Squarespace vs. WordPress – More Popular Isn’t Always Better
Creating and launching a new website has never been easier thanks to the large variety of platforms and tools currently available that help simplify the whole process. Although a lot of tech-savvy users still prefer to build everything from scratch, beginners don’t have to worry about things like coding since the introduction of website builders like Squarespace and WordPress. These platforms come with everything you need ranging from templates and themes to web hosting, free domains, editing tools, and more. In other words, you can essentially look at them as a starter kit for creating a new website.
But, as with everything else, not all website builders are created equally. To that end, in this article, we’re going to take an in-depth look at two of the most popular builders out there to see what makes them different. And, more importantly, to see if one is unquestionably better than the other. WordPress and Squarespace have been around for a very long time and managed to earn the trust of millions of customers over the years, but how well do they stack up against each other? Let’s find out.
Before we move any further I think it’s important to emphasize that this is a comparison between Squarespace and WordPress.com, not WordPress.org. Just in case you’re not already aware of this, WordPress is both a CMS (Content Management System) provider and a web hosting provider. Most people reading this are probably more familiar with the CMS, which is an open-source platform that you can download for free from WordPress.org.
As far as WordPress.com is concerned, the SaaS (Software as a Service) is not quite as popular as the CMS, however, it’s still more widely used than Squarespace. As of January 2020, it is estimated that Squarespace is used by around 1.5% of all sites. By comparison, WordPress powers a little over 35% of all websites on the internet at the moment. We can’t say for sure how many of them are using the CMS and how many are using the SaaS, however, some analysts indicate that WordPress users are split roughly evenly between the two.
Even though Squarespace has continued to grow steadily over the years, it’s safe to assume that WordPress’s incredible brand power would convince more users to gravitate towards it. It’s also worth considering that WordPress’ SaaS tool is a lot cheaper than that of Squarespace. Finally, WordPress.com ranks at number 53 worldwide on Alexa as of this writing while Squarespace only ranks at number 456 in terms of traffic. While this may not always be the case, generally speaking, websites that attract more visitors also attract more customers.
Popularity – Squarespace has become a widely used website builder in recent years, however, at the moment it can’t really come close to the massive popularity achieved by WordPress. Whether we’re talking about the CMS or the SaaS.
Navigation and Ease of Use
Platforms like Squarespace and WordPress were designed as a hassle-free solution for users who aren’t familiar with coding. Although both platforms do allow you to use CSS code in order to add functionality that might not be present by default, doing so is entirely optional. Regular users don’t have to worry about that because they can simply choose between a variety of great templates and customize them using the built-in editor.
Squarespace Ease of Use
Squarespace’s drag-and-drop editor allows you to quickly add and move elements on a page. The editor is section-based so you won’t be able to drag elements anywhere you want, however, you do have a lot of freedom when it comes to moving things around. If you’re looking for an editor that’s completely free-form, we recommend looking into Wix. Compared to Wix, Squarespace is more restrictive but it does offer (in some ways) more freedom than WordPress.
The editing process itself is fairly intuitive, though new users may struggle a bit at first with the overwhelming amount of options at their disposal. That said, one of the great things about Squarespace is that you don’t necessarily have to bother with most of those options. That’s because the platform comes with tons of beautiful pre-configured templates that you can use with very few extra modifications. In order to make things even easier, Squarespace also offers an artificial intelligence system that recommends suitable templates for your website based on your specifications.
One of the most appealing features of Squarespace is the WYSIWYG (What You See is What You Get) editing process. What this means is that you won’t have to worry about changing something in the backend and then finding out that it looks different on the live version. A lot of other editors, including WordPress, work a bit differently in the sense that you make changes in the backend and then you hit the Preview button to make sure that everything looks good before you update your website.
WordPress Ease of Use
The WordPress CMS is known for being very flexible but not very friendly to new users, albeit this depends on which theme you’re using. For the most part, the same can also be said about the WordPress SaaS as the two use different versions of the same block-based editor. The main difference between them is that the one you get with the SaaS is more limited and restrictive, especially if you use a plan that doesn’t come with premium themes and advanced design customization. Squarespace, by comparison, gives users access to almost everything (save for a few premium features and elements) regardless of which plan you buy.
