If you are just starting your business and need to establish an online presence, you probably have found there are a variety of platforms to use to get your website launched. You may have heard of free options such as Wix or Weebly but these are strongly recommended against which we will talk about at the end of this post.
For this post, we’re going to talk about, Squarespace, WordPress, Show It, and Shopify, because they are four that I see being compared ALL THE TIME and people usually give their opinion about their preferred platform based off their own needs and not the needs of the person who is asking. The best way to make a decision is by knowing what are the needs you’re going to need on your website, how easy it is to customize for you, what kind of products you’re selling, and how much you’re able to spend on it.
Summary of Each Platform
WordPress is one of the most popular platforms to use for a website/blog has endless possibilities for customizing and making the website unique to your business. You will hear about WordPress because 33% of websites on the internet are run on WordPress which equals to about 75,000,000 websites! Crazy! One thing to note about WordPress: there is a wordpress.com website and a wordpress.org, we will be talking about wordpress.org today. WordPress.org also uses things such as Plugins to extend the functionality of your website. At the time of writing this there are over 46,000 different plugins that you can choose from. WordPress doesn’t come with a shop function out of the box and you have to use a plugin such as WooCommerce to create a shop for your site.
Squarespace is becoming a front contender because of how easy it is to use. Unlike WordPress, Squarespace websites are hosted by Squarespace so you don’t have to worry about buying a hosting account. Squarespace is an all-in-one platform which means that it hosts the content for you and provides all their features for you. For example, they integrate with Instagram, Acuity Scheduling, Unsplash, and now even email campaigns, and more, in order to give you everything you need all in their one platform. (Most of these functions would have to be plugins if you’re using WordPress) So if you are not tech savvy at all and you’re a new entrepreneur, I 100% recommend Squarespace. It has everything you need in order to get started quickly and efficiently without having to learn a lot about the tech stuff.
Shopify is a platform similar to Squarespace where it’s an all-in-one solution but their focus is in ecommerce. If you have more than 30 products, I would say that you should use Shopify. Shopify has also come very far and they do ecommerce sites better than everyone else. They have plugins similar to that of WordPress but Shopify’s out of the box website will work for most. They also have a blog feature.
ShowIt is a really new platform that was originally meant for photographers and it uses drag and drop editor to design your website so you have full control of what your website looks like. The blogging integrates with WordPress which means that you still get the really amazing SEO that comes from WordPress sites. Show it does not have a ecommerce platform and you would have to also purchase Shopify lite in order to get a Shop button for each individual product. That means if you have a lot of products, you’ll have to create each product page individually and that can be really time consuming.
Here are some key points for all platforms.
First I would like to point out the main difference for these platforms. WordPress is an open source program which means it is free to use. However, when you use WordPress, you need to purchase your own domain name and hosting and then setup WordPress onto your hosting. For people who create websites all the time, this part is fairly simple. However, if you’re completely new to WordPress then this task can seem daunting (but it isn’t if you follow a tutorial). Also with WordPress, there are many features that come with it out-of-the-box but if you need extra capabilities, then you need to add a plugin to your site. There are thousands of plugins that exist in the WordPress Directory, some are free and some are paid plugins. If you need an extra feature, then you are most likely able to find a plugin that has that functionality, but they can cost a lot of money. If you have a website that is going to need special functionalities, WordPress is probably the way to go. For our hosting site, we highly recommend siteground.com. We use their middle plan and have multiple websites hosted on one plan. You can also use your hosting plan for your custom email address that contains their domain for example: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can create that in your hosting account and then you can connect it through the gmail interface. WordPress I would say it the most flexible in the overall sense.
Squarespace is an all-in-one solution. Hosting and domain is all done through Squarespace. Any of the functionality that you need is provided inside Squarespace, which means that you might not to be able to customize your website as much as you want. Some clients need more options that Squarespace doesn’t support. However, they are always adding new features or they are able to offer some kind of workaround. As they continue to grow, they keep adding more functionality. If you are going to have few pages, a few products in your shop, a blog, or scheduling services, then you can get this all done with Squarespace. It’s flexible enough especially for new business owners.
