WordPress vs Squarespace

by Russell on February 23, 2009

A Comparison of WordPress with Squarespace – A One Stop Shop Web Solution

WordPress(.org) is an open self hosted blogging platform while Squarespace is a controlled hosted solution.

The criteria I’ve identified are

  • Ease of Use – for a nontechnical user
  • Initial Cost – covering domain, hosting and service fees
  • Time to Get Up And Running – how long to launch a basic site?
  • Out of the Box Capabilities – what functions are available?
  • SEO friendliness – how does the site rank in the search engines – can you tune it?
  • Extensibility – how easy is it to add features?
  • Security – what security holes have been reported?
  • Maintenance – how often is routine maintenance required?
  • Support – how can I get help?

WordPress vs Squarespace – Ease of Use

WP 1 – 1 SS
Both are pretty easy to use from the standpoint of posting articles and creating pages. As regards creating a specific look and feel this depends on the choice of WordPress Theme or Squarespace Style Template. No customization of look and feel was considered as part of this two hour evaluation.

WordPress vs Squarespace – Initial Cost

WP 1 – 1 SS
For both you need to buy a domain. With WordPress you can host for around $5-10 a month at any hosting company you like while with Squarespace you need to host on their servers with the low end package being $8 a month

WordPress vs Squarespace – Time to Get Up And Running

WP 1 – 1 SS
The basic site we considered was 4 posts, an about page, a faq and a RSS feed. This takes a couple of hours with both Squarespace and WordPress.

WordPress vs Squarespace – Out of the Box Capabilities

WP 2 – 0 SS
Wordpress has hundreds of plugins and themes due to the large WordPress community while Squarespace has tens of plugins and themes.

WordPress vs Squarespace – SEO friendliness

WP 2 – 0 SS
Wordpress gives you the ability to control title and meta description tags and hence search engine optimization is possible. Squarespace gives very limited control over the title tag as it is restricted to some combination of the site name and the post name.

WordPress vs Squarespace – Extensibility

WP 2 – 0 SS
Wordpress does allow some extensibility through EXEC-PHP plugin which allows you add snippets of custom code. Also the Thesis Theme allows customisation through custom functions in the themes/custom/custom_functions.php file. Squarespace on the other hand maintains tight control over its server and hence customization is limited to styles.

WordPress vs Squarespace – Security

WP 0 – 1 SS
Due to the open source nature of WordPress development security weaknesses appear from time to time. They are quickly resolved however the onus is on the site owner to upgrade quickly. Squarespace is on a tightly managed platform so any problems are not publicized.

WordPress vs Squarespace – Maintenance

WP 0 – 2 SS
With WordPress there are often updates to plugins and on average, quarterly updates to WordPress itself. You need to do WordPress maintenance yourself or pay someone to do it. Squarespace maintenance is taken care of by Squarespace

WordPress vs Squarespace – Support

WP 0 – 1 SS
With WordPress there is a large community of users so the answer is usually out there. Squarespace also has user a user community but much smaller but it does have a strong technical support team you can call for help.

WordPress vs Squarespace – Final Score

WP 9 – 7 SS

WordPress is a winner based on more functionality and search engine friendliness. The main weakness of WordPress is around the support model but this can be adequately addressed either by learning about WordPress yourself so you become self-sufficient in WordPress maintenance activities. Or you can pay somebody else to perform these activities for you – such as the Power Blog Service.

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{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Bob Nolin March 8, 2009 at 10:30 pm

I’m on WP, self-hosted, have been for about 6 months. Easy to use? I’m an IT programmer with 18 years’ experience and it took me weeks to get it set up, AFTER paying for a theme that would do what I wanted (magazine rather than plain blog). Still had to customize it after that. You have to be a coder to use WP self-hosted, but that’s not true of SS. So they are not both “easy to use.” The hundreds of widgets and plug-ins are mostly duplicating each other, so you need to wade through them searching for the one that works best. I’d rather just have one that works, without having to hunt for each one and pray it doesn’t break my blog. The support for WP is volunteer-based, and you’re lucky indeed if you can find your answer on their forum. The main argument against WP is that they are focused on blogging, and not looking to become a web publishing platform for the future. That’s what you’re paying for with SS. I have not tried SS yet, but after one hour of reading about them and checking them out, I stumbled upon your post, and had to comment.

