Squarespace vs WordPress — Which is the Best Website Builder?
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In this Squarespace vs WordPress comparison, I’m going to look at two of the world’s leading web building platforms in depth. Which is best for your business?
In this deep dive into Squarespace vs WordPress, you’ll learn:
- all about what both tools can do
- how easy they are to use
- what their key pros and cons are
- how much it costs to use both platforms
- what the best alternatives are
By the end of the article, you’ll have a much clearer idea of which platform is best suited to your project, or whether you’d be better off using a different website builder.
Let’s start with a key question…
What is Squarespace?
Squarespace is a ‘software as a service’ (‘SaaS’) website builder — you pay a monthly fee to use it, but everything you need to build and maintain your site is provided as part of that, including
a content management system (CMS)
a domain name (if needed).
Recently, a built-in email marketing tool, ‘Squarespace Email Campaigns’ was also added to Squarespace’s feature set, further emphasising this ‘all-in-one’ approach.
The main idea behind Squarespace is that it’s a ‘code-free’ solution that makes it possible to construct and edit a website without needing to go near any CSS or HTML (that said, it is possible to add code to a Squarespace site if you want to — more on that later).
Squarespace was founded in 2004, and according to Builtwith.com, there are approximately 2.7 million live websites built with the platform.
What is WordPress?
There are two different versions of WordPress available:
Let’s take a look at each.
Hosted WordPress — available at wordpress.com — is, like Squarespace, a software as a service (SaaS) website builder.
As with Squarespace, you pay a monthly fee and you get access to a broad range of features which enable you to build and maintain a website.
(A free version of hosted WordPress is also available — but using this means adverts being displayed on your site).
Hosted WordPress is slightly less of an ‘all in one’ solution than Squarespace however, as users need to use third party tools like Ecwid, WooCommerce or Shopify to add e-commerce features — and using the most attractive themes involves an additional fee (all the Squarespace templates, by contrast, are included with your monthly fee).
On the flip side, this makes it a more flexible tool than Squarespace, because you can integrate it with many more apps, or buy more templates for it.
Self-hosted WordPress is a piece of software (downloadable from wordpress.org) that you install on your own web server. It’s open source, meaning that the code behind it is freely available and may be modified easily.
In practice this means that sites built with WordPress can be customised to a very large degree — it’s an extremely flexible tool that, in the hands of the right development team, or through the installation of a suitable plugin, can be adapted to meet the requirements of just about any website design project.
You can install WordPress on your server for free, but there are hosting costs, domain name registration charges and occasionally plugin or development costs to consider. I’ll discuss all these in more depth later on in the review.
In terms of the number of people using hosted WordPress vs self-hosted WordPress, it’s surprisingly difficult to get a breakdown on that. But Builtwith.com statistics indicate that around 28 million sites in total are powered by WordPress and that 38% of all sites use it as a content management system.
Who are Squarespace and WordPress aimed at?
It’s probably fair to say that Squarespace’s core audience is comprised of users without web development skills.
As mentioned above, the key idea behind Squarespace is that anyone can use the platform to make their own website, without needing to code at all.
This leads to a ‘walled garden’ approach, where everything is very tightly locked down in order to:
create a user-friendly interface
avoid scenarios where Squarespace users manage to ‘break’ an aspect of their site
preserve the quality of the templates.
Like Squarespace, WordPress can also cater for users without web development skills — it is certainly possible to create and maintain a WordPress site without resorting to coding.
I’d argue however that in many cases, more configuration of WordPress is needed before you can publish a website — and that setting up a WordPress site involves a steeper learning curve.
Due to its open-source nature, WordPress is also geared towards another audience: users who wish to use the platform to create an extensively-customised website with much more functionality than is available from Squarespace.
So which versions of Squarespace and WordPress is this post comparing?
This Squarespace vs WordPress comparison is going to compare Squarespace vs the self-hosted version of WordPress.
The aim behind this is to allow readers to compare an ‘all-in-one’, pay-monthly hosted solution (Squarespace) to an open-source platform that is more powerful, but requires more hands-on configuration (WordPress).
How much do Squarespace and WordPress cost to use?
It’s fairly easy to understand Squarespace pricing — there are four main plans available:
Personal — $16 per month
Business — $26 per month
Commerce Basic — $35 per month
Commerce Advanced — $54 per month
These plans work out significantly cheaper if you pay on an annual basis (coming at $12, $18, $26 and $40 per month respectively).
A two-week free trial of Squarespace is also available (with an extension available upon request) — you can access this trial here.
The main differences between the Squarespace plans involve:
- e-commerce features
- whether you can add custom CSS and scripts
- transaction fees
- integration with certain third-party apps
The ‘Personal’ plan is quite restrictive and is not terribly well suited to business applications — this is because it doesn’t facilitate e-commerce, restricts your ability to add custom CSS and other code to your site and doesn’t facilitate integrations with other apps.
This means that realistically, if you’re interested in using Squarespace, and have aspirations to create something professional, you’ll probably need to go for the $26 per month plan or higher.
As you might expect, the more expensive Squarespace plans come with more features. — particularly where e-commerce is concerned.
(I highlight some key ones later in this comparison, but for a more in-depth overview of the differences between each Squarespace pricing plan, please see our full Squarespace review or our guide to Squarespace pricing).
If you pay on a yearly basis for your Squarespace plan, you’ll get a free custom domain name too (but you should note that not all domain name extensions are catered for).
“Hey, WordPress is free” I hear you say.
