Quick point of clarification: In this post we’re going to be talking about WordPress. When we do, we’re referring to the open-source content management system that can be downloaded for free from wordpress.org and installed on most hosting accounts. We aren’t referring to the paid service that provides a customized version of WordPress on wordpress.com.
If you have listened to a podcast, or watched a YouTube video, or—you know—used the internet at all in the last couple years, you’ve probably seen or heard at least dozens of ads for Squarespace. The ads often promise that Squarespace is “everything needed to power your ideas.” Is that true? Well, it depends on what your ideas are.
Reasons to use Squarespace:
- You need a good-looking website in the next 10 minutes.
If you need a web presence like yesterday already, and you don’t have the time or inclination to worry about the details, then a service like Squarespace can have a simple, but attractive, site online for you probably faster than any other way.
- You want the smallest possible learning curve.
Squarespace is designed to take most of the technicalities of setting up a website out of your hands. By the time you’re done going through the basic registration for Squarespace, you’ll have a website with your name on it. And after that most of the basic design choices can be made by clicking on the interface and selecting an option.
- You’re already familiar with Squarespace.
If you used Squarespace in the past and you know your way around the system, then you probably already know if the features and limitations of Squarespace are a good fit for the site you need to build. If you’re happy with Squarespace and the price is right, then there probably isn’t a compelling reason to look elsewhere.
- You want to do everything yourself without needing to know anything about domain registration or web hosting.
The simplicity of the Squarespace sign-up process means that you can probably get your site set up from scratch without needing to call your techie friend or google things like “what does DNS mean?”
Squarespace offers the most popular, common features of a website in a relatively accessible, and reliable way. If you’re of the mindset that you’ll use the tools and layout options Squarespace provides and be content with that, then it might be a good option for you. If you think you’re likely to be frustrated when you want to put something in a spot the template doesn’t allow for, or add a feature that Squarespace doesn’t include, then you probably want to look at a more flexible platform for your site.
If you’ve clicked around on our blog or gone looking for platforms to build your site on, then you’ve definitely heard of WordPress. It’s the world’s most popular content management system, powering about a third of all websites. It’s powerful, flexible, infinitely customizable, and easy to learn. Obviously it’s one of our favorites.
Reasons to use WordPress:
- You want to be able to pick from the thousands of available themes, or have a completely customized design.
There are over 7,000 free themes available on wordpress.org, plus thousands more free and paid themes available elsewhere online. There are even themes like Divi and Oxygen that make editing the content and design elements of your site a simple visual experience, in the same vein as Squarespace.
- You want to make use of the functionality provided by thousands of plugins.
There are over 55,620 free plugins available on wordpress.org, and again, thousands more free and paid plugins available elsewhere. If there’s a feature you need your site to have, there’s a very good chance there’s already a plugin you can install in seconds that will implement the feature. And if there isn’t a plugin already…
- You need custom functionality unique to your site.
When you have a need for your site that is more unique or specific than an out-of-the-box plugin is able to provide, WordPress is a fantastic platform to develop for. We develop custom plugins for clients regularly, because often it’s just the best way to provide EXACTLY the functionality a client needs. And thanks to the popularity and strong development community that WordPress has, it’s probably the best platform to be on when you decide you need something special on your site.
- You want to be on the most popular, well-known, developed-for content management system on the internet.
When a platform is as ubiquitous as WordPress, finding guides, tutorials, instructions, and explanations for it online is a non-issue. If there’s something you want to know about WordPress, the answer is a quick internet search away. Whether you want to know how to add a link to a blog post or develop your own theme from scratch, you’ll be able to find the answers you’re looking for.
- You want to benefit from an enormous community of open-source developers who are constantly adding and improving features to the platform.
WordPress improves every day. There are thousands of developers updating and developing themes, plugins, and WordPress core. They are applying fixes, adding features, and improving the quality and usability of the entire platform. And in the process, the platform your site is on continues to grow and improve at no cost to you.
Squarespace is like a paint-by-numbers kit, and WordPress is like an entire art store (including the paint-by-number kits, if that’s what you want). As long as the picture on the box is exactly what you want, the paint-by-numbers approach might be perfect for you. But if you want a platform with unlimited room to grow, and expand, and develop your site, then WordPress is a better fit.
Squarespace and WordPress aren’t targeting exactly the same audience, but there’s enough overlap that it’s not always clear which platform would be better suited to your needs, wants, and budget. And there are a lot of sites that start on Squarespace (or a similar platform) and eventually need to move to something more flexible as the limitations start impacting the site’s potential. If you’re on the fence about choosing a platform (whether it’s one of these or not), or you think you might need to move from your current platform, we’d be happy to answer your questions and help you evaluate the pros and cons so you can make the best decision for your site. Just drop us a line.