Squarespace vs. WordPress: Which is Best for SMEs in 2021?

Anyone who’s ever even thought about getting a website will have come across the WordPress vs. everything else debate. There are plenty of WordPress die-hards out there, but more and more businesses are choosing other platforms – one of which is Squarespace.

Cutting through all the noise to figure out which platform will be best for your business now and in the future isn’t easy. In this article, I’ll breakdown and compare the key benefits so you can make an educated decision and take the next steps toward a beautiful website with confidence.

What is WordPress? An Overview

Let’s start with an overview of each platform. WordPress is a CMS (content management system) that allows you to build a website with any host, domain, template, and so on. Think of it like a house’s foundation – it will give you the base to build upon, but you need to go out there and find all the materials to actually build a house.

The benefit of this is that if you have a designer and dev team, you can have a truly custom site that does just about anything you want it to – provided you don’t want to be the one to implement those changes. While that full creative freedom means you can do just about anything, it also means you have every opportunity to make a mistake that makes your website structurally unsound. 

What is Squarespace? An Overview  

Squarespace is also a CMS, but instead of simply handing you a frame to build upon, it also comes with all the tools and support you need. In our house analogy, it not only gives you a strong foundation but gives you all the tools and most of the materials you need to successfully build a house.

While this can be seen as more “constrictive” than the full creative freedom WordPress gives you, you can rest assured knowing that your site won’t suddenly break with an update to the foundation. You’ll be able to do a little DIY, even if you hire a designer to create a site that’s completely unique to you.

Squarespace also updated to a new version (7.1) in 2020, which means that all new sites are built on the same base template, which means you never have to change templates to achieve a different look.

WordPress vs. Squarespace: Pros & Cons 

Now that you’ve got a general idea of how the platforms work and their major benefits and downsides, let’s take a deeper dive into the most important factors you need to consider when choosing between the two platforms.

Ease of Use

Let’s start with the most important factor – ease of use.

WordPress

Many people out there will tell you that, while WordPress has a bit of a learning curve, it is relatively easy to use. And while that’s mostly true, they don’t take into account what happens if you encounter a problem. Sure, you can learn how to use WordPress’s dashboard, and your designer can talk you through any minor customisations you may want to make to your site, but you often can’t fix problems quickly on your own (even if you’re techy).

The fact that WordPress is such an open platform means that you typically have dozens of moving pieces that have come together to form your website. You’ve got a theme from one place, edited by your designer using many different plugins, all by different creators, and then WordPress itself often updates. This means that anytime one of those pieces updates, your whole site may break. And, in the process of trying to fix it, you may lose it entirely. It sounds dramatic, but if you haven’t got the site backups and make a wrong decision, you may literally lose your site. Yikes.

Squarespace

Conversely, Squarespace is a self-contained platform, meaning that all the pieces work together seamlessly, and you don’t need to do manual updates, backups, worry about security, and it’s rare to need to pay for additional plugins since Squarespace’s base functionality is so good.

It’s also incredibly intuitive to use, and even if a designer has built your site from scratch, you’ll be able to go in and scale your website up whenever necessary easily. I design my clients’ sites from scratch on Squarespace, including adding CSS code for added customisation, and they can still easily update and use themselves.

Cost

WordPress

When you look at WordPress vs. other platform articles, you’ll often find that they will lean in WordPress’s favour due to the cost, saying that month-on-month, it’s the cheaper option. However, once you actually get into the weeds, this really isn’t the case. Here are a few factors you need to consider:

  • WordPress hosting introductory offers are often incredibly low and then double or triple in the next year. Don’t be surprised if you pay £12 for hosting for a year the first year, and then £60 (or more) the next.

  • Basic WordPress hosting often doesn’t offer the level of hosting a small business needs. Very few come with backups included (essential for WordPress for the reasons we touched on above), the right level of security, or levels of speed needed for SEO (search engine optimisation) purposes. That means your hosting will cost around £20-£30 a month.