Well no, not exactly, because despite its open source nature, to get WordPress working properly you need to pay for other stuff.
There are 5 things that you will generally need to pay for:
hosting (server space on which to install WordPress and store your site)
themes (the design for your site)
e-commerce integration (i.e., an add-on that will let you sell products online)
WordPress plugins (apps that can be added to your site to add more functionality)
a developer (optional, but you’ll usually get a much better result if you hire one).
The one thing you’ll always have to pay for hosting: without it you have nowhere to install WordPress.
There are a wide range of options available on this front, but the key choice you’ll have to make is whether you’d like to use a ‘shared hosting’ company like Hostpapa or a ‘managed WordPress’ provider such as Kinsta that specialises exclusively in WordPress hosting.
The latter type of hosting is considerably faster and more secure — but also rather more expensive.
Depending on what you opt for, you’re typically looking at costs of between
- $4 per month (based on Hostpapa costs) and
- $30 per month (based on Kinsta costs)
to get started with a small business website.
With regard to the other factors, you can technically get away with using a free WordPress theme, e-commerce integration, and plugins — but realistically, to get higher quality results it’s usually going to mean investing a bit in your site.
Below you’ll find some figures which demonstrate some costs you might expect if you were building your site yourself:
- Hosting, using managed WordPress hosting from Kinsta as an example: $360 per year (recurring cost).
- Premium theme: $175
- E-commerce integration (using Ecwid as an example): $180 per year (recurring cost)
- 4 paid-for WordPress plugins: $100
- A WordPress maintenance service (to keep your site up to date with all the latest plugin, theme and WordPress updates): $50 per month.
If you were to use a WordPress developer to help you configure, build and maintain your site, you’d have significantly higher costs (but would be getting a better product).
In terms of how these sorts of costs compare to using Squarespace, depending on what sort of plan you’re on, and whether you pay annually or not, you’re looking at a cost of between $144 and $648 per year with Squarespace.
This means that using Squarespace can actually work out cheaper than using WordPress, despite it being a paid-for option and WordPress being the ‘free,’ open source one.
But there are a LOT of variables involved, and it depends very much on the project in question.
Pricing, of course, is just one part of the picture — and not necessarily the most important one!
So, let’s continue our Squarespace vs WordPress deep dive by looking at two other really important things: ease of use and interface.
Ease of use and interface
The Squarespace interface is very easy to use and its style editor makes it straightforward to change basic template design elements — font colours, heading sizes and so on.
You just point at the design elements you want to change, and click some controls to change them.
Editing content is similarly straightforward in Squarespace: it’s simply a case of locating the content you want to change, clicking an ‘edit’ button, and tweaking it accordingly.
A drag and drop editor makes it easy to lay out your content the way you want to — you can drag text and image blocks around a page, or drop content from other sections of your site into it too (for example images from galleries, or summaries of blog posts).
Once a WordPress site is set up, it’s by no means difficult to maintain either. Depending on what hosting provider you plump for, setup and configuration can be a bit fiddly, but once you’re up and running you’ll find that the WordPress content management system (CMS) is easy-to-use and very responsive.
The main difference between the WordPress and Squarespace approaches to content management is, in my view, to do with on-page editing.
With Squarespace, you can just go to the page you’d like to tweak and click on a bit of content to edit it: you’ll then see your edits in context on the page, as you make them.
In WordPress — out of the box at least — you have to edit the page in the back end and preview or publish it before you see your changes.
But as with much else in WordPress, if you’re prepared to put a little bit of time and research into configuration, it’s possible to tweak things to suit your workflow: there are quite a lot of front end ‘visual editor’ plugins / tools available that you can make use of to add a more ‘Squarespacey’ approach to content management.
You need to be careful with these however, as some of them can slow your site down considerably — which in turn can negatively affect its performance in search results.
It’s worth pointing out here that the recent introduction of WordPress’ ‘Gutenberg’ editor — which makes use of content blocks and a drag and drop approach to layout — has led to content editing moving in a more Squarespace-style direction in WordPress anyway.
Whilst not as flexible as Squarespace’s layout engine, Gutenberg does nonetheless let move content around the page quite easily.
So, on balance I’d say that most website editing newbies might feel more at home slightly quicker with Squarespace, but the learning curve involved with the WordPress CMS is not particularly steep.
Now, let’s take a look at templates.
A way to save money on Squarespace
If you’re interested in using Squarespace as your website builder, the company is currently offering 10% off its plans. This can amount to quite a saving, especially if you opt for one of its ‘commerce’ plans.
This discount is available for a limited time only – to avail of it,
- Grab a free trial on the Squarespace website using this link.
- Enter the code STYLEFACTORY10 when purchasing a plan.
Quantity and quality
Squarespace templates are undeniably pretty, often outclassing those available from competing hosted website builder platforms like Wix or Jimdo.
There are around 130 Squarespace templates currently available — you can browse them all here.
This number is generous enough, but pales in comparison to the vast number available for WordPress.
Although it’s hard to put a precise figure on the number of WordPress themes in existence, its massive user base and open source heritage means that we can confidently talk about thousands, both free and paid-for.
These are available from the official WordPress theme directory, or various third-party websites (such as Template Monster or Theme Forest).
It’s probably fair to say that Squarespace templates are a little bit easier to customize, due to the ‘point, click and change’ interface, but tweaking a well-constructed WordPress theme shouldn’t involve that much of a learning curve.
