When first starting any business, it can be a daunting task between the hundreds of different options for building a website. WordPress sites compose 25% of all sites on the internet now, but with more and more site builders popping up, is it still the right choice?
Let's break down the factors that go into making a website and whether WordPress is better than Squarespace or vice versa. There are a bunch of other DIY website builders but for the sake of this article, we'll limit it to the largest (and arguably best).
Price and ongoing maintenance
This is by far the biggest win for Squarespace. The pricing ranges from $12 - $40 a month and covers everything from hosting to domain to SSL certificates. We pay more than that for hosting alone (granted we do have a number of very fast servers).
A WordPress site is at a minimum going to start around $2500 to build out. Sure, you can get hungry amateurs or you nephew to do it cheaper, but much like I wouldn't trust a cheap lock to keep burglars out, I wouldn't trust a cheap website to sustain my business. On top of that there are ongoing maintenance costs that come with using a CMS like WordPress. Depending on how tech savvy you are and if you need backups, plugin upgrades, or other services you're going to increase your bill.
Ease of use
Getting started on Squarespace is also insanely easy. Sign up, enter your domain, and start building. Compare that to researching hosting, purchasing a domain and setting up DNS records in addition to installing WordPress.
In terms of building your site, Squarespace also has a great website builder that is very intuitive to use. However, in recent years the WordPress community has made great strives in the right direction of usability and has definitely closed the gap. With plugins like Visual Composer, Beaver Builder, and themes like Divi, editing a site is pretty simple.
This a close call in terms of overall use, but because of the easy setup:
Squarespace templates are really well designed. They look great, they don't come off to "themey," and they have a superb font selection that really works great for sites. That said, some of their designs rely pretty heavily on images and without the right image (or a very well photoshopped one) the overall site design may lose its luster.
I've seen some of the most beautiful sites running on WordPress and some that are just plain shameful. Luckily, the massive amount of themes (way more than Squarespace could dream of having) available for WordPress make a great starting point for a good design.
Both of these systems still require a good eye and the real factor here is the designer.
Customization and extending
Squarespace gives you a good amount of control over your site and even allows developers to create templates and plugins for it. There are more third party templates popping up lately, but they are a bit pricey compared to their WordPress counterparts, especially given the amount of content provided with each.
WordPress on the other hand has a gigantic community with hundreds of thousands of free and premium themes and plugins. Marketplaces like Themeforest have really driven up the amount of themes and plugins available to WordPress users and provide incentives for developers to put out new products.
On top of that WordPress is open source and self-hosted, meaning you have full access to the code and can make your site do just about anything you can do in PHP. Why is that important? Maybe you're using a third party payment gateway (i.e. not Stripe or PayPal). WordPress most likely already offers a plugin for it, but if they don't it's always an option to develop one.
Scalability and growth
I'll be the first to tell you that there are better options for scaling than WordPress and I'll usually push people in the direction of Ruby on Rails or Django for larger web applications or sites that get a significant amount of page views. So when I say that Squarespace doesn't scale as well WordPress, it means something.
One of the most immediate issues that people face when scaling is site speed. The fastest fix to this is usually switching to a better host. While this is a relatively easy task to do with a WordPress site, it's not even an option in Squarespace. Everyone is on the same hosting and while it's not the worst, it's definitely not the quality you'd get from your own VPS or dedicated host.
Growing your business may also require customizing existing functionality. Maybe you have memberships that are dependent on custom rules or require a third-party API to sign customers in. Similar to above, this may put you in a deadlock situation if you're on Squarespace.
Squarespace has gotten much better about not locking users into their site, however there is something that still really gets to me about not having full ownership over a site. Maybe it's the lack of portability or inability to access raw database information that may be needed, but it's something that would prevent me from ever hosting my own business ventures there.
Deciding on WordPress for your small business or Squarespace comes down to one thing in my mind. How much is your business making and how much do you expect it to grow?
If your business is not yet making you money, there is nothing wrong with testing the waters on Squarespace and it is definitely the cheaper option for many DIYers. To take that a step further, if you don't have around $3000 to put towards a site, hosting, and maintenance then you might want to wait until you do. Spending $1000 or less for a professional website will turn out... unprofessional.
But if your business is making money and you'd like to continue growing it, I would lean towards getting your own site professionally done.
Questions? Leave us a comment below!