Which Content Management System (CMS) is right for my business?

Should I use WordPress or Squarespace or Shopify?

These are the most common inquiries we get here at Flauk from people starting their businesses. If you’re planning on selling things directly from your website, I’ve got you covered in my last post: Squarespace vs Shopify: A Simplified Comparison for Small Businesses.

But if you’re not planning on selling things, your best options shift to a choice between WordPress or Squarespace. Below I’ll cover the highest level points you should consider when making your decision:

1. Whether or not you’re blogging.

2. What type of specialized functionality you need.

3. Your design preferences.

4. Your scalability goals.

5. Whether you’ll be DIYing it or hiring a professional.

6. Your budget.

*An important distinction: WordPress.org vs WordPress.com
WordPress.com is a hosted service, much like Squarespace. While there are free plans, you pay a monthly fee to use any custom themes or domains to host your website. With wordpress.org, you pay a monthly or yearly fee to 3rd party like godaddy.com or bluehost.com to host your website, and you download the wordpress software onto that server for free. Your options for themes, plugins, and custom coding is limitless. In this article, when I refer to WordPress, I am referring to WordPress.org.

Choosing between WordPress or Squarespace for small business website

Photo by Raw Pixel

Blogging

Is blogging the primary part or an important part of your business or content marketing strategy? If so, you should use WordPress – hands down.

WordPress was originally developed as a blogging platform, so the blogging capabilities and interface far surpass Squarespace’s. While Squarespace does have a blog component, it isn’t nearly as robust or easy to use as WordPress’s. You’ll wind up switching to WordPress in the end for this feature alone.

Bottom line: If you plan on writing blogs, you’ll find it far easier to write on WordPress, where you’ll find many more plugins to optimize, market, and share your posts.

Plugins and Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Need a robust booking engine for appointments?

A search and user friendly way to showcase recipes?

An integrated Search Engine Optimization tool?

An image and file size optimizer? A scrolling parallax homepage slider?

WordPress has it all – and mostly at no charge for the basic plugin versions.

Because of the open-source (translation: the source code is public and available for anyone to play with to create awesome compatible themes and plugins) nature of WordPress, thousands of 3rd party developers have been working around the clock for years creating really cool plugins to enhance the functionality of the WordPress platform.

With Squarespace, what they offer is what you get. It’s not an open-source platform, so only the Squarespace team is working on the functionality of the platform. You can only use the built in – and not very robust – tools that they are currently offering. If you will be doing any advanced digital marketing, SEO optimization, integration with third party tools like HubSpot, or have specialized plugin or website needs based on your industry, you’ll want to go with WordPress.

Bottom line: If you need advanced features, plugins, third party connections, or control over your website, go with WordPress.

Design

Squarespace is gorgeous.

Their themes, admin user interface, and overall branding is wildly sexy, minimalist, and captures the modern look many businesses are seeking. That said, again because of the non-open-source nature, there aren’t any 3rd party developers designing premium themes like in WordPress, so you are limited to the under 25 options available. And there is little room for customizing the design of the themes that you do see, so you’ll often wind up with a website that looks pretty similar to others out there in the webiverse.

While WordPress does have some free built-in themes, I exclusively use the premium ones for the functionality, support, and design advantages. WordPress has thousands of developers working on tens of thousands of templates, with new ones coming out every day. Their prices are pretty manageable, mostly falling around the $50 price point. Unlike Squarespace, though, some are beautiful, robust in function, and have incredible support from their developers, while others are a hot mess in one or all of those categories.

Because WordPress is not testing and vetting these themes like Squarespace does, you have to be far more vigilant in your selection – scouring the reviews, demos, and feature lists.

Bottom line: If you want a website that has a high chance of looking unlike any of your competitors, and want the most ability for customization, go with WordPress and a premium theme tweaked by a professional.

Scalability

Because you have complete control of your server, the content management system, and every single line of code with WordPress, you have the most flexibility and potential to scale and pivot your website as your business evolves.

With Squarespace, there’s a bit of a ceiling of what you’ll be able to do since you do not own, or have full access to, the code and your server.

Bottom Line: If you plan on building pages with advanced functionality aimed at growth and high traffic, or want the flexibility to do what you want, when you want, to your website, choose WordPress. If you plan on keeping it as a simple portfolio or showcase site, or are comfortable with rebuilding your website once you’re ready to grow, you’re safe with Squarespace.

DIY or Delegate

Oh, the ever present dilemma of an entrepreneur. We feel you!

Our business and happiness coach, Sarah, wrote an article all about this topic a few weeks ago. I urge you to read it before you make your final decision on how to proceed with your website.

If you’re aware of the pitfalls and have decided to DIY your website, I recommend that you go with Squarespace. They have a dedicated support team to answer all your panicked questions, the builder is drag and drop and relatively intuitive for non-technically inclined users, and even their basic templates are pretty beautiful.

But be prepared, it’s not nearly as easy as they make it seem to get your website looking like their demos, and unless you’re a design and tech wiz, you won’t be able to customize it to the point where it doesn’t look like every other Squarespace website out there that’s using your particular theme. But if your goal is to get something basic and quick up, Squarespace will get the job done.

Unless you have a lot of time, energy, and are highly technically proficient, I don’t recommend you try to DIY a WordPress website. WordPress has a pretty steep learning curve and no on-demand customer support, so leave building it to the professionals.

If you have the budget to delegate (and I urge you to find that budget in order to save your sanity and get something you’re wildly proud of), I highly recommend you hire someone to build EITHER your WordPress or Squarespace or website in order to get the best result possible within the context of that particular platform. A professional designer will be able to achieve visual and functional results that you won’t be able to on your own, through accessing the source files and tinkering with advanced code and styling on both platforms – faster and with better quality results (and less sobbing on the floor).

Your end product will reflect the investment.

Bottom Line: Decided to delegate? 8 times out of 10, depending on the nature of your business and content, I recommend using WordPress due to the higher level of customization possible (in addition to all the extra features and possibilities we spoke about above).

Price

This is where things get interesting. Where the WordPress code is technically free and you pay no monthly fee or purchase fee to use it, you’ll need to buy your domain name, pay for a hosting plan, and buy a premium theme and any premium plugins needed.

With Squarespace, all these fees are lumped into their monthly fee.

WordPress

Domain Name (through a 3rd party like GoDaddy):

This is your url/web address. It will run you about $15 per year, but the first year is often at a discount of $2-3 for the year.

Hosting (through a 3rd party like GoDaddy or Bluehost) & SSL:

Basic Managed WordPress hosting runs from around $6/month-$15/month, depending on the provider and features. As you grow, you can grow into a dedicated server for hundreds per month – but this will be when you’re getting millions of page views, so you’re probably good for now. There are often coupons and specials for your first year. Make sure you get a plan with a free SSL certificate, or add one on (this can run you about $80 per year).

Premium Themes

$29-99, generally around $49 on places like Themeforest. (Make sure to fully vet through demo testing and reviews!)

Monthly CMS Fee

$0

Total: Around $15 per month, using average prices from above. Plus your one time premium template fee up-front.

Squarespace

Domain Name
Included

Hosting & SSL
Included

Theme
Included

Monthly CMS Fee
$18/month for the Business plan

Total: $18/month

Bottom line: You’re paying just about the same monthly fee on average, give or take a couple dollars. Keep in mind this does not include your upfront fees for a premium WordPress Theme and the cost to have a professional design and develop your website.

Final bottom line: We're here to help

More questions? More to add? Leave a comment below and let us know what you want to know, or email us at hello@flauk.com and we can help you sort through it all! 

Stephanie Goldfinger

Co-Founder / Chief Alchemy Officer

Stephanie is Flauk’s head website tinkerer, social strategist, and digital puzzle builder. She’s devoted to transforming all of your company’s offline missions, goals and dreams into solid gold out in the vast webiverse.