Both WordPress and Squarespace have strengths and weaknesses for providing you with the right solutions for your website needs. It’s important to understand each, before making any decisions.
WordPress has two different versions, one being a hosted WordPress and the other being a self-hosted WordPress. The hosted WordPress (available at wordpress.com) is a software service tool where you pay a monthly fee and get access to a broad range of features which you can enable to build and maintain a website. Self-Hosted WordPress is a piece of software (downloadable from wordpress.org) that you install on your own web server. This is the more popular version and is more widely used as there are between 60-75 million sites built using self-hosted WordPress. This is open source, meaning the code behind it is freely available and may be modified easily. In practice this means that sites built with WordPress can be customized to the nth degree. This creates a very flexible tool in the hands of the right developer or with the installation of a plugin that can be adopted to meet almost any design project.
Squarespace is a software as a service website builder. According to their website, there are one million paying Squarespace customers. Here, you pay a monthly fee to use it, but everything you need is built and maintain for your site is provided by Squarespace. This includes hosting, content management system, e-commerce, support and a domain. There is a developer’s version to Squarespace which allows you to access and manipulate the source code, but this is not very popular.
Squarespace’s core audience is comprised of users without web development skills or a budget to hire a web developer. The idea behind them is that anyone can use the platform to build their own website without need to understand code. However, because of this, Squarespace is very limited to what you can do in terms of design and layout. So, they maintain quality templates, a friendly interface, and avoid other scenarios for someone to change their site. This becomes a good choice for users who need to set up a professional-looking website quickly, but don’t have the resources for a web designer or developer. Similarly, someone could build a website with WordPress without needing to understand code. However, there is a steeper learning curve in setting up a site with WordPress.
The Interface of Squarespace is really where it shines, as it is limited in what you can do, the drag and drop interface is extremely intuitive. It also has a style editor which allows you to change the basic template design elements as the heading size, font colors, and so on. This works well as you can change elements quickly just by clicking on them, however, is very limited by the template design you choose. Now some Squarespace templates are more customizable, and others can be changed very little, so it’s important to pick the right one. One of the best aspects of this is that everything you do changes and you can see it. Whereas in WordPress you have a content management page for editing and then have to publish it before you can view it. However, with all things in WordPress there are plugins, and there are visual editor plugins which you can install that allows you to view the changes you are making. Other than that WordPress is not difficult depending on what hosting provider, setup, and configuration are up and running.
Templates on Squarespace are beautiful, and outdo most other sites like Jimdo or Wix, but there are around only 60 different templates to choose from. Whereas with WordPress there are thousands to choose from both free and to be bought. Where it comes to content managing and blogging, WordPress really excels as each single version of a page is stored on the system and you can roll it back at any point. Squarespace does not permit this. Secondly, you can only add “code blocks” in Squarespace and in WordPress you are able to toggle between HTML and WYSIWYG when editing your content.
When it comes it flexibility Squarespace can’t keep up with WordPress as there are thousands of plugins available that can be used to add functionality to your site. Plugins don’t exist in Squarespace but there are built-in integrations you can use as well as add code blocks, but nothing close to the customization of WordPress. Lastly, suitability for large of complex sites is another area in which Squarespace just isn’t meant for. As it doesn’t facilitate deep website hierarchies. The platform limits you to two levels of navigation and you could argue it limits you to one level. For any kind of business or organization who offer a range of services, a deeper hierarchy is a key requirement for the website to be successful.
Lastly, WordPress is the winner when it comes to SEO. As it allows for alt tags, meta data, and a range of SEO plugins which assess the quality of your on-page SEO efforts and suggestions improvements. Squarespace can definitely be optimized for SEO, but it is limited and has less tools available for you.