A lot of my clients find me in order to ‘upgrade’ a site that they previously launched on one of those lovely ‘build your website’ sites that stalk you on facebook. Now don’t get me wrong – I think these sites are fab – I especially like Squarespace – whose clean designs suits modern tastes and whose Content Management System (basically the way you update your site) is super easy to use. Whether it’s right for you and your business or not will purely come down to your requirements at this stage. I work with WordPress – which is a platform which has lots of shortcuts available to developers which has radically reduced the price of customised web design over the past decade. It also has a great CMS – and it’s possible for those with little tech know how to maintain their website once published.
I’ve written this article so you can get an idea of the differences between these two powerhouses (I’m using Squarespace as a direct comparison but it shares many similarities with other platforms out there like Wix, Godaddy’s builder etc etc) – and whether or not it’s right for you to build a site yourself or get someone like me on board.
Design and flexibility of features
What do you want your website to look like and what do you want it to do?!
This is one area where Squarespace definitely is limited. There are a small number of templates that you can choose from to base the design of your own site and you are able to change only a limited set of features by using the site customizer feature.
A plugin is a piece of software that you can install on your website that will easily enable it to perform various functions that you might need for your business: an availability calendar, a booking system, mailing list integration, payment gateways etc etc.
Unfortunately Squarespace’s limitations extend to plugins – you can only use the plugins and features built-in Squarespace.
WordPress is an open source platform, which means that their codes are open to everybody to use and customize. So any developers can use WordPress to create their own tools (such as templates / themes or plugins) to share for free, or sell to WordPress users. That means it’s a hugely flexible and adaptable wordpress landscape out there. Invariably you can get the site that you want without compromising without paying the supersonic price tags of a website developed from scratch – simply because the wordpress developer has such an array of ready made tools and starter platforms to begin work with.
And the winner is…
WordPress – by a country mile! If you want a highly customised, personally sculpted site there’s really no competition!
Ease of Use
So if your purse strings won’t stretch to a web developer (even the wonderfully affordable ones like me!) and you want to go it alone, what’s possible with each platform?
So what you lose with ability to customise you gain when it comes to ease of use – you can build a site without ever coming close to a single line of code, so even the most non tech savvy individual has the opportunity to launch their own website.
Squarespace is a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) website builder, so you drag and drop pictures, text etc directly into the builder, and you immediately see how the website will look like “live”.
It’s easy and instinctive and great for anyone wanting to go it alone!
WordPress is much more open to customisation, but it also has a much steeper learning curve when it comes to building sites.
If you were going it alone – you could use one of the 1000’s of templates out there and assemble a good enough looking site after a fair bit of trial and error (and lots of internet forum research, and therefore a fair dollop of your own time) – but by no means will it be as easy as Squarespace, and – to be frank – it probably won’t look as immediately good!
In order to make the site look and feel and work exactly how you want it to – you need to get on board with coding – which means A LOT of you painfully working it out, or getting a lovely developer on board…
That said – wordpress has a great content management system – which means once the website is up and running it is easy enough to make text and image updates and additions all on your own-some, it’s just the structural stuff that’s a bit more involved!
And the winner is…
If you want to get a website up and running all by yourself, without investing too much time and money into the set up process, then Squarespace is the platform for you. It might not be the most original site out there – but it will look good!
Lets face it the web builders out there seem like an inexpensive option to getting your website out there, avoiding the expense of pesky developers like me. The initial cost will certainly be less – but it will accumulate over the months (and years) as there will be annual or monthly fees to keep the site on the platform:
A basic site (where you can have 2 users that are able to make updates):
£120 annually (£156 if paid monthly)
Business Site (basically – more users!)
£180 (£252 if paid monthly)
If you want to sell anything on the site the costs leap up again with annual costs ranging from £240-360 (£288 – £444 if paid monthly) depending on the size etc of the site.
WordPress as a Content Management System is totally free! As is woocommerce – the ecommerce ‘plugin’ that will turn your website into a shop. This means the only ongoing costs you need to cover are the annual fees for hosting the site, and registering the domain name. These vary depending on what supplier you use… I often recommend one.com that also includes a free upgrade to a secured site (necessary for shops); they have a discounted first year (at around £10 for the basic plan) which goes up to about £35 annually.
Of course if you use a designer there are also their costs, although (with my prices at least) these may be offset in just a couple of years – and bear in mind the cost of ‘your time’ that will be saved!
And the winner is…
It’s a bit of a draw! If you don’t have the resources to pay out for a designer when you’re launching a new business, your design ideas not all that specific, the site’s functionality straight forward, your computer confidence reasonable and you have the time to have a play around then Squarespace would definitely be a good match for you. However if you’re looking at a long term investment – working with a WordPress developer will give you a much more customised and unique (and therefore professional looking) website – for (looking at costs over a few years) costs about the same as maintaining the cost of a Squarespace website.
Hopefully i haven’t confused you more that you were at the start of this blog! The conclusion… is up to you – and will depend on the priorities of your website and business (and initial budget). I hope I have at least demystified exactly what it is you get with each process!!!
If you want more info about working with wordpress and me – get in touch here.