Squarespace vs WordPress: Which site builder is best?

Squarespace vs WordPress

Which website builder is best for bloggers and small businesses? Is it Squarespace or WordPress? Let’s compare the two blogging platforms.

Squarespace vs WordPress: Which website builder is best?

Use Squarespace if you just want a beautiful site for your company, want it done quickly and want to pretty much forget about it after you’ve launched it. You’re in good hands.

Use WordPress if your site is the cornerstone of your business, your online presence and you have big plans. WordPress is a customizable and adaptable experience.

What’s the difference between Squarespace and WordPress?

Usage and popularityMost popular CMS which powers more than 35% of the webHosts 1.5% of the web
Design themes and templatesMore than 7,000 free themes in the official directory plus many other commercial sourcesMore than 120 free themes in the official template directory
Apps and plugins for added functionalityMore than 55,000 free plugins in the official directory plus many other commercial sourcesMore than 10 extensions in the official directory
Blogging and editing contentComplete control over the look and feel of your content with an easy to use interfaceAll the basics are covered but you may need to upgrade to the business plan for extra customization
Ease of use and flexibilityCompletely flexible and customizable which means there is a learning curveQuick and easy to get started with and simple to use
Control and data ownershipOpen-source so you’re fully in control of your content and can do whatever you wishClosed source and proprietary platform
SEOTakes care of technical SEO and there are many SEO plugins to add extra featuresAll the basics are covered but it is lacking in some of the more technical aspects of SEO
EcommerceWooCommerce platform is well integrated, Shopify and others can be used tooHas a fully integrated ecommerce platform on business and commerce plans
Ongoing maintenanceYou need to keep your site updated, backed up and securedEverything is taken care off automatically for you
Customer supportNo customer support you can contact but many forums and websites with instructionsThere’s a forum and a help section but you can also reach out to the customer service for extra help
PricingFree but you need to pay $2.50 per month for a domain name and a hosting server where to install itStarts at $12 per month for a personal site if you pay annually

WordPress and Squarespace are two interesting choices. In terms of flexibility, extendibility and the freedom to create anything that you wish, WordPress has a big lead on Squarespace.

Squarespace is increasingly targeting the niche of small, offline businesses such as restaurants owners and wedding photographers, and ecommerce or online store.

They mostly have no tech ability and want a quick and simple way to create a beautiful website. The idea is to present themselves, promote their business and even get some leads.

These are not necessarily advanced websites and only “about 100,000 of the almost 2 million paying Squarespace subscribers are using commerce tools.”

Squarespace is a great option for those who are more than happy just to use one of the existing templates, add some copy and images and a contact form.

This allows you to have a basic but nice looking web presence for your business or ecommerce. And for minimal effort and time invested.

Squarespace is not ideal for people who want to dig deeper and build something that is way different from the available Squarespace templates.

It’s way too restricting in terms of design and functionality when your needs go beyond the templates that are available. If you want something that doesn’t look exactly like the different templates that are on offer, WordPress is a better option.

How to get started with WordPress

Which is better Squarespace or WordPress? A detailed comparison

Here’s a deeper and more detailed look into the differences between Squarespace and WordPress.

What’s Squarespace?

Squarespace is a private, commercial company founded in 2003 and funded by venture capital. It has more than 800 employees, hosts around two million websites and has a market valuation of $1.7 billion.

And it all started with a $30,000 loan Anthony Casalena’s parents gave to him in order to work on his business idea. This is what Anthony said about the thinking behind his initial idea:

“First, I was frustrated that there were many different pieces of software that had to be integrated in order to create a website — page-building software, blogging software, hosting and website analytics software were all separate. Secondly, I was bothered by the fact that there seemed to be no products on the market that were paying attention to design.”

Squarespace promotes itself as the “all-in-one platform to build a beautiful online presence“.

They’re targeting small businesses and aim to be the one-stop-shop for everything from getting a domain name, building a site, selling products, analytics to sending email marketing campaigns.

Squarespace makes it easy for anyone to create a great looking website quickly regardless of experience or tech know-how.

Squarespace has a large marketing budget

Squarespace has a large marketing budget to work with. This is why you probably have seen or heard their ads across the web, your favorite podcast, New York Knicks jersey or even the Super Bowl.

The company has purchased Super Bowl TV commercials every year since 2014 featuring stars such as John Malkovich, Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder.

It seems to work and the company is profitable: “Revenue in the past year increased 50 percent to about $300 million, Casalena said. Squarespace isn’t far behind Wix, which is expected to generate about $424 million this year.”

(If you’re interested in Wix, take a look at my WordPress vs Wix guide).

So how does Squarespace work? It’s based on pre-built design templates and drag and drop blocks and other website elements.

You first explore the different design templates available and pick one that you like for your website. Each template is broken down into different blocks.

Blocks are the individual elements of a website such as text boxes, image galleries, buttons, and charts. You can edit and customize your chosen template and the contents of the individual blocks.

These blocks are something you will be familiar with if you’ve explored the Gutenberg editor in WordPress.

How expensive is Squarespace?

You can sign up for a 14 day free trial in order to explore Squarespace.

The most basic subscription level costs $16 plus taxes per month if you’re paying monthly. It’s $12 plus taxes per month if you pay for the full year upfront.

If you want to integrate e-commerce or customize your design template, you will need to upgrade to the “business” level at $26 plus taxes per month or $18 plus taxes if billed annually.