I would put Shopify in a similar category to WooCommerce. It’s flexible but you are on a platform that someone else created for you so you do have limitations still. Shopify really exists for you to sell products so there might be special functionality that you need that might not exist.
If we were basing the flexibility on just how flexible the design is, then Show It would be the clear winner, but we’re talking about functionality as well and Show It can limit some of the things you might need. I think the ecommerce option is their biggest downfall and if they figure out a better way to sell products then I really think this platform could be a game changer.
Because WordPress has so many capabilities, it can be harder to learn the platform. I find that with WordPress, you are going probably spend a lot of time learning how to use it before jumping into creating your site. Once you learn the basics of WordPress, how to install plugins, how to update your theme, then you will find that WordPress can still be user friendly. There are just so many options that it can be confusing at first. Most of the time with WordPress, I find that a designer/developer will setup everything and then you can just update blog posts when you need to.
If you are not technology savvy then Squarespace is a much better option. Squarespace makes creating a website fairly easy for those who aren’t good with technology. The dashboard for Squarespace is laid out neatly and is very intuitive for any user. If you need to update content or add ecommerce to your site, it has the options laid out nicely for you. If you are going to be the one that is designing your own site or regularly adding content then Squarespace is a good option. When I design for my clients I will create the site and then show them how easy it is to change out text, images, and colors, etc and my clients grasp the idea of it quickly. So Squarespace wins this round for being way more user friendly than WordPress.
Shopify and Squarespace are probably the most similar in this case. Shopify walks you through setting up all your shop information, payment information, products, and your website theme. The user interface is very user friendly and you can get setup in very little time.
If you are not a designer then I can see how Show It can be a little bit of a learning curve when you’re first beginning. Because it is a drag and drop editor, you can start with a blank canvas from scratch and that can be very daunting. However, Show It offers design templates that are already made and beautiful and all you have to do is enter text and change out images.
As we stated earlier, in order to use WordPress you need to buy your own domain and hosting, so this is the cost you have to worry about when starting a WordPress site. We buy our domains from namecheap.com for about $10/year and we get out hosting from Siteground for about $80/year. On top of those fees, you will have to decide if you want to use a free theme, buy a Theme or hire a designer/developer to get the design of your site setup. Most free themes aren’t worth it and you’ll most likely want to buy a theme. Some plugins cost money but a lot of them are free as well so depending on if you need a paid plugin, they can range usually from $30-$100
Squarespace has affordable pricing plans. Their plans range from $12/month to $40/month if you pay annually OR $16 to $46/month if you pay month to month. Unfortunately the $12 plan isn’t really meant for businesses and the features they offer are very limited. If you want to get the best rate for your money you should look into paying a full annual plan which could be a lot of money upfront. However, like we said earlier, Squarespace really comes with most of the features you’re going to need so you don’t really have to add on anything extra besides your monthly fee. You also get an Acuity Scheduling plan for free with Squarespace so it makes it worth it as well.
You can get started on Shopify for $30 a month with most options that you will need + a 14 day free trial. The price is a good price as long as you don’t need any of their advanced features such as discounted shipping rates or gift card options.
Show It’s pricing is fairly more than all of these options if you’re just getting started with a website and basic blog at $30/month but you are limited with functionality and don’t get an ecommerce platform with that. The other thing is that they base their pricing on the amount of traffic that you get to your site so if you continue to grow you’ll have to upgrade just to manage your traffic.
Because WordPress is open source, you will have to take security precautions so your website doesn’t get hacked into. It’s very possible for your WordPress site to get hacked and you should make sure that your version of WordPress and all your plugins are up to date. There are also plugins to give extra layers of security. Along with security, you will be responsible for backing up your content. If anything goes wrong, you can end up losing your content, so make sure you have a plugin that does this for you regularly.
SQUARESPACE, SHOPIFY, AND SHOWIT
You shouldn’t have to worry about your site getting hacked into since these are all hosted for you and their team takes care of it.
