Shopify vs Squarespace vs WordPress: Which Website Builder is Right for You?Website Builders
Getting ready to build your own website? One of the first questions you’ll have to answer is:
Which platform should you use to build it?
When it comes to website building, the market is officially saturated. There are more website builder options out there than ever before. But the kings of the market remain: Shopify, Squarespace, and WordPress.
No doubt you’ve heard of these three, and you’re probably wondering which one is the best fit for your site. They all offer distinct advantages (and disadvantages), any of which may be more or less important to you.
We wrote this article to help you clear things up. We’ll break down the pros and cons of each website building platform. By the end, you’ll hopefully have your answer to the question we asked above.
Shopify vs Squarespace vs WordPress: An Introduction
Before we dig into the essential features of website builders, and how each one of these stacks up, it’s helpful to get the lay of the land. Here’s a brief overview of each website builder.
Shopify was built from the ground up to support eCommerce websites. That means all the eCommerce functionality it includes was purposefully designed from the start, rather than tacked on as an afterthought. Shopify has all the functionality you’ll need to build an online store, and more. In addition to the core Shopify platform, you can install Shopify apps. These third-party add-ons allow you to build out additional functionality for your store, such as email marketing and chatbots.
To get started with Shopify, you sign up and start adding products to your online store. Then you choose a theme to customize the look and feel of your store, review everything, and launch. Seriously, it’s that simple.
Over 800,000 businesses have selected Shopify to build their online stores, including Leesa, MVMT, and Bombas.
Squarespace puts design first and foremost. This beautiful, eCommerce-ready website building platform comes with a variety of mobile-friendly templates built in. You simply choose one and get started building your site. With Squarespace, you’ll pay a monthly fee fee to host and build your site. That fee covers everything you need to manage your site, including web hosting, domain names, content templates, and eCommerce functionality.
True to its design-focused roots, Squarespace caters to creative types, like freelance photographers and fashion designers, although their sites can just as easily support small business and online stores. Notable customers include musician Leon Bridges, actor-turned-designer John Malkovich, and Keanu Reeves’s motorcycle company.
WordPress is the world’s leading CMS platform, powering 33% of the websites you see on the web today. There are actually two forms of WordPress. WordPress.com is a hosted platform that’s commonly used as a basic site builder for blogs.
Self-hosted WordPress.org, which we’re focusing on in this comparison, is a content management system (CMS). To use WordPress, you’ll need to purchase web hosting separately. Then, you can download the open source WordPress software for free. This is a major difference between WordPress and hosted platforms like Shopify or Squarespace, which bundle your web hosting with the web building platform.
Once installed, WordPress only includes the bare-minimum functionality you’ll need—like user management, content management, and basic theme settings. To really get your site rocking and rolling, you’ll have to download WordPress plugins. These provide various functions, from social media buttons and SEO optimization plugins to chatbot support and community forum plugins. You’ll probably want to make things easier by downloading a website builder plugin, too.
WordPress made its name as a blogging platform. Today, it supports all kinds of sites, from blogs and content-heavy sites like Rolling Stone magazine to brand and lifestyle sites for Beyonce and Mercedes-Benz.
Shopify vs Squarespace vs WordPress: How They Stack Up
Let’s get to what you came here for: comparing Shopify vs. Squarespace vs. WordPress. When it comes to the things that matter, how do they stack up?
Below we review the top features people look for when choosing the best website builder.
Cost is one of the key differentiators among these platforms.
- WordPress is free to install. However, you will have to pay for the hosting you use to run it, as well as your domain name. You’ll also have to purchase both of these separately. Domains can cost $10 to $15 a year, while basic web hosting packages can run between $3 to $10 a month. Save with these WordPress promo codes.
- Squarespace offers four plans, which range from $16 to $46 monthly (you can shave $4 to $6 off if you pay on an annual basis). All plans include hosting and one domain, along with additional features that vary by plan (like eCommerce, email hosting, and more). Save with these Squarespace promo codes.
- Shopify offers three plans, which range from $29 to $299 monthly, making it the most expensive option on our list. All plans include hosting and eCommerce functionality, although you’ll have to pay separately for your domain name and to upgrade for additional eCommerce features. Save with these Shopify promo codes.
Winner: WordPress. With WordPress being free, it’s the clear winner here. Even with hosting added in, it’s still the cheapest by far.
All three platforms support eCommerce functionality, although with WordPress, it doesn’t come out-of-the-box. You’ll have to download the WooCommerce plugin to enable eCommerce on your website. This plugin is free, like WordPress, although the costs can add up depending on how many paid WooCommerce extensions you purchase to trick out your store. In other words, creating eCommerce functionality on your WordPress site is a lot like putting it together piecemeal.
With Shopify or Squarespace, on the other hand, all the functionality is seamlessly included. That means you don’t have to worry about incompatibility problems between your different plugins (a common complaint with WordPress). Whatever functionality you add to your online store should work just fine, since the technology is proprietary and supported internally by Shopify or Squarespace.
