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Building a website without extensive web development experience is becoming easier, thanks to content management systems (CMS)—platforms that offer the ability to build, design, and customize good-looking sites with little to no code.

Building a site with a CMS has advantages: site owners have the power to update a site easily and as often as they want. Even basic administrative tasks—things like publishing content, SEO optimization, plugins, and managing multiple users—typically require little to no programming experience. They’re not totally turnkey, however. When it comes to customizing and extending a site built on WordPress, for example, a developer’s expertise can help turn a basic, out-of-the-box site into a totally unique, powerful solution.

There are lots of CMS platforms out there to choose from, with options ranging from drag-and-drop solutions like Wix and Squarespace to options with more going on under the hood like WordPress or Drupal—so which option is best for your project goals?

In this article, we’ll compare two top CMS platforms, WordPress and Squarespace, to help you decide which one is best for you.

About WordPress and Squarespace

WordPress is the most popular CMS in the world, used by more than 60 million websites, from personal blogs to major magazines and news organizations like The New Yorker, the BBC, and TechCrunch. From its origins as a blogging platform it’s grown into a feature-rich framework for building websites. What makes WordPress a web-publishing juggernaut is its near-infinite customizability. There are literally thousands of plugins, widgets, and themes that can make WordPress suitable for not just hosting blogs, but rich multimedia galleries, e-commerce, and more.

Squarespace is a newer entrant into the web publishing industry. Squarespace’s major advantage is its ease of use, making it simple and quick for nearly anyone to produce a high-quality website.

A Quick Note: vs.

There are actually two different sites/services that commonly go by WordPress. is a site that allows you to download the WordPress CMS for free. is a commercial site that offers basic hosting and maintenance using the WordPress platform. Unless otherwise noted, when we say “WordPress” we’re referring to the WordPress platform, available on

Set-Up and Learning Curve

This is where Squarespace really distinguishes itself. It’s not an exaggeration to say that it’s possible to create a high-quality website on Squarespace in half an hour. Unlike WordPress, Squarespace is entirely cloud-based, meaning there’s nothing for you to download or install. You just go to the website and start designing. Once you’ve picked a template, it’s easy to make basic edits using Squarespace’s drag-and-drop interface. Unlike WordPress, SquareSpace’s editor lets you see exactly how your site will look as you edit, so if you’re a very visual thinker or don’t know how to code, this can be a major asset.

Furthermore, Squarespace handles hosting and maintenance, which can be a huge plus for individuals or teams that don’t have the expertise or resources to continually maintain a site.

Getting set up with WordPress can require some work. If you haven’t already, you’ll need to first download the latest WordPress installation from, and then you’ll need to find your own hosting service and set up your own domain name. ( offers free hosting for personal blogs, but custom domain names and premium plugins and themes cost extra.) Once that’s set up, you’ll need to install and customize your theme. Unless you’re using one of the WordPress defaults, you’ll probably have to do some work to install your theme, which can be a lot of work depending on the functionality. Keep in mind also that support for themes is up to the theme author, and as with all open-source projects, documentation for themes can run from the comprehensive to the bare bones.

When it comes to adding content, WordPress is more involved than Squarespace. When it comes to customizability, WordPress can’t be beat. WordPress does have a preview option, but actually building the page can take some getting used to. The basic post editor is fairly easy to use, offering both a visual and developer view, but managing other types of content can be more of a challenge as you learn how to add and manage content in the media library. Unless you have a web developer or designer, you’ll probably have to get comfortable with at least some basic HTML and CSS.


Most WordPress sites use a number of custom or commercial plugins and themes. A theme (sometimes called a “skin”) is a collection of files that dictate the appearance and presentation of your WordPress site without altering the underlying code or content. These files can be a mix of template files, CSS, image files, and code, depending on how complex the theme is. Different themes are designed to support different types of websites–some are meant to be publications, others personal portfolios, online stores, company pages, etc.

Plugins are pieces of software that add additional functionality to your WordPress site. Common examples of plugins include social sharing tools (e.g., “Share to Facebook”), rotating image galleries, and e-commerce payment systems.

