We’ll break things down and cover the pros and cons of Squarespace vs WordPress in this review so you can decide for yourself which website builder suits your own unique needs.
To start off, both Squarespace and WordPress are both excellent website builders (see our detailed review of Squarespace here).
Each one of them has its own strengths and weaknesses, and understanding them and how they will affect you is critical in your decision-making process.
After all, you probably won’t want to spend an enormous amount of time to build a website using WordPress and end up starting all over again with Squarespace (or vice versa).
In this review, we’ll benchmark Squarespace vs WordPress across 5 categories.
Here is a summary table of our comparison and the detailed analysis and breakdown of each category is below the summary table.
|Flexibility||Less flexibility, but all tools and functions are closely controlled, monitored and tested to ensure they are up 100% of the time.||Very flexible & customizable especially with plugins, but could be very problematic if they breakdown.|
|Ease of Use||A very user-friendly, drag & drop website builder. You can build a website without knowing how to code or hiring anyone for help.||Steep learning curve especially if you are a beginner. You need to know how to code and be technically savvy, or hire someone who is.|
|User Support||Dedicated support team with organized tutorials. You can also get help through live chat or email.||Big community with resources and tutorials, but not well organized. Most users end up paying developers for help.|
|Ongoing Maintenance||Very little – Squarespace is a “closed” environment so they control all aspects of the platform and manage all the updates and maintenance work for you.||Requires frequent maintenance especially if the platform, theme or plugins are updated by their developers. You are responsible for maintaining all aspects of your website.|
|Pricing||4 premium plans, ranging from $12 per month to $40 per month.||Could range from $200 – $15,000, depending on various factors (hosting, themes, plugins, hiring help, etc.)|
1. Squarespace vs WordPress – Flexibility
Simplistically, WordPress is an open source platform, meaning that their codes are open to everybody to use and customize. So any developers / programmers can use WordPress to create their own tools (such as templates / themes or plugins) to share for free, or sell to WordPress users.
Due to a broad range of tools being made available, the WordPress community has grown to more than 60 million websites as of 2012, or powers about 23% of all websites on the internet as of 2015. It has no signs of slowing down as more people start to build websites.
Currently at the time of this review, there are 44,000+ WordPress plugins which are downloaded more than 1.2 billion times.
It’s hard to beat such a large community when every single feature you can imagine to be built into a website is available either for free or for purchase if you decide to use WordPress.
However, one of the biggest problems with allowing anyone to build plugins for WordPress is that the quality of the tools can either be great, or they can be terrible. In our observation, there are probably way more terrible plugins than great ones.
Since the WordPress community is so large, it’s practically impossible to police the quality of all the tools being created.
So WordPress being an open source platform really is a double-edged sword – lots of tools, but most of them are mediocre or terrible.
Securi – a leading WordPress security firm – conducted a study of over 11,000 hacked websites. They suggested two interesting (and alarming) findings in their study:
- The growth of the internet (and websites) introduced a lot of unskilled webmasters and service providers who have contributed to a lot of websites being hacked.
- Out of the 11,000 hacked websites they’ve studied, 75% of them built on WordPress (though to be fair, majority of websites are built with WordPress, so this percentage seems abnormally high).
Here is an excerpt from their study:
“This user adoption however brings about serious challenges to the internet as a whole as it introduces a large influx of unskilled webmasters and service providers responsible for the deployment and administrations of these sites. This assessment is amplified in our analysis, which shows that out of the 11,000 + infected websites analyzed, 75% of them were on the WordPress platform and over 50% of those websites were out of date. Compare that to other similar platforms that placed less emphasis on backwards compatibility, like Joomla! and Drupal, the percentage of out-of-date software was above 80%.”
Here is another article from WooThemes – a leading WordPress theme developer – on the dangers of too many faulty plugins in WordPress.
Further, to get good WordPress plugins, while some are free, a lot of them are “premium” plugins meaning that you will need to purchase them (this gets factored into our pricing analysis below).
There is absolutely nothing wrong with paying for great tools, as in our minds, I’d rather pay as it holds the developer accountable for creating and maintaining the product.
With free tools, the developer won’t have as much incentive to improve the tools and if the tool breaks, they’re not obligated to fix them for you.
As for Squarespace, which is not an open source website builder, means that their platform is gated off so only their own in-house development team can produce tools for users.