The question then becomes: Is Shopify or Squarespace better for eCommerce stores? Both enable you to sell unlimited products, with mobile-friendly checkouts, easy inventory management, promo codes, and Instagram Shopping support.
But, depending on your store sales and profit margins, it can be a lot more expensive to use one over the other. You don’t have to pay transaction fees with either of Squarespace’s online store plans. Meanwhile, you’ll have to pay between 2.4% and 2.9%, plus 30 cents, for every transaction on Shopify—and that’s only if you use Shopify Payments as your payment provider. Otherwise, you can expect to tack on an additional 0.5% to 2.0% fee.
However, Shopify makes up for it with additional perks, like competitive shipping rates (64% to 74% discounts off USPS, UPS, and DHL Express) and a POS app for eCommerce sites who want to process payments in their physical stores.
Winner: Shopify or Squarespace, depending largely on your own cost/benefit analysis of transaction fees.
One last thing to think about with eCommerce functionality: Reputable online stores install SSL certificates for security purposes. These encrypt your customer’s data so they feel safe entering their credit card information with you, and they also give your site a small SEO boost. Both Squarespace and Shopify include these as part of their plans, while you’ll have to pay for and install one separately if you use WordPress.
Site Speed and Performance
The speed of your website matters. It can be the difference between whether someone decides to stick around, or if they say “forget it” and hail back to where they came from. Nobody likes a slow website, and neither does Google—which is why they made page speed a ranking factor.
With both Shopify and Squarespace, the speed of your website is largely dictated by the hosting servers they use. Your site will be sharing space on a server with other websites, so your performance is also in some ways impacted by them. If one site experiences a surge in traffic, that can bring your site down. Both Shopify and Squarespace have limits in place to avoid this fearsome scenario, but it is something to keep in mind.
Of the two, Shopify tends to beat out Squarespace when it comes to speed. Their servers load sites faster on both mobile and desktop.
Part of this is due to their support for AMP. Without getting too technical, AMP is a Google-supported technology that enables sites to load faster on mobile devices. Shopify supports AMP, while, at the time of writing, AMP only works for blog pages on Squarespace. In case you’re wondering, WordPress also supports AMP.
Speaking of WordPress, speed operates a bit differently with this platform, since you can choose your own hosting with WordPress. As your site traffic grows, you can purchase different types of hosting to support it, from scalable cloud hosting to dedicated hosting where your site gets its own server.
However, with WordPress, maintaining site performance is on you and you alone. It will be up to you to monitor your site speed and adjust your hosting plan as necessary. If you’re tech-savvy, you can make tweaks within WordPress, and delete various plugins, to further improve your performance.
Winner: Shopify for eCommerce, and WordPress for everything else. Shopify offers the fastest eCommerce hosting, and you don’t have to worry about slow load times. For other sites, WordPress is the better option, particularly if you’re more tech-savvy.
Squarespace is known for its gorgeous designs (their tagline was “Build it Beautiful” for a while). As such, you might think it’s the winner in the design category, but not so fast.
- Squarespace does offer gorgeous, mobile-friendly templates, but there’s less than 30 of them. Plus, not all of them offer the same flexibility when it comes to features, so you have to be thoughtful about all the features you’ll need (both now and in the future) before deciding on a Squarespace template for your website. All Squarespace themes are free.
- Shopify offers significantly more templates, around 100, and they’re all mobile- and eCommerce-friendly. Some are free, and some are paid. Premium Shopify themes cost between $140 to $180.
- WordPress offers the widest selection of templates, ranging in the thousands, but there’s just one problem here: they’re all made by third-party developers. That means it’s up to the developer to keep their theme up to date with the latest version of WordPress, and there’s no guarantee that they will—which might leave your site in an awkward position. To avoid compatibility issues, your best bet is to go with a paid WordPress theme, which can cost $40 to $100.
Winner: It’s a mixed bag here. Many of Squarespace’s themes are excellent, so if you find one you like, it’s pretty great to be able to get it for free. However, you can’t beat the variety of Shopify and WordPress. Shopify only works for eCommerce sites though, and WordPress themes can have some long-term reliability issues. Ultimately, we recommend reviewing the themes before choosing your website builder.
The Bottom Line
Shopify, Squarespace, and WordPress are all excellent website building options, and many successful site owners have trusted them to build their websites. Ultimately, the best website builder for you depends on your budget, the type of site you plan to build, and your level of tech savvy.
WordPress is great for any kind of site, although it’s a better fit for content sites vs. online stores. If you want the flexibility to build out site features with plugins, customize your functionality down at a code level, and optimize your site for speed, it’s a solid option. Although, you’ll need to be confident with website management to get the most out of it.
Shopify and Squarespace are better for those who want a bit more hand-holding. Squarespace offers drag-and-drop templates that make it easy to build a website out-of-the-box, whether it’s a blog or online store.
Shopify offers a middle ground option, with the same professional templates of Squarespace, but with the ability to customize your functionality like WordPress. However, it only works for eCommerce sites.
Whichever one you choose, just make sure you save with these website builder promo codes.