web development, wordpress

The great SquareSpace and WordPress debate

I get asked about this a lot. I want to give you some sense of the pros and cons of both WordPress. and SquareSpace, but I also want to fully disclose that I am a WordPress developer. I love it. However, I have also played the role of consultant and trusted advisor for years and when people have questions, I believe in giving them straight up, objective answers, even if it means they don’t hire you.

So, let’s get right into it.

SquareSpace

I’m going to refrain from a long description of SquareSpace’s history, and from parroting its marketing language. I trust you can find that if you are interested. Basically, what you need to know is that SquareSpace exists to allow non-developers and non-designers to get websites up and running. Without getting into the technical weeds, its important to know that SquareSpace sites only work on SquareSpace. The code isn’t portable. That may not be a big deal. SquareSpace probably isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. However, the important part of this is cost. And to understand this, we need to take a bit of a step back and talk about hosting.

You can’t take it with you

You may have heard the term “hosting,” but let me see if I can make it dead simple. A website is just a bunch of files. And those files have to be stored and served from somewhere. Hence the word “host,” as in storing, and “server” as in “served.” Put simply, its a computer with very specific software on it that allows other computers to access that group of files that makes up your website.

Now, since SquareSpace sites can only run on SquareSpace hosting, you have to pay SquareSpace’s prices. The basic package at that link for $12.00 a month isn’t bad. Its more than a lot of hosting services that you could use for WordPress (more on that in a minute), but that level doesn’t offer much. If you want to have e-commerce, for example, you have no choice but to go with the $18.00 a month plan. And that puts you well over hosts that offer similar services to host WordPress.

The other consequence of only being able to host on SquareSpace is that let’s say you have a bad experience with SquareSpace. Or maybe, on more of a positive note, you have outgrown them and need a real dedicated platform. Well, the code is not portable, so you will almost certainly have to start from scratch.

Do it yourself. Maybe

SquareSpace is designed for non-tech people to build sites. Its fairly limited in terms of templates and features that you can add However, that means its fairly simple to use. I’ve built a couple of sites for clients who simply didn’t have the time and I found it fairly intuitive. Its limited though. If you pick a template that gets you 75% of want you want the site to look like, that last 25% might be hard to come by if you don’t know a little HTML and CSS. A lot of people are totally happy with that 75% to 80% and can live with it, and also don’t mind taking the time to do the build themselves (or hire a developer or designer). Just know that if the developer responds to a request with “SquareSpace doesn’t have that functionality,” its probably true.

WordPress

Have someone else do It

I want to be as objective as possible here, but its hard to not sound like I’m gushing praise. It really is a great platform, and its no wonder that it powers like 25% of the internet. So, let me be up front about the main drawback for you, the business owner. To get a tailor-made site that does exactly what you want, looks like what you want, and does exactly what you want, you will likely have to hire someone. Don’t get me wrong, a patient, dedicated newbie can setup a simple site in no time. However, a well designed and branded site with good functionality will require a pro, assuming you don’t have the time to learn some code.

How much? Depends on lots of things. But like anything else, you want something done right, expect to pay a professional at professional rates.

While it can be “done yourself,” to unlock WordPress’ full potential, you need a geek like me.

I’ll take this to go

This one is simple. In contrast to SquareSpace, WordPress. sites are portable. Because of this, you can chose from a whole slew of hosting services. Prices for hosting can be as low as $3.00/month, to as high as, well, it can get high. However, those upper reaches are usually for enterprise scale sites. And yes, while SquareSpace is really designed for the sole-proprietor or small shop, WordPress. can handle everything from your boutique candle business to powering the Washington Post.

Plugins, plugins everywhere

Last thing. WordPress. is open source. This means the software is free to use, free to duplicate, and it can be developed and extended by anyone. The global community of WordPress. developers is constantly solving problems and adding functionality to WordPress. Wanna sell tickets to your non-profit fund-raiser? There is a plugin for that. Wanna show featured news articles based on the county of your user? There is a plugin for that. The list goes on.

Its this vast potential of functionality, combined with a really easy to use admin and content system, that has made WordPress. so ubiquitous. It means that even after your site is built and the developer has been paid, its a relatively easy system to use and maintain. And it can change and grow with your business.

And to show you just how objective I am being about WordPress., for the next edition, I will compare it to another robust platform that I love, Drupal.

All Best.