The benefit of this is that all of Squarespace’s tools will be high quality and fully integrated into their website builder.
If you want to build a website, it’s nice to know that all the tools that you use have been thoroughly tested to ensure that it works perfectly every single time.
It’s also nice to know if you run into questions or problems, the Squarespace team will be there to assist. Squarespace has made a commitment to answer all questions within 1 hour – you just don’t get that level of commitment from WordPress.
While with WordPress, you can have access to thousands of different tools and plugins to help improve your website, you should be aware that a significant number of these WordPress tools may not be built by good developers.
If you do end up using some of these poor WordPress plugins, it may potentially cause conflicts with your website – resulting in poorer performance, cross-browser conflicts, or even crashing your website. If you’re unlucky, your website could also get hacked.
If that happens, you could ask the developer of the plugin for help but keep in mind that:
- They’re not obligated to help if the plugin is free
- You won’t be able to pinpoint which specific plugin caused the conflict if you have multiple plugins installed
With Squarespace, everything is closely controlled, monitored and tested within their own environment.
This will give you peace of mind that your website will be conflict-free, so you can focus on more important things instead of fixing your website.
2. Squarespace vs WordPress – Ease of Use
WordPress is a very powerful and flexible platform because you can modify the codes to do almost anything you want to. So WordPress is highly customizable.
However, this is only applicable to you, if you are very good with coding or if you’ve hired a skilled developer to help you.
A capable and reliable coder from a developed country could cost you about US$100 per hour. It could be a bit cheaper if you hired someone from a developing country. So the cost can quickly add up.
If you prefer not to pay for help, you better be pretty proficient with codes (or learn to become proficient) if you want to make design changes to your website.
Even though WordPress is much more flexible than Squarespace, its learning curve is a lot steeper than Squarespace.
With Squarespace, it is a bit more restrictive when it comes to customizing a website, but it’s built in a way that it is a lot easier for a non-tech savvy person to learn how to use it.
Squarespace is a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) website builder. Meaning that when you drag and drop pictures, text, slideshows, etc directly into the website builder, you immediately get a glimpse of how the website will look like “live” as you are building the website.
With WordPress, when you are inserting information, you can’t see what it really looks like on the page until you preview the page or publish it.
Further, with a drag and drop builder such as Squarespace, you can quickly and easily drag content into the website, and position it however you want to for each of your webpages.
In other words, you can pretty much create any layout you want since you just need to drag and drop content onto the page. You don’t need to know how to code or need any external tools to help you do this.
With WordPress, if you want to adjust the spacing of where the images sit, or add a slideshow on the top right corner of one page, and on the lower left corner of another page, this gets very tricky.
You may need to modify codes to accomplish this, or spend hours looking for the right WordPress plugin to help you accomplish this task. Not to mention you won’t really know if the plugin will eventually cause issues with your website.
Squarespace makes it easy for beginners to advance level users to build websites.
The fact that you can drag and drop content wherever and however you want, makes it a much user-friendly way to build your website without committing weeks to learn how to use WordPress properly.
Although WordPress is a much more powerful platform, it might not be the best option for you if you’re not planning to invest weeks into learning how to use it effectively, and also to learn how to code.
It also isn’t the best option for you if you’re not prepared to invest a good sum of money in hiring developers or designers to help you create a website.
If you just want to get a website set up and running all by yourself, without investing too much time and money into the process, without having to manage or troubleshoot the technology behind websites, and have the website look good, Squarespace might be a good option for you.
3. Squarespace vs WordPress – Support
When it comes to support, WordPress has a massive community and “endless” amount of resources and tutorials to help you. However, in our experiences, it’s hard to find good and relevant help – due to information overload.
I think this is mainly due to the fact that anyone can develop tools for WordPress so the quality of the tools are not monitored and most of the time, only the original developer of the tool can help you (that’s assuming they are even willing to help).
One alternative is to hire your own contractor that’s skilled in WordPress to help you configure your website, but that can get expensive very quickly – even if you outsource to the likes of India, Eastern Europe or Asia where wages are not as high.
With Squarespace, because they have a centralized support team that’s dedicated to their own website builder, they’ve created a library of support articles, Workshop videos, live chat, 1-hour email support and a community forum to help you build your website.