Russell March 16, 2009 at 3:07 pm

Bob

My blog post comparing Wordpress and Squarespace is based on my experience of running 5 wordpress blogs for around 12 months now. I have only a couple of months with a single Squarespace site. I set this up as a test allowing myself only two hours to create the site.

Here is my report on setting up a blog on Squarespace. It might be of interest if you are still looking at Squarespace. Squarespace has proved very popular with many artists.

I really do think Wordpress is easy to use from the standpoint of posting, adding pages and doing basic SEO. I believe you certainly don’t need to be a coder to post articles using Wordpress. However I do agree with you that there is some complexity around the selection of widgets and plugins and their customization.

Similar to yourself, I have around twenty years experience in IT and around seven years with PHP so this helps too.

The idea of the Power Blog Service is that we take care of the setup, customizations and plugins selection for our clients leaving the blog owner to focus on posting articles. I should make this more clear in my original post that the ‘easy to use’ refers to posting activities and not to configuration.

Your eye-catching blog sets the bar as to what can be done with Wordpress due to your high production values. I see you used Gridline Magazine as your theme. Have you taken a look at Thesis? It’s a highly customisable premium Wordpress Theme?

It’s easy enough to customize, we are talking hours not weeks.

Josh Braaten March 31, 2010 at 1:30 pm

Overall any review on a personal experience with blogging platforms will be highly subjective but I really appreciate your viewpoint. Wordpress is a bit more robust and comes with the technical difficulties associated with it.

I will also agree with Bob’s sentiment though. If you’ve ever had to struggle with setting up your LAMP/WAMP stack, go through and upgrade all your modules or recover from a hack, you’re not as big of a Wordpress fan as the next guy.

Ultimately I’d probably weight things a bit differently based on my own goals, resources and abilities, resulting in Squarespace being the superior blogging platform. But that’s the thing. Everyone is different and it’s awesome pro/con guides like this one that will help folks pick the right tool for the job.
.-= Josh Braaten´s last blog ..The Complete Google Analytics iPhone App Guide =-.

Elizabeth March 31, 2010 at 4:56 pm

My opinion is that Squarespace is OK if you’re not into internet marketing nor interested in finely tuning your web presence. But if you’re in a competitive space and need to get to the top of the SERPS, then Wordpress is the only real choice between the two.

Content begets design in my opinion, not the other way around, but many who prefer Squarespace are concerned with design in the first instance. Then of course there is what to do when you want to change your host. In the case of Squarespace you have to change your platform as well. With Wordpress – the whole blog is yours and you can host wherever you like.

You don’t have to run Wordpress locally to use it, so there is no need to set up LAMP on your home machine. There is one click install, upgrades and updates now so even the maintenance can be fairly easy. Recovering from a hack is tough to do of course, without help. But in those instances you can just pay for some help. Might be cheaper than the months of Squarespace hosting.

I can see though that say photographers who just want somewhere to show their work might think of Squarespace as a better platform, or hobby bloggers who are technophobic but not point-and-click a-phobic, as I am.

Liz

Josh Braaten March 31, 2010 at 5:17 pm

I am an internet marketer. Content is of paramount importance to me. I am interested in finely tuning my web presence. I use and am successful with Squarespace. I think Liz’s points on hosting, maintenance and customization are valid, but to say that Squarespace isn’t good for Internet marketing or SEO in general isn’t quite true.
.-= Josh Braaten´s last blog ..The Complete Google Analytics iPhone App Guide =-.

Elizabeth March 31, 2010 at 5:39 pm

I don’t think that Squarespace isn’t good for SEO – after all they just brought in 301 redirects didn’t they? I said it wasn’t as good as Wordpress. Wordpress allows you to do practically anything you like, combined with a theme like Thesis. Squarespace will always be more restrictive, by design.

Chris April 19, 2010 at 9:44 pm

I used Squarespace to get our company’s website up, and I have found it both wonderful and frustrating. After doing the initial layout using a Squarespace template, I was really disappointed in how flat and uninteresting the site was. I decided to employ a contractor to custom-design a template for me, and the results were 1000x better. The site isn’t perfect, but it is something I can take pride in.
That said, the Squarespace interface is very good. It is easy to find the tools you need to make the changes, and I found it very intuitive to navigate the options. For anyone who is not able or interested in maintaining their own Wordpress site, I definitely think this is the way to go. You can get a great site up very quickly in Squarespace, complete with some nice advanced features that work flawlessly. I agree with Russell that support is excellent – they are very responsive to questions, and the users guide is very well done.
My frustrations are in the inevitable limitations you run into with Squarespace. For instance, the editor to customize the side navigation area is not well designed, nor intuitive in my opinion. We have different images appearing in the border depending on the page, and I often am reduced to trial and error when I try to make changes. I think this is the challenge when you build tools to assist users through the really thorny coding challenges in a truly customized, hand-coded site.
The only other gripe is the load times. Sometimes they are fast, sometimes slow, and sometimes glacial. The inconsistency is mystifying. It also seems to unnecessarily load identical graphics when shifting from page to page, but that could just be my perception.
Lastly, look closely at the costs. I am on one of the business packages for $30 a month, which is good value. I don’t have to worry about upgrades or similar maintenance, as it is all taken care of. This peace of mind is great when you are trying to build a business. Over a 2 year period, though, it will add up, so my advice is to take a detailed look at what the full cost of the alternatives are, including valuing your own time. If you charge for your time as a freelancer or contractor, factor that into your equation to get an accurate assessment of outsourcing design or maintenance of your Wordpress site, or evaluating something like Squarespace.

Elizabeth April 19, 2010 at 9:59 pm

What a brilliant comment Chris, thanks so much for contributing. It’s interesting to note that all systems no matter what they are, benefit from proper design services if you want them to look good. Wordpress is no different.

I’d add that our service here is now only $17 and includes the same upgrades and and maintenance as Squarespace, and you can still use Wordpress which means you are not tied into our or anyone else’s hosting service.

John May 2, 2010 at 7:07 pm

This post seems pretty biased towards wordpress. I thought it was possibly in my head until you get to the security section:

“Due to the open source nature of Wordpress development security weaknesses appear from time to time. They are quickly resolved however the onus is on the site owner to upgrade quickly. Squarespace is on a tightly managed platform so any problems are not publicized.
I don’t think I even need to explain. ”

Do I need to explain?

Elizabeth May 3, 2010 at 1:57 am

You quoted the post as including “I don’t think I even need to explain”. I take that was a typo on your part? Squarespace has much better security than Wordpress as far as the post author is concerned. If you believe Squarespace’s security is poor, then yes please, do explain why you think that is.

Russell May 3, 2010 at 12:19 pm

Hi John,

As I indicated in the report, I believe Wordpress offers more flexibility and much better SEO so if these are important to you then choose Wordpress. However, if security, maintenance and support are more important to you then go for Squarespace. With Squarespace you need less technical input to keep your blog running smoothly.

Whatever you choose you should get your own domain in order to assume control over your site and make sure it is your own brand that you are building and not either Wordpress or Squarespace.

Pierre June 1, 2010 at 2:14 am

I have to warn anybody looking at signing with Squarespace: there is no backup policy. Once you have build a site or a blog with them you are stuck: no way to backup it, no way to recover your images, etc.
Not happy? You resign and loose all your work.

It’s a nice looking and friendly jell: you are stuck, no way to export your work (except the content of you text files…).
I have been there for 6 years and I have to build again from scratch, no help on they side. The make it easy to import, a dead end nightmare to export. Something to consider before to spend hours of work.

