SquareSpace vs. WordPress: Which platform is right for you?
SquareSpace vs. WordPress vs. The debate of the century (or at least the past five years). How are you supposed to know which one is right for your business if you’ve never used either before? There are so many side-by-side comparisons, blogs, vlogs, podcasts, and articles on pricing, functionality, SEO, responsiveness…. There’s a lot to consider.
But instead of asking which one is better, what if you ask: Which platform is going to suit the specific needs of my business?
Full disclosure, I am a SquareSpace specialist. I have worked on WordPress websites in the past, but I made the tough decision to niche down so that I can focus all of my energies on becoming an expert on one platform to better serve my clients. I clearly have a preference for SS as a designer and user, but I know that each business has different needs and there are many reasons why WordPress might be a better fit for you. So, here is my brief breakdown on each platform as they relate to your real-life needs as an independent business owner.
WordPress might be right for you if:
You just want to try out blogging on little to no budget (via a free .com blog).
You need a completely custom website for your business that you can scale up
You have the budget to keep your designer/developer/devsigner on a monthly maintenance retainer
You want to be able to upload custom themes and plugins
SquareSpace might be right for you if:
You don’t want to worry about hosting, plugins, updates, or other technical maintenance
You want access to customer support whenever you need it
You don’t want to have to regularly maintain and update your site
You want a simple, aesthetically-driven website.
You want the option to hire a developer to completely customize your website, but also have the ability to make future changes yourself without breaking your site
But What about eCommerce?
Here’s the thing. Developers and designers who are claiming that SquareSpace is not good for eCommerce are not using it on a regular basis, so they don’t see the frequent updates that SS is always working on to make their platform a competitor in eCommerce. For example, YES, you can now sell unlimited products on SS, which used to not be the case but is an argument that many still use without knowing that issue is long gone. However, if in conjunction with your web shop, you also have a brick and mortar storefront and need to integrate inventory in both places, that’s a feature they haven’t yet developed (yet, I’m sure). SquareSpace also charges processing fees for each sale, which can be a turn off for a lot of people.
On the opposite side, WordPress isn’t perfect, either. Have a lot of products and want to add a sidebar so shoppers can filter by category? There’s a plugin for that, but wait, maybe it doesn’t work with the particular template you chose, but if you change the template, you’ll have to redo your entire website… And then those plugins need to be regularly updated, and maybe you have too many plugins activated and someone hacks your website through one of them. But at least you don’t have to pay processing fees, right?
I’m not saying to not use WordPress. What I am saying is that you should know what you’re getting into. If you’re selling a large catalog of items and want to skip the processing fees by using WP, know that you will be spending that money either on a regular maintenance package with your developer, or paying in the time it will take you to personally learn how to maintain the site. While it’s highly customizable, probably infinitely customizable, Wordpress needs a LOT of attention and maintenance, and the plugins and templates don’t always agree with each other. Are you prepared for the smallest quirk to temporarily break your website until you can get a pro to handle it? If you’re up for the challenge, and you’re working with a skilled developer, you will likely be rewarded with a powerful website.
Not happy with that?
Let me present to you a third option: Shopify.
Shopify is a somewhat newer platform to come into popularity, but for good reason. For all you true eCommerce businesses that need a lot of shop flexibility but want to be able to make the changes yourself, Shopify is the best fit in my opinion. It doesn’t have quite the built in capability that SS does to make your site look really professional (nicer templates on Shopify do cost ~$50-$150), but the comprehensive shop features can make up for that if that’s your priority. Plus, a developer/devsigner can add some code to your Shopify site to customize it so it’s not so…template-y. And you can also integrate Shopify with your brick and mortar POS system so your inventory is up to date both online and in store.
In my opinion, if I had a few shop items, I’d likely still go the SquareSpace route, because SS is still the most aesthetic, design-focused platform out there, plus the ease of use is a huge bonus, and they are constantly working on improving their eCommerce features. If I had a LOT of items to sell, I’d go with Shopify, because it has more advanced shop features. I’m happy to pay processing fees to be able to use a platform with a lot of user support and friendly backend features. In real life, I’m also a renter who loves not having to pay to fix my water heater when it goes, for what it’s worth. It’s all personal preference!
Well, what about SEO?
When talking about SEO, how you or your designer/developer/devsigner sets up your website is much more important than the platform you choose. Does Wordpress rank better than SquareSpace for SEO? Some say yes, many others say no, but how Google chooses to rank websites built on certain platforms should only be one factor in a long list of things to consider when choosing the ideal platform for your business. What good is a better ranking if your online shop is a total aesthetic disaster and visitors bail immediately? Considering my hot take on search engine optimization, I wouldn’t worry too much about a particular platform affecting your search rankings.
If you have a larger budget (+$6000, $10k for eCommerce) and are willing to keep up with maintenance or hire an in-house developer in exchange for a powerful website: WordPress all the way
If you want ease of use and have a large online shop, or need the ability to manage brick and mortar inventory, as well: Shopify
If you want a sharp, professional-looking website with ease of use, plus room to sell items online, and total agency over editing your own website: SquareSpace
And there you have it! Did this help you decide which platform is going to suit you best? If SquareSpace is the right fit for you but you’re still totally overwhelmed with actually having to build the thing, reach out and submit a project inquiry.