Further, as mentioned, because they create and test their own tools, the chances of your website running into issues are fairly low.
You can most definitely find a lot of good help articles and tutorials about WordPress, but you will have to be patient in your search as it will take time. If you email someone for help, it may take days before you get your questions resolved (if at all).
Hiring a WordPress contractor can move this process along quickly, but it may cost you quite a bit, and you also need to consider the time you spend in interviewing and evaluating the contractor.
With Squarespace, their support team will get right back to you within 1 hour. Or, you can find a lot of relevant help in their library.
It’s really a matter of personal choice. As powerful as WordPress is, it’s definitely more difficult to find relevant and good help. But on the flip side, WordPress really allows you to build some amazing websites with the right resources.
With Squarespace, you get help right away, get your website up and running, and you can move on to doing other things.
4. Squarespace vs WordPress – Ongoing Maintenance
One important thing you should know is that WordPress is continuously updating its platform to fix bugs and improve security. So whenever it has updates (could be multiple times a year), you will also need to update your WordPress site.
The headache comes when you have a custom theme and also using multiple plugins. Some reputable theme and plugin developers will also update their products so to make it easy for you to update them within your website to remain compatible with the WordPress updates.
However, this is not always the case.
If the theme and plugins that you use for your WordPress site are not updated by the developer, you run the risk of these tools causing conflicts, harming the performance of your website, not working properly with the updated version of WordPress, or even crashing your site.
(Here is an article from WP Engine, one of the best / premier WordPress hosting service about replacing a security plugin with their own in-house built security system. This security plugin is quite commonly used by WordPress sites, has not been updated for over 2 years and so security risks have increased significantly.)
In Securi’s report (we also highlighted this above), they’ve identified that in most instances, WordPress websites that were hacked had little, if anything to do with the platform itself.
The reason the websites were hacked had to do with improper deployment, configuration, and overall maintenance by the webmasters and their hosts.
While WordPress is a fantastic website building platform, if you are not monitoring it all the time, your website could become vulnerable to attacks. You have to take charge of your own website maintenance, which is another layer of work (unless you pay someone else to do it).
Also, when you receive a notification from WordPress to update the version of WordPress, you should do so quickly as outdated versions of WordPress may present security risks (just as this website has been hacked to display spam messages). Keep in mind that when you update your WordPress version, this may potentially conflict with your other tools / website features.
With Squarespace, all updates are tested and pushed to your website automatically. So Squarespace takes care of all that for you, so you can focus your time on other things that may be more important for you.
While WordPress is a lot more powerful compared to Squarespace, WordPress is definitely more maintenance work to keep your website in good shape through the updates.
If the WordPress plugins that you use are not constantly being updated by plugin developers, they may potentially cause conflicts to your website.
With Squarespace, they handle all the updates so you don’t have to do anything. This is especially helpful if you are a one-person team without a dedicated website team to support you.
5. Squarespace vs WordPress – Pricing / Ongoing Commitments
How much to invest in your website is definitely a very important consideration.
Squarespace offers 4 premium pricing plans.
If you sign up to an annual plan, you can save between 13% to 25% compared to signing up to a month-to-month plan.
|Squarespace Pricing Plans||Monthly Plan ($/month)||Annual Plan ($/month)||Savings (%)|
So the ongoing cost for Squarespace ranges from $144 per year (Personal plan) to $216 per year (Business plan) to $312 per year (Basic Store plan) to $480 per year (Advanced Store plan).
Note that the plans comes with a free domain name for the first year ($10 – $15 value) and dedicated 24/7 support (this could be worth a lot of money to you since it can save you hours every time you need help).
We have more details about Squarespace’s pricing plans in our full Squarespace review.
Here’s an Official Squarespace Offer Code to get you started [When and if you are ready to upgrade, just click on the “Enter an offer code” link in the upgrade page, and insert the offer code. You can find this link on the lower left side of the upgrade screen.]
With WordPress, you will need to get your own hosting which can cost about $7 per month in general (so $84 per year, but Bluehost does offer cheaper packages here).
Further, you will most likely need to purchase a theme which on average could cost about $30 – $80 per theme, depending on how dependable and reputable the theme developer is (general rule of thumb is, the more expensive the product, the more reliable it is).
