My first foray into building a website was about two years ago when my partners at ithree graphic design and I decided to redo our site after a rebrand. We had paid a programmer for our first site but wanted to learn how to do it ourselves, if for no other reason than to have a better sense of what the programmers actually did with the designs we sent them.
When I first stepped into WordPress, it was beyond scary! I thought I had jumped into a new universe. Nothing made sense to me. I couldn't even figure out where to begin. From a print designer's perspective, it was mayhem.
Fast forward a year, and not only had my partners and I completed a site that we were happy with, but I'd also designed and built my own website, which was a bit more complicated than the ithree site. I was quite proud of both of those sites and was happy with how both looked and functioned.
When I started working on my own site, I considered building it on Squarespace. I'd heard it was terrifically user friendly, but I couldn't find a template I loved, so I abandoned the idea and went with WordPress.
Designing that site was not easy! It took me forever just to pick a theme, and I bought one that I didn't end up using before I found the right one. I also had to hire a programmer to do the initial set up for me, as I couldn't get it to work to save my soul. She also fixed a handful of other problems I couldn't solve.
It took me three months to build that site, but once it was up, I felt great about it. I thought I'd want to add some features down the road, but I knew my way around my theme pretty well by then. I felt confident that I could make changes and add features without paying someone to help me.
Then I started getting update message from the theme developer. At first I ignored them, but they kept coming, so I had my programmer take care of that, too. Having not been able to set up the website correctly from the start, there was no way I was going to try to update it. The last thing I needed was to break my site with an update.
Fast forward a couple of months, and I had gotten several more theme update emails, and it occurred to me that I was going to get more and that I was going to have to pay someone each time I got one. It wasn't a ton of money each time, but it was going to start adding up.
I also had started thinking that it would be good for my business if I could offer my clients a complete branding package that covered everything from the logo design to stationery and print materials to a website.
And while I'd had no problems hiring programmers in the past, sometimes it was hard to find the right person at the right time, and it added to the cost of a website design. I wanted to work more with small businesses that didn't have large budgets, and a website would cost less if I didn't have to hire out the site build.
I knew I'd need to do a ton of work to feel confident designing AND building client websites in WordPress. I didn't really have a lot of interest in learning to code though, so suddenly, Squarespace was looking pretty attractive again. I decided to rebuild my site in Squarespace to see if it was realistic for someone like me, without coding experience, to actually design and build a really great site in Squarespace.
There were some glitches along the way, and I had to change my template choice more than once, but it took me a fraction of the time it took me to build my initial site in WordPress. And I didn't have to pay anyone to set it up for me. Bonus!
Now, when business owners who want to create their own sites ask whether they should use WordPress or Squarespace, I recommend Squarespace without hesitation. Don't get me wrong, I think WordPress is an amazing platform, but for most new business owners who don't have a budget, I think it's just too much to handle on their own.
Aside from my own personal experience, there's a wealth of information out there that supports my conclusion. I've summarized what I found about why Squarespace is better than WordPress for budding entrepreneurs below;
WordPress is an open source platform, which means their codes are open to everyone and anyone to use and customize. Anyone who wants to can create their own templates, themes, or plugins to sell or to share for free.
For someone who knows how to code, the possibilities are endless, and it's a beautiful thing! For someone who doesn't know how to code ... not so much.
The problem with all of the openness of WordPress is that the quality of the thousands and thousands of tools that have been created for the platform can vary greatly. What's more, it's almost impossible to police those tools. The result is that of the countless themes and plugins available to WordPress users, many are mediocre at best and lousy at worst. Some of the folks who are making tools for WordPress are high-skilled webmasters and service providers, and some are complete hacks.
Squarespace, on the other hand, is not open source, and while this means there are fewer options and less flexibility, you can feel confident that all of their tools are high quality. Everything Squarespace puts out is highly controlled and monitored and has been thoroughly tested before being launched.
Squarespace users are also fully supported if they have problems or questions. Squarespace's centralized support is hands down far superior to WordPress' disjointed, overwhelming, slow and confusing support.
Not only is Squarespace's support available 24/7, but it consists of a huge library of articles, workshops, videos, community forums and 1-hour email support. The live chat was a lifesaver for me while I was creating my site. I was able to solve a number of problems within minutes with live chat help. I love those people!
