Squarespace vs WordPress Comparison: After Nines Inc.'s Surprising Choice

Need to compare WordPress vs. Squarespace for blogging, content management and web site deployments? You're in luck. Amy Katz and I had to do our own comparison before launching After Nines Inc. last week. As outspoken WordPress fans, we originally expected to adopt that platform yet again. Only, we didn't. Here's why we went with Squarespace -- and why we'll never close the door fully on WordPress.

UPDATE, Sept. 24, 2:35pm ET: The blog below covers big-picture considerations. When you're done reading the content below, continue on to Part II of this blog, which covers pricing considerations and more.

First, the big picture (man... it's been about six months since I used that as a second paragraph transition in a blog. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did). Oh, back to the big picture:

Both WordPress and Squarespace are content management platforms for building websites -- especially websites with blog engines.

  • WordPress is open source. Like a vast lego system, there are thousands of home-grown "plugins" that let you add more and more features/functions to your website. Much like Linux, thousand of people contribute to WordPress's code base so the enhancements never stop coming. And often, the enhancements arrive far faster than any single company could have delivered.
  • Squarespace is a single company with its own self-named content management system. Squarespace includes the base lego building blocks -- plenty to get you started on a website with a blog, social media connections, video inserts, podcast capabilities, etc.

Like Google Android vs. Apple iOS, Linux vs Windows

In a way, the WordPress vs. Squarespace debate is similar to the Google Android vs. Apple iOS debate.

  • Android: Lots and lots of companies contribute to the Android ecosystem -- which delivers rapid innovation but also leads to some less-than-stellar code in the ecosystem.
  • Apple: In the Apple iOS world, Apple calls the shots. That closed system approach typically means you'll get a good list of awesome innovations, but you may also dislike Apple's iron-fist control over your environment.

Earlier Experience: WordPress 2008

In our previous business launch (2008-2011), Amy and I bet the house on WordPress for multiple blog sites and our corporate site. We had independent coders (awesome folks) plus our own know-how on about 50 different plugins -- those Lego pieces to help us customize and build our sites to new heights.

The results were pretty spectacular. We had slick, scalable, new media sites that our readers and sponsors truly embraced. We LOVED WordPress.

Choosing Squarespace vs WordPress - 2014

Summer of 2014 was a tricky time for me. Amy Katz and I were both off the grid. We had exited our previous jobs in May 2014 and spent most of the summer hanging out with our families. We agreed to check in with each other in late August to discuss potentially working together again in September or beyond.

The tricky part: If/when Amy and I decided to green light our new business ideas, we'd need at least one website -- a corporate site -- fast. So a couple of hours a week in late July and August, I quietly hacked together a few sample WordPress sites.

  • The good news: My aging WordPress skills quickly rounded back into shape.
  • The bad news: In some ways, WordPress was now overkill for a basic corporate website. Too many bad plugins, too much code to fine tune, too many design choices (some free, some paid) for an average coder like me.

What Is Squarespace?

By pure chance, I began to hear about Squarespace while co-hosting Tech News Today with Mike Elgan each Tuesday. Mike's video demos indicated that Squarespace was (A) fully featured and (B) easy to master. It almost seemed too good to be true.

My doubts quickly faded away when I started playing around with Squarespace this past August. While WordPress had thousands of plugins (many good, many bad), Squarespace had just enough widgets and templates to deliver a fast, responsive corporate site. Plus, Squarespace did all the hosting and easily integrated with:

  • Google Analytics
  • Social destinations like Facebook, Twitter and more
  • Podcasts
  • Email marketing systems

Transforming A Basic Theme Into Our Theme

We also loved that fact that we could really customize the look and feel of our site. First, select a free Squarespace template. Then, begin to adjust various blocks of content, images, links, etc. Check each page on AfterNines.com, and you'll see a classic focus on time: We're conscious of our clientele's time, our readers' time -- and our time.

About a week before we officially launched After Nines Inc., we switched our development from WordPress to Squarespace. Yes, there are actually WordPress builds of our corporate website somewhere out on the Internet -- hidden from your prying eyes. We never turned those WordPress builds "on" to the public.

I suspect the After Nines Inc. site will stick with Squarespace for the long haul -- assuming Squarespace's code base and customer support remains high quality (so far, so good).

We still consider WordPress to be the better choice for building out a full-blown, advertiser-driven or subscriber-driven IT media site. But that's a discussion for another day.

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