This is a really common question I see from people wanting to create their own website.
They want to know which platform will be easier for them to use and it’s a really great question to ask.
Generally, people are willing to jump in and give their opinion. Of course this opinion is going to be based on the platform they are currently using & more often than not, they will say their platform is best (which is just human nature 🙂 )
However, most times these opinions are given with nothing to back them up.
So, if you are going to effectively assess which platform is best for you, you will need to start asking some questions.
What questions to ask of other users
To get the best use of individual users’ opinions on their platform of choice, here are some questions you can ask to give you better information to make a decision:
- What platform are you using – WordPress or Squarespace?
This is the obvious question, but needed so you can assess the remainder of the answers.
- Have you always used that platform or have you switched?
People usually stay with the platform they start with, but sometimes they switch for various reasons.
- What is your web address?
Lets you see their website – because a picture tells a thousand words.
- What theme did you choose for your platform?
Once you know this you can compare it to their website to see how different it looks from the theme, how their content fits the structure of the theme.
- How long did it take you to set up the theme to the point you were ready to add content (blog posts, pages) and launch your site?
This is important – as a diy-er, if you’re planning to create a site for your business (actually even if it’s a blog), you want to get your site up quickly so you can start blogging, selling your services, attracting traffic to your site, building your tribe of customers and followers.
- Did you use the theme “as is” or did you make modifications?
If the website looks considerably different to the original theme, what modifications were made & how easy/difficult were they to make.
- Did you do it all yourself, get help from tutorials, and/or engage a specialist in the platform?
You can match this to your level of technical expertise or willingness to learn how to change the look of your website or if you’ll need to hire help.
- What type of business do you have – are you blogging only, selling physical products, digital products or services?
Squarespace can limit what you can do on your site, so make sure the functionality you need is available.
- What limitations/frustrations have you personally experienced?
Good to know what problems people came up against to know if have the knowledge or willingness to overcome them.
The answers to these questions should give you a really solid overview of the user experience with the platform and allow you to compare your business, and your experience with that of others to see in the first instance which platform may be better for you.
Questions to ask yourself
Which platform you use really depends on what you goals are for having a website.
- Are you just blogging?
I didn’t see any superb blogging themes on the Squarespace line-up.
- Are you planning to sell products or services?
While Squarespace does provide e-commerce capabilities, it only integrates with Stripe, not Paypal.
- Do you want to use the Leadpages plugin to create converting landing pages or OptimizePress for easy to create Sales Pages or an e-course?
You can’t add any external plugin to Squarespace, which means you’re limited in what you can create.
- Do you need help from a web designer to create a unique look for your business?
Because Squarespace isn’t as widely used as WordPress, Squarespace developers will be harder to find and likely more expensive because of supply and demand. WordPress has an enormous designer and developer community and you can find people easily, at a variety of different price points.
What is it that’s really drawing you to Squarespace?
Invariably, the main thing that draws people in to Squarespace is their slick website with it’s compelling “hero” image slider and the promise of easy setup. If you’re just sticking with a theme and not planning to make any modifications, then a good WordPress theme can be just as straightforward to setup and just as good looking as Squarespace site.
With any theme, Squarespace or WordPress, it’s most often the images, typography and white space/layout that make the site appealing.
With Squarespace themes having such a heavy reliance on really big images, if you don’t get those images right, instantly your site loses that “wow” factor. If you’re a photographer, you’ll have no problems, if not, you’ll be relying on stock images (the cost of which can add up quickly once you buy a few) or finding a graphic designer to create some great images for you.
Are you a graphic designer?
If you’re a graphic designer, then the front page editing capabilities of Squarespace could be amazing for you – if you understand colour, typography, spacing, sizing. You’ll be able to create a site that’s uniquely you, on the Squarespace infrastructure without needing to know any code.
If you’re not a graphic designer and don’t have a natural affinity to design, it’s highly likely you’ll end up with a site that looks ugly and has lost all the appeal of the original Squarespace theme.
Does Squarespace have all the functionality you need now and over the next 12-18 months?
While Squarespace might be quick and easy to get up and running with now, does it have all the functionality you will need in your business in the future?
Squarespace is a hosted/managed platform, which is great from the point of view of hosting, backups, maintenance all being handled by someone else. It also incorporates e-commerce, but unfortunately doesn’t link with Paypal.
As your site grows (exceeds 20 pages – which you’ll use up pretty quickly), you will need to upgrade from the lowest plan ($8 per month) to the midsize plan ($16 per month). which means after 12 months of use, you are on par with the cost of WordPress (hosting plus a premium theme like those from StudioPress).
If a few months down the track you realise you need extra functionality, are you prepared to migrate all of your content when you need the extra functionality of WordPress and re-create the look of your site?
Differentiate between creating the website and adding/updating the content
There are three types of people that use websites:
- Full DIY-ers that want to create the website (even delving into code) and then add their own content – pages, posts, navigation, opt-in etc
- Partial DIY-ers that don’t want to get into the techy side of actually creating a site, but are happy to blog regularly, add pages etc
- Non DIY-ers are usually quite a few years into their business and have the resources to hire a web designer/developer to create the website, a VA to add the content and manage the site.
If you’re on this site, it’s likely that you hover somewhere between being a full and partial diy-er. So when you’re making the decision to use one platform or another, make sure you separate the information about site creation from content addition & maintenance.
If you’re solely basing your decision to use Squarespace on the ease of creating the site and forfeiting future functionality, understand that once your business grows, you’ll likely be hiring someone to create a future site and you’ll find more people that make WordPress based sites than you will Squarespace.
Ultimately, for me, it comes down having control of my website. I don’t want to build my business on someone else’s platform that limits what I can do with my site and where the rules could change at any time (think about Ning that started charging for their platform a few years ago) or they could potentially go out of business (think Posterous that closed down completely).
And while people might tell you Squarespace is easier to use than WordPress, I think the little extra effort required to learn it will be well rewarded down the track.
Update: In case you didn’t get this impression from the article – I am a staunch advocate of WordPress and I believe it’s the right way to go for most people. If you have any questions, just pop them in the comments below.
(P.S. If you’d like to read a more “left-brained” comparison of the two platforms, you can read this article from Fixrunner – “Squarespace vs WordPress”.)