This was not the case with my WordPress site. When I was building my first site and I had questions, I had to go through a lengthy and convoluted process that included setting up more than one new account to even ask a question. Then, I'd have to wait at least a day, if not longer, for a response. And if you're using a free theme or plugin, forget about it. The developers of free tools aren't obligated to help at all.
Ease of Use
Again, WordPress is highly customizable, which is a huge selling point. If you're someone like me who likes things to be exactly the way I want them to be, you might be thinking, "How hard can it be? I'm a sharp tack and can usually figure things out, so why wouldn't I be able to figure out WordPress?"
The answer is that you probably can and will figure it out, BUT you need to know that the learning curve will be much steeper with WordPress than with Squarespace, and it will take you much longer to get your site built and launched.
Squarespace was created specifically with non-coders in mind. Because of this, it's much more intuitive and much easier for a non-coder to learn to use.
Another plus with Squarespace is that it's drag and drop functionality allows you to see how your pages will look "live" as you go. With WordPress, you have to save and preview your page to see each and every change you make. For someone who's used to moving from pasteboard to preview with the click of a mouse, this can be maddening. It's also really time consuming, and I don't know about you, but time is of the essence in my world.
I'm still getting emails telling me that the WordPress theme I used for my first site is being updated. I'm happy that the developer is continuing to improve the theme, but I don't really want to pay someone every time a new update is released.
Ignoring those messages and not updating tools regularly isn't a smart idea though. It opens your site up to hacking and can cause conflicts with WordPress. And even though I'd learned my way around my theme pretty well, I was still not eager to mess with anything that might break my site.
With Squarespace, updates are done automatically. Enough said.
Squarespace offers 4 plans to choose from depending on your need. They also offer an annual plan that saves money over paying monthly.
The lowest plan costs as little as $12 for a personal site or $144 per year. Your domain name is free for the first year (a $10 - $15 value). Plus, the plan comes with all of the support I mentioned above. Easy peasy lemon-squeezy. That's it - no more costs to throw in the mix.
With WordPress, you have to pay for hosting with a provider, which can range anywhere from $12 to $50 a month or even more with hosting specific to WordPress.
You'll also probably need to buy a theme, which costs anywhere from $30 to $80 per theme. This is a one time cost, which is nice, but keep in mind that more expensive themes are generally more reliable.
You might also need to ad plugins. Some are free, and some are not. They can range from $15 to $50 depending on the plugin. Plugins from developers with better reputations are likely to come with a higher price tag.
Next up is the domain name, which usually will cost only about $10 to $12 a year.
All in all, the up front costs for a WordPress site will run from about $189 to $730 depending on the theme and plugins. And this does NOT include support.
After the first year, both Squarespace and WordPress will run you around $154. With that said, your first year with WordPress will cost at least $45 more than with Squarespace. And that's with no support included. On top of that, you'll likely have to pay a developer to help with a few things, which can run in the hundreds. I spent about $250 with my programmer, and I wasn't a complete newbie when I built my site.
To me, Squarespace is a better deal, especially if your goal is to have a professional-looking site up and running quickly.
Search Engine Optimization
Last but surely not least is Search Engine Optimization. Before I say anything here, it's important to remember that content is king and remains the biggest influencer when it comes to SEO.
Also, I'm not an SEO expert, so I can't say definitively whether one is better than the other. I don't know if anyone else can either, but, again, I'm not an expert on the topic. What I can say, is that Squarespace makes it relatively easy to get your site launched with basic SEO set up already.
With Squarespace, each site is optimized for SEO when you sign up. They've already created a sitemap for you when you start. Sitemaps help Google crawl your site and get a sense of what it's about to classify the content and help search engines find you. This is hugely important!
Squarespace also makes it easy for you to then add your site title and description, both of which help search engines understand what subjects are in your site.
With Wordpress, you can use the plugin Yoast, which is recommended by some the best in the business. It takes care of a ton of SEO related work and is easy to use. There is also a free version, so it doesn't add to the cost of building your site.
Beyond that, you've got to apply best practices with keyword use in your pages/posts, titles, headings, meta descriptions and images. No platform can do all that for you, so, in the end, it comes down to the person who is creating and posting content to drive the SEO bus.
There you have it.
That's my story, and I'm sticking to it. Loads of people will tell you that WordPress is hands down the best web platform out there, and, and when it comes to flexibility, I don't disagree with them. For budding entrepreneurs on a tight budget, however, flexibility isn't necessarily the most important feature in a web platform. Ease of use is, and, based on my experience, Squarespace clearly outshines WordPress in that arena.