Today, few business can run without a website. It’s your ‘physical’ reception to the world and your interactive welcoming party. Web savvy start-up entrepreneurs, particularly those with low tech firms, can use one of many DIY tools to build and manage their own sites. The challenge is which site builder do you use?
For some time, WordPress has been my ‘go to’ tool. One of my key reasons is because more than 23 per cent of the web’s sites use it and it seems the ‘de facto standard.’ Having seen many great technologies ‘eaten’ by dominant players (e.g. Beta vs VHS), I’m leery about deviating from this route. WordPress offers two main options: wordpress.com, which includes hosting and wordpress.org, which requires you to pay another supplier for hosting. I’ve used both and found them economical, easy to use and maintain.
That said, newer site builder Squarespace is tempting. Like WordPress, Squarespace is cost-effective, has an user-centric Content Management System (CMS) and offers responsive templates. Squarespace also has several templates with up-to-the-minute design features and all its pricing options offer e-commerce. Although you can do online financial transactions on WordPress.com, its flexibility is limited since you must run them via one of its partners, such as Ecwid, Shopify or Gumroad.
Digging further to check online sources, here is how I find Squarespace and WordPress stack up against each other in five key areas:
- Content Management System (CMS) – Some reviews cite WordPress as easier to maintain than Squarespace but harder to set-up, particularly its WordPress.org version. For either WordPress option, it takes a few minutes to learn the terminology, such as the difference between pages and posts. Once setup, WordPress’ CMS interface is fairly intuitive and functions much like MS Word. You can also easily edit the HTML in WordPress. The jury is out on whether Squarespace is easier to learn and use or not. Some critics, such as Elegant Themes rate Squarespace’s page editor as more complicated to view and more work to use since you must use secondary windows to edit some elements. Other reviews, like one on wpbeginner, suggest Squarespace’s drag-and-drop functionality make it easier to use.
- Cost –Wordpress.com offers packages from $0 to $389 but you can create an effective site with a mix of à la carte options. For example, you can pay $24 per year to set up a custom URL that makes it easier to find. To give it a more professional look, you can pay $39 to omit ads, which seem to show up when the site is viewed on a network with many users. For wordpress.org sites, you can find external hosting for $3.95 per month (including domain name) through firms like Bluehost or SiteGround. In contrast, all Squarespace sites include hosting and cost $96 annually for a personal site (which limits you to selling one product via up to 20 pages) or $192 for a business site (which enables you to sell up to 20 products via unlimited pages).
- Customization and Flexibility – Although wordpress.com offers the upfront flexibility of more than 360 templates, one of its disadvantages is you can only make limited customizations, without incurring extra charges. In contrast, Squarespace only has 20 templates but you can edit its fonts, colours and CSS, even at the Personal site level. But this pales when compared to the more robust WordPress.org solution, which offers more than 27,000 templates and 29,000 plug-in features, enabling you to create unique sites for specific needs.
- Data Space and Image Handling – One review suggests early Squarespace versions limited site package users to 2 GB of space and wordpress.com offered up to 3 GB of space for free. However, Squarespace now offers the unlimited space advantage to all its users, while WordPress caps its free version at 3 GB (with the option to buy more). Squarespace also offers media perks, such as Getty image use at $10/image and more integrated image editing options than WordPress.
- Support – Most of the articles I read praise Squarespace for its support and lament Wordpress support. In reality, WordPress has always sent me useful answers to any of my questions within 24 hours.
Squarespace’s flexibility and image features are ‘nice to have.’ However, I still think WordPress.com is the safer option because it offers numerous templates, as well as customization and e-commerce for a moderate price. Plus, if your business grows and you need to scale up, Elegant Themes suggests you can and boasts WordPress’ strength for the long-term.