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Squarespace, Wix, or WordPress? Why Open Source is (still) the Future


Lucas Shaffer - July 13, 2015 - 2 comments

So you want to build a website and you don’t know how to code. Three of the biggest options out there are Squarespace, Wix, and WordPress. Which should you choose? Some of the most important criteria are the flexibility of the platforms (how much choice you have in design and service), SEO, customer support, intuitiveness, and pricing.

Flexibility

Squarespace, Wix, and WordPress all have “templates” with which you can quickly build your website. With Squarespace, you are tied to the templates that they create, although you are able to make changes using their “Squarespace Developer Platform”. But, in order to use the developer platform, you have to pay a minimum of $18/month for the Squarespace plan.

Pro: Templates are free

Con: To edit template code, you have to pay an additional fee

Wix has hundreds of free templates, but once again, they are only provided by Wix. It is a bit harder to edit the templates on Wix, and users sometimes need to contact their support system in order to even make simple changes to a template. In order to show your own domain name (instead of a wix URL), you have to pay a minimum of $9.25/month, and more if you want additional features.

Pro: Templates are free

Con: Can’t edit templates completely, have to pay additional fees to get custom domain name and more features

WordPress, on the other hand, has almost an unlimited amount of templates, and anyone can create them. There are free templates with less features, or you can purchase templates for a one-time fee and modify them to your heart’s desire. If you need something more customized, WordPress has a robust online manual, as well as a huge community of users. To install WordPress on your server, it is free.

Pro: Templates come editable, documentation is detailed and there is a large user base (so a lot of people asking the same questions and getting answered)

Con: There is a one-time fee (~$40-60) if you want a template that has more features than the basic templates that you can find for free

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Squarespace has the same functionality as WordPress when it comes to making your site searchable by search engines.

  • Comes with built-in SEO, but you can also customize it and craft individual page titles and meta descriptions as you see fit.

Wix, on the other hand, doesn’t stack up.

  • Pages on a Wix site are served using Javascript, so if someone has javascript disabled on their browser, the site won’t function at all.
  • Default settings don’t generate meta descriptions for the pages, so unless you specifically enter in this information, it won’t show up in search engines.

WordPress automatically generates the meta information for search engines, but there are a lot of powerful plugins to help.

  • For example, Yoast’s WordPress SEO Plugin analyzes each page and let you know a detailed breakdown of where the weak spots are, once you choose a target keyword.

Support

Squarespace claims “24/7 customer support” but it is web-only (no phone support) and you aren’t assigned a single person to one problem, so you may go in circles trying to solve the problem you contacted them about.

Wix has great support, but you have to pay for the most expensive plan if you want “premium support”.

WordPress doesn’t have paid support, but there are volunteers (as well as users) that answer on the official forums.

  • Because of its large user base, almost any problem you have can be answered by a simple google search.
  • If you purchase a theme (normally in the ballpark of $40–60) support is included from the developer.
  • In addition, depending on your hosting package, premium support is included, even at the most basic levels.

Intuitiveness

Squarespace has a steep learning curve, especially for users who are not computer-savvy. It is not inherently intuitive, and although there is documentation and a plethora of introductory videos, it can be intimidating for new users.

Wix is very user-friendly for users of all experience levels because of its limited options.

WordPress comes somewhere in-between, but only takes a while to get used to because of its consistency. Depending on how much you want to change on the site affects the ease of use. Also, higher quality themes have better documentation and support, and are easier to navigate in order to customize your site how you want.

Pricing

Squarespace plans start at $8/month, or $96/year.

  • For the “developer platform”, so you can actually edit a template, you have to pay $18/month ($216/year). For more robust eCommerce functionality, it bumps up to $26/month ($312/year).

Wix plans start at $4.08/month.

  • For eCommerce functionality plans start at $16.17/month (~$200/year).
  • Their premium support plan comes up to $300/year.

WordPress’ platform is free, but depending on your websites needs, you can start with shared hosting for smaller business at $4/month (and most hosting services throw in a FREE domain name for a year).

  • Hosting is infinitely scalable, so when your website grows larger, you can get hosting with more space and better performance if needed.

Conclusion

So all in all, Squarespace and Wix are great tools for building a website, but you are inevitably tied to them for better or worse, since you can’t move your sites anywhere else. WordPress’ main strength is that it doesn’t force you to use a specific brand of hosting, you have virtually limitless choices, and are able to transition to a different hosting service if you feel like you’re not getting the bang for your buck.

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2 comments

  1. Marlon Richardson (@marlontaze)

    This is generally good information but I think you are downplaying the significance of good hosting and a well-optimized wordpress installation. To get the equivalent hosting offered standard by Squarespace you’d need to spend $18-$30 per month in hosting. Yes, hosting can be seen as something scalable but someone who isn’t a developer would not likely have the skills to move their website from one web hosting company to another without hiring help. Squarespace’s monthly pricing for the most part is inline with normal hosting rates for servers with similar capabilities.

    Although wordpress is a very familiar opensource CMS the learning curve can be tough for most to completely manage their website. Most can wrangle with a template for adequate results but it seems to me that Squarespace users who invest a day or two end up with very professional and quite complete websites. You also have to take into account that not all wordpress templates and plugins are well-made, they also require constant support to keep up with system updates. None of these are issues Squarespace users have to deal with it.

    In capable hands, wordpress can be scaled to do almost anything, however for those not so tech savvy, perhaps Squarespace might be the overall less expensive and more robust option today.

  2. Trey Braid

    Joomla is an alternative for users as well. I think its a robust alternative than the other 3 if not on par with WordPress. Just like the other 3 it comes with templates which you can customize and expand upon. It also has a well developed community to download and purchase plugins and extensions to further the user experience.

    Just my 2 cents worth.

    Trey

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