Wordpress vs. Squarespace: How Do I Choose?

When I decided to launch this website, along with figuring out the content and structure, there were two key questions to ask myself:

  1. Will I build my website by myself or hire someone to do it for me?
  2. What platform will my website be built on?

I chose to go DiY on this site because I knew I had the skills to do so, as long as I went with a platform that allowed me to skip coding. I have plenty of experience with building and managing websites. And, bonus, doing so would save time and money.

With that decision out of the way, I could focus on deciding which tool I'd use to build my website.

Squarespace vs. Wordpress

I narrowed the field down to these two because they're pretty much the biggest names out there at the moment. I have a lot of experience with Wordpress, and many consider it to be the gold standard in CMS (content management systems). As an avid podcast listener, I've been inundated with Squarespace ads several times a day for many months, so that might've played into my decision to narrow the field to these two.

Still, I did my research. I didn't want to go just on my first-hand experience, my assumptions, or what I could learn directly from the vendors. Some of the questions I considered:

Would there be a design template that would fit my needs?

I spent more time than I'd like to admit scrolling through the seemingly endless collections of Wordpress templates out there. I mean there are thousands upon thousands of them. And that's where Squarespace won out for me. Because I tend to seek out and compare all options before making a decision, Squarespace's very limited number of templates was a plus for me. If I was ever going to create and launch this website, I needed the constraint of limited template options.

Now, Squarespace's limited number of templates is also a downfall. I had two false starts before finding the template that would fit my needs. (If you haven't read about how I suggest determining your website content needs, I highly suggest you do so.) And really, this design template isn't exactly what I'd do if I'd hired someone to do the work for me. And I've spent a good amount of time figuring out how to get this template to do what I need it to do.

Is SEO value impacted by which platform I choose?

Much has been written regarding the truth about Squarespace and SEO. Questions on the MOZ forum show that even with Rand Fishkin himself espousing faith in Squarespace's SEO value, developers hold concerns including multiple H1 tags and title tags. I decided to try it out anyway.

Truth be told, now that I'm in, I'm not 100% sure about the SEO. I like the power I have in Wordpress to control the page title and SERP summary, and the extra boost from the Yoast plug-in. I don't have any of that now. Squarespace seems to say this is because they've got it covered for me. I just would prefer to have some more visibility and control in this area.

Is Squarespace really that easy?

I read expert reviews of Squarespace to find out what it was really like to use it. But now I know for real. For me? It was not as easy as it sounds on all those podcast ads. Maybe that's because of the amount of copy and range of types of content I'm employing, maybe it's how much I needed to modify the template to fit my needs. But there's also a learning curve with the interface. Little things like understanding how to move content blocks around to get them to do exactly what you want can take some trial and error. I'm not a fan of reading instruction files - I prefer to learn by doing - but I needed to do a lot of searching and reading help files and blog posts to figure out how to do what I wanted to do. And I have a lot of experience with other CMS platforms (Wordpress and Sitecore). Someone with zero experience might be able to launch a very simple site in a day, as long as the template is 100% used as is, and there's not a lot of content to work with.

How hard would it be to shift my website from Squarespace to Wordpress?

A quick Google search will show you that this is a really common question. This was comforting -- if I was going to go less familiar option, I wanted to know that if I wasn't happy I'd be able to shift over to the one I do know. Squarespace and Wordpress both have good help files on the subject. And there are plenty of bloggers who've written their own takes on the process, including Shannon Mattern over at WP+BFF.

How would I create a portfolio of my marketing work

Oh, man, this was tricky. I'm not a designer or photographer. So how would I create a portfolio? I can't say enough how valuable it was to have thought this through with pen and paper before I started trying to tangle with an actual website. I figured out how to use a combination of Squarespace pages, content blocks, and galleries, to build a marketing portfolio that isn't half bad if I do say so myself. 

Again, it wasn't easy and it wasn't exactly fast. But it was certainly easier than learning to code. And it was faster and cheaper than hiring someone to do it for me.

Bottom line? For now, I'm happy with having chosen Squarespace. I've learned a platform I didn't know before, expanding the knowledge I can share with others who need marketing help. I might shift over to Wordpress in the future. 

What about you? Have you compared these two? Launched a site on another platform? Drop your thoughts in the comments.