Samu: WordPress vs Squarespace
It is not my intention to single Squarespace out as the bad guy of all available drag and drop web-builders. There are others who operate proprietary business models and have a larger market share, but Squarespace are victims of their hugely successful digital media marketing campaign.
As an avid podcast junky, it’s difficult not to grudgingly admire Squarespace’s marketing efforts, as they now seem to sponsor 9 in 10 podcast downloads, but every time I hear an otherwise politically astute podcast advertising them, I know another opportunity for someone to get involved in the wonderful world of Open Source just died. If you are a supporter of Open Source and alternative media and you’re sponsored by, or using Squarespace (or any other proprietary website builder) you’re doing your principles no favours at all. In addition, you will lose subscribers if you limit their choices when it comes to accessing your product.
Why should you care?
If you’re part of a small business or campaigning organisation with a limited budget, choosing between a self-hosted WordPress installation and a drag-n-drop website builder might seem an easy decision based on pricing. It’s cheap, you can use it yourself and it can be visually pleasing without hiring a professional to bamboozle you with jargon.
Unfortunately, for Squarespace, of the three positive points outlined above, there’s at least one way in which WordPress competes and wins for many prospective users.
1) Squarespace might seem cheap but a self-hosted WordPress site is free. You don’t pay for the code and it’s possible to find hosting options for free too.
The drag-n-drop bargain basement doesn’t have the same prices as the top floor. The plan you start with may not be representative of the price you’ll pay when you need to expand. Even though a mid-level package might suit you to begin with, [pullquote]a small business wanting to sell more products will soon find that they need to progress beyond the limits imposed by the pricing structure.[/pullquote]
2) You can use it yourself. It is important to note the distinction between installation and everyday use of both platforms. Some reviewers point out that the installation process for WordPress may be a little daunting for average users but many hosts offer automatic installations which can have your website up and running within a few clicks. This process is not entirely dissimilar to signing up for a premium web service, with a similar number of steps but no credit card needed.
When it comes to everyday use, WordPress and Squarespace employ very similar ways of editing posts/pages, with options to change the What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) editor which are available in WordPress, lacking in the proprietary Squarespace. In WordPress, the only limits on the number of pages/posts allowed are imposed by your hosting plan, with Squarespace, personal users are limited to 20 pages, galleries, and blogs and can only sell one product.
To summarise, there’s nothing stopping you using WordPress yourself.
3) It can be visually pleasing. Caveat: your results may vary. Squarespace makes a lot of having bucketloads of visual flair and polish in all their themes. There’s no denying that many of their example websites display a high degree of both, but there are examples out there of sites whose owners have clearly been overwhelmed by the task. To quote from a largely favourable review:
Although Squarespace’s Style Editor gives you the ability to customize or style almost everything in the website without going into codes, this could be a bit overwhelming to the average joe. This could be a case of paralysis from too many styling options. It’s awesome if you have the patience, a designer-eye or high, specific design standards for your website as Squarespace really gives you fine controls over design. However we feel that for the average person, this could potentially be a bit too much. That does not mean you can’t create a beautiful website with Squarespace, because you definitely still can.
Comparing the quantity of WordPress themes vs. Squarespace templates hardly seems fair given the relative newcomer status of Squarespace but it has to be pointed out that the sheer volume of WordPress themes massively skews this comparison in favour of WordPress. Many of these themes are available for free and include lots which offer numerous ways to customise your design without using any code. If you end up paying a professional to deal with styling your site, whether you’ve chosen WordPress or Squarespace, the cost of their services will be added to the final bill and nullifies one of Squarespaces positive selling points.
It cannot be denied that Squarespace may be the right choice for some clients but if you believe that the company we keep should share our values and those of our audience, if you believe that an open source web is a better web for everyone, then WordPress is the right choice for you and your users.