WordPress vs Squarespace

Are you considering WordPress versus Squarespace?

It would seem a simple argument for a WordPress developer to simply state how awesome WordPress is as a website development platform, but we’re not that kind of web design company. Our team has been building websites for some 20+ years, and that includes the longest standing member in our team, so we’ve had our fair share of technology failures. This article explores why we believe WordPress is a better choice for your small business website vs Squarespace and when a Squarespace website might be a better option for you.

A little WordPress history lesson

WordPress has been since 2003, a few years before some in our team started building websites. WordPress was originally a blogging platform, so it didn’t do a nice job of content management other than allowing you to publish blogs. WordPress has come a long way since that time, and now can do all kinds of things like e-commerce (using WooCommerce), and has some pretty great page editors (like Beaver Builder, Elementor, or Divi). WordPress is pretty flexible when it comes to building websites, but it also has a few design flaws. Let us explain.

WordPress doesn’t please all users

Like any open-source or modular system, WordPress’ greatest benefits are its biggest downfall. Being a modular website design system, anyone can write a plugin for it, and that means sometimes things break when those plugins are activated. The most common thing we fix when picking up a new client is outdated or hacked plugins. These breakages happen because people find a plugin that does almost what they want, but it needs adjustment to meet their needs. These adjustments lead them down the path of making changes to the plugin, and means they’re then locked into a particular version of that WordPress plugin, with modifications. Even worse, if a developer decided to modify the core WordPress code, you can no longer update your entire WordPress site (also called Core). This is a significant problem when a security flaw is found in WordPress!

WordPress also doesn’t do everything well. It does some of what it does very well, but there is a performance tradeoff for each plugin you install and activate. This tradeoff is why you see so much written about WordPress hosting, performance and maintenance. WordPress’ flexibility also means it can be slow. That’s not a bad thing by itself, but if you’re trying to rank well and give a great customer experience, you may find yourself wondering if you picked the right platform or WordPress developer in the first place.

You “own” your website

With a platform like Squarespace, you are at the whim of their developers. You cannot easily customize Squarespace other than design and perhaps some add-ons. This means you’re more or less stuck with the out of the box functionality or end up paying for more third-party software to achieve things you may want to achieve from your website. If you’re going to move your site, you’ll need to start all over again. With WordPress, you can quickly move your site to another provider or developer if you’re not happy.

Vendors (such as Squarespace) rely on something called vendor lock-in. There is an incentive for a website company to keep you using their platform. Using Squarespace makes it harder for you to move your website away. Vendor lock-in isn’t necessarily bad, as most website developers have a natural amount of lock-in anyway. Vendor lock-in can make it costly to move away, so something you should consider if looking at different website platforms. We have also seen cases when the vendor of such platforms decides the business is no longer profitable enough or sells out; then the new owner decides to shut it down. In this situation, you’ll be forced to move anyway. When you build a website in WordPress, the source is open, so any developer experienced with WordPress could technically maintain it, even if the web developer you’re working with decided to stop developing websites and close down their business. We have seen this happen with many solo developers.

When to use WordPress to build your website

WordPress will work for most of your website needs. If you need to build an e-commerce website, WooCommerce will help you achieve this. Need a membership website? WordPress has plugins to help with this as well. Just want a simple blog? WordPress is the tool for you.

When not using WordPress is a better option

If you think you’re going to need more than a dozen plugins to achieve ALL the functionality you ended up with, and those plugins aren’t just theme builders or supporting that task, you might need to look at alternatives. Trying to build an overly customized or complex site in WordPress will likely leave you wanting for more or doing things that compromise security or performance. When building a WooCommerce site, wholesale and retail pricing is one of those complications. If you need both wholesale and retail pricing, WooCommerce is not the platform for you. If you want to build a membership site and its functionality is beyond one of the membership plugin developers, WordPress might not be for you. Anything that causes you to venture too far away from one of the big plugin developers will very likely cause you pain in the future.

Wrapping up WordPress vs Squarespace

  1. If you want a simple DIY product, use Squarespace.
  2. If you want flexibility and less vendor lock-in, use WordPress.
  3. If you want to build an e-commerce or membership site, use WordPress.
  4. If you don’t want to worry about updates and security, use Squarespace or ask us to take care of your WordPress maintenance and support.

At Pronto, we are experienced web developers. Having worked with WordPress and custom website code, we can build anything you may need. Where possible, we stick to WordPress as we can build your website quickly and with a smaller budget, but if you need something particular, our Bravesight team can scope, design and build exactly what you need.

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