Creating a new website can be very difficult for a beginner. It is easy to feel overwhelmed when bombarded with information about domain names and hosting costs and the option to choose between several different site creating platforms. I have narrowed your choices down to three options – WordPress.org, Wix, and Squarespace. Although I champion WordPress above the other two, based on this article you can see for yourself which one to use.
At the least, WordPress is a free and open source content management system (CMS) with extensive blogging capabilites. Ideally it can be used by anyone with little to no experience to build a website using one of its numerous premade themes. You can also further add to your website by installing one of thousands of plugins which can significantly extend the capabilities of the software. Furthermore being opensource, it allows anyone to go in and personally change the coding of their website to their preferences, and create new plugins for public use.
On the other hand, Wix and Squarespace are subscription based website building platforms. Since they are paid services made for an inexperienced user, Wix and Squarespace are more user-friendly than WordPress, do not require any knowledge of coding, and provide consistent quality controlled functions.
We will be comparing WordPress, Wix, and Squarespace (and declaring a winner) in the following 10 categories:
Since WordPress is a free software, the only cost involved is that of setting up a website which can be estimated to about $66/year for hosting and $10/year for the domain, which comes out to about $76/year. This cost is subject to increase depending on if you wish to purchase to paid plugins (which can cost from $25-$50).
Wix does have a free version but that doesn’t allow a custom domain so to get one you have to upgrade to one of its premium themes. The most popular package is the Unlimited package which provides you with hosting, a custom domain, unlimited bandwidth, and 10 GB of storage at $149/year.
Squarespace only has purchasable packages, the most popular of which is the Professional package which comes with hosting, a custom domain, unlimited bandwidth and storage, and e-Commerce capabilites allowing you to sell up to 20 products at $192/year.
Ease of Use
WordPress does have a bit of learning curve and is considered somewhat difficult to use. When making changes to your theme beyond the given customizing options, you’ll need to modify codes or spend time looking and testing for the right plugin to help you do what seems to be a simple task.
Wix and Squarespace on the other hand are designed with an inexperienced user in mind and so are simple and more intuitive to use than WordPress.
WordPress offers support through user forums.
Wix offers support via phone and forums.
Squarespace offers support through email, live chat, and forums.
WordPress’ flexibility relies on being able to modify any theme by editing the PHP coding, system tuning, and CSS work. Depending on your requirements you can use it with its built-in functions or add more using one of the thousands of plugins to extend the software.
Wix and Squarespace are not as customizable as WordPress because they do not let you edit the framework of the themes although you can still use the pre-approved, quality controlled plugins.
Since it is opensource, WordPress requires you to regularly update your themes and plugins to avoid complications.
Wix and Squarespace automatically perform all updates for you.
WordPress has significantly evolved since its start as a blogging tool. Its functionalities are limitless and allow you to create a full functional, secure, and powerful blog to your exact preferences. It allows access to 6 user profiles all of which have specific and roles and limitations on how much they can do – Super Admin, Administrator, Editor, Author, Contributor, and Subscriber. The Super Admin has access to all functions such as updating appearance, themes, plugins, SEO settings, etc. It includes the followinging capabilities: drafts, multipage posts, email blogging, changing post slugs, custom permalinks, allowed html tags, RSS syndication, integration with PingBack or TrackBack for inter-site communication, and others that can be installed using plugins or widgets.
Wix allows you to create a blog linked to your domain (www.yourdomain.com/apps/blog) allowing full customization and posting capabilities, and also editing SEO settings.
Squarespace allows you to easily create a blog with a whole host of functions which include LayoutEngine based editing, social sharing, scheduled posts, RSS syndication, podcast support, excerpt, source and custom URLs, post by email, tag support, simple likes, multiple author support, external link configuration.
WordPress allows membeship sites through a free Membership which controls access to downloads, pages, posts, comments, galleries, and any other content via shortcodes. It also offers different levels of subscriptions for site visitors (free, paid annually, monthly, etc).
Wix adds an easy to use member log in app which adds a member log in button to all pages on your site (no option for payment subscription).
Squarespace does not allow membership sites.
WordPress lets you install a free plugin (WooCommerce) which allows you to customize appearance and graphic layout using shortcodes, tags, and widgets. It also has easy integration with all WordPress (and most non-WP) themes, product groups and variations, seamless integration with various payment processors, coupons, suggested items, and external website integration. However to set up an online shop you must buy an SSL contract for a secure connection which can cost between $50-$70.
Wix lets you add a shopping cart only when you upgrade to Wix ecommerce ($194/year), which then allows you to manage inventory, customize layout, flexible product options, and set coupons. However, it works with paypall only. It has its own secure connection that does not need/allow an SSL contract.
Squarespace’s Proffesional package only allows sale of up to 20 products. For unlimited products you must upgrade to the Business Package ($288/year) which then lets you manage your inventory, process customer orders, print packing slips, coupons, customize emails, and real-time carrier shipping.
Although in this case WordPress wins out of the three options, I recommend that for the best e-Commerce experience, you use Shopify (an altogether separate platform).
Search Engine Friendliness
WordPress without doubt creates very search engine friendly websites straight out of the box. But to improve upon that ability it allows you to use .htaccess to create static URLs called permalinks, blogrolling, and pinging, as well as several third party plugins, all of which aid in the SEO of your site.
Although Squarespace is better at being found by search engines than Wix (both include very basic SEO settings), neither platform holds a candle to WordPress’ SEO capabilities.
Depending on what theme you use, WordPress may or may not include a fully functional mobile site (however most themes allow a mobile site).
Wix has this function for all its themes, but does not function well on mobile.
Squarespace has this function for all its themes.
Winner: Tie between WordPress and Squarespace
Out of 10 categories the final score (including one point for ties) for each platform is
WordPress – 7 Wix – 2 Squarespace – 4
Obviously you can see why I’m such a fan of WordPress. Besides its easy to use template-based designing features, tech-savvy users can further configure their site settings by tweaking the PHP and CSS coding. The fact that it is opensource software makes the possibilites nearly endless as there are thousands of plugins and widgets created by other users available at your disposal; the only downside being that while there is definitely a large quantity, they may not all be great quality.
On the other hand since Wix and Squarespace are quality controlled paid services, there is no doubt that each and everyone of their (limited) functions is up to date and of sound quality. Although Wix and Squarespace are more user friendly when it comes to actually building websites, you will find that there are not too many ways to modify the given template of a theme.
In the end, you should ask yourself two big questions:
- Am I willing to deal with the maintenance that is required of WordPress?
- What are my needs? Do I care more about Ease of Use or Flexibility?
- Do I plan to sell physical items? Do I need an online storefront?
- I personally recommend Squarespace for simple brochure sites if you are a ‘Do it Yourself’ person.
- I recommend Shopify for Ecommerce Sites.
- I recommend WordPress for brochure sites & membership sites if you do not plan on maintaining yourself.