7 Differences Between Squarespace & WordPress (A Web Developer's NO-FLUFF Perspective)

7-differences-between-wordpress-and-squarespace

Before I began writing this article, I was writing up a post discussing the differences between WordPress and Squarespace. I really struggled with it, not because I didn’t know what to say, but because it felt like I was rehashing everything that’s already been said before. If you want a simple comparison chart, Google will be glad to help.

What I want to do is tell you a simple story, and show you why Squarespace may well be worth your time.

I’m an independent web developer, and only about a year back, I set up an official partnership with my boyfriend to build websites and apps, and provide content strategy sessions to clients that need help whipping their website into shape.

5 years before that, though, I was already freelancing as a web developer and content creator for several clients. When it came to building websites, I focused solely on WordPress, because I believed it’s flexibility as a content management system was unparalleled.

In all this time, I’ve hacked up several websites for myself or my business, but more often than not, I had a ‘Coming Soon’ page up because between client work and Type A “Must-Be-Perfect” overwhelm, I never got around to creating a website that felt “right”. Since I built a business on word-of-mouth and existing clients, I didn’t worry too much about my own website, thinking I’d come around to it when I had time. We all know what that means. Never.

This December, I decided that it’d been shamefully long, and I HAD TO get my website up and running. Even if the content wasn’t top-notch. Even if my images weren’t beautiful. Even if it wasn’t “perfect”. Even if it didn’t “feel right”. So, I drew up several drafts on WordPress, and I tweaked, and I fiddled, and I ended up back at square one. Nowhere.

Now, I am quite persistent, but even I could feel the blow of repeatedly failing to meet a goal that was so obvious and so overdue. I mean, it seemed beyond necessary that I should have a website as a web developer. Especially when I wanted to attract a new audience and help a new set of people. 

Enter Squarespace

I’ll be honest, and tell you that the first time this thought crossed my mind, I was embarrassed. I felt this pressure of expectations - of people not taking me seriously if I said the words ‘developer’ and ‘Squarespace’ in the same sentence. I felt I couldn’t look me in the eye knowing I opted for Squarespace when I could easily “build my own site from scratch”. That’s when something snapped in me.

I had a good hard look at myself, at my struggles in building a website for my own business,and the advice I’ve given my clients to just get started. I realised I was doing myself the biggest disservice.

By holding onto misplaced stigmas of “real developers build from scratch”, I was standing in the way of my own growth. 

You know what’s worse than not having your own WordPress website? Not having a website at all.

Squarespace fills the gap between wanting a professional website that is functionally sound and waiting 8 weeks to get one. And that’s the best case scenario.

Do you want to know whether you should choose Squarespace or Wordpress?

Begin by answering these questions:

  1. Are you a web developer/designer and do you have at least intermediate knowledge of HTML/CSS?
  2. Do you have an idea on how you want to present yourself online and do you want a website for your business / shop NOW?
  3. Do you want a well-functioning, beautifully designed website without waiting 6 to 8 weeks for basic design requirements?
  4. Do you want to hunt down Google or post on public forums in the hope of answers to your coding questions?
  5. Do you want dedicated customer service and the reassurance that any and all answers will be answered?
  6. Do you want the experience of a custom website without touching a line of code?
  7. Do you want to avoid the overwhelm of too many themes, too many plugins, and endless software updates?
  8. Are you tired of DIY-ing your website into nothing?
  9. Are you sick of buying expensive “promising” themes only to switch back to basic WP themes?
  10. Are you tired of security threats and a list of 13 plugins to create a “stable environment” for you website and blog?

If you answered “yes” to at least 3 of those questions, you need to get yourself a Squarespace subscription. All those frustrations are actual complaints I’ve heard from disgruntled clients who’ve come to me after a bad experience with a previous developer or after DIY-ing their own website.

For the sake of clarity, I want to address the most common “advantages” people list for WordPress, and I’ll tell you why they’re almost always misleading.

#1 WordPress is open-source and Squarespace is not

Boohoo. You know how much this matters? Not at all, unless you’re a developer yourself. Most people aren’t even sure what open source means, and that’s alright (if you’re interested, “open source” means all code that makes WordPress work is publicly available, and anybody can use and customise it).

As a web developer, I don’t know all the terms that are commonplace in the field of cognitive behavioural therapy, and that’s why it’s quite expected for me to believe any and everyone that says anything with enough conviction. That doesn’t mean, however, that it becomes an absolute truth.

If a developer tells you that open source equals more options, don’t be fooled. Just because any and everyone can build themes, plugins, and websites for WordPress, doesn’t mean they should. There are so many unreliable and ill-performing themes that cost users more money than they provide benefits.

