I have a dirty little secret – I have been blogging on Squarespace. Whaaaa? Ok. Let me tell you why! 🙂 While I am a WordPress evangelist, the truth is that I want to make sure I’m giving good advice. If you are better off using Squarespace vs WordPress for your website then I’ll give it you straight. Therefore, to feel good about myself and where I lead people, I had to do my due diligence and see what Squarespace was all about. I also didn’t just want to spend an hour or two clicking through the menu options, I believe you learn best by doing so that’s why I signed up and started a new blog over at Squarespace.
I will say that I’m still pretty fresh to Squarespace but after setting up my blog and going through their support forums, I think I can give a pretty good comparisons of the two blogging platforms for those looking to blog or use one of these two options for their business website.
In this post I’m going to compare the basic setup of Sqaurespace vs WordPress and then go into detail about some commonly used features for bloggers and website owners to equip you with some knowledge when choosing which platform will work best for you!
Note that I am comparing a self hosted WordPress website as opposed to a WordPress site hosted by WordPress.com because that’s the most similar comparison.
Before I jump into the features and options available for Squarespace and WordPress, I should briefly set the scene of these two blogging platforms.
WordPress is an open source blogging platform. There is a company responsible for updating the software but anyone can contribute to it. Also, ANYONE can make plugins, and ANYONE can make themes and they can do it all for free. Plus, you can sync WordPress to other parts of a business system using an ipaas (Integration Platform as a Service) if that is something you’re interested in doing. While you have some default behaviour with WordPress, you can extend that behaviour with a plugin and these plugins can be added to all themes.
WordPress has been around much longer than Sqaurespace and because of the fact that anyone can easily develop for WordPress, there is a very large community which surrounds WordPress. Lots of developers means that there are a plethora of themes to choose from for layout and design plus thousands of plugins to add functionality.
If you are looking to build a custom website, there are definitely more WordPress developers than Squarespace developers. Also WordPress still claims to power about 20% of the web.
Squarespace isn’t open source which means that only Squarespace developers have access to the software, contribute to it and you have a limited number of themes to choose from on the basic account (perhaps more flexible to customize them to make them whatever you want to be – I’ll get there). If a developer wants to make a theme for Squarespace or make an add-on then you need to signup for an account and then register for a Developer account having met criteria. Right now you are depending on the Squarespace template for all your functionality since there aren’t really any widely available add-ons.
While Squarespace doesn’t have as many templates or any add-ons, this can also make Squarespace easier to use since there aren’t a lot of options 🙂
Now, here is a snapshot of Google trends for WordPress vs Squarespace in the United States. The first screenshot are the trends for the past year and the one below is for the past two years. It’s a little unclear to make out a “trend” but WordPress definitely has a stronghold in terms of popularity.
Trend from past TWO years…
PRICE & HOSTING
Squarespace websites are hosted by Sqaurespace. You signup for Squarespace account and they host your website ($8/month for a basic account and $18/month for more options including custom themes).
To host your own WordPress website, you need to purchase as website host ($4-$30+/month) then it’s free to install WordPress (Siteground is what I recommend for hosting).
Price is very comparable between the two. At $8/month for Squarespace you are limited to 20 pages (unlimited blog posts) and can’t upload a custom theme. At $4/month for WordPress, you will likely have to install backup and security plugins (all of which are free – but takes some time to download and setup).
Now, because you host WordPress yourself, people may say that you “own” your content vs Squarespace. This doesn’t seem accurate to me. You are free to export your content from Sqaurespace and upload it into WordPress or vice versa. Therefore, you aren’t going to be *stuck* on either platform and you always own your content no matter where you host.
A Sqaurespace server can crash and a WordPress hosted server can crash. Sqaurespace can close it doors and prevent access and your host can close it doors and prevent access (which is SOOOOO unlikely without ample warning).
WordPress.org has documentation and a support forum that you can post to where the community are responsible to reply. You are likely to received a reply more quickly on a WordPress forum just because the community is bigger and a related question is more likely to appear on their larger forum. Also note that your hosting company will be able to answer questions about WordPress. You can email them, live chat them or get a person on the phone who will know something about WordPress. Most web hosts even advertise WordPress support and it’s often 24 hours. However, for support relating to a theme or plugin, you’ll have to track down the author and submit a ticket to them.
Squarespace also has documentation and a discussion forum to post questions to. I the Sqaurespace forum is easier to navigate because users can vote up replies to the “best answer”. Also, their search seems to be better. You can also email and live chat the dedicated Squarespace support staff (during business hours). It’s all handy that all their themes will all be supported by Squarespace staff.
