Squarespace or Wordpress?: Home Contractor's Guide to the Best Website Platform
Spoiler alert: Squarespace wins, hands down. There is a ton of misinformation about where your website should live- including platforms like Wordpress. So to help get our home improvement contractors up to speed on what is best for them in terms of design, responsiveness, style options, seo friendliness, and more, we are breaking down the difference between Wordpress and Squarespace.
First, let's get something straight: 100% custom code sites aren't necessary anymore
When you hear a web design or marketing agency saying their sites are fully custom, they almost never mean they didn't start with a template (and if they do, then, well, they're either stuck in 1998 or you paid way to much). This is true regardless of the platform. And this is also true for major corporations. Custom, today, (in most cases) means that you will end up with a template that has been customized to communicate your brand to your target about your services. So in other words, it will be custom - but started with a template that is tweaked a little or a lot.
Isn't Squarespace a platform that people use to design their own sites?
Anyone today can design their own website. Just like anyone today can remodel their own kitchen, build their own pool, install their own patio, maybe even build their own garage! There is a manual to do just about anything online. All you need is an interest to learn and some time. You might also need some skill - although those homeowners who tackle building their own patio don't think they need that skill...and then they call you to fix it :-). The reality is that there are tons of "easy" website builders out there and many with minimal coding requirements (like Squarespace). But website design is so much more than code. It's organizing content (what type of material goes where), it's graphic design (what images look good next to what), and most importantly, websites are about attracting the right people and then converting them to contact you - to spend money with you. These things are above and beyond picking boxes of text and image and dropping them - it requires real skill and understanding of Google algorithms, branding, and marketing.
Stop the spam comments!
Akismet anyone? Wordpress is notorious for spam comments. It's gotten so terrible bad that most comments - including those really good ones - never make it live because companies have stopped reading and filtering comments because almost all comments (and in very large quantities) are spam. No more with Squarespace (okay, you'll have the occasional SEO company writing coincidentally the exact same comment as the previous other SEO company, but nowhere near as much as an average Wordpress site). Related: What is SEO, anyway?
Viruses in your website? Yes, with Wordpress
Since Wordpress is an open source platform, as a user - you have to decide on which plugins are safe. Download the wrong one - and your site can experience catastrophic consequences. Squarespace, on the other hand, has a lot of safe customization options that are essentially what you would call a plugin in Wordpress world. Within each template, along with almost endless coding opportunities. Yes, you'll need some coding skills, but who said Squarespace was easier than Wordpress? Not us - and don't believe it if you've heard this.
Your site doesn't have to look like it's 2004
Almost every home improvement Wordpress site has the same look and feel - with blurry graphics and an outdated style (sorry to the Wordpress users out there!). And it's easy to mess up the images. For example, using the wrong sizing when adding an one will result in a blurry mess (choosing a custom size instead of full size).
The best part? Many of the Wordpress sites aren't mobile responsive! We have no idea how that is still possible in 2016 - to have a website designed that only looks great on a desktop when 50% of users are visiting your site on mobile. All Squarespace sites are designed to be mobile responsive.
Squarespace is a contemporary platform - but this doesn't mean that it's only for those with a modern looking brand. There are numerous templates for every type of brand - from traditional, artistic, to truly modern. Yes, there are some Squarespace users that manage to break the mobile responsiveness (like the do-it-yourselfers), but still, it's really hard to make it look bad on mobile. Now, we will be fair: there are plenty of great looking Wordpress sites. We're generalizing for comparisons sake.
No more broken pages because you overlooked the Wordpress updates
Wordpress has several updates a year; so does Squarespace. The differences? You have to manually run the update. Some recommend backing up the site before doing an update. What?! Squarespace does updates behind the scenes. No manual checking, no worrying that a page design will break because someone forgot to hit "update" three months ago.
Adding blog posts .. or even pages on Squarespace couldn't be an easier
A comment we hear often: "I want a Wordpress site since it's easy to update." This couldn't be further from the truth. There is a reason we don't charge for website updates (for our clients who have a website redesign and monthly plan with us). Squarespace is a What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get. There is no typing, hitting preview, editing, preview, and repeat 50x. You enter info, images, etc. right into the same screen that is live (but of course not really "live" until you enable the changes or page. Sure, sometimes it requires a bit of coding. Not to mention, we often find the backend Wordpress platform to be much slower than Squarespace's backend. So, go ahead, blog away (or talk to us about blogging to help improve your SEO).
Back to customizations. Depends on how much you want to spend for your website. Even in the basic Squarespace templates, customizations are possible - just like they are on Wordpress. For more customizations, Squarespace has a developer platform that allows designers to open the hood on all the backend coding for a site. Combine this with the opportunity to add custom HTML and custom CSS features and Squarespace becomes just as powerful, but more beautiful than Wordpress. So for the few people that might argue the limited design function of Squarespace, we'll happily demonstrate the coding opportunities.
Want more info on Squarespace? Here is a quote from the founder of Squarespace:
Squarespace is engineered to work properly without a sea of plugins, and you should not take the lack of a plugin for this to mean that we didn't actually just build it right from the start. We actually scan the top installed Wordpress plugins regularly and ensure we simply do all of that in our core.
I also agree with other commenters mentioning that you should not make this your #1 determining factor for platform choice. In any modern platform, having better content is going to be the biggest thing you can do to get found.
Major websites built on Squarespace:
Show me the money
Back to price. Usually, to get a Wordpress website to look as beautiful as one built on Squarespace, it will cost a lot more money. Your money simply goes further with Squarespace since your web development team or agency doesn't have to spend time on broken plugins and instead spends time on conversion and SEO. Bottom line: you get more for your money with Squarespace.