Squarespace vs. WordPress? A Primer and Cheat Sheet to Help You Decide

Hardly a website project crosses my desk without the question of, “Squarespace vs. WordPress? How should I build my website?” being asked. Let’s take a look at two of the most popular ways to build your website and the pros…

Hardly a website project crosses my desk without the question of, “Squarespace vs. WordPress? How should I build my website?” being asked. Let’s take a look at two of the most popular ways to build your website and the pros and cons of each.

Squarespace…or, the Nissan Altima of Website Builders

When I was first introduced to Squarespace, I must admit the art director in me reflexively rolled my eyes and silently died a little inside. I envisioned a system where design took a back seat to DIY convenience, and where features were limited or non-existent. I was pleasantly surprised to find much more than that. Squarespace is a trusted, flexible system that a designer can get behind for the right client, and that a layperson can learn to operate with minimal effort. Let’s look at some of the features.

Squarespace is a website builder, not a content management system (CMS) like its rival WordPress (but we’ll get to that later). It’s a closed system – meaning everything is included from soup to nuts: drag-and-drop editor, hosting, themes, and even plugins. All maintenance and updates are performed by Squarespace on the regular, leaving one less thing for a site manager to think about.

Squarespace has a fair amount and variety of “starter sites” from which to choose as a baseline design. From a visual perspective, they are better than what this designer expected; and there’s a fair amount of customization that can be obtained aesthetically with a relatively small learning curve. All are mobile-friendly and allow for mobile adjustments. A cool feature called “code injection” is also available for the brave who wish to elevate design or functionality.

The cost of hosting and maintaining a Squarespace site is very affordable, and Squarespace offers 24/7 email support and live chat during working hours EST. 

Drawbacks? For those with a design eye, fine tuning and customization is somewhat limited. Squarespace does not offer regular site backups, but there are some workarounds to that which require a bit more effort on the user’s part. Advanced features for things like SEO and blogging are less robust than what is available with WordPress, but would likely be adequate for most small business owners.

I liken Squarespace to the Nissan Altima – it’s a reliable, easy to operate option that is more than affordable. It’s a great solution for small businesses who need a web presence but don’t require much customization or room to grow in terms of functionality.

WordPress…the Cadillac.

Now let’s look at Squarespace’s heavyweight competitor, WordPress. WordPress.org* is a full content management system – a software used to create and manage digital content. It’s considered an open-source platform, which means its users are granted the rights to use, study, change, and distribute the software and its source code to the general public. To that end, more configuration is required up front, and more customization is offered. A larger learning curve goes hand in hand with such a system.

WordPress offers thousands of responsive themes as a starting point for design. As a general observation, these themes are somewhat more refined than those offered by Squarespace. There is no intrinsic drag-and-drop page builder, but there are several page builder options available for installation and use. The combination of these page builders and themes allow for limitless design potential. If there’s something you’d like to accomplish but can’t with the traditional page builder, WordPress offers the option of countless plugins. 

Blog and SEO capabilities are top notch. Whereas Squarespace houses a form builder within its system, WordPress requires an additional form builder to be installed, but your forms can be more readily customized.

Hosting with WordPress is not included, and costs can vary depending on the hosting service you select. Many themes also offer paid support or development services, if needed. Updates, backups and security are also offered but must be maintained and monitored.

Some of these factors may make WordPress seem a bit more intimidating than Squarespace, but the flexibility and customization may be worth it for many. WordPress is the tool of choice for mid-size to larger businesses who require something more than an “out of the box” solution… earning it the title “Cadillac of website design,” in my book.

Squarespace vs. WordPress: The Cheat Sheet

For quick reference, here’s a side-by-side comparison of the features just discussed.

Squarespace Logowordpress logo
Website builderContent Management System
Closed systemOpen-source
Page builder includedOptions for page builders
Smaller learning curveLarger learning curve
Less customization availableFully customizable
Form builder includedExternal form builder with more customization
Basic blogging and SEOMore robust blogging and SEO
Minimal configurationMore initial configuration
Less expensiveMore investment up front
No backupsRegular backups
Support offeredSome paid support services and free forums
Great for small businessesBetter for mid to large businesses with customization needs

What’s Right for Me?

If you’re still mentally debating about Squarespace vs. WordPress, reach out to us. We can look at your web design needs and help you decide.

*For quick clarification: our discussion here is referring to WordPress.org. WordPress.com is different – it’s a platform for self-publishing. On WordPress.com, your site is hosted for you and behaves more like a website builder. 

Christa Blackman

Christa Blackman is a Creative Director who has designed print and interactive communications for Fortune 500 companies for over twenty years. She studied Graphic Design and English at the undergraduate level, and completed a Master’s degree with a thesis focused on usability. She has a passion for visual storytelling built upon a strong design foundation.