We compare two big web builders

The past few years have seen an explosion in the popularity of website builders, as more and more people claim their spots on the internet. But when it comes to knowing which one to pick, it can be confusing. Do you go with the builder sold by your domain broker or website host, or do you choose a builder known for beautiful design? If you choose the former (and we recommend that), Squarespace and WordPress are two of the biggest options out there for easy-to-use website building tools, along with extensive blogging and ecommerce features. However, which one should you pick? In the battle of Squarespace versus WordPress, it can be a baffling process. When it comes to figuring out the best website builder for you though, it’s a smart move to do your research. 

Squarespace is best known for offering a wealth of attractive Squarespace templates, but there’s no shortage of great WordPress themes, either.

Where things tend to differ is how Squarespace and WordPress approach the site builder process. Squarespace has a reasonably straightforward grid-style layout approach to designing a site. WordPress isn’t quite so clearly laid out (and then there’s the confusion of WordPress.org or WordPress.com. More on that later!), but it’s been around longer and is more established.

To help you figure out the winner in the battle of Squarespace versus WordPress for your needs, we’ve looked at where each service comes in as the superior offering. We’ve considered how easy both services are to use, along with the templates available, and the additional features they both offer. We’ve also tackled the thorny issue around the differences between WordPress.org and WordPress.com. 

WordPress.org or WordPress.com?

Why are there two sites called WordPress? It isn’t very clear. Simply put, WordPress.com is the more entry-level and simpler option. It’s ideal for when you want to set up a blog quickly and start writing online or if you simply want to upload some photos to a website. You can sign up at the website and get started within moments. 

Alternatively, WordPress.org is the more advanced option. It’s not particularly user-friendly, as you’ll need to get a separate host and domain to get started (or sign up for a web host that already offers WordPress). It’s far more powerful and ideally suited for ecommerce and other business purposes, but you’ll need to put the work in and learn a few skills along the way. 

Both options have their own benefits, but in the case of this comparison, we’ll be solely looking at WordPress.com, as it’s the nearest to Squarespace in terms of the user-friendly experience it offers. 

Where Squarespace wins: Design flexibility, mobile-friendliness, and ecommerce tools

Squarespace is immediately appealing to use. While some site builders still act as if you should have some knowledge of web design, Squarespace gets that not everyone is an expert. It also has that modern feeling that site builders like it and Wix love to embrace. It has a considerable number of great stylish templates, including templates explicitly aimed at bloggers along with Squarespace templates for video. Whatever you plan on sharing online, Squarespace has a template for you. There are hundreds available, ensuring that your site looks unique among the competition. 

While not quite the simplest of site builders to use (Wix has that honor), Squarespace is still pretty easy to figure out. It doesn’t require any coding experience, and all the templates look great on mobile platforms without any additional tweaking needed. You simply slot in the various components you require when creating your site. Squarespace lends itself to more visual mediums, so it’s a particularly good place to go if you want to showcase your photography portfolio, your blog, or simply items that you’ve handcrafted and wish to sell. 

If you plan to sell any products, Squarespace has powerful and professional ecommerce tools that are ideal for small and medium-sized businesses. They’re a little lacking for large companies, but then again neither Squarespace or WordPress are designed with big business in mind without a lot of tweaking. 

Squarespace places a lot of focus on visuals.

Squarespace places a lot of focus on visuals.

Whenever you want to switch between templates, it’s super easy to do with Squarespace with nothing breaking in between. It’s all pleasantly hands-off so you won’t have to worry about the inner workings of your site. If you do happen to run into any issues, you can always use Squarespace’s chat support, as well as extensive FAQ pages and email support to get yourself out of a jam. Bear in mind there’s no telephone support but the odds are that online support suits your nature more anyway. 

Where Squarespace falls short: Blogging, no free plan

Don’t get us wrong — Squarespace has excellent blogging tools compared to something like Wix, but it can’t compare with WordPress’s way of doing things in the blogging arena. That’s because WordPress has always been the blogger’s weapon of choice, and it shows. WordPress is a little smarter when it comes to SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Through its many blogging plug-ins, we feel like we can share to social media more conveniently than with the image-focused nature of Squarespace. Squarespace uses themes that are more about utilizing high-quality stock photography than showcasing your words, so that’s clearly where WordPress has the edge. It’s all down to how you plan on using your site as to whether this is an issue and both options still offer satisfactory SEO tools. Much of the debate comes down to your own personal preference. 

More crucially, Squarespace doesn’t offer a free plan while WordPress does. That means you’re going to have to commit to Squarespace for a time to see what it’s like. It makes sense to pay to gain extra features for a business or side hustle, with Squarespace offering straightforward pricing plans from $12 to $40 per month, but the moment you stop paying on Squarespace, your site vanishes. That can be restrictive if you simply wish to run a personal blog for a while. WordPress is a far better option here as you can start your site up entirely for free before choosing to pay for extras you might need. 

