If “build a website” is at the top of your new year’s resolution list (like it is on mine), you may be struggling with how, exactly, you’re going to get that website built. No matter what you decide—build it yourself, pay an amazing designer to do it, or call your mom for help—you’re going to need to choose a content management system, otherwise known as a CMS.
So, which is the better option?
With creating my own website at the top of my 2015 to-do list, I dug into the pros, cons, and everything-in-betweens of both platforms. There is a ton of information and opinions out there—but at a high level, here’s what I learned.
WordPress is an online, open source website creation tool, which means that people from anywhere in the world can access WordPress’ code and build website functionalities to fit their specific needs.
It also means that many of the add-on website functionalities that WordPress offers, known as plugins, are built by developers all over the world who make them available to the public. (More on that later.)
In terms of pricing, it is free to sign up for WordPress, and many of the plugins offered are also free—though some of the more popular and robust plugins are offered at a premium.
An important factor to keep in mind: You cannot host your website with WordPress—you’ll need to host it somewhere else (like GoDaddy, for example).
Squarespace is a software as a service (SaaS)-based content management system, which is composed of a website builder, blogging platform, and hosting service. Essentially, Squarespace is a one-stop-shop for website creating, managing, and hosting.
It is not an open source platform, so you have concrete options regarding how it looks and behaves—without the custom functionality. Also, Squarespace is not free. You can check out its payment options here.
Because WordPress is an open source platform and developers from all over the world can access the code and build supplemental functionalities for it, the platform offers more than 35,000 plugins. Which means that almost anything you could ever imagine wanting your website to do can be done with WordPress.
However, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, because developers from all over the world are building the plugins, the quality can either be amazingly awesome or amazingly sucky. Second, because you have lots of people playing around with the WordPress code, the plugins that you select can sometimes act a little wonky and require some special coding to make them all work together. Finally, if you’re looking for pretty basic functionality, 35,000 options to choose from can be a little overwhelming.
Squarespace, on the other hand, offers a fraction of the plugins that WordPress does. However, because all of its plugins are built in-house, they are all consistently good quality and integrate into Squarespace websites seamlessly.
WordPress offers documents to help get you started, and there’s an online forum for basically any and every problem you encounter when creating your website. But that’s the extent of it.
Squarespace, on the other hand, has more robust customer service—the company employs humans who can answer your questions 24/7.
Ease of Use
Since I’m still in the information-gathering phase, I can’t say how easy or hard either platform is to manage from my own experience. However, I’ve trolled almost every article out there, and the consensus for website novices and advanced developers alike seems to be that WordPress has a steeper learning curve—mostly because of how much it offers.
Squarespace, on the other hand, seems to be really user-friendly and, because it has fewer options, easier to navigate from the get-go.
From what I gathered, if you have no idea how to build a website and don’t have the resources to hire a designer and developer to help you, Squarespace is your best bet. And if you change your mind in the future, Squarespace even offers functionality that allows you to migrate your website content straight into the back end of WordPress.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for a website with more sophisticated functionality or have the know-how and resources to do the coding, WordPress is a great option. (If you want to read more from the real website experts, I found this, this, and this to be super helpful.)