One slightly frustrating thing about Squarespace templates that’s worth dwelling on for a moment involves sidebars. In the latest version of Squarespace, none of the templates allow you to add one! I guess the thinking here is that so many people use mobile devices these days that sidebars have become a bit redundant.
However, for blogs aimed at a business audience — a large portion of which uses desktop devices — this is rather frustrating, because sidebars are great for embedding e-newsletter sign up forms, showing ads, highlighting popular posts etc.
Workarounds do exist, however. For example, you can add this useful third-party Squarespace sidebar plugin to your site.
Alternatively, you can insert Squarespace content blocks on the side of each blog post so that a sidebar is effectively created. But you’ll have to do this for each post, which is a bit of a pain.
By contrast in WordPress — depending on the template — you can do all manner of wonderful things with sidebars.
So for me, WordPress is ultimately the winner in a template shoot-out: the sheer quantity of themes available, along with the flexibility of features they contain, ensures users will always have plenty of high quality options to choose from.
However, you should always source your WordPress theme from a reputable source — some themes can contain malicious code which can compromise the security of your site.
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Performance on mobile
All Squarespace templates are responsive, meaning that they will all adjust themselves automatically so that they are sized correctly for any device.
In this day and age, it isn’t at all hard to locate a responsive WordPress theme, but you will need to double check its suitability across devices before installing it.
One thing I really like about Squarespace’s approach to content on mobile devices is that it’s easy to show your blog content in AMP (‘Accelerated Mobile Pages’) format.
AMP is a Google-backed project which drastically speeds up the loading of your pages on mobile devices by stripping out certain bits of code.
Using AMP means:
- more people may access your content (web users routinely abandon slow loading pages on mobile)
- you may experience a slight bump in search results (Google sometimes prioritises AMP content in various ways)
Turning on AMP in Squarespace is simply a matter of ticking a box in your site settings; currently you can only present blog posts in AMP format, but it’s a good start.
It’s perfectly possible to use AMP on WordPress too — and, importantly, you can use it across all page types, not just blog posts (which makes it technically better than the Squarespace AMP offering).
Again, it involves more configuration and/or installation of plugins, but ultimately the AMP functionality you get in WordPress can be better than what’s available in Squarespace.
Content management and blogging
When it comes to content management in a Squarespace vs WordPress shootout, WordPress wins comprehensively.
There are four main reasons for this.
First, and most importantly in my view, WordPress provides version history functionality — multiple versions of pages and posts can be stored on the system and you can roll back to any of them at any point.
(You can also restore backups of your entire WordPress site).
Squarespace, presumably in a bid to save on web hosting costs and resources, does not permit you to do this.
Squarespace doesn’t even facilitate an autosave feature, which is a pretty big omission. I’ve been bitten loads of times over the years by this when editing blog posts, losing work unnecessarily as a result of lost connections or computer crashes.
Second, in WordPress, you can toggle between HTML and WYSIWYG when editing your content; although you can add ‘code blocks’ in Squarespace, you are not given direct access to the main HTML behind your pages and posts.
Third, WordPress gives you a proper media library that you can use to store, access and edit your images and documents. This makes it easy to locate and re-use existing content in your site.
Although Squarespace is making some improvements in this area (thanks to the release of a new ‘image re-use’ feature), it doesn’t yet offer a similar tool for managing and updating files.
Finally, WordPress allows you to use categories and tags more flexibly than Squarespace (you can also create your own custom content types in WordPress). This allows you to present your site content in more relevant ways to users, who can also filter it more easily to meet their requirements.
So what does this mean in practice?
Well, let’s say you run a car review website. With WordPress, you could use parent categories, categories, tags and custom content types to offer readers the option to browse reviews by car make, model, trim and rating.
With Squarespace you’d be limited to offering reviews by category and tag — meaning users could only browse by make and model.
Exporting content from Squarespace to WordPress
Squarespace has made it possible to export content in WordPress XML format. This is helpful because it allows people to test a project out on Squarespace before investing more in WordPress.
Not all types of content can be exported from Squarespace to WordPress, but you can export key things like blog posts, static pages, and images.
Flexibility is where WordPress really beats Squarespace.
Although Squarespace does come with a lot of useful features out of the box, it is a fairly ‘locked-down’, walled-garden system.
By contrast, you can use WordPress to pretty much create any sort of site you like. This can be done either by installing some WordPress plugins to your site or commissioning a developer to code something for you.
With regard to WordPress plugins, there are loads available (around 59,000) which can be used to add functionality to your site.
Whether you’d like to add e-commerce, display a sophisticated photo gallery, capture data or show customer reviews, you’ll find that there is an enormous range of plugins available to help you. They are usually fairly easily installed and updated.
If you can’t find a WordPress plugin that meets your requirements, or wish to create a truly bespoke website, then you can always commission a WordPress developer to help you (given the popularity of WordPress as a platform, there are plenty of them about).
A WordPress developer can help you craft a truly unique site that involves your own template and functionality rather than those of a third party.
There are a few ways to significantly enhance Squarespace’s functionality too though.
First, there are several built-in integrations you can use (for well-known services including Mailchimp, Dropbox and Google Workspace). You can use these on all Squarespace plans except the ‘Personal’ one.
Second, Squarespace recently introduced something called ‘extensions.’ These are similar to WordPress plugins in that they add features and are easy to install. Currently, the functionality these provide largely involves accounting, order fulfilment and label printing.
At the moment however, there aren’t a huge number of Squarespace extensions available — around 25.
