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October 25, 2013 View Original Article

Squarespace vs. WordPress: The Ultimate Showdown

The first version of WordPress was released in 2003 – a whole decade back (which, in internet years, makes it almost a dinosaur). Since then, the blogging platform has grown into the world’s favorite CMS and lays claim to almost 71M installations worldwide.

Squarespace, on the other hand, is the newer, handsomer entrant on the block. It’s pretty as a picture and boasts a library of powerful tools to make building websites easier. It also has a rapidly growing user base. Unlike WordPress, though, Squarespace isn’t free.

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So which is the right website builder for you? We’ll compare Squarespace and WordPress on cost, features, ease of use and performance and tell you which software deserves your time and money.

If you’d rather build your own websites, check out this course on practical responsive web design.

Pricing

Squarespace

Squarespace offers two plans: standard ($10/month), and unlimited ($20/month). There’s also a ‘business’ plan for $30/month which offers an integrated e-commerce store. Paying for a year’s subscription upfront gets you a 20% discount, bringing down the cost of the cheapest plan to just $8/month – $96/year.

The standard plan is just about good enough for a simple business/personal website. It’ll let you create up to 20 pages with 500GB of bandwidth (which is more than enough for most small and local businesses). You can also get a custom domain name provided you pay a year in advance.

If you are serious about your web presence, you would want to pick at the unlimited plan, which, as you would’ve guessed, lets you create unlimited pages.

On the whole, a Squarespace subscription shouldn’t end up costing you more than $200/year – and this includes the price for themes, plugins and everything else that makes your website nice. Squarespace’s built-in themes are very robust and pretty, and the customization options are plentiful.

WordPress

WordPress is free. It will cost you absolutely nothing download and install it on your website.

That makes this a no competition, right?

Not exactly.

There are plenty of hidden costs with running a WordPress website, such as:

  • Hosting: The cheapest host (which shouldn’t be the qualifying criteria for choosing a host, by the way) will cost you at least $5/month. You can usually get good hosting for multiple websites at around $10/month, which comes out to 120/year.

  • Domain: Squarespace includes a free domain name with an annual subscription. With WordPress, you will have to buy your own domain. Price: around $10/year. Some web hosts might throw in a free domain with an annual subscription. Total costs now: $130/year.

  • Themes: There are hundreds and thousands of WordPress themes online. Many of these are free, but like most free things, they aren’t exactly amazing. A good theme will set you back by anywhere from $15-$75. Professional-grade themes typically cost around $50+. Your total website costs have now jumped to $150-$200/year.

  • Plugins: Squarespace includes plugins for most features right out of the box. The business version will even help you build an e-commerce store right into your website. To do the same with WordPress, you’ll have to invest in a plugin like WooCommerce (free), themes for which start at nearly $70. Additional plugins may end up setting you back by another $30-$100, although these are usually one-time costs.

Altogether, a professional, good-looking WordPress website can end up costing the same as a Squarespace subscription. Sure, if you know how to code/design and are feeling thrifty, you can get started for just the hosting cost, but even that will set you back by at least $100.

Winner: Tie. WordPress might be free, but the hidden costs can quickly climb up.

Performance

Squarespace

Squarespace is fast and reliable. There is almost no downtime and lagging, so you can expect your blog to be always up and running. The service uses cloud servers, and can handle a decent amount of traffic. If you do manage to get your website viral, however, you can expect a performance drop – the Squarespace backend isn’t set up to take on huge, sudden traffic.

WordPress

WordPress performance depends more on your webhost than the backend itself. A strong host like WPEngine can handle almost any kind of traffic, including huge, sudden spikes. However, since WordPress doesn’t come with a robust CDN (Content Delivery Network) or caching capabilities right out of the box, you might run into some performance issues unless you cough up for third-party plugins. Additionally, many users have a tendency to choke their WordPress sites with dozens of plugins – not all of which are scrupulously updated – which can also affect performance.

Winner: Tie, once again. Squarespace will outperform WordPress for most websites, but if you plan on running a large website, you will need the customization and freedom of choice WordPress offers.

Using WordPress 3.6? This beginner’s course on WordPress essentials will help you get started.

Customer Support

Squarespace

As a paid software, Squarespace boasts 24/7 live support. Expect your inquiries to get a reply within a few hours. You get also get live chat, hundreds of video tutorials, calls and support forums.

WordPress

WordPress is free and open-source. There is no official support – you can’t just pick up the phone and dial support number. What you can do, however, is get support from your webhost, your theme provider, or the many, many message boards dedicated to WordPress. There are hardly any queries you won’t solutions to with a quick Google search, though this can be confusing for all but the most technically savvy.

Winner: Squarespace. WordPress’ open-source documentation and support forums are great, but can leave beginners confused with information overload.

Design and Plugins

Squarespace

Once you sign-up for a Squarespace account, you’ll get access to 19 templates. They are completely functional and ready to use right out of the box, so beginners can breathe easily as no further coding is required. If you want to be creative, the templates can be customized with LayoutEngine. The platform recently added E-commerce as a feature, enabling you to run an online store. You will also find built-in plugins for most common functions. All of Squarespace’s themes are also responsive right out of the box.

However – there’s no other way to put it – 19 templates is too less. Unless you invest in heavy customization, your website will just end up looking average. Gorgeous as they may be, a handful of more templates would sure be nice.

WordPress

This is where WordPress’ shines. Thanks to its huge developer community, there are hundreds of thousands of themes and plugins for the platform. You have complete control over the look and feel of your website, although this usually requires tinkering with code. You won’t need to do that in most cases since you can easily find a theme that fits your requirements precisely and a plugin that will let you do exactly what you want.

Winner: WordPress. The platform’s immense library of templates and plugins simply can’t be beat.

Ease of Use

Squarespace

Squarespace is very beginner friendly. The platform gives you everything you need, and lets you adjust your blog/website without dealing with the code. Squarespace includes some cool tools like Aviary (a powerful photo-editor), the revolutionary LayoutEngine (a layout-editor), and built-in SEO. However, the service limits you to its own set of features to which you can’t add anything by yourself.

WordPress

Although WordPress has become progressively easier to use over the years, it still presents some challenge to all but the most technically savvy of users – a common problem in most powerful software. The flexibility and customizability of the platform also means that you’ll be exposed to code and choices that will require some technical expertise.

Winner: Squarespace, though this is countered by the service’s lack of customization options.

Want to master WordPress? Learn how to be a WordPress rockstar with this course.

Conclusion

It is difficult – not to mention, unfair – to declare either Squarespace or WordPress as the winner of this competition, simply because both cater to completely different users. Squarespace is meant to be a ready to use solution for businesses that just want a good looking website. WordPress, on the other hand, can be anything – a one-page business website, or a powerful blog with tens of thousands of pages. This makes it more difficult to use, but also more capable and customizable.

In the end, pick Squarespace if you want a hassle-free, easy to use solution for your small business. Pick WordPress if you want to grow your website into a major traffic destination and aren’t afraid of the learning curve.

If you do decide to use WordPress, this course on WordPress for beginners will help you get started.