If you choose to leave Squarespace, you can export your site but only in a format suitable for a WordPress build. At least it means you won’t have to worry about leaving anything behind, though. 

Where WordPress wins: Blogging functionality, room for growth, and in-depth features

WordPress.com is the perfect place to go if you want to write to your heart’s content. The service is set up in a way that means you can quickly create a basic site and start blogging within only a few minutes. Actually writing your blog entry feels a lot like using word processing software so it’s simple to get the hang of while getting your point across. Initially free to use, you won’t have to worry about paying for anything unless you want to purchase your own domain name or unlock additional features.

By that logic, WordPress is an excellent option if you’re not entirely sure of your plans. It’s even straightforward to export your content to another provider, with plenty of different ways of doing so. That means you can sign up for free, explore the layout of the site builder, then choose what to do next. It’s possible to buy access to plug-ins as well as purchase more themes depending on your needs. 

Barnsbury, a WordPress theme that's great for farmers.

Barnsbury, a WordPress theme that’s great for farmers.

That might make WordPress sound expensive, but it entirely depends on what you need. WordPress is cheaper than Squarespace at the unique domain level: Plans with a free domain for a year start at just $4 per month for a personal site and go up to $45 per month for ecommerce. (However, if you are planning to use WordPress for serious ecommerce, we have some thoughts on which way to go on that.)

The sheer flexibility here is helpful, especially when you’re trying to figure out what works best for you. How valuable the ecommerce tools (unlocked via the business and ecommerce plans) are mainly depend on your business’s intentions. If you want to sell more visual items, we’d suggest sticking with Squarespace, but if you’re thinking of selling ebooks or other written materials, WordPress is a good call.  

We’re also impressed by WordPress’s statistics tools, which provide you with insight into how many visitors you’re attracting and what search terms are luring them in. Much like a lot of WordPress’s backend, it’s not as attractive to look at as Squarespace, but it quickly gets to the point. 

Where WordPress falls short: Style and support

WordPress feels a little dated at times. Its layout is very clear looking but when it comes down to it, that’s because it’s looking quite tired, too. The backend of WordPress has looked the same for a long time now, and it lacks the visual flourish of something like Squarespace, which makes the idea of setting up your own website feel exciting and fresh. 

That trend continues when it comes to WordPress themes. There are loads to choose from, even if you stick to the free plan, but a trained eye can often spot a WordPress theme a mile off, and they lack the modern look of a Squarespace template. Editing them is trickier than editing a Squarespace design too, which will make a difference if you’re impatient or simply have no idea about visually creative designs. That won’t be an issue if you’ve set up a creative writing blog, but if you’re trying to sell your wares or advertise your incredible photography, then you really need a site builder that offers templates to match your own creative talents. 

WordPress support is lacking a bit, too. There are extensive FAQs and even some video tutorials to view but if you want to talk to a real person, you’ll need to either ask a question on the WordPress forums or pay to schedule a support session with an expert who can work with you via screen share. It’s an understandable move for a service clearly designed to be mostly free, but you may find yourself longing for more of a helping hand. That’s the thing about WordPress — everything involves a teensy bit more effort than the Squarespace way — meaning that Squarespace is far superior for true novices. 

Both Squarespace and WordPress have their strengths. Both of them allow you to easily create a website with reasonably intuitive interfaces, so you can quickly build a presence online. Each website builder also makes it simple to set up a blog, with WordPress slightly having the edge here but Squarespace still making it simple thanks to scheduling tools and a straightforward layout. 

When it comes to customer support, Squarespace has the advantage with email support that’s generally very helpful and useful. WordPress relies more on using crowdsourced advice, although that can be useful given how established WordPress is. It all comes down to how much help you actually want or if you prefer to figure things out yourself.

Overall, both are good options, but each of them has its own niche.

Squarespace is best if you want a more visually appealing site. If you want a site to showcase and highlight your creative talents such as your photography or cooking, then this is the best website builder for you. You can pick from its wealth of templates before setting up your site and making it look like your own by manipulating the design. It also has robust ecommerce features that may prove a little expensive but are incredibly simple to set up and ideally suited for less tech-savvy folk. 

Alternatively, WordPress is the best option for blogging. It’s not the prettiest of sites to use, but it’s great for simply typing out your thoughts in a way that feels akin to using any other word processor. You’ll need to get more hands-on if you want to include more complex features such as ecommerce but the sheer fact that you can get started with WordPress entirely for free makes it a tempting proposition if you’re not yet set on how you plan on doing things. Upgrade and you’ll have access to what feels like a neverending number of plug-ins too. 

Both options are good and offer some overlap with what they do well, but it makes sense to stick to the respective sites’ strengths — visual content for Squarespace, and blogging for WordPress.