Bubble graphic of the choose two rule of Good, Fast, Cheap

The “choose two” design rule applies to SquareSpace and WordPress websites as well.

Our clients often wonder about the differences between SquareSpace and WordPress. In the end, either service will give you a website, but they vastly differ in the means to get there – as well as in cost and features. So let’s take a look at some of the major differences between the two platforms and how they compare to each other. We’ll be comparing the standard version of the SquareSpace platform to the self-hosted version of WordPress, which are the two most popular versions of each platform**.

What is SquareSpace?

SquareSquare is a proprietary service that uses templates and a drag-and-drop interface to help you build a website. You pay a monthly fee for the service, and you’re stuck within their framework and templates, which means your customization is limited to what their software can do. You can however, set up a website fairly quickly and without any code or prior website knowledge.

Pros of SquareSpace

  • DIY – Do it yourself without any code knowledge with a set of premade templates and a drag and drop interface.
  • Support – SquareSpace support is there to help you out with any issues.
  • Cheaper in the short term – You’re paying a monthly fee, but without a big upfront agency fee for design and development.
  • Fast – You can quickly set up an account and templated website in just a few clicks.
  • Template Options – Plenty of professional and well designed templates to choose from.
  • Easy to set up – SquareSpace walks you through setting up both your website and your domain.
  • Hosting Costs – Hosting is included in monthly price (but you still need to purchase your domain).

Cons of SquareSpace

  • Proprietary – You’re stuck within their software and what it can do, which doesn’t work great for larger sites that need a lot of custom functionality.
  • Generic Templates – Your site can look the same as everyone else who’s using SquareSpace.
  • Limited Control – You have no control over the accessibility (or lack thereof) of the templates, site speed, any browser bugs, and limited control over the SEO of those templates.
  • Harder to move your content to another platform – If you decide to leave SquareSpace, it’s not as easy as WP to move your content, forcing you to start over and reenter everything.
  • Monthly fees – Fees can add up over time, and the fees also change depending on level of service, support, features, etc.

What is WordPress?

WordPress is an open source content management system. This means you have almost total control over the output of your website, and you don’t pay anything for the platform itself. You’re free to spend as much or as little money as you want here, with anything from free to premium themes and plugins, to completely custom website themes from agencies or freelancers. You do have to pay for hosting and your domain, but you have a lot more flexibility in the way your website looks and functions.

For eCommerce, both platforms offer solutions, but with WordPress you get more than one choice of platform (via a plugin), as well as control over which features you both load and/or pay for.

Pros of WordPress

  • Open Source – You have almost complete freedom to either do it yourself with premade themes OR hire an agency for custom theme design & development.
  • Websites for every budget – Can be as cheap or expensive as you want depending on your theme preference.
  • Flexibility for every budget – You can always start with cheap theme and then move on to a more expensive custom website.
  • Potentially cheaper in the longer term – Your only monthly fees are for hosting (if you decide to use free themes and plugins only).
  • You choose – You get almost full customization with a wide range of powerful plugins, eCommerce choices, and social platforms like message boards, job boards, and location services. Almost any functionality you can think of probably already has a plugin built for it, and adding only the features you want means you can help control your site’s loading times.
  • You control – You have full control over the outputted code quality, its accessibility rating, as well as browser testing, bugs, site speed, and SEO.
  • You can leave easily – It’s easier to export and move content to other platforms.

Cons of WordPress

  • Pricing Variability – It can be expensive depending on how custom you go with both design and features, and a bigger up-front cost than SquareSpace.
  • Can be a barrier for beginners – Even with premade themes, you need more than basic web knowledge to set up hosting, install WordPress, and get plugins and features working, unless you hire an agency to do this for you.
  • Limited front-end customization – There’s no inherit no drag and drop functionality, unless you go with a drag-and-drop builder plugin which can slow down site speeds and output some nasty code.
  • Potential Longer Time to Launch – It can take longer to launch your website if you decide to go the custom design route.
  • Limited Support – While there are so many fantastic resources, blog posts, and help articles on building for WordPress, the beginner has limited support unless a premium or custom theme is purchased.
  • Potential for Conflicts – If you decide to use a premade theme or plugin, there’s no guarantee of compatibility with other themes or plugins, good coding practices, or accessibility. Generally the more plugins you have, the slower your site becomes.
  • Hosting Costs – Hosting and domains need to be purchased separately. (Psss we recommend WP Engine*)

So which do I choose?

If you need a cheap website up today, with limited functionality and not a lot of content, SquareSpace is probably a great fit for you. If you want a unique website for your brand and total control over its functionality, WordPress would be better for that.

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*Full disclosure: You can click on this affiliate link if you want to buy a WP Engine hosting plan. We get a very small commission, but that’s not the reason we recommend WP Engine.

**Note: WordPress has a hosted version of it’s platform (still not drag and drop, but easier to customize for non-devs), and SquareSpace has a more developer-friendly service as well, but both aren’t used as often.