If you want to add more functions to your WordPress site, you may need to add a few free or paid plugins (which could be around $15 – $50 per plugin, again depending on the reputation of the developer).
With WordPress, you will also need to purchase your own domain name, which will be around $10 – $12 per year.
So the initial investment for a WordPress website could range from $139 to $200 or higher, depending on how many paid plugins you pick up or if at all. Also, remember this does not come with support.
Depending on your WordPress needs, you may also have to hire a contract developer or designer to implement your needs – which will also cost you extra money to invest in this (ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars).
1) Cost of Building a Website – we share our own experiences & our own pricing guide here
2) See our video guide on how to set up a WordPress site with your own hosting.
To a certain extent, our estimates of the cost of getting a WordPress site set up is on the lower end.
Elegant Themes (one of the best WordPress theme developers today) estimated that to get your WordPress site up and running (without hiring anyone for help, which also assumes you are technically oriented and somewhat comfortable with codes), may range from $200 – $1,000+.
Note that this does not factor in ongoing costs if you need to hire someone to help you make modifications to your WordPress site or to help troubleshoot.
They also estimated that a custom WordPress theme will cost you around $3,000 – $6,000 (for design & development), and a custom WordPress website will be around $6,000 – $15,000 (for design & development, with custom plugins). You can see their estimates here.
Based on our own experiences, purchasing products for WordPress is not the primary issue at hand.
What most people sometimes forget is that it’s hard to find good help with WordPress. There isn’t a live chat function or someone that you can email and get an answer within 1 hour.
When we were learning how to use WordPress, it takes hours of research to just fix one issue. Imagine if you have multiple issues.
You can always hire someone to help you make customizations and troubleshoot, but that’s a hit and miss approach sometimes. We’ve hired some contractors before and there are good ones and there are nasty ones. It’s so hard to ascertain whether the WordPress contractor is good or not until you actually pay them to work for you.
To us, this is the real cost of using WordPress.
On the flip side, if you’re willing to invest time and money into learning WordPress, you will, through trial and error, eventually become pretty decent at it. That’s what happened to us and now we can make minor customizations ourselves without contracting out the work.
But that’s a very personal choice. If you much prefer not to invest time in learning the technical side of website building and rather save time and money to focus on other things, WordPress might not be the best platform for you.
With Squarespace, you get ongoing and fast help which in my mind, are worth the investment.
6. CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATION
Picking Squarespace vs WordPress is a very personal decision. As outlined above, while WordPress is a lot more powerful and flexible than Squarespace, the drawback with WordPress is that it takes time to dig through all the “clutter” to find the right ingredients / tools to build a good and function website.
Hiring a WordPress contractor is a very common practice for most non-technical WordPress gurus and the cost can add up over the years – we’ve had our fair share of contractors.
The hiring process could be stressful and you really don’t know what you’re going to get until you pay them to do the work. Further, when WordPress updates its platform, you may need to hire the contractor again to ensure all the custom work is compatible.
With Squarespace, all the updating and servicing are managed by the Squarespace team so you don’t have anything to worry about. With their 24/7 support team, it really makes build your website a lot easier so you can focus on other more important things.
With Squarespace, they provide you with gorgeous and polished responsive themes so you can build beautiful websites. These themes are all tested and quality controlled by Squarespace so you just need to pick one and start building. [See our full review on Squarespace templates]
Although we may sound a bit biased towards favoring Squarespace, it is our honest opinion that if you are a one person team or don’t have the dedicated resources to help you build, maintain or troubleshoot a website, we would recommend trying Squarespace.
But if you do have a tech-savvy person on your team, and you want to build a very sophisticated website that goes beyond what Squarespace has to offer, then definitely pick WordPress.
We just want you to be aware of the key issues when deciding between Squarespace and WordPress. In our minds, time and resources are the 2 key critical considerations you should weigh in your decision-making process
- Squarespace = less maintenance and lower cost in the long run (Get 10% off Offer Code)
- WordPress = more flexibility, but higher maintenance, higher learning curve and cost more in the long run
For us, we built this website using WordPress because it suits the purpose of our website better (writing articles and blog posts), and also we’ve already committed thousands of hours and thousands of dollars in hiring WordPress contractors and learning from them in our other projects. So for us, using WordPress is not very difficult, after paying the price to learn.
For you, this might not be realistic. So choose according to your available resources.
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