An important thing to note about WordPress is that the backend menu that allows you to customize things related to your entire site, like menus and widgets, looks quite different compared to the block-based editor that lets you customize individual pages. This can make things a bit confusing for new users, particularly since the menu can feature varying amounts of options depending on which theme you’re using. Squarespace is more streamlined in that regard.
Having said all that, WordPress makes it possible to upload custom themes and install custom plugins, which can make life a whole lot easier for users. These features are one of the main reasons why the CMS is so popular, however, the SaaS only makes them available to users who purchase one of the more expensive plans.
Ease of Use – Squarespace has a steeper learning curve compared to other editors but it’s definitely more user-friendly and easier on the eyes than WordPress.
Scalability is a very important factor to consider when you build a new website because you want to be able to easily add more resources or features whenever your site reaches certain milestones. Both Squarespace and WordPress give you the option of upgrading or downgrading your plan whenever you want. However, there are some important differences between these two companies when it comes to how much you’ll need to pay in order to reach the next tier.
Squarespace is different when compared to rivals like Wix and WordPress because it doesn’t charge anything for resources. Instead, you get unlimited storage and bandwidth even with the cheapest tier. The company doesn’t charge extra for premium templates either, which is another nice feature that we don’t get to see very often. The downside is that there are only four types of plans to choose from and the entry point is a bit higher than you might expect. Similarly, upgrading to the next tier will cost you more than a couple of extra bucks per month, albeit you do get good value at every step of the way.
Unlike Squarespace, WordPress doesn’t include unlimited storage with any of its plans. That wouldn’t be a big problem if the plans came with plenty of storage, but they don’t. If you go with one of the cheaper plans you can expect to get between 3 and 13 GB of storage, which isn’t a whole lot. At most, you can expect to get 200 GB of storage with the two most expensive plans. WordPress also has four (paid) plans to choose from and, in this case, the entry point is pretty cheap. The price difference between the first two tiers is fairly small, however, expect things to get a lot more expensive from there. The first plan isn’t anything to write home about so you’ll need to go straight for the Premium package if you want to create something more than a simple blog. This isn’t the case at all with Squarespace where you can build almost any type of site imaginable regardless of which plan you choose.
If you’re the type of person that likes to test a service before investing in it, you’ll have the opportunity to do just that with both Squarespace and WordPress. Squarespace offers a free 14-day trial for all new users that want to see what the site builder is all about. While using the trial, you’ll get access to all available templates, customization options, and an identical set of features to that found in the basic package. If you want to test WordPress, on the other hand, you can do so by signing up for the free tier. This isn’t a limited-time offer like in the case of Squarespace, however, the free tier comes with a whole slew of limitations.
Scalability – Even though WordPress is cheaper at first, it doesn’t give you a lot to work with unless you’re willing to upgrade to the higher tiers. The service doesn’t scale particularly well because of the massive difference in both price and resources between the first two plans and the last two. Meanwhile, Squarespace is fairly expensive to get into but you don’t have to worry about resources here and you get good features whenever you decide to upgrade. It also helps a lot that there are no huge price differences between the various tiers so the scalability feels smooth and natural.
The price is another thing you’ll need to consider carefully before picking between these two site builders. Although that can be said about any two services, it’s especially important in the case of Squarespace and WordPress because the price difference between them is quite significant at certain tiers.
WordPress is by far the cheapest option here, and that’s even without including the aforementioned free tier. Paid plans start at only $4 per month, which is only a third of what you’ll be paying at Squarespace. However, you don’t get a whole lot with the basic package. The next plan ($8/mo) is a lot better in terms of features but users who are thinking about adding lots of hi-res images or videos to their sites may want to stay away from this one as well due to the limited storage space. The final two tiers are priced at $25 and $45, respectively, and are aimed primarily at business and online stores.
Signing up with Squarespace will set you back $12 per month for the basic package or $18 per month if you’re going with the Business tier. There are very few drawbacks to sticking with the basic plan aside from the fact that it only supports up to two contributors. The Business tier is ideal for most types of websites but if you need features designed for online stores you’re going to have to look into one of the final two tiers. These are priced at $26 and $40, respectively, so they're roughly equivalent to WordPress’s last two tiers.