Fiona June 6, 2010 at 11:03 am

Thank you thank you thank you for all these super posts.
I am stuck on this exact decision. I already have one site i designed myself using IWeb. I am now about to set up a blog on a new topic that I do want to have SEO (and spidered) and do want to use multiple plug ins. (IWeb just does not kick it in enough departments) At the moment, I am focussing it on being something I am passionate about – in the future I would like to monetise it somehow. I cannot decide between the two platforms. Some recommend Wordpress as I can host separately, therefore never lose my content and have more control, and lots of plug ins. Some recommend squarespace to have the image, beauty and flexible control over the site. At the moment I am unsure whether squarespace can do it for me , however I prefer the look and flexibility.

I do have a question…. I have been looking at numerous wordpress templates to get an idea of what I could chose. If I chose a template, can I add pages to them? Or am I stuck with the pages that I get. I wonder whether I would just be better off getting someone to help me design the whole thing… Then I wonder of the cost. I do not want to pay a designer and then have to pay them every time I want to make a change. I like having some power over things and having the flexibility to make those changes myself like in squarespace. I have seen a site called Empowered bloggs(http://empoweredblogs.com/blog-designs) and wonder whether squarespace can do all this for me too? I do not like the templates that empowered bloggs offers. Is it really hard to do all this on my own if I buy a separate wordpress template and do it on my own? I could do with some unbiased (ie not empowered bloggs opinion) about these things.

Now just confused! Any answers?

Elizabeth June 6, 2010 at 11:53 am

Hi Fiona
There is nothing wrong with using Squarespace. Their offering grows all the time, but I wouldn’t do it. It sounds like you are determined and capable person – and you want control. In this case there is only one answer. I know this advice is very hard to take (the part I mention later about the template), but please try to see where I’m coming from.

Use Wordpress. The advantages to doing this are so vast, they would take whole blog posts to describe and I’ll be doing that on another site I’m setting up shortly.

Buy the Thesis Theme now (that is my aff link). And get the developer’s version. It costs $164. The payment is a one off – you get all Thesis updates for free thereafter. In a few weeks or days the price will go up when Version 2.0 of Thesis is due to come out and it will make self styling it easier. It’s not that hard now – you just need a little patience.

Why is this a good idea?
- You can run lots of Wordpress sites using that one Thesis license.
- All your sites can look completely different
- You get great SEO capability built in
- You are independent – don’t like a host – leave and go to another
- Wordpress is huge and the software itself is free.
- New Wordpress plugins, many free ones too, come out all the time (we’re building a couple now)
- Lots of people who know WP and Thesis

You are too hung up on templates at the moment. Don’t even think about a template. Just launch your Thesis/WP site with some simple design you do yourself, or even, shock horror, with a plain Thesis vanilla site.

Some of the web’s most successful people only have vanilla Thesis. (Andy Jenkins)

Successful sites that you monetise are ALWAYS about content. I grant you that a 5 page brochure site (home, about me, products, services, contact) needs to look pretty as this is all that it’ll have going for it. But it doesn’t matter how pretty it is, it won’t convert visitors into buyers as it won’t have the content and backup marketing to support conversion.

I did this Thesis design and am in the middle of doing simple step by step tutorial how to on how to do a simple design like it. Now I am not saying this is a great design – it isn’t. But it’s good enough. After you’ve been blogging for a while and decided on the character of your blog you can change the design.

It’s the content that will decide your blog’s future, not what it looks like. You just have to make sure it’s OK to look at. Later when you’ve earned megabucks you can pay a great designer to make you a new design which Thesis can wear. Skins for Thesis are like changing clothes. My advice is make your own Thesis dress, and when you can afford it and know what is right (your ideas will probably change), then go “haute couture“.

My Simple Design here :

Elizabeth June 6, 2010 at 11:57 am

Hi Pierre

I looked up Squarespace’s export support on their site. They say the following :

“Squarespace provides you with a number of methods for exporting and backing up your content. Each journal on your site can be exported in an MT compatible format, which can be imported to most all blog systems on the web. You can additionally back up the remainder of your site using our XML exporting feature, which lets you save your site’s raw content to your computer.”

So they say you can export to Moveable Type, then I guess you have to move from Moveable Type to Wordpress. Be better if they had a Wordpress export. That may speak volumes!