Quick tip: Want to know if a theme is reliable? Go through the comments/review section on the sale page or Google to find forums and user reviews.

#2 WordPress is the only way to get a 100% custom website

This is such rubbish that it breaks my heart at how many people fall into this trap. You know what makes a website a “100% custom website”? When every single line of code is written by the developer. You know how many people still do that? Very few.

That’s not a terrible thing, though, because to hold on to that ideal would be to deny the developments of now and would make everything unnecessarily slow and arduous. To not use fantastic frameworks like Genesis or What-You-Is-What-You-Get (WYSIWYG) builders (like Squarespace) would be a silly waste of time.

You need to get online and active NOW. Today. Yesterday. Earlier than you want. Before you think you’re ready. I can’t stress this enough.

There’s a central philosophy in software development and it guides some of the largest online commercial names: Release early, release often. A philosophy applied to product development, the essence is simple - put your product out often, let it be tested in the ‘real world’, and tweak as you go.

As business owners, we’re often so afraid to put our idea out there, to really have the world interact with it, that we hide behind the guise of ‘perfection’ as an excuse to not create. Let’s all agree right now to stop doing this.

The moment you have a website you’ve altered to match your brand or your tastes, is the moment you have a ‘custom website’. Please don’t let syntax keep you small.

Use the tools in the market to get moving, to build, to create, to sell, and to grow.

#3 WordPress is free and Squarespace is expensive

This one baffles me because it’s so untrue. WordPress is free, but building a website with WordPress isn’t.
Let’s talk numbers, because I want you to really understand this one.

I’m going to assume you’re a DIY-er, and you want to have at building your own website. A basic cost breakdown would look like this:

Wordpress - free
Custom theme - $30 - $100 (one-time)
Plugins - $20 - $80 (while several plugins are free, many worthy ones require a purchase)
WP Managed Hosting - $15 - $20 (monthly)
Regular hosting - $7 - $15 (monthly)

That’s about a $200-215 initial setup, plus around $20 - $35 monthly costs.

With Squarespace, you have a monthly fee plan starting at $5, with multiple options in the middle, all the way to $70 if you’re going for an Advanced e-commerce plan.

So, even taking $215 as a base budget, and assuming you’ll want to get the $8 Squarespace basic plan, you can have 26 months (or 2 years and 2 months) of the most popular Squarespace subscription for the same amount as just the initial setup for Wordpress.

Let me be clear: web development moves fast, which means in that much time you’re really likely to change your mind and try something new. That means you need to account for additional costs with WordPress just within that time, let alone after the 26 months.

All this doesn’t even include custom web design work most WordPress users require/want, which adds anywhere between $1500 - $3500 to your initial costs (any WordPress developer working below $1500 is most likely squeezing themselves dry and the work will always reflect that).

The next time someone tells you WordPress is free (even if it’s me!), please keep this breakdown in mind.

#4 WordPress can do ANYTHING.

Yes, only if you’re a developer. Let’s be honest. I love WordPress, and depending on what my clients require, I whole-heartedly recommend it.

BUT almost 90% of incoming clients do not require the vastness of WordPress. Squarespace, and its drag-and-drop builder, gives you the freedom and flexibility to create literally any layout or any design, and use any media you desire, limited only by your creativity.

WordPress themes, even those built “especially for you”, are predefined in their form, and you are restricted by the layout, and the media allowed therein. To change that, you either need a good understanding of PHP, HTML/CSS, and/or Javascript or you need to hire a developer, which means anywhere between $40 - $50 per hour (and I’m being modest in my estimate here).

So yes, WordPress can do anything, but only if you’re a developer.
With Squarespace, YOU can do anything.

Build the layout of your dreams, add the content that suits you and your brand, change things around when you need to, and not wait on another person to give form to YOUR plans.

#5 WordPress has a plugin for everything and Squarespace doesn’t

At the time of writing this, there are around 42,766 plugins that are downloaded more than 1 billion times. However, there is no quality-control or checks to see if the plugin functions properly and if there aren't any conflicts with WordPress. This means there’s no guarantee that the new plugin you just downloaded won’t also cause your website to crash and give you that dreaded White Screen of Death, which happens more often than anyone likes.

Also, despite plugins, most business owners using WordPress require third-party applications to build a workflow that suits their business. Think of tools like Mailchimp, InfusionSoft or ConvertKit (for managing your email list); Buffer, Hootsuite, or Edgar (for social media scheduling); LeadPages (for list building) and WebinarJam (both for webinars); Gumroad or DPD (for selling your products online), Teachable (for hosting your online courses), Calendly or Sartoria (for scheduling), such that your processes work seamlessly together, while also staying autonomous and specific.