Basic Features Included with WordPress Plans
WordPress offers very few features that you can take advantage of at lower tiers. The free tier, in particular, is pretty lackluster as it doesn’t even allow you to pick a custom domain for your site and forces you to display ads that can’t be removed. However, the free tier (along with all the others) does come with a free SSL certificate, the Jetpack plugin, and dozens of free themes. While the themes and SSL certificate are nice, the real highlight here is Jetpack, which allows you to speed up your site’s performance, protect it from spam, automate social media sharing, and much more.
Starting with the $4 tier, all plans include a free custom domain, new customization options, and the ability to remove the WordPress.com ads from your website. The next tier unlocks premium themes and advanced design customization while also including a selection of marketing and monetization tools. These tools aren’t quite enough to support a full-fledged online store but they do allow you to sell certain items and receive payments via PayPal for them. More importantly, though, this tier also unlocks Google Analytics integration.
Interestingly enough, the WordPress.com branding can only be removed by Business and eCommerce users so unless you’re willing to pay at least $25/mo for the service, you’re stuck with it. These two tiers also unlock the ability to upload custom themes and install custom plugins, which are arguably the best features offered by WordPress. Unless you’re planning to build an online store that requires a lot of advanced eCommerce features, I recommend not bothering with the final tier because you’ll get access to pretty much everything you need, including a good amount of storage, with the Business package.
Basic Features Included with Squarespace Plans
Squarespace is a lot more generous when it comes to the features offered at the lower tiers. With the basic plan, you can expect a free custom domain, SSL certificate, website metrics tools, and access to some very useful third-party extensions. Similar to WordPress, you’ll want to go with the Business tier in order to get the best value for your money, though in this case, you’re only going to have to pay $18/mo for it. In exchange, you get access to premium integrations and blocks, professional mailbox, advanced website analytics, and a handful of marketing and commerce tools.
Unless you plan on opening an online store, you can comfortably stick with the $18 Business plan and never have to worry about needing to upgrade at any point in the future. If you do need eCommerce features, however, you get quite a lot of them with either of the final two packages. That said, the last one does include some exclusive features like limited availability labels, the ability to sell subscriptions, and access to commerce APIs. If used properly, these APIs give you almost limitless possibilities as they allow you to design custom integrations with third-party tools and apps that help you greatly enhance the functionality of your online store.
There are a few interesting comparisons to make between Squarespace and WordPress now that we took a look at the main features included with their plans. As you’ve probably already noticed, you’ll be able to find the best and most essential features in the Business plan regardless of which company you choose. Also worth noting is that Squarespace’s Business plan is a lot cheaper compared to that of WordPress. It’s surprising to see that WordPress locks even certain common features like SEO tools and debranding behind a high paywall whereas with Squarespace these things are available to all users.
Pricing – WordPress can be a very appealing option for new users due to its free tier and low entry point for its paid plans. However, if we’re strictly talking about the best value for money, the win has to go to Squarespace. That’s because you’ll be able to get most of the features and tools you’ll ever need right off the bat so although the entry point is quite high, you can stick with the $12/mo package for a very long time. With WordPress, you’ll need to pay at least $25/mo to get access to core features that allow the platform to stand out from the crowd, such as the ability to upload custom themes and install plugins.
Good SEO practices can give any experienced webmaster an edge over the competition. If you don’t have any experience with search engine optimization, however, you may be at a disadvantage for a while because learning these practices can take a long time. Luckily, all-in-one services like WordPress and Squarespace can hold your hand throughout the process and give you the tools necessary to learn all about SEO in no time.
WordPress websites are famous for being very SEO-friendly regardless of whether they were built using the CMS or the SaaS. This is because users have the option of using specialized SEO tools like Yoast that provide useful recommendations on how to modify your content in order to increase visibility and improve search rankings. As mentioned, the SaaS won’t allow you to install plugins or even use the basic built-in SEO tools until you reach the Business tier. However, all plans (even the free one) do come pre-installed with a very versatile plugin known as Jetpack, which among other things, does a pretty good job at helping you improve the SEO of your website.
