The Easiest Way to Understand the Difference Between WordPress and Squarespace

WordPress and Squarespace -- the difference between these two platforms is that WordPress has an app store, but Squarespace doesn't. Squarespace comes pre-loaded with apps but you can't add your own.

This isn’t a new topic for me.

I’ve written about why WordPress wins and which platform is better. But both of those posts approach the topic from a list of features. It’s all very technical.

While answering this question over and over again on Facebook of which platform is the better choice, I eventually came up with a pretty awesome metaphor that makes the differences SO EASY to understand. That’s what I want to share today.

Your website is a smartphone.

Yup. Smartphones. That’s where our metaphor begins. Because everyone who’s looking at getting a website has a smartphone, right? This is something all those people can easily relate to.

So imagine for a minute that your website is a smartphone and you’re in the market for a new one.

WordPress is a smartphone with no apps installed except one: an app store.

Imagine getting a new phone that’s completely empty. No email app, no note-taking app, no calculator, no games, nada. Just a simple call feature, texting feature, and an app store.

It’s your job to decide what apps you want. You can browse through this awesome app store and install the following:

  • Games you like.
  • An email app.
  • An extension that makes your normal texting feature work better.
  • A cool animated wallpaper that changes.
  • Widgets for your home screen.
  • A calculator app (do you want a simple one or scientific calculator-style? You pick!).
  • A weather app that makes your phone background rain when it’s really raining outside.

It’s your job to go out there, find all the apps that you want to make your phone perfect.

  • There are great apps and shitty apps.
  • There are often 50 apps that do the same thing and you have to pick and choose which of those sounds best to you.
  • A lot of those apps will be free, some of them will be paid only, and some of them will have a free/”lite” version with a “pro” upgrade.

You can create the phone of your dreams.

On the bright side, you can literally create the phone of your dreams. You can mix and match apps to make your phone EXACTLY what you want.

But maybe it’s a lot of work?

Does all that app-hunting sound exciting or tiresome? Only you can answer that question. We’re all different.

Then, apps get updates. You’ll get a notification on your phone saying, “Updates are available for these apps.” It’s your job to click the “Update” button. Clicking that button isn’t hard, but it can have mixed results.

  • The update may fix that glitch that’s been annoying you for weeks.
  • That update my cause a new glitch that pisses you off for the next two weeks.
  • Maybe even that update will make your phone crash and go all wonky.

Some apps are shit. Some are fabulous. Some are buggy as fuck. Some are tested a lot and never have a glitch.

It’s a mixed bag because all these apps are made by different people and companies with different skills and policies.

This is LITERALLY what WordPress is.

It’s the perfect metaphor. WordPress all on its own is fairly empty and blank. You can blog, you can make pages, but there’s not much else.

You get extra features through the “plugin repository” (OMG app store!). You pick and choose what features you want to make your site amazing. There are paid plugins and free plugins, there are paid themes and free themes. You pick.

You have to update these features (literally clicking an “Update” button—easy) but this process can be seamless or it can cause issues.

Power, freedom, and unlimited customization power, at the expense of more DIY and more responsibility.

Squarespace is a smartphone pre-loaded with apps you might like.

This time your smartphone comes delivered with apps already installed, but no app store.

The smartphone company has done a lot of research into figuring out which apps people like and need. Then using that information, they’ve created all those apps for you.

  • They’ve designed a beautiful email app.
  • They’ve created 20 wallpapers and you can choose which of those 20 you want to use. Some of them let you change the accent colour and text colour.
  • They designed a great calculator app that’s easy to use.
  • They created their own version of Bejeweled so you can play that whenever you want.
  • They coded a maps/navigation app to help you get around.

Everything is already integrated and ready to use.

All you have to do is sign up and you already have a platform full of useful features. Plus, since all those features were coded by the same person, they’re almost guaranteed to work perfectly together (because they were designed that way).

But… no app store.

What happens if you dream of an awesome new app that isn’t on your phone? You can’t just add it. You don’t have an app store. Instead, you have to do the equivalent of filling out a comment card. You get in touch with the company, say, “Hey I’d love this new feature!” and they have to decide if it’s worth the money and manpower to create that for you.

Sometimes they will.
Often they won’t.

You don’t create your own custom experience. You use what’s been provided to you.

Some people love that simplicity. Others want more freedom. Only you can decide which option feels right for you.

OBJECTIVELY… WordPress wins.

By objectively, I mean purely from a technical standpoint:

  • Number of features.
  • Amount of freedom.
  • Endless possibilities.
  • No limits.

You can do ANYTHING with WordPress.

In terms of pure, raw features and capabilities, WordPress wins. Period.

But SUBJECTIVELY, what’s right for YOU?

WordPress may be better feature-wise, but what about your feelings? Your preferences? Your personal tastes?

That’s where things differ.

Do you want freedom? Do you want everything under the sun? Do you want to put together your dream site like a jigsaw puzzle? WordPress, baby.

Or, does the unlimited freedom freak you out? Are you afraid of breaking your site? Do you feel overwhelmed when you have too many options? Do you not have the time or desire to find the plugins you need? Check out Squarespace.

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I'm a 27 year old California girl living in England (I fell in love with a Brit!). I like to inject a little #girlpower into the WordPress development community by teaching women how to be coding badasses. more »

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18 comments

  1. I love these comparisons. I remember when Squarespace came out, I was all over it (for my business site) and yeah, it was okay… for a while, but in the end I just didn’t have full control of the site. But I wanted full control. Plus the blogging interface was pretty crap!

  2. Hi Ashley, I’m creating a new blog based on what I do and what I love wich is my job, I’m an interior designer but a while ago I had an idea to create not just regular designs but to create spaces that can give you that piece of mind so you can relax even thou you are in the livingroom or the bathroom so I do my best to offer a spa in regular rooms at home, anyway, I’m trying to create this blog and reading your article I think that I’m a wordpress fan thou and explore and explote my creativity not only with my designs but with my blog too, I’m kind of new on creating blogs and stuff so I was a little bit confused betwee WordPress and Squarespace but the way you explained it is completly clear, so thank you for sharing this information in a way that even newborns like me can understand. Thank you!

  3. Ok, the smart phone analogy is seriously awesome! I’ve used both, and I couldn’t agree with you more. I’ll be sharing this article with folks whenever the issue arises! Thanks for posting 🙂

  4. Ashley your brilliant. Finally some English! I’m a WordPress newbie and just took on the role of web-developer for a new business so have been wading through oceans of tutorials but your site is the first I’ve found with some easy analogies. I’ll be going through all your lessons. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  5. yes, yes and YES- I want to add my own apps. I want to have three little freaking boxes at the the bottom of my homepage that show three different things. I am in the process of rebuilding on WordPress and fingers crossed I will be finished this week

  6. Very cool analogy! I love it. I’m in the Squarespace corner because I am a designer, and I encourage my small business clients to learn to manage their website on their own. Because Squarespace is essentially plug-and-play it’s the best platform for my market. I can give them a concise list of options to choose from and deliver in 2 weeks, which keeps their development cost way down (opening the door for a whole section of the market that is underserved) and allows me a lot of time flexibility since I’m a stay-at-home mom. Plus it’s a lot easier to sell someone on a $300 a year all-inclusive cost than explain why they’re paying for hosting and domains and a theme and plugins and SSL certificate etc. Though I do recommend they purchase their domains from a 3rd party as a best practice, some people opt for the simpler billing option. Anyways, I love this analogy and will be sharing this with my readership and clients who are considering their options. Thanks!!

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