use drag-and-drop content editor.
In short, Squarespace does indeed offer a good amount of functionality and customization, but you’re limited to whatever it offers you through its interface.
At this point, if you’re wondering “Does WordPress really offer functionalities that aren’t built in?” the answer is “Absolutely!” That’s the entire basis of WordPress’s open source nature. As of writing this article, WordPress has 55,370 third-party plugins you can easily install on your website to add new functionalities to your website as they become necessary.
For example, if Squarespace’s drag-and-drop system mentioned above appeals to you, you can easily install themes or plugins that provide that sort of functionality on your WordPress site.
By installing plugins you can let your website have pretty much any function you can think of. Since WordPress is open source and has a massive supporting community, you can find a plugin for your every need, from plugins that allow you to make subscription forms and add photo galleries, to even adding public Instagram feeds straight to your website.
Once again the downside is that initial learning curve that WordPress has compared to Squarespace, but the massive amount of customization, flexibility, and features you can add to your website with WordPress plugins is hands down too good to pass on.
Content control/data ownership
If there ever comes a day when you decide to leave your current platform for another, you need to know beforehand just how much of your hard work and content you can transfer with you.
When it comes to data ownership, there is simply no competing with open source. When it comes to WordPress, everything you have on your site is yours, no strings attached. That doesn’t mean that Squarespace doesn’t allow any data transfers, but compared to WordPress it’s simply too limited.
Squarespace allows you to export an .xml file that contains:
- Site pages
- 1 blog page with all its posts
- Image blocks
- Text blocks
So you will have to let go of everything else, including your product pages, album pages, audio and video blocks, custom CSS, etc.
On the other hand, you have WordPress, which unlike Squarespace has entire built-in tools that allow you to backup and export not just a small part of your content and images but the entirety of your data. This way you can save your website’s theme, plugins, basically your entire database, and it all gets exported so you can conveniently transfer them to any other CMS platform.
There’s really no competition in this category. Whatever content you create on your website should belong to you, which is why the platform that put your content on should provide you with the necessary tools and freedom to do anything you wish with those files. Squarespace’s limited functionality means that you never truly own the entirety of your website.
Squarespace’s beginner-friendly motto is in full effect here. Since Squarespace does everything through a single interface and handles everything internally, you don’t have to worry about maintenance issues such as updates, backups, or security. At first glance, not worrying about these issues might sound like a load off your shoulders, but once you start your website on WordPress, you’ll find that having manual control over these functionalities is a life saver.
If your website is on Squarespace then its ongoing maintenance is taken care of, which simplifies a lot of things that might feel like a chore when you start taking care of your website’s proper maintenance. Despite that, Squarespace really misses the target when it comes to some very important maintenance functionalities, such as being able to backup your files which is non-existent with Squarespace, since the platform saves your website’s content on a secondary server which you don’t have access to.
On WordPress however, you need to take care of these things, such as updating your software, plugins, backing up your data, or making sure that your site’s security is set up properly yourself.
It seems a lot at first glance, but keep in mind that you can use a lot of plugins that take care of these functions for you, or you can even have your site hosted on a complete WordPress management platform that takes care of all these functions (and more) through a single dashboard, and suddenly these maintenance jobs seem like a non-issue, with the added benefit of having full control over your site’s files, updates, and security.
This does not concern all websites but if you have plans on selling products through your site or opening an online marketplace, this category is definitely on top of your list.
While Squarespace does integrate e-commerce functionality in its interface, it’s limited to the few options that Squarespace offers. For example, your payment gateways are limited to Stripe, PayPal or Apple Pay. On top of that, your website will be very limited in its e-commerce capabilities, unless you upgrade to Squarespace’s higher subscription plans. Besides, there’s a 3% transaction fee Squarespace charges on every purchase from your site unless you upgrade to one of their more expensive subscriptions.
WordPress’s functionality is limitless in this sphere. You can have an e-commerce website within minutes by installing an e-commerce-specific theme and activating a few necessary plugins that you see fit for your site. You have no restrictions when it comes to what payment gateways to use or how many products you want to showcase on your site, etc. With WordPress, you don’t have to pay any transaction fees either, since the entire platform is open source and free for you to use however you want.
It goes without saying that if you’re starting an online marketplace and plan on selling items online, whether you’re a beginner or not, you just can’t pass on the limitless functionality that WordPress offers.
The good thing about Squarespace is you know exactly the service you’re receiving for however much you’re paying. At best, it’s $144 a year, which is the “Personal Plan.” For the previously mentioned e-commerce functionality you need to go for some of the more expensive plans.
It’s a bit more difficult to nail down a fixed price since the platform itself is completely free, and the only two things you need to take care of are a domain name and a hosting plan. Because of this, what you’ll end up paying varies greatly depending on the level and functionalities of your hosting plan (amongst other things), which you can always upgrade or change as your site grows. So, all-in-all if you’re just starting building your first site, you can do so extremely cheaply and then take it from there.
If you’re looking to create a simple website with as little effort as possible, and flexibility or ownership aren’t an issue, you can’t go wrong with Squarespace. But as we saw earlier, just because Squarespace is easy, doesn’t mean WordPress isn’t.
WordPress has come a long way in making the platform as accessible as possible to all users. With the limitless flexibility and functionality that you can get with plugins and complete ownership over your content and data, WordPress is indeed a platform that’s very much worth putting a little bit of effort to get into.
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