Josh Braaten June 8, 2010 at 5:49 pm

Squarespace and Wordpress developers are very proud of their respective platforms. It can be very hard to speak objectively about what solution to choose. With that in mind, I put together a post with a friend and Wordpress expert that compare the two systems and let you decide which is best for you. The link should be right below this comment. Great conversation!

Elizabeth June 8, 2010 at 6:05 pm

Great article you both did Josh. Will help a lot of people. Well done.

Michael July 23, 2010 at 8:16 am

I have used square space for over a year….happy but just learning to optimize. For $20 to $30 a month it’s a steal if you wanna compete with anyone immediately. Did hours of research….you get it all but the optimization control is not straigh forward…wordpress is more flexible but takes more time and $$$ to get going.

Elizabeth July 23, 2010 at 10:39 am

That sounds like it’s right up your street then and glad you are happy with the service offered by Squarespace. I don’t think it does cost a lot of money to get going with Wordpress – you can have a beautiful site very quickly and very cheaply if you use a standard premium theme from someone like Woo Themes or ThemeForest for example. If you want to use Thesis (as I would want to) it’s best for long term flexibility in my opinion, although lots of people will say the same for other premium themes. Thesis just happens to be the one of my choice.

Also you are not tied to a host with Wordpress. Users of Squarespace are married to Squarespace. Your site will be tough to move and preserve if ever you do decide to leave them. PLus you can host lots of sites for one reasonable price per month with a host + Wordpress, but I understand each site on Squarespace will cost you extra per month?

Richard September 15, 2010 at 2:21 am

Great discussion. I set up my own site using Wordpress but have qiute a few other sites I need to set up and wanting to focus more on creative direction and strategy more than coding or setup, I was thinking of giving SquareSpace a shot. I think I’ll try setting up a gallery for my photos and creative work and see how it pans out. For the time being though all my domains are on a MediaTemple virtual box and I like the idea of having “ownership” over my site code.

I can see how there is a strong debate on the subject of WP vs. SS. They seem to address two similar needs in two different ways. But I guess there are pros and cons of each and it depends on the individual scenario. If I want to have nothing to do with upgrading, patching, fixing bugs or even setting up hosting of a site and I want to focus on just designing and getting the content up there, then SS would be a great way to go. If on the other hand I want to have more control over where my site is hosted, and actually like getting my hands dirty with some coding or setup, then Wordpress has more power and flexibility.

Russell September 15, 2010 at 8:40 am

Thanks for your contribution to the discussion, Richard. WP is getting easier to set-up and maintain with each major release and with Themes like Headway then there is now a more graphical oriented way to design your site.

There is another solution which is lower cost than both SS and self hosted WP which may also be worth a look as a starting point – that is to host for free at wordpress.com and take advantage of the $10 upgrade package for their DNS service which means that you still control the domain. With this solution the site will run on Wordpress’s powerful servers but have the URL http://www.yoursite.com instead of yoursite.wordpress.com. This is a great low cost way to get started and prove you have an audience for your site. Once you are having been running for a few months then you are in a better position to decide whether to move to SS or self hosted WP or not.

Barbara | VinoLuciStyle February 27, 2011 at 6:00 pm

I use WordPress and Thesis for all of my own and my client sites. So when I saw someone I know announce today he had decided on Squarespace I was a bit surprised but more than that curious as to why someone would do that.

So, I’ve read the arguments, the pros and cons and it does seem each platform has supporters and detractors but the two things of note that can’t be denied are 1. Moving away FROM Squarespace is difficult and 2. I watch Alexa rankings for each site I visit. I’ve not seen clients of Squarespace come even close to the rankings my clients have developed using WP. So all else aside…if getting found, getting traffic and improving your rankings matter…seems WP wins hands down.

shiela September 6, 2011 at 6:13 am

Squarespace is better that wordpress. The blogs in squarespace are dofollow, exactly opposite to wordpress.

Russell November 29, 2011 at 6:43 pm

Hi Shiela,

Thanks for your comment.
With a good choice of WordPress theme such as Genesis, Thesis or Hybrid then you have full control of ‘follow/nofollow’ on a page basis.

Regards

Russell

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