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Squarespace vs. Wordpress

Squarespace vs. Wordpress

Wordpress is the big boy on the block. Been here since 2003. It's the world's favourite CMS. Hands-down. 

Squarespace is the new kid on the block, and if I could sum it up in a word it's "boutique" in every way, smaller, tailored, and even comes in black and white. The big difference right off the bat; it's not free.

We shall now compare the two. Was going to use "square-off" but didn't want to seem biased.


Pricing

SQUARESPACE

Squarespace offers three tiers: Cover Pages (from $5/month), Websites (from $12/month) and Commerce (from $26/month). The latter two offer an integrated E-commerce store. Paying for a year’s subscription upfront gets you a 20% discount, bringing down the cost of the cheapest plan to just $5/month – $60/year, and before you search for a coupon code – Squarespace offers one up to save the time. GIMME10.

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

The middle plans always seem to be the way to go. Business gets you unlimited pages, you can sell unlimited products and it has a nice Facebook integration feature which allows you to display a chosen page within your fan page. Very helpful.

Look to spend about $200/yr. and as far as themes go, you'll be delighted with the given template options and you'll definitely see a specific style across the board, but even the most ornate design idea will work with the customization options.

 

WORDPRESS

WordPress is free. Download it, install it, off to the races. I wouldn't have a job if it was truly free however.

Here's a breakdown of hidden costs:

  • Hosting: Can be cheap, but take my word for it, spend a little more on something like Media Temple or Nexcess which have dedicated Wordpress services apart from their standard hosting. I prefer WP Engine myself. You can go cheap, but not recommended. Go for the $10/mo. area. $120/yr.
  • Domain name: Squarespace offers a free one. Wordpress kind of gives you the tools, but you're on your own for building it, so your first order of business is buying your domain. Look at $10/yr. GoDaddy always has specials. We're now up to $130/yr.
  • Themes: Like a skin, these are plentiful to say the least. They go for around $18 up to $300 each. I swear by Theme Forest which is usually set to $45 (one-time charge). We're now up to $175-$200 operating costs with hosting and domain.
  • Plugins: This is where the magic happens. You want an event scheduler, or perhaps really cool web forms. Squarespace's plugins are in the box and they play nice with third parties, but Wordpress is popular because of the vast options, but some of these come with a cost. If you want an E-commerce solution for example, look at $70, an opt-in form to gather subscribers, $75, budget for $100. We're at $275-$400

Saving costs by doing some custom coding is always an option and why I get hired. Look to that cost, but if you want to do your magic, you can get away with Wordpress simply with the domain and hosting.

Winner:

I give the edge to Squarespace. Only reason being, it's carved out of one piece. It sounds like a Porsche's door shutting, Fumph, it fits perfectly and all the parts are engineered with quality in mind. Wordpress nearly tied it because of the sheer amount of options available, but you are having to trust a host, domain registrar, theme author, plugin developers, etc... it starts feeling like an old car with aftermarket parts bolted on.


Performance

SQUARESPACE

Squarespace is reliable and quick, I've seen downtime twice, but that was a global thing happening to lots of sites. Their cloud servers can handle a decent amount of traffic. If you do manage to get your website viral, however, you can expect a performance drop – the Squarespace backend isn’t set up to take on huge, sudden traffic.

 

WORDPRESS

WordPress performance depends more on your web host than the backend itself. A strong host like WP Engine can handle almost any kind of traffic, including huge, sudden spikes. However, since WordPress doesn’t come with a robust CDN (Content Delivery Network) or caching capabilities upon installation, you might run into some performance issues unless you splurge for third-party plugins. Also, I see lots of WP sites being lagged-down due to too many plugins, some of which rarely get updates, also plugin conflicts and when speaking to an author of your theme why something isn't working, they usually tell you to deactivate all plugins and activate one at a time till you find the culprit. It's tedious.

Winner:

A tie. Squarespace wil be quite responsive running circles around Wordpress up to a point... then Wordpress will shine when you're running a very big site.


Customer Support

SQUARESPACE

As a paid software, Squarespace gives 24/7 live support. Expect your inquiries to get a reply within a few hours. You get also get live chat, hundreds of video tutorials, calls and support forums. The forums really are something to behold. Type in "change add to cart button color" and you'll find the solution.

 

WORDPRESS

WordPress is free and open-source. There is no official support – you can’t just pick up the phone and dial support number. What you can do, however, is get support from your webhost, your theme author, or the Google. There's plenty of people with your question and you'll find the answer. This will take some tech savvy, and why I get an email.

Winner:

Squarespace. All your questions are handled within the Squarespace company and community. You don't need to use Google or speak to a host, author, etc...


Design and Plugins

SQUARESPACE

Once you sign-up for a Squarespace account, you’ll get access to 20 templates. They are completely functional and ready to use right out of the box, so beginners can breathe easily as no further coding is required. If you want to be creative, the templates can be customized with LayoutEngine 2. The platform recently added E-commerce as a feature, enabling you to run an online store. You will also find built-in plugins for most common functions. All of Squarespace’s themes are also responsive for mobile, but now most sites are anyways, their's are simply nicer. You'll be good to go on a mobile device, what's even better, you can also control your site from your iPhone or iPad. I wrote part of this post from my iPad.

I must admit, 20 templates isn't a lot. You have a developer platform to do custom work, but that's for developers. We're talking about getting a site online yourself. They do however offer a diverse 20 templates so you'll find what you're looking for unless you have an ideal vision in mind that nothing is similar for you to build on.

 

WORDPRESS

This is where WordPress takes the cake. Thanks to its huge developer community, there are hundreds of thousands of themes and plugins for the platform. You have complete control over the look and feel of your website, although this usually requires tinkering with code. You won’t need to do that in most cases since you can easily find a theme that fits your requirements precisely and a plugin that will let you do exactly what you want. I had something so specific in mind, took me a couple hours to find it, but found one right up my alley for $35.

Winner:

The massive library of templates and plugins, WP is a clear winner. Based on the design you have in mind, this is usually where your SQSP/WP decision is made.


Ease of Use

SQUARESPACE

Squarespace is very beginner friendly. I've given tutorials and have maybe received three emails with specific questions on how to do something. The platform gives you everything you need, and lets you adjust your blog/website without dealing with the code. Squarespace includes some swank tools like Aviary (a powerful photo-editor), the revolutionary LayoutEngine 2 (a layout-editor), and built-in SEO. This limits niche plugins, but you already have built in E-commerce, reservation taking tools, event calendars, etc...

 

WORDPRESS

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

Winner:

Squarespace. It's easy to use, you don't need to tool around with the innards, but there is a lack of plugin variety, but you will know what you want before you're stuck with SQSP or WP.


In conclusion

These two cater to two different users. You're an artisan selling custom made wallets, Squarespace was meant for you, look at their site and you'll see what I'm taking about. If you want 50,000 hits per day on a tech blog, Wordpress is an obvious choice.

If you use me as test pilot - this site is Squarspeace, however, my blog is Wordpress because I intend on adding some specific features Squarespace doesn't offer.  It really all depends on what you want. I don't see anyone going into a site only to change platforms midway, I will ensure this if you work with me!

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

 
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