  • You need to pay for most add-ons. WordPress does come with some fairly decent free templates, which work fine for a personal blog, but less so for a professional business. You need to find a theme (£40+) just to have a website that will look like most other businesses with that theme. If you want a custom site, you have to invest in a designer. They will often need to purchase plugins for additional functionality, which may be at your cost.

  • Unless you’re a developer yourself, you’ll need to pay someone to update the site for you for anything beyond adding additional pages and blog posts. Since WordPress is largely built on the back-end (meaning you can’t format your site while looking at how it looks to your visitors unless you have a paid plugin), you can’t make simple changes easily. A developer will typically cost £25-£75 per hour, so that can add up fast if your website isn’t going to be static.

Squarespace

Squarespace’s pricing may be higher at first glance, but you won’t find any hidden costs. You’re far less likely to find yourself buying additions, and unlike with WordPress, you can’t purchase hosting that’s not good enough for your site since Squarespace’s hosting is built-in and fast. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Squarespace hosting costs around £15-£30 per month, depending on your needs and includes your SSL security, unlimited bandwidth and storage, template, SEO features built-in, basic site metrics, and more.

  • Squarespace won’t suddenly hike the price on you – what you pay will be the same regardless of whether you’re purchasing for year 1 or year 5, unless you buy with a coupon code or on a special sale event that discounts the first year. WordPress hosting notoriously climbs year-on-year, which means you need to migrate your site to a new host to avoid paying additional costs (no easy task).

I’m a Squarespace Circle member so all my clients get the benefit of a huge 20% off their first year of hosting, and instead of the standard 2 week trial, they get a full six months. That means we have plenty of time to build the site before they ever have to pay, and the average build takes 8-14 weeks, depending on the size and complexity. That means that my clients save (on average) £36 off the normal yearly hosting fees, which is more than two months’ worth of hosting!

UX & SEO

WordPress

This is an area where many WordPress enthusiasts will tell you that WordPress is better for SEO, but the problem is that WordPress’s SEO is only as good as the person who set up the site. You need to use free or premium plugins to alter your metadata, track keywords, and more. Not all sites come with a mobile responsive design, which is absolutely essential in today’s world. 50% of all searches are made via mobile, and that will only grow in the future.

To track your traffic and other analytics, you’ll need to add Google Analytics to your site. It’s not a huge headache for anyone relatively tech-savvy, but it is yet another element to get to talk to your site before you can start optimising it for your visitors.

Squarespace

Squarespace offers you a mobile-responsive design from the moment your site is born – it matches the design of your desktop site and can be customised and optimised for the mobile experience. Squarespace also includes built-in SEO, so it will handle a lot of the technical SEO for you and prompt you to ensure your metadata is correct and optimised.

Squarespace also offers its own site performance analytics, so you don’t need to hook up Google Analytics to get an overview of your traffic, the most popular content, and more. I advise my clients to add Google Analytics and Google Search Console to their Squarespace sites (or I’ll do it for them), and any SEO company you potentially work with will want this too, so it’s well worth incorporating, even if you use the Squarespace analytics most of the time.  

Support

WordPress

Getting WordPress support is hit and miss – because all sites are built with different things, and on different hosts, you generally need to go to your host for help. If they aren’t a WordPress specialist, the advice you get there may not be all that helpful, in which case you’ll spend hours searching forums for a solution or calling a professional who can sort the problem at cost.

Squarespace

Squarespace has 24/7 award-winning support, and I can personally vouch that I’ve only had amazing experiences when I’ve reached out to them via live chat. They offer an entire library of step-by-step guides and video tutorials to follow, and if you need additional support, you can simply reach out to their team. Since all Squarespace sites are built out of the same materials, they’ll be able to help you through any problems easily.

The Verdict?

For me, the best choice is Squarespace. I always recommend Squarespace to my clients and friends. WordPress may be a capable platform, but it’s often simply not user-friendly enough to recommend to busy small business owners who don’t have the time (or the desire) to figure out how to get the platform to do what they want. Squarespace is easy and intuitive to learn, so I’m never worried when I hand over a site to a client. I know that they’ll be able to make modifications without always needing to come to me or a developer first, putting them in the driver’s seat of their online asset.

A laptop on a desk with someone working on their Squarespace website

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