For WordPress, if you want your website to look a certain way, you can buy a theme that can range usually from $50-$100 and then you can upload it and then input your information and switch out pictures. These themes are made from third party companies so you have to choose wisely and see which capabilities each theme has. Some can be very limiting while some can give you too many options. Also, if you want to have a completely custom design that is coded and developed for you then WordPress is a great option, as long as you hire a professional which could be costly. If you know that there isn’t going to be a template that will work for you or you know that you are going to need special functionality, I would suggest hiring a designer and developer to create your WordPress site. If you find that you are tech savvy or you want to design your own site, then I would recommend Elementor pro. It’s a drag and drop WordPress theme builder and it’s pretty amazing.
Squarespace provides the templates for you and you can only choose from those templates. However, Squarespace lets you pick a template and then you can edit the theme and sections to fit your brand and needs. All of the websites are also mobile friendly so they look good on tablets and phones. You can change the design very easily, but at the same time Squarespace themes keep your website looking put together. Squarespace does a good job at sizing images and making sure spacing stays consistent throughout the site. Some designers sell Squarespace Theme kits that let you have a theme within the limitations of Squarespace. You usually purchase them and edit them to your branding and then insert them into your Squarespace site.
Like we said earlier, Shopify really does beat everyone when it comes to ecommerce. Their ecommerce design themes are usually amazing and they are some of my favorites. They really know how users behave with the interface and know the flow of the shopping cart goes. I would recommend using one of their themes and just inserting your copy and images.
If WordPress wins flexibility, Squarespace wins User-friendly, Shopify Wins ecommerce, then ShowIt has to win for Design. The possibilities are endless because it truly is a drag and drop editor. There are some amazing and beautiful websites that are on Showit and it makes me wish that all website platforms were truly drag and drop. However, if you’re not a designer then designing on a blank slate can be scary and we recommend using their themes or hiring a designer that focuses on Showit sites.
• WordPress allows you to have a branded email (ex: email@example.com) because you can create an custom email through your hosting services. If you don’t have your own hosting company then you will have to purchase email separately.
• Squarespace integrates with Google for Work and allows you to have a custom email address but the price of this is $5/month which doesn’t seem like much but it is additional to your normal Squarespace plan. My workaround for this is buying email hosting separately through namecheap.com for about $10/year. I’ve been using NameCheap for years now and they are the easiest domain and email hosts website to use.
• Another point that I would like to address is that with WordPress, you own all your own content and you are in control of what you do or don’t do to your website. With Squarespace, Shopify and Show it, your content and design all lives on their servers and hosting so you could technically lose all your information if Squarespace decides they want to shut down. However, if they decided they wanted to shut down (which isn’t likely!) you could still export all your information, blog posts, and images so you wouldn’t be completely without.
• ECOMMERCE: If your main focus is to have an ecommerce shop with a large amount of products, I usually suggest just using Shopify. However, Squarespace and WordPress both have ecommerce options and WordPress with WooCommerce would provide the most functionality. We use the ecommerce function on Squarespace and we find that it works perfect for what we do!
WHY YOU SHOULDN’T USE WIX OR WEEBLY OR OTHER FREE SITE BUILDERS
You have probably seen the ads for wix EVERYWHERE. They have commercials and youtube ads everywhere I go so you probably think that it’s the way to go. Theirs ads make it look really cool and easy to use, but it is strongly advised against to use wix or weebly especially if you’re going to use their “Free” Option. Their free option isn’t free meaning that you’re limited on everything, including how many pages and no ecommerce, and the free versions have tacky ads that make your site look very cheap and not trustworthy. The other thing is they rank very low on Google, their blogging features are limited, and they have terrible analytics. They offer website services from their experts and even the websites created by experts look subpar. By the time you start getting into their paid plans, then you get way more for your money by using the platforms mentioned earlier.
I wish there was a clear answer that I could give to everyone but these are not one size fits all situations. It all depends on your business and how you want your website setup. If you are a solopreneur, aren’t very tech savvy, or don’t have a lot of time to research the tech stuff, then I would suggest Squarespace. It can at least be a starting point for you and your business. You can learn some website tech and terms but also use it while your business is still growing. However, not every business is the same you might need more advanced features early on in your business and you might need to use WordPress.
Question: which platform are you currently using?