Instead of having preconceived notions, it is best to look at the pros and cons of each and then select what fits your business best. Even though WordPress officially powers 30% of the web, sometimes Squarespace better aligns with the client’s needs. Like everything else in life, there are trade-offs. It is important to consider the purpose of the website, your current needs, your future needs, maintenance preferences, security, and reliability.
There are trade-offs between customizability and complexity. Designers often prefer website builders, while developers prefer WordPress. Website builders are great for those who do not want to see the code and simply want to update text/images. Website builders are ideal for informational websites or portfolio-based websites. WordPress is a robust system and accommodates all sorts of functionality. WordPress is ideal for the established, growing company that is able to invest in their website and desires endless customizations. WordPress is great for more advanced websites – eCommerce, directories, e-learning systems, membership sites, custom integrations, etc.
Website builders require a fixed monthly fee that incorporates the latest technology. All the technical details are managed by the website builder company. WordPress is a free content management system but requires additional fixed monthly fees for hosting, security, backups, and SSL certificates. When determining the cost of the website, consider the initial development fees, reoccurring subscription fees, and maintenance fees. There may not be much of a difference in the initial design fees, but website builders reduce the cost of maintenance. Squarespace websites can be updated by novice, while WordPress requires a professional developer to keep the software up to date.
Website builders allow a quick turnaround when you don’t want to reinvent the wheel. WordPress requires additional development time but allows for endless customization.
Ease of Use
Website builders allow for intuitive changes where you click the item you want to change. Website builders always incorporate a visual drag and drop page builder. WordPress has a steeper learning curve and not all themes include a visual drag and drop page builder. Website builders specifically designed for non-developers, while WordPress requires a developer.
The features of website builders are closely controlled and monitored but are not as customizable. Since all the technical aspects (i.e. security, SSL, server, etc.) are managed by the website builder company, you sacrifice some creative freedom and must work within the website builder’s parameters. As an open source platform, WordPress is ideal for scalability and allows for endless customization as your business grows. The thousands of plugins allow for advanced customization but may become problematic if not maintained properly.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Website builders allow for basic on-page SEO but limit some of the technical aspects. WordPress allows for advanced search engine optimization and endless optimization. The code differs between builders and WordPress.
Website builders are ideal for those who only want to update content and not worry about security or the other technical aspects. WordPress requires constant maintenance by a skilled developer who is comfortable with Linux servers, file managers, PHP, and MySQL.
Website builders incorporate website security into the monthly subscription fee. With website builders, you rely on the provider to implement the necessary security on their timeline. WordPress requires additional security through plugins (i.e. Wordfence, iThemes, etc) and hosting providers. With WordPress, the security in your control and you are able to make changes as needed. If you talk with an IT or Cyber Security expert, they will likely recommend WordPress over website builders for this reason.
Website builders are updated by the service provider and at times you may receive an error during maintenance. WordPress can be put into maintenance mode and updated on your developer’s timeline. Website builders remove the concern of handling the updates, while WordPress allows for greater control on the timing of maintenance.
Website builders make it difficult to transfer websites. WordPress can easily be transferred between hosting platforms.
Website builders are similar to renting, while WordPress is similar to owning a house.
With website builders, you are renting space on their server via a subscription fee. If something breaks, you contact support just like you would call maintenance man. You can rearrange the content similar to how you can rearrange the furniture. However, you have to work within the parameters of the platform, similar to how you have to work within the given structure and accept the typical white or cream colored walls.
With WordPress, you have greater control over the technical aspects. If something breaks, you need to be technical enough to fix it or have a developer on call, just like how you have to fix your own sink or call a plumber. The possibilities are endless – you can expand the functionality of your website, just like you can add-on to your house or knock down walls for an open concept.
Either way – you have to pay your subscription fees to the website builder or the hosting company keeps your website up and running.