Templates / Themes
Squarespace has 14 templates the categorize under “business” template and 6 that they categorize under “blog”. Now, even though there seems to a limited amount of templates to choose from, you should know that you can adjust column widths and there is a lot of flexibility around page layout (I will talk more about this later).
WordPress has thousands upon thousands of themes made by developers everywhere. Now, I will say that free themes from WordPress.org often don’t have a certain level of design aesthetic. However, if you go onto Creative Market or Theme Forest, there are SO many great themes for $40-$60 and really, thousands of options.
Customizing Your Theme or Template
Both Squarespace templates and good WordPress themes will give you the option to customize colours, fonts and upload your own logo.
Both Squarespace and WordPress have the ability to add photos, video and quotes to your content. Both can also have code embedded on the page.
The really brilliant part about Squarespace are “content blocks” and the ability to drag and drop content around the page. You can easily create columns on a page, places images and text where you like, show latest blog posts, add a newsletter signup form and add a call-to-action button.
Squarespace Content Blocks
Squarespace Drag and Drop functionality
By default, the WordPress editor doesn’t give you the the ability to drag and drop content or create columns. However, you can certainly achieve the same functionality in WordPress by installing a plugin. Free plugin options are Page Builder by Site Origin, Beaver Builder and Live Composer. Paid plugin options are the Divi Builder and Visual Composer.
The Divi Builder for WordPress
Basically, it’s easy to customize both Squarespace and WordPress. From what I can tell, people find Squarespace to be more user friendly. It was honestly hard for me to tell much difference but perhaps that’s because I know WordPress so well. For new bloggers, the fact that Squarespace has a drag and drop editor without installing a plugin is a HUGE plus and I think this where people stray from WordPress.
Up to this point, I can see why people would choose Squarespace over WordPress. You can get up and running faster with Squarespace. Yes, you may be paying more for a Squarespace website but you will be saving a bit of money not having to purchase a theme. WordPress will definitely have a TUN more themes to choose from but if you like what Squarespace has for templates and you want to change the layout of a page, you will have an easier time with Squarespace.
Now I’m going to dig a bit deeper and compare other functionality and options. It’s likely somewhere in here that someone might decide that WordPress is a better option or end up switching to WordPress when they want to do more on Squarespace but can’t. …
Newsletter Signup Form
Both Squarespace and WordPress allow you to do a code injection on a page, post or in your sidebar. This means that you can integrate Convertkit, MailChimp, InfusionSoft, Mad Mini, etc. These email services all give you code that you can copy and paste into your site.
With Squarespace, there is also a pre-built newsletter block that you can integrate with Mailchimp only. Also, it only allows for a first name, last name and email field so if you would like to collect more info on signup you will have to use a code injection.
Squarespace Newsletter Signup Form
With WordPress, there are also a tun of plugins for all email apps to create newsletter signup forms. In addition, many of these plugins include extra features like tracking conversion rates and more advanced customizations (design options, custom messages, redirection, etc).
WordPress Plugin: Easy forms for Mailchimp
In WordPress, there literally 1,000+ Free Pop-up plugins in the WordPress plugin directory right now. You can have total control over design, when the popup (x seconds, % scroll, exit intent), which pages, behaviour, etc. There are also a tun of plugins that will slide in or sit at the bottom of your page.
No popup form exist specifically for Squarespace but you can use code injections to add code from 3rd Party software. Optin Monster ($49+ /year) has code that you can copy and paste into Sqaurespace for pop-up forms, slide in forms, etc. SumoMe (free or $40+/year) also has code that you can copy and paste into Squarespace.
SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION (SEO)
Squarespace has some built in functionality for SEO. You can edit your site’s title and description plus edit the title format. You can edit the short description for every page and by default the search engine will grab the excerpt for the post or the first couple of lines of the post.
Is Squarespace BAD for SEO? Definitely not. It doesn’t prevent your content from getting indexed by google or hurt your SEO score in any way.
Snippet of the SEO options for Squarespace
For WordPress, the long running king of SEO plugins is Yoast SEO plugin. Yoast SEO allows you to edit all the same options as Squarespace PLUS more added help when you want to target keywords. Here is a snapshot of what Yoast is telling me for this page right now if I wanted to target “WordPress vs Squarespace”. I like the quick check and I like that I can edit the snippet that shows up in google search results. If you find SEO to be quite daunting and really want to utilize it but are not sure how you want it to specifically fit your website, you can contact a freelance SEO consultant to help you, like Daniel Foley who specializes in this area. Researching what works best for you will help you feel more secure in how your website is being seen and searched.
Also with Yoast, I can easily prevent pages from being index by Google which is handy for thank you pages or pages with freebies that people are redirect to on signup.