Squarespace is positioning itself as a premium website builder and is more expensive when compared to other site builders and much more expensive when compared to the free WordPress.

In general, some price difference is expected considering that it’s a hosted and all-inclusive platform. Everything is taken care of for you. Hosting, security, and maintenance. You just run your business.

Squarespace sites can be slow to load

One critique I have for built-with-Squarespace websites is the speed and loading time.

Due to the heavy use of large graphics and JavaScript, I find Squarespace sites usually slower to load than the average business website that I visit.

The main focus of the different templates available is to provide you with a simple and non-tech way of having a beautiful looking site.

This leads to slow, heavy and bloated sites. This is not ideal in the mobile-first world where people get impatient and click the back button even if they’ve to wait a couple of seconds for a site to load.

This slow loading time may not be ideal for your search engine optimization either. Just something to keep in mind if you’re on Squarespace. This is what Squarespace recommends for speeding it up.

Another thing you need to consider when choosing an image-heavy Squarespace template is that images are essential.

These templates are only as good as the original, high-quality images that you have available for you to use for your ecommerce business purposes.

If you don’t have original, eye-catching images to use, you may consider a less image-heavy template. I would recommend avoiding stock images as they may not give the best first impression of your brand.

Is Squarespace good for blogs?

You can create a blog and publish blog posts using Squarespace. Some of the designs and themes they have available look great too.

But in general, you may find that Squarespace is not specialized in blogs and that they just don’t offer as much functionality as WordPress does.

If you’re just looking to start a blog, WordPress is a more specialized and feature rich blogging platform.

Is WordPress better than Squarespace?

WordPress is an open-source content management system. It plays in a different financial and marketing space from Squarespace.

WordPress doesn’t have the money to run big marketing campaigns and pursue user growth at all costs. It’s created and run by the open-source community of passionate individuals.

I use WordPress daily, have done so for more than ten years and really love it. Here’s why I think it is an excellent choice for a blogging platform:

  • WordPress is the clear winner in terms of popularity. More than 35% of all the sites are hosted on WordPress, while 1.5% are hosted on Squarespace.
  • Very flexible and extensive so it’s used by everyone from institutions such as The White House and NASA, corporations such as Facebook and CNN to independent blogs such as my one.
  • Open-source with a large community of people using it, loving it and contributing to it. You benefit from this by having access to thousands of free designs that can change the look of your site with a click and tens of thousands of WordPress plugins to add any feature or functionality.
  • It’s easy to find a solution to any problem or issue you might have using sites such as my blog or one of the many WordPress communities.
  • Easy to start with and maintain it even for people who have no coding skills and who have no prior experience building websites and publishing content.

These reasons show you why WordPress is a great blogging platform to use to create your own permanent home online. A home that you fully own, fully control and that you can depend on.

What’s the cost of WordPress?

It’s completely free to use and is here to stay. It’s not a commercial organization that may run out of business or that might make some decisions in favor of their investors or shareholders and against the people that use it.

WordPress may be free but you do need to install in on a server space. You may also want to get a unique domain name for your site. You can expect to pay $2.50 per month for a domain name and a hosting server.

The community has created thousands of free WordPress plugins and theme designs that can extend your site to feature any functionality that you can think of.

If you can find a theme that you love and add a plugin or two to that theme, you are all set. WordPress can be as affordable and as easy as that. If you have some unique needs that don’t exist in existing themes or plugins, you may need to build those yourself or hire someone to do it for you.

Can you transfer from Squarespace to WordPress?

WordPress is an open platform which makes it easy to import or export any of your content. When your content is in WordPress, you will have an easy time moving it to any other platform that you wish.

Getting content in an automated way from some of the proprietary platforms such as Squarespace may be more difficult. This is because the closed platforms prefer not to give you too much control as they want to keep you within their closed walls.

You can transfer some of your content from Squarespace to WordPress. WordPress has created the WordPress Importer plugin that allows you to import as much content as Squarespace allows.

Your text and image blocks, pages and blog posts can all the exported and imported into WordPress. Content such as product and event pages, and audio and video blocks cannot be transferred. Here’s what content you can and cannot export from Squarespace:

Content you can export

  • Layout Pages
  • Gallery Pages
  • Project Pages
  • One Blog Page and all of its posts
  • Text Blocks
  • Image Blocks
  • Text from other blocks like the Embed Block, Twitter Block, and Instagram Block will export with minimum structure.
  • Comments

Content you cannot export

  • Product Pages
  • Folders
  • Index Pages
  • Event Pages
  • Album Pages
  • Cover Pages
  • More than one Blog Page
  • Audio Blocks
  • Video Blocks
  • Product Blocks
  • Drafts
  • Style changes

To export your Squarespace content, you need to go into Settings and use the “Export” feature. You’ll be able to download an .xml file that you can import into the WordPress Importer plugin.

Squarespace vs WordPress for SEO

Both Squarespace and WordPress do basic SEO well. You won’t be penalized for hosting your site with Squarespace. It won’t give you any head start either compared to other web builders. You may find some lacking in terms of technical SEO opportunities.

The key to your SEO performance will be the quality of content that you publish. How well does your content resonate with the audience you’re targeting? What’s the number of links and social media shares your marketing activities will bring to your site?

Categorized as Posts

By Marko Saric

I’m on a mission to help you share what you love, get discovered by people who love the same things too and make the web a better place at the same time. Find me on Twitter and Mastodon too.