Sooo I accidentally wrote a novel on Facebook highlighting some of the key differences between WordPress and Squarespace. I’ve written about Squarespace before but with how popular the platform is getting, I thought it deserved a slightly more thorough post and comparison to WordPress.
Before we start, what is Squarespace?
If you’re not already familiar with it, Squarespace is a hosted, closed-source content management system. It’s a platform for building your blog and website.
First, let’s focus on the closed source vs open source nature of the two different platforms.
WordPress is open source. It’s something you install on a web hosting account yourself.
In case you’re not familiar with “open source” it basically means that all the code that makes WordPress work is publicly available. Anyone can see it, edit it, and build upon it.
And since WordPress is a do-it-yourself type platform, you also install WordPress yourself. You rent space on a server from a hosting company and then you install WordPress there. You have full and unlimited access to all the files that make WordPress work.
Squarespace is a closed source, hosted platform.
Squarespace isn’t open source. That means only the Squarespace employees have access to the code that makes the platform work. You cannot see it, edit it, or build upon it. They create the features that they think you want and make them available to you.
Because of this, you don’t rent space on a server and install Squarespace. Instead, you sign up on the Squarespace website and they give you the whole package: space on their server and access to their platform.
Which platform is better for you depends on what your goals are.
I’m not going to lie: objectively WordPress is the more diverse and powerful platform. This is simply because it is open source. You can LITERALLY do anything with WordPress. You’re only limited by:
- What plugins (made by the community!) are available; OR
- What your own skills will allow you to create; OR
- How much you’re willing to pay a developer to create what you want.
However, the thing that makes WordPress kind of a DIY platform is the fact that you have to put the pieces together yourself.
- You install WordPress.
- You find a theme you like.
- You find plugins that implement the functionality you’re looking for.
- You maintain and update your installation.
- You find a backup plan/service/plugin or run backups yourself.
If you’re tech savvy, these things aren’t that big of a deal. They simply come with the open source territory and they’re more than a fair trade off for having complete and total freedom over your site.
But if you’re looking for a SIMPLE solution, you might be drawn to Squarespace.
Squarespace is not as robust as WordPress. Period. But that might be exactly why you’d like it.
Squarespace has fewer features, but they’re all fully integrated into the platform.
- You don’t have to go hunting for code to create a button or columns.
- You can quickly and easily add a newsletter signup form without finding a plugin.
- You can integrate e-commerce functionality without choosing between WooCommerce, Easy Digital Downloads, Jigoshop, and whatever else is on the market.
- Since all themes are created by the same team, you can toggle between them seamlessly.
So if you WANT fewer options and you WANT simplicity and you WANT everything presented to you on one platter, Squarespace is a great platform.
It’s up to you to decide: do you want freedom and unlimited features, or simplicity and ease?
Let’s talk about the things you CAN’T do on Squarespace.
Sometimes the best way to compare platforms is to talk about what you CAN’T do with them rather than what you CAN. If you’re considering Squarespace, it’s important to know all the things you can’t do. If none of those things interest you, fine, go all out! But if they do interest you, then that’s a sign that you’ll want to stick with WordPress.
To help illustrate the point, I’m going to go over some of the features I use or have coded for myself on WordPress that cannot be done in Squarespace.
You cannot have a membership site.
Squarespace doesn’t have membership site capabilities. Not totally sure what that entails? Here are a few examples:
Support Ticket System
I coded my own support ticket system as part of the support for my digital products.
- Customers can login to their account and fill out a form to submit a support ticket.
- They can view their ticket and post additional replies (as well as read my replies).
- They can view an archive of all their support tickets associated with their account. They have a permanent record of all their support tickets.
This kind of “login and manage your content” functionality isn’t available in Squarespace.
I also coded my own e-course platform that integrates with Easy Digital Downloads.
- I can create course topics in WordPress (like Make Your Own WordPress Theme).
- I can create lessons/modules and assign them to a course.
- I can create a product in Easy Digital Downloads, mark it as an e-course, and associate it with my course.
- All courses are private. You cannot view them if you’re not logged in, or if you are logged in but haven’t purchased the course.
- When someone completes a purchase, they are automatically granted access to the course and receive an email with instructions.
- The customer now automatically has permission to view the e-course through their account when they login.
In this example, we not only have membership capabilities (private pages) but we’ve also linked e-commerce to the membership permissions… all done automatically.
You cannot use the platform for anything other than a typical website/blog.
In Squarespace, you can only use the platform for what it was intended to be: a website. But with WordPress, you can use it for ANYTHING, even things it was never designed to be. Like an accounting system.
I built my own accounting platform in WordPress.
I turned a WordPress installation into my very own accounting system. I can log sales and expenses. Whenever I get a new sale in my shop, it automatically gets logged in my accounting system. The admin dashboard has widgets that automatically generate bar graphs and pie charts.
You can build an entire social media site on WordPress.
Imagine Facebook… on WordPress.
Something like that is totally possible. Here are two examples of plugins that can get the job done:
You cannot create a forum or chat site.
A simple plugin (bbPress) can turn your site into an online forum. This can be used as a support forum or just a place to chat. It’s complete with online accounts, profiles, and more.
Time to decide once and for all: which platform is best for you?
WordPress is best if…
- You want unlimited power and flexibility.
- You want a 100% custom-built theme.
- You like having tons of options when it comes to plugins and themes.
- You want a membership site.
- You want more flexibility when it comes to e-commerce (different payment processor, license keys for digital products, etc.).
- You’re not afraid of a little DIY.
- You want full control over the server environment (MySQL access, FTP access, SSH access, etc.).
- You’re fine with Googling or posting on public forums to get answers to your questions.
Squarespace is best if…
- Having too many options overwhelms you.
- You like things to be as simple as possible.
- You want an awesome, reliable, drag and drop editor that works with every theme.
- You’re happy just customizing pre-made templates. You don’t need a custom one.
- You don’t want to have to install plugins. You want everything already pre-packaged and installed.
- You just need a fairly standard website or blog build.
- You want a dedicated, pre-paid support team available to you.