SOCIAL MEDIA INTEGRATIONS
Social Media Share Buttons
WordPress has no shortage of share button plugins. You can conceivably place social media share buttons anywhere around your post, have them float to the side, customize the buttons and keep stats.
Squarespace has built-in share buttons that allow you to share to all the popular social media platforms. You can select which social media platforms you want enabled. Styling depends on the theme. Add this is a 3rd party app that you can use if you copy and paste code into your site that will allow you to place share buttons in other places of the page and track clicks.
Squarespace also has a built in Pin-it button feature that you can enable/disable.
For WordPress, you need to use a Pin-it button plugin (again, there are several). With a WordPress Pin-it Button plugin you can totally customize the look of the button, where it appears on hover and for what size of image is should appear.
You can create a resource library by password protecting a page and then sharing that password will all signups. An alternative would be to create a Simple Membership site if you don’t want everyone to share the same password (see Simple Membership plugin – several other membership plugins).
You can also password protect a page with Squarespace and use that as your resource library page but can’t create a membership site.
If you are a food blogger, there are a few widely used plugins that will format your recipe, allow for proper printing, offer tuns of display options and searching options (by ingredient, etc). Really, A LOT of neat features. To learn more about recipe plugins you can read my post: WordPress Recipe Plugins for Bloggers.
Looks like there might be one 3rd Party solution where you can inject code into your site but no squarespace add-on.
On the basic membership, you can only have two contributors for your blog. If you want more, you will have to pay for a Business account ($18+/month). Also, it will depend on the theme if the author name will show, if you can display all posts by the author and if an author bio can be added to the bottom of the post. Right now I only saw 1 template that will do all 3.
You can have as many contributors as you want to your blog and you can also set different permissions for each. Whether the site will display info about the author will also depend on the theme but you there are a number of plugins that you can use to display their bio, create a page that lists all blog authors and you can always display posts written by each author.
WordPress has a TUN of widgets that you can add to your sidebar to help people navigate through your website, highlight posts, place ads or show off your social media. You have a number of widgets already available with every WordPress site that will display your categories, search box, tag cloud, etc but in addition, you can install plugins to add so much more. You can display feeds from instagram, twitter, facebook, etc. You can show off a calendar of events. You use an ad manager plugin to keep track of your ads. See 21 WordPress Widgets for your Sidebar for some of my favourite sidebar ideas.
You can insert a number of pre-built blocks in your sidebar. Similar to WordPress, you can display categories, tags and search. It also comes with it’s own twitter feed and newsletter block.
Lots of plugins to handle ecommerce. Some of the more popular ones are WooCommerce for digital and physical goods and Easy Digital Downloads for digital goods.
Sqaurespace was initially developed as an eCommerce solution so they have this capability. You will have to pay for a business account to sell several products and uses Stripe for payment processing.
No membership capabilities
Lots of plugin options
You can create an online course with a Learning Management plugin that can organize your lessons, modules, assignments, users and accept payment.
Doesn’t have the ability to create online courses.
OTHER NOTABLE WORDPESS PLUGINS…
- Revive Old Posts (automatically schedule to tweet old posts to twitter).
- Click to Tweet
- Social Locker (unlock content with a fb like or tweet)
- Facebook Comments for WordPress (place comments with your facebook login and option to share on fb)
- Shortcodes Ultimate (add tabs, accordion, tables, etc to content).
- Events Calendar
- Easy FancyBox (lightbox popup when you click on image or video)
- Instagram Feed
Hopefully I’ve given you some more insight into the two platforms. Right now when someone asks me what they should use to throw up a simple website for their business then I likely guide them to Squarespace. I really like the templates they have available for business and the fact that it’s all hosted is a perfect solution to get up and running fast.
For a blogger, I would have to consider how much they want to customize and what they might want to do with the site in the future. I’ve seen a lot of blog posts about how easy it is to customize Squarespace which is true for setting up your initial colours and fonts but what happens when you want to customize a Pin-it Button? Social Share Buttons? Pop-ups? … Not so easy. Then, if you might want to add events, accept guest posts, create a membership section or create a course then all those things will be impossible to do with Squarespace.
I’ll reiterate again… With WordPress, you can pick out a theme and then extend that functionality with thousands of plugins. With Squarespace, all your functionality comes from your template. The only way to extend it’s functionality is to create custom code or find 3rd party apps that allow you to embed their code in your site.
Really, it’s not the end of the world if you switch from one to the other. Both allow you to export and import your content so don’t be too worried about making the wrong decision. No matter how many posts or facebook discussion you read, you won’t have it fully figured out so take your best guess, get going on one! 🙂