Finally, as the Squarespace userbase has grown, developers have started to sell snippets of code which enhance the functionality of Squarespace sites. These are increasingly referred to as ‘Squarespace plugins’ — and although they’re not quite as simple to install as WordPress plugins, they’re reasonably easy to work with and can add some brilliant features to your site. We’ve recently made some of these available for sale in our Squarespace plugins store.
If you’d like to go beyond the addition of custom code to your Squarespace site, you could commission a Squarespace developer to extend its functionality. Although he or she will still face constraints that are part and parcel of Squarespace, there is still a reasonable number of interesting things you can do to a Squarespace site via the addition of scripts and custom code.
Finally on the subject of flexibility, and to be fair to Squarespace, you could argue that the visual aspects of the sites you create with it are more immediately flexible than in WordPress.
You can tweak site visuals and the layout of pages easily in Squarespace — its style and drag and drop editors make it very easy to present your site content exactly the way you want to.
Depending on how you’ve configured your WordPress site, and whether or not some sort of visual editor is being used, you may find it a little bit trickier to adjust the layout of your template ‘on the fly’.
Suitability for large or complex sites
Although Squarespace can often work really well for small businesses, it’s not really the best solution for big corporates — especially if you’re planning to build a very large, complex business website.
This is because the platform doesn’t really facilitate deep website hierarchies — it limits you to just two levels of navigation, which results in a very ‘flat’ website structure.
Now in many ways, a flat structure for your site is a good idea, because it can make the site a lot easier to use and its content considerably more discoverable.
But for some businesses, particularly large organisations, or those offering a very wide variety of services and resources, a deep hierarchy does become a key requirement for a website build.
Because this is a difficult thing to create in Squarespace, I’d usually recommend using WordPress over it for any website requiring multiple layers of navigation.
In this scenario, however, you would need to ensure that you select a WordPress template that facilitates multiple levels of navigation (or enlist a WordPress developer who can create one for you).
In the COVID-19 era, e-commerce has become a particularly important piece of functionality — because many physical businesses have been forced to turn to selling their products online.
Accordingly, it’s a key topic for discussion in a Squarespace vs WordPress comparison.
So how do WordPress and Squarespace compare on this front?
Well, Squarespace comes with a pretty nifty e-commerce system built in. It’s great for a lot of applications, with key features including:
- a user-friendly shopping cart system
- the ability to sell an unlimited number of products
- the ability to sell physical goods, digital goods, services and subscriptions
- a 0% transaction fee (so long as you’re on a ‘Commerce’ plan)
- automatic abandoned cart recovery (on ‘Commerce Advanced’ plan)
- gift cards and discount codes
- point-of-sale functionality (US only)
- a new ‘pay-to-access’ members area that you can use to sell courses or (note: additional fees apply)
You can learn more about all these e-commerce features here.
It does have its limitations however:
- It doesn’t facilitate multi-currency payments (probably the most serious omission)
- Automatic tax rate conversion is only available in the US
- Although Squarespace facilitates payments via Paypal, major credit cards and Apple Pay, it doesn’t support Google Pay yet.
In essence, although you get a reasonably good range of e-commerce features with Squarespace, it’s not yet quite as good as dedicated e-commerce solutions like Shopify or BigCommerce.
But if your needs are simple, and you’re happy to sell in one currency only, you’ll probably love Squarespace e-commerce — it’s really easy to use, works well and you can start building lovely product pages really quickly with it.
One thing to watch out for though with Squarespace’s e-commerce functionality is that it doesn’t allow you to export digital products (and places limits on the number of products and variants you can export — if you’ve got a huge inventory, Squarespace might not be for you).
But all in all, for a lot of users, the Squarespace e-commerce functionality is undeniably good — for creating simple catalogues and attractive product pages with a minimum of fuss, it’s hard to beat.
WordPress doesn’t come with a built-in e-commerce tool, but thanks to the wide range of plugins available for it, it’s very straightforward to add comprehensive online retailing functionality to a WordPress site. Popular choices include Ecwid and WooCommerce; well-known e-commerce platform BigCommerce now offers a WordPress plugin too.
All these solutions have e-commerce functionality that tends to outclass that provided by Squarespace — but in some cases come with a slightly steeper learning curve.
Ultimately I’d argue that with WordPress, you’ll be able to avail of more sophisticated e-commerce functionality. This will take a bit of effort of course — so Squarespace’s out-of-the box approach will suit a lot of users wishing to get a simple online store off the ground quickly.
Data capture and forms
Squarespace allows you to add attractive data capture forms to your site very easily.
These allow you to capture a pretty wide range of information, but it’s important to note that Squarespace forms do not currently facilitate file uploads, which is frustrating.
The data captured by Squarespace forms can be
emailed to an address you specify
added to a Google Sheet
sent to Mailchimp
connected to Zapier for integration with other apps.
If you are capturing email addresses — with a view to sending e-newsletters to subscribers — you can keep the data within Squarespace and use it to email subscribers using Squarespace’s new ‘Email Campaigns’ feature (more on this in a moment).
The Google Sheet and Mailchimp integrations are unquestionably useful, given the popularity of these two tools‚ but it would be nice if direct integrations were available with other apps.
Thousands of potential Squarespace users make use of the likes of GetResponse, AWeber, Campaign Monitor and so on — and although you can use Zapier or Squarespace’s code blocks to integrate those services, it’s just not as straightforward as the Mailchimp / Google Sheets integration.
