WordPress versus Squarespace
December 11, 2019
First, the title is slightly misleading. It really should be “WordPress vs Squarespace, Weebly, Wix and/or any other non-open-source web publishing tool.”
Ugh, too wordy. So we’ll just focus on Squarespace itself.
We understand the temptation to use commercial services, as WordPress is known for a number of issues:
- the need for frequent updates (plugins, themes, WP core)
- a sometimes overwhelming back-end experience
- plugin and theme incompatibility
Forgetting to perform updates can lead to the site getting hacked, the back-end can get messy (depending on how many plugins get installed) and once in a while you’ll find a plugin that doesn’t work with your theme, even potentially crashing the site.
On the flip side, Squarespace itself has its limitations:
- functionality (no ability to add customizations other than what they offer)
- inability to edit source code, which hinders front-end design/animation possibilities
- a design system that is too homogeneous
Granted, that last point might actually be a plus for some, if you like their aesthetic and want your site to evoke that style on purpose. However, I haven’t worked on a single Squarespace site where at some point I had to tell the client “sorry, can’t do that” for the reasons above – I couldn’t integrate custom code, found the design system/structure lacking flexibility or couldn’t add some particular function that would have been solved instantly with a particular WordPress plugin.
Companies are built by people, reflecting a particular point in human psychology – our greatest strengths are often our most frustrating weaknesses and hopefully it’s clear from the above that both platforms demonstrate that adage.
When should I choose Squarespace?
Based on this analysis above we would say that SS should only be chosen when:
- you want the site to feel like a Squarespace site and their particular aesthetic
- you don’t anticipate needing any unique functionality
- if building an e-commerce site, your needs are fairly limited
Why do we still prefer WordPress?
For us personally, we’re used to WordPress and know how to get around its limitations. The ability to customize virtually anything is also a massive feature for us, as we often see possibilities that clients don’t (thanks to 25 years of web development experience) and that is where commercial services usually break down.
Personally, when all is said and done, it all comes down to a single point:
With WordPress you own your site. With every other commercial service, you don’t. It’s just that simple.
With WordPress you can move your site to any hosting company and it’s always under your control. You could even take it offline for a year and then put it back up again when you’re ready to relaunch. But with these other commercial services, your site only exists as long as that company survives and/or you pay your monthly bill.
We understand the temptation.
Ok, we’ll admit it — we have a few clients that migrated over to using one of these other services, because on the whole, they’re easier to use than WordPress. Undoubtedly, Squarespace has a beautiful and (relatively) simple interface. Making it easy to build and launch a site with zero technical expertise.
But the problem, in our humble opinion, is that once you launch a site based on a commercial service like Squarespace, you’re locked in. If the company goes out of business, your site will be gone. If your enterprise grows, requiring a unique and customized technical solution, you’ll be stuck with whatever default tools they offer, or forced to rebuild from scratch elsewhere.
But with WordPress, the sky is very nearly the limit. We’ve been able to hack countless solutions into client sites that would never have been possible on these other services.
This is mostly because WordPress is an open source system built by tens of thousands of contributors around the world. Even if Automattic – the commercial entity that built the original system – goes out of business it won’t matter, as there are literally thousands of companies and developers around the world that would rally to keep it running.
Obviously, with an open system like this, that means things can also get messy. Plugins, themes, updates, databases… there’s a lot to understand. We won’t dispute that you may not be able to manage a site like this on your own. But at the end of the day, ask yourself the following question…
“Do I want to own my website or rent it?”
Photo by Nikita Kachanovsky on Unsplash