Squarespace vs WordPress for small business websites

If you’re someone running a very small business and looking for a quick way to get up and running with a website, you’ve probably stumbled across ads for Squarespace. Maybe you’ve heard of WordPress, too.

Whether you’re thinking of build a website yourself or hiring someone to do it for you, there are pros and cons to be aware of before committing to either platform.

In case you landed on this post without having looked around the rest of the site, I’ll tell you up front that A Fearless Venture specializes in designing and caring for WordPress websites. I’ll leave you to decide for yourself once you finish reading this post, but I’d argue that this makes me as knowledgeable as it might make me biased.

And, although it’s been a while, I’ve designed and cared for a number of Squarespace sites, too. Squarespace can be a good option for some businesses — if your needs and goals line up with its strengths and weaknesses. We’ll cover reasons why below, but I’ll tell you now that if you’re determined to build your site without professional help, you should use Squarespace. It’s a little simpler. But mostly, it’s safer.

Since I believe WordPress is best for most smaller businesses, though, I’ll talk about pros and cons of both Squarespace and WordPress as we go. It wouldn’t be fair or accurate to ding Squarespace without making you aware of a similar advantage or disadvantage of WordPress.

Pro: Easier to build with

One big advantage of Squarespace for DIYers is its user-friendly interface. It’s more drag and drop than WordPress, which makes it quicker to build with overall. As long as you stick to a fairly basic layout you aren’t likely to have issues.

The templates you’ll start with are nicely designed. While preparing to write this post, I easily found a few that would make a great starting point for a small service-based business or a consultant, attorney or other professional.

Pro (with a caveat): Cost

If you’re keeping it basic and building your site yourself, don’t fret over the little bit you pay Squarespace compared to “free” WordPress.

Yes, the WordPress software is free. But then you need hosting. You’ll need a well-built theme (a.k.a. template), because the free ones tend to be inflexible when it comes to setting up a business website. You may need to pay for premium versions of plugins to add features you need. Compared to Squarespace, it’s harder to DIY a WordPress site and get a professional result, so you may need to pay for help.

As we’ll cover in further detail below, WordPress and its plugins require frequent updates. Sometimes this is to add features, but it’s often to patch vulnerabilities that attract hackers. If you don’t like the idea of checking for and performing updates several times per month, you’ll need Site Care or another a website maintenance service to keep your site updated and safe.

The exception to my general feeling that Squarespace cost is a pro is if you want more robust e-commerce capabilities. If that’s you, you’ll need to shell out more for a plan that adds things like abandoned cart recovery, advanced shipping options, the option to sell subscriptions, and the like. At that point you’d be better off using a platform developed especially for e-commerce.

Pro: No software maintenance

The best thing about WordPress is how flexible and extensible it is. Anyone who wants to build a plugin to add a feature can do it. Consequently, most WordPress websites have a dozen or more plugins. But there’s a big downside to all those plugins: constant plugin updates. WordPress itself must be updated, too.

Squarespace is sort of a walled garden. Unlike WordPress, they don’t allow random people to develop things for it. They don’t allow anyone to download their software and use it anywhere else. They only have to worry about it running in one place: On Squarespace servers. If a software vulnerability is found or they want to add a feature, they have the ability to make it happen fairly quickly, without you having to lift a finger. It’s easy when your software lives in just one place.

Unlike WordPress, which lives in well over 800 million websites. Yikes. Hang onto that stat for the next Squarespace pro.

Pro: Low risk of hacking

Sure, you could get hacked on Squarespace. But the risk is a lot lower than with WordPress – especially if you compare it to the average WordPress site that isn’t professionally maintained. Getting hacked on Squarespace will almost always be a matter of a weak password that’s cracked. Always choose strong passwords. Problem solved, right?

With WordPress, though, there are numerous routes hackers can take. The biggest one being vulnerable plugins or even WordPress itself.

Remember how many WordPress websites I said were out there? 800+ million? The average WordPress user isn’t a pro, and doesn’t check for updates. If they happen to log in and see that updates are needed, they often ignore them. While these updates could be feature additions, they are very often security patches for code that can or has been abused by hackers.

I don’t have stats on the percentage of WordPress sites that are professionally maintained and thus relatively safe from hacking. But with 800+ million opportunities I think it’s safe to say that WordPress hackers will never go out of business. There are too many WordPress websites with absentee owners and vulnerable outdated software.

Pro: No incompatibilities that break your website

Because WordPress software is open source, anyone can build plugins or themes for it. This is one of the things that make WordPress so amazingly flexible. But the downside is that its extensibility also makes it vulnerable to compatibility issues between plugins, themes and WordPress itself. These conflicts can break your website visually, cause its various elements to glitch out and not function, or all of the above.

This is another place where Squarespace’s walled garden is helpful. No, you can’t install every manner of plugin and widget. But all their stuff works together fairly well. If you like keeping it basic, Squarespace wins here.

Con: Limited customization options

Compared to WordPress, Squarespace has a more limited number of design templates and customization options. Although some aspects of its template designs can be customized, it can be a pain to pull off without more advanced knowledge.

If it’s too hard to customize, the result can be a site that looks very similar to others using the same template. This is not necessarily a deal breaker unless your competitors use Squarespace. The bigger issue is being able to customize your Squarespace site so that it jives with other elements of your business (colors, style, etc.) enough to reinforce your brand.

By comparison, the ability to customize WordPress is limited only by imagination and expertise. I realize that, if you’re trying to DIY, those can be huge roadblocks unless you are willing to invest the time to learn.

Con: It’s not *your* design

Love the design of the Squarespace site you built? Yay! But don’t try to move it elsewhere.

Squarespace designs belong to Squarespace. They can’t be copied to a website elsewhere. Meaning, if you decide you need more robust options for your website, you’ll also need to get an entirely new design.

You can, however, export your posts and pages from Squarespace. So if you get started and later decide it’s not for you, at least you’ll have the text you’ve written. It’s easy to import into WordPress, too.

Con: Limited functionality

Squarespace has everything you need to run a basic website. Unless you choose the cheapest plan, you’ll even be able to sell products from your website. In many cases, even if a feature isn’t built directly into Squarespace, you can add it with an extension or connected service.

If your needs are even a little more than basic, though – especially with e-commerce – you may have to choose a costlier plan than you like. Or, as was sometimes the case with our Squarespace clients, you may not be able to add a feature to your site at all.

Compared to WordPress – where you can find a plugin to add nearly anything your heart desires – Squarespace sites are limited when it comes to advanced features. But if you don’t need anything fancy, it also means you can skip one of the downsides of WordPress and its myriad plugins: constant updating. There’s more you should know about that, so we’ll cover it below.

Con: No backups

Because Squarespace is a closed platform, where the company closely controls the software, it’s less likely that a Squarespace site will go down than a WordPress site. But when it does happen, you have no options for quickly restoring your site. Or restoring it at all.

By contrast, WordPress backup options abound.

Any number of things can happen to a website. Whether it’s a page you’ve worked on that just keeps getting worse, something you accidentally deleted, or someone hacking into your account and adding spam links – being able to quickly restore from backup erases all mistakes.

Is Squarespace your best option?

Ultimately, it’s up to you to make the call based on what you’ve learned here and elsewhere.

My recommendation, if you want it: If you’re just starting out, your needs are very basic and your budget is very small, DIY on Squarespace. Don’t be swayed by people telling your WordPress is “free,” hosting is $5/month, or they’ll build your site for $500 or less. You’ll get crap results and maybe hacked.

If you’re a little more established, a professionally designed WordPress website will be far more scalable and customizable than a Squarespace site.

Want an alternate perspective on Squarespace? Copywriter Sarah Kuiken of Flourish Writing shared her experience here.

Somewhere in between fledgling entrepreneur and raking in the big bucks? Consider working with us to create a custom-designed single-page website, or an AFV One WordPress website. In as little as three weeks, you’ll have a website that earns respect from the people you most want to serve. Bonus: You’ll also have no worries about hosting, updates, security or backups – we handle it for you.

Give us a shout to get the ball rolling or ask questions about what’s right for your business.

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