Additionally, if you’re adding forms to a Squarespace site via code blocks, you’ll need to mess about with CSS to make the resulting forms look as pretty as the standard Squarespace forms.
WordPress, by contrast, allows you to integrate all of these services easily — you’ll need a plugin like the fabulous Gravity Forms to help you but once you’ve set it up, you’ll benefit from a rock-solid integration with all the major e-marketing solutions, plus additional functionality (conditional logic, confirmation emails, file uploads, entry limits, hidden fields) that Squarespace doesn’t provide.
One thing I definitely don’t like about forms in Squarespace is that you can’t just create one form and insert it on any page you like — every time you want to insert a form, you have to create a new one.
(WordPress just lets you create reusable forms that can be inserted anywhere you like).
As with a lot else in Squarespace and WordPress, it’s easier to get going with data capture in Squarespace — but the options available to you are more extensive in WordPress.
Now, let’s look at a related issue — sending e-newsletters.
Squarespace recently introduced a new feature for which there isn’t really a WordPress equivalent: built-in email marketing.
(This is increasingly common in the website builder market — Shopify and Wix also now bundle email marketing with their offerings, in a bid to appeal to users who like to manage multiple parts of their business using just one platform).
It’s called ‘Squarespace Email Campaigns’ and it allows you to use Squarespace to design and send HTML e-newsletters — something traditionally done with a dedicated email marketing solution like GetResponse or Mailchimp.
As things stand, you’ll get far more functionality from a dedicated email marketing solution than with Squarespace’s Email Campaigns feature — more sophisticated autoresponders, split testing, data segmentation, professional reporting and so on.
That said, some Squarespace users will enjoy this ‘all in one’ approach to email marketing that the feature provides — and the consistency between the Squarespace website templates and their email ones is commendable (and helpful for businesses who want to maintain brand values easily across all communication types).
It’s also extremely easy to drop blocks from your Squarespace site (products, blog post summaries, images etc.) straight into an e-newsletter using Squarespace Email Campaigns, with visually pleasing results. There’s not much of a learning curve to worry about here at all.
Ease of use aside, the best thing about Squarespace Email Campaigns is probably the pricing — you can host a large list on it very cheaply, because there’s no cap on list size.
There is however a cap on the number of messages you can send per month: 250,000 on the most expensive plan, which costs $68 per month.
That’s still generous however — a dedicated email marketing product would charge a lot more to facilitate that (you’d be talking hundreds or even thousands of dollars per month).
You can find out more about Squarespace Email Marketing Campaigns on the Squarespace website.
[Email marketing tip: if you are wondering which email marketing platform is a good fit for your business, do check out our GetResponse review, our AWeber vs GetResponse and Mailchimp vs GetResponse posts for some ideas. You might also want to check out our full email marketing reviews section].
WordPress users will need to use a standalone product to send e-newsletters but — particularly if using Gravity Forms or a similar forms tool in conjunction with an app like AWeber or GetResponse — will enjoy more advanced functionality, both in terms of data capture and email broadcasts, than that which is available in Squarespace Email Campaigns.
A way to save money on Squarespace
If you’re interested in using Squarespace, the company is currently offering 10% off its plans. This can amount to quite a saving, especially if you opt for one of its ‘commerce’ plans.
This discount is available for a limited time only – to avail of it,
- Go to the Squarespace website using this link.
- Enter the code PARTNER10 when purchasing a plan.
SEO in WordPress vs Squarespace
WordPress is the hands-down winner when it comes to a WordPress vs Squarespace SEO battle — it blows Squarespace out of the water in quite a few ways when it comes to search engine optimization.
Most importantly, with self-hosted WordPress, you have full control over your technical SEO setup — this means that you can pick a hosting provider that gives you the fastest page speed times and ensure your site is configured in a way that meets Google’s new Core Web Vitals requirements.
(Core Web Vitals are a new addition to Google’s search algorithm, where a higher emphasis is placed on page speed and performance — sites that meet these standards will be given preferential treatment in search results).
With Squarespace, you don’t have control over hosting, and are a bit limited in the ways that you can tweak technical SEO settings.
There are a few other things in the SEO department that WordPress does better too.
First, in WordPress, alt tags and meta data are referred to by their proper names — this is not always the case with Squarespace, where you can end up dealing with ‘captions’, ‘descriptions’ and ‘extracts.’
Second, WordPress allows you to make use of a wide range of sophisticated SEO plugins — for example, Yoast — which assess the quality of your on-page SEO efforts and automatically suggest improvements. There’s no equivalent functionality in Squarespace.
Third, you can’t add rich snippets in Squarespace without coding. Rich snippets are bits of data which enhance your search results by (1) displaying contextual information such as ratings, pricing and reviewer to search results (see example below) and (2) by letting search engines get a more detailed idea of what your page or post is about.
By contrast, adding rich snippets in WordPress is a very straightforward affair — there are many WordPress plugins available which allow you to simply add the relevant data to your web pages with a minimum of fuss.
All that said, there are some positive things to report about Squarespace sites from an SEO perspective — they do a lot of things that Google definitely likes.
They use https (SSL); generate a sitemap.xml file; use clean HTML markup; load reasonably quickly and are fully responsive (mobile, tablet and desktop friendly).
And it’s important to note that technical SEO is just one part of getting a site to rank — keyword research, quality content and backlink building are also vital. There are plenty of Squarespace sites occupying number one spots in search results (and in competitive niches too).
