You’ve probably been told you need a business website. However, choosing which type of website is right for you is often a barrier for small businesses. Squarespace, WordPress, Wix, Webflow, Weebly – the choice can be overwhelming. Each of these platforms has their own advantages and disadvantages, and are best suited to different purposes depending on your needs around cost, functionality, customisation and skill level.
Two of our most recommended platforms for small businesses are Squarespace and WordPress, which can create very professional-looking results while still being relatively easy to use and manageable on a small business budget. We’re going to go through the pros and cons of both these sites so you can make an informed decision about which is best for your business’ needs.
While we won’t focus on these sites in this article, Wix and similar website builders are another popular option for starter websites, especially if you’re looking to build the site by yourself. They are very simple to get started with, but often lack the polish and customisation of websites built on Squarespace or WordPress. Keep in mind if you do go down this route that you’ll likely want to invest in a more professional site down the track.
Squarespace is primarily designed for non-professional developers, and is a good choice if you’re looking for a website you can build yourself, temporary websites, or if you’re looking to minimise ongoing costs – it’s a popular choice for community groups or side businesses, where there’s limited ongoing income. Squarespace is generally considered cheaper and easier to use than WordPress, and is best for simple websites that you’re happy to fit within Squarespace’s pre-existing design options.
WordPress, by contrast, is targeted at professional developers, at least in the initial stages. You’ll need a professional developer to build your website or make any major changes, but after that, making basic updates is simple even if you’re not tech-savvy. WordPress has fantastic customisation options and its extensive plug-in library makes it the best choice if you’re looking to add any more advanced features or complex designs. If you’ve got big plans for your website, even if you’re not looking to implement these immediately, WordPress is the choice for you.
Want to build it yourself?
If budget is a determining factor and you’re looking to build your own site, Squarespace is the way to go as it’s easy to use, even for non-professionals. Pages are templated and designed so you can easily drag and drop your content or images to suit your wants and needs. What you see is what you get, so when editing your webpages, what you see on your screen is how your page will appear as a live site.
WordPress is a much more complex platform, which is why it’s great for advanced customisation, but really requires an understanding of web development to design and build a good-looking and well-functioning website.
Want to add new webpages?
Just like with the basic set up, Squarespace’s templates make it easy to add simple pages, edit your layout or colour scheme, or other surface changes that can make a big difference – although you will be limited by the templates on offer. WordPress is easy for minor changes, like changing out text or images within a page, but adding a whole new website segment will normally mean you have to go back to your developer.
Want lower running costs and maintenance time?
While basic running costs are comparable between both Squarespace and WordPress, there’s one big factor that puts this in Squarespace’s favour: security maintenance. Squarespace offers built-in security to fight off bugs and malware, so you never have to worry about the safety of your site. By contrast, WordPress requires regular security updates, which you’ll either need to outsource at additional cost or devote time to manage yourself – not recommended if you’re likely to forget or run out of time. Squarespace is the choice if you prefer to set and forget.
Want extra security?
While Squarespace’s built-in security maintenance is a great advantage, one place it really falls short is its lack of backups. WordPress offers robust backup options that you can download and store on a remote location, like a harddrive, or in cloud storage like Dropbox or a Google Drive. This means if something does go wrong – your site gets hacked, an employee goes wrong, a plug-in breaks, you’re making significant site changes and make a mistake – it’s easy to restore your site back to its previous state. This isn’t an option on Squarespace, and you’ll have to manually rebuild your site if something goes sideways. WordPress also offers plugins with advanced security options, which can scan and secure your site for malware, failed log-in attempts and file monitoring.
Looking for specific designs or complex features?
Because WordPress is designed for professional developers, you’re able to fully customise the website design and build or use advanced plugins on the platform, so you can truly realise your brand and your vision. Want to add members-only sections or a forum? WordPress is the place to do it. While you can get beautiful results on Squarespace, you’re ultimately limited by the templates on offer, and fulfilling a specific vision can be far more complicated.
It’s worth noting, too, that if you’ve got loftier ambitions, a website built on WordPress will actually end up cheaper than trying to achieve the same things on Squarespace. If you envision larger updates to your site down the track, Squarespace might limit your options.
Want better organic reach through SEO?
WordPress’ range of SEO plugins means that you’ve got full control over your SEO beyond the basic factors such as URLs, page descriptions and titles that Squarespace offers. WordPress’ SEO plugins offer further customisation that is looked on favourably by Google, and can also provide insights so you can continue improving. All this means that when implemented well, WordPress websites are able to drive more organic traffic, making your site more visible and drawing more customers.
Want guaranteed control?