You know what else? They all work with Squarespace too.
Setting up a well-oiled end-to-end system isn’t a disadvantage just because you aren’t on WordPress.

Final word of caution: If your website uses poorly built plugins, you’re at high risk of security breaches, poor performance, cross-browser conflicts, and in the worst-case scenario, crashing your entire website. Not enough articles on Pinterest tell you this.

So yes, plugins can be fantastic, but only in the right hands and with measure.

#6 WordPress can grow with my business, Squarespace can’t

I need you to do a quick reflection exercise here. Take a timer, set it to 10 minutes, grab a paper and pen or your favourite note-taking app and map your plans for your website over the next 1, 3, or 5 years.

Try to describe in 1 or 2 lines the next steps you’d like to make. Do you see yourself really needing the ability to tweak every little thing or are you creating a redundant “what-if-I-need-it-later” fear? Do you have months to spare or would you rather get set up and have your website live and converting at the earliest, with all the opportunities to use third-party applications we talked about earlier to create a streamlined and specific workflow. If it’s the latter, go for Squarespace. Else, try WordPress.

Also, always remember, you aren’t stuck with one content management system your whole life. So whether it’s WordPress or Squarespace, you always have a way out if things go south.

The potential of WordPress is tremendous, it’s my favourite platform to work on, but most creative businesses don’t need a scale of expansion that cannot also be achieved with Squarespace, along with a heady cocktail of specialised third-party apps. Certainly not in the beginning years of your business.

#7 BONUS TRUTH: Launch faster with Squarespace

I’ve said this before, but it’s important enough to repeat endlessly - launch before you’re readyLaunch now.

I can’t stress enough the importance of releasing your product out into the world before you think you’re ready, and garnering feedback to build better services and products.

The number one reason why I promote Squarespace “despite being a web developer” is because I know just how powerful it can be for most people straight ‘out-of-the-box’, i.e., without any tweaks.

As an online entrepreneur, I understand how important it is for you to get your message, product, and content out in front of your audience quickly, and that’s why I recommend doing an honest audit to check if you really need all the capabilities of WordPress.

If you need a website that includes a home page, an About page, a ‘Work with Me’ page and ‘Services’ pages, a blog, and/or a contact page (otherwise known as the essentials 90% business owners require), then Squarespace is more than suited for your business.

There are several online tools that are better positioned to do the work you need done (such as hosting courses online, newsletter management, scheduling, and the rest).

You can build an optimal ecosystem without ever needing a developer, and while that doesn’t do me any favours, it’s important that YOU know that you have options beyond expensive WordPress websites.

There’s nothing worse than investing in a website at the early stages of your business, only to undergo a rebrand or repositioning, and needing to invest again in custom work.

Squarespace can be your go-to platform, especially if you’re looking to build an audience, share content to establish yourself as a thought leader, or sell your service or product online within a short launch time period.

As a blogger and creative entrepreneur, you need to get YOUR skill, YOUR product, YOUR service out in the world as soon as possible, because to have a sustainable business, you need to generate an income.

Making websites may not be your skill, but Squarespace helps you act like it is.

FOCUS ON THE ESSENTIAL

I’m an ex-web developer and a blog strategist, and while I love (love, love) WordPress, I refuse to go along with the trend of glorifying WordPress when I’m perfectly aware that around 85% website owners do not need the extensibility of WordPress, especially with all the possible extensions and tools available online.

I can twist and bend WordPress as I please to work for me, but that may not be true for you. You may be short on time or you may not want to learn to code. That’s perfectly fine.

Squarespace’s interface takes some getting used to (especially if you’re an absolute beginner), but it has a far shorter learning curve when compared to how long it takes an average person to learn the ins and outs of WordPress.

That means with Squarespace you can focus on what matters:  creating content, growing an audience, and creating products, while also building a website that looks incredibly professional, is structurally sound, is optimised for search engines, is mobile responsive (i.e., works perfectly across all devices), and sets you up for a scalable business relatively quickly (think: 2 weeks as compared to typical 6-8 week project durations for WordPress).

You don’t need a WordPress website to be considered a ‘serious business owner’. You don’t need to endlessly run behind a perfection that doesn’t exist. You don’t need ALL THE OPTIONS.

You just need to start.

This post is an honest perspective, even when it doesn’t really “support” my own business. I’m just hoping you won’t get caught up in what’s essentially a mindless battle of plugins or no plugins.

Let’s be more intentional. Let’s focus on the essential.

So if you’re at the crossroads of deciding between WordPress, I hope you’ll consider YOUR business and YOU to guide your choice.

Get started with a FREE 14-Day Squarespace trial now
and get 10% OFF on your subscription with the code:

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