But ultimately improvements do need to be made to Squarespace so that sites built with the platform meet Google’s expectations on the technical SEO front, not least where Core Web Vitals are concerned.
Related content: in order to make either a Squarespace or a WordPress site rank in search results, you’re going to need to do some keyword research! Check out our Semrush review, our Ahrefs vs Semrush guide and our post on Semrush pricing for information on the tools you’ll need to help you do this.
One thing Squarespace users don’t really have to worry about is site maintenance. All the key technical aspects of running a website (software updates, web hosting, server configuration etc.) are taken care of by the company.
With WordPress, it’s a totally different scenario: you are in charge of ensuring that you’re using the most up-to-date version of WordPress, that your server’s been configured correctly, that your WordPress plugins and themes are all up to date etc.
Although some of this can be handled automatically, updates are something that you always need to keep in mind — because if you end up with an out of date version of WordPress or a plugin, your site is much more vulnerable to being hacked.
Which brings us neatly on to…
Because Squarespace is a hosted solution, the bulk of the responsibility for security lies with the company making it — i.e., it’s Squarespace’s responsibility to ensure that the system doesn’t get compromised, your site doesn’t get hacked and that backups of your content are made.
But with WordPress, if you’re not commissioning a developer or agency to maintain your site, then the ultimate responsibility for security belongs to the end user: you! It’s your responsibility to ensure that your version of WordPress is up to date, along with any plugins or themes you might be using.
Although you can definitely create a WordPress site that is entirely secure, failure to keep on top of site maintenance can make a WordPress site extremely vulnerable to being hacked.
You’ve also got to be aware that some WordPress themes and plugins can contain malicious code which can compromise the security of the site, so you need to be very careful about which ones you install.
And finally, you’ve got to ensure that you’re regularly backing up your site (various WordPress plugins are available to help automate this process for you, though).
Choosing the right WordPress web hosting
Who you host a WordPress website with can have a big impact on how secure it is — some shared hosting companies don’t place much emphasis on proactively monitoring your site from a security point of view.
Accordingly, it’s usually safer to host your WordPress site using a dedicated ‘managed WordPress’ hosting service instead of relying on a cheap provider. Managed hosting usually also improves your site loading times, which in turn can improve SEO.
In short, I think it’s fair to say that Squarespace sites are ultimately less vulnerable than WordPress ones, simply because there’s less scope for users to neglect security on their site or add dodgy code to it via plugins.
And if something does go wrong, then Squarespace’s team have a responsibility to help resolve the problem (and will be experienced at doing so).
Finally, a quick note about SSL: a free SSL certificate is provided with all Squarespace sites, meaning that your visitors are browsing your site on a secure connection. Using this to create a secure website is a simple case of ticking a checkbox in your Squarespace settings.
You can of course install SSL certificates on WordPress sites too — but again, it’s your responsibility to sort that out, and depending on the hosting provider used, it may be more fiddly.
Support with WordPress maintenance and security
If you are thinking about going down the WordPress route and want to make sure your site is set up correctly, or have an existing WordPress site that you’d like to perform a security audit on, do get in touch.
We partner with some excellent developers who can ensure your site is extremely robust from a security point of view — and make sure it stays that way. You can contact us about this and get a free quotation here.
Control of your content
Something which is often overlooked in WordPress vs Squarespace comparisons is control of content.
If you use WordPress, what you put on your site is, generally speaking, entirely up to you. If you use Squarespace, you’ll need to be aware that Squarespace can remove it if it conflicts with their acceptable use policies.
Admittedly, a company that you’ve paid to host your WordPress site could also take your site down if it didn’t like what you were publishing — but in that scenario, you would have more options: you could move to a more liberal hosting provider, for example.
Many businesses require multiple versions of their website — in different languages, or for different territories (or both).
WordPress is a much better solution than Squarespace for this sort of thing – you can use either the WordPress Multilingual plugin or the WordPress Multisite option to create multiple versions of a website in multiple languages.
There are a couple of workarounds you can use to get Squarespace sites to display in multiple languages — for example using a third-party translation service like Weglot — but ultimately, if multilingual / multisite functionality is crucial to your project, you will find WordPress the better solution.
If you’re a fan of using smartphone apps to manage your website on the go, then you’ll appreciate the fact that Squarespace offers quite a few options in this regard.
There are 4 apps available to manage aspects of your Squarespace website, and all are pretty easy to use:
- Scheduling Admin
- Scheduling Client
All these apps are available for both Android and iOS.
In terms of what they do:
- The ‘Squarespace’ app lets you update content, add new blog posts, deal with e-commerce orders and access stats — pretty much everything you need to do on the go.
- The ‘Commerce’ apps, as the name suggests, lets you use Squarespace’s e-commerce features on a mobile device. It looks like this app will eventually be phased out, with the main ‘Squarespace’ app providing all its existing features.
- The ‘Scheduling’ apps are designed to let you manage appointments with your clients (‘Scheduling Admin’) or let your clients book and manage ones with you (‘Scheduling Client’).
With WordPress, it’s more a case of using one mobile app rather than 4 — you can install the suitably titled ‘WordPress’ app on your phone (both iOS and Android versions are available) and perform key site management tasks on it. These include:
creating and editing pages / posts
Like the Squarespace mobile apps, most users will find the WordPress one very easy to use.
If you use a third-party app to handle e-commerce — for example Ecwid or Shopify — you’ll usually have access to a separate mobile app to manage your product inventory, fulfil orders etc.