One thing to note when it comes to picking WordPress plugins and themes–there is tremendous variation both in functionality and quality. Commercial themes and plugins are more likely to offer continued support than free ones, which can be important when it comes time to upgrade your WordPress (more on that below).

When it comes to customizing a Squarespace website, your options are somewhat more limited, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. When setting up your Squarespace site, you can choose between dozens of different templates. Like WordPress themes, these templates alter the presentation of your site without changing the code.

Each Squarespace template is designed for a certain type of site, broken down by themes like “business,” “portfolio,” “wedding,” and “restaurant.” They all tend to have a similar aesthetic–clean, modern, and elegant. And because all Squarespace templates are made by their in-house design team, they’re all high quality and mobile responsive.

When it comes to functionality, Squarespace lags behind WordPress. While some third-party developers do offer commercial plugins, there are some things that you simply can’t do on Squarespace. This can be a real consideration for commercial sites that rely on memberships or that want to use payment processors other than Stripe.

Support and Maintenance

Where do you turn when you have questions about your CMS? Squarespace has a robust knowledge base of articles and videos, as well as community forums and live-chat support five days a week from 3am-8pm Eastern time.

Again, because the Squarespace platform is entirely cloud-based, there’s never anything for you to install or update. That said, if Squarespace ever goes down, that means your site goes down with it.

While WordPress enjoys a massive community of developers and users, there’s no single best way to access it. There are plenty of blogs and forums offering guidance for both beginners and experts, but when it comes to getting help with specific themes or plugins, your only option may be reading the (not always reliable) documentation or contacting the developer.

With WordPress, ongoing support is a major consideration. The WordPress platform receives multiple updates per year, and with every update you’ll need to update your site. If you’ve coded the site yourself, this can be a pretty straightforward process. However, if you rely on a number of third-party plugins or themes that aren’t being actively supported, just updating your WordPress installation can cause functionality to break. This is why it’s usually a bad idea to rely on unsupported third-party plugins for critical functionality. At the same time, not updating your installation, while tempting, can leave you vulnerable to security flaws.

A final consideration is data portability. WordPress makes it easier to export your website data and even plugins, which can be a huge time saver if you move to another CMS. Squarespace is more limited, only allowing you to export your pages, galleries, and blog posts to an XML file. That means that other pieces of content, including audio and video blocks, as well as product pages, won’t be exported. If you’re running a rich multimedia site or an e-commerce site, this can make porting to another CMS a laborious process.

The Key Question: What Are You Making?

Every CMS makes tradeoffs between flexibility and simplicity. Which matters more to you will depend on the kind of website you’re building, and your own skill level. WordPress is one of the most flexible platforms around, which is why it’s used by so many different organizations, but getting the most out of it requires a significant commitment of time and resources. Squarespace, by contrast, is built to make it easy to get a good-looking and functional website online with as little hassle as possible, but that comes at the expense of functionality and scalability.

There are a few questions that can help guide you to which platform is best for you, including:

  • What are you building? Are you a non-developer just looking for a place to show off your portfolio or host a personal blog? In these cases, you might appreciate the simplicity of Squarespace. Are you trying to build a feature-rich commercial website? Then you’ll probably want to take a more serious look at WordPress.
  • What’s your budget? Squarespace offers a menu of pricing options depending on whether your site is personal or for business and whether you need a custom domain. While the WordPress platform is open-source, you’ll still need to pay for your hosting and domain name, as well as any commercial plugins or templates.
  • How many users, contributors, or admins are you going to have? How many different users (and user permissions) will you need to have set up? Both Squarespace and WordPress allow you to define different types of contributors and set permissions accordingly.
  • What are your template needs? How many types of content are you going to have, and how many require different templates? The more complex your site, the more you might benefit from WordPress’s extensibility.
  • What are your security and availability requirements? If you’re using a lot of third party WordPress plugins, you’ll want to spend some time making sure they’re up-to-date and secure. Conversely, if Squarespace’s site goes down, will your organization be in trouble?

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