Squarespace vs WordPress Comparison, Part II

Trying to choose between Squarespace vs WordPress for a corporate blog, website deployment or overall content management? Yesterday, in part one of this blog, I offered some high-level reasoning for why After Nines Inc. dumped WordPress for Squarespace. Today, in this part two offering, I will describe some nitty-gritty comparison points between the two platforms -- and some reasons we'd consider WordPress for new uses down the road.

Let's start with a basic "needs" definition: You need a website that integrates with all sorts of social media extensions (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, enewsletters, podcasts, etc.). Both Squarespace and WordPress can answer your call for help. But they address your needs and challenges in different ways. For instance...

Let's assume your company is named "MyBusinessSite"

1. WordPress vs Squarespace Site Hosting

  • Squarespace: Your site is hosted by Squarespace, at the URL http://mybusinesssite.squarespace.com. I don't believe you can move the site to another hosting provider.
  • WordPress: You can host your site on WordPress, at the URL http://mybusinesssite.wordpress.com. Or, you can have a developer migrate your WordPress site and content to a third-party hosting provider. For instance, our previous business originally hosted its WordPress content on Rackspace.
  • Custom URL: Let's assume you own the URL www.MyBusinessSite.com. With both WordPress and Squarespace, you can change the default URL (http://mybusinesssite.squarespace.com or http://mybusinesssite.wordpress.com) to your custom URL. That way, site visitors see your brand and not your content platform provider's brand.

2. WordPress vs. Squarespace Pricing, Cost Considerations

  • WordPress - Getting Started: You can get stared for free at WordPress.com. The standard platform includes a range of design templates from which to choose. You can also choose from "paid" templates that have some additional capabilities, This is both a blessing and a burden. You can wind up paying $30 to $100 (give or take a few bucks) "trying" templates you think you like, only to discover they don't quite fit your needs.
  • Squarespace - Getting Started: I was very impressed with their free 14-day trial approach, which didn't even ask me for a credit card. From there, you can pay $8 per month for 20 pages, galleries, blogs, 500GB of bandwidth, 2GB of storage, 2 contributors and more. That's an insanely low price -- considering Squarespace also hosts the entire system for you. But don't forget: You could choose WordPress instead to get started.
  • WordPress - Advanced Users: In this hypothetical scenario, you're building out a full-blown media site with blogs, advertising systems, site registration for your visitors/readers, etc. The good news: WordPress's code is free and open source. You can take it and customize it, and host it anywhere you want. The bad news: This is also far too complex an approach for the average site manager or blogger. In this case, you'll likely need help from a third-party WordPress developer/partner to piece together and manage the site for you. Expect to pay anywhere from $2,500 to $25,000 for that initial engagement. Then, you'll need to pay your hosting provider (Rackspace, somebody else, etc.) a monthly fee to host the site. Don't forget the need for ongoing plugin/widget updates and code refreshes from your developer.
  • Squarespace - Advanced Users: In this hypothetical scenario, you're building out a full-blown corporate site. You may want to add some e-commerce capabilities but you're not really running third-party advertising. To build that advanced user-type site on Squarespace, you'll need to pay between $16 per month or $24 per month. In my mind, that's incredibly affordable. Squarespace is a very simple, effective option for smaller businesses, but isn't likely the best choice for a midsize to large organization nor a full blown media business.

3. WordPress vs Squarespace Functions, Plugins and Widgets

Generally speaking, blogs and content management systems that have plugin- and widget-approaches are very scalable and flexible. Like a lego system, you basically snap together the pieces you want (for instance, a Twitter feed plugin, a site registration plugin, etc.) to build your site. Many of those plugins are then "exposed" to end-users as widgets -- for instance, a display listing your most recent Twitter mentions.

Squarespace and WordPress address plugins and widgets in different ways.

  • Squarespace writes and tests its own platform extensions. This means every piece of code -- all the functions -- snap together tightly in a nice, integrated way. It also introduces some limitations. Jump from your video menu for YouTube to your social menu for Twitter and Facebook, and the "look and feel" are all the same across your Squarespace dashboard. Everything just works really well together. All the functions are free as part of your Squarespace subscription. And you can turn each "lego" piece on or off at will. The downside: Since Squarespace controls all the pieces, you have limited choices. That's just fine for a small-scale site. But if you're working on a massive corporate rollout with lots of bloggers and integration needs, that may be too limited.
  • WordPress is a treasure trove of plugins and widgets -- from hundreds of third-party developers. If you choose a basic, free WordPress template you're essentially limited to a few dozen plugin options. But if you deploy and run WordPress on your own, you can now choose from thousands of plugins. You can basically build ANYTHING you want on WordPress, snapping together code that other people wrote and publicly shared. The bad news: Some of the plugins come with a price tag. Some become orphans -- no longer supported by their authors. Some plugins harm each other, the way some drugs interact and cause harmful side effects. The world of WordPress plugin deployment and testing is an inexact science. You'll likely need a WordPress expert to help you choose the right plugins, and troubleshoot problems as they arise.
  • Example of Scalability, Extendability: Squarespace has email newsletter registration capabilities that integrate with MailChimp and Google Sheets. Nice. But what about integrations with Hubspot, Marketo, ConstantContact, etc.? WordPress has got plugins for all of the major marketing platforms.

4. WordPress vs Squarespace Custom Designs

  • This is where WordPress shines. There are free templates. Low-cost paid templates. Or you can hire a WordPress developer to deliver a custom design for you. Just be careful. The fancier your site, the slower the performance can become.
  • Squarespace is limited here -- locking you into their template options. But generally speaking, I like a lot of the templates. And all the templates are free as part of your Squarespace subscription.

5. WordPress vs Squarespace Search Engine Optimization, Analytics

Both WordPress and Squarespace have excellent built-in SEO capabilities. Both also offer easy connections to analytics tools like Google Analytics. I'd have to give WordPress a very slight edge on SEO, since it's easier to have Google News pick up your WordPress blog. I think that's because our WordPress experience involved advertising-driven sites, so Google viewed our WordPress platforms as real news organizations. To the best of my knowledge, I don't think Squarespace works with ad server plugins. Please alert me if I'm wrong or if my thesis points here are off the mark.

6. WordPress vs Squarespace Business Continuity, Backups, etc.

I have to concede: I'm flying blind on a big issue: If Squarespace goes out of business or collapses, how do I get my data out of the system? I'm still checking and working hard to solve that riddle ASAP. On the flip side, it's easy to back up your WordPress database to any destination you select. It's also safe to expect WordPress enhancements to continue indefinitely, since the open source platform is backed by a massive community of developers and contributors. In Squarespace's case, the code base will only remain vibrant if Squarespace itself keeps making enhancements.

Bottom Line

Amid all the considerations above, After Nines Inc. deployed its corporate website on Squarespace. But we remain WordPress fanatics for really powerful, revenue-producing media sites...