A content management system (CMS) can do a fantastic job in providing a simple way to create and manage content for your website, especially when a site requires constant updating and tweaking, such as with an e-commerce business. In recent years, the world has seen a constant stream of straightforward solutions and services such as WordPress and Squarespace, which offer a lot of bells and whistles when it comes to flexibility and customization.
Before diving into the details, let’s first check out the two platforms in comparison. They’re obviously both content management systems focused on ease of use and functionality, but they have glaring differences in terms of approach, degree of control, and accessibility to beginners.
WordPress is the world’s most commonly used CMS. Originally intended for blogging, it now powers about two-thirds of the web and dominates the CMS market. Being an open-source platform, it has democratized publishing for small and big businesses alike and has done it in an elegant and well-architected manner. Some of the popular brands that use it include TechCrunch, The New Yorker, The Walt Disney Company, and Sony.
Meanwhile, Squarespace has made its mark among website creators who are focused on visuals. Founded on the slogan “Build it Beautiful,” it was created to make things as easy as possible for people who want to share ideas online. It focuses on the basics yet makes things work flawlessly, so it works well for creative industries. Popular websites using this software-as-a-service (SaaS) website builder include Refinery29, Airwalk, Lyft, and Pixar.
Below, we compare how the two giants stack up in terms of ease of use, availability of templates, customization options, site speed, and general maintenance. Keep in mind that this comparison revolves around the standard version of Squarespace and the self-hosted version of WordPress.
Ease of use
If you’re building a simple website and you don’t have any web development background, Squarespace is hands down easier to use than WordPress. Because of its WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) and drag-and-drop properties, creating pages and adding content to a Squarespace website can be as simple as writing an email with rich text or uploading a photo on your social media account. You can preview the changes you make as you go and adjust them as necessary.
With WordPress, you’ll need some coding skills to get the most out of it. You need to learn and understand how the individual components work together to make sense of the full picture. When it comes to editing, you’re expected to make changes to your pages or posts in the backend. You make edits “blindly” and then preview the changes you made individually until you get them right – just like flipping switches. While the platform recently came out with better options similar to what Squarespace offers, you’ll likely still need additional plugins and some tech savvy to truly get the desired effect.
Availability of templates
Because it’s more widely used, WordPress has countless of templates available online that you can get free or paid. There’s probably a ready-made template available for any specific need or purpose, it’s just a matter of finding the right one for your requirements.
This also becomes a huge downside because when you have so many templates to choose from, the quality and design can be compromised. Some theme designers would even go as far as injecting malicious codes into their themes, which, when installed, may trigger security issues and eventually prove harmful to a website.
Preserving the quality of templates for users is where Squarespace clearly wins. Because of its “walled-garden” approach to templating, its theme library has outclassed virtually every page builder available in the market today. A vast majority of Squarespace users stick with the current selection of 110-ish templates under 14 categories and just do individual customizations as they deem fit.
Simply put, WordPress has a wider assortment of themes available but requires various configurations and a steep learning curve if you intend to maximize your use for it.
Squarespace, on the other hand, has several code-level options, but nowhere near the level of customization one can get from WordPress. In addition, plugins are not available on Squarespace, however, there are several integrations you can use if you’re on a higher tier plan.
When talking about flexibility for visual aspects of an individual page on a site, Squarespace allows you to do more. But it can be a disadvantage, too, if you change things too much, for instance, on a blog page. If you play around too much with the blocks you can insert on your page, you might be left with no unified theme or format for blog entries. By contrast, WordPress lets you stick to your base template unless you assign customised page attributes such as page templates or parent pages.
Another difference is how Squarespace only allows you to go two levels deep when it comes to navigation. With WordPress, you can have as many navigation areas as you want and as many sub-levels or sub-categories that you want.
When referring to mobile site speed, Squarespace trumps WordPress by a mile in that all of its templates are responsive, which means they’ll adjust automatically for any device. It also presents content in Accelerated Mobile Pages or AMP format, meaning they’ll load faster and would probably appear higher in search results.
It’s harder to find responsive WordPress templates that will be suitable for all devices. You’ll need to check how a site looks like one by one on each device to make sure.
It’s a different case, meanwhile, when talking about site speed on a page speed standpoint. Using WordPress provides greater control over how fast your website loads on page speed tools like Google’s PageSpeed Insights and GTMetrix. You can choose a faster hosting provider and a faster template, or simply do the necessary tweaks to your code to meet the recommended speed on your preferred tool.
When using Squarespace, you’re stuck with how they host your site and their underlying code, which means you can only do so much about site speed.
WordPress will make it easier for you when you decide to grow your site bigger. Some websites will have 5,000 pages running on a single WordPress install, whereas if you’re planning to post one blog per week for different categories on Squarespace, it could get a bit overwhelming when you cross the 500 page mark and you might want to rethink your decision.
WordPress as a system and its plugins get updated often, so when there’s a known issue, it can be resolved by a single click. When things get broken, it’s easy to roll back. It’s pretty much a DIY task to update things on your website. Opposite to this, Squarespace updates are pushed to your website automatically so you save both your time and effort.
So, you might ask, who wins the battle for CMS supremacy? It would be easy to go out on a limb and say that Squarespace fits people who are more particular with form, while WordPress is much more ideal for people who chase after function.
It would be best to consider both options for your business. As long as you define your needs well, together with your must-haves and nice-to-haves, you’ll be able to figure out which one will work best for you.
Klaris Chua-Pineda is the full-stack digital marketer for New Zealand property maintenance companies Crewcut, Crewcare, and Chemcare.
Squarespace stock photo by II.studio/Shutterstock