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DIY Website Builder: Squarespace vs. WordPress
by Sara Angeles, BusinessNewsDaily Staff Writer | May 13, 2014 11:41am ET
Building a website doesn't have to be difficult or expensive. There are so many do-it-yourself (DIY) website builders available that the challenge isn't in actually creating a website, but in choosing which service is right for your purposes and level of tech savvy. Two of these DIY website builders are Squarespace and WordPress — two very different services for two different types of business users. To find out which is the best for building your business website, here's how Squarespace stacks up against WordPress.
What is Squarespace?
Squarespace is a drag-and-drop website builder and Web host for all types of businesses. From stores to restaurants, e-commerce and freelance portfolios, Squarespace provides an easy-to-use platform to create professional websites with absolutely no coding required. To create a website, the process is as simple as choosing a template, dragging and dropping elements and editing content.
What is WordPress?
WordPress started as, and primarily is, a blogging platform, but over the years has evolved into complete website publishing tool. Unlike Squarespace, WordPress is available as a hosted service on WordPress.com or as a downloadable software from WordPress.org (the software is also available for automatic installation on most Web hosts). Although WordPress's ecosystem is more that of content management systems (CMS), there are several tools available to help create full-featured websites for any type of establishment.
Squarespace offers a plethora of features to help small businesses create the perfect website. These include:
- Flexible, responsive designs — Squarespace uses modern templates with layouts that are easy to customize, whether or not you know how to code. Simply drag and drop different sections of the website or use the style editor to change how the layout looks. Templates also feature responsive design to optimize your website when viewed on mobile devices.
- Multimedia content — Add rich content with image or multimedia galleries and audio collections (for instance, toshare music). Users also have full control over images with lightbox presentations, metadata importing, built-in Aviary image editor and search engine optimization (SEO).
- E-commerce — You don't need separate e-commerce solutionsto run an online store. Squarespace uses Stripe merchantaccounts and ShipStation so users can sell digital and physical goods directly from their Squarespace-built website. E-commerce services include "add to cart" buttons, inventory and product control, real-time USPS shipping estimates, coupons, taxes, confirmation emails and more.
- SEO — Squarespace automates SEO to help your website rank highly on search engines. This means you don't have to worry about proper search engine-friendly coding, creating sitemaps and tagging images and links. You also have full control over page titles and other metadata.
- Third-party integration — Increase engagement by linking your Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest and other social media accounts, or make building your website even easier by dragging and dropping content directly from Dropbox or Flickr. Other compatible services include Disqus, OpenTable, Amazon Associates and more.
- Data collection — Building a mailing list using Squarespace's pre-built forms, automatic newsletter signups and other email marketing integrations. Forms can be saved to Google Docs (updated in real-time) or MailChimp or via email.
- Analytics — Track visitors and their behaviors, discover your top content and find out where traffic is coming from and which keywords are bringing them to your website. Squarespace also offers Google Analytics integration for more comprehensive visitor insights.
As a blog-centric website builder, WordPress offers an entirely different set of features. Combined, these features can help you build a blog, a full-featured website or both.
- Themes and more themes — There are literally thousands of paid and free WordPress themes available via WordPress's theme collection, third-party developers and independent designers. From company websites to stores, restaurants, portfolios and everything in between, you're sure to find the perfect theme that best represents your business. Themes can be used as-is without any need to code or may be customized by those with more advanced coding skills.
- Plugins — Plugins are the secret sauce to making almost anything happen on WordPress. Like themes, there are a slew of plugins available and they only need to be installed, eliminating any coding to make them work. Some of the top plugins are those designed to help with social sharing, analytics, email marketing, e-commerce, calendars, SEO, backup, security and other tasks that can be automated.
- Publishing tools — WordPress gives you complete control over blog posts and Web pages. The content editor provides a multitude of features, including saving drafts and the ability to schedule when posts and pages go live, as well as the option to create public, private or password-protected posts and pages.
- Media management — No need to fuss with manually uploading media. Easily add images by dragging and dropping them from your desktop into the uploader, refine them with editing tools, then add SEO with captions, titles, and alt texts. You can also embed videos using YouTube short codes or straight from the content editor.
- User management — Need multiple people to manage your website? WordPress lets you assign user profiles to each member of your team. This comes in handy for editors and writers who deal with content, marketing people for analytics and data collection, and administrators who maintain the website as a whole.
- Own your data — Assuming that you host WordPress on your own server, you have the benefit of owning your data in your own terms. Unlike Squarespace, which hosts your website for you, WordPress gives you full control over who has access to your data and how you choose to secure it.
Squarespace starts at $8 a month for a basic account. For more capabilities, consider the $16 Professional or $24 Business account. All plans come with a free custom domain.
There are two versions of WordPress: a limited, turnkey version on WordPress.com and the self-hosted, full-featured software from WordPress.org. Although both versions are free, there are other associated costs. For instance, with the standalone software, you'll have to pay for your own hosting service on which to host your website and the WordPress platform. You'll also incur several upgrade costs using WordPress.com to completely make your website your own, such as:
- Custom design — Edit style sheets and customize the look and feel of your website using the CSS Editor for $30.
- Domain mapping and registration — By default, your Wordpress.com website is http://yoursite.wordpress.com. To use your own domain, purchase one directly form WordPress for $18 per domain per year or use one you already own for $13 per domain per year.
- Space upgrade — All WordPress.com blogs come with 3 GBs of space. Additional storage starts at $20 for 10 GB per blog per year.
Squarespace offers 24/7 email support and live chat (available only on weekdays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. EST). Users can also find support by posting questions at the Community Answers forum, as well as access an extensive database of how-to's, help guides and workshops at the Squarespace Help Center.
As a free software, WordPress offers very limited support. Unlike Squarespace, your only official source for WordPress help is via the WordPress Support Forum. There you will find articles on how to use WordPress and can post your own questions or find answers to similar issues other users have.
Which is right for your business?
If you need a website ASAP, Squarespace is the way to go. To launch a website, simply choose a template, modify the layout and edit your content. And as a drag-and-drop website builder that lets you see changes as you make them, Squarespace is the better alternative for those who want to put as little work as possible into creating a professional-looking website. Squarespace is also an easier option for those looking to launch an online store due to its built-in e-commerce service.
WordPress is ideal for those who prefer more choices and flexibility in how their website looks and functions. With the abundance of themes and plugins available, there's virtually nothing WordPress can't handle. Obviously, it's also the best choice for businesses that regularly blog or engage in content marketing. Keep in mind, however, that as a CMS, WordPress has a higher learning curve than Squarespace if you plan to use it beyond its blogging capabilities.