GDPR in Squarespace vs WordPress
Disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer — although this section of our Squarespace vs WordPress comparison is based on research and discussions with legal professionals, you should not treat it as formal legal advice.
Something that is often overlooked in WordPress and Squarespace comparisons is the issue of GDPR — or to give it is full title, General Data Protection Regulation. GDPR is a set of regulations on privacy to protect consumers in the EU. These rules must be adhered to by any user, but it’s particularly important to do so if you are operating a business website.
So let’s take a look at how WordPress and Squarespace stack up when it comes to compliance with these rules.
As we’ve seen throughout this comparison review, Squarespace is designed to be a code-free solution for the majority of its users; it’s targeted at a non-technical audience.
However, when it comes to GDPR the product fails in its mission to be a code-free website builder. It effectively forces its users to engage in some fairly challenging technical work involving obtaining cookie consent in a way that is consistent with GDPR.
To expand on this, one of the biggest implications of GDPR for website owners is that no non-essential cookies should be run without your site visitors providing explicit consent for this to happen. In addition to requiring you to give your your site visitors a means to give this prior consent, GDPR also requires you to log that consent and provide users with a means to revoke it.
Although a cookie banner is provided by Squarespace which informs users that cookies are used on your site, and allows visitors to opt-out of the non-essential cookies used by Squarespace Analytics (the built-in analytics tool), it doesn’t:
provide a means of revoking that consent
work with third-party scripts.
So in essence, to avoid breaking GDPR rules whilst using a Squarespace site, you will either need to code your own cookie consent solution or integrate a paid-for cookie consent tool that works with Squarespace.
We use the latter approach, installing a product called CookieYes on our clients’ websites. It’s relatively straightforward to set up — you need to configure some settings in the CookieYes app and then add a script to your Squarespace site to enable it.
For more information on GDPR and Squarespace, you can check out our Squarespace GDPR checklist.
With WordPress, you will also have to spend some time configuring technical settings to ensure full GDPR compliance and you can expect some technical work.
However, there are a lot of WordPress plugins designed to help you do this — a popular one being Iubenda — and, given the larger WordPress userbase, considerably more online resources providing advice on this topic.
You’ll need to be careful that any plugin you use is genuinely going meet GDPR requirements — some cookie banner plugins available for WordPress don’t come remotely close to doing so! — but overall, you should be able to achieve compliance in WordPress more easily than in Squarespace.
Customer support is an area where Squarespace usually beats WordPress, particularly if you are building your site yourself and not involving a developer or agency.
This is simply because when you buy a Squarespace account, you get customer support included with it (live chat or email). So, if something serious goes wrong with your site, there is somebody to turn to.
(This is a particularly important thing to bear in mind if you’re building a site for somebody else — when you hand a Squarespace site over to a client, so long as you’ve set things up correctly, you won’t generally have to worry about providing ongoing support to your client. That’s Squarespace’s job).
It’s a different scenario with WordPress — its open source nature means that if you’re building your website yourself with the platform and run into difficulties, it’s not obvious where to turn to.
You may find yourself sourcing help from a variety of locations: for example, the WordPress forums, a hosting company, a plugin provider, a friend who knows a thing or two about WordPress…
When you factor in the fact that WordPress arguably comes with a steeper learning curve than Squarespace, this ‘DIY’ approach to support may prove offputting to some.
To get around this problem properly, you’ll usually need to work with a developer or agency specialising in WordPress and take out a customer support contract with them.
On the plus side, this can give you a personal level of support that you are unlikely to ever receive from Squarespace (face-to-face meetings, phone calls etc).
The flip side is that it means an ongoing cost is involved.
On balance, I would say that if you are building a site for yourself or a client, then there is usually an advantage in using Squarespace as far as support goes (at least from a costs perspective).
In terms of the quality of Squarespace customer support, based on my own experience, it can vary from being brilliant (I was really impressed with how they handled my queries around SSL) to really awful (they didn’t want to help at all with any GDPR-related or Core Web Vitals enquiries).
And, as with most helpdesks, the quality of customer support can depend very much on who you get on the day.
Squarespace vs WordPress: conclusion
WordPress is a considerably more powerful and flexible tool than Squarespace — you can build pretty much any website you like with it. However, for those on a low budget or intent on building their website without involving a developer, the better option can often be Squarespace.
There are a few reasons for this:
- It’s easier to set up a Squarespace site than a WordPress one.
- A lot of important features are bundled with the platform (key ones include templates, e-commerce functionality and email marketing).
- Once your site is set up you don’t have to worry about maintenance or security issues — other than remembering to update your site with interesting content periodically, and staying on top of basic SEO techniques, using Squarespace is a sort of ‘set and forget’ scenario.
Squarespace is a great website builder for the likes of photographers, bands and small businesses, who just want a simple website quickly and with a minimum of fuss (and down the line, if your needs do become more sophisticated, you could consider hiring a Squarespace developer to enhance your site through custom coding).
However, if you have advanced e-commerce or blogging requirements, or envisage a scenario where you are operating a business in multiple locations, I’d be inclined to go with WordPress — for the simple reason that you can pretty much build anything with it, and make use of a vast number of plugins and themes.
WordPress is also a much more scalable solution, thanks to the multilingual and multisite options that are available.
A Squarespace site is fine for a business that knows it’s only ever going to operate in one location, one currency and in one language — but if your plan is to grow that business, offer content in different languages and open premises in a variety of locations, then WordPress is an option that is much better suited for the long-term.
