As a designer, one of the questions that I get asked most frequently is “Should I build my website on WordPress or Squarespace?”
And here’s the problem with that question: There’s no one-size-fits-all solution. It’s almost entirely dependent on two things: (a) what you need the website to do, and (b) how much time/money you want to spend setting it up.
Then, as a toddler mom, I found a way to explain it in a non-techy way …
Which would you rather play with: Legos or a coloring book?
WordPress is like Legos.
You can create literally anything with it, but you need to have a plan, otherwise it just feels like an overwhelming bin of bricks.
Also, you might need to buy upgrades to make what you really want. Sure, you probably could make something that resembles the Millennium Falcon out of the bin of old Legos in your mom’s basement … but if you really want to do it right, you should get the officially licensed building kit with instructions, and put aside a few days to focus on following every step.
Alternatively, if you want something beautiful or complex without needing to learn the whole system yourself, it’s usually worth it to hire somebody to strategize, design & build the website for you.
Squarespace is like a coloring book.
They give you the structure, you fill in the content. You can choose the coloring book theme you like (Disney princesses? Mickey Mouse? Paw Patrol?), and you can choose the colors you use, and you can even color outside the lines to create something a little new and different. But at the end of the day, your picture will look like Princess Ariel, even if her hair is purple and Sebastian is just a scribble.
Squarespace is a really great option for sites with lots of contents (blogs, services, etc) without a lot of complex needs (like membership portals or complex e-courses). The templates have so much structure that the website can go up quickly & without a steep learning curve.
That’s why I recently started offering Squarespace starter sites: If you already have all your photos and copy ready to go, your site can be ready rapidly, because it doesn’t require as much work to move from concept to completion.
And, since I know people will ask … here’s my begrudging metaphor for “Drag & Drop” site builders like Wix & Weebly:
Wix is like bubble solution.
Bubbles are cheap. They’re fun. They’re easy to learn how to blow, and fun to chase (at least for my puppy).
But they’re also really limited. How much can you really do with a jar of bubbles & a wand? How long can you play with them before you’re like, “Man, I wish I had another toy, this is boring”?
And yes, you could upgrade with a bigger wand or a bubble gun to extend the fun … but in the long run, they’re still just bubbles.
With Wix, Weebly, and other structured website builders like them, your options are really limited. You can be proud that you put the site together yourself, but I’ve never seen a site built on Wix that feels like a professional did it. It can be a great jumping off point for a free site … but once you’re ready to be serious about your business, you should build on either Squarespace or WordPress. Especially since it’s nearly impossible to actually move the content — you pretty much have to start from scratch.
Just like when a bubble pops, it’s gone forever … even just trying to make a change on Wix deletes everything you’ve done before, and don’t even bother trying to change the template or you have to re-do the entire site, including all your blog posts. Not worth it.
I’ve had this conversation enough times that I know the inevitable follow-up question is, “Well, what should I do for hosting and what are my maintenance costs?” Here’s my metaphor for how these 3 options stack up against each other:
Hosting & Maintenance Comparison
WordPress is like buying a house
I’ve written about this before: WordPress gives you all the headaches and opportunity of homeownership.
When you own a house, you’re in charge of the maintenance. You have to mow the lawn (or hire someone), pay the utilities, and call the plumber when the pipes explode in the laundry room on the coldest day of the year. (Yep, that happened to us in 2016.)
BUT. You also get to make choices about what the house looks & feels like. You can paint it any color you like, plant whatever flowers work in your soil, or even add an addition above the garage to create a giant master suite.
Between different themes, plug-ins, coding & integrations, you can pretty much do anything you can imagine with a WordPress site … but you might need help from an expert, which requires a bigger budget than our other options.
Squarespace is like buying a condo
You know the best part about condos? No upkeep. You never need to think about mowing the lawn or landscaping; you just pay an HOA fee and all that stuff is taken care of on your behalf. Often, the HOA fee also covers the cost of bonus features like a pool, gym or community room.
BUT the cost of the mortgage payment + HOA fees probably adds up to more than what it would cost to own a home; so you have to decide if the HOA payment is worth the ease & peace of mind.
Also, even though you technically own the property, condo associations have limitations on the kind of changes you can make, from the color of your front door to where you can park.
Squarespace typically has more expensive monthly fees than either of the other options I’m discussing here ($12-20/mo), but you never have to worry about updating plug-ins or about your site crashing due unexpectedly.
Wix is like renting an apartment
You’ve gotta start somewhere, right?
Maybe you just moved to town & want to spend some time exploring neighborhoods before you decide to buy. Or maybe you don’t have the cash for a downpayment yet, so you’ll rent for a while to build up a nest egg. Or maybe you just like to move frequently and have a landlord to call for maintenance issues.
But often, apartments have limitations about whether you can have pets or paint the walls. And rent frequently costs more than a mortgage for the same square footage, because you’re paying for the convenience of a one-year lease instead of a 30-year fixed interest rate.
Wix typically costs $5-17/mo, depending on what you need. That’s pretty low overhead for getting started, but eventually you might want to move to a place that’s more permanent where you can be in charge of the changes you want to make to your living space.
So which of these options works best for you: Bubbles, Buttercup or Blossom? Legos, Crayons or Bubbles?
And if you’re thinking more about what you need to include in your website strategy, sign up for my free e-mail course below to learn more: