For a long time, it seemed like WordPress was the only way to go.
It certainly wasn’t the only option for freelancers who needed a website. But it seemed as if it was the only practical option.
And then suddenly a whole group of website builder platforms started gaining serious steam. Platforms such as Squarespace, Strikingly, Weebly, Wix and others.
At first I thought it was a passing fad. Or maybe an option for people who were dabbling or needed an extremely simple, one-page website.
But the more I looked into these options, the more I realized that there was something to this movement.
I’m not an expert in this area, so I wanted to bring in someone who works with both options every day. My guest this week is Lisa Mullis. Lisa is a principal and director of marketing and outreach at Blue Marble Creative, a design communications firm. She and her team work with cause-based organizations improve their communications for better visibility and more successful fundraising.
There’s a lot of passion in each camp—the WordPress camp and the website builder camp. So I suspect this episode will create some controversy. That’s fine. But I wanted to bring you more detailed information on a topic that keeps coming up … and seems to have so much mixed advice.
The notes that follow are a very basic, unedited summary of the show. There’s a lot more detail in the audio version. You can listen to the show using the audio player below. Or you can subscribe in iTunes to get this show delivered straight to the Podcasts app on your smart phone, tablet or iPod.
What is WordPress? What are website builders?
WordPress is a content management platform that’s been around about 15 years. The code is open sourced and developed by a community of developers who do it for free.
Website builders (such as Squarespace) are proprietary website development systems that use drag and drop interfaces to build websites. The technology has been around about 10 years but has really matured in the past two. Users pay a monthly fee.
Do you want to be in charge of building and maintaining your site? Or do you want someone else to do the heavy lifting for you?
Or are you okay with more heavy lifting in order to gain greater control?
How do the technical aspects of the two systems compare?
WordPress: installation, hosting, domain names
- You have to download a copy of software from WordPress.org and install it on your web host. (Some web hosts automate this process.)
- You have to find a good web host. Lisa likes WP Engine. They specifically host WordPress sites and have excellent technical support.
- You have to purchase a domain name.
Squarespace: installation, hosting, domain names
- You have to sign up for an account.
- The software is already installed, and they take care of hosting for you.
- You can buy a domain name through them or connect a third-party domain name.
If I purchase my domain name through Squarespace and then decide to move my website to another platform, can I transfer it?
Yes. You own the domain name you purchase. If you want to move your site to another provider from Squarespace, you have to unlock your domain and transfer it.
If you want to keep your domain registered with Squarespace and map it to a third-party provider, you can do this in the domain’s DNS settings.
How do the themes/templates and plugins/content blocks of the two systems compare?
WordPress: themes and plugins
- WordPress has over 10,000 themes and 30,000 plugins to choose from. Generally, paid themes/plugins have better code and support.
- If plugins aren’t compatible with your theme, you might have issues.
- You’re responsible for updating themes and plugins.
Squarespace: templates and content blocks
- Squarespace has about 25 templates and 40 to 50 content blocks to choose from. All are created, vetted and supported by Squarespace developers.
- Every content block works with every template.
- Squarespace assumes responsibility for updating templates and content blocks.
How do the two systems compare on mobile responsiveness?
- Themes may or may not be mobile responsive. You have to check.
- All templates are mobile responsive.
How do the two systems compare on accepting payments?
- You have to add a plugin or move to a different theme to accept payments.
- You’re responsible for making sure everything works.
- E-commerce is included in Squarespace basic business packages.
- Everything is already in place, you just have to turn it on.
How do they compare in terms of security, backups and maintenance?
- Costs for maintaining WordPress sites are usually higher. At some point, you’ll probably need to bring in professional help.
- Problems come up when your platform, theme and/or plugins get out of date. Your site becomes more susceptible to hackers.
- Squarespace takes care of all security issues.
- Your subscription rate will probably go up over time. But it will still probably cost less than bringing in professional help.
How do SEO options and tools compare?
- WordPress has a lot of plugins for SEO. But you have to consider how these SEO plugins will interact with other plugins on your site.
- SEO is more limited in Squarespace. However, unless you’re deploying a specific SEO strategy as part of your marketing efforts, Squarespace is probably sufficient.
While an optimized website might get some leads, you probably won’t get as many high quality prospects as you hope.
What matters most for search is content. And you can have great content on either platform.
Any other parting advice?
WordPress is a good choice if:
- You need non-standard functionality
- You have access to design and technical expertise
- You want more control.
Squarespace is a good choice if:
- Your primary goal is to publish content and connect with audiences
- You’re willing to give up some control.
A comparison of costs:
A comparison of features:
Where can listeners learn more about you?
Lisa has written a white paper on the topic of this podcast. She invites you to email her at firstname.lastname@example.org to ask for a copy.