Simply put, it’s much better for building a complex business website.
If you are going down the WordPress route, I would suggest that rather than try to use it on the cheap — by doing everything yourself — it makes more sense to work with an experienced developer or agency, and to keep them involved in maintaining your site on an ongoing basis.
Not only will this give you a more polished, bespoke website, you’ll also get more peace of mind, as you won’t have to worry about security or maintenance. You will need to budget properly for this, but if you work with the right individual or team you can get a superb product.
One way of deciding on Squarespace vs WordPress for a website build is by asking yourself 3 questions:
(1) “Do I have a large budget?”
(2) “Do I have time?”
(3) “Do I have complex requirements for my site?”
If your budget is tight, you could consider building a Squarespace site yourself — the monthly nature of Squarespace pricing means that you don’t have to worry about a big investment upfront.
By contrast, if you are not particularly limited by budget, I’d be inclined to go with WordPress, but hiring a developer to build and support your site. Please do feel free to contact us if you’re interested in getting some competitive quotes on a WordPress project.
If you are short on time and technical skills, and absolutely intent on building your website yourself, I’d be inclined to opt for Squarespace over WordPress. It’s easy to use and most of the key features you need come out of the box.
And finally if you have complex requirements for your site you will probably need to use WordPress, as it’s a significantly more flexible platform from a functionality point of view.
Below you’ll find a summary of some of the key reasons why you might use either Squarespace or WordPress over the other.
Pros and cons of Squarespace vs WordPress
Reasons to use Squarespace over WordPress
Squarespace is easier to set up than WordPress — you shouldn’t face much of a learning curve.
Its interface is very easy to use and its drag and drop editor makes laying out content a breeze.
It’s well suited to users who want to manage multiple aspects of a business using only one platform.
A lot of features that you have to source separately in WordPress using plugins are available ‘out of the box’ if you’re using Squarespace — e-commerce, data capture forms, themes etc.
Hosting and domain names are included with the product; with self-hosted WordPress, you have to sort these out separately.
Squarespace is largely responsible for the security of your website — if you use WordPress, security depends on how diligent you are in choosing and updating your software, theme and plugins.
24/7 customer support is available for Squarespace (email and live chat). By contrast, whether or not you can avail of support for a WordPress site depends largely on whether you have commissioned a developer or agency to provide it.
Squarespace is arguably a better option than WordPress for users who require an elegant but simple website delivered quickly
— it can take quite a while to develop a WordPress site properly.
- Squarespace’s email campaigns functionality, which allows you to create and send e-newsletters from within the Squarespace environment, may appeal to some users (particularly those with large lists).
You can try Squarespace free for 14 days here.
Reasons to use WordPress over Squarespace
You can build any type of site with WordPress; it’s a much more flexible platform than Squarespace.
- So long as you’re working with the right developer and web host, you can end up with a much better technical SEO setup for a WordPress site.
A significantly wider range of templates is available in WordPress than in Squarespace.
WordPress comes with a more sophisticated content management system which, unlike Squarespace, facilitates content versioning.
You can use WordPress to create sites with deep levels of navigation — this is not really the case with Squarespace (without custom coding anyway).
A vast range of WordPress plugins — paid-for and free — is available to help you add functionality to your website. The offering available from Squarespace on this front is much more limited.
So long as you’re using a good e-commerce plugin, you can expect more extensive e-commerce functionality in WordPress than in Squarespace, including, importantly, the option to sell in multiple currencies.
Data capture options are more extensive in WordPress than in Squarespace (so long as the correct forms plugin is used).
On a WordPress site, you have more control over your content — with Squarespace, you’ll have to adhere to an ‘acceptable use’ policy and you may have trouble exporting some of your site content.
WordPress is a much better option than Squarespace for creating multilingual or ‘multisite’ projects.
You can use sidebars!
If you’re interested in getting some help with a WordPress project, just contact us today.
Alternative web builders…it’s not just about Squarespace vs WordPress!
Of course, when it comes to building a website, you are not restricted to Squarespace vs WordPress: there is a large number of alternative solutions available.
On the self-hosted front, the best-known alternatives are probably Joomla and Drupal: very flexible platforms that host millions of websites.
As for hosted web builders, you might want to check out Wix, Big Cartel, Jimdo or Weebly (or indeed hosted WordPress). Like Squarespace, these are chiefly aimed at people starting a business for the first time; they all feature a drag and drop approach to content layout, and are fairly easy to use for non-technical users.
For more information on the first two of these three products, you can read our Wix review and our Jimdo review. You may also find our Wix vs WordPress comparison, our Squarespace vs Wix comparison and our Wix vs Shopify post helpful.
These hosted web-builder options are generally more geared towards ‘general use’ websites rather than e-commerce sites; so if you’re interested in building an online store then it’s worth investigating BigCommerce or Shopify — two very-well known hosted solutions that don’t have a terribly steep learning curve.
Shopify video review
Shopify free trial | Full Shopify review
Check out our BigCommerce review, our Shopify review and our Shopify fees post for more information on these two products; our Shopify vs Amazon comparison might also be of interest if you are particularly focused on building an e-commerce site.
Finally, for even more in-depth information on Squarespace, do check out our Squarespace review.
Got any thoughts on Squarespace vs WordPress?
Have you any thoughts on Squarespace vs WordPress? Would you recommend a different website builder? Do let us know in the comments section below. And if you liked this article, feel free to link to it or share it 🙂