WordPress is an open source platform, meaning that you can install WordPress on any server, and you can make any modifications you would like. If the company that runs WordPress shuts down or makes changes, you are not required to use those changes and your site can continue to function, giving you more control and ownership over your site long term. Squarespace, on the other hand, is closed source, which means you can only host your site on its servers, and they maintain control over the platform and core software. Squarespace also can make changes to its functionalities, and therefore, the functionality of your website, without your control – for example, older versions of Squarespace did allow backups of your website, but the current version does not. The closed-source model allows Squarespace to charge cheaper running costs, but does come at the cost of some of your freedom.
As you can see, both platforms have their own strengths and weaknesses, and will be better suited to different website types. Squarespace is an excellent resource for businesses who want to keep ongoing costs low or are more time poor. It’s also a great choice if you don’t have the budget to pay a developer to design and build a site upfront, as the templated, drag and drop model is easy to learn even without tech experience.
However, if you’re looking for specific features or have a more complex site, WordPress is likely to be a better fit. While you will have to invest a little more upfront and in ongoing costs, a website built on WordPress is going to be able to evolve and grow with you over time, and the additional security options mean you’re well equipped if your staff grows. And although you’ll need a developer to build the website for you, a good developer will be able to train you on the basic functionality so that you can make regular updates to things like text, images, blogs or events yourself. You may also be especially interested in WordPress if you’re focussed on boosting your SEO and organic reach without relying on social media and marketing to do so.
Think about what’s important to you!
Before deciding on the best website platform for your business, think about what you’re looking to do on your website, and the pros and cons of each of these platforms.
Whichever option is right for you and your business, a professional website will add credibility and authority when talking to both your customers and potential customers. First impressions count, and your potential clients will spend time “window shopping” online to find the business that suits their needs and appears professional and experienced. Your website should reflect who you are in business and how you can best solve the problems of your clients in order to build trust and rapport and convert your potential leads to long term clients.
Here is a snapshot of the pros and cons of each website platform:
|Suitable for building a DIY website yourself||The website must be professionally developed and is not recommended to build a DIY website yourself|
|Ability to make major changes yourself, eg adding entire new pages, changing colours/layout||You’ll require professional development again to implement any major changes|
|Low maintenance and monthly costs (approximately $35 per month)||Higher ongoing monthly costs (approximately $100 per month) due to the need to pay for security maintenance|
|No need to worry about security, since updates are managed automatically by Squarespace||Security maintenance is required, which must be either managed yourself or paid for|
|There are no options for backups, so if you accidentally break something or your site gets hacked or damaged, it can’t be restored from backup||Your website is backed up, so if you make a mistake when editing, or your site gets hacked or damaged by a malicious user, it can be restored from backup instantly|
|Limited design customisation, so you may not get exactly what you want||The flexible design allows you to get exactly what you want and can create a more professional visual appearance in line with your brand|
|Less extensible with complex features, so ideas you have for future development may not be possible||Highly flexible functionality: simpler and cheaper to implement whatever advanced features and custom designs you like|
|Limited SEO customisation, so your website probably won’t rank as highly in Google||Highly customisable SEO helps you get better rankings on Google|
|Squarespace is closed source, meaning you don’t have control over the platform, and features may be changed in future without your control||WordPress is open source and can be hosted on any server, so you’ve got long-term control over your site and its functionality|
- Start Blogging Online, “Squarespace review 2020: Pros and Cons you must consider!”, Updated January 23, 2020, https://startbloggingonline.com/squarespace-reviews/
- Robert Brandl, “Squarespace review – Plenty of style, but is it worthwhile?”, Website Tool tester, Published December 19, 2019, https://www.websitetooltester.com/en/reviews/squarespace- review/
- Lucy Carney, “Squarespace review 2020 – 10 questions you need to ask!”, Website Builder Expert, Updated January 23, 2020, https://www.websitebuilderexpert.com/website- builders/squarespace/squarespace-review/
- Si Quan Ong, “Squarespace SEO vs. WordPress: 3.6 million domains studied”, Ahrefs Blog, October 31, 2019, https://ahrefs.com/blog/squarespace-seo/
- Tom Watts, “WordPress review 2020: Is WordPress right for you?”, Website Builder Expert, Updated January 2, 2020, https://www.websitebuilderexpert.com/wordpress/org-review/
- WP Beginner, “The ultimate WordPress security guide – Step by step 2020”, Updated January 2, 2020, https://www.wpbeginner.com/wordpress-security/
Gen Herres, “WordPress vs. Squarespace: Is open or closed source better for you?”, Anphira, last updated April 12, 2018, https://www.anphira.com/business-tools/wordpress-squarespace-open-closed-source