Squarespace is a bit more limited when it comes to SEO, though the platform does have its own basic built-in tools that are available at all tiers. These tools are useful for beginners but you won’t have access to anything more advanced even if you go all the way to the final tier. While some of the extensions and integrations can help you with that, I recommend trying to learn about SEO from Squarespace’s learning center instead of trying to automate the process. The company has many guides and webinars that can help you become proficient at SEO. Then again, so does WordPress.
SEO – If maintaining good SEO practices is important for you and your website, then WordPress is a clear choice here. Although you do need to pay a pretty penny in order to use all the plugins and tools offered by WordPress, you definitely won’t be disappointed by what the company has to offer in this department.
Additional Tools and Features
You don’t have to worry about registering a domain name separately if you sign up for any of Squarespace’s plans because all of them include a free domain for the first year. Once that term expires, you’ll need to pay $20 per year each time you want to renew your domain. If you want to secure a domain but don’t want to sign up for a plan, you can simply register it for the same price of $20 per year. Squarespace’s prices for registrations are pretty expensive compared to some of its rivals, however, every domain registered comes with WHOIS privacy, which is a feature that not all companies include for free.
If you’re looking to register a domain name with WordPress, the only option you have is to purchase a plan because the company doesn’t sell domains separately. Just like with Squarespace, every plan includes a free domain for 1 year, which then renews for $18 per year once the first term expires. Just in case you’re thinking about going with the free plan, it’s worth noting that you won’t have to worry about paying for your domain. However, you won’t be able to choose any domain name you want either. Instead, any domain you pick will have the extension ‘.wordpress.com’ attached to it.
Squarespace’s ability to integrate with third-party apps is more limited compared to that of WordPress but you can still choose between a good number of applications that would fit in nicely with your website. For example, you can integrate feeds from your social media pages or link your Squarespace and Dropbox accounts in order to import content from the cloud directly to your website. If you purchase the most expensive plan, you also get access to integrations with various commerce APIs.
WordPress’s flexibility allows it to integrate with more apps than any other website builder. You can integrate with social media and automate sharing even with the free plan thanks to Jetpack while integration with payment services like PayPal becomes available at the first paid tier. And if you’re willing to sign up for one of the more expensive tiers, you’ll get access to a nearly unlimited amount of plugins that can enhance your website in a wide variety of ways. Also worth noting is that one of the main features of the eCommerce plan is the ability to integrate with top shipping carriers, which among other things, will allow you to sell and ship physical products across the world via companies like UPS.
Squarespace doesn’t provide users with a simple method of manually backing up their website, though the company does perform regular automatic backups. But seeing as how the company only keeps files for up to one month, it’s highly recommended that you perform manual backups as well. One of the best ways to back up your Squarespace site is by using an XML file but be warned that you can only save content this way, not layouts. Aside from that, your best bet is to use the Duplicate feature and periodically create copies of your site that you can revert to in case something goes wrong with the live version.
WordPress offers both automatic and manual backup options, however, both of them are only available to Business and eCommerce users. If you’re willing to spend at least $25 per month for a plan, you’ll get access to a tool that allows you to not only download backups of your site whenever you want but also restore it to a previous state with just one click. In addition, you also have the option of using an FTP client to back up and transfer specific files. And given that the more expensive tiers also allow you to install plugins, you can simply use one of those to take care of your backups. In short, there are plenty of options to choose from here but, like a lot of the other features, you’ll need to pay a premium if you want to use them.
Squarespace gives free access for 1 year to professional G Suite mailboxes but only to users who subscribe to the Business tier or above. Once the term expires, users can continue to use their mailboxes in exchange for a fixed monthly fee. WordPress doesn’t include professional emails with its plans but the company makes it easy to integrate third-party business email services like G Suite or Microsoft Office 365 with your WordPress account. If you need an @domain email address but don’t care about the other features that come with a professional mailbox, you can simply use the Email Forwarding feature instead.
Squarespace doesn’t offer database access while WordPress charges a pretty penny for that privilege. To be more specific, database access is limited to the Business and eCommerce tiers. If you’re willing to pay the price, you’ll be able to manage your WordPress database via a phpMyAdmin control panel. You might also be able to find a plugin that allows you to create and manage databases but, once again, this feature is only available with the most expensive plans.
Squarespace offers a 14-day money-back guarantee for all four plans but doesn’t offer refunds for renewals. WordPress’s refund policy is a bit more generous and states that you can ask for a refund within 30 days of purchasing or renewing any of its paid plans.
Additional Tools and Features – WordPress’ flexibility gives it a pretty significant edge against Squarespace in this category thanks in no small part to its plugin support. That said, you’ll need to pay quite a bit in order to unlock that useful feature, which makes the platform very difficult to recommend for users on a budget.
Performance and Reliability
It’s possible to get amazing performance when you combine the WordPress CMS with a solid hosting provider like Bluehost or SiteGround. But even if you’re just using the WordPress SaaS you can still expect some pretty good speed and uptime. On average, WordPress pages load in around 554 ms, which is a bit faster compared to Squarespace’s average speed of 627 ms. That said, WordPress includes a fairly limited amount of storage with its plans so you may see your site slow down if you ever run out of resources. That’s not the case with Squarespace.
In terms of uptime, the two companies are fairly evenly matched. WordPress’ average uptime sits at around 99.99% while Squarespace’s average uptime currently sits at 99.95%. WordPress does have a slight edge in this department but the difference is pretty negligible. It’s worth noting that WordPress offers a 99.99% uptime guarantee so there’s more pressure on the company to deliver in this area. Squarespace doesn’t make any guarantees like that but the company clearly doesn’t disappoint either when it comes to uptime.
Performance and Reliability – WordPress performs slightly better than Squarespace at first glance, however, the fact that the company doesn’t include unlimited resources with its plans can negatively impact the performance of certain websites. Squarespace sites may load a bit slower but they seem overall more reliable.
WordPress’s customer support is fairly average considering the size and popularity of the company. You can contact agents 24/7 via email or live chat but there is no phone support and the learning center looks surprisingly outdated. Luckily, there’s an almost endless supply of WordPress-related resources on the official forums and third-party sites. If you’re thinking about getting a free plan make sure to look up some of those sites because WordPress only provides support to paying customers.
Squarespace doesn’t have a phone number you can reach them at either but the company offers ticket support in addition to email and live chat. The resource center is very nicely put together and easy to navigate, which is particularly helpful for new users. There, you can find everything you need, including guides, tutorials, videos, webinars, and more. If you don’t find what you’re looking for in the help center you could always try getting in touch with other Squarespace users on the official forums.
Customer Support – WordPress has surprisingly few customer support options considering the size of the company and navigating the resource center can be a bit of a hassle. Squarespace’s customer support is just a bit better both in terms of options and navigation.
Squarespace vs. WordPress – Our Pick
Even though these two platforms are similar in many ways, there are a few key differences that made us gravitate more towards Squarespace than WordPress. We were pretty surprised to discover that even though Squarespace is generally considered a somewhat expensive site builder, it actually offers a better bang for the buck when compared to WordPress.
That’s primarily because Squarespace includes almost all the tools and features we would consider essential in the basic plan. You don’t really feel like you’re missing anything particularly important by sticking with the entry package and every time you upgrade you get valuable extra features in exchange for your money.
By comparison, with WordPress, you feel like you are missing a lot of important functionality unless you upgrade to the Business plan. Once you do, it can be argued that WordPress becomes a better option than Squarespace but the price is much too high if you ask me. For $25 per month, you can pair the WordPress CMS with a good hosting provider to get more functionality and you’ll still have some money to spare.
WordPress is not a bad choice for beginners thanks to the low entry point but it’s very hard to recommend it for anything more than a simple blog. Squarespace, on the other hand, is a good option for anyone who wants to build a great looking website with ease and doesn’t want to pay an arm and a leg for it. Sure, it’s not the cheapest option but it’s definitely a fairly priced option, which isn’t really the case with WordPress.
Overall – Even though WordPress does perform better than Squarespace in certain categories, it’s extremely hard to recommend due to how limiting the platform is for newcomers and users on a budget. Squarespace is by far the more user-friendly option in this comparison and also the one that will get you the best value for your money.